Buying PC processor or CPU: what you need to know

One of the most important components of a computer is the CPU (also called processor), definitely the heart of the system since it performs calculations and processes the data provided by the operating system and programs. A processor may seem simple and not too complex to understand, but if you have to choose between one model and another it is really difficult to understand which CPU offers better performance and why one may be preferable to another.
In case you want to change the computer processor with a new one and if you are buying a new PC to assemble, let's see together how to choose the CPU to buy . In this way we will be ready at the time of purchase, and we will know exactly what we need.
1) Myths to dispel
There are tons of rumors and rumors about processors that we could write a book! Just because one processor has a higher frequency or more cores (cores) doesn't mean it is better than another processor. At the same time, however, the differences between clock speed and number of cores count if we talk about processors from the same manufacturer, without forgetting the generational differences between the processors (i.e. when they came out on the market), which can significantly widen the gap of performance, even if technically nothing changes about the number of cores or the clock speed.
The first myth is therefore debunked: compare processors only by frequency speed it was significant up to 20 years ago, but not today since processors always show the same characteristics more or less due to physical limitations. Once you reached a certain speed and a number of cores, you could no longer cross the limit without significantly impacting energy consumption and heat emanation. These limits will be overcome over time with new technologies (making transistors smaller and smaller), but for now computer processors and even more mobile phones have common characteristics that cannot be overcome.
2) Features and useful information about the processor
A good modern computer processor must have the following characteristics:
- Clock speed and number of cores count to measure the performance of a CPU, but only if we are talking about processors of the same brand, which came out after a year or two maximum. It is important to check the release date of a CPU because, with the same core and speed, the newer processor is always better. As a rule, make sure that the processor has at least 4 physical cores and a minimum frequency of 2 GHz.
- If you have to buy a processor for a new PC, just choose the new series and, as you know, there are two brands of PC processors: AMD and Intel.
In two words, the AMD ones are cheaper and are great for low-end or mid-range PCs while the Intel ones are always better, especially if it is a high-end computer. AMD's high-end chips are good for professional applications that take advantage of multi-threading and are now mature to compete with Intel apparently (perhaps only the i9 series is superior due to its target, the end-of-range PCs very high or per server).
At the moment (end of 2019), AMD's current desktop architecture is the Ryzen series (3, 5 and 7) recognizable by the serial number 2xxx and 3xxx (variable according to the version).
The current Intel architecture is called Intel Core Coffe Lake (i3, i5, i7 and i9) and is recognizable by the serial number 9xxx (variable depending on the version). The 8xxx series is also fine, if you want to save money.
Once you have decided on the range and line of processors you intend to buy, a few other things should be checked before spending the money.
- If it is overclockable, that is if you can increase the CPU performance with an easy overclock in order to get more power (which often leads to instability and energy consumption).
We can find easily overclockable models accompanied by the letter K or X (which indicates the possibility of overclocking them by unlocking the multiplier).
- The cooling system (the fan or the diffuser), often forgotten, which must be checked if it is integrated or if it is necessary to buy it separately; if the CPU is too powerful, you should buy a fan compatible with that processor.
- Processor cache: a memory integrated in the CPU that makes processor calculations faster. The cache can be of level L1, L2 or L3 (the basic levels) but now they can also present successive levels (L4 or L5), available but as the transistors become smaller and smaller.
- Integrated video card (APU) : on some CPUs there is so much space inside that it is also possible to find an integrated GPU, which will work in parallel with the processor components to generate images at a good speed. This type of processor (called APU) is typical of AMD CPUs, while only recently Intel has integrated an adequate video component into its processors.
To deepen these speeches, in another article we saw the differences between Intel and AMD processors and which to choose between Intel i3, i5 and i7.
For further support, there are sites like CPUBoss to compare the performance of different processors and see which one is better.
3) Update an existing processor
If you want to buy a processor to update the one already present on the PC it is important to know what type of processor we already have and the socket supported (i.e. the contacts available to pass the data on the motherboard). On Windows we type " Device Manager " in the Start menu and in the following screen we expand the " processors " section to find the name of the CPU.
To get more information and also obtain the precise socket we can programs such as CPU-Z to know precisely which processor we have, which motherboard and which socket we use.

Also take into account that an old motherboard may not support the latest generation processors: in these cases it will therefore have to buy a CPU that did not come out too many years later than the motherboard or change the motherboard together with the CPU (the wiser choice).
4) CPU models based on the PC to be purchased
Now that we know all about PC processors, let's see how to control this component based on the PC we intend to buy:
- if you have to buy a ready-made computer and you are not going to make any special customizations or upgrades, it may be convenient to take one with AMD CPU because it costs less. Keep in mind, however, that when AMD releases new processors, it may be that they will not be compatible with current motherboards.
- if we have to assemble a PC for general use, AMD is very convenient and now offers a very high number of cores and frequency, suitable for any program we intend to use. Savings can therefore become a fundamental parameter for assembling this type of PC.
- if you want a gaming computer, we aim with our eyes closed on an Intel processor; even if the latest generation AMDs provide all the power necessary for games, we always recommend to focus on Intel when we assemble a PC intended for games.

Best CPUs to buy today

To buy a processor you can look at Amazon where there really is no shortage of offers and where you can read the many comments to help us choose.
The ranking of the best-selling CPUs is an excellent starting point, with prices that vary widely from 70 to 350 Euros and more.
The best Intel processors are listed below (with their prices).
- Intel Core i3-9100F (€ 90)
- Intel Core i5-9400F (€ 173)
- Intel Core i7-9700K (€ 370)
- Intel Core i9-9900K (€ 510)
If instead we want to focus on AMD, here are the best models:
- AMD Ryzen 3 3200 (€ 113)
- AMD Ryzen 5 3400 (€ 150)
- AMD Ryzen 7 (from € 200)
We must also change the motherboard together with the CPU "> Asus ROG STRIX Z370-F (202 €)
- Gigabyte X470 Aorus (€ 149)
READ ALSO: How to choose compatible computer motherboard and CPU

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