The ultimate CPU buying guide

The ultimate CPU buying guide [for the beginners]

CPU is called the brain of a computer and choosing the perfect CPU is never easy specially for beginners. A CPU buyer has to analyze several factors, technical aspects of processors (CPUs) before buying.

That’s why, when a complete newbie decided to buy his first processor, he just can’t decide the perfect one. Then he searches for a helpful guide.

Here you are:)

Hello, I am Jyotirmoy and in this post, I am gonna discuss about the basic things to check out while buying any processor. You can also call it a helpful guide for buying a CPU for beginners.

Since I am writing this post for newbies, I shall try to elaborate things with that point of view and make things easier.

So, let’s start beginners guide for buying a CPU-

Guide for Buying the best CPU:

It is very important to know about your uses before actually going to buy any computer part. For example, if you are a hard-core computer user, you have to buy a processor from the high-tier.

Moreover, there are also things like clock speed, cores, thread, TDP, etc. to know about a CPU before buying. But, don’t worry, after reading this post, you can easily understand all of them.

Make sure to read till the end to know some of my personal CPU picks for different categories.

Things to look out before buying CPU:

#1. Budget and uses:

The first thing to decide before going to choose a CPU is your budget and your daily uses. CPUs are available from $100 to $1000+. So, it is really very important to decide your budget first.

The ultimate CPU buying guide

Also, there is no sense buying i9 if you are gonna use your PC for just chilling, entertainment purposes. I am not saying you can’t do that, you definitely can. But, if you use i9 for just watching videos, you actually can’t use the full potential of it.

Just like that, if you use i3 or Pentium CPUs for gaming, you are never gonna satisfy with the processor’s performance. You must have to upgrade it later for better performance.

That’s why, it is very important to decide if you are a mid-range user, high-end user, or entry-level, and for what purpose you are gonna use your PC mostly.

After selecting all of these, you have to think, how much you can spend for the processor, basically deciding your budget.

I hope, you have been able to select your budget, so let’s move forward in buying an awesome processor.

#2. Choosing the right brand:

After deciding the budget, now the second important thing to think about is the brand. There are two main brands available for CPUs currently i.e. Intel and AMD. Both have their own awesome processors for almost every category.

So, it will be very hard and confusing at the same time to choose anyone from them. A few years back, Intel was the only leading processor manufacturer company out there and users don’t have to think about anything before buying a CPU. They just bought one from Intel.

But, now AMD is also a good competitor of Intel (which is good for us) and you shouldn’t underestimate AMD’s power especially in the budget section. Sometimes, it is seen that AMD’s budget CPUs outperforming Intel’s CPUs.

That’s why if you ask me about the brand, I say, if you are gonna build a budget PC for gaming, video editing, machine learning, 3d modeling, etc AMD could be a better option for you than Intel.

Since AMD processors can be able to deliver more performance at an attractive price point, therefore I suggest going with AMD CPUs for the budget section builds.

But, if you are a hard-core PC user, wanna build the best PC possible, squeeze the best performance from it, you should go with the Intel CPUs.

I know that Intel CPUs are a little bit expensive than AMD’s but the core performance and overclocking capacity of Intel processors are usually higher.

Overall, AMD and Intel both have their own giants but you should go with anyone according to your budget and comparing with other PC build materials/parts.

For example, if you bought GPUs RTX 2080Ti earlier or thinking about it, there is no sense in buying CPUs like Ryzen 5 or i5, rather you should go with CPUs like i9 9900K in that case.

So, as my personal experience, CPUs like AMD 2nd gen. Ryzen 5, Ryzen 3 are just awesome for budget categories and can deliver better price to performance ratio than average Intel CPUs.

But, talking about the upper tier, In general, Intel CPUs outperform AMD’s. With CPUs like i9 9900K, i7 9700K, Intel is very solid in this category. So, you can go with Intel if you are building a beast PC.

#3. Choosing the latest gen. CPUs:

Both the CPU brands keep on refining their CPUs so that they can deliver more performance. However they don’t change the core name of the upgraded processors, but you can easily know about the generation of the processors in their name.

For example, the 10th generation (gen). Intel Core i7 is named Core i7-10875H, 9th gen. i9 CPU known as Core i9-9900K (coffee lake). Basically you can know the generation by seeing the name.

Now, why you should buy the latest gen. CPUs only?

Well, I have some data, if you look into it, I hope you can understand the advantage of buying the latest CPUs and their advance/updated performance.

ProcessorsgenerationClock speedCorethread
i3 32203rd3.3 GHz24
i3 63006th3.7 GHz24
i3 9100f9th4.3 GHz44
i5 35703rd3.8 GHz44
i5 6600k6th3.9 GHz44
i5 9300H9th4.1 GHz48
i7 3770k3rd3.9 GHz48
i7 6700k6th4.2 GHz48
i7 9700k9th4.9 GHz612
intel CPUs
ProcessorsGenerationsClock speedCoresThreads
Ryzen 3 1300X1st3.9 GHz44
Ryzen 3 2200g2nd3.7 GHz44
Ryzen 3 3300X3rd4.3 GHz48
Ryzen 5 1600X1st4.0 GHz612
Ryzen 5 2600X2nd4.2 GHz612
Ryzen 5 3600X3rd4.4 GHz612
Ryzen 7 1800X1st4.0 GHz816
Ryzen 7 2700X2nd4.3 GHz816
Ryzen 7 3800X3rd4.5 GHz816
AMD CPUs

So, no matter what processor you are buying (I am not saying about too old CPUs) make sure to buy the latest generations only.

As you can see in the table, the latest-gen cups do not only come with refined cores, architecture but also they support the modern softwares, games and also give more clock speed.

Also, the price of the latest gen. CPUs are also not that high compared to new CPUs. So, buying a budget processor but the latest gen. can give way better performance.

#4. Are you gonna use an external GPU in your PC?

If you are not gonna install an external GPU, then you should make sure to some must-have additional features in a processor. As you know, a graphics card is also a type of processor that mainly processes the graphics part.

And that’s why, if you are not gonna install a GPU separately, the computer needs integrated graphics to run some softwares. It will be almost impossible to actually run the computer, see anything on the display without integrated graphics and external graphics card.

Note that, if you have an external GPU installed on your computer, don’t worry, you don’t have to think about integrated graphics.

But, if not, you should think about it. But don’t worry, nowadays, most of the CPUs come with integrated graphics, as integrated graphics in Intel and Vega graphics in the AMD processors.

So, if you are going to buy any latest processors, it is highly possible that you get integrated graphics or Vega graphics automatically. But, there is nothing wrong in checking this once before buying.

#5. Does your motherboard support your CPU socket?

Another important thing to look before buying a CPU is which socket it supports.

Yes, different types of CPUs support different CPU sockets. Now, how do you know that if your CPU supports your favorite motherboard’s socket?

You can just contact your motherboards customer care typing about the specific processor name and if it supports that. This is simple but time taking. Or, you can check it by yourself on the manufacturer website.

If you buy AMD processors, you don’t have to worry about thinking it. Because AMD supports backward compatibility. Meaning, both first and second-generation AMD CPUs support the AM4 circuit and the first-gen.

Sockets can be updated by a BIOS update to the next generation. Isn’t it amazing?

In this case, Intels opinion is a little bit different. Intel doesn’t support old CPU sockets in the new ones, according to them their working systems are different.

So, you have to make sure if the CPU supports your motherboard especially when buying an Intel CPU. You can easily check it on the manufacturer page.

The basics you should know while buying any processor:

After understanding the main factors before buying your CPU, you should know some terms (technical terms) about the CPUs so that you can do good research and understand what they refer to.

I am not a hardware expert. But I am using a computer over a decade now and after years of research, I hope I can explain these technical terms in simple language so that even a beginner can understand easily.

Here are some tech terms for every CPU buyer:

1. Cores:

We call that CPU is the brain of a computer, right? You can think the cores as the brain of the CPU itself.

The ultimate CPU buying guide

Decades ago, CPUs used to come with a single core. But, nowadays there are also processors available with 24 Cores.

In lemon terms, a single core can do only one task at one time. For example, if you are playing a game and editing your video (I don’t know who is gonna do that:) at the same time, both the works can’t be done with the help of a single core.

That’s why it is always helpful to choose processors with more cores (at least 4 recommended) and they will make your life easy and smooth especially for multitaskers.

But, some years back, it was not easy to get even 2 cores. Then, Intel’s revolutionary term hyper-threading was introduced where one single core can be split into two cores (but not physically) virtually, and thus a single core could perform two works at the same time.

Overall, it is always beneficial to go choose processors with multiple cores and thus a computer can enhance its overall performance.

2. Threads:

I have discussed Intel’s hyperthreading earlier, you can think thread as a product of that process. Let me explain.

Processor threads are the virtual splitting of a single core. When one CPU core is divided into two cores virtually so that one core can perform two activities at the same time, threads are introduced.

That’s why if a processor contains 4 Cores, then the number of threads of that particular processor will be up to 8 threads (2×4=8).

If you are a hard-core computer user, gamer, video editor, do multitasking a lot, you should choose CPUs with as many cores as possible for you.

And, obviously, when you buy CPUs with higher Cores, the threads will also increase.

Intel uses hyper-threading while AMD uses SMT (simultaneous multithreading) for making those threads.

Overall, threads are very useful for high-end tasks and you should check them while buying a CPU so that your PC can survive the latest software.

But, it is also possible that a CPU with 4 cores and 8 threads outperform a CPU with 6 cores and 12 threads, how? Let’s discuss-

3. Clock speed:

One more important thing to check out of a processor is its clock speed. The clock speed of any processor is nothing but the number of switching (cycle) done by the CPU clock in a second.

The ultimate CPU buying guide

The more clock speed any CPU clock can produce, it can complete any work more quickly.

Since the whole CPU works on a cycle basis higher clock speed unlocks more speed. Let’s understand more deeply-

A clock is installed in the processors which basically does up-down (on-off) [switching] to the processor circuits. So, the more rapidly a processor’s clock can do this on-off process, the more quickly it is gonna do the task.

And the maximum number of switching can be done by a processor in a second is called clock speed.

There comes there terms MegaHertz, GigaHertz (MHz, GHz). Have you ever heard these terms while buying any processor?

So, MegaHertz (MHz) basically means when a clock can do up to 1Million switching (on-off or up-down or cycle process) in one second. Like that, 1 GHz means the processor can do 1Billion switching in one second.

But, if we analyze the clock speed of the latest processors, we can’t see a huge difference with the too old CPUs?

For example, Intel Core i9 9900k can gove 3.6GHz (without overclocking) clock speed in general while i3 can also give boosted 3.4GHz. Does it mean there is no difference between them? We are not improving with time with cock speed?

This is no the case because their design and working principle also matter. For example, if i9 need to do the switching (up-down) process 10 times to do any work, i3 needs 100 times to do the same. In this case, i9 can do 10 times better than i3 having almost the same clock speed.

So, this is not true always that clock speed only matters, but we also have to see the overall strength of the CPU while buying. Overall, the clock speed refers to the switching of any processor in one second.

4. Thermal Design power (TDP):

Basically TDP is the maximum heat a CPU can produce when the processor at its full power. As you know, almost every computer part produces heat no matter whether it is CPU, GPU, Power supply, etc.

Now, what we have to look about it?

Let’s understand it with an example- the TDP of Intel core i9 9900K is around 95W. So, we have to make sure to buy a cooling system which can capable cooling this. Not only CPU, but you also have to do this same process while buying GPU.

I always say that cooling is a very important factor while building your PC which most of the beginners ignore. Unfortunately, if your cooler is not capable of cooling your PC properly, you can’t get the best performance from it. It is as simple as that.

So, make sure to check the TDP of the CPU which you are gonna buy and buy the cooler according to it.

5. CPU Cache:

A CPU has three types of memory. They have memory for storage, own RAM and at last, they have these cache memories. We can say cache as a type of RAM but it can hold more data without refreshing continuously.

Now how the cache works?

When you give computer any instructions or by software, it directly goes to RAM then to CPU and the cache organizes into different categories. I know it is a bit complicated for beginners.

There are three types of cache L1, L2, and L3 with different features. L1 is the quickest cache from them. And practically, it will be okay if you don’t give importance in cache while buying the latest CPU.

Why single Core performance is more important than the number of cores and threads?

It is great to have multiple cores and threads in your processor. But, it does always not justify buying CPUs with higher cores and threads if the single-core performance is not good.

For example, if any processor has quad-cores (4 cores) with higher single-core performance then it can easily do a task and move forward to the next one.

But, in case of a Hexa-core (6cores) CPU with less single-core performance then in spite of having 6 cores, it is gonna need more time than the quard-core CPU to perform the same work because both are using one core and 2nd CPU’s single-core performance is not good.

Moreover, most of the software, games don’t use multiple cores but it is very important that the one particular core using by the PC is strong.

From the above observation, we get to know that the single-core performance of any processor becomes more important sometimes than the overall number of cores.

So, make sure to check the single-core performance of the processors before actually buying/judging them with their number of cores and threads.

After understanding those big, commonly used terms in CPUs, there are also some additional things you should know about a CPU.

Additional things to know:

Overclocking capabilities:

If you want to get the best performance from your computer you must have to overclock it. For high-end tasks like gaming, video editing, development it is very important to have a strong CPU which can not only give superb performance in general but also can give a huge performance spike when overclocked.

If you are gonna buy CPUs like i3, Ryzen 3, no doubt they can be overclocked but the difference after overclocking will be almost negligible. With the CPUs like i9, i7 after overclocking, you can get a huge improvement in performance.

So, for high-end users, it is very important to choose CPUs that can be overclocked at a good level and also comes with the latest overclocking features.  

My personal picked CPUs in 2020:

My recommended CPUs for every category:

I hope you have got the proper instructions/guide to implement while buying any processor. I know that it is not possible for everyone to follow that since every person is not techy and don’t find these things interesting.

But, don’t worry, if still can’t decide what processor you have to go with, you can follow my personal recommendation. Here I am gonna discuss the best CPUs for every category so that you can pick your best-

CPUs for entry-level:

Everyone doesn’t have the comfort to spend as much as they want. If you are a student, building an extremely budget PC maybe this entry-level CPU will be the best for you.

If you are expecting gaming from your PC, of course, you can play games with this. But, you need a good graphics card to get good frame rates and response time. Otherwise, you have play games under 720P resolution, which is not good at all.

Rather, if you are interested in gaming or stuff like that, I shall suggest going with the mid-level, top tier CPUs. If you buy the mid-range CPU with a good GPU, you can easily run almost all the latest titles at 1080P and some at 4K resolution.

So, it will be wrong to expect high refresh rate gaming, video editing, rendering from this CPU. But, if you want to use your PC as for entertainment or for some soft of typing works, this CPU can be the perfect option for you.

Intel Core i3-8100:

If you want to get more core and more threads with an awesome single core performance in a budget, this CPU can be the best for you.

In most of the AMD processors, you can get more cores than Intel processors in the case category but non-surprisingly Intel core is way better in single-core performance than the AMDs.

The ultimate CPU buying guide

That’s why, for the entry-level CPUs, my top pick will be Intel Core i3 8100. The Core i9 8100 comes with 4 Cores and 4 threads. Yes, you are thinking right, in this CPU, hyper-threading is not used.

That’s why you can only get the same amount of cores as threads.

But, since this CPU is pretty basic and generally not used for heavy tasks, I think 4 cores (with higher single-core performance) are enough for general uses.

The maximum frequently this CPU can give is around 3.6GHz (make sure to read clock speed section I have discussed above:) with 6MB cache.

I have seen most of the computer users in this category skips external GPU because of their prices of course.

But don’t worry, this CPU comes with integrated graphics called Intel UHD Graphics 630, that’s why you can easily run your computer without a graphics card.

Moreover, core i3 8100 is Intel’s 8th generation processor. However, you can also buy their 10th gen. CPUs but I think this one justifies its price more than others.

And 8th gen CPUs are also based in New architecture, so no need to worry, you can use it at least for a couple of years.

Intel Core i3 8100 contains 65W TDP which is great. And it supports DDR4 memory type.

My opinion:

This CPU is not for hard-core computer users. I recommend this processor for those only who want a computer for their typing works, internet scrolling, and also for entertainment.

Actually, this CPU is more than enough for these types of works. And there is no need of spending a heavy amount in an expensive CPU which you never gonna utilize properly at least in 2020.

But, if you want to play games, this is not for you. Pick your favorite from the below two.

Price:

The price of Intel core i3 8100 is around $127, check it’s latest price below-

Specifications:

  • It is 8th Intel’s i3 processor.
  • Intel Core i3-8100 contains 4 cores and 4 threads.
  • The core clock speed it can give is 3.6 GHz.
  • Its TDP is 95W.
  • It uses a 6MB cache.

Benchmark in games:

System used:

GamesResolutionfps
Battlefield V1080P medium80 fps
GTAV1080P medium85 fps
Csgo1080P medium90 fps
Rainbow six siege1080P medium70 fps
All CPU parts are overclocked

Pros:

  • Still impressive gaming in this price range.
  • Cores are powerful.

Cons:

  • No hyper-threading.

The budget but powerful:

AMD Ryzen 5 3600X:

If you want to experience real gaming or going to use your PC at an extreme level, this budget CPU could be the best option for you. Under $250, it is really very powerful and comes with more cores and threads.

Yes, AMD’s Ryzen 5 3600x is one of the mid-range giants and strongly justifies its price with 6 cores and 12 threads. The max frequently given by this CPU is around 4.4GHz.

The ultimate CPU buying guide

Seeing this price-range, the output from is CPU is just awesome. Moreover, it supports 35MB game cache with 95W TDP.

This CPU is based on AM4 socket and with 6 cores, it can easily run the latest games at least in 1080P ultra settings. In some games, you can also enjoy up to 4K gaming if you have a powerful graphics card.

I have tested some games with this CPU with the GTX 2070 Super graphics card and found amazing results. I will definitely list them below.

So, if you want to enter in the gaming industry or wanna do another heavy, resource-consuming works like video editing, 3d modeling, I think Ryzen 5 3600X is the best budget CPU for you.

Its octa-core and 12 threads help while rendering any video at an extreme level. I have discussed the advantages of using more cores and threads before. Make sure to read that too.

And surprisingly the single-core performance of this CPU is also good. Overall, with Ryzen 5 3600X CPU, I think anyone can take his computer activities to another level (far better than entry-level CPUs)at only under $250.

Price: 

The price of AMD Ryzen 5 3600X is around $220, check it’s latest price below-

Specifications:

  • It comes with 6 cores and 12 threads.
  • AMD Ryzen 5 3600x can give up to 4.4GHz boosted clock speed.
  • It supports 35 MB game cache.
  • The TDP of this CPU is 95W.
  • You also get a stock cooler with the CPU.

Benchmark in games:

System used:

GamesResolutionfps
Shadow of the tomb raider1080P ultra150 fps
Rainbow six siege1080P ultra230 fps
Battlefield V1080P ultra160 fps
GTAV1080P ultra105 fps
system is overclocked

Pros:

  • Price is just awesome.
  • It can beat Intel CPUs not only by price but also by features.

Cons:

  • Still can’t outperform Intel CPUs.

Best CPU extreme performance:

If you want the best performance from your PC, you should go to CPUs like Intel core i9. According to many computer gurus, Core i9 9900K is the best gaming CPU available in the market in 2020.

Intel Core i9 9900k:

I know, there are CPUs with more cores and threads than this but their price is beyond a general user limit and I don’t recommend buying those.

However, i9 9900K is also expensive, but compared to those it is much cheaper. That’s why I have put this CPU in the top tier-list.

The ultimate CPU buying guide

This CPU from Intel contains 8 cores and 16 threads. The base clock-speed of it is 3.60GHz which can be boosted up to 5GHz.

That’s, why we can say that if you know how to overclock your pc perfectly, you can take your PC’s performance to the next level.

For gamers, 5GHz frequency is the next level. You can easily play any latest title beyond 4K. So, i9 9900k is literally a dream for many gamers.

Not only in gaming, with this CPU you can do any heavy, resource wanting works. Because of more cores and threads (thanks to hyperthreading) the rendering speed of videos also increases.

Talking about its other capabilities, it uses 16 MB cache system and supports motherboards with 300 series chipset. So, make sure to confirm if your mother supports this CPU or not before buying.

You can check out my post to know about the best motherboards for i9 9900K-

For those who don’t wanna spend on an external GPU, rather go with a powerful CPU, great news for you, this CPU comes with own integrated graphics.

So, not to worry, it can run your PC easily without any graphics card. But, if you ask me, you should buy aa good GPU for better performance special beasts like i9 9900K.

The TDP of this CPU is 95W, so make sure to use a powerful PSU.

Price:

The price of Intel Core i9 9900K is around $568, check its latest price below-

Features:

  • Intel core i9 9900K contains 8 cores and 16 threads.
  • It base frequently of this CPU is 3.6GHz which can be boosted up to 5GHz.
  • This CPU has its own UHD Graphics 630.
  • It uses 16MB cache and 95W TDP.

Benchmark in games:

System used:

GamesResolutionfps
Shadow of the tomb raider4k ultra85 fps
GTA V4k ultra92 fps
Metra Exodus4k ultra74 fps
Battlefield V4k ultra80 fps

Pros:

  • Lightning-fast video editing, rendering.
  • Gaming with this CPU is the next level.

Cons:

  • Still expensive compared to budget CPUs like Ryzen 5.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs):

How to check CPU clock speed?

As I have discussed above, CPU clock speed is basically the switching capacity of a processor in a second. The more a CPU can do these switches (up-down or on-off) the more clock speed it can give.

Now, how you can check the clock speed?

If you are buying a new CPU, you can easily get to know about it on the manufacturer website. This clock speed is measured in GHz and MHz.

So, if you are buying a new CPU, when you see 3GHz, 4GHz, they are basically clock speed of that CPU.

Now, for those who have already bought a CPU, they also can check their CPU clock speed. Follow these steps to know clock speed-

  • Go to computer settings.
  • Then go to PC info.

Or

  • Just right click on your computer icon on the home screen.
  • And select computer properties.
  • There you can see processor name and it’s clock speed (3.6GHz, 2GHz, etc.)
Why is cpu clock speed important?

As I have discussed above clock speed is basically the switching capacity of any CPU clock in a second. It is measured in MHz, GHz. Now, why it is important?

To know the importance of it, you have to know how CPU works first. When you give any command in your computer, directly goes to CPU after RAM and in CPU there is a little clock that does the switching (on-off, up-down whatever you say) to all CPU circuits.

The faster a CPU can do this switching process, the more work, in fact, more rapidly it can do work.

That’s why it is very important to have more clock speed in a processor. So that it can do commands more rapidly. Make sure to read about it above.

Why only 2 threads per core?

Threads are not physical. In fact, they are virtually split from the cores. Since one core can do only one task at the same time, one core is divided into two virtual threads so that it can do two works at the same time.

Intel uses hyperthreading to split their processors one core to two, but it is not physical, it is virtual.

Like that, AMD uses SMT to split cores into threads. Overall, threads are introduced so that a single core can do multiple tasks at the same time. Talking about why only two threads, because of core hardware limitations.

As far I know It is not possible yet divide one core into multiple threads, i.e. more than two (maybe under construction). So, we get only two threads per CPU.

is buying a used CPU worth it?

I think buying a used CPU needs lots of luck. There are very few parentages positive reasons a computer user sells his CPU for reasons like he wanna upgrade his CPU, want some money, etc.

But, most of the time, the reasons are like the CPU is no longer working effectively, CPU is at its last phase, CPU is overheating, warranty is about to end.

So, before buying any used CPU is full of risks and there is no guarantee if it stops working the next day after you have bought it.

If you ask me, please don’t buy not only used CPU but also any computer parts. Buying a used i9, I suggest going with Ryzen 5 CPU if affordable.

I know some second-hand pc parts last long but do you think you are one of those 10% fortunate people? Still, you want to test your luck, you can buy a used CPU.

But, make sure to check things I have described above so that you get the best one at least when you are getting it.

Wrapping up:

In this post, I have discussed about how you should buy a processor step by step and the important things to know about a processor before buying it.

Moreover, I have also listed my personal favourite CPUs in the budget section, mid-range and the expensive section as well. I hope after seeing those CPUs you can finally choose the best one for you.

This post contains affiliate links, so if you buy from these links, we may get some commission, but don’t worry, no extra cost for you.

If you have any questions regarding CPU buying after reading this post, you can contact me via email or just comment down below.

That’s it for today see you in the next post, keep gaming:)

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