Nobody likes a slow computer. And while we can blame low storage, small RAM, or the computer’s age, the fault is often the processor or CPU. After all, it determines how fast your computer processes instructions. But how fast does your CPU need to be? What specs should you be looking out for?
Here’s a quick guide that can help!
For Basic Users
If you’re only using your computer to browse, type, watch Netflix, and for other non-intrusive tasks, you don’t really need to pay a lot of attention to your CPU’s specs. As long as it has at least 4 cores (which should be everything above an Intel i5) and is at least 8th gen, it won’t have trouble running your programs.
Usually, cores can only run one program at a time efficiently. However, there are CPUs like Pentium Gold G5400 that can “hyperthread” or run multiple programs using one core. They can speed up a lot of the basic processes.
Whether you’re a coder, software developer, or any type of user that runs a lot of programs at a time, then you’re looking at a multi-core, multi-threaded CPU. After all, every program runs on at least one thread. Plus, a lot of coding languages like C++ are multi-threaded. You’re going to need at least 8 cores and 32 threads on your CPU.
However, your computer’s CPU isn’t the only thing you have to worry about in this scenario. CPUs are placed in printed circuit boards (PCBs), which are built with alternating layers of conductive copper for the best power distribution possible. As such, if you’re using a powerful CPU like the Ryzen 9 5900X (12 cores, 24 threads), you need to find an equally powerful motherboard that can make full use of its hardware. Those with super LANs and multiple heat sinks like MEG Z490 and Aorus X570 will be up to the task.
When people play games, usually, they’ll only have the game itself, Discord, and maybe a website open to check guides with. In this case, cores and threads are not a priority. What you should be looking at are the CPU’s clock speeds. Clock speed determines how fast the CPU processes one thread. For example, a computer with a Ryzen 5 3600 CPU (6 cores, 12 threads) may start slowing down when it has to process multiple programs at a time, but its above-average base clock speed of 3.6 GHz ensures that it runs individual windows much faster.
And while the CPU is important to one’s gaming setup, it’s not the only thing that matters. You have to make sure that your graphics card (GPU) doesn’t become the source of your bottlenecks either. They don’t have to be expensive to be good. As long as they can hit 60FPS on 1440p consistently, your games should run smoothly. The RX 5700 XT and RTX 2060 Super are good examples of this.
There’s no one right CPU for every user—it depends on your budget and what you’re using the computer for. Professionals can get away with budget CPUs, for instance, but programmers need to invest in them for the cores and threads. And while gamers don’t need a powerful CPU, they do need one that can clock at high numbers. Do your research; see what satisfies your needs.
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