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How to choose a CPU Chip Processor for a PC

Upgrade Path

The place to start in choosing a CPU is to think about the CPU upgrade path. You should easily be able to upgrade the CPU you choose now, by simply dropping into your motherboard a faster CPU in the future when its price has fallen. Thereby extending the life of your PC. To do this make sure the motherboard you choose today has a CPU socket that will fit the latest high end CPUs or even yet to be released CPUs.

For mainstream and gaming PCs that would be motherboards with socket LGA 1151 for Intel's 9th generation Coffee Lake CPU architecture. For AMD CPUs motherboards with socket AM4 will be the best way to have an upgrade path. AMD deserves credit for using the same socket through multiple generations of their CPUs, allowing easy inexpensive CPU upgrades over time without having to replace motherboards.

Intel Pentium Processor

For mini PCs Intel's solution includes embedded CPUs. An embedded CPU means you're buying a CPU and motherboard as one single soldered part compared to a socketed CPU where you buy the two parts separately. There's no upgrading embedded CPUs, both the CPU and motherboard have to be replaced. Some of these CPU motherboard combos are cheap enough it's not that much of an issue, but it does take more work upgrading compared to just dropping in a new socketed CPU into your current motherboard.

For high-end desktops and workstations with heavy workloads requirements, for Intel CPUs consider motherboards with socket LGA 2066/R4. For AMD CPUs consider motherboards with the socket TR4.

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Next is price

Given how fast CPUs are today you really don't need to spend more than around $50 to $65 dollars for a mainstream PC CPU. As an example a current Intel Celeron CPU or an AMD Athlon Processor with Radeon Vega 3 Graphics that costs around $60 can perform all the mainstream tasks you want without a meaningful performance difference compared to a $200 or $300 or even a $1000 CPU!

For a gaming PC CPU around $70 to $120 will get you an affordable but very capable gaming CPU. For a high end gaming PC you might have to spend around $200 to $250.

For an ultra gaming or workstation or server it's $300 and higher for the CPU.

Different features to consider

Clock speed, number of cores, hyper threading and CPU architecture are main features to consider. Power consumption and overclocking potential are other factors. You're getting the best of these features automatically by getting CPUs for the motherboard sockets mentioned above.

Number of cores

One focus today on improving CPU processing performance is by placing more CPU cores on a chip. At this time, this includes up to 12 cores 24 threads for desktop CPUs, 32 cores 64 threads for high end desktops/workstations and more for server CPUs including 56 cores 112 threads.

Hyper threading is a CPU feature that simulates doubling the CPU cores without adding more physical cores, keeping the cost down. It saves money and does the job well.

2 cores 4 threads is fine for mainstream computing. Gamers should aim for at least 4 cores. Workstations need more cores to crunch through heavy workloads.

Clock speed is still important

With regard to clock speed or frequency, which is still a very important factor, we believe gamers should get a clock speed of 3.0 GHz or higher. For mainstream users even 2.0 GHz is fine. Computer enthusiasts can often overclock these CPUs to get a higher clock speed than just the CPU's rated speed. Overclock, but carefully. Low wattage CPUs need a lower clock speed to keep cool in fanless configurations.

Integrated Graphics in the CPU

Some CPUs have integrated graphics capabilities built into the CPU and some don't. CPUs with integrated graphics are for those who want decent graphics, good enough for a 4K display and to play casual games, and also for someone who wants a smaller or a mini PC. They're a great solution, substantially cheaper than the alternative of having to spend on a separate video card and they don't take up the space a video card would. CPUs with integrated graphics are the way to go in mainstream PCs.

For a gaming PC we'll be pairing the CPU with a separate video card that has more graphics power than the integrated graphics buit into a CPU. 3D games play smoother with the more powerful graphics that come on separate video cards. Note a CPU with integrated graphics is typically more expensive than a comparable CPU without integrated graphics. So if you get a CPU with integrated graphics for a gaming PC you're paying for something you're not going to use since you'll be using a separate video card. See if you can save by getting a CPU without integrated graphics for a Gaming PC.

CPU for a mini PC

Since technology changes so fast, instead of listing CPUs here for different categories of PCs please refer to our current builds which we keep current, we'll link to them below.

Sense mini PC
Sense mini PC 2

CPU for a mainstream PC

Sense PC
Sense PC 2

CPU for an affordable gaming PC

Dream PC

CPU for an affordable extreme gaming PC

Dream Big PC

CPU for a moderate workload workstation

Speed WS

CPU for a heavy work load workstation or server

Speed WS 2

Speed SV

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Linux interest and tech freedom articles!

Microsoft: 'Software is ultimately the biggest deflationary force' for businesses - Yahoo Finance, October 17, 2022:
Open source free software like Linux yes is deflationary, Microsoft not really. Kamil

Microsoft’s greed is killing Windows 11 for me - TechRadar, April 21st, 2022:

March 21st, 2022: Windows 11 will add a watermark if you use unsupported hardware - engadget

Dec 2, 2021: Microsoft’s new Windows prompts try to stop people downloading Chrome - The Verge

Oct 8, 2021: Amazon Delivery Partners Rage Against the Machines: ‘We Were Treated Like Robots’ - Yahoo Finance

Sep 10, 2021: Epic v. Apple ruling: Judge finds Apple's App Store restrictions violate antitrust law - Yahoo Finance

Aug 28, 2021: Why You Suddenly Need To Delete Google Chrome - Forbes

FTC says Facebook has been a monopoly ‘since at least 2011’ in amended antitrust complaint - The Verge

Windows 11 Is Making It Absurdly Difficult to Change Browsers - GIZMODO

What the Linux Mint developers have pulled off is nothing short of astounding - TechRepublic

Fired by Bot at Amazon: ‘It’s You Against the Machine’ - Bloomberg News

PC users are furious about the new Windows 11 design - Creative Bloq

Epic v. Apple fight: Billions at stake as judge determines fate of App Store - Yahoo!

Google reportedly made it difficult for smartphone users to find privacy settings - The Verge

I looked at all the ways Microsoft Teams tracks users and my head is spinning - ZDNet

Microsoft just force restarted my Windows PC again to install more unwanted apps - The Verge

Disastrous Windows 10 update is reportedly breaking some PCs - TechRadar

With Edge, Microsoft’s forced Windows updates just sank to a new low - The Verge

A million students and counting have learned Linux - ZDNet

Linux Mint 20: Still the best Linux desktop despite one quirk - ZDNet

What Operating System Is the Best Choice for Software Engineers? - Interesting Engineering
From the article "GNU/Linux is, hands down, the most highly acclaimed operating system for software engineering."

Microsoft: we were wrong about open source - The Verge

How to choose PC parts

CPU Video card Memory
Motherboard SSD/HDD DVD CD
Power supply Case OS
Speakers Monitor Linux

How to assemble a PC

PC assembly guide
PC assembly project
High Performance Everyday PC build
Premium Everyday PC build
Premium Everyday Mini PC build
Gaming PC build
Extreme Gaming PC build
Workstation Computer build
Save with Linux on a PC
How to choose PC parts
Dual boot Linux and Windows
Upgrade to SSD project
Transfer data from old PC to new PC

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