CPU stands for Central Processing Unit, or can simply be called a Processor. It is the essential part of a computer that processes data from all forms of inputs. If you were to type on a keyboard, it takes the key press as an “input”, “processes” that data as instructed by a program or operating system (e.g. Windows 10), then it “outputs” that data to other components in the system to display its results.
The CPU is not the computer, when growing up in the 90’s, I would always hear people referring to the entire computer build as a CPU. I like to think Intel started the branding “Intel inside” to help inform people that a CPU is inside the computer.
For the most part there are two major factors in processors, the number of cores and their core clock. The number of cores can vary from two to sixteen for general consumer offerings. A core can be expressed as a cashier at a grocery store. The cashier has to physically scan all the products, or “data”, to “process” it. The speed at which the cashier can scan the items would be considered the core clock. A single core doesn’t stop there, some CPUs can split its workloads into “threads”, essentially acting as “two” cores. Meaning at a cashier lane you would have two cashiers scanning the products from one conveyor belt. This does not mean a CPU with the highest core count and clock is the answer to everything. Many applications and games are not developed to utilize all available cores and rely more on just pure speed. With that said, as more and more CPUs offer many cores now, apps and games are becoming optimized to use them.
For consumers there are currently two major brands, AMD and Intel. As the market stands today, Intel still has the edge for gaming, generally offering more frames per second. AMD on the other hand, has been more focused on general everyday use and more processing power for demanding applications. AMD is also great for gaming and can also hit high frame rates, but again, some of Intel’s mid-range CPUs can outperform AMD’s high-end lineup. As of now, I recommend AMD over Intel due to price to performance comparisons. Intel generally out performs AMD in gaming by 10%, but AMD leads Intel in most other computing tasks by 30%. We are in a good time right now with AMD and Intel striving to bring us their best offerings for our current and future needs.
How do you choose the right processor for you? A good place to start researching is going to be the software you use the most. Many companies will have a list of minimum or recommended specifications, which will tell you exactly what is needed. Sometimes minimum specs may just be enough to run a program without it crashing. I would suggest looking at their recommended specs, upgrading or downgrading from there, depending on your budget.
Check out AMD and Intel CPUs here: