The type of tasks you perform should be determine the Central Processing Unit (CPU) for your gaming system. If you will be sticking to older games, you do not need the highest end gaming CPU. If you will be editing in 3-D programs or other high-end uses, you'll choose differently. The question isn't "What's the best processor?", but instead, "What's the best processor for what I do?". Below we'll give insights to some common CPU traits that will hopefully help you understand what you want in your CPU!
Less than 10 years ago, all CPU's came with just a single core; now the rule is multi-core processors. The availability has become increasingly more popular as software and games are now using multi-core to power their technology. Many options are available--from dual-core to octa-core. It's important to note that having more cores does not necessarily mean better. To maximize your money, it's best to to match system requirements with core availability. You may not need a 12 core CPU when a 4 core will get the job done at a fraction of the cost!
Next up is the cache! The cache of a processor is similar to the memory of a computer. It's a small amount of fast memory that is used for temporary storage, allowing a computer to retrieve files that are in the cache quickly. Larger cached CPU's are able to store more files and quickly retrieve them.
As for socket compatibility, it is a huge concern when selecting a processor. The socket type enables the interface between a motherboard and its processor. If you already have a motherboard, make sure the CPU socket will match the type of motherboard! If you are building a computer around a certain CPU, you will need the right motherboard for the socket-type.
Some processors today have CPU's integrated into their chipsets, which are specifically designed to handle the graphics output for the computer. Most gamers prefer having a standalone CPU to maximize performance. This allows the CPU to handle only the things it needs to while off-loading the graphics processing to a standalone component.
Measured in hertz (Hz), frequency is the speed at which the process operates. Historically, processors were generally seen as better if they were faster, which isn't always the case today. A lower clocked CPU can beat out a higher clocked CPU if the architecture it's running on is better for that environment. While frequency is still a very important factor when selecting a CPU, it just isn't the only factor that impacts the utility and speed of the processor.
Most hardware components generate heat, including the CPU. The power specification assigned to a processor tells how much heat the CPU is going to give off. It will directly affect the type of cooling device needed to keep the CPU running and undamaged. Some processors don't come with cooling devices, so make sure to read the product page to buy the correct parts. Maintaining proper cooling is definitely needed or you'll be replacing the parts sooner than you'd like!
The two heavyweights: Intel vs AMD
There are two CPU giants currently leading the consumer market: Intel and AMD. Both have varying strengths and price points. The first few decisions you need to make are budgeting, purpose of the computer, and possible future upgrades. These choices will impact the CPU you select for your machine. Always make sure the socket type of your motherboard matches the socket type of the CPU before you purchase. The current gaming staple is the Intel i7s or i5s. Depending on the specific model, they range from medium to high cost. You can view some of them here.
Gaining vast popularity in the price point market is the AMD Ryzen 5 and 7 CPU's. Newly released, they offer astounding performance for their price, even rivaling the top line Intel i7s. If you aren't starting from scratch you'll need to make sure you know which CPU your motherboard can support. No matter which CPU you choose, both of these power houses are massively supported by software, bios, and configurations!
Knowledge is power and it definitely ring true when deciding the proper gaming CPU for your rig! We hope we were able to save you the pitfalls and painful mistakes of building the right CPU with this knowledge! Power it up and game on!