What CPU Do I Need? How to Choose a Processor

What CPU Do I Need? How to Choose a Processor

Choosing the right CPU (Central Processing Unit) depends on your PC use case. Whether gaming, personal use, or professional use like video editing, there's a CPU tailored to your needs. Consider factors like clock speed, core count, and compatibility, and then select the gaming CPU that best suits your use case. 

Here's a complete guide on choosing a CPU to help you decide. 

How You Plan to Use Your PC

There isn't one single answer for what CPU you need because it depends on your particular use case. The best processor for you might not be the right one for someone with a different use case than yours. To help you figure that out, here's a breakdown of all the possible PC use cases and how to choose the correct CPU.

Gaming Performance

Gaming is rapidly becoming one of the most popular things people do on their PC. A CPU matters a lot for gaming, so if you also plan to use your PC for that, you need a powerful enough CPU to handle whichever game you throw at it and a few programs in the background. Something like an i5 13400 or the Ryzen 5 7600X are good mid-range options for gaming.

The Kinds of Games You Play Matter for Your CPU

That said, it depends a lot on what type of games you play. For example, if you only care about esports titles like CS2 or Valorant, you can get high framerate numbers from an older i5 10400 or a Ryzen 5 3600. However, certain games are highly CPU intensive, and you might have to opt for a high-end CPU like the current-gen Intel i7 or Ryzen 7 to get a playable experience.

Personal Use

If you don't plan on using your PC for heavy gaming and only need something you can browse the web on or do some office work, go for something like an Intel i3 or Ryzen 3. You might be good with the integrated GPU, eliminating the need for a dedicated graphics card. 

Professional Use

Another popular way people use their PCs is professional work, which requires a more powerful CPU compared to what would be decent for gaming. We recommend that it at least has a modern quad-core processor. Ideally, you should have 6, 8, or 12 cores to speed up your workflow. 

Video Editing

Video editing is the most common type of professional work done on PCs. While you can use a gaming PC for video editing, we recommend leaning towards higher core count CPUs since CPU-intensive tasks like video editing benefit a ton from more cores. 

CPU Specs to Look For

When deciding on a CPU, people often only compare whether it's an Intel i5 or an Intel i7. However, there are many other factors to consider. Here are all the specs of a CPU that you should look for before finalizing the one you want to buy.

Clock Speed

Clock speed, measured in GHz, determines a CPU's processing speed. Higher clock speeds generally result in faster performance, benefiting tasks like gaming and single-threaded applications. Some modern CPUs can go well above the base clock speeds using overclocking, allowing users to extract more performance from the same processor.

Number of Cores

Choose CPUs with sufficient cores based on your needs, such as mid-range six-core CPUs for regular gaming, eight or more for professional use, and higher core counts for video editing and CPU-intensive games.

Thread Count

Consider thread count alongside cores for multitasking efficiency. Optimal thread counts vary by usage; gaming and personal use may require fewer threads than professional tasks like video editing.


Cache size is another aspect that influences CPU performance. A larger cache size for gaming is better because more critical info stays in the CPU, not the RAM. The same goes for video editing or any other type of professional work.

Thermal Design Power

Thermal Design Power, or TDP, is directly proportional to the amount of heat the CPU will generate. That also directly influences the cooling requirements. Choose a CPU with a TDP suitable for your system's cooling capabilities.

Integrated Graphics Processing Units

Integrated graphics eliminate the need for a dedicated GPU. A CPU with an integrated GPU is ideal for non-gaming builds like those for web browsing and office work. However, you can save a few bucks getting a CPU without an IGPU, which you can spend on a more powerful dedicated GPU if you plan on gaming.


Before finalizing your CPU choice, check its motherboard socket compatibility and chipset. You must consult your motherboard's specifications to determine which CPU models are supported. Usually, you can expect a motherboard to support around three generations of desktop CPUs.

Comparing Processor Manufacturers

One of the most popular questions people have about what CPU they should get is whether they should go for an AMD CPU or one from Intel. However, comparing CPU manufacturers is a lousy idea compared to the current generation, especially if you want the best value regarding previous generations.

The competition between AMD and Intel means that PC enthusiasts will get the best products. Because of this rivalry, the new processors that each manufacturer releases keep dethroning the other almost every few months. So, instead of going for a particular manufacturer, select a CPU with all the specs based on your requirements. 

Choosing a CPU FAQs

If you are still trying to decide on the best CPU for your particular requirements, here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about CPUs.

What is the Most Powerful CPU for Gaming?

Currently, the most powerful CPU for gaming and the one that will get you the most FPS possible is the Ryzen 7 7800X3D due to its 3D cache design. While there are processors that are more expensive than this, the Ryzen 7 7800X3D provides the best gaming performance.

How Can I Tell What CPU I Can Upgrade To?

If you plan to keep the same motherboard you currently have, check which processors your motherboard is compatible with before upgrading to a new one. For example, if you have a B660 motherboard, you can upgrade to all processors with the LGA 1700 socket, which includes all intel processors from the 12th to the 14th generation.

Summary of Choosing the CPU You Need

In summary, selecting the ideal CPU depends on what you want to do with your PC. For gaming, you should get a mid-range CPU like the current-gen Intel i5 or the Ryzen 7 or something budget-oriented like an Intel i3 or a Ryzen 3. Consider CPUs with more cores on the higher end for video editing and other professional work. Go through all the scenarios and specs above to decide which CPU would be best for you. 

Written By Dani K

Edited by Will Wilson

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