What to look for in CPU? What do all those Specs mean?

This is a really Good question, How do you know that what to look for in a CPU? What do all those Specifications mean?

Maybe some of them are quite obvious, some of them maybe not so much and Do all those specifications really matter? And what really determines price of a CPU? What exactly are you looking for?

So, there are few things to consider and I think it is pretty important when you are shopping for CPU. Now that, the AMD Ryzen 5 has been released, we have an incredible CPU and incredible price. So, there is a lot of options on the market right now. So, it is important to look for these things when shopping for a CPU and I am going to tell you how to.

Things to consider when shopping for CPUs are as per follow.

  1. Intel vs AMD
  2. No. of Cores / Hyper threading
  3. Cache L1 L2 L3
  4. Base / Boost / Overclock
  5. RAM type
  6. socket type
  7. Integrated Graphics
  8. TDP (Power Draw)
  9. Lithography / Manufacturing technology

I know this all sounds like a lot, might be little overwhelming at first. But we are going to go through these one at a time. So, don’t worry. I am going to hold your hand to this process as no one held mine. Think I am funny? but not.

Anyways moving on and we are just going to go in the surface level with these subtopics and specifications. We will look for as there is an incredible amount of depth. You can look into all these things, so just keeping it in a generic sense.

1. Intel vs AMD

So, before we get into anything. It is important to note that, there are only two brands, when it comes to desktop CPUs. Intel and AMD. In that shell Intel is more expensive and AMD is more budget friendly.

Intel is traditionally known to be the more efficient and better performance of the CPUs, but at a higher cost. While AMD provided more budget oriented CPU, but had less performance compared to Intel.

Currently, AMD’s new Ryzen CPU has leveled out the performance gap and now they have similar performance, while AMD presents their CPU at fraction of Intel Quill-en CPUs, its also worth noting, if you are a first timer at this. You can’t put these CPUs in the same type of motherboard. They have their own distinctive lines of motherboards.

2. No. of Cores/Threads and Hyper Threading

One of the first things to notice with the CPU, other than the brand, is the amount of cores it has. Generally speaking, the more cores a CPU has, it will be more likely to process more information at a given time and be able to do more multitasking and productivity, compared to one with less cores.

But of course, this statement is on a very surface level and there is a lot more to that general statement. Modern CPUs also have hyper threading, which is a CPU, that is recognized by an operating system with twice the amount of cores.

For example,  A hyper threaded CPU, that has 4 physical cores, will display eight virtual cores on the operating system, the amount of virtual cores is known as the amount of threads. So, a hyper threaded quad-core CPU has four cores and has eight threads.

Well, the CPU may have eight threads, that doesn’t mean it will work like an eight core processor. But instead, an enhanced quad-core CPU, I could go more into depth but I want to keep this as basic as possible for the necessary information in this blog.

3. Socket type

Socket type refers to the types of motherboard, the CPU is compatible with. AMD and Intel CPUs have different types of sockets and can not be interchanged with one another. For example, the new Ryzen CPU from AMD, uses AM4 socket.

The new Kaby Lake CPUs from Intel, using LGA 1151 socket, you have to make sure to buy the correct socket type for a motherboard, otherwise CPU will not work or even fit in tht socket.

4. Frequency

Frequency is another major thing to look for as well. The frequency of a CPU is measured in Gigahertz (GHz). The more Gigahertz, the faster the CPU operates. CPUs with more cores usually operate at a lower frequency, while CPUs with less cores operate at higher speeds and also  overclock a lot easier.

The CPU has a base clock and a boost clock, the base clock refers to its normal operating speed with frequency, while the boost clock is there when the CPU is being pushed or under load. Overclocking is when the CPU is being pushed beyond its boost clock.

Also, if you plan on overclocking CPU to get the most power out of it, make sure that you are buying a CPU (Also motherboard should be capable of overclocking), that can overclock for instance. Intel CPUs with a K at the end of the title can overclock. But those without K at the end of the title are those who are not overclockable.

For AMD CPUs, most of them can overclock, all of them are able to overclock and some of them have this thing called XFR. which basically means it can be pushed a little bit further with overclocking.

5. Cache

Older CPUs usually have less cache than the modern ones. On the surface cache is simply a fast type of memory, the CPU uses to effectively retrieve information to have less latency while processing information.

You may also notice different types of cache. Such as L1, L2 and L3. Which refer to the different levels of cache like Level 1, Level 2, Level 3. Now, L1 being the fastest type of memory, while L3 is this slowest.

Although L3 is able to store more cache than L1. So, in a general sense, the more cache the CPU has across all level types, the better.

6. Integrated Graphics

Integrated graphics is another thing to look for. Although it may not always be available in the specs on a website. it is worth searching for. AMD APUs are the AMD CPUs with integrated graphics. A good amount of Intel CPUs have integrated graphics as well.

The best way to find out this information is to simply look on the manufacturer website or just Google it. Since this information is always available on retailer websites like Amazon.

But what is integrated graphics, basically it is a built-in graphics processor that can display an output on to the monitor from the motherboard. If there is no integrated graphics , you will need to buy a separate graphics card. Keep in mind that integrated graphics can not play high-end video games smoothly.

It is there simply to display an image on the monitor. So, if you want to do gaming and stuff like taht, it is highly recommended to get a discreet graphics card or something known as just a GPU. Just get a GPU.

Last few minor things to look at is the TDP and manufacturing technology.

7. TDP (Power Draw)

Processors with more cores usually require a higher power draw or TDP. A lower TDP shows the power efficiency of its CPU. A higher power draw will need a power supply with higher power delivery, but usually you don’t need a 1000 Watt power supply. Usually around 500 to 650 watts is plenty.

8. Manufacturing technology

The manufacturing technology may seems like a complex term, but is rather simple. It is measured in nanometers and M. The manufacturing technology measures the gap between the transistors inside the CPU.

The smaller that gap is the more transistors, they can fit within that CPU, effectively making it more powerful, so when you look at a CPU, modern CPUs have now a 14 nanometer architecture or manufacturing technology. While older ones up to 45 and above.

9. Memory Type or RAM Type

Another specification to find out is the memory type or RAM type, that it supports. Modern CPU is now use DDR4 memory, that usually is not a problem, but if you plan on buying a slightly older CPU, like Intel Core i7-4790K, like I did you will need to purchase DDR3 RAM.

Lastly, once you have found a few CPUs, that you are interested in, look at some benchmarks on YouTube video of a review of those CPUs. Benchmarks is how well it handles multitasking gaming at 1080p.

Since, 1440p and up is more GPU dependent than CPU dependent and look for its IPC. Which means instructions per cycle, but basically what you are looking for is whether CPU being in the benchmarks in the video was tested for individual core performance.

Which is good representation of its IPC also watch multiple videos of bench-marking the same CPU to get a well rounded opinion and perspective of the processor.


Altogether, ultimately you can read the specs all that you want, but seeing it perform in action is the ultimate decision-maker in my opinion and that is how you basically look for a CPU, when you are looking at those specifications, those are just things that are usually listed in the description and just a couple extra things to look for.

So, when you are shopping for that this is kind of a guide to help you know what you are actually looking at and just saying that wow! it’s got eight cores, its good or it’s got 5GHz, its good. Although, I don’t think there is any processor with 5 GHz processor.

Anyways, I hope this helped you guys out in deciding on whether you are buying the new Ryzen 5 processor or you are sticking to Intel or whatever the case might be. So, overall I just hope to help you guys out and let me know if it did and what  do you think about buying a CPU, what is your recommendation? Comment it below.



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