How to Choose the Best Processor for Gaming

When you want to build your own custom gaming PC and are in the stage of choosing your parts, the very first part you should select is the CPU. That’s because your CPU choice dictates which type of motherboard you can get, which then determines what kind of RAM you can get, and so on. The CPU, also known as the processor, is one of the most important parts of a custom build, especially a gaming build.

best cpu for gaming

If you think of the motherboard as the heart of a computer, then the CPU would be the brain. It is responsible for all the high speed mathematical calculations that occur during your favorite games and your choice of processor will directly affect how fast your games will run. That is why it is a crucial part to any gaming system.

Choosing the best processor for gaming isn’t all about picking the one with the fastest speed as advertised on the box, there are more factors that you need to take into consideration. In this article I will go over the most important things to consider when making your selection so that you choose the right CPU for your needs.

Socket Type

The first thing you should know about is the CPU socket type which is basically the “type” of CPU. You must match your CPU with the right type of motherboard and you do this by finding a motherboard with the same socket type as your CPU. So for example, if your CPU’s socket type is “AM3” then you must find a motherboard with a CPU socket type of “AM3” to ensure they will fit together. The socket type has to be an exact match, so for instance a socket type of “LGA 1155” will NOT be compatible with a socket type of “LGA 1156”.

Cores

Most processors these days have multiple cores which means that there is more than one independent processor working inside of your CPU. For example, a “dual core” CPU has two actual processors running inside of your CPU. Quad-core’s have 4 cores, hexa-core’s have 6 cores, and octa-core’s have, yep you guessed it, 8 cores running side by side.

Having multiple cores allows your computer to divide different computing tasks among the various cores which increases performance. These days the best gaming CPUs will have at least 4 cores (quad-core). Obviously, the more cores the better and the more future-proof your CPU will be, but at this point in time a lot of games don’t actually utilize that many cores so the number of cores shouldn’t be your main concern.

Frequency

The internal frequency, or clock speed, is essentially the speed of the processor. In general, the higher the frequency the faster your processor will be, but there are other factors than come into play such as the number of cores and cache to name a couple. The frequency is measured in Gigahertz (Ghz for short) and for gaming these days you won’t want to get a processor with anything less than 3 Ghz.

Cache

Cache memory is another specification of a CPU that is worth mentioning. This memory is built into the processor and helps to increase performance. In a nutshell is works like this: recent commands and calculations are stored in the cache and when the processor has to perform a similar task it simply reverts to the cache for the instructions which takes less time than having to redo the calculation.

There are different types of cache such as L1, L2, and L3 cache. To be honest you don’t have to worry too much about cache memory when selecting your processor since most CPUs these days will have plenty of it.

Intel or AMD?

There are two main brands of CPUs out there to choose between, Intel and AMD. In general, AMD tend to provide more to the “budget” crowd with their very affordable range of processors, while Intel targets the more “high end” section of the market. But this is not to say that AMD doesn’t produce powerhouse CPUs, and vice versa.

So how do you pick between the two companies and which has the best processor for gaming? There isn’t a clear cut answer and both companies have great processors. You will do well with either. Although, if you plan on building a top of the range build then you will probably want to go with Intel who offer the best high-end chips at the moment. As for building a system on a tight budget, I would lean towards AMD and their great value budget processors.

Choosing Your Gaming CPU

If you’re a newbie and all of this terminology sounds quite confusing, don’t worry as you don’t need to understand how a CPU works to be able to¬†buy one. Just like most people who buy a car have no idea how it works under the hood. Nevertheless it is a good idea to be somewhat informed and have a basic understanding of the differences between the various CPUs on the market. Hopefully this article will shed some light on the world of CPUs and help you to make an informed buying decision.

Like most things you get what you pay for, so your CPU choice will basically come down to how much you have to spend. Casual gamers who either play older, less demanding games and/or don’t care about playing the latest games on maximum settings obviously will not need the very best processor for gaming that money can buy, and a relatively cheap model will serve you well.

On the other hand if flawless gaming is your goal then you will need a more capable CPU in your system. If you need more specific guidance on choosing the best processor for gaming for your particular budget, check out The Best Gaming Processors for 2014.

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