How To Select The Right CPU For Your System

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Fortunately, finding a great processor could not be any easier. Both AMD and Intel offer great processors that possess more power than the average user will harness at affordable prices.

What type of processor to get?

Internet / Email

A computer that is mainly used for internet and email does not require much power at all. I could do these things on my 486 DX2 fourteen years ago. First, do not use Windows Vista as your Operating System because it requires a lot more

CPU power than the systems intended use. Go download Linux or use WinXP, so you can get away with using the cheapest processor you can find.

Everyday / Office Computer

An office or "everyday" computer is used for all sorts of applications, MS Word, PowerPoint, email, surfing the internet, watching videos, gaming, etc … It's unlikely that this sort of computer would be used for highly intensive application on a regular basis, so a top of the line dual or quad core CPU might be overkill if you're on a budget. Any low to midrange CPU would be a great and affordable complement to this system.


You may be surprised to hear this, but gaming performance is really about the video / graphics card. If you want to make a certain affordable gaming rig that can actually play games, take the money you save on the processor and invest in a better video card. Any dual core processor should suffice.

There are cheap dual cores that provide great performance, these can be had for anywhere between $ 80-120.

You can even go cheaper if you are on a tight budget, I've seen as low as $ 50. These low cost processors are usually great overclockers, so if you're not worried about voiding warranty you can give that a shot.


This depends on your programming environment and the types of programs you are writing. If you are using the latest versions of Visual Studio, you probably want to invest in a good dual core
processor, since the IDE can be huge CPU hogs. At any rate a decent dual core should cover all bases with power to spare.

Graphic Artist

Whether you're a 2D or 3D artist you should probably invest in a quad core with the latest instruction set (SSE 4, etc …) Applying filters on large images or complex computer processes that take a lot of CPU power to perform. I'm no graphic artist, but I would assume that waiting for filters to be submitted and applied to an image or model is not something a graphic artist enjoys.

Video Encoding

In most cases video encoding is an extremely time consuming process with encodes that can take days to complete. If you intend to do a lot of video encoding, invest in a good quad core with the latest instruction set (SSE 4, etc …). If you can not afford a good quad core then a cheaper processor will work, it's just going to take a lot longer, so you're going to have to run the computer all night and day.

Video Playback

This depends on the kind of video playback you are doing. A processor around 600MHz or faster should be able to playback mpeg and mpeg2 (DVD) formats with no problems. When you get into the high definition (h.264 format) the CPU has to do a lot more work and without the support
of a graphics card with an on-board decoder even the most powerful CPU's will struggle.

  • For DVD formats like MPEG, almost any processor will do
  • For HD playback like h.264 a low budget dual core CPU can suffice if you purchase a graphic card with a really good decoder. To be on the safe side stick with midrange dual core processors and a graphics card with a video decoder.