Hardware CPU Guide Part III: Choosing the Best CPU Without Breaking the Bank

This is the third and last part of the Hardware CPU Guide series. If you have missed the first two part of this series, you still can find it at the links below:

  1. Part 1: Knowing your CPU, find out the factors that affect its performance
  2. Part 2: Intel vs AMD, which is better

There is no such thing as the “best” in CPU. What may seem the best for a casual user maybe mediocre for a hardcore gamer. For a gamer, you don’t want to have a CPU that is only good enough for word processing. What you really want is one that has a great deal of power to run the latest games out there. On the other hand, you won’t want to break the bank just to get the highest-end CPU in the market. They are often very expensive and and is ways ahead of the software technology. The more important thing is how you can strike a balance between performance and price. Here are three steps to choose your CPU.

1. Determine your budget

The last thing that you want to do is to max out your credit limit to get the most expensive CPU out there. Before you even start shopping, first determine how much money are you willing to spend on the CPU. While there is always a CPU for almost every price range, you may want to set aside about $150 – $200 for a decent CPU, and more if you are getting one for your gaming PC.

2. Select the brand

Choosing either a Intel or AMD CPU is really based on one preferences. Many benchmarking reports have shown that Intel scores better than AMD in term of performance and heat generation, but it is more expensive. If you are low on budget, you may want to choose AMD CPU since it costs at only 3/4 of the price of a equivalent Intel CPU and still give you the performance you want. Gamers may want to consider getting the AMD and ATI cpu/graphics card combination.

3. Select the model

When choosing the model, focus on the number of cores, L2/L3 cache, speed, and price. Check out forums/review/benchmarking sites to see how that particular model performs. If you are upgrading the CPU for your existing system, make sure the CPU uses the same socket as the one in your motherboard.

How to Save Money When Buying A CPU?

If you don’t have $1000 to throw around on a processor, that’s fine. There are many processors of different price range and you don’t necessary have to get the most expensive one. Here are some ways to save a few bucks.

Buy the next best processor

You don’t necessary need to get the latest processors in the market. More often than that, they are expensive and the support from other hardware is also not mature yet. You can easily save quite a bit of money simply by getting the next best (or the third best) processor.


For the same specification, AMD CPUs are generally cheaper than Intel CPUs. While many benchmarking reports have shown that Intel CPUs are better, the truth is that the differences is too small for you to notice.

Our recommendations

Intel: Intel Core i7 Processor i7-930 2.80GHz 8 MB LGA1366 CPU

This Intel processor features a quad core of 2.8GHz chip and a 8MB of L3 cache and is one of the popular CPU around. It uses the LGA 1366 socket.

AMD: AMD Phenom II 1090T Black Edition Six Core Processor

If you think quad cores is powerful, wait till you have tried six cores. This most popular AMD cpu features a six-core 3.2GHz chip and a 6MB L3 cache. It uses the AM3 socket and supports DDR3 RAM.

This comes to the end of this complete guide to choose a CPU. If you have any comments, opinions, questions or even doubts, feel free to leave your comment below.


Damien Oh started writing tech articles since 2007 and has over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. He is proficient in Windows, Linux, Mac, Android and iOS, and worked as a part time WordPress Developer. He is currently the owner and Editor-in-Chief of Make Tech Easier.

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