Here’s every little thing to think about when shopping for a CPU in 2024

Searching for a brand new CPU in 2024 presents you with glorious choices for highly effective processors, finances chips that punch effectively above their weight, and a few extremely environment friendly choices which might be excellent for small builds. That’s what makes the fashionable CPU panorama so thrilling: You don’t simply want to purchase the best processor you may afford.

The proper CPU for you is one that may do every little thing you want proper now, and do it effectively, whereas additionally offering some future-proofing, and ideally, a transparent improve path for the longer term. Here’s find out how to purchase a CPU in 2024.

CPU specs, defined

Intel Core i5-13600K installed in a motherboard.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Aside from the producer, the primary level of consideration while you purchase a CPU goes to be the specs of the processor. This means cores, threads, clock speeds, and cache.

As with many issues on the planet of computing, the final rule of thumb is “the more, the better,” however that doesn’t imply it’s essential spend cash on a high-end CPU if all you’re doing is a few gentle gaming. You don’t want one of many best CPUs for gaming, in the event you’re wanting to make use of your PC completely for work.

If you need to achieve an understanding of the best way processors work, we’ll let you know every little thing it’s essential know under. However, in the event you’d relatively simply get right down to enterprise and listen to concerning the totally different choices which might be out there to you, you may skip ahead to the following part that discusses the variations between AMD and Intel.

Cores and threads

Intel Raptor Lake chip shown in a rendered image.

Cores are like particular person processors of their very own, all packed collectively on the identical chip. Traditionally, they will carry out one activity every at a time, which means that extra cores make a processor higher at multitasking. Modern software program is much better at benefiting from extra cores directly to do the identical job, so extra cores could make some software program run quicker, too.

Threads are the variety of duties {that a} CPU can conduct at anybody time. Many fashionable processors function simultaneous multithreading (referred to as hyperthreading on Intel CPUs), which lets processors leverage spare core efficiency for added duties. That’s why you’ll usually see a CPU listed with eight cores and 16 threads or 12 cores and 24 threads. These extra threads aren’t as quick because the cores themselves — as they’re successfully leveraging components of the CPU which might be underused — however they do usually enhance efficiency by a noticeable margin.

Some software program can leverage extra cores and threads than others, making the variety of cores and threads that your CPU has an enormous indicator of potential efficiency. Having extra cores than you want doesn’t pace issues up past the bounds of what the software program can deal with, and it could actually result in your particular person cores not being as quick as these in chips with smaller numbers.

Clocks and IPC

Pads on the AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Another main consideration with CPUs is clock pace. This is the megahertz (MHz) and gigahertz (GHz) score and represents what number of collections of duties a processor can carry out every second. It’s a good illustration of the pace of particular person cores, although it doesn’t inform the entire story. If two processors from the identical era have the identical variety of cores, however one has the next clock pace, it should carry out quicker.

Since larger clock speeds imply particular person cores run quicker, that may make chips with larger clock speeds however fewer cores carry out higher in sure functions that may’t make use of upper core and thread counts.

CPUs even have totally different directions per clock (IPC) rankings. That’s the variety of duties it could actually carry out in every clock cycle (every second, famous by the clock pace), and it’s depending on the underlying structure.

While this might sound slightly complicated, it highlights the significance of particular person evaluations for processors. Head-to-heads, the place two CPUs are pitted in opposition to one another in comparable assessments, are additionally a good way to see how they carry out in the true world. We have a number of such comparisons, similar to an actual battle of the Titans that compares the Ryzen 9 7950X to the Intel Core i9-13900K.

If you desire a good rule of thumb, CPUs with larger clock speeds and newer architectures are quicker at nearly every little thing, however for productiveness duties, a contemporary one with extra cores will normally be faster.

CPU cache

AMD 3D V-Cache chip is shown over a coppery background.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The cache is one more spec that’s price . The cache is a small quantity of very quick reminiscence that’s constructed straight onto the processor, and it’s liable for storing info that the CPU must often return to. Embedding the cache onto the chip signifies that the knowledge is retrieved faster than in case your pc needed to fetch it from the system’s fundamental RAM.

The two sorts of cache that matter while you store are the L2 and the L3, and CPUs usually have bigger L3 caches than L2. Typically, every CPU core has its personal allotment of L2 cache, however the L3 cache is shared amongst all cores.

You gained’t be stunned to listen to that the extra cache your CPU has, the higher. Although you don’t want huge quantities of it for day-to-day makes use of, it could actually have a dramatic influence on gaming, which is the why AMD’s 3D V-Cache CPUs, just like the 7800X3D and 7950X3D are a few of the finest for gaming.

Intel or AMD?

Intel processors next to each other.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Now that we’ve coated what all these totally different phrases imply, let’s see how Team Red (AMD) and Team Blue (Intel) make the most of them to ship highly effective processors.

If you’re shopping for a processor, you primarily have two decisions — Intel and AMD. Apple additionally has its personal processor sort, referred to as the M chip, however these will not be standalone CPUs that you could put inside your PC. Instead, you’ll discover them in numerous Macs and MacBooks. As they’re irrelevant to this text, we’ll deal with Intel and AMD as an alternative.

Intel and AMD have a longstanding rivalry, and although each have had their downturns, in 2024 these two chip corporations are hotly aggressive with each other, making both a stable alternative for nearly anybody.

There are a number of variations between AMD and Intel. Each producer equips its processors with totally different capabilities, however they’ve a variety of similarities in the best way they work. However, sure design decisions nonetheless set them aside, and the pricing is one other issue.

Let’s take a deep dive into Intel and AMD.


Intel Core i9-13900K sitting on a mousepad.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends / Digital Trends

Intel has been round for years and years, and it could actually normally be relied on to launch new CPUs one a yr. The final couple of years noticed the rise of the Intel Alder Lake, adopted by Intel Raptor Lake in 2022 and its 14th era refresh in 2023. The subsequent generations are already looming on the horizon, together with Intel Arrow Lake.

Intel makes CPUs each for desktops and for laptops. Some of Intel’s processors include built-in graphics and others don’t, which means you’ll additionally want to purchase a discrete GPU to match. Moreover, some Intel chips will be overclocked, which means that their clock pace will be adjusted larger at the price of elevated energy consumption — however this feature isn’t out there on each CPU.

Where some AMD chips go all-in on the clock pace and the cache dimension, Intel has been stacking up on cores. Comparing AMD and Intel could generally reveal that Intel has an edge in productivity-related duties because of these larger core counts.

Intel’s prime CPU, the Core i9-14900KS, comes with 24 cores. It’s an enormous, power-hungry beast, although, so most customers don’t want to think about it for his or her builds. However, even midrange CPUs just like the Core i5-13600K include 14 cores and provide glorious worth for cash.

Since the discharge of Intel Alder Lake (twelfth Gen), Intel has been utilizing a hybrid core construction in its processors. This signifies that as an alternative of utilizing a single core sort, it splits cores into efficiency (P) cores and effectivity (E) cores. The CPU will usually have extra effectivity cores than efficiency cores.

P-cores are designed to deal with heavy-duty duties, whereas E-cores are left to deal with background duties that don’t require the complete energy of your processor. P-cores additionally attain larger clock speeds than E-cores.

It’s price noting that Intel CPUs are typically slightly dearer than AMD, though issues have largely evened out within the final couple of years. If you’re selecting between two producers, Intel is commonly thought to be the higher all-around possibility, however AMD has an edge in gaming.


AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D installed in a motherboard.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The previous couple of years have principally been good for AMD. After slipping into irrelevant territory throughout the time of its Athlon and FX processors, AMD managed to claw its approach again up with the discharge of the Ryzen CPUs. It additionally made a smaller, however vital, comeback within the GPU enviornment with RDNA 2 and RDNA 3.

These days, with Ryzen chips now extensively out there, AMD is on an upswing. Its processors aren’t simply related, however they’re additionally usually the go-to for gaming builds. AMD has additionally carved out a stable area of interest for itself within the server and workstation segments with its Threadripper CPUs.

AMD’s newest CPU lineups embody the Ryzen 5000-series (Zen 3), which is now approaching retirement (and is subsequently fairly inexpensive), and the latest Ryzen 7000-series (Zen 4), which incorporates processors starting from finances to high-end.

As far as core counts go, AMD isn’t chasing the best numbers and as an alternative opts for extra cache or larger clock speeds. However, it’s nonetheless Intel that has the one processor available on the market that hits 6GHz out of the box — however most customers don’t want that sort of frequency, anyway.

AMD’s prime processor, the Ryzen 9 7950X, maxes out at 16 cores and 32 threads. It’s a powerhouse of a CPU, a lot the best way Intel’s prime chips are — however players would possibly discover extra curiosity in a distinct vary of AMD processors.

Not too way back, AMD launched the threeD V-Cache. This is a further chiplet stacked on prime of the CPU that’s full of extra cache. This drastically boosts CPU cache sizes, and as an alternative of including this to each CPU (which, frankly, wouldn’t be crucial), AMD releases these particular chips underneath the “X3D” lineup.

The increase in cache dimension provides chips just like the Ryzen 7 5800X3D or the Ryzen 7 7800X3D an enormous improve in gaming. In reality, these chips defeat dearer choices from AMD and Intel in benchmarks, and that is regardless of their restricted core counts. However, they’re not nearly as good at productiveness duties, which is the value we pay for the decrease core depend.

AMD CPUs are typically slightly on the cheaper facet, however that is slowly turning right into a delusion — besides on the very excessive finish.

AMD’s subsequent era CPUs, the Zen 5, Ryzen 9000 generation, are slated for an end-of-2024 launch.

CPU labels and generations

Intel Core i5-12400F box sitting in front of a gaming PC.

Cores, threads, clocks … all of that stuff is fairly complicated, however then every producer has to throw in its personal naming schemes, and that may make issues much more troublesome to comply with.

You can work out so much a couple of processor just by realizing the era it’s from and the tier it sits in inside that era. AMD and Intel have totally different naming schemes for his or her processors, and having the ability to decode them is necessary. Newer processors are normally higher, and as we’ll clarify all through this information, having the ability to discern processors on a person foundation will assist you to pick what’s related and what isn’t.

The newest AMD processors are a part of the Ryzen 7000 collection. The first quantity notes the era, whereas the second quantity notes the place the processor sits in that era. For instance, the 7600X and 7800X each come from the Ryzen 7000 collection, however the 7800X is a quicker, extra succesful processor inside that era.

Unfortunately, the numbers themselves don’t imply a lot. You’d be forgiven, for instance, for assuming that the Ryzen 7000 processors are the seventh era of Ryzen processors. But that’s not the case (it’s truly the fifth era of Ryzen processors and solely the fourth architectural change). Similarly, the 7800X is labeled with the Ryzen 7 tag and the 7600X with the Ryzen 5 tag, whereas the 7900X has a extra becoming Ryzen 9 tag.

The numbers themselves aren’t necessary. It’s how they evaluate to one another. A Ryzen 7900X comes from a more moderen era than a 5900X, and a 7800X and 7600X are from the identical era, however the 7800X is quicker.

It’s price noting that AMD processors can include or with out an “X” on the finish of the collection quantity. The “X” merely signifies that the chip is a higher-performing model of the bottom processor. As such, you’ll see the Ryzen 5 7600 and the Ryzen 5 7600X, and the latter shall be dearer and barely quicker.

Intel’s naming scheme is comparable, utilizing the primary quantity to notice the era and the second quantity to notice the place inside that era. Like AMD, Intel additionally categorizes its processors into tiers (Core i7 and Core i9, for instance). Knowing that, we will pick the Intel 13900K as a Thirteenth-generation processor that’s within the i9 tier. Again, larger is healthier right here.

Nothing is straightforward in terms of CPU naming, although. Like AMD, Intel additionally breaks from its naming conference. The 13400 and 13600K, for instance, are each Thirteenth-gen i5 processors. Higher remains to be higher, although, so the 13400 will typically carry out worse than the 13600K.

Intel additionally provides a suffix to most of its processors that notes sure performance (or the dearth of such performance). There actually isn’t any affordable rationalization for the suffix letters and what they imply, so we’ll simply listing them as an alternative:

  • G1-G7: Graphics degree
  • E: Embedded
  • F: Requires discrete graphics
  • G: Includes discrete graphics
  • H: High efficiency optimized for cellular
  • HK: High efficiency optimized for cellular, unlocked
  • HQ: High efficiency optimized for cellular, quad-core
  • Ok: Unlocked
  • S: Special version
  • T: Power-optimized
  • U: Mobile energy environment friendly
  • Y: Mobile extraordinarily low energy

Thankfully, you gained’t encounter a lot of the suffixes when searching for a processor. The necessary ones to recollect are F and Ok for Intel desktop processors. For cellular, HK and U present up probably the most.

If you’re feeling uninterested in this entire CPU naming factor by now, now we have unhealthy information — Intel has additionally lately determined to change up the way it’ll name its processors going ahead. Fortunately, older generations will not be affected, however this may muddle issues up even additional.

Integrated graphics

AMD APU boxes.

CPUs can even embody built-in graphics chips on the identical die, making them able to working independently of devoted graphics playing cards. Intel CPUs with the F designation (such because the Core i5-13600KF) don’t have onboard graphics, however most others do in some type. They aren’t usually highly effective, however an entry-level built-in graphics chip just like the UHD Graphics 770 can do round 60 frames per second in older esports video games like CS: GO. You’ll need to hold the settings low to keep away from stuttering body charges throughout intense motion or when heavy smoke is deployed.

AMD’s processors usually don’t embody onboard graphics on desktops, although there are some accelerated processing models (APU) that do. They can provide affordable efficiency in indie and esports video games, so for these on a good finances, they will substitute a discrete graphics card.

Power and thermals

Installing a power supply in a PC case.
Digital Trends

Performance is a very powerful issue for many CPU purchases — in any case, in the event you can’t do what you need along with your new chip quicker than you possibly can earlier than, what’s the purpose in upgrading? If you’re trying to have a quiet PC, an environment friendly PC, or one which’s significantly compact, energy and thermal calls for are necessary issues, too.

Unfortunately, neither AMD nor Intel provides significantly clear knowledge on the facility and thermal calls for of their processors, as an alternative resorting to bundling the 2 collectively right into a score of Thermal Design Power (TDP). This is expressed in wattage, and it provides you a tough concept of how a lot energy the CPU would require from the facility provide and the way succesful a cooler you’ll must hold it inside secure working temperatures.

Power consumption can fluctuate drastically between totally different CPUs. In laptops, it’s normally stored at bay to make sure that the pc doesn’t warmth up past the temperature of the solar; in desktops, producers depend on you having an external cooler and driving it up a lot larger. For occasion, the Core i7-13650HX processor has a most turbo energy of 157 watts, which is so much for a laptop computer, however the desktop Core i9-13900K consumes 125W at its base energy and will be boosted as much as 253W, making it very exhausting to chill successfully, even with an enormous CPU cooler.

In sure conditions, TDP may also be a slack information to the standing of a processor’s underlying silicon, the place more adept CPUs are ordered within the extra main TDP ranges attributable to their capability to handle further energy. This relies on every particular case, although, and there’s actually no assure of a extra high-grade chip. It’s additionally solely particularly appropriate for overclocking.

You’ll need to look at particular person processor evaluations to find out how a lot energy and cooling they really want, however in the event you’re available on the market for larger TDP CPUs that require virtually 100W, bigger and more adept coolers could be an affordable possibility if you’d like a quiet PC. The identical applies to the power supply (PSU) — it’s a kind of elements you actually don’t need to lower your expenses on.

Socket compatibility

MSI B650 motherboards.

Buying a processor can solely get you up to now — your PC construct additionally wants a stable motherboard that holds all of those cool elements collectively. This is the place it will get tough, although, as a result of most CPUs solely have a restricted variety of motherboards that they will match into. This is known as socket compatibility, and that is additionally why you may’t improve your PC from 10 years in the past with the most recent CPU available on the market — it merely doesn’t match that motherboard anymore.

For AMD, there wasn’t a lot to think about for a great few years, as a result of it caught to its AM4 platform for a very long time. You may improve your CPU a number of occasions inside that time-frame and never need to spend money on a brand new motherboard. Now, nevertheless, the Ryzen 7000-series requires the usage of an AM5 motherboard. It additionally completely helps the newer DDR5 memory type, which may drive up the price of constructing a PC relying on the pace an dimension of the equipment you buy.

Intel modifications sockets much more often by comparability, and it at the moment makes use of the LGA1700 socket, which is appropriate with twelfth, Thirteenth, and 14th-Gen Intel CPUs. However, there are rumors that this would be the final era that helps the LGA1700, which means that any additional upgrades would require a brand new motherboard. On the upside, LGA1700 works with each DDR4 and DDR5 RAM, though you’ll have to make that alternative earlier than you make the acquisition, as you normally can’t use each reminiscence varieties in a single system.

When searching for a CPU, double and triple-check that it suits that individual socket. Otherwise, you’re some huge cash wasted on both a new motherboard or a brand new processor.


The NZXT X53 AIO 240mm liquid cooler in white placed on a gray background.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Keeping your CPU cool is important to the efficiency of your entire system. Allowing it to overheat can both massively decelerate the efficiency of your pc and even severely injury your elements. As such, whereas usually neglected, numerous CPU coolers are far more necessary than they may appear at first look.

There are three frequent sorts of coolers: air coolers, all-in-one liquid coolers (AIO), and customized loop coolers. The former are the commonest, and the latter are costly, so that you’ll solely discover them in high-end programs the place the finances was of no concern.

Air coolers make the most of heatsinks and one or a number of followers to chill down your CPU. They’re normally pretty low-cost, and though they take up a good quantity of area, they’re comparatively straightforward to put in. AIO coolers depend on a liquid to switch warmth, however they too include followers that assist dissipate the warmth. They’re far more environment friendly and are higher suited to CPUs that eat a variety of energy and generate a variety of warmth. Lastly, customized loop might be the best choice of all three, however it’s fairly superior and expensive — though maybe not as scary as you think.

Which CPU is finest for you?

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

We’ve informed you a lot of the issues it’s essential learn about desktop (and laptop computer) processors. The subsequent step is so that you can make the selection and purchase a CPU that fits your explicit wants.

There isn’t any one-size-fits-all information to creating that call. We have a information on PC builds that may aid you, and now we have rankings of the best CPUs to point out you some worthwhile fashions, however finally, each finances and use case is barely totally different. However, in the event you’re not sure what works finest in your explicit PC, listed below are a number of suggestions for various budgets and use circumstances.

Day-to-day use

A young woman has a video chat on her HP 14-inch Chromebook.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Although CPU makers would possibly need you to imagine in any other case, you don’t must spend a whole bunch of {dollars} on a CPU that gained’t do a variety of heavy lifting. If you simply want one thing that works effectively for shopping the web, watching your favourite motion pictures and exhibits, or even perhaps working, an affordable CPU will suffice. In these circumstances, the Intel Core i3-12100 or the AMD Ryzen 5 7600 are each good choices.

The Core i3-12100F doesn’t include built-in graphics, however the Ryzen 5 7600 does, in order that saves you a bit of additional cash on a GPU. However, don’t anticipate any critical gaming powers from both CPU; they’re made for informal customers relatively than players.


young woman playing video games on a PC

If you desire a common suggestion for a gaming processor, the reply will all the time be both the Ryzen 7 5800X3D or the Ryzen 7 7800X3D. They’re each gaming beasts, outclassing almost each different CPU on the market of their respective era, together with fashions that price an entire lot extra. However, in the event you’re not into AMD or just need one thing cheaper, there are nonetheless choices to think about.

For Intel, the utmost CPU we’d suggest for gaming is the Core i7-13700K, and even then it’s slightly overkill — you may safely accept the cheaper Core i5-13600K as an alternative. The Core i5-13400 is a budget-gaming champ, and it’s cheaper than the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, though it’s not as quick in gaming situations. Cheaper choices that also do effectively in gaming embody the Ryzen 5 5600 and the Core i3-12100F. The 14th era Intel CPUs are largely the identical as their Thirteenth gen counterparts, so solely choose them up in the event you get them at a great worth.

If you’ve the cash to spare, nothing stops you from going for the highest shelf and getting the Ryzen 9 7950X or the Core i9-13900K, however be warned that each of them are slower than the Ryzen 7 7800X3D in gaming; they’re higher at productiveness, although.

Video modifying and different CPU-heavy workflows

Gaming streamer working on desktop editing content.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Buying a CPU for work is troublesome — making the suitable alternative is much more vital right here than in different circumstances. If your work principally revolves across the browser and Microsoft Excel, you may simply refer again to our day-to-day part. However, in the event you are likely to put your PC via the wringer for a residing, you’ll want top-of-the-line processors available on the market.

Tasks like content material creation, video modifying, rendering, and encoding take a toll on the CPU. You’ll want a chip with an honest quantity of cores and clock speeds to match. We suggest the Core i7-13700K as a place to begin, however you may even improve to the Core i9-13900K in case your finances can deal with it. Stay away from the Core i9-13900KS and 14900KS until you simply gained the lottery and also you’re undecided what to do with all this more money, as they only aren’t a lot better than their non-S counterparts.

For AMD, the X3D chips aren’t any good right here — follow the common X-series processors from the most recent Ryzen 7000 lineup. The Ryzen 7 7800X, Ryzen 9 7900X, and the Ryzen 9 7950X are all good choices, though all of them have fewer cores than their Intel counterparts.

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