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Buying the right CPU

The main thing to consider when choosing the CPU for your system is your budget. If you have a £600 budget for a gaming computer then spending half your budget on an Intel Core i7 will not give you a well-balanced system. There isn’t a rule of thumb that applies to everything so choosing the right one can be difficult.

As a general guide if you are spending around £450 then an Intel Pentium CPU might start to make sense. The most expensive Pentium CPU’s are around £100 leaving you with £400 for the rest of the system. This is about as much as you want to spend because if you have any less budget left you would not be able to get a decent gaming computer.

If you are spending between £500 and £800 then an Intel Core i3 will be a good idea. These CPU’s are still dual cores like the Pentiums but they also have Hyperthreading. This means that they have 2 more virtual cores as well as 2 physical cores. This results in performance that is between 2 physical cores and 4 physical cores. Intel Core i3 prices range from around £110 to £160 leaving you with plenty of budget to get a good graphics card and an SSD in your system.

Once you get over £800 the only CPU that really makes sense for a gaming computer is the unlocked Intel Core i5. This CPU is around £250 and has 4 physical cores. As it is an unlocked processor we can easily overclock the CPU giving you roughly an extra 30% CPU performance. Most games can’t use more than 4 cores so having 4 fast cores is much better than 8 slower cores. If you are just looking at a gaming computer then it isn’t worth going higher than this currently.

The next step up is the unlocked Intel Core i7 which has 4 physical cores and Hyperthreading adding another 4 virtual cores. This is the highest consumer grade CPU that Intel offer and while its uses in a gaming computer are limited it is the go to option for game streaming or video editing which both need a bit of extra CPU horsepower.

Above the “consumer” grade CPU’s you get to Intel’s “HEDT” line up which is the High End Desktop CPU’s. These start at 6 cores with Hyperthreading and prices range from £430 up to almost £2000. These CPU’s also require a different motherboard to the previously mentioned CPU’s increasing the cost further. These are not generally used in computers which have the main purpose of gaming. These come into their own with heavily multi-threaded workloads such as video editing or 3D rendering.