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  • Picking Out a Processor: How to Do It
Technology Articles > Hardware > Processors > Picking Out a Processor: How to Do It

The Narrowing Begins With Brands

Forget about retina display or a backlit keyboard. The single most important component of any computer is its processor. Processors can be upgraded, added to a computer that you’re building, or purchased as part of a package deal. When a processor comes with a system, it’s relatively easy to simply choose the kind or processor you want. If you’re adding onto a system or building one, this selection becomes a bit trickier. There are a number or processors on the market and finding the one that will work for you means narrowing down the selection as much as possible.

There are two main companies manufacturing processor right now: Intel and AMD. Depending on whom you ask, one company might be superior to the other. But, how can you choose between the two brands? If you’re adding onto an existing computer, you should know that AMD and Intel don’t play well together. If you currently have an AMD motherboard, you will have to go with an AMD processor. Got an Intel motherboard? You guessed it – your processor will have to have the Intel mark. While there’s not much room to play when adding onto an existing system, you can choose freely when you are building from scratch.

The main thing that will decide whether you go the AMD or Intel route is price. Intel’s processors are a lot more expensive than AMD’s options. How much more expensive? You can purchase a solid AMD processor for less than $300, while an Intel processor will cost around $800+. As you can see, the price different is a big one. Does this mean that one company is superior? Not necessarily; both Intel and AMD offer great processors, and both companies have an edge over the other where certain minute details are concerned. But, for the average computer user, these small differences don’t matter at all, so don’t get bogged down in these details.

The Core Problem

I’m not going to spend too much time on core explanations, since there’s an article comparing cores on this site that you can reference. The main thing to remember about cores is that you need more than two cores if you plan on doing any major photo, video, or other editing. If you just plan on surfing the Internet and completing one task at a time, a dual-core processor will suffice (and you can always add on to your system at a later time – just remember that you will have to stick with AMD or Intel once you choose that processor!).

Graphics Capabilities

Both AMD and Intel now sell processors that include integrated graphics. Again, it comes down to whether or not you intend to do some major editing. If not, you don’t need to go with the processor that has the best integrated graphics. If you are planning on working with video or photos, you may want to consider a processor that has a high level of graphics integration. Right now, Intel’s top of the line is Ivy Bridge and AMD is offering Fusion to combat Ivy Bridge.

You may not need such complex processors, but it depends on what you intend to do with your computer once it has been built. Stick with these basic components when buying a processor, and you won’t wind up spending more than you want to or purchasing a processor that just isn’t up to par.