What is a CPU?
A CPU (central processing unit) is a component of your system that is responsible for the logic, control, input/output, and arithmetic that makes a computer able to perform many tasks. The CPU is essentially the brain of your computer, and without it, your computer would not even be able to turn on!
How does a CPU work?
We won't get into the technical aspect of how a CPU works, it's an extremely complex subject but we will break down some basic aspects of a CPU that you may see when trying to pick a processor.
A CPU typically will consist of multiple processors integrated into the CPU, these are called the cores and typically more cores will mean the processor is more efficient for intensive computational tasks. More cores do not necessarily equal better game performance, most games these days still only make use of two cores from a processor. Below is an example of how Windows sees your CPU cores in your system.
Hyperthreading and Virtual Cores:
Hyperthreading is the process of splitting a physical core into two virtual cores. These two virtual cores are identical in every way, but when the physical core is split into two virtual cores, they are more powerful than if you did not have Hyperthreading on your processor. On LetsBLD.com, if a CPU has hyperthreading (most do these days), we will state the number of physical cores and then the Hyperthreaded virtual cores.
Your clock rate (commonly shown in GHz/MHz) is how quickly a processor can generate the electronic pulses that synchronize all the components within a CPU. Typically the higher the better! When a CPU runs at a higher clock rate this will make pretty much everything you do on your PC faster (up to a point).
So what CPU should I get?
Now that we've gone over the basics of a CPU, we have to figure out what CPU you want to use for your system. Keep in mind your intended use case. Keep in mind what you are going to do and then consider your budget. A CPU is a great place to save some money on your build. Keep an eye on the FPS we list on our site when you comparing components for your build, as it's a good way to understand how your choice of a processor affects performance.
What is better? Intel vs AMD
This is a pretty common question we get a lot, as both brands have a lot of options at varying price points and have advantages in certain use cases. For the outright best performance for games, Intel is usually the way to go. Intel typically has better performance per core than AMD. If you are looking to stream games or do video editing (or really any high-end computational tasks) then AMD is the way to go, as those tasks benefit from the additional cores that AMD processors will have over Intel processors.
There is a lot of factors that go into making a decision like this, if you need help though don't be afraid to ask our team for assistance!