Whether it's a high end gaming desktop, an office workstation or a PC for general use, each desktop build has its own set of requirements which will determine what components you'll need. Before searching for the best CPUs of 2017, you should think about what type of software you are going to use frequently.
There are two types of workloads in the technical sense: single-threaded and multi-threaded workloads. Single-threaded workloads are simple tasks, like web browsing or text editing, which do not require a lot of processing power. Multi-threaded workloads involve heavier types of processing, for example photo editing, video editing and gaming. These types of workloads require a powerful CPU with more cores, as each core is being utilized by such programs to process the workload.
Brand wars are a common thing in the tech industry and when it comes to CPUs, there are only two giants: AMD and Intel. AMD CPUs perform quite well and usually have a lower price tag. For example, AMD Sempron and Athlon dual-core processors are affordable, starting at 30$, and perform very well on PCs running home applications. However, AMD processors do get hotter than Intel chips and additional cooling solutions may have to be considered. Intel CPUs are a bit more expensive but they outperform the competition, especially when it comes to multi-threaded workloads. Intel CPUs are power efficient and generate less heat - for this reason, many portable computers are powered by Intel CPUs.
You also have to think about the motherboard's socket whenever you're looking to buy a new chip, as CPUs have various sizes and it's important to make sure that the CPU will fit on the motherboard. AMD and Intel have a lot different sockets for almost every new generation of CPUs. Taking into account that Intel CPUs became more and more popular, chances are that you'll find more motherboards compatible with Intel CPUs.
CPUs use multiple cores to increase the overall speed by running multiple instructions simultaneously. Knowing the type of workload will help you determine what kind of processor you'll need. For a PC running general-purpose applications, a dual-core processor will be enough, while for more complex workloads you'll probably need a quad-core. The more cores a CPUs has, the pricier it is. More cores translate to faster and better processing for heavy computing tasks, such as photo editing, video editing and gaming.
Generally, a quad-core processor would be a good choice if you use your computer for various tasks. Take for example the Intel Core i5 quad-core processors, which provide good performance for most tasks, including gaming. However, Intel i7 processors shine when heavy computing is involved, like running 3D modeling applications or playing games with 4K HDR graphics, and this is mainly because of Intel's hyperthreading technology. Hyperthreading doubles the logical cores or thread count of a processor. By duplicating the threads of one core, execution resources are used efficiently and the processing speed is increased. AMD chips, though cheaper, are perfectly fine for common usage and high-end processors can deliver very good performence, but they do not have hyperthreading. AMD does compensate with high clock speeds and more cores packed into a single chip.
Clock speed, also called clock rate, refers to the frequency at which one core is running, determining how fast the processing unit executes instructions. The total clock speed of a processor determines its speed and overall performance.
Mobile processors are mainly designed for portable devices like smartphones, notebooks, tablets. Unlike their desktop counterparts, mobile CPUs run on lower voltages and consume less power in order to save battery life. Since you can't simply replace the chipset of your device, you should take into account the processing performance before choosing which device to buy.
Unlike desktop CPUs wherein you can swap out for better and higher performing CPUs at any time, mobile devices tend to have the user fixed with what’s already installed. Before buying a device of any kind, it is best to know the purpose and the workloads that you plan to use on that device. Many devices today are equipped with dual-core processors or quad-core processors, which seems to have become a standard on the mobile market, but for those who are looking for higher performance, there are octa-core or deca-core processors available.
Some of the best mobile processors today use ARM's big.LITTLE technology, which makes it possible to use cores clocked at different speeds in order to increase the device's overall performance. The cores clocked at low speeds, which have the advantage of being power efficient, are used for tasks that don’t require a lot of processing power. The big, powerful cores come into action for complex tasks. When all cores are used at the same time - in the case of heterogeneous multi-processing (HMP) - the background tasks are performed by the little cores and the high priority tasks are performed by the big cores.