CPU/Processor Buying Guide

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CPU/Processor Buying Guide

Buying a new state-of-the-art CPU is one of the most effective ways of upgrading any type of computer. The multicore processors of today can handle data in a way that was unimaginable only a few years ago. These powerful devices' high performance and speed enable users to carry out tasks in only a few minutes that might have taken hours a few years ago.

Upgrading a computer's processor is often more affordable than buying a computer featuring one of the latest CPU models available on the market. CPU upgrades are more common in the case of desktops, as some laptop CPUs are not replaceable. However, many portable computers can greatly profit from such upgrades as well. Both Intel and AMD offer a range of CPUs that can suit any upgradable laptop or desktop model.

In order to select the right item for purchase, it is important to know about the features offered by some of the top-rated CPUs available today. In the past, shoppers based their decisions on a processor's clock speed alone. The advent of multicore chips changed everything. Today, an informed buyer needs to take into account a CPU's number of cores, as well as a variety of other processing capabilities.

Main CPU Features and Specifications

CPU specifications can present a puzzling sight to the layman. When shopping for one of these devices, it is important to identify the characteristics that can make the biggest difference in terms of both performance and speed. Some of these key features include number of cores, compatibility with certain computer models, clock speed, and type of processors.


There are two main choices for CPUs, Intel and AMD, and they are not interchangeable. All CPUs do not fit a particular computer make or model. A CPU attaches to a computer's motherboard through a special socket. Some manufacturers consistently use the same type of socket in all their products' motherboards, which makes CPUs rather brand-specific. Thus, finding out whether a certain CPU is compatible with a particular computer model is the most determining aspect of CPU selection.

Processor Specifications

Number of cores, clock speed, and hyper-threading capabilities are among the top specifications to look for when shopping for a CPU. As usual in these cases, numbers are not everything, and one's personal needs must also be taken into account. For example, someone who works with photography does not necessarily require the same type of CPU as a video editor.

A CPUs number of cores is usually integrated into each model's ID. Basically, more processors can handle several threads at the same time. Dual-core processors, which started the multicore revolution, have become the norm today, but it is possible to find CPUs of up to six or more cores. The latest Mac Pro all-in-one desktop, for example, features two six-core processors, which make it one of the most powerful machines one can buy ready-made in the market today.

The more cores a CPU has, the faster it can run when processing various tasks simultaneously. However, some applications are not prepared to benefit from splitting processing efforts across different cores. This means that depending on the uses one plans to give a computer, going for quad or six-core may be an unnecessary expense.

As a matter of fact, hyper-threading technology enables a single core to process various threads simultaneously. For example, a six-core processor featuring hyper-threading can process 12 threads at a time. Nevertheless, this does not necessarily mean that the computer can run twice as fast with a hyper-threading capable CPU.

Finally, clock speed, which is measured in gigahertz, expresses how often the computer's clock pulses in one minute. CPUs combining a high clock speed with hyper-threading and multiple cores tend to be the fastest and most powerful. There is also a process called overclocking, which allows CPUs to run faster than their regular speed specifications. Overclocking CPUs usually require more power and generate more heat.

Some Multiple Core CPUs

This chart presents some of the main advantages and characteristics of 10 recent CPU models that have received consistently high ratings from both experts and users. They feature a range of four-core to six-core processors.

CPU model


Intel Core i7-3770K

Impressive graphics performance, well-suited for the latest games; low power consumption and heat generation; affordable

Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition

Unparalleled performance for professional video editing; impressive overclocking headroom; rather pricey, but good value

Intel Core i7-2600K

Great speed, superior overclockability; low heat generation and high energy efficiency for its price class

Intel Core i7-965 Extreme Edition

A great choice for midrange to high-end PCs; boasts speed records in multithreaded apps; superior graphics performance

Intel Core i5-2500K

A genuine quad-core processor offering an incredible performance for its value; gamers might need to add a 3D card; great for HD video playing; not recommended for highly demanding video editing

AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition

Six-core raw speed well below Intel's Core i7-980X, but at one third of the price; turbo core; compatible with AM2 and AM3 motherboards; makes a great budget choice for less demanding tasks

Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition

Speed boost only apparent in the case of apps that can employ multicores; at a high price, the average user cannot take advantage of its benefits; a good choice for professional content creators

Intel Core i5-661

Inferior in speed to the similar priced Core i7-750; integrated graphics and a simple chipset make it a great choice for boosting the performance of affordable PCs

AMD Athlon II X4 630

Great performance boost from the 620 model for a similar price; very good performance; great price; AMD virtualisation; ideal for people looking for quad-core on a budget

AMD Athlon II X4 620

First quad-core processor in the market to appear at such a low price level; good performance for average user tasks; great budget choice

For anything that surpasses the demands of the average user, Intel remains well ahead of AMD in terms of general performance and speed. AMD only becomes a competitor when it comes to budget CPUs.

How to Buy a CPU/Processor on eBay

eBay offers thousands of both single and multicore processors that can work with all kinds of desktops, laptops, and all-in-ones. How your search can start really depends on what is more important to you. If you have established that nothing short of a quad-core will do, then you should simply type "quad-core CPU" into the search bar. On the other hand, if you prefer Intel to AMD, "Intel CPU" can yield the most relevant search results.

Another way to refine search results is by inputting your desired budget range or selecting your preferred condition. While buyers tend towards purchasing new CPUs, items that have been in operation for a short period of time can also be found online at very competitive prices. Many people are primarily interested on speed, so, you may input a specific speed as well. As mentioned above, speed and number of cores are not everything, so adding hyper-threading to the search terms can also yield some interesting results.

Once you are left with a few CPUs that seem to fit your needs, you must check which ones among them are compatible with your computer model. Some sellers list some of the models which are compatible with their products; however, it is always wise to check your computer manufacturer's site for detailed compatibility information.

Before buying your chosen CPU, it is a good idea to learn more about the seller. Check the seller's feedback score and read the comments left by previous buyers. Top-rated sellers consistently provide good service to large numbers of customers.


Upgrading to a more powerful CPU can greatly boost any computer's performance, except for some laptops, which feature static, non-replaceable processor units. In order to be able to make the switch, the CPU has to fit the socket present in the computer's motherboard. Modern CPUs have gained a lot of speed from the multiplication of cores.

While the number of cores and speed specifications are the main details any buyer takes into account when shopping for a CPU, other features, such as hyper-threading capabilities and overclocking can have a great impact on a CPU's performance. Moreover, as many applications are not built to profit from multicore processing, the average user may experience only a small improvement when upgrading from the widespread dual-core to quad or six-core.

When shopping for a CPU, it is very important to consider all features and specifications as a whole, as they can mean very different things in context. It is also key to consider what the computer in question is generally used for, as different CPUs offer variable performance levels for carrying out different tasks. For example, some CPUs are great with 3D video handling, while others are at their best when working with audio. To be sure a certain CPU is suitable for a certain type of task, it is always a good idea to check a few CPU reviews online.

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