If you are potentially in the market for a new computer the number one consideration is the processor, this is the heart of a computer and determines how fast it will run your software and how suited it is to various tasks.
Sure, if you are gamer then a gaming graphics card will have a big impact as well, and certain programs may need more RAM (memory) than others, but once these bases have been covered the CPU is the main point of difference.
Which CPU should you go for though?
There are a lot of options, you have Intel i3’s, i5’s, i7’s and i9’s, or the AMD Ryzen 3, 5, 7, or 9 series of chips.
Generally an Intel i5 is faster than an i3, but slower than an i7, with i9’s being the top of the performance pile.
It’s the same with AMD, a Ryzen 9 is the top performer with levels dropping slightly as you move down through the numbering system.
Straight forward you may think…
The thing which catches many people out is the CPU generation and this can make a massive difference.
What is a CPU generation?
Both Intel and AMD regularly release new processors which offer enhanced performance levels, for Intel this used to be almost annually, over the past few years it has been more like every 18 months.
The problem is that when the newer and faster processors are released they are still called i3’s, i5’s i7’s, and i9’s.
AMD essentially do the same thing with their chips although they tend to have slightly longer periods between new releases.
Because the new CPU releases are named very similar it becomes far more complicated to compare performance.
Why is this? Well if someone tells you that you need an i7 which i7 do they actually mean? A 10th generation one? 11th generation? Or the new 12th generation? The performance levels can vary wildly between a few generations.
The way to tell what generation a CPU is from is to look at its model number. For Intel the first 1 or 2 numbers indicate the generation, 9700K is a 9th generation chip, a 12700K is a 12th generation chip.
For AMD the first number indicates the generation or series, 3700X is a 3000 series, 5600X is a 5000 series CPU.
Sometimes there isn’t a big difference between processors from one generation to the next, other times it can make a massive impact and kind of change the rules.
Let me give you a few real-world examples.
Example 1 – New i3 versus older i5
A potential customer of ours was looking at our Trader PC which by default is fitted with an Intel 12th generation i3 CPU, they then look at another website and see a computer which has an Intel i5 in it, the i5 machine is slightly more expensive but there isn’t much in it.
They assume the i5 is a better option, but they have not taken into account that the i5 is a 10th generation CPU.
The i3 we are offering is actually 20% faster than the older i5 due to performance improvements Intel have made over the past few years, making the i3 a pretty significant upgrade over the older i5.
So for the same (or slightly better) price you are getting a 20% faster computer, nice.
Example 2 – New i5 versus previous generation i9
Here’s a similar example however this time lets look at a new 12th generation i5 chip versus an 11th generation Intel i9 system.
You’d assume that an 11th gen i9 is going to come out on top as until just a few months ago it was Intel’s fastest CPU on the market, and we all know an i5 is mid-range, right?
The new 12th generation i5 processor (12600KF) is around 5% better at multi-threaded workloads and just over 10% faster in a single thread speed test (the most important metric for most people) than the 11th generation i9 11900K.
Not a massive jump however here is the kicker, our Trader PC with the 12th gen i5 works out to be £400 cheaper than an Intel 11th gen i9 listed on a competitors website.
That’s for exactly the same level of kit (RAM, Hard Drive, Graphics), so you are getting a PC that is around 10% faster for 20% less.
That £400 you saved would more than cover the cost of upgrading our 12th gen i5 to the 12th gen i9 if you wanted, the performance increases would then be around 20% in single thread speed and a massive 60% in multi-threaded workloads.
Example 3 – AMD Ryzen 3000 vs 5000 series
There are still a lot of online sellers offering Ryzen 3000 series processors, the first thing to understand is these chips were released early 2019 so you are buying 3 year old technology.
The newer AMD 5000 series chips are far superior in terms of their raw processing speed (single thread speed), on average you are looking at around a 25% jump in performance just by getting the newer processors.
To be honest the 3000 series AMD’s were good for one thing when released, multi-threaded performance, but if you software isn’t multi-threaded, and most isn’t, then they were never massively fast processors.
Opting for a 5000 series chip over a 3000 series offers around a 25% speed boost, but what if you went for a new 12th gen Intel?
The new i3’s are around 30% faster and if you go for a new i5 12600KF or above you are somewhere around the 50% mark. In terms of processing speed that is night and day better.
Check The CPU Generation and Insist on the Latest Chips
The moral of this story is don’t assume that just because one PC headlines a processor level that it is ‘supposedly’ faster than another that it actually is.
Where possible always insist on the latest generation of chips, this is 12th generation for Intel and the 5000 series for AMD, you will always end up with a faster PC, and can sometimes save a lot of money.
If you need any help comparing one PC’s processor to another just get in touch, we are here to help.
Written by Darren @ Multiple Monitors
Last Updated: February, 2022