Intel Processor Buying Guide
Purchasing an Intel Processor
Consider the following when shopping for a computer that features an Intel processor:
- Match your choice of processor to the tasks you need to perform. For example, if you edit high resolution video footage, then you will likely need the power of a Core i5 or i7 processor.
- Opt for a processor that suits how you work. For example, if being mobile is important to you, then a hyper-efficient Core m processor could help you enjoy longer battery life than one of the more powerful alternatives.
- Be aware that Intel carries the same naming conventions across generations. This is particularly important to remember if you are considering buying an older PC.
- While the processor is a vital component of any device, computer performance is also dictated by the RAM, the GPU (if applicable) and the hard drive. Choosing the right computer is often a case of striking a balance between these components.
- If your computer does not feature a dedicated graphics card, know that most higher-end Intel processors offer Intel HD or Intel Iris integrated graphics. The latter is more powerful and would be a sensible choice for gamers and creatives.
Clock speed (GHz) measures how many cycles a processor can complete in a second. In the simplest terms, the higher the clock speed, the more powerful the CPU is likely to be.
- A clock speed of 1.5-2GHz is likely to be adequate for most users. This will enable you to perform office tasks, enjoy hi-res media playback and much more besides.
- Gamers and creatives, however, are likely to need more power. Clock speeds in excess of 3GHz should be enough to run most software and games to a high standard.
- High-end Intel processors also boast Turbo Boost technology, which enables the processor to run efficiently when not under duress and achieve high clock speeds when required. This is especially useful in mobile devices where battery life is key.
Processors are often sold according to how many cores they have. Cores are best thought of as the brains of the CPU and the more cores that are on hand, the more tasks can be completed at once.
- Dual-core processors are likely to be adequate for most users. If your usage is limited to everyday tasks, watching high resolution media and casual gaming, a dual-core processor could be all you need.
- If you perform processor intensive tasks like high frame rate gaming or 4K video editing, you are likely to need the power of a quad-core processor. 4 cores are likely to be enough for most tasks so you can enjoy computing without limits.
- High-end Intel processors boast hyper-threading technology. This feature uses processor resources more efficiently so multiple threads can run on each core. This is effectively like doubling your core count when running compatible software.
The CPU cache is the processor’s on-board memory. The more memory available to your CPU, the less it needs to communicate with the computer’s slower RAM, the faster the performance will be.
- Cache memory is graded L1, L2 and L3. L1 is the smallest and fastest. L2 and L3 are larger and slower but the more L2 and L3 cache there is, the faster the computer can run.
- 2MB of L3 cache storage is likely to be adequate for everyday tasks. If your needs are more advanced, look for a processor with 4 or more MB of L3 cache.
- If you run specialist software, then you may want to consider processors with 8MB of L3 cache. This will help you enjoy a responsive performance across even the most processor intensive programs.
Intel Core i3, i5 & i7 Processors
These CPUs sit at the top end of Intel’s product line and deliver the power you need to complete processor heavy tasks like high frame rate gaming, 4K video editing and everything else in between.
- Intel Core i3 processors are perfect for everyday PC tasks, running productivity software and enjoying high resolution media. They boast fast boot times and a battery-efficient performance which makes them well suited for laptops and entry-level desktops.
- Intel Core i5 processors offer an added layer of performance that is likely to be more than enough for the majority of users. Enjoy 4K visuals on compatible displays, blistering speeds and power on demand.
- Intel Core i7 chips are designed for the most demanding of tasks such as UHD video editing and 4K gaming at 60fps. They are capable of coping with almost any task you can set them to so you can enjoy a performance without limits.
Core m3, m5 & m7 Processors
Intel's Core m range of processors has been developed to bring an efficient, responsive performance to mobile devices. Enjoy long battery life, the power you need for tasks like UHD playback and much more besides.
- Core m3, m5 and m7 chips vary in performance. An m7 chip is likely to outperform an m3 chip, it's important to check that the CPUs you are comparing are from the same generation. Some of the latest m3 chips can rival older m5 or m7 CPUs.
- The Core m range delivers a hugely responsive performance. Enjoy instant boot up, switch seamlessly between programs and never waste time waiting for your device to catch up.
- Core m processors are designed to be hyper-efficient to significantly extend the battery life of your portables. Furthermore, their performance means that computers need smaller batteries so you can enjoy a thinner and lighter set up.
Atom x7 & x5 Processors
The Intel Atom range is designed for mobile devices but is available at a more affordable price than the Core m range. These processors are ideal for enjoying the likes of HD streaming and video calls and they support all the latest capabilities.
- Intel Atom chips ensure that apps, games, music and other content runs smoothly on your device without placing unnecessary strain on battery life. They may not be as advanced as the Core m range but they represent excellent value for money.
- Intel Atom x5 processors boast robust security features, ample power for mobile gaming and a performance that will help you complete everyday tasks on-the-go with ease.
- Atom x7 chips offer yet faster processing. Like Atom x5 processors, they also offer handy Cloud to Surface features such as Context Aware that automatically tracks your work out progress whilst walking.
Intel Celeron chips are used to power entry-level PCs and are suitable for everyday tasks like social media updates, web browsing and media playback. If your computer needs are relatively straightforward, you could save with a Celeron processor.
- There is a wide variety of CPUs within the Celeron range. To ensure you get what you need, it is advisable to identify the model number of the processor that powers the computer you like and check the specs.
- Intel Celeron chips run with relatively low energy consumption. This means you can enjoy content on your mobile devices for longer when you are out and about and reduce power usage at home.
- Intel Celeron processors are suitable for the likes of casual gaming and multitasking across productivity software. You may, however, need to look elsewhere for more demanding tasks like photo or video editing.
Intel Pentium processors deliver a reliable performance at an affordable price. They are ideal for everyday office tasks, casual gaming and high definition media playback.
- The Pentium is a lightweight, low power-consuming processor that is all you need for shopping, browsing and staying in touch with friends. If your usage is limited to such tasks, then you could save by opting for a Pentium over the costlier alternatives.
- Intel Pentium processors are suitable for completing everyday office tasks like creating documents and spreadsheets so you can keep productivity high. Intel HD graphics means you can also enjoy crystal-clear, high definition content in your spare time.
- The Pentium range is extensive. To ensure you get what you need, it is advisable to identify the model number of the processor that powers the computer you like and check the specs.
Bridge the gap between a tablet and a laptop with a hybrid device. Efficient processors, touchscreen operation and fast hard drives put a responsive performance at your fingertips at home and away.
Complete virtually any task when you are away from your desk with a powerful laptop. Large memory, fast processors and large hard drives combine to enable you to stay productive any and everywhere.
Desktops are ideal for anyone who spends hours at a time in front of their computer screen. Desktop PCs are often fitted with powerful components so you’ll have what you need to tackle any task.