Buying Guide Part 2: CPU / Processors
So, before you can start choosing your motherboard, you need to choose your CPU, the brains of your gaming PC.
Let’s start off the discussion with Intel or AMD. In my early days, I went with AMD processors as they were the more affordable option. Once Intel came out with their dual-core processors, there was no competition and I’ve been with Intel ever since then.
If you have an unlimited budget, go crazy with the Intel Core i9-7980XE extreme processor that boasts 18 cores/36 threads of computing power. It’s roughly $2k for just the processor so you’re looking at a minimum a $4k gaming PC.
But, if you do have a modest budget, I would recommend the Intel Core i7-8700. There is a K version of the CPU, Intel Core i7-8700K, which has a higher base frequency and allows for overclocking. If it’s within your budget, I would get it.
The Intel Core i7-8700 comes with 6 cores/12 threads, which is more than enough for most gamers. Usually for gaming, the graphics card is more important. However, these days with people streaming their gaming online and voice chatting, you do need a higher-end CPU with a high-end graphics card setup. So, for those starting to do some streaming, this i7 processor is a good start.
For those on an even more modest budget, the lowest I would go on the CPU is the Intel Core i5-8400. I would never go with the Core i3 processors for a gaming PC. Again, they have the K variant of the processor, but at a premium.
Intel Processor Background
The Intel CPU models I’ve mentioned above, except for the extreme processor, are the latest 8th generation Coffee Lake processors. If you already know that the 7th generation processors were codenamed Kaby Lake, the 8th generation would be considered the Kaby Lake refresh.
Intel, generally, followed a tick-tock cycle. One generation would be a major architecture change and the next generation would be a “refresh” with basically what I call refinement on that architecture. And then the next generation after that would be another major architecture update.
However, Intel has broken with this design model for what they call a newer ”process-architecture-optimization” model. Normally, with each tick-tock cycle, Intel would be going to a smaller architecture. For the last few generations, Intel has stuck with the 14nm generation of processors and with each generation after the first initial launch years ago, they have refined and optimized the processors.
It’s anticipated that the 9th generation launching next year would be the 10nm Cannonlake processors. There should be more news on this at CES in January, 2018.