Cores & Clock Speeds. AMD and Intel Processors of 2021

on February 01, 2021

Image of Intel Core i9 X-series processor

So you’re looking to start building a computer. The first thing to do is to decide what CPU to choose. I'm sure you've read that the CPU is the brain of the computer, but what does that mean?
Now, there are two main brands that manufacture processors for consumer computers. AMD and Intel. That's simple right? Not so fast. Let's take a look at a few considerations when choosing a CPU.

What Intel processors are on the market?

Intel has several consumer processors to choose from:

Intel Core X-Series - 10 to 18 cores; Up to 36 processing threads
9th Gen Intel Core i9 - 6 to 8 cores; 12 to 16 processing threads
10th Gen Intel Core i7 - 2 to 8 cores; 4 to 12 processing threads
10th Gen Intel Core i5 - 2 to 6 cores; 4 to 12 processing threads
10th Gen Intel Core i3 - 2 to 4 cores; 4 processing threads
8th Gen Intel Core m3 - 2 cores; 4 processing threads
9th Gen Intel Core vPro - 2 to 8 cores; 4 to 16 processing threads
Image of AMD Ryzen Processor


What AMD processors are on the market?

AMD has several consumer processors to choose from:

Ryzen - 4 to 16 cores; Up to 32 processing threads
Ryzen with Radeon Graphics - 4 to 16 cores; Up to 32 processing threads
Ryzen Threadripper - 8 to 64 cores; 16 to 128 processing threads
Athlon with Radeon Vegas Graphics - 4 processing threads; Advanced 'Zen' tech
A-Series with Radeon Graphics - 2 to 4 processing threads
FX Processor - 4 to 8 cores; Discrete Graphics Card Required

Is it better to have a processor with more cores?

The more cores you have on a processor the better, right? Not necessarily. That's assuming your software supports it. Software that supports multi-threading benefit from having multiple cores. Most processes run well under 2 or 4 cores. The higher base clock speeds on dual core processors are more beneficial for programs that do not utilize hyper-threading.
Only specific software find use in additional cores. These types of software are generally involved in tasks such as high-end gaming, video editing, or complex mathematical or science rendering.
The clock speed of the CPU also determines the speed a CPU can process threads and thermal restrictions generally force the clock speed of multiple cores to be lower. For example, if a Quad core CPU at 2 Ghz vs a Dual core at 3 Ghz if used for a program that is single threaded, then the Dual core processor would actually be faster.
The more threads the program, the more beneficial it is to have more cores. What does that mean? If you are doing basic processes, then a dual core should be fine. If you need a CPU for doing complex programs, then you may want to look beyond two cores.

Image of Ryzen Threadripper 3970X 32 Core 3700 Mhz CPU


Is it better to have a CPU with a higher clock speed?

Generally yes. The Ghz (gigahertz) number you see is a measure of the frequency at which the CPU oscillates. Oscillation creates heat so the higher the oscillation, the more heat is created so make sure you have good cooling for your build. The faster the Ghz speed, the faster your processor's cores will be able to complete calculations.
A CPU with less cores and higher clock speed is typically cheaper than a CPU with more cores and a lower clock speed. If you have a processor higher amount of cores and higher clock speed, then the cost will go up.