One of the more common questions we get here at WorldStart is, “What’s the best processor for my computer?”  Sometimes the advice appears to conflict.

Ray from Kansas writes “In June 2013 you wrote an article what a person should look for in buying a computer and one was the processor. You recommended an Intel 13 or higher or AMD A6 or higher. In an October issue you said to avoid the AMD processor and go with Intel. We just purchased a HP Pavailion with a AMD 10 processor. Should we return the computer and get one with an Intel Processor? Or are we okay?”

Hi, Ray.  Thanks for reading and for the great question.  I’m sure that you’re not the only one puzzled by the processor question.

First off, let’s start with a little “processor 101”.  As of right now, there are two major players in the processor world, Intel and AMD. 

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Think of the processor as being the “brain” of your computer.  It’s the processor that makes a computer a computer and changes all of those bits and bytes of information into something that a meager human mind can understand.  It lives on your motherboard, attached to a fan sitting on top of it with some thermal adhesive.  The processor is also the reason that your computer needs cooling.  Up until recently, processors ran so hot processing information that they needed their own fan just to keep them from literally melting from their own heat.  Recent advances in processor technology have allowed them to run much cooler, enabling devices to become much smaller, and allowing us to have phones and tablets that are as powerful as only desktops and laptops were just a few years ago.  This little guy is the AMD Athlon FX 64-bit processor from front and back.

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The metal dots on the back of the processor are how the device interfaces with your computer’s motherboard.  When you’re installing a processor, be careful not to get any smudges or dust on these connectors. 

As to your question.  The best processor to buy all depends on what you are doing with your machine.  When our writer expressed a preference for the Intel processor over the AMD, he was expressing just that… a preference.  Yes, there are objective ways to measure the performance of a processor, called benchmarks, but for the casual computer user these benchmarks really don’t mean very much.  As an example, my computer is mostly used for writing these days.  Almost all of my other computing is done on my tablet.  I simply can’t use that for writing because any keyboard small enough to be as portable as the tablet is too small for my great ham hands to type comfortably on.  Because of that, I don’t need a lot of power in my processor.  Higher-end, more expensive processors are great for people who do things like CAD drafting, editing music and video and, most of all, gaming.  If you are a World of Warcraft player, there is little more annoying than to have your video or sound lag, distort or vanish completely at a vital point in the game.

One element of choosing a processor that’s important to me is how eco-friendly the company is.  I can honestly say that I don’t know where AMD falls in that category, because they don’t make a lot of noise about it.  Intel, on the other hand, makes it a point to manufacture each new generation of their processors to be more and more green.  They were also lauded for the fact that the water that they use (and a manufacturer like this uses a LOT of water) is actually returned to the environment cleaner than it was when they took it in. 

So I guess that the short answer to your question is depending on what you use your computer for, you’re probably fine.  If you’re gaming or doing other processor-intensive tasks, you might want to spend some more money and get one of the higher-end Intel processors.

I hope that this helps!

~ Randal Schaffer