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Your computer Processor is without a doubt the most important piece of equipment in your computer.  Eventually, something else could slow you down, but your CPU is always running and always working to create the fastest performance possible, so choosing the right CPU is critical.

Why is choosing a CPU so difficult today?
CPU's have come a long way since the computer was first invented.  There is a rule that every computer engineer learns on the first day of school of how technology will continue to get smaller, and faster, exponentially into the future.  What has happened in recent years, however, is the big CPU companies of AMD and Intel have made these innovations almost unintelligible.  Intel has switched to an i3, i5, i7 structure and AMD has done the same but with A6, A8, and A10.  These models then have stayed the same, while roughly each year a new generation of these CPU's arrives.  If you want the reason for them doing this see the video below.

If you're too lazy to watch the video, or you want a recap, the biggest reason for the switch is that these companies realized that multitasking on computers was creating a lot of latency in regards to processing time.  One processor or even two processors that were amped up to max ghz, were not creating a faster computing environment because people were more likely to be multi-tasking than using one single program.  So basically because of one or two CPU's the computer may have had a faster clock speed, but it also needed to go through more clocks each cycle to keep everything open.  The solution then became creating smaller cores that would then work together to decrease latency in multi-tasking without sacrificing much speed for single programs like games.  These smaller cores, however also weren't as fast, so you had more cores that could handle more at once, but weren't as powerful by themselves.  Since they switched to this version of processing the goal has been to amp up these smaller cores and continually make them smaller, which isn't that important for personal computing, but saves tons of power for large server farms.  So basically, the reason they haven't changed the name is because there really hasn't been much change for the average user in the past few years, but the chips have made huge gains for power usage and other statistics that are just as important, but not so much for you or me.

AMD or Intel?
I wish I could say this is a personal preference, but it isn't at all.  Intel chips win in the CPU department hands down, and it's not because AMD isn't as good as making these chips, it's just that AMD chooses to straddle two chip making industries.  It makes both GPU's and CPU's, whereas Intel makes some internal GPU's, but never an external GPU that could compete on the market.  The end result of this is that AMD doesn't make the fastest chips on either side, but their chips are ridiculously cheaper than their main rivals in the CPU or GPU market.  So if you're looking for a cheap computer, AMD is the way to go, but in terms of performance, many of the A10 units don't compare well with i3's or i5's.

The Hardest Part-What do the numbers mean?
Alright, so you've decided you want to fork out more dough for an Intel processor, or you want the best cheap one you can get with AMD, what do the numbers after the i7 or A8 mean?  Some examples:


It's pretty simple and yet very complex at the same time because here is where things get really confusing.  I'm only going to focus on Intel processors but it's the same with AMD's  Some i3's outperform i5's which outperform i7's, which outperform some new models, and the same with AMD's.

So the first thing to notice is the first number, this corresponds with the gen of CPU, so 6000's are 6th gen or the newest and most current CPU although a new one has already been announced by both companies for next year.  The have codenames from Intel so you have Skylake the most current and Broadwell last gen, and Haswell the one before.  The next number in the hundreds spot corresponds to the 3, 5, or 7 and also what kind of chip it is.  Is it a quad core or a dual core. (Aha, I bet you thought they were all quad cores now, nope!).  The higher the number the more likely it is to be quad core.  So for i7 a 6500u is not a quad core, it is a dual core, but a 6700HQ is a quad core.  The final two numbers deal with the capabilities of the processor, so processors with more numbers like say the 4720 are even more capable than their predecessors and if then if they have the last number like a 4722 then they are usually a little bit better at energy conservation, but once again it's the basic same base CPU of the 4700 plus extra ghz and better energy consumption.  All of these things are important to consider.

So finally, what CPU should you buy?
Nowadays the only real processors you'll find on the market are 4th 5th or 6th gen with a few high quality 3rd gen processors still hanging around.  This is pretty impressive as the 4th gen were released in Jan 2015 and the 5th in the summer that year and the 6th in the fall of 2015.  So three generations of processors that seemingly trump each other right?  The truth is that if you are a big firm that wants energy quality, you'll go for the 6th gen, but if you're not, you will want a earlier gen CPU for less money that does almost the exact same.  For example, you can get a i7-4720HQ that has all the same capabilities of the i7-6700HQ, but is HALF the price!  The only real difference is energy consumption.  Some people argue that since the 4th gen is older that they will be phased out sooner, but Intel released all three gens in the same year, so don't expect the 6 to last much longer if that really is a problem.  Also Intel is looking to hop on a three year product cycle, so products will probably last longer as well.

The last piece of advice I can give you is that it is not worth paying more for the entry level processors of i5 or i7.  You can get an i3 that will perform almost as well as a 6200 or a 6500, but once again, nowhere near the same price.  The change in capabilities really starts to come into play when the i5 and i7 switch to quad cores and HQ and UQ processors, those cost a lot more money, but are worth it if you want good performance under heavy loads, and once again don't be afraid to buy a higher level earlier gen processor than a newer model.  But make sure if you're getting an earlier processor that it has extra levels in the number.  A 4500 will not perform that well but 4720 will.

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