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Cores, clocks and personas: The best CPU for you

August 30, 2019

What’s your CPU persona? Are you a gamer? A streamer? A videographer? A control freak?
 
Cores and clock speed are all based on usage and use case—and cores are often wasted by users who overspend on them. Ingram Micro tech support pros, upon studying software core requirements, will often tell customers to purchase fewer cores. After all, why spend $6K on a CPU and NOT use $4K worth of its cores?
 
If you fall into one of the personas below, here’s what you’ll need …
 
The best CPU for you

1) The gamer
Unlike the other personas below, the gamer cares about prestige—often flaunting their systems as show pieces similar to cool cars. We’re talking liquid cooling kits, colorful RGB lighting and massive, curved monitors.
 
Gaming performance primarily comes from graphics cards. Therefore, you don’t want old systems slowing down (aka bottlenecking) expensive graphics cards.
 
Sweet spot: 6-8 cores, 3.5 gigahertz
 
2) The streamer
Not all streamers are created equal. If your goal is to build a home theater and stream Netflix and Hulu, you really don’t need to invest in much horsepower. You don’t even need a graphics card. Why? Because all the hard work is done by Netflix and Hulu servers. Your system is simply a reception hub.
 
However, if you upload content on YouTube or Twitch, you need the power required to ingest, convert and upload content—live. You wouldn’t be happy with the bare minimum described above.
 
Sweet spot: Reception hub (Netflix/Hulu): 2 cores, 1.5-2 gigahertz; uploader (YouTube/Twitch): 4–6 cores, 2–3 gigahertz
 
3) The videographer
Like any hobby, this category ranges from parents taking videos of the kids to high-end video producer. The former only needs a laptop with a few cores to stich videos together.
 
The serious video producer will invest in high-end cameras and require 360-degree video capabilities. He or she may even use 2 CPUs to increase core count, since it’s difficult to cram more cores on to one.
 
Sweet spot: Hobbyist: 6–8 cores, 3.5–4.5 gigahertz; high-end producer/editor: 2 CPUs, 18–24 cores, 3.5–4.5 gigahertz
 
4) The control freak
The control freak wants just that when it comes to their data—to control it. They don’t want third-party algorithms or analytics telling them how to engage with content.
 
They often build an at-home data repository to meticulously organize media and other files exactly how they want it. Their OCD drives them to categorize every song, every movie, every photo, every game and probably files on their ex. 
 
Sweet spot: 4–6 cores, 3–4 gigahertz

 
Want more tech talk?
How I neurotically built my home data center
 
Infographic: Build the ultimate gamer setup