Understanding the Central Processing Unit (CPU)

The Central Processing Unit, or CPU, is a core component within your computer. Serving as your PC’s brain, it acts on the instructions of a computer program or application. The CPU acts on each instruction and allocates specific tasks around the motherboard to the different components, in order to fulfil the program’s instructions.

If you’re in the market for a new CPU, it is important to understand what you use your computer for. As CPUs are available in many different specifications, you could end up wasting money.

If you use your computer for light browsing, emails, and to watch movies, then you won’t need a powerful processor. Even if you’re a PC gamer, as long as your games aren’t too demanding, a low to medium powered CPU is more than enough. If you require a PC that can handle video editing, graphic design and high-end gaming then you will need to invest in a more powerful processor with better performance. Don’t worry, if you outgrow your CPU you can usually upgrade it.

Cores and Threads

Today’s CPUs are made up of several cores (Dual-Core & Quad-Core). They are essentially processors within the processor which allows it to perform multiple instructions simultaneously. Threads are located within the cores and are what makes your CPU perform multiple tasks at once. Each core has two threads. For example, a quad-core processor will have 8 threads.

Clock Speeds

A CPU clock speed highlights the number of instructions and commands a CPU can handle per second. The speed is quoted in “gigahertz” (GHz) and allows users to compare CPUs, ideally from the same generation

To Overclock or Not

If you’re a gamer, then you may want to consider a CPU that gives you the ability to overclock. Overclocking allows you to push your CPU faster than its official speed grade, which ultimately increases its performance. For high-end gaming, the more cores the better.

Overclocking has become very popular within the PC gamer enthusiast community as it allows you to build a very powerful PC by pushing its components to the limits. If you do decide to overclock, ensure that your PC has a proper cooling system as overlocking leads to an increase in the amount of heat the components produce.

Our Top Picks

Intel Core i5-8400 CPU, 1151, 2.8 GHz Coffee Lake - £286.71

If you're looking build PC or upgrade your CPU, the Intel Core i5-8400 CPU is a great choice. Perfect for gaming, VR, and UHD entertainment, the 8th generation i5 features 6 cores, two more than the previous generation,  leading to exceptional performance.


  • Socket: 1151
  • Chip Set: Z370
  • CPU:Intel Core i5-8400 CPU, 1151, 2.8 GHz (4.0 Turbo), 6-Core, 65W, 14nm, 9MB Cache, UHD GFX, Coffee Lake
  • Cores : 6 Cores
  • Memory Types : DDR4-2133/2400,
The AMD Ryzen 5 1400 CPU ensures the perfect mix for content creation, gaming, and VR gaming. Using 'true machine intelligence', the CPU boasts flexibility and versatility with outstanding performance levels.


  • Socket: AM4
  • Type: AMD Ryzen
  • Clock Speed: 3.2GHz, - 3.4GHz turbo
  • Cores : Quad-Core