Choosing the Right CPU for Home/Office PCs

The CPU is the single most expensive component in a home / office PC so its imperative to choose the right model. This guide explains how to select the perfect CPU for your system. Today's CPU market is dominated by Intel, which produces a huge range of different processors at price points varying from as little as £30 to as much as £2,200. The reason for such a huge span is that each of these models is optimised for different tasks, be it basic internet browsing, word processing, watching films, playing games or digital content creation such as creating and editing graphics, video and music.

The latest Intel processors are based on the Skylake architecture which delivers excellent performance while consuming less power than earlier CPUs. This is important as it means modern PCs cost less to run and are quieter than their predecessors. With so many CPUs to choose from here is our guide to the most popular models.

Entry Level Intel CPUs
Celeron Intel's entry-level processor brand is Celeron and comprises a range of dual-core CPUs that ideal for basic office tasks such as EPOS systems and basic word processing.
Pentium Upping the ante, the range of Pentium processors supports Hyper-Threading technology, allowing these dual-core CPUs to process four threads simultaneously. While these are much more capable than Celeron processors, Pentium CPUs run at much lower clock frequency than Core i3 processors, so aren't suitable for heavier workloads.
Intel Pentium / Celeron CPUs
Intel Core CPUs
Core i3 These dual-core processors are much faster than the cheaper Celeron and Pentium models thanks to having more cache memory and support for Hyper-Threading which enables them to process up to four threads at a time. Due to their higher frequency and larger cache Core i3's are much faster than Pentiums, and are the cheapest CPU we recommend for a more intensive tasks such as image editing.
Core i5 The most affordable quad-core Intel processors, Core i5 CPUs provide a significant speed up in multimedia applications such as image and video editing, making them a great choice for creative professionals.
Core i7 These quad-core processors have more cache memory than the Core i5s and also support Hyper-Threading, allowing them to work on up to eight threads simultaneously. A Core i7 is the ideal choice for a high-end office PC and is much faster than a Core i5 when it comes to rendering videos and multi-threaded calculations.
Intel Core i3 i5 i7 CPUs

Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet Calcuation

Graph shows time taken to complete the calculations in Excel; i.e. lower is better.

Intel Celeron

52

Intel Pentium

31

Intel Core i3

10

Intel Core i5

6

Intel Core i7

3.5

The blue bars indicate the time taken in seconds.

Adobe Photoshop CC - Photo Editing

Graph shows time taken to edit multiple photos in Photoshop; i.e. lower is better.

Intel Celeron

200

Intel Pentium

93

Intel Core i3

36

Intel Core i5

20

Intel Core i7

14

The blue bars indicate the time taken in seconds.

Adobe Illustrator CC - Image Creation

Graph shows time taken to create a complex image in Illustrator; i.e. lower is better.

Intel Celeron

836

Intel Pentium

522

Intel Core i3

3

Intel Core i5

2

Intel Core i7

2

The blue bars indicate the time taken in seconds.

TMPGEnc Video Encoding

Graph shows time taken to encode a video in TMPGEnc; i.e. lower is better.

Intel Celeron

1587

Intel Pentium

1004

Intel Core i3

969

Intel Core i5

745

Intel Core i7

536

The blue bars indicate the time taken in seconds.