Picking out a CPU for your next computer is no mean feat. Of course, if you build your own desktop, you can usually go with a single motherboard and just swap out the CPU as you see fit (depending on your CPU socket type). But if your next computer is a laptop, picking out the right CPU becomes even more crucial: Once you buy a computer with a given processor, that’s it – you’re stuck with that processor for the lifetime of the computer.
So, should you always go for the top-of-the-line, most expensive processor money can buy? Not necessarily. The CPU landscape is ever changing, and when it happens we try to explain what’s new (like in the case of this post from Matt explaining AMD’s Trinity Laptop APU). But sometimes, you need something more visual, like CPU Boss. This interactive website tries to demystify this question and help you pick the CPU that’s right for you without having to read separate reviews.
Just scrolling down the main CPU Boss page reveals a wealth of information. Indeed, it may even be overwhelming if you’re not well versed in the world of CPUs. But if you’re going for a laptop, you might want to look at either the Power Performance category plotting overall performance vs. wattage (which affects battery life), or the Best Value category for the cheapest CPU power money can buy.
Let’s take a closer look at one of these lists:
So, at a glance, you can see benchmark results lined up along the right of the list, with the CPU’s clock rates and names on the right. Some charts also add costs, but this particular one just shows the CPU names. Just by looking at this simple list, interesting tidbits start to emerge.
It turns out you’ll be getting more performance per watt out of a certain i5 chip than out of a bunch of i7s. That’s not to say that the i7 doesn’t trump the i5 in overall performance, but just in efficiency – something you should definitely care about when buying a laptop.
CPU Death Match
One interesting option CPUBoss offers is comparing two specific processors:
There are definitely differences between AMD and Intel CPUs, but even if you’re only considering one of the two, you’d do well to compare its processors. On its own, it looks like a bit of an academic exercise. But think about it – what if you’re trying to decide between two laptops that seem generally equivalent, but are different mainly in the CPU they offer?
Above you can see a specific i7 (3770K, the CPU I happen to have in my own workstation) compared with an i5 3570K. You can see the price gap at a glance ($290 vs. $215), and scrolling down, you get a fairly elaborate (and very visual) breakdown of the difference between the two.
Going further, you can focus on one of the two processors and get a breakdown of specific features compared to the other:
This one’s for the i7 3770K. Reading this, you can see it definitely comes out on top of the i5 in just about every category. But then when you go look at the i5 3570K, you find it has quite a few advantages of its own:
For example, the i5 has a definitely higher “performance per dollar” ratio — in other words, more bang for your buck. Also if you’re looking to overclock, you’d be able to take it higher than you would the i7.
This “versus” overview goes on and on for several screens, all full of interesting charts and pretty colors. What I like best about this comparison is that it stops short of making its own conclusions: You get to decide what CPU is right for your specific circumstances. To me, this feels like a responsible approach for such a comparison: clearly and visually laying out the differences, and letting you decide.
Will You Be Using CPU Boss?
I can tell you that when the time comes to buy my next computer, I will definitely be checking out CPU Boss. Having such a well-organized resource is invaluable, because there are so many things to consider when getting a processor.
What about you? Is this a tool you’ll be using, or does it feel like too much trouble? Let us know below.