The Easy Guide to CPUs – Dual Core vs Quad Core vs Six Core vs Eight Core

Dual Core vs Quad Core vs Six Core vs Eight Core

The Easy Guide to CPUs

Kaelum Ross

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Feb 18, 2020

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Ah, the central processing unit; this integral part is at the heart of any PC build.

Despite that, it can be deceptively hard to learn about what makes a CPU good and which one you should buy for your next build.

That’s why today’s feature is here to guide you through

  • The makings of a CPU
  • What elements to focus on depending on your needs (e.g. gaming, production)
  • Some FAQs (i3 vs i5, dual-core vs quad-core, etc.)

We’ve also included our top recommendations if you’re just after the best CPU for your budget/requirements without being bogged down by the details!

Table of Contents

Dual Core vs Quad Core vs Six Core vs Eight Core 6

What makes a CPU good?

The easiest way to answer this question is to break-down the main parts that make up a CPU.

Clock Speed

If you’ve seen processors advertised before, you’ll be familiar with seeing clock speeds (or the clock rate) in GHz.

What this indicates is how many times per second your CPU can perform tasks. So, if your processor has a speed of 3GHz (3,000,000,000 hertz), it can perform up to 3 billion cycles a second (more is better).

Base Clock vs Max Clock (or Boost Clock)

Most Ryzen/Intel CPUs today record their clock rate with multiple figures, usually “base speed” and “max speed”/”up to”.

Essentially, CPUs today are intelligently built to only use the clock speed that is required for the tasks at hand in order to conserve power.

If you have an expensive processor and are just running Netflix, there’s no reason for the hardware to heat up and run at max capacity!

The base clock, as the name suggests, is what your CPU runs at when idling/during low intensity.

The max clock is how much individual CPU cores can climb up to in power when performing intensive tasks (e.g. gaming, rendering).

Both are important, and a higher value for either means a faster system in different circumstances (in most cases, the 2 values increase at a similar rate to each other with more expensive CPUs).

Cores

The other term you’re probably already familiar with when seeing CPUs on Amazon; a core is an integral part of buying a processor today.

Essentially, each core is its own individual processor within your CPU.

So, for example, a quad-core CPU is essentially 4 CPUs in one, each capable of performing its own tasks.

Most processors today are between 4 and 8 cores, but the full range is anything from 1 to 128.

Sounds pretty awesome right? Well, for the most part, it is!

But there is an important point to make, using quad-core as an example: 4 x the cores does not mean 4 x the power in individual processes.

In simplistic terms, having 4 cores means you can perform 4 independent operations as fast as 1 core can perform 1 operation.

If you’re trying to get 4 cores to target the same task (e.g. playing a game), then the clock speeds, IPC, and other aspects of how your CPU works for a single core will be integral too.

That’s not to say having more cores doesn’t help individual processes, many applications (including games, as we’ll discuss further below) are developed with multi-core use in mind and can utilize some of their power.

Cores are important, and the days of single-core are over (with dual-core also on its way out), but we’re just trying to stress that there is no reason to go too crazy with cores. We expect 99% of readers would see close to 0 benefits from more than 16 cores, and many will see diminishing returns past 4-8 (we break this down for each PC type further below).

Threads

Multithreading is a technology that is used by Ryzen (SMT or simultaneous multithreaded) and Intel (hyperthreading) to allocate multiple  “virtual cores” (i.e. threads) inside each core.

In simple terms, this allows cores to split up certain types of workload (e.g. when 1 thread is waiting on information to complete a task, the second thread can be busy doing “prep work” for that task).

They both share the same physical specs of the core, so real-world performance gains are usually only marginal from your thread count.

There’s good news for learners too: nearly every mainstream CPU today has 2 threads per core. Therefore there’s no significant need to focus on thread count when you’re already considering cores.

Dual Core vs Quad Core vs Six Core vs Eight Core 9

IPC

The IPC is best described as the “hidden ingredient” for what makes a CPU good, as it is often not as discussed as the more marketable specs above and below.

Despite that, it’s very important in establishing speed; IPC stands for instructions per cycle/clock.

As you might expect from the name, IPC indicates how many tasks/instructions your CPU can perform for each cycle.

This is an underutilized spec as you could have a CPU with a very high clock speed, but if its IPC is low, it will be slower than a low-clock speed CPU with notably higher IPC.

IPC is often indicated or tested in CPU reviews/benchmarks as opposed to product listings.

The good news/rule of thumb is that newer generation processors from Ryzen and Intel will provide better IPCs than their predecessors, so although this spec is integral, you don’t have to overthink it too hard.

TDP

Thermal design profile (or TDP) is how much power your CPU demands in watts (e.g. 65W).

If just one TDP figure is provided, this is nearly always the max wattage required by your CPU (under heavy loads). Sometimes listings also include the idle/base TDPs, which refer to how much power is drawn at calmer usage.

In terms of performance, TDP does not directly affect your CPU (yes, higher TDP tends to mean a more powerful processor, but this isn’t a great metric, focus on the specs above).

Instead, what TDP is good for is understanding what level of CPU cooling you need and the PSU requirements of your CPU.

It’s also the best indication of how much you can expect your CPU to increase your energy bill (higher = more) but the difference between a modest and high TDP usually won’t mean more than $5-$20 per year.

Cache

Processor cache is the onboard caching system on a CPU that is used to interact with your RAM and access frequently used information from it as required.

The cache is important, but the values between modern CPUs are going to be very similar, and any differences are going to have immense diminishing returns in real-world performance compared to clock speed, core count and IPC. We included this for completeness but would recommend most users to not worry about this spec in their buying decision.

Integrated Graphics

Depending on the model of CPU you’re purchasing, you may have a processor designed to also do the job of a GPU included.

This is more useful if you are building a very budget/basic general use PC or a smaller computer with less graphical requirements to avoid the spatial needs of a graphics card (a common example is building a home theatre PC in a horizontal case).

If you’re building a mid-range desktop or something for gaming, you’ll definitely want a graphics card over integrated graphics; an independent GPU provides much more power (having the integrated functionality may still be useful to have as a backup if your GPU has issues and you need to troubleshoot, but isn’t essential if you’re on a budget).

The same logic goes for laptops, many have integrated GPUs to save on space; this is fine if you are a general user, but you’ll want a laptop with a GPU for gaming, video editing, or longevity.

Which CPU specs are the most important?

We’ve included all the main parts for completeness, but the short answer is how good a CPU is for most users is mostly determined by a mixture of its clock speed, IPC, and core count.

If you’re confused, a great rule of thumb to follow is that the latest generation of Intel and Ryzen processors will be the best “bang for your buck” at each of their respective price ranges and contain the latest innovations in clock speed, IPC, and core counts (we’ve provided some of the best options below).

Dual Core vs Quad Core vs Six Core vs Eight Core 5

How to choose the right CPU for your needs

The utility of a CPU usually overlaps into multiple areas (i.e. a processor good for gaming will be good for general use and media).

The question on how to chose is really around how much power you need.

If you do high-end development (rendering, intensive video editing, etc.) you’ll need a more powerful CPU than the average gamer.

This section is about providing a guideline depending on your individual requirements.

Choosing a CPU for Gaming

How many cores do you need for gaming?

4 is the absolute minimum today, as many developers have begun to use multi-core technology in the fundamentals of their game engines. If you’re using a single/dual-core, you’ll likely not meet the minimum specs for many titles.

While 4/quad core is the minimum, we’re now past the days where it’s recommended. We’ve noticed other resources saying “4 cores are all you need” – but this is an outdated statement.

Many PC gaming benchmarks have tested the average FPS of new popular titles at 1080p, 1440p, and 4k and it’s clear there can be a significant difference between 4 and 6 cores, a notable increase from 6 to 8, and a lesser-but-fair improvement from 8 to 10/12 (above this amount is when diminishing returns really settle in).

Now, benchmarks are examples, and of course don’t reflect your exact setup (GPU, motherboard, cooling, graphics settings, etc.). Additionally, each game has different CPU requirements (with simulation/larger-scale games usually benefitting more from increased processor power).

But the differences noted in various benchmarks demonstrate that the average user is likely to see real-world improvement above 4 cores.

Bear in mind all this advice is about shopping with the latest generation of Intel/Ryzen CPUs (10th gen and 5000 series); a previous-gen 8 core CPU may run slower than a current-gen 6 core CPU.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that the latest generation consoles (PS5 and Xbox One X) are built with 8 core/16 thread CPUs. This doesn’t mean that you need this for gaming, but there will likely be some advantage to having a similar architecture in your gaming PC once developers begin to focus on this layout with major cross-platform titles.

With all that said, a good rule of thumb for gaming core requirement is:

  • 4 cores at a bare minimum 
  • 6 cores as a good standard for budget/lower mid-range 
  • 8 cores for the optimal sweet-spot/mid-range and to match the new console gen standards
  • 10/12 cores for a premium gaming desktop

How many threads do you need for gaming?

We see this question asked a fair bit, but as mentioned in the first section: nearly all mainstream CPUs (especially those focused on gaming) have 2 threads per cores, with the latter half being a more important overall indicator.

In other words, don’t focus on threads, focus on cores.

What other CPU specs are important for gaming?

Clock speed and IPC are also very important, but it’s harder to break these down in the same way as threads/cores (as they vary notably between choices). 

The easiest suggestion is to focus on the latest generation CPUs which will be tailored for the optimum clock speeds/IPCs at each price-range (we list the best for different budget types just below).

Ryzen vs Intel for gaming

No CPU discussion would be complete without a word on Intel vs AMD processors for gaming!

It’s a very close race for the most part.

AMD tends to have a focus on increased core/thread count, while Intel’s focus is on achieving the highest single-core clock speed.

For gaming, single-core clock speed is very important, and typically you’d expect Intel’s approach to win out here.

However, AMD sometimes offers better prices for similar performance and as we’ve seen from benchmarks, core/thread count does also play a notable role in avoiding bottlenecking a GPU’s performance.

We would say it’s usually common for AMD to come out on top, but right now, it’s really too close to call for gaming. As you’ll see in our recommendations below, we choose CPUs from both vendors and the best value is really going to depend on the state of the market at any given time (ignore CPU brand loyalty, it’s a waste of time!).

Best CPU for Gaming (Mid-Range): Intel Core i7-10700K

It’s a very close race for the best gaming CPU between the 10700k and AMD’s new 5800X.

The 5800X usually averages 2-3% FPS improvement in gaming benchmarks but comes at a near 20% increased cost (and is short in stock) therefore we give the crown to the 10700k.

This beastly Intel processor hits the sweet spot with 8 cores/16 threads to match new console architecture, and with fantastic clock speeds/IPC, it’s one of the best CPUs for RTX 3070 & 3080 builders.

Best CPU for Gaming (High-End):
AMD Ryzen 9 5900X

For those after a high-end gaming desktop CPU, we give this accolade to the fantastic new 5900X.

With an impressive 12 cores & 24 threads alongside immense clock speeds, the combinations on offer here is what we consider the maximum you need in a CPU today for gaming (anything more is where you start to see notable diminishing returns), with the right GPU you’ll be able to throw pretty much any game at this CPU and get a great result in 1440p or 4k.

You don’t just have one of the best CPUs for RTX 3090 builds (and other premium gaming machines) but also a CPU capable of working alongside other high-end parts for intensive production work (be it development, rendering, or high-scale video editing).

After the best high-end Intel gaming CPU? Your best option will be the i9-10900K.

Best Budget CPU for Gaming: AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

For cheaper builds, the new budget offering in AMD’s Ryzen 5000 series is a fantastic choice.

The 5600X still hits 6 cores / 12 threads with the excellent clock speeds and IPC you expect from the latest generation of gaming processors.

What’s more, unlike the other 5000-series CPUs, the 5600X comes bundled with AMD’s Wraith Cooler, which is a pretty decent option as far as stock coolers go (especially for a budget build).

We would say, however, that if you could stretch that little bit further and get our top i7-10700K choice (or the Ryzen 7 4800X), we think that is the best value for money in the gaming space today.

But rest assured; if not, this is still a great processor and would work well alongside an RTX 2000 series GPU or even the RTX 3060 when released.

If you’re looking for something even cheaper while still hitting our recommend 6 cores for a budget build, the Core i5-10600K is your best bet.

Choosing a CPU for Streaming

If you’re looking to stream on Twitch or another platform, you can usually expect a couple of cores to be pre-occupied with the streaming tasks.

So as a rule of thumb; follow our gaming core requirements above and +2 for streaming (6 minimum, 8 budget, 10/12 mid-range, and more for premium).

Best CPU for Streaming: AMD Ryzen 9 5900X

With AMD’s focus on cores, you not only have a great CPU for gaming here but something that has enough spatial capacity to handle even demanding streaming requirements.

If you’re after an option that’s cheaper, Intel, or more readily in stock right now, the i9-10900K is a good second place.

Choosing a CPU for General Use

If you’re after a non-gaming CPU and your tasks aren’t much more than internet browsing, Netflix, and business applications (Word, PowerPoint, etc.) or an HTPC/media build, then you can get away with a significantly cheaper processor.

We never recommend too cheap of course, even decent budget CPUs today with the latest motherboard sockets still offer decent core/thread counts to make sure you have a relatively smooth experience, you can just afford to lose the high clock speeds/IPC offered by the more expensive options.

Note: by general use, we do not mean more hefty production tasks like video editing or development work (those are discussed below).

Best CPU for General Use: Intel Core i5-10400

At a fantastic low price-point, the 10400 has enough juice to run a smooth budget non-gaming build.

One of the really nice things about this processor is the integrated Intel UHD 630 graphics, which have enough capability to act as a GPU solution for a basic build (and can reportedly run/stream 4k video, so could be a great option for a budget HTPC).

Choosing a CPU for Video Editing (or Production)

Although people think that a GPU is the be-all-end-all for video editing, most popular software, including Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro & Sony Vegas, are all designed to make good use of high core/thread counts.

Therefore, you benefit significantly from the newest generations of CPUs with their excellent core/thread provisions (the same advice goes for other medium intensity software requirements like mid-range animation or development work).

So how many cores for video editing are recommended? We would advise at least six, but more will improve your experience notably too.

Best CPU for Video Editing: Ryzen 9 5900X

It’s another win for the fantastic 5900X, its 12-core 24-thread capability simply provides so much performance potential for a video editing desktop (including 4k/8k).

Do you need to spend this much on a video editing CPU? Of course not, you could still manage edits on a lesser CPU (like the 5600X from our budget gaming picks) but if you’re serious about a productive rig, this is an ideal choice.

The i9-10900K is your best choice for something mid-range or for those after Intel and is still a great choice with its 10 core/20 thread setup.

HEDT CPU for High-End Development & Production

To be clear; an overwhelming majority of users do not need a high-end desktop CPU (HEDT).

HEDT CPUs are specifically designed for very high-end production work; think industry-standard rendering, server builds, and other intensive requirements.

That said, if any of these sound like you, there is a select set of CPUs designed for some incredible levels of computation going up to 64 cores/128 threads while still retaining great clock speeds and enormous caches.

Best HEDT CPU: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X

Arguably the most powerful CPU on the market today, the 3990X includes an immense 64 cores and 128 threads while still retaining other decent specs.

Of course, its single-core clock speeds are not as high, but this isn’t a chip for gaming, it’s about large-scale production work; its productivity potential will be pretty much unmatched by any mainstream CPU line.

Bear in mind that the Threadripper series runs on the TRX40 chipset and requires a different motherboard type to many mainstream choices, we have a recommendation on a good option in our EATX motherboards feature.

Needing a budget HEDT CPU? The best we’d recommend is the brand new Ryzen 9 5950X which is still a productivity machine (with less diminishing returns).

Other Build Types

We’ve aimed to cover a large majority of build types in the picks above, but appreciate some of you may have very refined requirements.

We’d reiterate an earlier point made: if you’re focussing on the latest generation of Intel and Ryzen chips (10th gen and 5000 series) then you’ll be in a good spot to get the best value for whatever budget you have.

The processors this gen are also fairly well balanced between various spec types, so you can take our above gaming/production picks as a template, and we’d expect they would apply to most other purpose you’re looking for (as a rule of thumb).

Dual Core vs Quad Core vs Six Core vs Eight Core 4

CPU FAQs & Head-to-Heads

There are not many things more common in the CPU space than people asking questions like:

What’s the difference between dual-core and quad-core?

or:

What’s better, a core i3 or core i5?

And we’re not surprised! The processor industry doesn’t always do a great job of making what actually makes a CPU good clear.

The answers to these questions aren’t always clear-cut, but we’re going to give you the best summation for someone after the essential knowledge when buying a CPU.

Note: don’t feel inclined to read through all of the FAQs to learn about CPUs; our key knowledge/recommendations are above. These are specifically here for those of you who want a little more clarity on certain areas.

Intel Core i3 vs i5 vs i7 vs i9 CPUs

This i naming structure is how Intel allows users to have a quick reference point to compare CPUs in the same generation depending on their needs as follows:

  • i3 CPUs are the cheapest/budget options (still fairly powerful with the current 10th gen CPUs)
  • i5 CPUs are budget/low mid-range options
  • i7 CPUs are the higher mid-range choices
  • i9 CPUs are for enthusiasts and professionals (i.e. maximizing your productivity or gaming capability, with some diminishing returns for the latter).

These aren’t definitions set in stone, but usually how the I-series go and is a good guideline for you to make sense of all the different offerings (i.e. the higher the number, the better the processor usually is).

There are other non-i processors (like the Pentium series) but in today’s market, for anyone reading this list (providing you have the budget) it’s good to stick to at least i3 for a somewhat smooth experience.

It’s key to remember that these comparisons only make sense for Intel CPUs in the same generation. 

For example, an i5 9400F (9th gen) will provide about the same performance as an i3-10100 (10th gen). This is because the 10100 comes from the next generation which is created using more efficient practices than the 9th gen.

Any resource that says i3 “has X cores or Y clock speed” is false. i3 (or any of the i CPUs) have lots of different meanings depending on the generation, only use these terms as a guideline!

Ryzen 3 vs 5 vs 7 vs 9 CPUs

Very similarly to the Intel naming standard, AMD uses these terms as a guideline naming convention in place to allow you to compare same generation CPUs with some ease:

  • Ryzen 3 CPUs are the lower end choices (still capable for general use)
  • Ryzen 5 CPUs are budget/ lower mid-range choices
  • Ryzen 7 CPUs are the mid-range choices on the premium-side
  • Ryzen 9 CPUs are the enthusiast options

It’s worth noting that we don’t know if there will be a Ryzen 3 5000 CPU as of yet, AMD has only announced Ryzen 5, 7 & 9 5000 series CPUs.

Remember, the terms only work for comparison if the Ryzen CPUs are from the same series.

Intel vs Ryzen CPUs (Non-Gaming)

We touched on Intel vs Ryzen early, specifically for gaming, where the winner isn’t too decisive.

Now, what about other areas like general use, business productivity, and production (mid-range or high end)?

Well, both companies do still have great options.

However, with non-gaming software, it is a lot more common to see more beneficial use from multi-core/thread performance that AMD specializes in (as opposed to Intel’s single-core performance gains).

So generally speaking, AMD comes out on top for providing the best value for non-gaming desktops.

But this is not universal, which is why we highly recommend sticking to our recommended CPU picks above, where both brands are offered for different requirements.

dual core vs quad core vs six core vs eight core

Core head-to-heads

We see many users asking questions about values of specific core quantities and how they compare to others, so we’ve put together a quick-fire reference for some of the most common “battles”.

These head-to-heads are for a rule of thumb only because in reality, for example, a 4 core and 8 core will nearly always have different clock speeds, IPCs, etc. These examples are based on the assumption that all the other specs of the CPUs are identical (other than threads, which we are assuming will be 2 x the core quantity).

Dual-Core vs Quad-Core / 2 Cores vs 4 Cores

While Quad-core processors are becoming less used, dual-core is, in a larger way, on its way out as a valid option for modern desktops.

One of the only CPUs we would consider a valid option for very basic workstations is AMD’s Athlon 3000G (which is nicely on the modern AM4 motherboard socket, but was released in 2019, so is still becoming dated).

Sure, you could build a basic general use PC with dual-core. But for only a tad extra, a quad-core CPU like the i3-9100 will offer significantly more value with its slightly higher price tag. Quad-core is definitely the better choice for even a basic workstation (even 6 core if you can stretch to it, as we detail below).

For gaming, we would pretty much not consider dual-core a valid option as quad-core is the bare minimum for a gaming PC nowadays due to the number of games that require 4 cores / 8 threads as a minimum. Bear in mind that 4 cores are still a tad low for games too (though perfectly doable if you are on a very tight budget).

Dual-Core vs Six-Core / 2 Cores vs 6 Cores

The difference between dual-core and six-core is very significant in modern-day computing. The key change is that 6 cores are way more of a leading market force with more supply/options, so you’ll nearly always be getting way better value with a 6 core processor (even if its price-tag is higher).

Yes, some will argue you can still get away with dual-core for a very basic workstation and we don’t disagree. But our counter would be why not invest a little more for a CPU that will be dramatically more future-proofed for building a long-lasting machine (even for basic use)?

This is why our top general-use/budget recommendation above is the 6-core i5-10400, which still comes on the new LGA 1200 socket and has integrated graphics for a ridiculously low price-tag.

For gaming, this question is a no-brainer; 2 cores is not good enough for modern gaming, 6-8 cores is the sweet spot, with six being perfect for those a little more budget-conscious as we point out in our recommendations above.

Dual-Core vs Octa-Core / 2 Cores vs 8 Cores

At this point, the battle between 2 and 8 cores barely feels fair; with most 8-core options today being premium choices that pack serious power for productivity workstations.

We will say that 8-cores may begin to be the point where your CPU may be overkill if you’re just building a web browsing, media, and/or basic work software computer (where you can get away with a quad-core like the i3-9100 as a budget choice or the 6-core i5-10400 as our recommendation).

If you’re after a machine for productivity, video editing, or mid-range production however, 2 cores is not a good option for you, and 8-core CPUs like the 5800X will provide fantastic utility for more intensive software.

For gaming, 2 cores are below our minimum recommendation of 4 cores; an 8 core processor is what we consider to be on the high-end of the sweet spot of FPS performance gains for most gaming titles (i.e. perfect for mid-range gaming desktops looking for the most value before diminishing returns kick in).

Quad-Core vs Hexa-Core / 4 Cores vs 6 Cores

An argument can be made both ways for a general use PC, but we think the value and longevity a 6-core will provide is the better option for a larger majority of desktop builders even if your needs are simple.

This is largely because modern generations of CPUs are moving to 6-core as one of their standards, so the available options tend to offer better value per dollar.

This is, of course, a rule of thumb only; but taking examples of two of the best value processors for budget builds, the i3-10100 vs the i5 10400. Both of these processors are perfectly suited for a cheap PC, and if your budget is really tight, we can happily recommend the 10100 as a valid option. The reason we focus more on the 10400 as the best budget CPU is because we think that for its modest price increase, having the extra 2 cores will provide you with better longevity that is worth the small price jump.

For gaming, we’d recommend a 6 core processor with better clock speeds like the 4600X if possible. You absolutely can get away with a quad-core CPU if needed, but 6 cores will be better suited to match what games will likely move to in the future as they continue to focus on multi-core/threading optimization.

On a gaming note, while in a perfect world you will have a decent spec GPU and CPU, if your budget is very tight, it will usually be more beneficial to sacrifice CPU specs over investing in a better graphics card.

Quad-Core vs Octa-Core / 4 Cores vs 8 Cores

For a general use PC, we’d definitely recommend four cores over 8 cores, the latter being overkill even for somebody focussed on providing some longevity.

For productivity/production/video editing, 8 cores will usually provide a notable benefit over a 4-core setup.

For gaming, 4-cores is our minimum recommendation, and 8-cores is on the higher mid-range side of the gaming “sweet-spot”, so while we would of course recommend Octa-core processors if possible, it really comes down to if you have the budget as there is certainly a stark difference in cost between the two.

Hexa-Core vs Octa-Core / 6 Cores vs 8 Cores

General workstations with basic internet/software/media needs will usually be fine with the modern 6-core options.

For productivity users, it really depends on how demanding your needs are; there are certainly plenty of 6-core processors that can handle things like 4k video editing, significant compiling, etc. but 8-core options, especially something like the 5800X, will certainly provide you a worthy boost if you can stretch further.

For gaming, 6-8 cores is what we consider the “sweet-spot” for modern-day gaming CPUs; with 6 being on the lower budget side, and 8 being for mid-range users who can fork out for something extra performative.

6 cores would be sensible for someone who needs to invest more in their GPU and there is no shame in settling for something like a Ryzen 5 5600X.

That said; one big reason it would be great to push your build to an 8 core/16 thread CPU if possible as you are then working with a gaming PC that has the same core/thread specs as the new PS5/Xbox Series X. This might not mean much for a little while, but over the console generation, developers will likely start utilizing this architecture layout. Having a CPU that shares these qualities isn’t necessary but will likely open up some better optimization for you on AAA titles made with consoles in mind.

It’s really a close call for gaming, and purely comes down to your budget; we think you’ll be satisfied with the value both options provide.

Hexa-Core vs Deca-Core / 6 Cores vs 10 Cores

Now that our head-to-heads are looking at 10 cores and beyond, we’re really getting into the power-users who are either running intensive workstations or want the absoloute best quality even with diminishing returns.

If you are running demanding production applications with high requirements in rendering, compiling, etc., you will find some value in 10+ core options, but 6 core processor with good specs elsewhere will be more than fine for a budget/mid-range production machine.

For gaming, 10+ cores is where the diminishing returns really settle in. Yes, there will be improvements over 6-core, but most of these will be shared by 8-core processors, so we’d only recommend 10+ for high-end streaming or those who want the absolute best quality regardless of price.

Octa-Core vs Deca-Core / 8 Cores vs 10 Cores

For users with very intensive production requirements, you can expect to see some improvement during your most demanding processes between 8 and 10 cores (but not so much that its a requirement to have those 2 extra cores, 8 will still cope with even some demanding needs).

For gaming, we would recommend sticking to 8 cores unless you are happy with paying significantly more for very minor gains.

Octa-Core vs Dodeca-Core / 8 Cores vs 12 Cores

With AMD being the only player with mainstream 12 core options right now, if you’re interested in this question, we imagine you’re looking at the difference between something like the Ryzen 7 5800X vs Ryzen 9 5900X.

In this case, we would say the 12-core option is reserved for those after a premium productivity machine who significantly rely on intensive processing throughout their day-to-day operations.

For gaming, we would only recommend 12 cores to those who absolutely want the most power out of their desktop, as there are some diminishing returns for the price-tag.

That’s the best way to sum up this head-to-head for most users; 8-core is the better value option for mid-range builds, 12-core is for those more interested in maximum performance over budget concerns.

Octa-Core vs Hexadeca-Core / 8 Cores vs 16 Cores

Although we see this question asked, the difference between 8 cores and 16 cores is becoming so much that it’s a bit of an “apples and oranges” question.

All general users and most productivity users should stick to 8 cores between these two options, which will already provide fantastic power for a large majority of operations.

16 core+ is only recommended today for advanced users with dramatic production/server requirements; we do not recommend going as far as 16 cores for gaming (unless you don’t really care about your wallet!).

Deca-Core vs Dodeca-Core / 10 Cores vs 12 Cores

This head-to-head is a little hard to quantify, as 10-core is where Intel has focussed their higher-end 10th gen options, and 12 core+ is where AMD has defined their premium 5000 series CPUs.

So really, the battle will usually be if you are after a CPU that focuses more on single-core performance (Intel) or more cores/threads (AMD).

In general, we’re more impressed by AMD’s latest 12+ core options and think this will suit more users in this price-range who are likely looking at productivity builds that will benefit from an increase in cores.

Dodeca-Core vs Hexadeca-Core / 12 Cores vs 16 Cores

The only users this question should apply to are those after a very high-spec production machine. Gamers (with finite wallets) will be fine with 12 cores or less, and even advanced productivity machines will get a lot done on 8-12 cores.

So 16 cores and beyond are really reserved for HEDT CPUs that may be needed by large software companies, animators, high-spec production users, and similar. Our honest opinion is that if you’re an individual builder, you almost certainly don’t need 16 cores and we’d only get it if it’s a luxury you can afford comfortably.

Single-Core vs Dual-Core / Multi-Core

We wanted to add this head-to-head just for completeness but realistically, nobody today should build a single-core desktop PC (unless you have some weird nostalgia for it, you may have a hard time finding them though!).

Gaming or not, most applications take advantage of multi-core/threading capabilities and the industry has moved well away from 1 core CPUs, so whatever your build requirement, go for 2 as an absolute minimum.

Final Word

And there you have it! The above is everything we think you need to know about what makes a CPU good and how to pick for your next build.

Feeling overwhelmed? We understand!

We’ve mentioned this point a few times in the feature but it’s worth re-iterating one last time: you don’t need to know every part of the CPU to make a good purchase.

Stay close to our recommendations above depending on your type of build, you can’t go too wrong as long as you’re buying a CPU that’s current-generation (Intel 10th gen/Ryzen 5000 series) and in your budget!

What's Next?

The Full Guide to RAM Speeds: DDR4 2400 vs 2666 vs 3000 vs 3200 vs 3600 vs 4000 MHz

DDR4 2400 vs 2666 vs 3000 vs 3200 vs 3600 vs 4000

The Complete Guide to RAM Speeds

Kaelum Ross

I

Dec 22, 2020

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When you’re looking to build your PC and you’ve arrived at selecting RAM, it can feel overwhelming to know the right GB, MHz, and CL measurements for your needs.

This is why today’s What in Tech feature will be taking you through everything you need to know about RAM, from common speed versus speed questions and which spec matters most in your decision.

We’ve also included the best RAM choices available with different budgets in mind.

This is a long guide, the contents table below is your friend! Look specifically for the questions & recommendations that interest you instead of reading top to bottom!

Table of Contents

What is RAM Speed?

For the average PC builder, the capability of Random Access Memory (RAM) is measured by 3 key fundamentals: frequency, latency, and size (technically, size isn’t speed-related – but for the purpose of establishing what RAM is best for you, we’ll be covering it).

RAM Capacity / Size

RAM size is, as the name suggests, the overall capacity of the memory you’re buying. 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB are the most common sizes right now.

Additional capacity means your PC will have the ability to run more programs simultaneously/switch between them more smoothly.

This is where the name “Random Access Memory” comes in. Your main storage (Solid State Drives, Hard Drives, etc.) are designed to offer much larger storage but are slower than RAM, which is why those drives are store your data and require a more significant loading time when opening them for use.

Once software/games/files are open, they then utilize your PC’s RAM, which is faster than your SSDs/HDDs, so that they can be “randomly accessed” quickly during use.

A common metaphor to explain the difference is that RAM size is almost like your desk, and the more capacity you have, the larger your desk is (meaning you can have more items in arms reach ready to quickly use).

While your hard/solid-state drives are the size of your shelves, drawers, and cabinets; these are used to store most of your items and take a little longer to take out for use on your desk.

Generally more RAM capacity is better, but there are diminishing returns (we’ll get back to that).

RAM Clock Speed / Frequency

Clock speed or frequency is a RAM’s MHz rating (nowadays, most RAM will be in the 2400Mhz to 4400MHz range).

Faster clock speed allows your processor to retrieve data located on your storage drives more quickly. Reducing the time it takes the CPU to access this data increases your performance in real-world scenarios and games.

Clock speed is measured in Megahertz (MHz) which indicates how many times per second your RAM can access its memory (as you probably expect, more is better, but we’ll speak further below about the sweet spot between price and utility).

CAS Latency

The last key part of the equation is Column Access Strobe or CAS latency (often just “CL”) which is integral in understanding RAM speed and often overlooked compared to a stick’s MHz rating.

CL indicates how long it takes your RAM to recognize a command/action (similar to how a monitor has latency between receiving your mouse click and outputting the result visually).

The latency is usually recorded by 4 numbers in the following format: 16-18-19-30 which represents the number of clock cycles it takes for the RAM to register a command. It is the first number from the 4 that is typically used to establish CL. Nearly all popular RAM today is between CL 12 & CL 18 (mostly CL14-16).

We talk more about how to balance latency and clock speed below. But to demonstrate why both are important, think about it: if you have very fast RAM, but the latency is high, it would be like gaming on a high-refresh-rate monitor but each of your actions takes a second to register (a dramatic example, but you get the point…).

DDR4 RAM Speed Vs 1

How much does RAM Speed Matter?

So, we’ve established at a high level what the integral parts of RAM are for your build.

But how much does RAM speed matter?

The short answer is that for business and personal use (web browsing, e-mails, basic software, Netflix, etc), you’ll likely be fine with any 8GB (ideally 16GB) RAM from a reputable manufacturer.

If you’re into gaming or plan on using your build for production work like video editing, game development, or rendering, then the speed can have a more notable impact.

How much does size matter for RAM – 4GB vs 8GB vs 16GB vs 32GB

Of all the specs, size matters the most.

So if your battle is faster RAM vs more RAM (i.e. CL / MHz vs GB), we’ll nearly always recommend the latter option.

That said, RAM size does have diminishing returns. 16GB is what we recommend for nearly all users, 8GB for tighter budgets, and 32GB for high-end enthusiasts. Beyond that, there isn’t really much use (even 32GB is pushing past the realm of necessity unless you’re doing production work). If this sounds confusing, we detail the best RAM options towards the bottom of this guide.

How much does RAM clock speed matter?

Clock speed matters, but not as much as you may think.

You can build a powerful gaming PC with 16GB 2400MHz DDR4 RAM for instance (which is on the lower side of clock speed). Would it be better to have say, that 16GB of RAM at 3200MHz+? Absolutely! But it’s not a deal-breaker to have lower speeds if your budget is tight or you’re simply not bothered about fine-tuning potential performance/game FPS.

If you’re building a PC purely for basic business and personal use, we would suggest that cheap RAM will suffice for you as long as the size is large enough.

We do however see lots of unanswered questions from users around the difference between X MHz and Y MHz RAM. Which is why further below, you’ll find our comparison list as a quick guide to help you decide between two types of memory.

How much does latency matter for RAM

The most overlooked RAM speed factor, CL, is kind of like clock speed; it matters, but shouldn’t be a huge deciding factor in your PC building decisions.

A higher latency RAM (say, CL18) could still be perfectly decent if its other specs were around 16GB/3200MHz, RAM size is still the most important thing overall.

That isn’t to say that if you see CL12-CL14 RAM, you shouldn’t absolutely go for it if the other specs are decent (especially if you’re building a gaming PC or something for production work). But in the context of price/value, these low latency sticks are often 30%+ more expensive, which we can’t say is worth it unless you are trying to build the all-around most powerful computer possible.

DDR4 RAM Speed Vs 2

RAM Speed Comparison FAQ

DDR3 vs DDR 4 – How much faster is DDR4

DDR4 is essentially the next natural iteration from DDR3. With significantly great size capacity & higher clock speeds, 4 is notably faster in nearly every case (latency is slightly higher on 4, but is made up for with the other specs).

In nearly all cases today, we would say pick up DDR4 RAM. It is overwhelmingly what the current market motherboards/CPUs are best compatible with.

The right question isn’t really “is DDR4 worth it” anymore in terms of speed. Because of its widespread market adoption, prices on this RAM are great. You’ll typically be getting faster RAM with little consequence compared to DDR3.

The only scenario we see DDR3 as worthwhile today is if you’re building an ultra-cheap PC and have specifically found a motherboard/CPU combo that supports 3 and not 4 (we don’t like this from a future-proof perspective and would try to stick to 4, but it could make sense if you need to be as cheap as possible).

DDR4 vs DDR5 RAM?

DDR5 RAM is in development and will offer 50-100% higher clock speed than DDR4, a slightly lower voltage and individual RAM sticks that can go up to 64GB each (the max with DDR4 is 16GB).

This sounds great on paper. But at this time, these ultra-high clock speeds/sizes lead to huge diminishing returns in pretty much all PC activity (we talk more about this in our comparison of higher MHz RAMs further below) so in reality, that 50-100% “theoretical” performance increase may not be super noticeable unless you’re building a very high-end machine (and in nearly all cases, the money would be better spent on a better CPU/GPU).

DDR5 RAM is scheduled for mass release in 2021. Though we recommend keeping expectations measured, as the DDR5 release date has been a moving goalpost for a couple of years now.

And even when the RAM is released, you can still expect a long-delayed period where motherboards, CPUs, and other PC hardware manufacturers take time developing new products that adopt DDR5 as the standard and take advantage of its speeds.

To sum up, while the difference between DDR4 and DDR5 RAM sounds exciting, we really don’t think it’s relevant to builders for the next few years. Stick to DDR4 for now.

What RAM Speed should I get?

The million-dollar question! Unfortunately, the answer isn’t clear-cut, as it depends on your budget and requirements.

A reasonable rule of thumb is to commit to at least 16GB RAM size-wise. Then from there, try to aim for a balance between CL/MHz between CL14 2666MHz & CL16 3200MHz.

To make it easier for you, the bottom of this guide details the best RAM picks today. If you want more autonomy on your choice, we’ve built the RAM speed quick-reference list further below too.

More RAM vs Faster RAM (Size vs MHz/Latency) 

We’ve touched on this already, but it’s worth re-iterating: size is way more important than MHz & latency for nearly all users.

As an example, 2400MHz 16GB RAM will be better than 3200MHz 8GB RAM. The only time we’d pick MHz/latency improvements in this kind of bracket is if your remaining budget can’t jump up to a larger size, but could be squeezed slightly further to accommodate faster sticks.

The other exception to this rule is if you’re buying very large RAM. If you have 32GB in memory, we can’t imagine more will be required for a long time (unless you’re creating a very high-end production machine). At this point, if you still have the budget, it will be usually better to focus on faster 32GB RAM than slower 64GB+ memory.

MHz vs Latency – which is more important for RAM speed?

The difference between MHz and CAS latency value is a difficult question as the best approach is for there to be a balance between these 2 factors (instead of very fast frequency/slow latency or vice versa).

The “sweet spot” for most users today (particularly gamers) with the price in mind is around CL14 2666MHz to CL16 3200MHz.

Now you can fall outside of these balances (e.g. plenty of RAM sticks offer CL18 latency but make up for it with significantly more frequency or lower prices) but we would use that range as the rough spot to go in unless you’re building something high-end and are trying to get extra-low latency and high MHz.

RAM Speed Importance for Intel vs AMD

The main function of RAM speed is to empower your CPU and its ability to retrieve/store randomly accessible data easily.

So your CPU is indirectly an important factor in deciding how much to invest in RAM speed. For example, if you’re buying a high-end CPU, you’ll achieve more value from spending extra on fast RAM (as lower speeds can bottleneck certain CPU operations).

When it comes to the Intel vs AMD builds, it’s complex as the impact on speed depends on the chipset & model version. But as a (mostly reliable) rule of thumb: AMD CPUs/builds benefit more from better RAM speeds than Intel due to the way its memory controllers operate.

This is not to say RAM speed doesn’t matter for Intel CPUs however. We’ve seen many RAM benchmarks show games and various software processes perform notably better with higher frequency/lower latency memory on Intel chipsets.

CL 12 vs CL 13 vs CL 14 vs CL 15 vs CL 16 vs CL 17 vs CL 18

Our comparison list just below focuses on the difference between MHz as we often see reader questions specifically asking about the frequency differences.

But as made clear in this guide, latency is as important as the frequency in deciding RAM speed. 

For example, the difference between CL14 and CL16 is usually more significant than the difference between 3000MHz and 3200MHz. But focussing all on latency (or all on clock speed) introduces diminishing returns, which is why considering both factors is important.

Unfortunately, it’s not a simple balancing act between the two measurements, as you’ll often see companies sacrifice low latency for high speed, or charge a lot more to ensure both specs are good.

We’ve detailed some of the best RAM available today at the bottom of this guide to make it easier for you. But if you do want to decide yourself, we would try to stick to the previously mentioned “sweet spot” of between CL14 2666MHz to CL16 3200MHz for mid-range builds, or you can seek faster/lower latency sticks if you have the budget.

DDR4 RAM Speed Vs 3

RAM Frequency Comparison Quick Reference List

RAM Frequency/Speed Comparison Chart (How to use)

We appreciate that despite all the info/FAQ answers above, many manufacturers produce things in a large array of different frequencies/MHz and you may be struggling to choose between 2 or 3 narrowed options.

We’ve created the below reference list as a quick guide to help you on the most common user head-to-heads based on RAM speed benchmarks.

Don’t feel the need to read every one of these – it’s just for quickly assessing the difference between speeds if you have 2 in mind!

CL / Timing vs MHz / Frequency

The below list assumes that every RAM stick you’re looking at is the same CAS Latency. 

It’s important to note that for computer processes (especially games), while higher RAM frequency and lower CL timings are always better, there is usually a “sweet spot” for mid-range budgets, otherwise, you risk buying RAM sticks with high speed but high CL timings (or vice versa).

For example, CL14 3200MHz RAM would be better for gaming than CL16 3600MHz RAM, so make sure to balance picking between both.

If that sounds complex, don’t worry! Just below the comparison list, we’ve included the best RAM choices depending on your budget level.

RAM Frequency Comparison List

DDR4 2400MHz vs 2666MHz

2666mhz will provide a slight improvement over 2400mhz (particularly in AMD builds).

For gaming, this will translate to a couple of extra FPS in some CPU-intensive titles (i.e. only go 2666MHz if it’s close to the same cost).

DDR4 2400MHz vs 3000MHz

The speed difference between DDR4 2400MHz and 3000MHz still won’t be huge for a lot of gamers/other users but will be a fair bit more noticeable than 2666MHz.

Providing the RAM you’re eying has good latency (and size) you can expect 3000MHz to be the better choice if the price is only 0-10% extra.

DDR4 2400MHz vs 3200MHz

3200MHz RAM is a popular speed for many gaming RAM manufacturers. Combined with a good latency, this will often be a happy medium to ensure you don’t bottleneck a mid-range CPU motherboard combo.

2400MHz would be fine for cheaper builds but we’d recommend 3200MHz if your budget can accommodate it.

DDR4 2400MHz vs 3600MHz

If you are getting a high-end CPU, we’d recommend going with at least 3600MHz to ensure the RAM isn’t indirectly bottlenecking the performance during any processes.

If your budget is tight, you’ll be better off with 2400MHz and spending your money on at least 16GB of RAM size.

DDR4 2666MHz vs 2667MHz

The difference between DDR4 2666MHz and DDR4 2667MHz is non-existent. This is simply a marketing term used by companies who round up/down differently.

Buy whichever one is cheaper (assuming size/latency are the same).

DDR4 2666MHz vs 2933MHz

You may achieve an extra couple of FPS in games that are heavy on CPU requirements, but for the most part, there won’t be much difference between 2666MHz and 2933MHz.

2933 MHz also isn’t as popular for RAM manufacturers so we’d expect 2666 MHz to be more cost-effective (or if you do want higher, look at 3000MHz).

DDR4 2666MHz vs 3000MHz

Similarly to 2666MHz vs 2993MHz, the difference in speeds isn’t wide enough to be that noticeable so only pick up 3000MHz if it’s very close in price or you are keen to min-max gaming FPSs (if that’s the case, you may be better with the higher speeds further below).

DDR4 2666MHz vs 3200MHz

RAM speed increase of 3200MHz over 2666MHz will be a little noticeable/may achieve a few extra FPS on CPU-heavy games (or improve runtimes during certain processes, particularly for high-end processors and especially AMD Ryzen CPUs).

DDR4 2933MHz vs 3000MHz

While the difference between 2933MHz and 3000MHz isn’t non-existent, it’s pretty close to being completely meaningless for most builders (almost certainly <1 average FPS increase in all games at the most). We’d go with whatever sticks are cheaper/have better latency. 

DDR4 3000MHz vs 3200MHz

You can expect a slight, modest speed increase when comparing the difference between 3000MHz and 3200MHz RAM, but don’t expect this to be more than a couple of FPS extra in processor-heavy games. So stick to whichever one is cheaper if all other specs are equal.

The one other thing to point out is that 3200MHz is a little more popular for RAM brands to produce, so your options might be better/more cost-effective.

DDR4 3000MHz vs 3600MHz

With a 20% MHz increase, at this point, you can expect the difference between 3000MHz and 3600MHz to be a little noticeable, albeit not essential if the 3000MHz RAM is notably cheaper (10% or more).

We like speeds of at least 3600MHz if you’re purchasing a high-end CPU (especially Ryzen/AMD) because these can occasionally be bottlenecked by lower frequencies in some operations (but we are min-maxing here, 3000MHz will be fine for most people).

DDR4 3000MHz vs 4000MHz

Is 4000MHz worth it over 3000MHz? Well, you can expect a nice performance jump in a lot of work-related processes (think rendering, editing, and other high-end production).

For gaming, RAM speed benchmarks tend to show around a 5% average FPS increase between these two frequencies. This is a nice jump, but if an FPS increase is your only focus, then the price difference may not be worth it. 3000MHz is enough for gaming on a budget/mid-range build.

DDR4 3000MHz vs 4400MHz

With nearly 50% extra frequency, there are certainly some notable improvements between these two frequencies. While you can expect a good performance increase in games (5% or so for many titles), the real value of going beyond 4000MHz will be in other processes like video editing and rendering.

But in real-world terms, we know a reader’s real question will usually be “is 3000MHz RAM good enough for gaming”. And the short answer is yes, you’ll likely see diminishing returns cost-wise unless you’re running a high-end processor; so 4400MHz will not be worth it for budget/mid-range builds unless the cost is similar (if you want higher 3600MHz-4000MHz will give you similar gaming results).

DDR4 3200MHz vs 3600MHz

If possible, we’d recommend at least 3600MHz if you are doing some high-end production work (rendering, video editing, etc.) and are invested in the time processes take.

For gaming, 3600MHz may be slightly better for CPU-intensive games, but not particularly notable (i.e. not worth paying more money for if FPS is your only focus as we fine 3200MHz is often the best value for RAM).

DDR4 3200MHz vs 4000MHz

Similarly to the difference between 3000MHz and 4000MHz, you can expect something close to 5% increase in many CPU heavy games, whether you think this is worth it is really down to your personal opinion and the price difference (we will say that 3200MHz is the most popular RAM speed today, so often has some good offers from big RAM manufacturers).

The real value for most users will come from if they do high-end work on their setups like video editing and other production. Unless you’re building a premium gaming PC, we don’t think the difference will be too important here.

DDR4 3600MHz vs 4000MHz

As discussed in earlier speed comparisons, RAM speed benchmarks for 3600MHZ, 4000MHz, 4400MHz, and beyond have shown that there begins to be diminishing returns for gaming.

If you have a high-end CPU (especially Ryzen), then you may get your money’s worth, but otherwise, we’d only recommend 4000MHz+ for video editors and intense computing.

DDR4 3600MHz vs 4400MHz

For gaming, the difference between 3600MHz and 4400MHz is small for most titles as there is diminishing returns at this frequency level for most titles (the only exception being if you’re running a very high-end AMD CPU to avoid any slight bottlenecking) therefore we’d only say 4400MHz is worth it if you are focussed on making your high-end production/editing work more efficient.

DDR4 4000MHz vs 4400MHz

We wouldn’t consider the difference between 4000MHz and 4400MHz RAM for gaming important (unless you really want to future-proof RAM, but we’d say it would be more cost-effective to buy cheaper and upgrade to DDR5 when it is popular in a few years).

For video editing, rendering, and other production work, you can expect to see a little jump in performance and it may be worth it if the price increase is in the realm of 10-15%.

DDR4 4400MHz vs 4600MHz

A difference of less than 5% frequency at these high levels is really not that integral to any performance, whether you’re building a gaming rig or a high-end production setup.

4600MHz is only worth it if it is very close to the same price as the 4400MHz sticks.

DDR4 RAM Speed Vs 4

The Best RAM for Gaming and Other Builds

Feeling overwhelmed by all of this detail? Don’t worry, here’s our quick list of the best RAM picks available today for varying budgets.

Overall Best RAM for Gaming: Crucial Ballistix 3200 MHz DDR4 16GB

Great value, decent speeds, good size and from one of the best RAM brands, this Crucial set ticks all the boxes we think a gaming (or mid-range production) PC will need.

Best Budget Gaming RAM: OLOy DDR4 16GB RAM

At a very impressive value point, this OLOy RAM will suit most gamers on a budget who will be better placed spending extra on more expensive GPU/CPUs where possible (the manufacturer isn’t as reputed as say, Crucial, but this memory has been well received from a lot of budget PC builders).

Most Powerful RAM for High-End PCs: G.Skill Trident Z Neo Series 32GB

At an impressive 3600MHz, CL16 with 32GB of size, the G.Skill Trident Z Neo is a fantastic offering for high-end gaming or production builds.

Yes, you can get technically do better than this, but diminishing returns will start to kick in more dramatically, our pick is based on still providing decent value despite this being an expensive set of memory.

Cheapest RAM: V-Color 8GB DDR4 RAM

Technically you can go cheaper with 4GB, but even if your build is just for business and personal use, we would recommend this great-value V-Color 8GB RAM as a minimum.

Being a single stick, you’ll also have the opportunity to add a second 8GB piece at a later date. Even at its small size/slightly lower speed, this memory will get a budget gaming build off the ground (if you’re very tight on money, it’s probably going to be best to invest in a better CPU/GPU and upgrade your memory later).

Final Word

We’ve been over a lot of queries in this feature, and appreciate that learning about how to compare MHz, latency, and GB speeds can be a lot to take in.

So while we did make this guide to inform readers and give you the ability to maximize value from your RAM purchase, we’ll reiterate: the most important aspect is size.

If you buy one of our top picks above, or pretty much any DDR4 16GB+ RAM set, you will still get decent performance. So hopefully you’ve got what you need to know, but if RAM speed stresses you out, go with one of our recommendations or pick a popular 16GB gaming RAM choice, and move on to stressing about GPUs, CPUs, motherboards, and PC cases instead!

What's Next?

The Easy Guide to I/O Shields – What are They, Do you Need One, and How to Install?

IO Shield

The Easy Guide to I/O Shields

Kaelum Ross

I

Jan 18, 2021

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There is a surprising lack of simple answers to the common queries around I/O shields.

What is an I/O shield?

Do you need one?

How do you install an I/O shield anyway?

Thankfully, the answers to these questions are quick and easy. Today’s feature is here to guide you through everything you need to know about I/O shields.

Table of Contents

What is an IO shield?

An I O shield, or “motherboard input-output shield” is a metal plate that is included with nearly every motherboard on the market. 

These plates are designed to be installed at the rear of a PC case where there will be a cutout hole perfectly designed to fit snugly. Each IO shield is designed to match the ports of the motherboard it comes with (i.e. holes in the same locations).

What does an IO shield do?

A PC IO shield has 2 main purposes; the first is to protect against electromagnetic interference (EMI) between your motherboard and the components you are connecting to the IO panel (USB, HDMI, ethernet, etc.).

The second purpose is to act as another physical barrier on the back of the case. Without the IO shield, you will have an enormous hole for dust (and potentially insects) to enter your computer.

One could argue an IO shield also makes the back of your PC look neater too!

What are the Metal flaps/prongs on the IO shield?

As per the example picture below, a majority of mobo IO shields have some little “prongs” or “flaps” near some/all of the port cut-outs.

These are used to allow a part of the metal on the IO shield to lightly touch the metal on the motherboard’s IO panel, this then offers sound static grounding between the shield and your motherboard, further reducing the chances of any electrical interference.

IO Shield Example

Do I need an IO shield for my PC?

Your motherboard should come with an IO shield (either separately or already pre-installed) so for most users, the question is really why wouldn’t you install the IO shield? It offers some additional protection, improves the look of your device, and is super easy to install as we detail below.

If for whatever reason, you don’t have one, how important is an IO shield? Well, many people (myself included) have gone through periods of not using one with their PC.

The electromagnetic interference protection is not as big a concern now that most connections you make on your IO panel are digital. Your only real risk is if you are plugging something into a port on your motherboard’s IO panel and accidentally slip/have the output touch a part of your motherboard and short a component.

This is a worst-case scenario, and if you’re careful, the chances of something like this happening are very low. If, for example, you were just trying to skip using an IO shield temporarily while a replacement was being delivered, then this isn’t much cause for concern; we all understand being impatient with a shiny new PC. (I’ve had colleagues who have not used one on a build for 5+ years!).

The other problem is of course the rear of your PC being significantly exposed to dust/insects – to me, this issue is the more annoying one, but can be negated with regular cleaning.

Disclaimer: While the risks of not using an IO shield are very low, it’s still a risk that you have to accept – we will always recommend using a shield where possible.

How do I install an IO shield?

Motherboard-IO-Panel Example

Thankfully, installing an IO shield is one of the most simple parts of a PC and should be added to your case before you install your motherboard.

  1. Align the metal I/O plate with the cut-out on the back of your PC case on the inside, the easiest way to establish what way your plate needs to be is by seeing how it aligns with your motherboard, and then matching that position with the orientation your motherboard will be installed.
    • Take the IO panel on the right for example, if you aligned this motherboard with the back of your PC case and saw that the circular audio ports were on the bottom, then you know you need to install the computer’s IO plate with the circular ports downwards.
  2. If your IO shield has any metal prongs/tongs that are already bent, these should be pointing into the case (as they are supposed to make light contact with the motherboard once it is installed).
  3. Now that you’re aligned, simply apply some pressure and push the IO shield onto the case hole (from the inside).
    • With some light force, you should hear a “clacking” or “popping” noise to confirm the shield has attached to the case.
  4. And that’s all there is to do on the install IO shield process! When you’re installing your motherboard, the ports should neatly align with the IO shield like the example picture in this section.
    • If the IO shields prongs/tongs aren’t touching the metal of the motherboard ports, you can lightly bend them to do so, however, most should be set up to touch automatically.

How to remove an IO Shield?

Removing an IO shield is very simple.

First, uninstall your motherboard from the PC case. Once there is nothing connected to your IO panel (other than the PC case it “popped” into), simply push the IO shield with some pressure from the outside of the case inwards.

After a moment or two, the computer IO shield should pop out.

Where can I buy a replacement IO shield?

If your motherboard did not come with an IO plate, my first piece of advice would be to contact the supplier, as every motherboard should absolutely come with one.

If for whatever reason, you can’t get an IO shield replacement from the buyer, I would try these things (in order of recommendation):

  • Contact your motherboard manufacturer, they will usually be able to re-arrange a replacement.
  • If not, check Amazon, eBay, or Ali Express for your motherboard model number as they may have the exact model in stock.
  • Failing that, you can try the universal IO shield below (recommended for experienced DIY’ers only).

Custom / Universal IO Shield Option

The SuperMicro MCP-260-00011-0N is a simple blank IO shield that is usually used for covering a PC case IO panel cut-out that has no ports.

However, some tech-savvy folk have previously used this as a replacement IO shield by drilling through the necessary holes.

We would strongly recommend trying our replacement steps above before trying this one, and only attempting if you have some competence with cutting metal accurately.

Final word on IO shields

And that’s really is all there is to know for the average PC builders on I/O connector plates! It’s thankfully one of the nicer parts of an installation.

We appreciate it can be a pain if you’re running into problems with a motherboard not including one. But from my experience, manufacturers and suppliers are usually well equipped to supply a replacement (providing the mobo is still in production).

Good luck and happy building!

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The Best Amazon Black Friday Tech Deals 2020 Guide​

Amazon Black Friday Tech Deals

The Best Amazon Black Friday Tech Deals 2020 Guide

Kaelum Ross

I

Nov 27, 2020

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30/11 Update: We’ve just added our favorite Cyber Monday deals, check them out below.

28/11 Update:
Well that was fun! We’ve left the deals up that still seem to be floating around this weekend and will be posting the best Cyber Monday deals on 30/11, stay tuned!

_

It’s finally here!

One of the best times of the year for tech shoppers to buy their laptops, PC parts, and Christmas gifts is on.

This page will be our feature to guide you through the best Amazon Black Friday tech deals, Cyber Monday, and all the other questions you may have at the bottom of the page.

We’ve included some quick links to relevant spots to keep an eye on, but our absolute favorite deals will be updated live on this page, so bookmark and return when you’re on the lookout.

Quick Amazon Tech Links for Black Friday / Cyber Monday

Amazon Black Friday PC Parts

Best Cyber Monday Amazon Tech Deals

Best Amazon Cyber Monday PC Case Deal: Thermaltake V150

Already one of the best budget PC cases at its normal price, getting a further 20% off is a fantastic offer if you can’t afford our more premium chassis picks.

Best Amazon Cyber Monday RAM Deal: Sabrent 1TB Rocket NVMe 4.0 Gen4 PCIe M.2 Internal SSD

Quite possibly the fastest M.2 SSD on the market right now is on 50% off. 

Yes, this is a pricey investment for a storage upgrade, but we think you’ll be wowed by what this can accomplish when using your OS and popular software.

Best Amazon Cyber Monday RAM Deal: Crucial RAM 16GB DDR4 2666 MHz

RAM can feel particularly pricey these days, so to see a 16GB upgrade at this price feels like a blessing! This is the best price we’ve seen for 16GB 2666 MHz and is a great time to upgrade if you need to.

Best Amazon Cyber Monday Headphone Deal: Sony WH1000XM4

Quite simply one of the most amazing products on the tech market today. I own a pair of these myself and after loving the build, sound, and noise-cancellation quality so much, have forced endless friends and family to buy them too!

They’re more than worth the full price, so to get this at a significant reduction is a steal; I can’t recommend these enough.

Best Black Friday Amazon Tech Deals

Best Amazon Black Friday Gaming Mouse Deal: Logitech G502 Hero

We’re legitimately surprised that this mouse is on 50% off its list price at the time of writing because it’s already one of the best and most popular gaming mice available. This is an excellent time to upgrade if you’re on the lookout for one.

Best Amazon Black Friday Headphone Deal: Beats Solo Pro Wireless

fantastic reduction in price on these Beats headphones. 

With great quality, wireless range, and noise-cancellation; at this price point, there isn’t much else competing with them.

Best Amazon Black Friday Alexa Deal: Echo Dot 3rd Gen

A great price to add 1 or more of these to your existing (or new) Alexa home setup.

When does Black Friday start?

Black Friday starts on November 27th and is expected to commence at 00:01 PST.

The deals will then appear throughout the day until midnight.

It’s important to note however that many of the best Amazon Black Friday tech deals will occur earlier (some of them are even available now! Our favorites are below).

When does Cyber Monday start?

Cyber Monday will start on November 30th and is similarly expected to commence at 00:01 PST.

Cyber Monday vs Black Friday Amazon Tech Deals

“Does Cyber Monday have better deals for tech?” is a question asked every year.

The short answer is usually yes, but not for everything.

Black Friday is historically the largest shopping event, with large (often newer) products going on sale on Amazon.

With our focus on tech, as you may expect from the name, Cyber Monday does tend to pack an extra deal or two.

However, we will say that for plenty of items, the lowest price they reach is also on Black Friday (or even the earlier November deals Amazon tends to run).

So with that said: Cyber Monday may be best for tech, but if there’s a specific item you have an eye on that has a Black Friday deal before Cyber Monday, it’s still a great time to pick it up (especially if you’re worried about stock levels).

What's Next?

The 6 Best Tools for Building a PC (and Extras)

Best tools for building PC

The 6 Best Tools for Building a PC (and Extras)

Kaelum Ross

I

Nov 9, 2020

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So you’ve finally got your parts selected…

You’re ready to plunge into the world of PC building…

Well, just one more step before you order your build: checking you have the right tools!

Today’s feature goes over what tools/extras you may need for your next PC (and the best variant of them with cost in mind).

Note: You do not need every item on this list to build a PC. Many of these are optional but will help certain builders (we’ll make it clear in each section).

Main Picks

Extras

 

Best Tool for Building a PC: LENOX 6-in-1 Screwdriver

If there’s one item to add to your basket before your PC purchase, it’s this fantastically cheap multi-purpose screwdriver.

While I know there’s a lot of people out there looking for the best screwdriver set for computers and PC build, the truth is buying a full toolkit is overkill.

What kind of screwdriver do you need for PC building?

A no 2 Philips screwdriver will cover 90% of what most builds need.

That said, it’s helpful to have a no 1 (smaller head) variant for the occasional screws that are a little tighter.

I like the LENOX because it is (surprisingly) in the same price bracket as a single-type screwdriver, yet comes with 6 different heads (without a reduction in quality).

Overall, this one is a bit of a no-brainer.

Not only is it great to have the 2 Philips head types when setting up your PC, but getting the other 4 screwdriver types is a nice addition for future DIY projects given they come at no cost.

At its low price-point, this is without a doubt the best tool for PC building.

Best Anti-Static Wristband for PC Building: Rosewill Anti Static Wrist Strap

An anti-static wrist strap is a cheap, easy way to ground yourself and remove the risk of static interference when handling your pricey PC parts.

I recommend the Rosewill band – > The cheapest on the market that has widespread usage. There’s no need to overcomplicate a simple product, this is all you need.

Do you need an anti-static wristband to build a PC?

The short answer is no, but it’s recommended.

This is a popular product amongst tech builders for a reason: for a tiny price, you are avoiding the risk of static damage to items you spend big money on.

You’ll then have the band for all future upgrades/builds.

Alternatively, you can ground yourself manually every few minutes; which will cover most of the risk if you’re careful.

(There’s already good resources on how to ground yourself when PC building).

But as far as I’m concerned, the tiny spend is worth the ease of building and peace of mind.

Best Cable Ties for PC Building: Hmrope 100pcs Cable Zip Ties

Many PC parts come with cable ties (most often the PSU or PC case).

If you know for sure that some will be included for you, this may be unnecessary.

That said, you can never have too many cable ties for organization.

The various SATA/Power/Misc cables you’ll be working with will quickly disorganize your build if you don’t have these handy.

The Hmrope ties are the cheapest available online and still do the job as effectively as its pricier competitors for PC builds

Best Thermal Paste for PC Building: Noctua NT-H1

Thermal paste is an important part of the PC building process.

It is what allows the smooth transition of heat from the CPU to the accompanying CPU cooler. Do not start your PC without first having applied thermal paste.

Most CPUs or stock coolers usually come with enough paste for at least one application.

It’s worth checking what with the one you’re purchasing. If it is included then it will likely do the job just as well as Noctua so this is completely optional.

I (and many other builders) like to pick up some paste just in case:

  1. Thermal paste isn’t included with your CPU
  2. You need to re-apply the paste after a sub-par first attempt

You do not need to buy an expensive/high-volume tube of paste. 

The Noctua NT-H1 paste ticks the boxes perfectly and is, in our opinion, the best thermal paste for PC building today (being one of the cheapest on the market, with enough volume for a few applications and widely used/available).

Extras

The above 4 items are the best tools for building a PC. We’ve just included a couple of extra optional small items that we think may be valid for some of your setups.

Best USB Hub for PC: Anker 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub

I recommend a USB hub for two types of people:

  • Those with limited USB hubs on their PC (particularly likely for smaller form factor PC cases)
  • Those (like myself) who like to have more easily available ports on their desk – as it can be a pain to reach behind the PC if your front I/O ports are out.

This Anker offering is one of the best USB hubs for a PC setup.

It ticks all the right boxes: low in price, sturdy/attractive design, wide usage, and USB 3.0.

You can get a product with more ports if preferred, but we will need to fork out more for a good product (and larger numbers of USB ports demand more power, so are more often accompanied by a mains power requirement to allow you to use for charging also).

Best Headphone Stand for PC Users: NZXT Puck

Last but not least is a unique product from one of the best PC Case brands in the game.

The NZXT Puck is essentially a magnetic stand to stick to the side/front of your PC case (or another magnetic surface if your PC isn’t).

It sounds simple, but it’s a surprisingly effective/aesthetically pleasing way of storing your headphones.

And the puck is actually in two parts, so you can choose to separate them and use the other piece for say, a game controller.

The slight crevice around the side of the puck also allows you to have some neat cable management for your accessories on the front side of your PC (something that is usually lacking in setups).

It’s by no means required for your build, but neatly storing your expensive PC headphones is something that is often overlooked, so a product to do it stylishly is one we’d recommend.

What's Next?

The 10 Best PC Case Brands in 2021

Best PC Case Brand

The 10 Best PC Case Brands in 2021

Kaelum Ross

I

Dec 28, 2020

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After our endless amounts of case reviews over different categories, budgets, shapes, and sizes, it’s clear that some chassis brands have shined better than others.

But which manufacturer makes the best quality computer cases?

Today’s What in Tech feature breaks down the best PC case brands on the market today depending on what you’re looking for.

Treat this page as a hub, as we’ve got separate features on the best cases from each of these manufacturers in the links below.

Best PC Case Brands

Overall Best PC Case Brand: Lian-Li

Oh boy, was it hard to decide how to rank this top spot.

Specifically, the battle between Lian-Li and Fractal Design was neck and neck; with both manufacturers offering absolutely incredible cases across most typical buying criteria.

But as it stands right now, we have to give the accolade to Lian-Li.

You may not be as familiar with this manufacturer as say, Corsair or Thermaltake.

But they’ve been in the PC Case business for a long time. Their flagship models today strike an incredible balance between aesthetics, build quality, internal spec, airflow, and cooling capability.

All wrapped into price tags that feel too good to be true next to some of its competitors.

The PC-011 Dynamic, in particular, is what we consider to be the best PC case available today.

Lian-Li is a seasoned manufacturer on the top of their game.

You really can’t beat their top cases for overall value whether you’re after a PC case for gaming, streaming, or production (whether high-end or more budget-leaning).

All of this is why we consider Lian-Li the best computer case brand on the market today.

Best PC Case Brand for Silent Builds: Fractal Design

Now like we said, our number one pick on this list was very hard to finalize.

Fractal Design feels just as deserving to take the top spot.

With a similarly incredible execution in balancing quality, design, and internal specs with fantastic pricing, Fractal has been my personal go-to choice for PC cases for a long time.

There is one key area that separates Fractal and Lian-Li: noise vs airflow.

Fractal Design is the undisputed king of silent PC cases.

They manage to achieve this by surrounding their high-quality exteriors with sound dampening insulation, setups that minimize internal vibrations, and side panels that are (usually) covered in thick metal instead of thinner tempered glass.

With this approach comes a set of very minimalist PC case designs that are beautifully subtle and practically silent (particularly in their mid/high-end models).

With that increased insulation comes a slight loss in airflow/cooling capability.

Now make no mistake, for the amount of sound dampening Fractal achieves in its cases, they still perform very well in temperature benchmarks (often beating many cases that have more ventilation openings) and are more than capable of running a powerful PC.

We just think that for the average builder, the perks of slightly superior airflow and a case focussed on high visibility (for your beautiful RGB components!) will win you over.

But if having a quiet case is even a little bit important to you, know that Fractal Design is easily one of the best PC case brands today, and its flagship models are incredible products.

Runner-Up Best PC Case Brand: Phanteks

Phanteks are one of the more popular manufacturers on this list with a huge variety of great towers.

Among them is one of the best PC cases today in the P400, a great case for first-time builders, and some of the most innovative high-end cases in the Enthoo 719 and the EVOLV series.

Even Phantek’s cheap to mid-range cases are often built with a level of quality that you’d pay more for from many other brands.

We don’t think their offerings in the mid-range are quite as good as Lian-Li and Fractal.

But that’s only because the PC-011 and the Define R5/7 are such fantastic computer cases, it’s hard to compete with them.

But if your budget is a little shorter than those chassis, or is much higher that you’re looking for a specialist case like the Enthoo 719, then Phanteks are still well worth considering.

Best PC Case Brand for Premium Options: Thermaltake

One of the best selling brands on this list, Thermaltake has some fantastic cases on offer.

Although for your typical tower build, our top picks may provide slightly better value, Thermaltake has a couple of special things on offer:

Yes, you are paying a little more for some unique aesthetics, but design is a big factor when buying your case.

Thermaltake is, to put it simply,  a great choice if you’re looking to build something extra unique to show off.

Most Stylish PC Case Brand: NZXT

We’re sure most of you are very familiar with NZXT, and there’s a good reason for that.

Few other brands have made their mark through sticking to a slick, striking aesthetic as this manufacturer.

Most of the flagship models have decent SGCC steel build qualities with some beautiful matte finishes.

NZXT’s cases aren’t just pretty though; they also offer plenty of utility for a large variety of builds.

Their flagship H510 model in particular is a fantastic mid-range case, and we appreciate that they offer comparable quality across their mATX and ITX variants.

If the aesthetic of NZXT is up your alley, know their cases are a great choice for more than just looks.

Most Popular PC Case Brand (Best for Variety): Corsair

There’s probably not a person reading this who doesn’t have some dealing with Corsair.

This classic brand has had cases featured throughout tons of our reviews.

One case, in particular, has been featured more than any other to date: the Corsair Crystal Series 680X (one of the best premium cases available today).

Although we like cases like the PC-011 and the Define R5/7 over Corsair’s mid-range offerings, it is simply incredible how many chassis this brand manufactures at any one time.

Anything from unique designs, to RGB powerhouses to dual-chamber setups, one thing we really commend Corsair for is offering as much variety as possible for its enormous consumer base.

They’re a great brand to pay attention to if you’re focussed on picking something extra unique.

Best Traditional PC Case Brand: SilverStone

On the other end of the variety spectrum is SilverStone.

This classic manufacturer is great at sticking to what it knows best: making traditional-style no-frills PC cases.

And we don’t mean that negatively by any means.

SilverStone cases still look great and perform very well for the price, if you’re after something more minimalist (and aren’t interested in Fractal Design) then this should be your go-to.

Another area they shine in is in the world of horizontal PC cases; combined with their simplistic designs, SilverStone cases are perfect for someone looking for an HTPC case.

Great Unique Cases Alternative: InWin

While not taking any particular top spot, InWin is still a great PC brand that we particularly enjoy for creating some very unique offerings that perform as well as they look.

Cases like the D-Frame, 905, A1 Plus, and 925 have designs you simply won’t find from any other manufacturer; so don’t write them off.

Good All-Round Case Options: Cooler Master

Another very popular manufacturer, Cooler Master has made a name for themselves by offering a great variety of cases in all different shapes and sizes – particularly working well as a cheap PC case brand, with a huge array of budget options.

Both their cheap and premium options are worth considering; our standout choice from them is easily the Cosmos C700P  – this is one of the best choices for high-end enthusiast builds.

The only reason we don’t rank them higher is some of the other manufacturers above simply tend to offer more with their competing products in each price range.

Runner-Up Best Silent PC Cases: Be Quiet!

Last but not least is another option for those after a quiet PC case.

As much as we love Fractal Design, if for whatever reason you are looking for an alternative (be it aesthetic or stock/budget issues), Be Quiet!’s range, as the name would suggest, offer excellent noise-reduction solutions.

The Silent Base 801 in particular is a stand-out offering from them, which you can read more about in our coverage here.

 

Honorable Mentions

While the above are the best PC case brands on the market today, there are still some other great manufacturers that you shouldn’t look down upon if you’ve found something out of this list that takes your eye.

We have, for example, previously recommended cases from Antec, ASUS, Anidees, Cougar, Azza, EVGA & darkFlash.

None of these brands are bad, (Antec for instance once manufactured one of the most popular cases on the market).

It’s just that the above 10 will cover a large majority of user needs and be the best balance of build quality, price, and features.

But if you’re looking for something extra unique, check out our feature on just that.

What's Next?

Amazon Prime Day 2020 – Tech Deals Guide

Prime Day Tech Guide

Amazon Prime Day 2020 Tech Deals Guide

Kaelum Ross

I

Oct 13, 2020

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Well that was fun!

Thanks for checking in to our Prime Day 2020 guide. Prime Day is now over until 2021, so come back to this page then when we’ll update it with the best deals next year.

Best Prime Day Amazon tech deals

Prime Day is wrapped up now until 2021, we’ll see you then!

Do you need Amazon Prime to get Prime Day deals?

Yes, but in 2020, Amazon offers new users a 30-day free trial (check the links below to see if the offer is still available).

Should you wait for Black Friday/Cyber Monday for tech deals?

Although Black Friday and Cyber Monday are historically larger events, we don’t expect many tech users to gain enough of a discount to warrant waiting several more weeks.

When you read forums and listen to Reddit posts, there will always be someone to say “if you just wait X months, it will be cheaper”.

But this is always the case with every sale! You can always wait longer and get things cheaper.

But Prime Day will undoubtedly be a great chance to pick up good tech deals, so if you want something soon, we recommend making this your time to do it.

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How to Limit or Turn Off Auto Updates on Steam – Quick Guide

How to Limit or Turn Off Auto Updates on Steam

Kaelum Ross

I

Jun 9, 2020

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Want to stop a Steam update that will inevitably slow your internet speed?

Perhaps a new “fix” is known to crash the game and you want to hold off until the devs resolve?

Whatever the reason, we’ve created a fast guide on the options you have to disable auto-updates on Steam.

Quick note before we start: Steam auto-updates by default for a reason. Which is why they make it close to impossible to fully stop.

For the most part, new versions will fix issues or add features, so only disable updates if you have a reason to (we only recommend this for single player games).

Table of Contents

How to Turn Off Auto Updates on Steam for Specific Games

To stop Steam from updating games one at a time, start at your Steam library and right-click the game in question and click “Properties”.

Once the window opens, go to the “Updates” tab and you’ll see an “Automatic updates” dropdown box.

Set it to “Only update this game when I launch it” as below.

Steam does not give you the option to completely disable auto-updates so this is the best you can do within the app.

If you want to then play a Steam game without updating, your best option is to play in offline mode.

How to Turn Off Auto Updates on Steam for All Games

Unfortunately, there isn’t a supported way to do this.

But below are the closest methods found.

Option 1 – Download Steam Games at Certain Times

If you’re doing this because you don’t want games downloads affecting your broadband speeds, you can schedule Steam updates.

Click “Steam” in the top left corner and then “Settings”

Then go to the “Downloads” tab and you will see an option to set a time window for Steam updates as below:

If you really want to ensure Steam doesn’t update games, you can set the schedule to something like 4-5am and then make sure Steam is off or in offline mode during that period/when you play games.

Option 2 – How to Limit Steam Download Speeds

Another effective way to deal with Steam slowing down your internet is to set a Steam Bandwidth Limit.

Going to the same settings menu as option 1 above (Steam – > Settings – > Downloads) you can easily set a download limit for Steam as below:

How to Access Previous Versions of a Steam Game

Some games allow you to play older versions on Steam.

To do this, once again right-click on a game in your Steam library and click “properties”.

Go to the “Betas” tab and click on the dropdown box.

If there are other versions available, simply click on the one you want and Steam will download that version.

(Our example uses Super Meat Boy, which uses an older version for speedrunners).

How to Hide, Unhide or Remove a Game From Your Steam Library

Remove Game From Steam Library Cover Photo

How to Hide, Unhide or Remove a Game From Your Steam Library

Kaelum Ross

I

May 25, 2020

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Trying to hide that Barbie dress-up game you got in a Humble Bundle?

Or perhaps you’re trying to permanently delete Dota 2 because you can’t stop playing it?

No? Just me?

Well, whatever the reason, this quick guide will show you how to hide a game in Steam, re-add or remove it permanently.

Table of Contents

How to Remove a Game From Steam Library

Note: if you remove a game from your Steam account, you will no longer own that game (if you ever wanted to play it again, you’d have to buy it again!).

To completely remove a Steam game, start by visiting Steam Support and logging in with your account.

You’ll be presented with the below page, click “Games, Software, etc.”

Remove Game From Steam Library 1

On the next page find the game either in “recent products” or by searching – here we’re using Super Meat Boy.

Remove Game From Steam Library 2

Click on the game and you’ll be taken to its support page, select the “I want to permanently remove the game from my account” option.

Remove Game From Steam Library 3

You’ll be taken to a final screen to confirm you want to remove, click the option below.

Remove Game From Steam Library 4

And voila! The game will be removed from your account and you will no longer see it in your library.

How to Hide a Game on Steam

What’s the difference between removing and hiding a Steam game?

Well, removing a game permanently deletes it from your Steam library.

Hiding means you won’t see it in your normal library but you still own it/can access with a little more effort.

If you just want to hide a game in Steam, it’s very easy.

Simply find the game you want to hide in your library and right-click on its icon (or name if you use list view), then click “Hide this game” as below:

Hide Game in Steam Library 1

That’s all there is to it! The game will no longer appear in your normal Steam games list.

Now what if you want to see those titles?

How to Unhide a Game on Steam

To find hidden Steam games, simply click “view” at the top left of steam and then Hidden Games as below.

Unhide Game in Steam Library 1

This will show hidden Steam games in a separate library.

From there, all you have to do is right-click on a game and follow the menu as per the below screenshot to “remove from hidden”.

Unhide Game in Steam Library 2

And that’s it! No more embarrassing games or clutter in your Steam, enjoy!

 

What's Next?

The Complete Guide to Motherboard Sizes – EATX vs ATX vs Micro ATX vs Mini ITX

Motherboard Size Guide

Motherboard Sizes - The Complete Guide

Kaelum Ross

I

Dec 31, 2020

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Sizing up your motherboard is a big deal.

What is an ATX motherboard anyway?

Who wins in the battle between E-ATX vs ATX vs mATX vs mITX?

Whatever the question, we’ve put together this guide to explain the differences between motherboard sizes.

With this piece and our detailed feature on PC case sizes, you have everything you need to size up your next build.

Table of Contents

Motherboard Size Comparison Chart

Motherboard Sizes Comparison Chart

Note: Sizes are approximations, check product listing for exact dimensions

Form FactorProsCons
E-ATX • Best for the most powerful PC builds
• Up to Quad-GPU/8 x DDR4 RAM support
• Fantastic overclocking/cooling options
• Best for high-end, production, and servers PCs
• Most expensive
• Very large/bulky
• "Overkill" for many users
ATX • Best "all-round" option
• Plenty of GPU/hardware room
• Fantastic overclocking/cooling
• Lots of ATX case styles available
• Perfect for most gaming PCs
• Still quite large/heavy
• More expensive than Micro ATX
Micro ATX • Best budget motherboard
• Compact with stylish case options
• Dual-GPU possible
• Most have 4 x RAM slots
• Good part compatibility
• Dual-GPU setups may be hard
• Less cooling/overclock potential
Mini ITX • Smallest motherboard size
• Perfect for a portable build
(e.g. a VR demo / LAN party PC)
• Cheap motherboard/case options
• Most mITX cases look fantastic
• Single GPU build only
• 2 x RAM slots
• Limited space for other features/cooling
• Harder build due to size
• Effort needed to find parts that will fit.

Motherboard Sizes Explained

E-ATX Motherboard

The largest of the main types. An Extended-ATX motherboard is for builders focussed on building the most powerful PC possible.

This mobo form factor is designed to work alongside a full tower PC case, providing you with incredible space/features.

This often includes support for Quad-GPU builds and 8 RAM slots (which could achieve up to 256GB of memory).

Not to mention the breathing room to cool all of these components with immense overclocking potential.

E-ATX cases, with their massive size, will often be good for part compatibility (with many popular components being based around hosting ATX motherboards, cases designed to included EATX mobos can essentially fit things like most mainstream power supply units with more room to spare).

Perfect for very high-end enthusiast gaming & production (editing, rendering, etc), an E-ATX motherboard will open up some great utility with its large size.

Note that there are, of course, diminishing returns when building such a powerhouse.

If you’re the average gamer or don’t need the best PC money can buy, E-ATX is often going to be overkill (with SLI/Crossfire support becoming less common in games now).

The real benefits will be to those who can make use of the GPUs independently, like a high-end video editing or crypto mining rig.

The boards are very expensive and alongside an E-ATX case, are enormous. Make sure you have space.

That being said, if you care less about the budget and more about the most power possible, this is the size for you.

ATX Motherboard

The mid-tower motherboard. This motherboard form factor is what many would consider the “standard ATX” option and has reigned as the most popular size for a long time, and for good reasons.

When considering EATX vs ATX, sure the latter will have slightly less space for high-end desktop computers.

But ATX boards still have everything important to the majority of gamers/enthusiast builds.

Including support for 2-3 GPUs, 4 x DDR4 RAM, plenty of SATA ports, more than enough expansion slots, and their ATX case-counterparts come with plenty of decent cooling options.

Even if it’s not the best motherboard for overclocking (that belongs to E-ATX), it’s still a very close second and will achieve what most gamers need.

The other great advantage is due to the popularity, there are so many good ATX mobos and combos with CPUs available at competitive prices. You’re also best placed for part compatibility, with a lot of power supply options being sized with ATX PC cases in mind.

An ATX build is still going to be fairly big with limited portability. Bear that in mind if you’re building an on-desk setup.

But overall, if you’re looking for the best “all-round” option, an ATX build is the way to go.

Motherboard Sizes 2

mATX Motherboard

While ATX may be the most popular overall, Micro ATX motherboards have been giving them a run for their money in the last few years.

Why? Well, the quality of this small form factor has dramatically improved over the last several years for both Intel and Ryzen motherboards, and the pc case sizes it runs with are a nice balance between space and compactness.

With a majority now having 4 x DDR4 RAM slots, good SATA connector availability, and even 2 PCIe slots for a small SLI/Crossfire GPU build.

This is the smallest PC build you can create while still accomodating a majority of mainstream components.

Note that as we get to this size, running a dual-GPU build will usually get cramped and isn’t ideal.

It’s certainly possible, but the preference would be to stick to a single graphics card (with the utility to overclock).

As we discuss further below in our top picks, the Micro ATX motherboard size nails affordability.

If you want something compact/cheap but not so small that you have to be extra careful with your hardware choices, this is the pick.

mITX Motherboard

And then there are those looking for the smallest PC possible.

A Mini-ITX build is for those very focussed on portability or a compact style (e.g. LAN-party build, HTPC, or perhaps a streaming computer).

With such a tiny size, you’re of course compromising on feature availability.

Most Mini-ITX mobos come with 2 RAM slots (still providing up to 64GB), a single PCIe slot, and limited SATA ports.

The cases that support them are also on the smaller side. Leading to limited ventilation/cooling. You’re going to struggle with overclocking.

With this small size, you will need to pay more attention to the other parts you buy (most notably GPU/PSUs).

This can often include having to buy parts that are a bit more expensive (usually offset by the cheap motherboard and cases, however).

With all that being said, the convenience of a portable PC is massive and compact builds often look fantastic.

If this is what your heart is set on, don’t fret! You can build a great gaming computer on a Mini-ITX motherboard, and our guides on motherboard CPU combos/PC cases include ITX options.

How to Choose a Motherboard Size

Ahead of giving you our top picks, we’ve broken down the key criteria for what to look for in a motherboard.

Just know that not all these factors will be important to you individually (many people don’t need to worry about having more than a few SATA ports, etc.).

Don’t be overwhelmed by all the factors, just focus on what’s important to you, and check out our recommendations if in doubt.

Computer Case Size Comparison Chart

Form Factor / PC Case Size

Let’s start with an obvious one.

Whatever motherboard you pick, you want to make sure that you have an appropriately sized case to go with it (e.g. E-ATX case for an E-ATX motherboard).

Check out our joint-feature on PC case sizes if you want more info.

But in short, the type of motherboard you want will probably also guide the case size you need anyway (e.g. if you’re looking at a smaller motherboard, the case will have fewer hardware space/cooling options, but that’s the trade-off for portability).

CPU compatibility

Motherboard CPU CompatibilityAlthough not explicitly related to size, this one is worth covering as it’s one of the most important buying factors.

When purchasing a motherboard, make sure it’s compatible with the CPU you’re looking at.

Firstly there’s LGA vs PGA vs BGA.

There’s already good resource if you want the very technical explanation, but in short:

  • LGA is most common for Intel CPUs.
  • PGA is most common for AMD CPUs.
  • BGA is more for manufacturers and not worth considering for your individual build.

Note: this isn’t universal, you may (rarely) in the future see an AMD CPU on LGA – but this will usually be very clear in a listing.

The most common socket types right now are LGA 1151 & LGA 1200 for Intel, and AM4 for AMD.

Intel LGA 1151 vs LGA 1200

Right now, Intel’s mainstream processors are in an awkward space of transitioning to a new socket type, the LGA 1200.

This socket is what supports the new 10000 range (i5-10600k, i7-10700k, i9-10900k, etc). 

These are the latest and greatest from Intel, and if you’re building a new Intel personal computer, it would make sense to go for the latest socket/CPU range.

But if your budget is lower than these motherboards and CPUs, know that the current LGA 1151 socket still has plenty of decent combos that are worthy of powering a beefy PC for gaming, production, or general use.

These will support the most common CPUs you’ll be looking at for gaming.

There will be more terms in this area that will probably confuse you like Z370 vs z390 (which is mainly just a difference in wifi/USB compatibility).

Instead of learning every chipset (there’s a lot) – we’d recommend a beginner check the product listing to see.

We’ve only provided this info for the full picture. Once you’ve found the CPU you want, it’s pretty clear what a motherboard supports in the product listing like below:

CPU Chipset Compatibility Explained

This motherboard supports Intel 8000 and 9000 series, and there’s an LGA1200 version for the 10000 CPUs. The product listing will then talk about the kind of features included based on the chipset on offer.

Let’s take the LGA1200 motherboard just linked as an example; this model has a Z490 chipset, which will have features for enthusiasts like overclocking capabilities, high-quality ports/Wi-Fi, and good capability for M.2 storage).

Assuming you’re buying a popular motherboard/CPU combo, it’s usually really easy to find out if your desired CPU is supported with that motherboard, and what kind of audience it’s catering to by reading some of the product description.

PCI Slots

Motherboard PCIe SlotsPCI slots are what host your external components, the most common one being graphics cards (in PCI Express/PCIe slots).

The larger your motherboard size, the more PCIe slots you will (usually) have available.

An E-ATX motherboard, for example, will often have 4 PCI-e 3.0 slots, allowing for a 4-way GPU PC.

As we made clear in the EATX mobo section, however, more doesn’t mean better for gaming unless you’re a very high-end enthusiast who is happy tweaking things (or a production user/high-end editor). Most gamers will be fine with a board that has 1 or 2 decent PCIe slots (which a huge majority of motherboards have now, as most are catering to gamers).

Aside from GPUs, other PCI slots are often included if you have other focuses (e.g. installing a high-quality independent sound/network card).

Just know that you’ll usually have to put them in a place that blocks you from fitting an extra GPU if you are wanted to install multiple ones.

That’s the beauty of a large motherboard though. Not many people need 4 GPUs, so those PCIe slots can come in handy for other things if needed.

PCI-E x4 vs x8 vs x16

When looking at PCI-E slots you may notice the different numbers next to them (i.e. PCI-E 3.0 x4/x8/x16).

Putting it simply, a motherboard can only circulate a certain amount of data/bandwidth at a time.

So if you have a lot of PCI-e slots, some of them will be x4 – x8 which means they can’t output the same bandwidth as your main x16 slot/s.

But: There have been many benchmarks on what the performance difference is between these types.

The difference between PCIe x4, x8, and x16 is very minimal for performance/gaming.

We’re talking a couple of FPS in games.

This is because most GPUs don’t come close to actually requiring the x16 power that an x16 slot provides.

Whichever x type, you’re still going to be getting a majority of the card’s power overall. Although to state the obvious, your GPU is nearly always the component that should be in the highest bandwidth slot.

SATA Ports

Motherboard SATA portsLarger boards will often come with more SATA ports to allow you to connect more SSDs, HDDs, and optical drives.

For most gaming builds, you’ll have more than enough SATA ports for your requirements on most boards.

However, it’s worth checking if you’re purchasing an mATX / mITX motherboard to ensure you have enough.

It’s only if you’re building say, a video editing PC, or if you have other requirements that means you want to install a lot of storage/other components, should you be too worried about confirming these beforehand.

Miscellaneous

NVMe M.2 Storage

Motherboard M2 StorageM.2 storage is becoming increasingly popular over the standard 2.5″ SSDs / 3.5″ hard drives and worth your consideration if you’re all about speed.

It’s a type of solid-state drive that larger motherboards have become more compatible with over the last few years.

M.2 SSD vs SSD (2.5″) – An M.2 SSD installed via NVMe is around 5 times faster than a SATA-installed SSD.

Note that this is during benchmarking. In real terms to the user, this will likely be around 2-3 times faster (still nothing to complain about!).

These storage units are of course a lot more expensive (here’s our top pick) but run like a dream when you’re installing your OS and common apps on there.

If you like the sound of this, we recommend looking at an ATX or E-ATX motherboard.

You might be able to squeeze out the utility for an NVMe M.2 within mATX but it will likely mean the board is sacrificing bandwidth somewhere else.

Most motherboard listings will detail their support for this storage type so don’t fret about compatibility too much.

Just make sure to get an NVMe M.2 SSD (SATA ones perform similarly to a 2.5″ SSD) – here’s our top pick.

RAM slots

Motherboard RAM SlotsA majority of motherboards from E-ATX to Micro ATX will provide a minimum of 4 x DDR4 RAM slots.

The smallest form factor, mITX, tends to come with a maximum of 2 x DDR4 RAM slots.

In reality, this means you can still make a build with up to 32GB of storage which is plenty for gaming and most other functions.

A better motherboard can be beneficial for RAM as on top of having more slots, better motherboards tend to be more capable of working well alongside higher RAM speeds (though this is all mostly concerning to enthusiasts who want to mid-max performance; if you’re the average user getting confused, a mid-range motherboard will be more than powerful enough for gaming and more!).

It’s also nice to have RAM slot options as more RAM sticks are marginally more effective than overall storage (e.g. 4 x 8GB RAM is better than 2 x 16GB RAM for most users).

We wouldn’t worry about RAM compatibility too much unless you’re running some high-quality production/editing/streaming computer.

Gaming PCs won’t need more than 32GB for a while.

If you do have specialist requirements, high-end E-ATX/ATX motherboards include up to 8 RAM slots/256GB capability!

I/O Panel

Motherboard IO PanelThe features available in an I/O back panel will typically increase not just with chipset (which allows your mobo to support more inputs, e.g. USB 3.1 type C) but also the size.

E-ATX/high-end ATX motherboards often have a host of great ports available.

Smaller motherboards will usually have the standards though (some USB/audio ports) but check that your choice will have what you need, or you have a suitable extender.

Extra features

Finally, there are all the extra bells and whistles motherboards can come with.

The most common ones are:

  • Integrated sound card
  • Integrated network card (Wi-Fi/ethernet)
  • Integrated Bluetooth (if not, adapters are dirt cheap)

Typically, larger motherboards include more of these features as it’s easier for the manufacturers to add.

We would say it’s often preferred to buy a standalone sound card or network card if you have PCIe slot room (not essential if your budget is tight, though).

Even Mini-ITX boards can come with these features integrated, just know that you may not get quite the same quality as large integrations or standalone cards.

That being said for smaller builds, we’d recommend getting integrated versions of features you need where possible so you’re not having to use your very finite USB/PCI inputs.

Which Motherboard Should you get?

Best budget gaming motherboard

If your focus is on affordability above all else, go with Micro ATX.

While you may not get the same features as E-ATX/ATX you’re not going to need them for a cheap build.

Things like excellent cooling/space for multi-GPU builds aren’t so important for a cheap gaming PC where you should be focussing on 1 graphics card.

Micro ATX builds are the perfect balance between being small enough for good mobo/case affordability while not so small that you have to fork out more money/effort for “specialist” small parts.

Our best cheap gaming motherboard picks:

Best mid-range gaming motherboard

For most builders, the sweet spot is an ATX motherboard for gaming.

With all the feature a large majority of builders need, good space for parts/cooling in their compatible cases, and lots of choices, ATX mobos are perfect for most setups.

Even if you don’t need every PCIe/SATA/RAM slot, know that having an ATX case/motherboard gives your parts more room for ventilation (and makes the build process easier).

Our top picks for the best ATX motherboard:

Best high-end gaming motherboard/production PC

Now let us be clear: the options above will be enough for a majority of readers.

But, if you’re less concerned with budget and more with creating the most powerful PC you can, then you want to look at an E-ATX motherboard.

These will give you the most space and utility possible with no compromises made for compactness.

This is what makes them appealing not just for gaming, but for someone looking for the best production PC possible (video editing, rendering, etc).

Not to mention the large cases that come with the most room for cooling, drives, and ease-of-build.

In fact, even if you wanted an ATX motherboard for your high-end build (also doable), we’d recommend looking at E-ATX full tower (or “super tower”) cases for the best airflow/cooling options as long as you don’t mind the size.

Our top picks for the best E-ATX motherboards for gaming:

Best small motherboard for portable/HTPC build

Finally, there are those after the smallest motherboard for a portable build or HTPC.

It will come as no surprise that Mini ITX motherboards are the best option for you if this is what you’re hunting for.

Yes, as we’ve discussed, you’re losing out on some hardware compatibility and other features with a PC this small.

But combined with a high-quality case and some consideration for which parts you’re going to buy (ensuring they fit), you can still create a gaming PC capable of LAN parties or streaming.

Our top picks for the best Mini ITX motherboard:

FAQ

XL-ATX vs E-ATX?

XL-ATX motherboards are another form factor that traditionally are a similar width to E-ATX, but a bit longer.

We’ve chosen not to include them in our guide for a couple of reasons:

  • This size type is super uncommon and the options available aren’t great.
  • The use-cases are incredibly specific, given you can build anything from a powerful server to gaming PC on an E-ATX mobo, we’d wager XL-ATX isn’t necessary for anybody reading this.
  • Similarly to “full tower vs super tower”, XL-ATX is loosely defined and is a marketing term as much as it is a legitimate form factor. A lot of “extra-large motherboards” are E-ATX or even ATX anyway.

Short answer: don’t worry about Xl-ATX.

ATX vs BTX?

BTX (balanced technology extended) is a format that was originally meant to replace ATX (advanced technology extended) with superior cooling and other quality of life improvements for manufacturers/users.

However, with different mounting hole alignments and the need to develop different products to support them, BTX motherboards never took off, and are essentially redundant today.

Short answer: BTX is no more, go with ATX.

What is Nano-ITX?

Technically Mini-ITX isn’t the smallest form factor, Nano-ITX used to offer even smaller motherboards to build the tiniest PCs possible.

The key words there are “used to” however. Nano-ITX motherboards don’t exist in the mainstream in any capacity now; if you do see them, they are likely old, or not supportive of modern CPU/GPU/RAM hardware.

Short answer: If you want a small form factor motherboard, go with Mini-ITX.

What order should I pick PC Parts?

Reading this guide and the criteria for selecting a motherboard, you may be confused as to how you should build your PC (e.g. do you pick a compatible motherboard for your chosen CPU or vice versa?).

It’s a bit of a “chicken and egg” situation, there’s no “right” order to pick parts in.

But here’s the outline we would recommend for most confused builders (from first to last):

GPU – > CPU – > Motherboard – > Case – > RAM/storage/extras – > PSU

Don’t think that the above also represents the order of importance, a PSU is very important!

It can just make sense to pick it last once you know the power requirements of your PC/what size PSU will fit in your case.

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