What Is a Good Ghz? Choosing the Best CPU in 2020

It’s widely known that the single most expensive component is the graphics card, and many gamers and streamers spend copious amounts of time researching the best graphics load-outs. Less significantly well researched and relatively unknown is the what and how behind CPU terms.

The CPU is a component that breaks the usual “bigger is better” trend that shopper brains like. Instead, you have to compare generations with architecture and in the matter of what is a good GHz, the downside of heat accrual.

Every year new chips hit the market with tweaks in the sizes, speeds, and reliability. Most of this means only gradients to the public but takes some serious engineering on the back end.

If you want to make an informed choice when it comes to your next CPU, keep reading.

Understanding CPU Terms

To get a proper grasp of what’s going on with a system, it’s good to start with the key terms.

Socket Type

Have you ever purchased a CPU motherboard combo deal out of fear of getting mismatched components? No? You only did it for the savings?

Not every CPU fits in the same motherboard. The socket type tells you what generation of processor is will fit. Typically this is constrained by the dimensions of the chip and the arrangement of pins.

The two most common socket types currently are the Intel LGA 1151 and the AMD AM4.

Your motherboard choice also determines your RAM choices.


Much like the generations of cell phone technology, the terminology isn’t strictly relevant to major updates or changes. For the most part, generation refers to changes in underlying architecture, how the chip is laid out and configurations of memory modules and instructions.

Higher generations don’t always boost performance but provide a larger overhead for other components to use.

For Intel users, your basement is the 7th gen and your newer purchases should aim for 9th gen. For AMD Ryzen users, look for 2nd or 3rd generation, though announcements on the 4th generation are expected before 2020.

3, 5, 7?

Also, the number 9 is showing up more in these lists, but you get the idea. Both Intel and AMD use these numbers to indicate families of processors.

The 3 line offers basic performance for workstations. The 5 sees a lot of mixed and gaming use. The 7s end up in high-end machines and the 9s aren’t worth it unless you happen to be doing your own rendering or asset creation.

Depending on the generation, power consumption, and speed not every 3 is worse than every 5 and so on.

Cores and Threads

The more cores a CPU offers, the more it can do. The doing is performed by threads which always come in pairs with the cores.

More cores and more threads generally mean more tasks can be handled simultaneously, but an Intel 1151 CPU with 4.1 GHz speed and 4 cores will do a small set of tasks faster than a 2.3 GHz 6 core processor.

Base Clock

Which takes us to the basic clock and the speeds it runs at (before all that spiffy overclocking). The base clock represents the idle speed in billions of pulses per second (GHz).

The higher the base clock, the more power draw and the hotter the chip gets. No getting around it, it’s a basic principle of conductance.

What is a Good GHz?

There’s a direct translation between a boost in GHz and a boost in the performance of CPU-intensive processes.

The number of GHz doubling on the same number of cores would mean roughly twice the speed. There are a few other aspects that will push those numbers up and down, including the frequency of RAM but generally, the math holds.

It gets more challenging when you factor in other cores. A 2.0 GHz 6 core CPU versus a 3.0 GHz 4 core CPU isn’t a level field. Even assuming they are both running a single task, depending on the architecture and processing allocation, they may handle things differently.

That said, it’s better to go with a higher GHz as long as your cooling can handle it. The power consumption of a 2.0 GHz chip versus a 4.0 GHz chip of the same cores also doubles.


The ratio between the base clock and the boost clock or overclock is not the same from chip to chip. This also comes down to the architecture and how well the voltage travels through a chip.

You may find it easier to overhead a chip on one motherboard over another. While some types of overclocking are fairly basic, there’s a reason that the process voids warranties and isn’t recommended for everyone. That reason has nothing to do with making sentient machines and everything to do with frying chips. It takes a lot of tweaking to do right.

Cost Concerns

The best way to evaluate the difference in GHz to your needs is to start with a baseline chip that meets the minimum recommendations on a game or program. From there, calculate the difference in price to the next chip up in the same family.

If the GHz goes up by more than the cost, that’s going to give you the best value hardware. If you are paying 20% more for a chip that is 5% faster, you are doing yourself a disservice.

CPU by Slot

For those running an overpowered AMD TR4 motherboard, get yourself a Threadripper 2950X and enjoy having more power than you know what to do with at the third-highest base clock of any chip out there.

For anyone looking to run a serious gaming rig, the AMD AM4 slot Ryzen 7 3700x brings the right number of cores and a 3.7 GHz base clock to you.

For an Intel purist, the LGA 1151 socket Core i7 9700k gives you that 3.7 GHz base and some extra headroom for content creation.

For those looking to do content creation and rendering of their own graphics and assets, the LGA 2066 socket Core 19-7900x gives you a solid 3.3 GHz base for the 10 core chip.

Build Right

Nowhere else in a build or a streaming setup do you have to make as many tight choices as with the CPU. While you can watch a dozen benchmark videos and read a lot of reviews, the real answer lies in what you use it for and what annoys you about computers.

When it comes to what is a good GHz if you hate noise and don’t mind slow processing the answer is a 2.8 GHz base. If you love speed and wear a headset anyway, shoot for that 4.6 GHz and higher sweet spot.

Once you know the speed of the processor you want, it’s time to decide between AMD & Intel.