Buying a desktop computer can be a lengthy process involving many complex decisions, but none come with quite as much jargon as figuring out the best CPU.

Before you know it, you're drowning in talk of cores and clock speeds, socket types and memory controllers, Bulldozer, Piledriver and more.

While you'll need to consider at least some of these issues, there's an easier way to approach your purchasing problems. And that's to ignore the technical detail, just for the moment, and focus first on a more fundamental question: Intel vs AMD, which processors are the best for you?

You'll probably find that answering this is much more straightforward. And once you've made your choice, many other decisions about your new PC will fall into place, saving you plenty of time.

Intel vs AMD: Intel CPUs

If you're after performance above else (and you can afford the price tag) then Intel processors are generally a good choice. As our "Best CPU" benchmarks showed, strong single core performance means they generally outperform the competition.

Intel vs AMD: which processor is best?
In our benchmark tests, Intel outdid the competition

The difference can be marginal, though. It may be even less significant if you're planning to spend time overclocking your chosen CPU, or if your target applications make good use of multiple cores - especially as AMD chips are generally priced much lower, which means you can sometimes get extra cores for less money.

Even opting for Intel's very latest Haswell CPUs won't deliver a major leap forward in desktop power, unfortunately. Haswell processors come with the same default clock frequencies as their predecessors, the same four cores (with the mainstream sockets). Performance might edge up by 10 per cent or so, but you're most probably not going to notice any difference.

It's not all bad news, of course, particularly if you're interested in mobile computing. As our guide to Haswell explains, Haswell CPUs have new sleep states and enhanced power management which promise a major leap forward in battery life.

For instance, you should be able to leave a Haswell system on active standby, regularly grabbing emails, downloading social media updates and more, for a whole seven days on a single charge: very impressive.

Intel vs AMD: which processor is best?
The design of Haswell CPUs brings advances to power management

But on the desktop, even the top-of-the-range Intel Core i7-4770K really doesn't deliver much new (beyond requiring another new socket, meaning you can't drop it into an existing system). As our Intel Core i7-4770K review points out, it's "just barely any better than the processor it replaces", not good news when it also comes with a significant price premium - as we write, it's priced at US$350 (about AU$380, £228).

Intel vs AMD: which processor is better?
Intel's latest could make a big difference for mobile

Intel's latest technologies could make a real difference to mobile devices, then. But if you're looking for a desktop solution then the company's older Ivy Bridge products currently deliver the best mix of price and performance, and that's where its best deals are still to be found.

Intel vs AMD: the AMD competition

If you're wondering how it is that Intel can get away with desktop processors which have changed so little in previous years, the answer is simple: they just don't have much competition.

Partly that's because AMD has been trailing behind Intel for some time now, especially when it comes to desktop performance. While the company has promised a lot, they've singularly failed to deliver, and just can't compete with the best that Intel has to offer.

Intel vs AMD: which processor is best?
AMD has trailed Intel's best, but still has its strengths

When there are new products, then like Intel, AMD are generally more focused on the mobile space. As we explained in our report on AMD's new A4, A6, A8 and A10 CPUs, for instance, the headline news is the 21 per cent claimed increase in graphics speed. More general desktop performance only edges up by perhaps 8 per cent.