Best CPUs, Processors and APUs For Your Money: July 2014

| July 16, 2014 | (2)

Updated on July 16th 2014

The logo for Intel's Devil's Canyon CPUs.

The logo for Intel’s Devil’s Canyon CPUs.

The Best CPU For Your Money?

By that, I mean CPUs that offer unsurpassed performance at a set price. Why would you want that?

Because you want the best bang for the buck, because you want the best CPU for your money and because you want the highest performance possible, right?

If you have the time to do research… but who does in this busy world?

However, I do realize that not everyone has the time to read detailed CPU reviews nor does everyone can make sense of complex CPU specifications.

This is why I write this guide for you: To help you save your time, sanity and money by letting you know what are the best CPUs for your money.

July 2014 Update: What’s new?

From Intel:

“Devil’s Canyon” CPUs: Optimized for overclocking, much higher frequencies for Core i7-4790K
The Core i5-4690K and Core i7-4790K come with two features to improve overclocking potential:
1. New Thermal Interface Material, made with a “Next Generation Polymer (NGPTIM)”
2. Additional capacitors on the underside for smoother power delivery

Most people seem to be able to reach 4.6-4.9GHz with the Core i5-4690K and the i7-4790K, so what Intel did with their Devil’s Canyon CPUs seems to be working.

Additionally, the Core i7-4790K comes with much higher frequencies than the Core i7-4770K that it replaces. Instead of 3.5-3.9GHz, you get 4.0-4.4GHz!

The Pentium G3258 Anniversary Edition CPU: An unlocked Intel Haswell Dual-Core CPU:
The Pentium G3258 is a quite unique Intel CPU, seeing as it’s a fully unlocked CPU that only costs $75. It’s a 3.2GHz dual-core CPU with no Hyper-Threading, based on the Haswell architecture.

At stock frequencies, it’s a fine CPU for its price, but where it really shines is when you overclock it. Many website and buyers report that it can reach 4.5GHz or more with a decent after-market CPU Cooler.

At 4.5GHz or more, it has no problem outperforming its main competitor in its price range, the AMD Athlon X4 760K.

Intel Haswell refresh: Small frequency bump, not necessarily worth the extra cost
The Celeron G1840, Celeron G1850, Pentium G3440, Core i3-4150, Core i3-4350, Core i3-4360, Core i5-4460, Core i5-4590, Core i5-4690 and Core i7-4790 each replace a lower-end model and feature a small frequency bump.

Do note that they are only compatible out of the box with motherboards equipped with Intel’s 9-series chipsets (H97/Z97). Motherboards with older Intel 8-series chipsets (H81, H87, Z87, etc.) may require a BIOS/UEFI update before functioning properly.

Considering the higher cost of 9-series motherboards compared to 8-series motherboards and the very small performance bump, you’ll get a better bang for your buck by going with the so slightly slower older models that are compatible out of the box with a 8-series chipset motherboard.

From AMD: 

New but yet to be available Kaveri APUs
AMD listed two new Kaveri APUs on their website one month ago.

  • New: The A6-7400K, a “dual-core” 3.5-3.9GHz APU with a Radeon R5 GPU with 256 stream processors running at 756MHz, with a 65W/45W TDP
  • “New”: The A8-7600, a “quad-core” 3.1-3.8GHz APU with a Radeon R7 GPU with 384 stream processors running at 720MHz, with a 65W/45W TDP
  • New: The A10-7800, a “quad-core” 3.5-3.9GHz APU with a Radeon R7 GPU with 512 stream processors running at 720MHz, with a 65W/45W TDP

Pricing and availability are unknown at this point.

Things to keep in mind when reading this article:

I’ll use this opportunity to remind you that this article is only a guideline for the prices I’ve seen on July 16th 2014.

  • Prices and availability change everyday. I can’t keep up with accurate pricing everyday, but I can suggest to you great CPUs that you won’t regret buying at the price ranges that I list.
  • This list is based on the best prices from B&H, NewEgg and/or Amazon on new CPUs. No used, open box or refurbished CPUs are included. While you may be able to score a nice discount, those CPUs come with trade offs, such as limited return policy, limited warranty, etc.

Best $40 CPU:

Intel Celeron G1820:

- $38.00 at Amazon (USA)
- $45.95 at B&H (International Shipping)

- Architecture: Haswell
- Frequency (Turbo): 2.7 (N/A) GHz
- Cores (Threads): 2 (2)
- Integrated GPU: Intel HD Graphics
- RAM Support: Dual Channel 1333MHz
- TDP: 53 W
- Socket: LGA 1150

There’s also the $43.99 Intel Pentium G1840 that’s available. It’s essentially the same CPU, but with a 100MHz frequency increase. Do note that it’s only compatible out of the box with motherboards equipped with Intel’s 9-series chipsets. Motherboards with older Intel 8-series chipsets may require a BIOS/UEFI update before functioning properly.

V.S the competition:
The Intel Celeron G1820 is based on Intel’s Haswell architecture and it has no problem outperforming the AMD A6-6300 Dual-Core 3.7-3.9GHz at this price range, thanks to:
1. The dual-core design of this Intel processor (two CPU cores, each with its FP/SSE (Floating Point) unit) is superior to two CPU cores with a shared FP/SSE (Floating Point) unit as seen on AMD’s Trinity and Richland “dual-core” designs.
2. The higher IPC (Instrutions per Clock) of the Haswell architecture.

On top of outperforming the AMD A6-4300, the Celeron G1820 is also more power efficient, consuming less power at idle and load than its direct competitor.

Pros:
- Decent CPU performance (best at this price)
- Low price
- Integrated video card, so you don’t require a dedicated video card.
- Low power consumption
- Based on the latest 4th generation of Intel “Core” CPUs, Haswell, with the highest performance and lowest power consumption available from Intel.
- LGA 1150 socket: You can upgrade to an higher-end Pentium/Core i3/i5/i7 CPUs simply by swapping CPUs.

Cons:
- Only a dual-core CPU, with no Hyper-Threading and a rather low 2.7GHz frequency.
- Completely locked, overclocking is not supported nor possible.
- Supports RAM frequency of only 1333MHz.

Ideal for:
- A very low budget family PC, if all you want to do is browse the Internet, watch some videos, listen to some music, do some Office work and the like.
- NAS, Streaming PC, Budget server

Avoid for:
- Any demanding workload
- Heavy multitasking
- Audio/photo/video editing
- Gaming PCs: In 2014, a quad-core CPU is pretty much a requirement to achieve decent performance with demanding video games.

CPUs to avoid:
- AMD Sempron: Awful performance, as it’s only a single core CPU based on a much older architecture.
- AMD Trinity and Richland “Dual-Core”, such as the Athlon X2 340, A4-4000, A4-5300 and A4-6300: Those so called “dual-core” are in reality one module that contains two CPU cores with a shared FP/SSE (Floating Point) unit. Some would argue that it’s not quite the same as a “true” dual-core processor and their terrible performance, compared to the Celeron G1610, backs up that statement.
- Intel G1620/1630: These are the Celeron brand version based on the older Ivy Bridge architecture, with slightly lower performance (5-10%) and slightly higher power consumption.

Best $55 CPU:

Intel Pentium G3220:

- $56.99 at Amazon (USA Shipping)
- $72.50 at B&H (International Shipping)

- Architecture: Haswell
- Frequency (Turbo): 3.0 (N/A) GHz
- Cores (Threads): 2 (2)
- Integrated GPU: Intel HD Graphics
- RAM Support: Dual Channel 1333MHz
- TDP: 54 W
- Socket: LGA 1150

There’s also the $59.99 Intel Pentium G3240 that’s available. It’s essentially the same CPU, but with a 100MHz frequency increase. Do note that it’s only compatible out of the box with motherboards equipped with Intel’s 9-series chipsets. Motherboards with older Intel 8-series chipsets may require a BIOS/UEFI update before functioning properly.

V.S the competition:
The Intel Pentium G3220 is based on Intel’s Haswell architecture and it has no problem outperforming AMD’s competition at this price point (Athlon X2 370K, A4-5400K and A4-6300/6400K), thanks to:
1. The dual-core design of this Intel processor (two CPU cores, each with its FP/SSE (Floating Point) unit) is superior to two CPU cores with a shared FP/SSE (Floating Point) unit as seen on AMD’s Trinity and Richland “dual-core” designs.
2. The higher IPC (Instrutions per Clock) of the Haswell architecture.

On top of outperforming the AMD competition, the Pentium G3220 is also more power efficient, consuming less power at idle and load than its direct competitors.

Pros:
- Decent CPU performance (best at this price)
- Low price
- Integrated video card, so you don’t require a dedicated video card.
- Low power consumption
- LGA 1150 socket: You can upgrade to an higher-end Core i3/i5/i7 latest gen Haswell CPUs simply by swapping out your CPU.

Cons:
- Only a dual-core CPU, with no Hyper-Threading.
- Completely locked, overclocking is not supported nor possible.
- Supports RAM frequency of only 1333MHz.
- The integrated video card is underwhelming, very weak performance, far from a Gaming PC required performance level.

Ideal for:
- A budget family PC, if all you want to do is browse the Internet, watch some videos, listen to some music, do some Office work and the like.
- Office PCs
- NAS, Streaming PC, Budget server

Avoid for:
- Any demanding workload
- Heavy multitasking
- Audio/photo/video editing
- Gaming PCs: In 2014, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading or Quad-Core is pretty much a requirement to achieve decent performance with demanding video games.

CPUs to avoid:
- AMD Trinity and Richland “Dual-Core”, such as the Athlon X2 370K, A4-5400K and A4-6300/6400K: Those so called “dual-core” are in reality one module that contains two CPU cores with a shared FP/SSE (Floating Point) unit. Some would argue that it’s not quite the same as a “true” dual-core processor and their terrible performance, compared to the Celeron G1610, backs up that statement.
- Intel Pentium G620, G630, G645 and G850 CPUs based on the “Sandy Bridge” architecture. Those are based on an older architecture and won’t match the performance of newer “Ivy Bridge” or “Haswell” architecture based CPUs.

Best $75 CPU:

Intel Pentium G3258 Anniversary Edition: Unlocked for massive overclocking!

$69.99 at Amazon (USA)
$84.89 at BH (International Shipping)

- Architecture: Haswell
- Frequency (Turbo): 3.2 (N/A) GHz
- Cores (Threads): 2 (2)
- Integrated GPU: Intel HD
- RAM Support: Dual Channel 1333MHz
- TDP: 53W
- Socket: LGA11502

Higher performance than the competition:
In the same price range, we have the AMD Athlon X4 760K that’s available for $85.

The Pentium G3258 is a quite unique Intel CPU, seeing as it’s a fully unlocked CPU that only costs $75. It’s a 3.2GHz dual-core CPU with no Hyper-Threading, based on the Haswell architecture. At stock frequencies, it’s a fine CPU for its price, but where it really shines is when you overclock it. Many website and buyers report that it can reach 4.5GHz or more with a decent after-market CPU Cooler. At 4.5GHz or more, it has no problem outperforming its main competitor in its price range, the AMD Athlon X4 760K.

Even if you don’t overclock it, with its highly efficient Haswell architecture and its decent 3.2GHz frequency, the G3258 can hold its own against the AMD Athlon II X4 760K. But really, it would almost be a shame not to take advantage of its overclocking potential!

Pros:
- More than decent CPU performance (best in this price class), especially when overclocked!
- Unlocked multiplier, overclocking is supported and easy.
- Low power consumption (53W TDP)
- Low price
- Integrated video card
- Allows you to upgrade to higher-end Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 CPUs down the road.

Cons:
- Natively supports RAM frequency of 1333MHz, higher is usually supported with overclocking.

Ideal for:
- Budget Gaming PCs with a really tight budget.
- Budget Family PCs, to browse the Internet, watch some videos, listen to some music, do some Office work and the like.
- NAS, Streaming PC, Budget server and other workloads requiring a low power consumption

Avoid for:
- Audio/photo/video editing
- Higher-end Gaming PC

Best $120 CPU:

AMD FX-6300

- $119.95 at Amazon (USA Shipping)
– $119.95 at B&H (International Shipping)

- Architecture: Vishera
- Frequency (Turbo): 3.5 (4.3) GHz
- Cores (Threads): 6 (6)
- Integrated GPU: N/A
- RAM Support: Dual Channel 1866MHz
- TDP: 95W
- Socket: AM3+

VS the Competition:
Intel’s closest priced CPU is the Core i3-4150 ($120, Dual-Core+ Hyper-Threading 3.5GHz no Turbo).

I picked the AMD FX-6300 over the Intel Core i3-4150 because:

  1. The FX-6300 outperforms the Core i3-3220 in gaming and most applications. The Core i3-4150 isn’t that much faster than the Core i3-3220 and thus can’t keep up with the FX-6300 in most cases and its worse in heavy multi-threaded apps.
  2. The AMD FX-6300 is fully unlocked for overclocking. The Intel Core i3-4150 is fully locked and cannot be overclocked.

Pros:
- Good CPU performance (best at this price), good enough to team up with dedicated video card if you want to.
- “Six” CPU Cores
- Fully unlocked: Overclock it as much as you can. Make sure to get a motherboard with solid power delivery components and a good CPU Cooler to get the most overclock out of it.
- Officially supports RAM frequency of 1866MHz with dual-channel.

Cons:
- “Six-Core” CPU performance is half way between a dual-core + Hyper-Threading and a quad-core Intel CPU. Hyper-Threading CPU performance.
- 95W TDP is higher than any Intel mainstream processors, nearly twice what the Core i3-4130 needs. Higher power consumption results in more heat, noise (consider an after-market CPU Cooler if you desire low-noise) and more expensive power supply.
- No integrated video card: You must use a dedicated video card.

Ideal for:
1. A Budget Family PC, as it offers good processor performance at this price.
2. A Budget Gaming PC with a dedicated video card.
3. A very tight budget Workstation.

Avoid for:
- NAS, Streaming PC, Budget server and other workloads requiring a low power consumption.

Alternative #1: With a far more powerful integrated video card:

$116.99 – AMD A10-5800K

Wait, why am I recommending this processor based on the older “Trinity” architecture?

Well, from an architecture point of view there’s hardly any differences between Trinity and the newer Richland. The biggest difference is that Richland runs at slightly higher frequencies for the processor and GPU cores. There’s also reportedly some tuning to help Richland reach higher Turbo Core speeds more often.

That said, the $100 A8-6600K CPU cores are only 100MHz faster than the ones found on the A10-5800K, or a mere ~2.5%.

More importantly, the older A10-5800K has a far more potent integrated video card than the newer A8-6600K. With 384 shader cores running at 800MHz, its integrated video card is far better than the 256 shader cores running at 844MHz featured in the A8-6600K or over 30% more video card performance.

Just as importantly, the A10-5800K is very reasonably priced at $117, when you consider that you get a CPU and a video card in a single chip.

Alternative #2: With an even more powerful integrated video card:

AMD A10-6800K

- $139.99 at Amazon (USA Shipping)
- $153.50 at B&H (International Shipping)

How does the newer Richland A10-6800K compares to the older Trinity A10-5800K?

Well, from an architecture point of view there’s hardly any differences between Trinity and Richland. The biggest difference is that Richland runs at slightly higher frequencies for the processor and GPU cores. There’s also reportedly some tuning to help Richland reach higher Turbo Core speeds more often.

Here’s a comparison between Trinity highest-end A10-5800K to Richland highest-end A10-6800K:
A10-5800K vs A10-6800K
- CPU:

- A10-5800K: Quad-Core running at a 3.8GHz maximum base frequency and a 4.2GHz maximum Turbo frequency.
- A10-6800K: Quad-Core running at 4.1GHz maximum base frequency and a 4.4GHz maximum Turbo frequency.
A10-6800K CPU frequencies are 7.5% faster at the maximum base frequency and 5% faster at the maximum Turbo frequency.

- GPU:
- A10-5800K: 384 Shader Cores running at a 800MHz
- A10-6800K: 384 Shader Cores running at a 844MHz
A10-6800K GPU frequency is 5.5% faster.

A10-5800K vs A10-6800K: Summary
- A 6-7% frequency boost for the CPU cores.
- A 5.5% frequency boost for the video card.

If you want a processor with a better integrated video card card and CPU cores with a notch more performance, the A10-6800K is the way to go. That said, its current price is quite high compared to its predecessor, offering slightly more performance at quite an higher price. With a good CPU Cooler, you can even overclock the CPU Cores and the GPU Cores. The RAM can be overclocked too, to give the GPU more much needed bandwidth.

Alternative #3: With a far lower power consumption:

Intel Core i3-4150:

$119.99 at Amazon (USA)
$119.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

There’s also the $119.99 Intel Core i3-4150 that’s available. It’s essentially the same CPU, but with a 100MHz frequency increase. Do note that it’s only compatible out of the box with motherboards equipped with Intel’s 9-series chipsets. Motherboards with older Intel 8-series chipsets may require a BIOS/UEFI update before functioning properly.

If you don’t need that much performance and/or if low power consumption is important for you (Small form factor, 24/7 usage, low-noise, etc.), the Intel Core i3-4150 is an highly efficient choice.

Its lower TDP of only 54W results in lower power consumption which results in less heat, less noise and not requiring a more powerful and more expensive power supply.

Note that it comes with the Intel HD 4400 integrated video card. It’s also fully locked, meaning that overclocking is not possible.

For gaming with a discrete video card, it’s not as good as the FX-6300, but it’s not a bad choice if you plan on upgrading to a Core i5 or i7 CPU in the future.

Best $150 CPU:

AMD FX-8320

- $149.99 at Amazon (USA Shipping)
- $164.50 at B&H (International Shipping)

- Architecture: Vishera
- Frequency (Turbo): 3.5 (4.0) GHz
- Cores (Threads): 8 (8)
- Integrated GPU: N/A
- RAM Support: Dual Channel 1866MHz
- TDP: 125W
- Socket: AM3+

VS the Competition:
The only Intel’s processor in direct competition with the AMD FX-8320 is the Core i3-4350 ($140, Dual-Core+ Hyper-Threading, 3.6GHz, no Turbo).

I picked the AMD FX-8320 over the Intel Core i3-4350 because:

  1. The FX-8320 outperforms the slightly less powerful Core i3-3220 in gaming and most applications. The Core i3-4350 isn’t that much faster than the Core i3-3220 and thus can’t keep up with the FX-8320 in most cases and even gets crushed in heavy multi-threaded apps.
  2. The AMD FX-8320 is fully unlocked for overclocking. The Intel Core i3-4350 is fully locked and cannot be overclocked.

Pros:
- Very Good CPU performance (best at this price), good enough to team up with dedicated video card if you want to.
- “Eight” CPU Cores
- Fully unlocked: Overclock it as much as you can. Make sure to get a motherboard with solid power delivery components and a good CPU Cooler to get the most overclock out of it.
- Officially supports RAM frequency of 1866MHz with dual-channel.

Cons:
- “Eight-Core” CPU performance is about equivalent to a quad-core Intel CPU.
- 125W TDP is higher than any Intel mainstream processors, more than twice what the Core i3-4130(54W) needs. Higher power consumption results in more heat, noise (consider an after-market CPU Cooler if you desire low-noise) and more expensive power supply.
- No integrated video card: You must use a dedicated video card.

Ideal for:

1. A Mainstream Family PC, as it offers very good processor performance at this price.
2. A Budget/Mainstream Gaming PC with a dedicated video card.
3. A Budget Workstation.

Avoid for:
- NAS, Streaming PC, Budget server and other workloads requiring a low power consumption.

Best $170 APU (CPU + GPU in one):

$169.99 – AMD A10-7850K Kaveri APU

- Architecture: Kaveri
- Frequency (Turbo): 3.7 (4.0) GHz
- Cores (Threads): 4 (4)
- Integrated GPU: Radeon R7: 512 stream processors 720MHz
- RAM Support: Dual Channel 2133MHz
- TDP: 95W
- Socket: FM2+

VS the Competition:
- Intel’s processor in competition with the AMD A10-7850K is the Core i3-4340 ($160, Dual-Core+ Hyper-Threading, 3.6GHz, no Turbo).
- AMD’s processor in competition with the the AMD A10-7850K is the AMD FX-8320 ($150, Eight Core, 3.5-4.0GHz).

Both of those processors will outperform the AMD A10-7850K when it comes to general computing tasks that rely more on the CPU aspect.

The A10-7850K is only an interesting option if you want a processor with powerful integrated graphics for an entry-level Gaming PC.

Compared to the previous generation “Richland” top-end APU, the A10-6800K, the A10-7850 “Kaveri” CPU portion performs on par, but the GPU (video card) part is clearly more powerful, resulting in quite higher performance in video games.

Pros:
- Powerful integrated video card (GPU): Capable of handling most modern games at 1920 x 1080 with medium/high settings.
- Fully unlocked: Overclock it as much as you can. Make sure to get a motherboard with solid power delivery components and a good CPU Cooler to get the most overclock out of it.
- Officially supports RAM frequency of 2133MHz with dual-channel.

Cons:
- Relatively poor CPU performance compared to similarly priced alternatives.
- 95W TDP is higher than any Intel mainstream processors, 41W more than what the Core i3-4130(54W) needs. Higher power consumption results in more heat, noise (consider an after-market CPU Cooler if you desire low-noise) and more expensive power supply.

Ideal for:

1. A Budget Family PC, as it offers a good balance of CPU and GPU performance at this price.
2. A Budget Gaming PC without a dedicated video card.

Avoid for:
- NAS, Streaming PC, Budget server and other workloads requiring a low power consumption.
- Highly demanding workloads, so avoid for Workstations
- A Gaming PC with a dedicated video card.

Best $200 CPU:

Intel Core i5-4570:

$199.99 at Amazon (USA)
$203.50 at B&H (International Shipping)

- Architecture: Haswell
- Frequency (Turbo): 3.2 (3.6) GHz
- Cores (Threads): 4 (4)
- Integrated GPU: Intel HD Graphics 4600
- RAM Support: Dual Channel 1600MHz
- TDP: 84W
- Socket: LGA1150

There’s also the $198.99 Intel Core i5-4590 that’s available. It’s essentially the same CPU, but with a 100MHz frequency increase. Do note that it’s only compatible out of the box with motherboards equipped with Intel’s 9-series chipsets. Motherboards with older Intel 8-series chipsets may require a BIOS/UEFI update before functioning properly.
V.S. AMD FX-8350:
Most video games only use two to four cores and prioritize single-threaded performance (a domain where Intel dominates AMD) so when it comes to gaming performance, AMD’s FX-8350 is no match for Intel’s Core i5-4570. On top of that, the Fx-8350 consumes roughly 85W more power at load than the Core i5-4570, a considerable difference.

While its 8 cores might make it seem like an attractive option for heavy multi-threaded programs, even then, the Core i5-4670 competes with it thanks to its far higher IPC and far higher single-thread performance.

Want to overclock? Save yourself $50 and get the FX-8320 instead, it’s based on the same architecture and also features 8 cores, but only at lower frequencies, which doesn’t matter since you’ll be overclocking it anyway.

In the end, the Core i5-4570 is just a better choice is the vast majority of cases and this is why I’m recommending it at the $200 price point.

Pros:
- Great CPU performance, excellent choice to team up with a dedicated video card if you want to.
- 84W TDP is lower than AMD’s CPUs and APUs. Lower power consumption results in less heat, noise and you don’t need a more powerful, more expensive power supply.
- Integrated video card, so you don’t require a dedicated video card.

Cons:
- Locked: Forget overclocking. Unlocked K variant (4670K) is more expensive.
- The integrated video card is underwhelming, very weak performance, far from a Gaming PC required performance level.

Ideal for:

1. A Mainstream Family PC, as it offers very good processor performance at this price.
2. A Mainstream Gaming PC with a dedicated video card.
3. A Budget Workstation.
4. A Budget Server

Avoid for:
- NAS, Streaming PC and other workloads requiring a low power consumption.

Alternative #1: Higher base and Turbo frequencies for $20 more:

Intel Core i5-4670

$219.99 at Amazon (USA)
$224.95 at B&H (International Shipping)

The Core i5-4670 offers base and Turbo frequencies that are 200MHz higher than the Core i5-4570 or 100Mhz higher than the Core i5-4590.

Want an even faster variant? Consider the $223.99 Intel Core i5-4690, which comes with an additional 100MHz on top of what the Core i5-4670 offers. It’s essentially the same CPU as the Core i5-4670, but with a 100MHz frequency increase. Do note that it’s only compatible out of the box with motherboards equipped with Intel’s 9-series chipsets. Motherboards with older Intel 8-series chipsets may require a BIOS/UEFI update before functioning properly.

Not a bad deal for $20 more if you ask me. Unless you intend to overclock, in which case you definitely want to consider the unlocked K variant alternative below.

Alternative #2: Unlocked multiplier for Overclocking:

Intel Core i5-4690K

$238.00 at Amazon (USA)
$239.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

If you want to overclock, the Core i5-4690K K variant is the way to go, with its unlocked multiplier.

Make sure that you get a Z97 chipset equipped motherboard to ensure compatibility and to be able to overclock of course. Most Z87 motherboards with a BIOS/UEFI update should be compatible too.

Best $340 CPU:

Intel Core i7-4790K:

$339.99 at Amazon (USA)
$339.99 at BH (International Shipping)

- Architecture: Haswell
- Frequency (Turbo): 4.0 (4.4) GHz
- Cores (Threads): 4 (8)
- Integrated GPU: Intel HD Graphics 4600
- RAM Support: Dual Channel 1600MHz
- TDP: 88W
- Socket: LGA1150

V.S. Competition: AMD’s FX-9590 Eight-Core 4.7-5.0GHz Turbo 220W(!) TDP

The AMD FX-9590 is AMD’s highest performance CPU, with 8 cores running at 4.7-5.0GHz. However, while it might look powerful, it is held back by:
- Its architecture with poor single-threaded performance.
- Its ridiculously high TDP (220W!!) makes it only compatible with a few select motherboards and it requires very high-end air CPU Coolers or good water-cooling to function properly.

Most video games only use two to four cores and prioritize single-threaded performance (a domain where Intel dominates AMD) so when it comes to gaming performance, the FX-9590, is no match for Intel’s Core i7-4790K. On top of that, the Fx-9590 consumes roughly nearly 200W more power at load than the Core i7-4790K, a massive difference!

While its 8 cores might make it seem like an attractive option for heavy multi-threaded programs, even then, the Core i7-4790K has no problem outperforming thanks to its four cores + Hyper-Threading, its far higher IPC and far higher single-thread performance.

In the end, the Core i7-4790K is just a better choice is the vast majority of cases and this is why I’m recommending it at the $300 price point.

Pros:
- Very great CPU performance, excellent choice to team up with a dedicated video card if you want to.
- 88W TDP is lower than AMD’s CPUs and APUs. Lower power consumption results in less heat, noise and you don’t need a more powerful, more expensive power supply.
- Integrated video card, so you don’t require a dedicated video card.
- Unlocked: Overclocking is done by raising the multiplier. Simple and easy.

Cons:

- The integrated video card is underwhelming, very weak performance, far from a Gaming PC required performance level.

Ideal for:

1. A High-end Family PC, as it offers very good processor performance at this price.
2. A High-end Gaming PC with a dedicated video card.
3. A Budget Workstation.
4. A Budget Server

Avoid for:
- NAS, Streaming PC and other workloads requiring a low power consumption.

Alternative with quad-channel RAM, 40 lanes PCI-Express 3.0 and a path to upgrade to an Intel 6-core CPU:

Intel i7-4820K:

$319.99 at Amazon (USA)
$344.95 at B&H (International Shipping)

The Intel i7-4820K, based on the Ivy Bridge-E architecture, is another alternative for overclocking. That said, if you don’t intend on overclocking your CPU nor to upgrade to a six-core Intel CPU, you’ll be better served by the higher stock performance Core i7-4790K.

It features quad-channel RAM support, 40 lanes of PCI-Express 3.0 (ideal for Crossfire/SLI), a larger L3 cache and runs on the LGA2011 platform, which allows you to upgrade to a 6-core Intel CPU in the future if you want to.

Best $580 CPU:

Intel i7-4930K

$578.99 at Amazon (USA)
$609.95 at B&H (International Shipping)

The 2nd fastest CPU on the market, selling for $440 less than THE fastest CPU on the market, the $1000 Intel Core i7-4960X, which is only clocked 100Mhz higher and features an additional 3MB of L3 cache.

- Architecture: Ivy Bridge-E
- Frequency (Turbo): 3.4 (3.9) GHz
- Cores (Threads): 6 (12)
- Integrated GPU: N/A
- RAM Support: Quad Channel 1866MHz
- TDP: 130W
- Socket: LGA2011

V.S. Competition: None

AMD simply offers no competition at this price, as it has no CPU capable of competing with the Intel six-core Core i7-4930K.

There’s no competition: The Core i7-4930K is just a better choice performance wise, power consumption wise and heat wise. Which is why I’m recommending it at the $560 price point.

Pros:
- Outstanding CPU performance, capable of handling pretty much anything.
- Unlocked multiplier for easy overclocking.
- Support for quad-channel RAM running at 1866MHz!
- Support for 40 lanes of PCI-Express 3.0, ideal for Crossfire/SLI
- 130W TDP is far lower than AMD’s FX-9590 220W TDP. Lower power consumption results in less heat, noise and you don’t need a more powerful, more expensive power supply.

Cons:
- Does not include a CPU Cooler, you must buy your own. See our recommended CPU Coolers section further down.
- No integrated video card: You must use a dedicated video card.
- Pretty expensive

Ideal for:

1. A very high-end Family PC, as it offers outstanding processor performance. Most likely overkill
2. A High-End Gaming PC with multiple video cards.
3. A Mainstream/High-End Workstation.
4. A Mainstream Server

Avoid for:
- NAS, Streaming PC and other workloads requiring a low power consumption.

Best $1050 CPU:

Intel i7-4960X:

$1048.99 at Amazon (USA)
$1048.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

Simply put, this is THE fastest desktop CPU available on the market.

- Architecture: Ivy Bridge-E
- Frequency (Turbo): 3.6 (4.0) GHz
- Cores (Threads): 6 (12)
- Integrated GPU: N/A
- RAM Support: Quad Channel 1866MHz
- TDP: 130W
- Socket: LGA2011

V.S. Competiton
AMD offers no competition at this price point.

Pros:
- Outstanding CPU performance, capable of handling pretty much anything.
- Unlocked multiplier for easy overclocking.
- Support for quad-channel RAM running at 1866MHz!
- Support for 40 lanes of PCI-Express 3.0, ideal for Crossfire/SLI
- 130W TDP is far lower than AMD’s FX-9590 220W TDP. Lower power consumption results in less heat, noise and you don’t need a more powerful, more expensive power supply.

Cons:
- Does not include a CPU Cooler, you must buy your own. See our recommended CPU Coolers section further down.
- No integrated video card: You must use a dedicated video card.
- Very expensive, you’re paying most for the bragging rights of having the fastest desktop CPU.

Ideal for:
2. A High-End Gaming PC with multiple video cards.
3. A Mainstream/High-End Workstation.
4. A Mainstream Server

Avoid for:
- NAS, Streaming PC and other workloads requiring a low power consumption.

If money is not a problem, then the Intel Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition is the fastest desktop CPU currently available on the market, with 6 cores running at 3.6GHz and Turbo that allows a single core to reach 3.9GHz.

Of course, like the Core i7-4930K above, this CPU features Hyper-Threading, allowing it to handle up to 12 threads.

Unless you’re an enthusiast who’s want only the best that money can buy, I recommend avoiding this CPU, get the Core i7-4930K instead and save $468 ;)

Core i7-4960X vs Core i7-4930K:
The only advantages that the Core i7-4960X offers over the Core i7-4930K is a 200MHz higher base frequency and a 100MHz higher Turbo frequency, which is quite meaningless when both CPUs offer unlocked multiplier that easily allows you to overclock the Core i7-4930K to match the frequency of the Core i7-4960X.

Is that minor frequency bump and the additional 5MB of L3 cache worth an additional $450 in my opinion? No, of course not. You don’t buy this CPU because it offers a good performance for a reasonable price, aka a good bang for your bang.

You buy this CPU because you want THE fastest desktop CPU and the bragging rights that comes with it ;)

Recommended CPU Coolers

All CPUs recommended in this guide, except the Core i7-4930K and Core i7-4960X, come with an included CPU Cooler.

Those included CPU Coolers are not great, as they let the CPU run moderately hot and can make quite a lot of noise. They are nonetheless adequate and unless you live in very warm weather, they will do the job of cooling your CPU at stock frequencies.

However, if you want to improve the cooling of your CPU, if you want to reduce the noise and/or if you want to overclock your CPU, an after-market CPU Cooler is the way to go.

Here are my recommendations, in order of performance and price. They are compatible with all the CPUs recommended in this guide. You do want to double-check if they will fit your case however ;)

1. If you want to cut down on noise and not overclock at all or much, the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO: ($29.99 at Amazon – USA shipping) or ($29.99 at B&H – International shipping) is the best bang for your buck choice for a low cost CPU Cooler, offering good cooling performance while being rather quiet.
2. The $61 – NZXT Havik 140 Dual Fans CPU Cooler is a great step-up, offering very good CPU cooling performance at a still reasonable price. Ideal for a moderate amount of overclocking.
3. The $78 – Noctua NH-D14 is the next step up if you want if you get to push your overclocking to the max, while keeping noise down. Note that if you have a LGA2011 CPU/motherboard, you’ll want the $74 – Noctua NH-D14 Socket LGA2011 version.
4. The $100 – Noctua NH-D15 is what you want if you want THE best air CPU Cooler, if you want cooling performance without the noise. Compatible with all modern AMD and Intel CPU sockets.

What about All-in-one water-cooling kits? They might look sleek, but a large air cooler, like the ones recommended above, will be quieter than those contained water coolers whose pumps are noisy and they will offer pretty much the same cooling performance.

Conclusion

What’s next?

From AMD:

Availability for A6-7400K, A8-7600 and A10-7800 Kaveri?
AMD had announced that they would be launching the A8-7600 in Q1 2014, but we’re now officially in Q3 and the A8-7600 is STILL no where to be found.

Here’s hoping that we won’t have to wait much longer, considering that it will be a very interesting option at a price of $119.

To recap: The A8-7600 will have a configurable TDP, meaning that you’ll be able to pick one of two operating points for it, a 45W peak or a 65W peak, and the chip will run at different clock speeds based on that setting.

- Set to its 65W setting, it will run at 3.3/3.8GHz, only a 100Mhz drop in base speed compared to the A10-7700K.
- In its 45W configuration, frequencies drop to 3.1/3.3GHz.

- The great news? The iGPU in the A8-7600 is just as potent as the one in the A10-7700K, meaning that the A8-7600 will be an excellent choice for gamers trying to cut down on costs or for a Mini-ITX build.
- The bad news? The multiplier won’t be unlocked, unlike on the A10-7700K and A10-7800K, meaning that overclocking via the multiplier won’t be possible. However, you’ll still be able to overclock it by raising the base clock.

Looking forward to the A6-7400K and A10-7800 as well, they may be interesting choices at the right prices.

No update to the AM3+ FX platform in 2014?
From AMD roadmaps that I have seen, it would appear that AMD isn’t planning any major update to the AM3+ platform for 2014. Some rumors say that there won’t be any update in 2015 either, but I find that hard to believe.

What could be plausible is that AMD is waiting for DDR4 to launch their next platform/high-end CPUs, so that users aren’t stuck with an outdated platform when DDR4 does come out. It also would be a chance to unify the two current platforms (AM3+ for FX CPUs and FM2+ for APUs) into a single platform for future CPUs and APUs.

From Intel:

Enthusiast Platform Update: Haswell-E to have 8 cores, X99 chipset and DDR4, Q3 2014:

Today, we have Sandy Bridge-E and Ivy-Bridge-E CPUs with up to 6 cores, with the X79 chipset using DDR3 memory.

In the third quarter of 2014? We’ll have Haswell-E CPUs with up to 8 cores, with the X99 chipset and DDR4 memory! Seeing as we are in the third quarter already, I’d expect the launch to happen sometime in September most likely.

Broadwell delayed to Q2 2015?
The successor of the 4th gen Core CPUs (4th gen codename: Haswell), Broadwell, is now expected to be available in Q2 2015, according to the latest rumors.

Further reduction in power consumption (~30%) are expected thanks to the smaller 14mm manufacturing process technology. A small bump in performance is also expected, on the same level that we’ve been seeing with Ivy Bridge and Haswell compared to the previous gen products.

Category: The Best PC Parts For Your Money

About Mathieu Bourgie: HR Founder - Computer expert with 13 years of experience in building, fixing and modifying PCs. Over the years, I’ve developed a passion for PC hardware and now I enjoy helping others build their own PCs! In April 2008, I launched Hardware Revolution and ... Read more at my about page .

  • goober

    i7-4820K has the highest points per price rating on Futuremark – couldn’t find any AMD chips on there for some reason??

  • bunny

    Very good article, bought me up to speed with whats out there.