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

| September 4, 2014 | (9)

Updated on September 4th 2014

Intel Haswell-E Core i7-5960X

The brand new Haswell-E 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.

September 2014 Update: What’s new?

From Intel:

Intel Haswell-E: 3 New High-End LGA2011 CPUs
Three Haswell-E CPUs have been launched and are available for purchase:

  • Core i7-5820K: 6 cores / 12 threads, 3.3-3.6GHz, 140W TDP, 28 PCI-Express 3.0 lanes, unlocked, MSRP of $389
  • Core i7-5930K: 6 cores / 12 threads, 3.5-3.7GHz, 140W TDP, 40 PCI-Express 3.0 lanes, unlocked, MSRP of $583
  • Core i7-5960X: 8 cores / 16 threads, 3.0-3.5GHz, 140W TDP, 40 PCI-Express 3.0 lanes, unlocked, MSRP of $999

Do note that they are only compatible with motherboards equipped with Intel’s X99 chipset, which requires new DDR4 RAM.

Ideal for Workstations, but not for Gaming PCs:
Various websites report that the LGA1150 Core i7-4790K, with four cores running at higher frequencies of 4.0 to 4.4GHz, outperforms the six or eight cores Haswell-E CPUs in video games.

It makes sense: For video games performance, high single-threaded performance and high frequencies are what matter the most. Beyond four cores, more cores won’t help. Games just aren’t optimized for more than 4 cores yet.

Simply put, 6-8 cores + Hyper-Threading with lower frequencies (Haswell-E) or lower single-threaded performance (AMD APUs/CPUs) won’t offer higher gaming performance than the four cores + Hyper-Threading, high frequencies and high single-threaded performance Core i7-4790K.

Won’t future games take advantage of 6 or 8-core processors, due to xyz?
I’ve been hearing this for years now, after Intel and AMD launched 6 cores and 8 cores CPUs. Hearing it again following the launch of the Xbox One and PS4. The reality is that the vast majority of games and that the vast majority of games are optimized for dual-core CPUs and that only in the last two years have they started to take advantage of quad-core CPUs. The CPU portion of the AMD APU in the two consoles is far less powerful than AMD APUs/CPUs and Intel CPUs. There’s just no comparison.

From AMD: 

New and now available Kaveri APUs
Three new Kaveri APUs are now available for purchase:

  • 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. To avoid, terrible performance both from a CPU and GPU point of view.
  • 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. Not bad, but too expensive at $108, when the older but more powerful A10-5800K is available for $98.
  • 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. Excellent alternative to the more expensive A10-7850K, offering nearly as much performance at a lower price and lower TDP.

New Vishera CPUs officially launched:
Three new Vishera CPUs have been officially launched. They should be available at major e-retailers very soon:

  • The FX-8370, 4 modules / 8 threads, 4.0-4.3GHz, 125W TDP, MSRP of $199.99. 100MHz faster Turbo frequency than the FX-8350. Too expensive vs the competition (Intel Core i5-4590) which is better in most scenarios (especially gaming) and way more energy efficient too.
  • The FX-8370E, 4 modules / 8 threads, 3.3-4.3GHz 95W TDP, MSRP of $199.99. Lower TDP of 95W, but if you want lower power consumption, the Intel competition uses even less power. Mildly interesting if you want to upgrade from a lower-end FX processor and don’t want to replace other parts.
  • The FX-8320E, 4 modules / 8 threads, 3.2-4.0GHz 95W TDP, MSRP of $146.99. Lower TDP of 95W, but if you want lower power consumption, the Intel competition uses even less power. Mildly interesting if you want to upgrade from a lower-end FX processor and don’t want to replace other parts. If you want more performance, the standard 125W TDP FX-8320 is more interesting and is available for the same price.

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 September 4th 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:

- $42.99 at Amazon (USA)
- $46.50 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:

- $58.99 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 $63.99 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)
$72.95 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: LGA1150

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:

Intel Core i3-4150

$116.99 at Amazon (USA)
Core i3-4130 (100Mhz slower): – $121.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

- Architecture: Haswell Refresh
- Frequency (Turbo): 3.5 (N/A) GHz
- Cores (Threads): 2 (4)
- Integrated GPU: Intel HD Graphics 4400
- RAM Support: Dual Channel 1600MHz
- TDP: 54W
- Socket: Intel LGA 1150

VS the Competition:
AMD’s closest priced CPU is the FX-6300 ($110, Six-Core, 3.5GHz/4.1GHz Turbo).

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

  1. The Intel Core i3-4330 (roughly identical to the Core i3-4150) outperforms the FX-6300 in most games and trade blows, losing and winning depending on the application, thanks to its higher single thread performance, according to AnandTech.
  2. The Core i3-4130 (100MHz slower) outperforms the FX-6350 (+400MHz/100MHz Base/Turbo frequencies) when it comes to gaming performance, according to Xbit Labs.
  3. The Core i3-4130 has a far lower power consumption: 16W less at idle and 105W less at load! Lower power consumption = Lower utility bill, not requiring a more powerful power supply (saving money), less heat and less noise.
  4. The Intel LGA1150 platform offers more interesting upgrade options with the more powerful Core i5 and i7 series of CPU. With the AMD AM3+ platform, you’re limited to slightly more powerful FX-83xx CPUs that are no match for Intel’s Core i5/i7 CPUs.

Pros:
- Outstanding single threaded CPU performance (best at this price) thanks to the Intel Haswell architecture.
- 54W TDP is lower than any AMD mainstream processors, nearly half what the FX-6300 needs. Lower power consumption results in less heat, noise (consider an after-market CPU Cooler if you desire even less noise), lower utility bill and less expensive power supply.
- Integrated video card: Dedicated video card not required.

Cons:
- Fully locked: You cannot overclock this CPU. You can however upgrade to a Core i5 or i7 K series CPU if you want to overclock.
- Only two cores with Hyper-Threading: Multi-Threaded CPU performance is good but not great. Not ideal if you need all the CPU multi-threading processing power that you can get, for a workstation for example. Consider upgrading to a Core i5 or i7.

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 NAS, Streaming PC, Budget Server or HTPC, anything with a low power consumption requirement.

Avoid for:
- Mainstream or High performance Workstation or Gaming PC.

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

$97.99 – 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 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 exceptionally priced at $98, the lowest it has ever been, which is quite a deal when you consider that you get a CPU and a decent video card in a single chip.

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

AMD A10-6800K

- $129.99 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.

Best $150 CPU:

AMD FX-8320

- $153.59 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.
- Upgrade options are limited.

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 $160 APU (CPU + GPU in one):

$159.99 – AMD A10-7800 Kaveri APU

- Architecture: Kaveri
- Frequency (Turbo): 3.5 (3.9) GHz
- Cores (Threads): 4 (4)
- Integrated GPU: Radeon R7: 512 stream processors 720MHz
- RAM Support: Dual Channel 2133MHz
- TDP: 65W
- Socket: FM2+

Why the A10-7800?
The A10-7800 performance in video games is nearly as good as the $20 more expensive A10-7850K and its TDP is lower at 65W vs 95W for the A10-7850K.

The A10-7800 is only an interesting option if you want a processor with powerful integrated graphics at a reasponable price

Compared to the previous generation “Richland” top-end APU, the A10-6800K, the A10-7800 “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.
- Officially supports RAM frequency of 2133MHz with dual-channel.

Cons:
- Relatively poor CPU performance compared to similarly priced alternatives.

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

$234.99 at Amazon (USA)
$235.99 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:
- Best CPU performance for video games, best choice to team up with dedicated video card(s).
- 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.

Best $400 CPU:

Intel i7-5820K

$399.82 at Amazon (USA)

- Architecture: Haswell-E
- Frequency (Turbo): 3.3 (3.6) GHz
- Cores (Threads): 6 (12)
- Integrated GPU: N/A
- RAM Support: Quad Channel DDR4 2133MHz
- TDP: 140W
- 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 i7-5820K.

The Core i7-5820K is just a better choice performance wise, power consumption wise and heat wise. Which is why I’m recommending it at the $400 price point.

Pros:
- Outstanding CPU performance, capable of handling pretty much anything.
- Unlocked multiplier for easy overclocking.
- Support for quad-channel DDR4 RAM running at 2133MHz.
- 140W 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.
- Support for only 28 lanes of PCI-Express 3.0, can be a bottleneck for 3/4 video cards setups.
- No integrated video card: You must use a dedicated video card.

Ideal for:

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

Avoid for:
- NAS, Streaming PC and other workloads requiring a low power consumption.
- Gaming PCs, the Core i7-4790K is a better choice.

Best $650 CPU:

Intel i7-5930K

$636.43 at Amazon (USA)

- Architecture: Haswell-E
- Frequency (Turbo): 3.5 (3.7) GHz
- Cores (Threads): 6 (12)
- Integrated GPU: N/A
- RAM Support: Quad Channel DDR4 2133MHz
- TDP: 140W
- Socket: LGA2011

V.S. Competition: None

The Core i7-5930K is essentially a faster variant of the Core i7-5820K, with the full 40 lanes of PCI-Express 3.0 bandwidth available.

Pros:
- Outstanding CPU performance, capable of handling pretty much anything.
- Unlocked multiplier for easy overclocking.
- Support for quad-channel DDR4 RAM running at 2133MHz!
- Support for 40 lanes of PCI-Express 3.0, ideal for Crossfire/SLI with two, three or four video cards.
- 140W 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 PC, as it offers outstanding processor performance.
3. A Mainstream/High-End Workstation.
4. A Mainstream Server

Avoid for:
1. Gaming PCs, the Core i7-4790K is a better choice.
2. NAS, Streaming PC and other workloads requiring a low power consumption.

Best $1100 CPU:

Intel i7-5960X:

$1,125.89 at Amazon (USA)
$1149.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

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

- Architecture: Haswell-E
- Frequency (Turbo): 3.0 (3.5) GHz
- Cores (Threads): 8 (16)
- Integrated GPU: N/A
- RAM Support: Quad Channel DDR4 2133MHz
- TDP: 140W
- Socket: LGA2011

The first Intel 8 core/16 thread consumer CPU, the Core i7-5960X offers unmatched processing power for those who demands it.

Pros:
- Outstanding CPU performance, capable of handling pretty much anything.
- Unlocked multiplier for easy overclocking.
- Support for quad-channel DDR4 RAM running at 2133MHz!
- Support for 40 lanes of PCI-Express 3.0, ideal for Crossfire/SLI
- 140W 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.
- Expensive, but you get what you pay for.

Ideal for:
1. A Mainstream/High-End Workstation.
2. A Mainstream Server

Avoid for:
- NAS, Streaming PC and other workloads requiring a low power consumption.
- Gaming PCs: Its low frequency is detrimental to video games performance. That and no game will properly take advantage of 8 cores/16 threads yet. Better off with the 4 core i7-4790K with its much higher frequencies.

Recommended CPU Coolers

All CPUs recommended in this guide, except the LGA2011 CPUs (i7-5820K, i7-5930K and i7-5960X), 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, mostly with height and RAM clearance.

1. If you want to cut down on noise and not overclock that much, the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO: ($32 at Amazon – USA shipping) or ($34.95 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. Height of 159mm, RAM clearance is usually not a problem.
2. The $57 – Scythe Ashura Shadow is a great step-up, offering good CPU cooling performance at a reasonable price. On its low setting, it’s relatively quiet too. Ideal for a moderate amount of overclocking. No problem with RAM clearance, height of 154mm
3. Get the $90 – Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 if you want great CPU cooling performance with as little noise as possible. Height of 163mm and you’ll want low-profile RAM.
4. The $94 – Noctua NH-D15 is a bit more noisy than the Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 but also offers better cooling, so it can be an interesting trade off. Ideal if you want to push your overclock to the maximum without lots of noise. Height of 165mm and you’ll want low-profile RAM.

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.

Category: The Best Computer Parts For Your Money

About Mathieu Bourgie: HR Founder - Computer expert with over 14 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 .

  • Harry

    It was really useful, but can you update the list for laptops? cause they’re really so outdated

  • Noah Reyes

    Mathieu, your title for the Best $1100 CPU should be 5960X rather than 4960X. Also you said the new Haswell-E CPUs are not ideal for gaming PCs yet you referred to the 5820K and 5930K as “Ideal for a High-end Gaming PC”. Also, small typo in 5820K in the Ideal for section, onw should be one. Other than that really helpful and reliable post now that it is updated.

    • https://www.facebook.com/Mathieu.HR MathieuB

      Noah,

      Thank you for pointing my typos, as well as my contradiction. I fixed everything.

  • Homey

    I’ve taken the plunge and purchased the ASUS X99 Deluxe, i7 5930K, Gigabyte GTX760 Windforce 4GB Graphics Card and the Phanteks PH-TC14PE CPU Cooler in Black. Due to the shortage of RAM availability and the fact that the “Main” range is due for release at the end of the month I’m asking for advice on best RAM to go for…. 2400, 2600, 16GB, 32GB etc etc
    NO GAMING (unless I find an emulator for Windows 7/8 for Space Invaders :o )
    18 HDD’s and two M.2×4 totalling upwards of 60TB of archive storage of Movies Music, Adobe Photoshop and a complete beginner with Autodesk (Inventor etc).
    I’m thinking 32GB (4x8GB) 2666MHz as I’m against buying 16GB (4x4GB) of a higher, should the future demand the full eight slots… I don’t mind ADDING to the RAM but I wouldn’t like the thought of having to bin it to make way for 8x8GB or even higher as the “New” X99 and intel has opened the proverbial floodgates of advancement in technology that is sure to pick up pace over the next 18 months.
    Any input to this total amateur numpty would be greatly appreciated.

    • andrew

      if you don’t game, then your way over doing it. playing movies, music takes very little power, even with multiple displays

  • D-mac

    The i5 Intel chips at $200-$240 are left in the dust by the Xeon E3 1230 v.2 at $225 U.S. The E3 series are essentially i7′s without the (lame) Intel graphics, and with lower TDP’s (more efficient)!
    If you want more performance, the E3 1230 v.3 and E3 1231 v.3 are $70-$80 cheaper than their i7 counterparts. All are compatible with many socket 1155 mobo’s (check forums and board manufacturers’ specs).
    Who needs i5 and i7 ??

    • https://www.facebook.com/Mathieu.HR MathieuB

      D-mac,

      Left in the dust? I suppose so if you are only running applications that can take advantage of Hyper-Threading, say in a Workstation that needs a dedicated video card anyway, then yes, there’s merit to choosing the Xeon E-3 over the Core i5-4690.

      Otherwise, the higher-frequency (3.5-3.9GHz) Core i5-4690, is a better choice. Gaming PCs will take advantage of Turbo frequencies. General usage PCs that don’t run applications that require a dedicated video card will also take advantage of higher frequencies and reduced cost from using the IGP.

      Double-check your info on sockets: Only the older Ivy Bridge E1230 v.2 uses the LGA1155 socket. The newer v.3 variants use the LGA1150 socket.

      E3-1230 v2, older gen IB, 4 cores/8 threads 3.2GHz, no Turbo LGA1155 $225
      E1230 v3 4 cores/8 threads 3.3GHz, no Turbo LGA1150. $250
      E3 1231 v3 4 cores/8 threads 3.4GHz, no Turbo LGA1150. $258
      Core i5-4690 4 cores/4threads 3.5-3.9GHz LGA1150. $225

      4W TDP (80W vs 84W TDP) difference probably doesn’t mean much when it comes to real-life power consumption.

      • d-mac

        Mathieu, I stand corrected on the socket info. However, about the clock speed issue, the Intel website lists:
        E3 1230 v3 Turbo speed 3.7 GHz
        E3 1231 v3 Turbo speed 3.8 Ghz
        E3 1246 v3 Turbo speed 3.9 Ghz
        In other words, the Xeon chips are locked, but do have the Turbo Boost technology, so scarcely any difference in speed. If you really must have the integrated graphics, they are included on the E3 1236 and 1246 (v3)… with substantially lower prices than their i7 counterparts.
        For only $25-30 more than the 4590, I’d take the i7 performance.
        Thank you for a very informative and interesting blog.
        Regards, DMR

  • BestCPUs

    man, you’re the biggest idiot I’ve ever found on the Internet. I can not believe any nonsense you wrote here. I know very well about all this and nothing, but absolutely nothing of what you wrote is not true. why fooling people? someone wants to buy a good CPU, will find this shit and will spend money for nothing. Stim you want to achieve? you think you’re smart? some of us are better understood in these things and we all know that not one word here is not true. fucking noob, only con people.