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

| April 1, 2014 | (5)

Updated on April 1st 2014

The underside of an Intel LGA1366 Core i7-950 CPU.

The underside of an Intel LGA1366 Core i7-950 CPU.

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.

April 2014 Update: What’s new?

From Intel:

More Affordable Haswell Dual-core Celeron/Pentium CPUs:
The Celeron G1820 and the Pentium G3220 are now at interesting prices in my opinion, compared to the previous generation CPUs, which is why I now recommend them.

Lower price on the Core i3-4130:
The Core i3-4130 can now be found for $119.99, instead of $128 or $135+.

From AMD:

Kaveri APUs: More powerful iGPU!
Following Trinity (Ax-5xxx series) and Richland (Ax-6xxx), AMD started the year by launching their new APUs, Kaveri (Ax-7xxx series), with the A10-7850K and A10-7700K. The A8-7600 was supposed to launch in Q1 2014 but we have yet to see any signs of it. Hopefully it will be available soon.

Kaveri is a completely new architecture compared to Trinity and Richland and it brings a more powerful integrated GPU (iGPU), allowing for higher performance in video games compared to previous generation APUs.

Early reports on overclocking are promising too!

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 April 1st 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 $50 CPU:

Intel Celeron G1820:

- $49.99 at Amazon (USA)

- $47.95 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

V.S the competition:
The Intel Celeron G1820 is based on Intel’s latest Haswell architecture and it has no problem outperforming the underwhelming AMD A4-4000 Dual-Core 2.7GHz 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 A4-4000, 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 and A4-5300: 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 $70 CPU:

Intel Pentium G3220:

- $66.62 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

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 $85 CPU:

AMD Athlon X4 760K

- $84.74 at Amazon (USA Shipping)
- $84.74 at B&H (International Shipping)

- Architecture: Trinity
- Frequency (Turbo): 3.8 (4.1) GHz
- Cores (Threads): 4 (4)
- Integrated GPU: N/A, requires a dedicated GPU
- RAM Support: Dual Channel 1866MHz
- TDP: 100W
- Socket: FM2

Higher performance than the competition:
In the same price range, we have the Intel Pentium G3420 that’s available for $87.

While the G3420 is highly efficient, its performance simply cannot match the X4 760K, as the X4 760K is a quad-core CPU, while the G3420 is limited to two cores.

Pros:
- More than decent CPU performance (best in this price class)
- Unlocked multiplier, overclocking is supported and easy.
- Supports RAM frequency of 1866MHz.
- Low price

Cons:
- No integrated video card, so you need a dedicated video card.
- High power consumption (100W TDP)

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.

Avoid for:
- NAS, Streaming PC, Budget server and other workloads requiring a low power consumption
- Audio/photo/video editing
- Higher-end Gaming PC

Best $110 CPU:

AMD FX-6300

- $109.99 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 i3-4130 ($120, Dual-Core+ Hyper-Threading 3.4GHz no Turbo).

I picked the AMD FX-6300 over the Intel Core i3-3220 because:

  1. The FX-6300 outperforms the Core i3-3220 in gaming and most applications. The Core i3-4130 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 i3-4130 is fully locked and cannot be overclocked.
  3. It’s $10 less, with the FX 6300 selling for $110 and the Core i3 4130 for $120.

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:

$119.99 – 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 $110 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 $105, 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

- $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.

Alternative #3: With a far lower power consumption:

Intel Core i3-4130:

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

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 i3-4130 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 $160 CPU:

AMD FX-8320

- $159.99 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 i3-4330 ($140, Dual-Core+ Hyper-Threading, 3.5GHz, no Turbo).

I picked the AMD FX-8320 over the Intel Core i3-4330 because:

  1. The FX-8320 outperforms the slightly less powerful Core i3-3220 in gaming and most applications. The Core i3-4330 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 i3-4330 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 $155 APU:

$153.99 – AMD A10-7700K Kaveri APU

- Architecture: Kaveri
- Frequency (Turbo): 3.4 (3.8) GHz
- Cores (Threads): 4 (4)
- Integrated GPU: Radeon R7: 384 stream processors 720MHz
- RAM Support: Dual Channel 2133MHz
- TDP: 95W
- Socket: FM2+

VS the Competition:
- Intel’s processor in direct competition with the AMD A10-7700K is the Core i3-4340 ($160, Dual-Core+ Hyper-Threading, 3.6GHz, no Turbo).
- AMD’s processor in competition with the the AMD A10-7700K is the AMD FX-8320 ($150, Eight Core, 3.5-4.0GHz).

Both of those processors will outperform the AMD A10-7700K when it comes to general computing tasks.

The A10-7700K 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 A10-7700 “Kaveri” CPU portion is slightly less powerful, but the GPU (video card) part is slightly more powerful, resulting in slightly higher performance in video games.

Pros:
- Powerful integrated video card (GPU): Capable of handling most modern games at 1600 x 900 or 1920 x 1080 with medium 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 $170 APU:

$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)
$204.50 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

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.

About Haswell, Intel’s 4th generation of Core CPUs:

Performance vs previous generation of Intel CPUs:
Intel new fourth generation of Core CPUs, known under the codename Haswell is here.

1. Replacing Intel’s LGA1155 Ivy Bridge (known as Core ix 3xxx) CPUs, the LGA1150 based Haswell CPUs (Known as Core ix 4xxx) bring in on average a 8% performance improvement.
2. Compared to the 2nd generation of Intel CPUs, Sandy Bridge (Core ix 2xxx), the LGA1150 based Haswell CPUs (Known as Core ix 4xxx) bring in on average a 17% performance improvement.
3. Compared to the 1st generation of Intel CPUs, Nehalem (Core ix xxx), the LGA1150 based Haswell CPUs (Known as Core ix 4xxx) bring in on average a 44% performance improvement.

Power consumption:

When you compare the whole system power consumption, the Haswell platform consumes about 11W less at idle compared to Ivy Bridge. At load, the power consumption increases by about 12W but if you consider that it completes workloads faster than Ivy Bridge, it’s about as power efficient under load and more efficient at idle.

Overclocking:

Non-K series CPUs:
Either fully locked (no OC possible) or mostly locked (very little overclocking possible)

To overclock a non-K series CPU, you’ll want to raise the CPU multiplier:

  • If you have a CPU that offers no Turbo mode (e.g. Celeron/Pentium/Core i3), then you can’t raise the multiplier at all and thus can’t overclock. In short: Your CPU is completely locked.
  • If you have a CPU with Turbo modes (e.g. Core i5-4570), you can overclock, but just a tiny bit, using a motherboard equipped with a Z chipset. You are limited to an overclock of to the highest available Turbo one core frequency.

Let’s use a Core i5-4570, which runs at 3.2GHz by default, as an example:

  • When one or two cores are active, the chip can turbo up to 3.6GHz. You cannot change that turbo state to go any higher.
  • When three cores are active, the chip can turbo up to 3.5GHz. You can change that turbo state to go as high as 3.6GHz.
  • When four cores are active, the chip can turbo up to 3.4GHz. You can change that turbo state to go as high as 3.6GHz.

Overclocking the non-K Core i5/i7 chips relies entirely on turbo however. In the case above, the fastest your chip will run is 3.6GHz. Not exactly exciting, but better than nothing.

K series CPUs:
Fully unlocked, can be overclocked as much as possible:
Finally, there’s the K-series of CPUs, with the Core i5-4670K and Core i7-4770K currently available. These chips are fully unlocked and will let you overclock them as far as the CPU and/or your cooling can sustain.

A new addition is the ability to adjust BCLK to one of three pre-defined straps (100/125/167MHz) on K-series CPUs. The BCLK adjustment gives you a little more flexibility when overclocking, but you still need a K CPU to take advantage of that.

Want to overclock?
If you do want to overclock a K-series CPU, make sure to get a motherboard (Z series chipset), CPU Cooler and power supply which can handle overclocking. That way, you’ll be sure that your motherboard and the power supply can handle the additional power consumption and that the CPU Cooler will keep your overclocked CPU temperature in check.

To avoid:
1. Intel Core i5-4430 3.0-3.2GHz Turbo Quad-Core 84W:
The Intel Core i5-4430 may seem like a legitimate less expensive alternative at $185, but for $15, you lose 200MHz of base frequency and up to 400MHz of Turbo frequency. In the end, what is $15 more when you take a look at your total budget? Not much compared to what you’ll lose in performance.

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

Intel Core i5-4670

$219.99 at Amazon (USA)
$225.95 at B&H (International Shipping)

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

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 i5-4670K

$234.99 at Amazon (USA)
$259.95 at B&H (International Shipping)

If you want to overclock, the Core i5-4670K K variant is the way to go, with its unlocked multiplier.

Best $320 CPU:

Intel Core i7-4771:

- $318.99 at Amazon (USA)
- $338.50 at B&H (International Shipping)

- Architecture: Haswell
- Frequency (Turbo): 3.5 (3.9) GHz
- Cores (Threads): 4 (8)
- Integrated GPU: Intel HD Graphics 4600
- RAM Support: Dual Channel 1600MHz
- TDP: 84W
- 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 i7-4771. On top of that, the Fx-9590 consumes roughly nearly 200W more power at load than the Core i7-4771, a massive difference!

While its 8 cores might make it seem like an attractive option for heavy multi-threaded programs, even then, the Core i7-4771 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 i7-4771 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.
- 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 (4770K) is more expensive.
- 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 #1 with unlocked multiplier for overclocking alternative:

Intel Core i7-4770K

$319.99 at Amazon (USA)
$339.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

If you want the K variant of the Core i7-4770, so that you can overclock it, the Core i7-4770K is what you want.

It’s basically the same as the Core i7-4770, simply with an unlocked multiplier for overclocking.

Alternative #2 with possibly more overclocking headroom:

Intel i7-4820K:

$324.27 at Amazon (USA)
$355.95 at B&H (International Shipping)

However, the Intel i7-4820K, based on the Ivy Bridge-E architecture, is another alternative for overclocking.

Many report that it can be overclocked to higher frequencies than the Core i7-4770.

It also features quad-channel RAM support, 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 $560 CPU:

Intel i7-4930K

$565.98 at Amazon (USA)
$623.95 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 $1000 CPU:

Intel i7-4960X:

$1049.99 at Amazon (USA)
$1111.95 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: ($33 at Amazon – USA shipping) or ($33 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 $59 – 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 what 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 $76 – Noctua NH-D14 Socket LGA2011
version.

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:

Where’s the A8-7600 Kaveri?
AMD had announced that they would be launching the A8-7600 in Q1 2014, but we’re now officially in Q2 and the A8-7600 is 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.

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:

New Haswell K with Overclocking Enhancements:
With Ivy Bridge (Intel’s 3rd generation of Core CPUs), overclockers noticed a slightly lower maximum CPU frequency that could achieve. What used to be a ceiling of 5.0-5.2GHz with Sandy Bridge became 4.8-5.0GHz on Ivy Bridge. Haswell was more of the same, 4.6-4.8GHz became the new ceiling, defeating the IPC increase that the new architectures had.

Some people blamed the different thermal interface material (TIM) between the die on the package and the heatspreader. With Sandy Bridge, the heatspreader was soldered to the die, while Ivy Bridge and Haswell have thermal paste. Enthusiasts removed the heatspreader and replaced the TIM inside the CPU to provide better heat transfer. Some even used metallic binding material and depending on how good or bad the CPU was to begin with, some got up to a 20C drop for overclocked CPUs at full load.

Other people blamed the increased IHS (Integrated Heat Spreader) to die clearance and smaller dies, resulting in more concentrate heat that’s harder to extract by heatsinks.

In any case, Intel will be launching new Haswell processors, codename ‘Devil’s Canyon’, that should be out in the middle of 2014 (In June wih Computex perhaps?). Intel announced improved thermal interface material (TIM), updated packaging and 9-series chipset support.

Hopefully the new TIM and updated packaging will help improve overclocked frequencies. What’s worrying me though is that Intel announced “9-series chipset support“. Does that mean that you’ll need a motherboard with a 9-series chipset to use that new CPU or will it be supported by both the 8 and 9 series chipsets?

Haswell Refresh CPUs:
Intel will be launching new CPUs based on the Haswell architecture to replace older models. It’s basically just a minor speed bump:
The Intel Core i7-4790 will be replacing the Core i7-4770 and will bring a 100 MHz clock speed bump bringing the final clock frequency to 3.6 GHz base and 4.0 GHz turbo. The Core i7-4690 will replace the Core i7-4670 with clock speed adjustments of 3.50 GHz base and 3.90 GHz turbo while the other two processors which include the Core i5-4590 and Core i5-4460 will be replacing Core i5-4570 and Core i5-4440 respectively with clock speeds rated at 3.3/3.7 GHz and 3.2/3.4 GHz.

Unlocked Pentium in the middle of 2014:
To celebrate over 20 years of the Pentium brand, Intel will be releasing a fully unlocked Haswell (4th generation) processor in the middle of 2014 (With Computex in June?). Current Pentium processors are dual core models without hyperthreading, with 3MB of L3 Cache and limited HD (Haswell) integrated graphics. Pricing has yet to be announced.

Call me skeptical, but I think that the interest of this part will be limited, seeing as dual-core CPUs are now longer a good option for a Gaming PCs. Then again, with enough of an overclock, I might be wrong. We’ll see later this year!

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

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 second half of 2014? We’ll have Haswell-E CPUs with up to 8 cores, with the X99 chipset and DDR4 memory!

Broadwell at the end of 2014:
The successor of the 4th gen Core CPUs (4th gen codename: Haswell), Broadwell, is expected to be available towards the end of 2014.

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 .

  • technonepal

    Lovely article. THANKS!!! It surely helped a lot!!!

  • Jack Barron

    The i5-4670k just dropped to 189 on Amazon, dunno if it’s a mistake but I bought one just in case! Building my first computer soon, figured that was a steal.

    • jrreich

      I think thats the i5-4670 not the K. Unless they caught it and removed it in the last 20 hrs. Congrats if you got it for that!

      • Jack Barron

        It was apparently a mistake! I have the i5-4670k on the way to my house to arrive in Thursday for 189. Looked today and they raised the price back. Guess I got lucky!

        • jrreich

          Thats awesome… just looked and actually i can get one too for that price but i have to drive about an hour for in store pickup… seriously considering it.