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When it comes to the processor of your gaming PC or photo editing machine we all look for the best we can get for the budget we have. If you're currently looking for a CPU, here are our thoughts on budgets from as low as $50 all the way up to $1,000.
CPU Buying Guide for Processors from $50 to $1,000
Want the best processor for your budget? Here are our thoughts on the CPU that offer the most performance for the money you spend.
Cheap Processors Under $50
I recently built a $150 to $200 gaming PC using AMD's Cheap A6-7400k APU which cost only $50. For the money, this CPU performed admirably. As it was an APU gaming performance was also good. I was able to play the likes of WoW, Hearthstone, Diablo III, CS:GO, and many more games without a problem.
At a $75 Budget, you could go with the A8 7600 APU. You'd get slightly higher CPU and graphics performance for around $25 more. For those who want to prioritize CPU performance rather than graphics, I like Intel's Pentium G4400.
If you go the APU route, be sure to use a dual channel memory configuration as it greatly improves performance. In my opinion APUs only make sense in this $50 to $75 price range. Anything beyond that, and you're better off with something else altogether.
Budget CPU Under $100
For PC Builders with Budgets Under $400.
If you're looking in this price range, I'd recommend you either go with a more expensive dual core Pentium processor like the G4500 for around $80 or step up to around $120 and go with an i3-8100 or the Ryzen 3 1200 processor. The Coffee Lake Intel i3-8100 has fantastic single core performance, low power consumption, and four cores rather than the previous generation's 2 cores. It's my choice for a cheap $500 custom gaming PC.
In addition, the i3 has fairly good integrated graphics performance. This can be used to play the likes of WoW, LOL, and even Overwatch on certain settings.
AMD Ryzen 3 Likely a Strong Competitor:
The Ryzen 3 1200 is another good option here at right at $100. You could go with the 1300X for around $30 more; however, the 1200 will get as much performance with a simple overclock.
Overall, we still feel that the Coffee Lake processor is the better gaming processor here. However, there is an argument for the considerably cheaper R3 1200.
Coffee Lake i3 processors are compatible with Coffee Lake motherboards from the Z370 series only. So, previous 1151 options will not work.
Best AMD or Intel Processor Under $150
For those looking for a fast single-threaded performance computer experience.
The $150 category is a tricky one for processors. Your best bet here is to go with the i3-8100 that was mentioned above around $130.
Alternatively, you could go with the Ryzen R5 1400 for around $150. If you're looking for a CPU for more workstation purposes, go with the AMD Ryzen R5 option. If it's for gaming, you'll want to go with Intel's Coffee Lake i3.
Good Value Gaming CPU Under $200
For those looking for mid-range performance without overclocking.
In the under $200 CPU price range, you've got a few choices. AMD's Ryzen 5 1600 is a fantastic 6 Core 12 thread option you can overclock with its included Wraith Cooler. For power users that also need workstation capabilities, it might be your best option.
Alternatively, you've got the six Core Coffee Lake i5-8400 that has a max turbo frequency of up to 4.0GHz.
The i5 certainly is the winner in most gaming benchmarks out there as few games can take advantage of the 12 threads of the Ryzen 5 1600 and the i5-8400 has a faster IPC overall.
So, if your a gamer the i5-8400 is a great option if you can get ahold of it. However, you'll need to take into account the price of motherboards which right now is much higher when you go with Intel.
Whether you're purchasing a CPU for a photo editing or gaming computer, you'll want to go with the 8 core 16 thread Ryzen 7 1700 for around $280 or the 6 core (no hyperthreading) overclockable i5-8600k.
Both of these processors offer fantastic overclocking potential that's boosted substantially by faster ram speeds.
In terms of gaming, the advantage here will go slightly to the Intel side. However, if both processors are overclocked, they both hold their own.
That being said you will need an aftermarket CPU cooler here. If you want something inexpensive, I highly recommend the Hyper 212 EVO. You can overclock a CPU like the i5-8600k to around 5GHz.
Or, for something water cooled around $100 go with the Corsair Hydro H100 series or NZXT Kraken.
Intel i7-8700k vs Ryzen 8 1800X
In the Around $400 price range, we're looking at the 8th Generation Intel i7-8700k and the Ryzen 8 1800X. The i7-8700k is a 6 core and 12 thread processor that's easy to overclock to around 5GHz. The i7-8700k doesn't come with a CPU cooler so you'll need to purchase one separately.
The Ryzen 8 1800X is an 8 core 16 thread processor with turbo speeds up to 4GHz. Unfortunately, the Ryzen 7 1700 is a much better deal if you're simply willing to overclock it.
Which should you buy?
For performance across a wide variety of work and gaming related tests the i7-8700k is truely a beast here. You could consider saving $100 and overclocking the Ryzen 7 1700; however, for this price point the i7-8700k is the king right now.
i7-7820X vs i7-8600k
Even in this price range, the i7-8600k is so good that we have to mention it. At around $150 cheaper than the i7-7820X it still holds a few advantages. The i7-7800; however, doesn't really hold a place.
First of all, it has slightly better gaming performance and overclocking potential. Second, you can use a much less expensive Z370 motherboard to go along with it.
Still, the i7-7820X has a place for those that need the extra 2 cores and 4 threads. It's still a very good gaming CPU, has super fast IPC, has the quad-channel memory up to 128GB, more PCIe lanes, and some considerably better benchmarks in everything task-related. For example, if you do a lot of photo editing and rendering, I'd definitely go with the i7-7820X.
Ryzen Threadripper 1950X vs i9-7900X
With the threadripper you get a few more cores with 16 cores and 32 threads compared to Intel's 10 Core and 20 thread i9-7900X.
However, cores aren't everything. So, here are some basic Benchmarks to reference:
|Benchmark||AMD Threadripper 1950X||Intel i9-7900X|
Cinebench R15 (Higher is Better)
Single Thread Cinebench R15
CPU Mark (Higher is Better)
CPU Mark Single Thread
Blender Time (Lower is Better)
POV RAY 3.7 Time (lower is Better)
Adobe Media Encoder (Lower is Better) Premiere Pro CC, 3:54, 40Mbps 4k H.264
CPU Physics Overall (Higher is Better)
3D Mark Time Spy Overall
Which should I go with?
So, depending on what you plan on doing you may go with one or the other.
- For games, I'd probably go with the i7-8700k in stead of either of these. For streaming, I'd say the same thing.
- For streaming from multiple sources, I'd go with Threadripper.
- For long uptimes of thread-intensive work I'd also go with Threadripper.
If you do more gaming, then rendering, it's hard not to make another case for the i7-8700k here. It's still fast in work-related tasks and will give you a better basic computing experience.
Intel vs AMD
Changes in 2018
There are a lot of AMD and Intel fans out there. I'm not one of them. No, I don't mean that I don't enjoy using their product. Rather, I'm simply a consumer looking for the best deal. I hold no bias towards one brand or the other. So, even though my picks are clearly for Intel right now, the pendulum will likely swing back the other direction in 2018.
Intel is still dominating the single threaded performance race. There is also no question that, for higher-end processors, Intel has a clear advantage right now. This is based on countless benchmarks and tests across the internet. The results don't lie. In my opinion, this covers every CPU from $100 to $1,500. That being said, the recent Coffee Lake CPU release was a good one. The extra 2 cores allow it to compete in a much better way with Ryzen.
While I was a fan of the FX 8320 AM3+ Motherboard combos in the $120 space, I can no longer support it. The Ryzen series gives too much value for just a little bit more money.
Yes, you could get an 8320 or 8350 and overclock it and you'd get decent performance. However, you'd still have an old platform. Instead, wait for the R3 series if you want to spend around $100 or go with the R5 1600 around $200 and R7 1700 around $300.
Other than these 3 processors, there's not a lot I'd go with on the AMD side. The other skus cost more and give you little benefit. This is especially true if you're willing to overclock. For example, I've been able to get my Ryzen 7 1700 to give me almost identical performance to my R7 1700X. So, why spend the extra $200? Honestly, there's very little reason to. If you go with a Ryzen processor, here's a look at the best AM4 X370 motherboards for the platform.
CPU Buyer Poll
Overall, be sure to pick the processor that fits with your needs and that will last you a few years. I find that I'm always willing to upgrade the ram, graphics card, and other parts of my machine. However, I generally hesitate to upgrade the CPU.
Intel Haswell vs. Ivy Bridge
Was it worth the upgrade?
Intel Haswell vs. Ivy Bridge
Speaking in terms of multitasking Haswell gives up to a 13% upgrade vs. previous Ivy Bridge processors. While this is a solid upgrade, a bigger performance boost comes by the way of integrated graphics.
With Haswell you can get up to 3 times the performance of integrated graphics that Ivy Bridge had. If you don't plan on purchasing an integrated graphics card, then you'll notice a huge boost to tasks like photo editing, video editing, and gaming.
Not Compatible with 1155:
*Keep in mind that if you're going from a Sandy or Ivy Bridge processor to a Haswell one you'll need a 1150 pin compatible motherboard.
Intel Ivy Bridge Vs. Sandy Bridge
Intel's Ivy Bridge processors were supposedly just a tick in Intel's tick tock model, but with massive improvements to integrated graphics, overall CPU performance, and the introduction of its 3D tri-gate transistor design - it feels a lot more like a tock. For those of you planning on using Ivy Bridge at stock speeds, you'll see a very modest gain in speed - however; it's the integrated graphics on Ivy bridge that make the big difference.
i7-3770k vs. i7-2700k
Tom's Hardware, one of the most reliable sites for benchmarks on the internet, shows that at stock speeds you should see around a 3.7% gain with Ivy Bridge. For Integrated graphics, these gains are considerably more.
That being said, if you're an overclocker, then it's important to note that these gains are not necessarily gains at all. Performance enthusiasts may find that they prefer to stick with the i7-2700k as it simply runs cooler.
When were Sandy and Ivy Bridge Released?
About Intel's 2nd and 3rd Generation of "i" series Processors
The new processor from Intel codenamed "Sandy Bridge" proved to be an undying force to be reckoned with in 2011. But, this came with a few problems.
January 31, 2011 Intel announced that they had identified an issue in the design of their Cougar Point Chipset on motherboards meant to carry their 2nd Generation of "i" series processors. To be clear, this is not a recall of their CPU, rather it is a recall of the motherboards made for it. The design flaw has been located, fixed, and implemented. To make sure that you have the revised motherboard, you can look for one of two tags on your motherboard box, "REV 3.0" and "B3 REVISION".
What about Ivy Bridge?
Standard Ivy Bridge CPU have a 22nm lithography but still be compatible with GEN3 z68 chipset motherboards. These were released in late April of 2012.
Sandy Bridge Models
There are 5 main CPU model series that were released from Intel in Q1 of 2011 (for desktops); the i3 2100, i5 2300, i5 2400, i5 2500k, and the i7 2600k. The k for these models means "unlocked". This simply means that the processor is unlocked for overclocking. Intel has priced their "unlocked" processors about $30 higher than the same versions which don't have control over power, ddr3 ratios, and the CPU core/turbo. The 2600k is sure to replace the i7-950 as the bestselling CPU of 2011.
At the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012 Intel also released the i7-2700k and the i7-3820.
More On Sandy Bridge
32 nm (nanometer) Technology
Although Intel was first to show a CPU with working 32 nm technology, both AMD and Intel will release CPU based on 32 nm technology in 2011 . 32 nm technology allows for greater processor computing and speed.
Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, stated that "The number of transistors incorporated in a chip will approximately double every 24 months." This trend is still true after 45 years with 32nm technology.
Sandy bridge essentially creates a faster bridge between the various components of your computer. Specifically it allows for better integration or "ring architecture" between your GPU (graphics processing unit), CPU (central processing unit)/Core,computer memory, and LLC (last level cache or L3 memory). Shared Data to the LLC between the GPU and CPU allows for quicker access to data.
Source 1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/32_nm
Turbo Boost Technology
Turbo Toost Technology for Intel's 2nd G of processors allows for bursts of speed. For the 2600k this allows for acceleration up to 3.8Ghz when needed (without manually overclocking).
Hyper-threading for Cores
Sandy Bridge processors will have up to 8 cores. Hyper-threading technology allows each of these cores to perform two tasks at once allowing for up to 16 threads (for 8 cores).
Allows for adjustment of power consumption of processor voltage and core frequency. This not only saves power, but keeps the CPU cooler as well. CPUs that operate hot often have poor performance and don't last as long.
Like Intel AMD also released a new CPU codenamed "Bulldozer" in October of 2011.
As they did with their 45nm CPU AMD has partnered with IBM to try to build a processor that will rival giant chipmaker Intel. Like the Sandy Bridge the Bulldozer components will share level 3 cache for quicker access to data.
Compatibility with AM3 motherboards?
AM3+ motherboards are backward compatible with socket AM3 CPU. In their initial press release AMD had mentioned that AM3 motherboards would not be at all compatible with Bulldozer processor; however, we recently learned from their AM3+ Ready Site that with an upgrade to the bios their 8 series of AM3 motherboards will be compatible with Bulldozer. On Gigabyte's site you can find similar information as many of their 8 series motherboards have been labeled "AM3+ ready".
*See the video below for more information on AMD's Bulldozer Processor.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
CPU Discussion and Commentary
@anonymous on November 24, 2015:
I hope you understand that AMD does have the fastest clock speed of every processor, but believe it or not AMD is a better choice for gaming and rendering, you can go out and spend 1300 dollars on an i7 rig but you could also go out and spend 700 bucks on an AMD rig that gets the job done just as good, a 10 FPS frame decrees is nothing when you already have above 120 - 130 FPS in the first place, so whats such a bother for AMD or intel? Are you all just a bunch of picky school girls that cry when you PC drops below 60 FPS? No also Intel cannot compete with AMD concidering AMD has perfected their APU unlike Intels Integrated graphics which no one even can run a simple card game on, so quit implying that AMD sucks and imply that AMD is the future of gaming.
anonymous on March 07, 2013:
@anonymous: You're kidding, right? AMD's best CPU barely keeps pace with Intel's low-end dual core lol. Stop drinking the kool-aid, and do your homework before spewing nonsense.
anonymous on January 24, 2013:
Intel all the way? Not for me, since the Pentium bug - remember that ? For me, my budget all the way ! I will upgrade twice probably, till your monster above will be dead. but at an overall half the price, having roughly same performance... For now I'm using at home a mix of AMD and Intel, but if AMD continues to do a good job for a budget price, here's my winner ;P (started with a Commodore 64, HC95, Intel486DX50MHz, etc)
anonymous on November 22, 2012:
@anonymous: Actually, AMD has the world's fastest processor at over 8.4 ghz.
anonymous on October 05, 2012:
@anonymous: Wow.. no kidding.. I had a commodore pet as well... still remember it taking 25 minutes to load a program that moves a little green block across the screen.. LOL
anonymous on September 30, 2012:
@anonymous: I have done the same as you and your build is an animal amd is the donkey intel the stalion.....nothing comes even close to the 3960x c2 fully unlocked CPU
anonymous on May 27, 2012:
This article is bias, and you're a big fan of Intel. I have both the Intel i7 and the Amd FX 8-core processors and my AMD FX destroys the Intel i7 in every way. Intel is like the Apple brand, everyone rave about it but the truth is it all hype and good marketing that make the brands what they are. Don't get me wrong Intel does it's job and does it well. But AMD is a workhorse and it's on the same playing field. As a person who loves computers and all things tech. you can't go wrong with either Processor family but I prefer AMD.
anonymous on May 09, 2012:
I'm 45 and started with a commodore pet and haven't been able to put computers down since! I'm just purchasing an Asus Rampage 4 extreme with an Intel 3960X processor, 64Gb ram and hope (seriously hope) I'll be futureproofed for a few years :/
To do this I'm going to need liquid cooling and a case with a top fan just to cool the cpu and memory. For those of you that are too young the commodore pet had a tape drive to store your programs and data.
I hope I'm around to see 0.0042nm technology that is powerful enough to enable virtual reality to become a "reality" of my own choosing. Has this happened already? I can feel a sci-fi book coming on...
Anyway, if a man talks in the woods and there isn't a woman around to hear him,
1) is he still wrong
2) can he play his computer games without being nagged and
3) who will fetch the beer?
For me, Intel all the way, but where are the 22nm boards that support 64Gb ram?
anonymous on April 07, 2012:
Thanks for the info - I'm a 68 year old that started out computing on an IBM 3060, and am looking to build a system to run X-Plane to enjoy my golden years with! Really helpful - thanks!
EdithCMiddleton on February 15, 2012:
For me, it's always about intel but amd comes in cheaper and almost the same quality, so you don't lose of you choose that one.
remote it support
PCReviews on October 30, 2011:
Be sure to check out my hub on building a gaming PC. I left my response there..
anonymous on October 30, 2011:
I am trying to build from scrap, with a budget of Â£650 - Â£800 ( $1000 - $ 1300 ), and I would like to get a decent monitor too, to be able to play 3D games/ watch 3D movies. Not a heavy gamer, but I wouldn't want to have to upgrade for the next 2 - 4 years either. This is my first time to build this, so I am counting a lot on your expertise.
Reading all your lenses and the posts from other sites, I already started with:
1) ASUS P8Z68 V-Pro ( Â£120/ approx $200),
2) Antec Ninehundred Two V3 ( Â£90 / approx $150 )
3) Antec 900 HCG High Current Gamer ( Â£100 / $160 ).
Now I could really need your help with the other things like SSD, RAM and maybe the extra cooling options for the CPU, but my biggest 2 " problems " are the CPU itself and the Graph card.
I am not decided between the Intel i7 - 2600k and the i5 - 2500k for the CPU and the NVidia GTX570 and the GTX 560.
These would be my " pickings " after reading yor lens and hubs, but if you have any other suggestions, it would mean a great deal to me if you would let me know what would you choose if you was in my place. Like I said , not a heavy gamer, but wouldn't want to upgrade in the next few years. Also, for the Graph Card, it would be a bonus to be able to watch the 3D movies on my Samsung 7 series 3D LED TV.
Thank you very much for all the time spent reading this long post, and really hope you can help me.
Looking forward for your reply.
PCReviews on March 22, 2011:
@anonymous: Thanks for your comments! I to build my computer from the motherboard up as it seems I can get more of what I want that way. Thanks for your comments.
anonymous on March 22, 2011:
Awesome lens on these cpu's. Blessed by a Squidoo Angel,who builds her own computers from the Motherboard up;) Have a great day!