Best CPU 2016 Intel vs AMD Processors
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 $1,500.
Intel vs AMD
Things May Even Out a Bit in 2017
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 2017.
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.
While I was a fan of the FX 8320 AM3+ Motherboard combos in the $120 space, I can no longer support it. The general CPU usage is poor in comparison to a more modern i3.
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 and have spent more than an i3.
For AMD in 2017, it's new line, Zen, needs to be a game changer. From what we've heard, it's got a better chance than anything they've released in the recent past. Unfortunately for now, AMD fans are left wanting. Rumors are simply unreliable at best. Here's to hoping that the early benchmarks for Zen are a reality.
CPU Buying Guide for Processors from $50 to $1,500
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 G3258
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 and go with an i3-6100. processor. The has fantastic single core performance, low power consumption, and hyper threading as well for multitasking. Skylake Intel i3-6100
In addition, the i3 has fairly good integrated graphic performance. This can be used to play the likes of WoW, LOL, and even Overwatch on certain settings.
It's important to note here that 7th generation Kaby Lake processors should release in Quarter 1 of 2017. These will give moderate boosts for CPU and graphical performance. That being said if the Skylake processors are significantly cheaper, they remain a viable option.
These processors are compatible with socket 1151 motherboards.
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. You could go with an FX 8350; however, you'd likely need to buy a substantial CPU cooler to get a lot of use out of it. By that time, you'd be hovering in the i5 $175 territory.
Ultimately, you'll want to either go with an i3 here or pay up for a quad core i5 processor. It'd be nice if Intel stepped up their game and offered a more moderately priced 4 core option here. Unfortunately, this is unlikely until AMD forces their hand through 4 and 8 core products that can put up a fight.
Good Value Gaming CPU Under $200
For those looking for mid-range performance without overclocking.
In the under $200 CPU price range, you're looking for an i5. I'm hopeful in the first quarter of 2017 there's a competitor for Intel's processors with AMD Zen. However, if you're buying right now, go with the i5-6400 or 6500 processor.
i5-6400 vs i6-6500 Worth It?
The Intel i5-6400 (2.7 up to 3.3GHz) is the better option for the casual gamer or computer user while the i5-6500 (3.2 up to 3.6GHz) is substantially faster for just $15 more.
Overclocking, at this price range isn't really an option. The "unlocked" k i5 is typically around $30 more. Add in a CPU cooler, and you're looking at spending quite a bit more.
Yet, you can still expect a lot out of either one of these processors. They're fantastic for gaming, won't bottleneck the plethora of high performance $200 to $300 graphics cards, and are fairly good at multitasking. Personally, I use them in builds from $500 to $800. If you're a photo editor, I'd prioritize getting an i5 over a graphics card; however; gamers, will want to do the opposite.
The Best Processor for Overclockers Under $250 in 2016
For power users looking to get more value out of their CPU by tweaking it.
Whether you're purchasing a CPU for a photo editing or gaming computer, the i5-6600k is what you want to go with here. This quad core CPU offers incredible speeds and overclocking potential.
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 i5-6600k well over 4.0GHz with it.
Or, for something water cooled around $100 go with the Corsair Hydro H100 series or NZXT Kraken.
Processors Under $300
For those who need a 4 core 8 thread experience without overclocking.
At the beginning of last year I said that an i5, which also has 4 cores, was all you need for gaming. My position on that has changed. There are definitely reasons to have an i7 going forward. For example, I've seen the i5 max out all 4 cores on games like Battlefield 1. This type of bottleneck affects your frame rate and might be a problem for your high-end PC going forward.
The difference for the i7 is in the hyperthreading. This allows the CPU to act like it has 8 cores when advantageous for performance. This improves performance for games, rendering and more.
Under $350 to $400
For those who want a high-end experience without having to pay for it.
If you're shopping for a CPU in the under $400 to around $350 category, you've got a lot of decisions to make.
i7-6700k vs i7-5820k vs i7-6800k
Do you go with the slightly faster i7-6700k (4 cores 8 threads) or step up to the Haswell-e i7-5820k (6 cores 12 threads) for the additional cores. The newer Broadwell-e i7-6800k (6 cores 12 threads) is also an option here at just $50 over the budget.
If you're a gamer, I'd likely stick to the i7-6700k processor. It's a great overclocker and offers a fantastic every day computing experience. The money savings for the i7-6700k is significant. Not only is the processor cheaper, going with an 1151 based consumer system should save you quite a lot of money as well. This could save as much as $50 to $250.
If you're a streamer, photo editor, or video editor, there's a huge case to be made for the i7-5720k or i7-6800k here. Both of them are fantastic overclockers which can make up much of the speed differential from the Skylake i7-6700k CPU. The 6 threads and 12 cores can also be a significant speed boost for many of the tasks, applications, and programs you run.
Top Photo Editing Processor Under $600
For the high-end enthusiast looking for value.
i7-5930k vs i7-6850k
In this price range, you'll likely be comparing the i7-5930k, released in Q3 2014, to the i7-6850k, released in Q2 2016.
These processors are similar in that they both have 6 cores and 12 threads. The 5930k CPU has a base frequency of 3.5 / 3.7GHz while the i7-6850k is similar at 3.5 / 3.8 GHz. Still, as the Broadwell-e i7-6850k is based on a 14nm lithography it's significantly faster even at the same frequency (reviews show 5-10%). Most of this performance can be made up through overclocking.
Both processors have a max of 40 PCI-e lanes.
Overall you should go with the newer i7-6850k unless the i7-5930k can be found at a discount. At that point, you'll have to decide whether you'd rather go with the newer model or not. Again, in terms of performance, there's very little difference after overclocking.
Budgets of Under or Around $1,000
For those who need more cores and are willing to pay for them.
For processors under or around $1,000 you should be looking at the Broadwell-e i7-6900k and the Haswell-e i7-5960X.
i7-6900k vs i7-5960X
This comparison is very similar to the one directly above and should come down to price. If it's similar, go with the newer Broadwell-e CPU. If you can get it at a substantial discount, the i7-5960X will give you similar performance to the i7-6900k after a decent overclock. Still, when you're spending this much money, it's hard not to go with the newer model.
Intel Extreme CPU Under or Around $1500
For those who need the absolute best processor available.
While the performance differential is negligible between the i7-6950x and the i7-6900k, some may be willing to pay for the additional 2 cores (10 total) and threads (20 total) that the i7-6950x offers. In addition, it offers a slightly higher cache of 25MB.
For $500 more, it's only worth it for those who can save time and money from having the absolute best.
CPU Buyer Poll
What CPU do you plan on purchasing in 2017?
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.
Information for Previous Generation Processors
Looking to build a system with budget or used parts? Here's a look at some older processors that still perform well when overclocked.
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.