[TechRadar] Buying Guide: Best CPU: the 10 top processors from AMD and Intel
Buying Guide: Best CPU: the 10 top processors from AMD and Intel

<img src="http://cdn.mos.techradar.com/Review%20images/PC%20Plus/PCP%20307/PCP307.feat1pr.chips-470-75.jpg" alt="Buying Guide: Best CPU: the 10 top processors from AMD and Intel"/><h3>The top 10 processors</h3><p>What makes a processor great depends on two factors: how much you want to spend on it and what you want to do with it. It doesn't seem logical to spend only 100 bucks on a processor destined to be at the heart of a gaming rig and you would probably be bonkers to spend 500 on a CPU only to do word processing.</p><p>Achieving the best possible value for your money is what we're after.</p><p>There's plenty of options available in the market, both from <a href="http://www.techradar.com/us/tag/amd">AMD</a> and from <a href="http://www.techradar.com/us/tag/intel">Intel</a>; and the concept of a best-value-for-the-money processor, while very much a debatable topic, is one worthy of debate. Obviously, your propensity to take things apart – and put them back together – as well as the specification of the rest of your system also come into play, but we digress.</p><p>There's also the fact that different options arise depending on where you are on the purchase curve: are you building a new computer or updating an existing one (and sticking to the existing motherboard).</p><p>And lest not forget the fact that some of us will be more confident than others when it comes to the art of overclocking while others may be tempted to buy second hand or burn-in CPUs. (The latter being chips pushed to their maximum operating temperature for stability testing.)</p><p>To make things simpler for everyone, we've decided to narrow down the list to the more popular sockets and stock keeping units. So, no server CPUs, soldered processors (embedded or laptop), obsolete sockets and, to pre-empt any further discussion, no non-x86 parts.</p><p>We also go for the cheaper SKU where possible (i.e. without coolers). Just bear in mind that stocks and prices change all the time – thanks, Amazon Dynamic Pricing.</p><p>As always, if you think there are better Intel/AMD alternatives, give us a shout in the comment section. Without further ado, here are our picks for the top 10 processors.</p><p><img src="http://mos.futurenet.com/techradar/art/Buying%20guides/cpus/amd-a10-5800k-420-90.jpg" alt="A10-5800K" width="420" class="zoomable"></img></p><h3>1. AMD A10-5800K</h3><div class="subtitle _hawk"><p>Piledriver cores and DX11 graphics</p></div><p><strong>Processor Cores:</strong> 4 | <strong>Thermal Design Power:</strong> 100W | <strong>Graphics Controller:</strong> Radeon HD7660D | <strong>Clock Speed:</strong> 3.80GHz | <strong>Processor Socket:</strong> FM2 | L2 Cache: 4MB </p><div class="hawk-widget-insert _hawk widget_type:price model_names:AMD%20A10-5800K deals_link:http%3A%2F%2Fwww.techradar.com%2Fus%2Freviews%2Fpc-mac%2Fpc-components%2Fprocessors%2Famd-a10-5800k-1103125%2Fprice-comparison "><p><a href="http://www.techradar.com/us/reviews/pc-mac/pc-components/processors/amd-a10-5800k-1103125/price-comparison">See more AMD A10-5800K deals</a></p></div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Decent CPU performance</div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Some light gaming possible</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> Socket restrictions</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> Gaming performance is ultimately mediocre</div><p>This first choice is likely to be a bit controversial because it involved spending $120 (£70, about AU$160) on an APU (Accelerated Processing Unit) that is more than three years old and has been built on an older 32nm manufacturing process. That, combined with the fact that it has a relatively high TDP of 100W explains why its turbo boost speed only hits 4.2GHz, a less-than-stellar 10%, boost although you should be able to overclock it further if you swap the bundled HSF for something beefier. The A10-5800K integrates a Radeon HD 7660D GPU, pushing its core count to 12 and the boxed edition comes with a three-year warranty. Ultimately, the USP here is an all-in-one, overclockable chip for a good price.</p><p><strong>Read the full review: </strong><a href="http://www.techradar.com/us/reviews/pc-mac/pc-components/processors/amd-a10-5800k-1103125/review">AMD A10-5800K</a></p><p><img src="http://mos.futurenet.com/techradar/art/Buying%20guides/cpus/amd-fx-9590-420-90.jpg" alt="FX-9590" width="420"></img></p><h3>2. AMD FX-9590</h3><div class="subtitle _hawk"><p>Among AMD's best to offer</p></div><p><strong>Processor Cores:</strong> 8 | <strong>Thermal Design Power:</strong> 220W | <strong>Graphics Controller:</strong> None (requires discrete GPU) | <strong>Clock Speed:</strong> 4.7GHz | <strong>Processor Socket:</strong> AM3+ | <strong>L2 Cache:</strong> 4 x 2MB</p><div class="hawk-widget-insert _hawk widget_type:price model_names:AMD%20FX-9590 "><p>AMD FX-9590</p></div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Premium choice for AMD fans</div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Fast base clock speed</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> Old architecture</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> Rather high TDP</div><p>This is one of the best processors AMD has to offer to its consumer fans. This is a 2-year-old, Vishera-based product that has been etched on a 32nm technology – not even the 28nm one used by its own APU – and has a pretty high TDP. Why include the FX-9590 in this list? To quench the thirst of AMD loyalists, mostly. With a total of 16MB cache (there's 8MB L3 in there, too) and a speedy base clock speed of 4.7GHz (turbo boosted to 5.0GHz), it has proven to be a very, very difficult beast to cool. Check whether your motherboard and cooling system will support it before taking this powerful plunge. <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Amd-FD9590FHHKWOF-Fx-9590-8-core-Black/dp/B00DGGW3MI" rel="nofollow">Amazon sells it</a> for $220 (£130, about AU$295), a price that (judiciously for AMD at least) excludes the heatsink and the fan. Yeah.</p><p><img src="http://mos.futurenet.com/techradar/art/Buying%20guides/cpus/intel-i3-6100-420-100.jpg" alt="Intel i3-6100" width="420"></img></p><h3>3. Intel Core i3-6100</h3><div class="subtitle _hawk"><p>Heavy lifting on the cheap</p></div><p><strong>Processor Cores:</strong> 2 | <strong>Thermal Design Power:</strong> 65W | <strong>Graphics Controller:</strong> Intel HD Graphics 530 | <strong>Clock Speed:</strong> 3.7GHz | <strong>Processor Socket:</strong> LGA 1151 | <strong>L2 Cache:</strong> 2 x 256KB</p><div class="hawk-widget-insert _hawk widget_type:price model_names:Intel%20Core%20i3-6100 "><p>Intel Core i3-6100</p></div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Cheapest Skylake chip</div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Supports faster memory</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> Best paired with newer board</div><p>If you want to do some heavy lifting but don't want to blow your savings on a piece of silicon, then check out this chip. The Intel Core i3-6100 is the cheapest Core processor based on the new Skylake architecture, and you don't have to fork out a fortune for it. At less than $116 (£100, about $156) <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Intel-BX80662I36100-i3-6100-Cache-Processor/dp/B015VPX2EO" rel="nofollow">on Amazon</a>, it is a bargain. True, you'll want to pair it with a motherboard with a decent chipset (Z710) in order to run faster memory (2.66GHz), but that isn't necessary. It is not a K-model, and there are two SKUs, the 6100 (higher TDP and higher clock speed) and the 6100T (lower TDP, lower clock speeds) so make sure you choose the right one. Using a 14nm node, it reaches 3.7GHz with a 65W TDP; its dual-core/4-thread configuration should make for a decent gaming rig, and the 4K-capable Intel HD 530 GPU is clocked at 350MHz.</p><p><img src="http://mos.futurenet.com/techradar/art/Buying%20guides/cpus/amd-sempron-3850-420-90.jpg" alt="Sempron 3850" width="420"></img></p><h3>4. AMD Sempron 3850</h3><div class="subtitle _hawk"><p>Its most affordable quad-core chip</p></div><p><strong>Processor Cores:</strong> 4 | <strong>Thermal Design Power:</strong> 25W | <strong>Graphics Controller:</strong> AMD Radeon HD 8280 | <strong>Clock Speed:</strong> 1.3GHz | <strong>Processor Socket:</strong> AM1 | <strong>L2 Cache:</strong> 2MB</p><div class="hawk-widget-insert _hawk widget_type:price model_names:AMD%20Sempron%203850 "><p>AMD Sempron 3850</p></div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Great value</div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Ideal for lower-power systems</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> One memory channel</div><p>At the other end of the spectrum is the Sempron 3850, one of AMD's cheapest quad-core processors. It sports a Kabini core and is built on a 28nm process, which explains why its TDP only reaches 25W, almost one seventh of the FX-9590. Obviously, the fact that it runs at only 1.3GHz also helps a lot. Add in the fact that it comes with an integrated AMD Radeon HD 8280 GPU (basic, but decent) and you get something that's better than most Baytrail-based systems at least. The best part though has to be the price. At $30 (£25, about AU$40) <a href="https://www.amazon.com/AMD-Sempron-3850-1-3Ghz-AD3850JAHMBOX/dp/B00IOMFFUG/ref=sr_1_1?s=pc&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1465581882&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=AMD+Sempron+3850" rel="nofollow">via Amazon</a>, it is cheap especially, as it includes the heat sink and the fan; that means that you can envisage getting a motherboard bundle for under $60 (£50, about AU$80). A shame that it has only one memory channel, though. Note that the Athlon X2 340, a different beast altogether (a different socket and no GPU), is AMD's next cheapest processor, costing just over $45 (£20, about AU$60).</p><p><img src="http://mos.futurenet.com/techradar/art/Buying%20guides/cpus/intel-pentium-g3258-420-90.jpg" alt="pentium G3258" width="420"></img></p><h3>5. Intel Pentium G3258</h3><div class="subtitle _hawk"><p>A downright excellent overclocker</p></div><p><strong>Processor Cores:</strong> 2 | <strong>Thermal Design Power:</strong> 53W | <strong>Graphics Controller:</strong> Intel HD Graphics | <strong>Clock Speed:</strong> 3.2GHz | <strong>Processor Socket:</strong> LGA 1150 | <strong>L2 Cache:</strong> 2 x 256KB</p><div class="hawk-widget-insert _hawk widget_type:price model_names:Intel%20Pentium%20G3258 "><p>Intel Pentium G3258</p></div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Huge overclocking potential</div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Low TDP</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> May require new motherboard</div><p>There are cheaper Intel processors out there, of course, the Celeron G1840 being the cheapest we've sourced. However, the Pentium G3258 is probably the best option at the low end of the market for a good reason. It is an excellent overclocker; at just under $67 (£56, about AU$90) <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Intel-G3258-Pentium-Processor-BX80646G3258/dp/B00KPRWAZQ" rel="nofollow">through Amazon</a>, this Haswell chip sports 3MB of L2 cache, hits 3.2GHz on its dual-core, two-thread setup with a TDP of 53W. What makes it extra special though is that it has an unlocked multiplier, essentially Intel's way of saying thanks to the enthusiast community (The G3258 was launched to mark the 20th anniversary of the Pentium brand). Don't buy it if you only want to run it at 3.2GHz. Get a decent aftermarket heatsink fan, and you can almost certainly look to pushing it beyond 4.0GHz. Just make sure you pair it with a capable motherboard and don't push it too much (keep tabs on the temperature).</p><p><img src="http://mos.futurenet.com/techradar/art/Buying%20guides/cpus/intel-core-i7-6700k-420-90.jpg" alt="i7-6700k" width="420"></img></p><h3>6. Intel Core i7-6700K</h3><div class="subtitle _hawk"><p>This quad-core one's a bit different</p></div><p><strong>Processor Cores:</strong> 4 | <strong>Thermal Design Power:</strong> 91W | <strong>Graphics Controller:</strong> Intel HD Graphics 530 | <strong>Clock Speed:</strong> 4.0GHz | <strong>Processor Socket:</strong> LGA 1151 | <strong>L2 Cache:</strong> 4 x 256KB</p><div class="hawk-widget-insert _hawk widget_type:price model_names:Intel%20Core%20i7-6700K deals_link:http%3A%2F%2Fwww.techradar.com%2Fus%2Freviews%2Fpc-mac%2Fpc-components%2Fprocessors%2Fintel-core-i7-6700k-1301105%2Fprice-comparison "><p><a href="http://www.techradar.com/us/reviews/pc-mac/pc-components/processors/intel-core-i7-6700k-1301105/price-comparison">See more Intel Core i7-6700K deals</a></p></div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> 14nm goodness</div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Opens up overclocking</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> It's not a lot faster</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> Still just four cores</div><p>This is Skylake, Intel's sixth Core generation. The i7-6700K, which cost just under $345 (£290, about AU$463), is the company's most powerful Skylake model set to replace the Broadwell-based desktop processors in the short term. Here we've got a pretty powerful processor boasting four cores, eight threads, 8MB cache, a base clock speed of 4GHz, a turbo-boost of 4.2GHz and an Intel HD Graphics 530 subsystem inside. Overclocking is what may get some of us excited; this is a K-model, and one built on a 14nm process. Pair that with a decent 100-series chipset, an oversized HSF and a couple of overclocker-friendly DDR4 memory modules, and watch it fly. Although you'll want to watch out for that 91W TDP, 5.0GHz isn't an impossible goal with the 6700K.</p><p><strong>Read the full review: </strong><a href="http://www.techradar.com/us/reviews/pc-mac/pc-components/processors/intel-core-i7-6700k-1301105/review">Intel Core i7-6700K</a></p><p><img src="http://mos.futurenet.com/techradar/art/Buying%20guides/cpus/intel-core-i5-4670k-420-90.jpg" alt="i5-4690k" width="420"></img></p><h3>7. Intel Core i5-4690K</h3><div class="subtitle _hawk"><p>One of Intel's best-selling parts</p></div><p><strong>Processor Cores:</strong> 4 | <strong>Thermal Design Power:</strong> 88W | <strong>Graphics Controller:</strong> Intel HD Graphics 4600 | <strong>Clock Speed:</strong> 3.5GHz | <strong>Processor Socket:</strong> LGA 1150 | <strong>L2 Cache:</strong> 4 x 256KB</p><div class="hawk-widget-insert _hawk widget_type:price model_names:Intel%20Core%20i5-4690K "><p>Intel Core i5-4690K</p></div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Approachable price</div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Easy to overclock</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> No hyper-threading</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> Fairly high TDP</div><p>There is a good reason why the Intel Core i5-4690K is the best-selling processor on Amazon. This Devil's Canyon part is one of the most, if not the most affordable K-series processor from Intel's Core range at $239 (£182, about AU$321) and as such can overclock fairly easily with modest efforts. It has a base frequency of 3.5GHz with many users reporting being able to hit 25% increase in speed using a decent aftermarket HSF. The 4690K doesn't come with hyper-threading, but for the price, that wasn't expected. The processor has 6MB of L2 cache, is built using a 22nm process, has an 88W TDP and integrates an Intel HD Graphics 4600 GPU.</p><p><img src="http://mos.futurenet.com/techradar/art/Buying%20guides/cpus/amd-fx-8320e-420-90.jpg" alt="FX-8320E" width="420"></img></p><h3>8. AMD FX-8320E</h3><div class="subtitle _hawk"><p>One of the cheapest octa-core chips around</p></div><p><strong>Processor Cores:</strong> 8 | <strong>Thermal Design Power:</strong> 95W | <strong>Graphics Controller:</strong> None | <strong>Clock Speed:</strong> 3.2GHz | <strong>Processor Socket:</strong> AM3+ | <strong>L2 Cache:</strong> 4 x 2MB</p><div class="hawk-widget-insert _hawk widget_type:price model_names:AMD%20FX-8320E "><p>AMD FX-8320E</p></div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Great price</div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Pretty high TDP</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> Easily ousted by Core i3</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> Old, 32nm process</div><p>Meet the AMD FX-8320E; this is one of the cheapest octa-core processors on the market and costs a smidgen under $110 (£108, about AU$148) on Amazon. It is built on a mature 32nm node, which explains why it has a high TDP (95W). Then again, it's not that high given that it is clocked at 3.2GHz with a boosted speed of 4.0GHz. But don't get your hopes too high, though; on most tasks, it will be outperformed even by a modest Haswell Core i3, but will truly shine when you throw multi-threaded jobs (encryption, encoding etc) at it, where it can beat even the more expensive Core i5 parts. What's more, many users have been able to overclock the chip easily using a non-stock heatsink fan, some up to 4.8GHz.</p><p><img src="http://mos.futurenet.com/techradar/art/Buying%20guides/cpus/intel-core-i7-5820k-420-90.jpg" alt="i7-5820k" width="420"></img></p><h3>9. Intel Core i7-5820K</h3><div class="subtitle _hawk"><p>Six cores pack with power</p></div><p><strong>Processor Cores:</strong> 6 | <strong>Thermal Design Power:</strong> 140W | <strong>Graphics Controller:</strong> None | <strong>Clock Speed:</strong> 3.3GHz | <strong>Processor Socket:</strong> LGA 2011-v3 | <strong>L2 Cache:</strong> 6 x 256KB</p><div class="hawk-widget-insert _hawk widget_type:price model_names:Intel%20Core%20i7-5820K "><p>Intel Core i7-5820K</p></div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Big L2 cache</div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> OK price given performance</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> Requires high-performance socket</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> Very high TDP</div><p>With AMD ceding a bit of the limelight the past few years, Intel has gone back to releasing products that require a new socket on a quasi-yearly basis; great for sales, not great for customers. The Core i7-5820K, a Broadwell component, is no exception – it uses yet another socket aimed at the high-performance and server market. What makes this little processor worth listing here is that even though it has all six cores intact, it isn't priced outrageously. At $389 (around £313, AU$507), it's really not a bad deal. Add in 15MB of cache, 12 threads and 28 PCI Express lanes, and you get a compelling compute solution. Shame about the TDP, a whopping 140W for a part that's clocked at 3.3GHz.</p><p><img src="http://mos.futurenet.com/techradar/art/Buying%20guides/cpus/amd-a10-7850k-420-90.jpg" alt="A10-7870k" width="420"></img></p><h3>10. AMD A10-7870K</h3><p><strong>Processor Cores:</strong> 4 | <strong>Thermal Design Power:</strong> 95W | <strong>Graphics Controller:</strong> AMD Radeon R7 | <strong>Clock Speed:</strong> 3.9GHz | <strong>Processor Socket:</strong> FM2+ | <strong>L2 Cache:</strong> 2 x 2MB</p><div class="hawk-widget-insert _hawk widget_type:price model_names:AMD%20A10-7870K "><p>AMD A10-7870K</p></div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> A top-performing APU</div><div class="icon icon-plus_circle _hawk"> Excellently priced</div><div class="icon icon-minus_circle _hawk"> Small L2 cache</div><p>AMD bet the company's future on APU, which combines the traditional processor (CPU) with the graphics processing unit (GPU). The Accelerated Processing Unit was born with promise of better integrated graphics. The A10-7870K is currently AMD's top performing APU for desktops, and comes with a rather affordable $140 (£107, about AU$188) <a href="https://www.amazon.com/AMD-7870K-Radeon-Graphics-AD787KXDJCSBX/dp/B01CO2JDLI" rel="nofollow">Amazon price tag</a>. It is built on a 28nm process, clocked at 3.9GHz, has four CPU cores and eight graphics cores, and manages to keep the power dissipation south of 100W. Just make sure you use two memory modules (highest clock speed possible) to pair with the APU. AMD says it was designed to run most mainstream games at 30FPS at 1080p, so should make thrifty/cash-strapped gamers happy.</p><p><strong>Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article</strong></p><img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/techradar/allnews/~4/G-WeDtAE55o" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>

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