The first specification listed for all computer systems on the market tends to be the processor that is the heart of the computer. Typically it will say the brand, model and speed of the processor in the spec sheet, but the marketing information may only list its speed rating. This can make it very difficult to determine how good a machine is. After all, one processor running at a specific speed may not run as well as a different model from the same manufacturer. That is why I have pieced together this list of categories to let you know how functional each processor is.
Before listing the various processor and categories, I wanted to point out that for many people and their typical usage, they don't really need a very fast processor. This has to do with the processors offering much more performance than the current software out there can take advantage of. There are still a few computing tasks that consumers might do that merit a higher end processor but I recommend that buyer's read my How Fast A PC Do I Really Need? article to get a good idea of what they might want to look for.
Processors that fall into this category are generally no longer in production by the manufacturers and are typically sold in either budget systems or older refurbished systems. Machines with these processors will typically take longer to run application and possibly might not even run some of software on the market today. It is best to try and avoid systems with these processors unless you want to use a computer for the very basic functions such as word processing and general web browsing.
- AMD Athlon 64 (Non-Dual Core/X2 Models)
- AMD Athlon 64 X2 (Older Socket A Models/DDR Memory RAM Models)
- AMD Athlon XP
- AMD Athlon X2, X3 and X4 Series
- AMD Athlon II
- AMD Phenom
- AMD Phenim II
- AMD Sempron LE
- Intel Core 2 Duo
- Intel Core 2 Quad
- Intel Core i-xxx (First Generation)
- Intel Celeron
- Intel Celeron Dual-Core
- Intel Pentium 4
- Intel Pentium D
- Intel Pentium Dual-Core E Series
- Intel Pentium G6950
- Intel Pentium G620 and Higher
These are processors that may or may not be in production anymore by the manufacturers but are very inexpensive and functional. There are typically two types of processors that will fall into this category: older high-end processors no longer manufactured and new low end budget processors. Discontinued high-end processors typically provide a better bang for your buck functionally. While they may have a slightly lower clock speed, their architecture of the processor tends to allow them to actually perform better at most computing tasks than newer budget processors.
- AMD A4-3300 and Higher
- AMD A6-3500 and Higher
- AMD A8-3850 and Higher
- AMD FX-4100 and Higher
- Intel Core i3-2100 and Higher
- Intel Core i5-2300 and Higher
- Intel Pentium G840 and Higher
This is the segment of the market that is probably the best overall value for your computing dollar. While they are not the fastest processors on the market, they still perform very well in all aspects of computing. They may not have the total functional lifespan of the highest end processors, but the price to performance ratio tends to outweigh their longevity.
- AMD A6-5400K and Higher
- AMD A8-5500 and Higher
- AMD A10-5700 and Higher
- AMD FX-6100 and Higher
- AMD FX-8100 and Higher
- Intel Core i3-3110 and Higher
- Intel Core i5-3450 and Higher
- Intel Core i7-2600 and Higher
- Intel Core i7-3770 and Higher
Top of the Line Processors
This is the cream of the crop when it comes to processing power. If you absolutely must have the best thing out there for your new computer than this is what you want to look at. It will cost you though. Generally the most recent processors from the manufacturer's come at a price premium of about double that of the middle processors. While the price is over double that of the middle processors, the performance tends to be only about 25-50% more at the best of times from their counterparts in the middle category.
- AMD FX-8150 and Higher
- Intel Core i7-3930K and Higher
- Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme
- Intel Core i7-3770 and Higher