Mar 28 2013 - There are a large number of desktop processors available and this list was generated to point out the three major categories of processors for both the Intel and AMD product lines. The three categories listed are the top performance processors, best value processors (<$250) and best budget processors (<$100). This allows users to select the CPUs best suited to their budgets. If you are looking at purchasing a fully built desktop computer or building one yourself, check out which processors you should be looking to fit your price range.
While AMD may be focused heavily upon their APU lineup, their highest performance chips are still designed without a graphics core. The AMD FX-8350 is their most recent model that features an octo-core or eight core processor design with a clock speed of 4.0GHz providing it with some outstanding speed. It may not provide the same level of floating point performance as Intel but it is decided much more affordable with pricing around $200 compared to Intel's offerings being well over $500. Like all the FX series processors, it is fully clock unlocked which means that those willing to push it further can do so via overclocking. Since the design is very different from the APUs, it does use the Socket AM3+ design when looking for compatible motherboards.
Technically, the Intel Core i7-3970X is the fastest processor from Intel for a desktop PC, but the $1100 price tag compared to the i7-3930K at $600 for just 300MHz speed difference just doesn't make sense. Both of these chips use the new Socket X79 platform that is Intel's latest performance chipset. This gives some tangible benefits to the new Sandy Bridge-E processor with the inclusion of quad channel memory for some incredible memory bandwidth. The i7-3930K also features a hexa or six core design unlike the more common quad core designs of the traditional Ivy Bridge processors. This helps it achieve better performance for those with extremely demanding computing needs. Unlike other Intel chips, there is no integrated graphics built into the chip requiring a dedicated graphics card. It should also be noted that this processor runs quite hot and does not come with a supplied cooling solution. It is advised to use a high performance option to ensure a properly running system.
The AMD A10-5800K is the most recent of AMD's APU to come to the market and it is extremely affordable. In fact, it costs around $130 make it extremely affordable. It is a quad core processor that offers some good performance but it still trails compared to the more expensive Intel Core i5 processor but it does well enough for the majority of tasks. The new Trinity based core also has the advantage of coming with a Direct X 11 compatible Radoen HD 7660D graphics processor built in which trounces Intel's HD graphics when it comes to 3D. It is still not quite up to series gaming levels but sufficient for the casual PC gamer. It uses the Socket FM2 design when searching for motherboard compatibility.
The much anticipated Ivy Bridge have been around for a while now and the pricing on them is starting to come down. The i5-3570K is clocked just slightly faster at 3.4 GHz than the past Sandy Bridge 2500K and the same as the 2550K but does this while consuming less power. It still uses four cores and the same LGA 1155 packaging meaning that it can work in most older boards if the BIOS has been updated. Hyper threading is still missing from the Core i5 parts but in many cases, consumers won't notice much difference. The big change here is the new Intel HD Graphics 4000 engine that adds improved 3D performance but still not quite to the level of dedicated graphics or AMDs integrated graphics. What it does offer is a huge boost to media encoding with Quick Sync
enabled applications. Since this is a K version, it can be used for overclocking as well although it doesn't appear that Ivy Bridge has as much head room as the past Sandy Bridge models it replaced.
Previously my choice for the value processor, the AMD A8-3870K has dropped down to $100 making it an excellent choice for those on a budget. The processor features four physical cores which you won't find on any of the Intel processors in this price range which makes it better suited for those that will multitask frequently. In addition, it features an AMD Radeom HD 6550D graphics core integrated onto the processor that can actually be capable of 3D performance for casual PC gaming at lower resolution and detail levels. In addition to this, it allows a greater range of acceleration for non-3D applications than Intel HD Graphics. It is even clock unlocked which allows for overclocking which is also not found in Intel processors in this price range. The processor uses a Socket FM1 design when looking for motherboard compatibility.
Intel's Ivy Bridge processor designs are now finally trickling down to the budget categories with their improved graphics core and efficiencies. The Pentium G2130 is a dual core design that runs at the same 3.2GHz speed as the Core i3-3210 but lacks the extra bit of performance from Hyper-Threading. This means that it offers solid enough performance for the average user that won't be doing demanding tasks but saving roughly $30 off the price over the Core i3. It uses the same Socket 1155 design that is used for the majority of Intel's current generation of processors.