The month of November sees AMD introduce an A10-6790K APU and Intel debut the Core i5-3340S and Core i5-4440S processors. We also learn a lot about AMD's future roadmap from the APU Developer Summit '13, and share some tidbits about upcoming products.
If you don’t have the time to research benchmarks, or if you don’t feel confident enough in your ability to pick the right processor for your next gaming machine, fear not. We at Tom’s Hardware have come to your aid with a simple list of the best gaming CPUs offered for the money.
November sees three new processors introduced to the Tom's Hardware audience: one APU from AMD and two low-power CPUs from Intel.
The A10-6790K is pretty much an A10-6800K with its base and maximum Turbo Core frequencies lowered 100 MHz to 4.0 and 4.3 GHz, respectively. Otherwise, there's no difference between the two Richland-based processors except a $10 price spread. The newer model is cheaper at $130. That's not bad for an APU with an unlocked ratio multiplier, but at this point we'd rather wait for the upcoming Kaveri generation with AMD's Steamroller x86 design and graphics engine leveraging GCN.
From the Intel camp we have two new 65 W processors for $200: the Haswell-based Core i5-4440S (with its 2.8 GHz base and 3.3 GHz peak Turbo Boost frequencies, along with HD Graphics 4600) and the Ivy Bridge-based Core i5-3340S (also operating at 2.8 and up to 3.3 GHz, but with HD Graphics 2500). Intel already has a number of 65 W CPUs at similar price points for both LGA 1150 and 1155, so it's difficult to understand why it's adding more to this category.
What about price adjustments on existing processors? Intel has nothing newsworthy to talk about. However, some of AMD's price points are different. The FX-4130, -4350, -8120, and A10-6800K all dropped $10 to $100, $120, $140, and $140, respectively. While it's great to see downward pressure on the company's products, only the $100 FX-4130 earns our recommendation for its low price point. In addition, the FX-9370 is down $40 to $250, though you're left without a cooling solution. Rated at 220 W, budget for a liquid cooler able to cope with that CPU's unique thermal requirements. Conversely, the FX-9590 flagship is actually up $20 to $370. Again, that's without a cooling solution, similar to how Intel sells its LGA 2011-based Core i7 products.
From AMD's APU13
We learned a lot about AMD's plans from the company's APU Developer Summit '13. The three mobile processor designs to expect in 2014 are: Mullins (with two to four Puma-based cores, a GCN-based engine, a security-oriented co-processor, and a roughly 2 W thermal design limit), Beema (also two to four Puma-based cores, a GCN-based engine, a security-oriented co-processor, and a 10-25 W thermal design), and of course Kaveri (two to four Steamroller-based cores, a GCN-based engine, more HSA functionality, TrueAudio support, and a 15-35 W ceiling).
Mainstream gamers are going to be most interested in the desktop version of Kaveri, which will employ as many as 512 shaders. That number puts the APU on par with AMD's Radeon HD 7750, which a quick little discrete board operating at 800 MHz. Although Kaveri-based processors won't be able to benefit from GDDR5 memory, we'll be curious to see what the on-die graphics engine can do with DDR3 instead. More pressing, will it best Intel's Iris Pro 5200 solution, which is currently only really available in the mobile space?
Mullins and Beema are low-power processors also armed with GCN-based Compute Units. Surely AMD is counting on them to facilitate entry-level gaming in Windows 8.1-based tablets, but time will tell if these designs enjoy any more success than the company's efforts up until now. We hear that AMD will have some interesting form factor demonstrations at CES this coming January, so we'll keep you posted.
In other news, the Athlon II and Phenom II processors are gone from our favorite online shopping sites. We've seen certain models disappear temporarily before, but we also wouldn't be surprised if those old warhorses were put to pasture for good. If so, that's the end of an era...
Some Notes About Our Recommendations
This list is for gamers who want to get the most for their money. If you don’t play games, then the CPUs on this list may not be suitable for your particular needs.
The criteria to get on this list are strictly price/performance. We acknowledge that there are other factors that come into play, such as platform price or CPU overclockability, but we're not going to complicate things by factoring in motherboard costs. We may add honorable mentions for outstanding products in the future, though. For now, our recommendations are based on stock clock speeds and performance at that price. Remember to check out our new performance per dollar comparison page, where you can overlay the benchmark data we’ve generated with pricing, giving you a better idea where your ideal choice falls on the value curve.
Cost and availability change on a daily basis. We can’t offer up-to-the-minute accurate pricing information in the text, but we can list some good chips that you probably won’t regret buying at the price ranges we suggest (and our PriceGrabber-based engine will help track down some of the best prices for you).
The list is based on some of the best US prices from online retailers. In other countries or at retail stores, your mileage will most certainly vary. Of course, these are retail CPU prices. We do not list used or OEM CPUs available at retail.