The processor market was active this month. First, Intel launched its Haswell architecture. Then, AMD introduced the Richland-based APUs. Finally, it surprised us by making the Athlon X4 750K available in North America and dropping the FX-8350's price.
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.
Known officially as Intel's forth-generation Core architecture, Haswell is the recently-introduced replacement for Ivy Bridge. So far, there are only Core i5 and i7 Haswell-based processors available on the desktop, though.
|Cores / Threads||Base Freq.||Max. Turbo||L3||HD Graphics||Graphics Max Freq.||TDP||Newegg Price|
|Fourth-Gen Core i7 Family|
|4770T||4/8||2.5 GHz||3.7 GHz||8 MB||4600||1200 MHz||45 W||N/A|
|4770S||4/8||3.1 GHz||3.9 GHz||8 MB||4600||1200 MHz||65 W||$310|
|4770||4/8||3.4 GHz||3.9 GHz||8 MB||4600||1200 MHz||84 W||$320|
|4770K||4/8||3.5 GHz||3.9 GHz||8 MB||4600||1250 MHz||84 W||$350|
|4770R||4/8||3.2 GHz||3.9 GHz||6 MB||Iris Pro 5200||1300 MHz||65 W||N/A|
|4765T||4/8||2.0 GHz||3.0 GHz||8 MB||4600||1200 MHz||35 W||N/A|
|Fourth-Gen Core i5 Family|
|4670T||4/4||2.3 GHz||3.3 GHz||6 MB||4600||1200 MHz||45 W||N/A|
|4670S||4/4||3.1 GHz||3.8 GHz||6 MB||4600||1200 MHz||65 W||N/A|
|4670K||4/4||3.4 GHz||3.8 GHz||6 MB||4600||1200 MHz||84 W||$250|
|4670||4/4||3.4 GHz||3.8 GHz||6 MB||4600||1200 MHz||84 W||$230|
|4570||4/4||3.2 GHz||3.6 GHz||6 MB||4600||1150 MHz||84 W||$210|
|4570S||4/4||2.9 GHz||3.6 GHz||6 MB||4600||1150 MHz||65 W||$200|
|4430||4/4||3.0 GHz||3.2 GHz||6 MB||4600||1150 MHz||84 W||$190|
Haswell slightly improves IPC compared to Ivy Bridge, though it does this at a higher thermal envelope. If you haven't yet read through The Core i7-4770K Review: Haswell Is Faster; Desktop Enthusiasts Yawn, then you might want to check it out. In his launch coverage, Chris Angelini reveals that the flagship Core i7-4770K isn't any more efficient through our benchmark suite than the -3770K it replaces.
The HD Graphics 4600 component found in the desktop chips is quite a bit faster than Ivy Bridge's HD Graphics 4000, but still not fast enough to overcome AMD's much cheaper Socket FM2-based APUs. The Iris Pro-based models are purportedly going to be faster still, but that won't help desktop gamers at all, since Intel isn't planning to give enthusiasts access to that part. For now, discrete graphics is still the way to go for gaming, and nothing we've seen yet suggests that any of the new Haswell-derived models are better values than the Ivy Bridge-based CPUs with which we're already familiar.
Intel's processor pricing remains fairly stable in the face of Haswell. The Core i7-3770K is $10 cheaper, likely to make room for the Core i7-4770K. Core i3-2120 and -3225 are down $5 each, too.
As Intel updates its CPUs, AMD launched a handful of desktop-oriented APUs based closely on the Trinity design. Richland-based parts were already floating around in the mobile space, but now they're available in more potent form in the following configurations:
|Model||Radeon||TDP||CPU Cores||Base/Max CPU Clock||Total Cache||Radeon Cores||GPU Clock||Unlock||Newegg Price|
|A10-6800K||HD 8670D||100 W||4||4.1/4.4 GHz||4 MB||384||844 MHz||Yes||$150|
|A10-6700||HD 8670D||65 W||4||3.7/4.3 GHz||4 MB||384||844 MHz||No||$149|
|A8-6600K||HD 8570D||100 W||4||3.9/4.2 GHz||4 MB||256||844 MHz||Yes||$120|
|A8-6500||HD 8570D||65 W||4||3.5/4.1 GHz||4 MB||256||800 MHz||No||$119|
|A6-6400K||HD 8470D||65 W||2||3.9/4.1 GHz||1 MB||192||800 MHz||Yes||$80|
|A4-4000||HD 7480D||65 W||2||3.0/3.2||1 MB||128||724 MHz||No||$46|
Richland is a very small step up from Trinity, as mentioned. It features power optimizations and, in some cases, clock rate increases. Perhaps the biggest change is 2133 MT/s memory support on the A10-6800K. Blessed with fast memory, the APU is able to slightly outperform AMD's discrete Radeon HD 6670 with DDR3.
From a desktop gaming angle, however, that's a bottom-rung gaming card, so Richland doesn't end up having any impact on our recommendations this month. A dedicated CPU plus a discrete card is still a better way to enable an enjoyable experience. You can read more about the desktop-oriented Richland parts in AMD A10-6700 And A10-6800K Review: Richland Hits The Desktop.
AMD's story takes a turn for the better with a late and welcome arrival, though: the Trinity-derived Athlon X4 750K is finally available on Newegg for $85. This is an interesting product for two reasons. First, it's pretty cheap. And second, it has an unlocked multiplier. Although the Socket FM2 platform doesn't have much of a future, enthusiasts on a limited budget might find this thing interesting for its overclocking potential. The Athlon X4 740 is also available now for $80. But with its locked ratio, we aren't interested in it.
In addition, AMD's prices are down quite a bit. The FX-8320 dropped from $185 to $160, improving its standing among enthusiasts eager to run highly threaded apps and enjoy capable gaming performance. The decision was a tough one, but we're choosing to keep this processor off of our recommended list because, looking just at frame rates, it still performs on par with Intel's cheaper Core i3-3220 and uses a lot more power. Even still, if your needs extend beyond gaming into content creation- and productivity-oriented apps, you should still be considering this eight-core chip.
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.