Desktop Processor Buyer's Guide

Matching the Processor for Your Desktop PC to Your Needs and Budget

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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 rating. Clock rates may be posted but this isn't a good indicator of performance anymore as different product models don't necessarily have the same performance at the same clock speed. 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 with a similar clock speed. 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 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 buyers investigate how fast they really need their PCs to be.

Outdated Processors

Processors that fall into this category are generally no longer in production by the manufacturers and are typically sold in either extreme budget systems or older refurbished systems. Machines with these processors will typically take longer to run an application and possibly might not even run some of the 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.

  • AMD A4-3000, 4000 and 5000 Series
  • AMD A6-3000, 4000 and 5000 Series
  • AMD A8-3000 and 5000 Series
  • AMD A10-5000 and 6000 Series
  • 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 Sempron LE
  • Intel Core 2 Duo
  • Intel Core 2 Quad
  • Intel Core i-xxx (First Generation)
  • Intel Core i-2xxx (Second Generation)
  • Intel Core i-3xxx (Third Generation)
  • Intel Core i-4xxx (Fourth Generation)
  • Intel Core i-5xxx (Select 5th Generation Processors)
  • 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
  • Intel Pentium G840 and Higher
  • Intel Pentium G900 and Higher
  • Intel Pentium G2010 and Higher
  • Intel Pentium G3000 Series

Budget Processors

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, the architecture of the processor tends to allow them to actually perform better at most computing tasks than newer budget processors. These types of processors will often be found in desktop PCs around $400 or so.

  • AMD A6-7400K and Higher
  • AMD A8-7600
  • AMD FX-6100 and Higher
  • AMD Athlon X4 845 and Higher
  • Intel Core i3-6300 and Higher
  • Intel Pentium G4400 and Higher

Middle Processors

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. These are typically found in desktops priced between $700 and $1000.

  • AMD A8-7650K and Higher
  • AMD A10-7860K and Higher
  • AMD FX-8320 and Higher
  • AMD FX-9370
  • Intel Core i5-6400 and Higher
  • Intel Core i7-6700 and Higher

Top of the Line Processors

If you absolutely must have the best thing out there for your new computer then this is what you want to look at. It will cost you, though. Generally, the most recent processors from the manufacturers 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. Often you will see these in desktops priced well over $1000.

  • AMD FX-9370 and Higher
  • Intel Core i7-5820K and Higher
  • Intel Core i7-6700K and Higher