Top Budget & Mainstream CPUs: $80 - $220

By on May 5, 2011, 6:07 AM

Choosing a CPU platform is usually the first thing you do when building your own computer. If you've been following our reviews and always-fresh desktop PC buying guide you probably already have a good idea of the current landscape: Intel introduced their Sandy Bridge processors at the beginning of the year, bringing unparalleled performance and improved power consumption, while AMD has little to compete with above the $125 mark -- though that might change soon.

Although we always try to keep you up to speed by reviewing the latest CPU releases as these take place, we've compiled a handy list of what we consider the best processor options right now at several price points between $80 and $225. Items are listed from least to most expensive and therefore, also by performance. For reference, we've also placed each product next to its closest competitor or best alternative if you are looking for a drop-in upgrade.

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User Comments: 12

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Cueto_99 said:

Glad to see my Phenom II X4 955 is still in the list... after all, for everyday computing, and games its as fast as I need... anyways I hope Bulldozer shows some muscle so I can upgrade

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Cueto_99 said:

Glad to see my Phenom II X4 955 is still in the list... after all, for everyday computing, and games its as fast as I need... anyways I hope Bulldozer shows some muscle so I can upgrade

+1

Guest said:

of course this doesnt take into account the fact that with AMD I can keep my AM3 motherboard, while on intel I have to spend another 200$ every time Intel wants me to.

if you look into competitiveness CPU you also have to look at what that means in terms of the whole system

BMfan BMfan said:

I saw the title and was expecting to just see intels recommended,so i'm glad to see at least two AMD cpu's.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Cueto_99 said:

Glad to see my Phenom II X4 955 is still in the list... after all, for everyday computing, and games its as fast as I need... anyways I hope Bulldozer shows some muscle so I can upgrade

Its a great chip. I have a X2, unlocked the 3rd core, and its perfect for my secondary computer.

sMILEY4ever said:

Guest said:

of course this doesnt take into account the fact that with AMD I can keep my AM3 motherboard, while on intel I have to spend another 200$ every time Intel wants me to.

if you look into competitiveness CPU you also have to look at what that means in terms of the whole system

[link]

Not 200$, 60$.

Guest said:

Thanks for the overview,

I would have liked a view more words on motherboards, though. Of course, if you already own one, the choice becomes easier, but if not? Afaik, motherboards for AMD processors are cheaper (but by how much), which would give them an edge. i.e.: You can compare an AMD processore to the intel counterpart that costs less by as much as the motherboard prices differ.

The nicest thing in processor comparison terms, though, would be a graph with benchmark result on the x axis and price on the y axis. Pick a benchmark (whatever you plan to do with your computer) and see in which range which processor will be better/cheaper. Including motherboard prices might be a problem because not everyone will buy the same motherboard, and there are big differencees, too. But just including the average difference would probably make things a lot fairer.

A agree, though, that taking the (probably) easier upgrade path with AMD as a criterion is difficult. Because it does not always work as hoped, and not everyone plans on upgrading their PC.

Guest said:

Just looked up the average motherboard price difference (in Europe, at a large mail order site).

AM3 boards start at 37 Euros, LGA1155 ones at 48, so roughly 10 Euros (that's 14 or so Dollars) difference.

Now, if we don't want the cheapest? I just scrolled down half way in each list and noted the difference: 30 Euros (~44 Dollars)! At the very high end? Alright, those are serious server boards, they probably don't count here: 250 vs 340, but again, that probably just reflects the fact that there are more intel servers out there than AMD based ones.

OK, what else can I compare prices on? Cheapest board with USB 3.0? Both around 60Euros, but the AMD one also has integrated graphics, the Intel one hasn't. So that comparison doesn't work so well, although it'd still give the AM3 board an advantage.

It's hard to determine objectively but AM3 boards do have a price advantage of about 15 Dollars at base configuration, more if you want a more fully-featured board.

arkantos said:

its good to see that my preferred Phenom x4 945 is on the list, i choosed this one because its only 95watts being power conscious it still performs well with the proper combination of ram and motherboard with OS tweaking.

fpsgamerJR62 said:

I'm glad that my 955BE still gets a mention in the list. Seriously hoping that AMD gets back into the game with Bulldozer this coming June.

KBerger said:

Very interesting comparison.

It would be also interesting to have some remarks about Intel CPU's graphical core's usefulness. With P67 you have overclocking, ok; now with H67, the reviews say, one can use that CPU's graphical core as on-board graphics and even rival some generic PCI-E discrete cards.

Just how good is it? Given that I don't play games and don't need any "extreme" GPU performance? Given that I'd be well off with a "generic" discrete card? Is that graphical core so worthless, that it didn't find its place in this comparison? Some reviews called it a "(possible) graphics card killer" or something similar; how does it show itself in real life, I wonder?

After all, not everyone is interested in gaming; yet everyone is interested in effective use of hardware at lower prices. So is this Intel's graphics stuff worth mentioning?

penn919 said:

Great thanks!

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