Later this week we’ll finally be able to publish our benchmarks for Intel’s new 8-core CPUs like the 9900K. In the meantime, it might be a good idea to check out how CPU pricing has changed over the last few months, see what products are the best value right now, and whether we’ll continue to see changes throughout the rest of the year.

We haven’t had a good reason to talk in-depth about CPU prices yet, we’ve done it for GPUs with fluctuating prices that were all over the place, but for a long time CPU prices have stayed fairly consistent. Intel and AMD would launch their new products at a certain MSRP, and then over time prices would drop slightly until the next generation was ready to launch.

However this isn’t what’s happening right now, at least on Intel’s side. You’ve probably heard about Intel’s struggles with 10nm manufacturing, which resulted in delays and shortages with current 14nm products. Just recently Intel spoke about how they’re investing money to increase 14nm capacity and until that capacity spins up, the company is prioritizing high-end, high margin products over some of the lower-end products. Budget chipsets in particular are rumored to have made way for other chips.

So with Intel struggling for capacity, we’re in a position where Intel cannot supply the amount of processors the market demands. This unbalance causes prices to go up. To what extent, we’ll explore in a moment. Meanwhile on AMD's front, everything seems to be going smoothly as far as most CPUs are concerned.

We’ll start with Intel pricing, in this chart we have Intel’s most popular CPUs ranging from the Core i7-8700K through to the Core i3-8100 and Pentium Gold G5400. We also have pricing data for these products’ launch MSRP, July retail price at Newegg, and current pricing as of October 15. For current prices, we’ve taken the lowest price for in-stock products across a range of retailers, including Amazon, Newegg and several others.

  Launch MSRP July 2018 Pricing Current (October 2018) Pricing
Core i7-8700K $ 380 $ 350 $ 376
Core i7-8700 $ 315 $ 305 $ 330
Core i5-8600K $ 260 $ 250 $ 260
Core i5-8400 $ 190 $ 180 $ 220
Core i3-8350K $ 180 $ 170 $ 170
Core i3-8100 $ 120 $ 120 $ 130
Pentium Gold G5400 $ 75 $ 75 $ 110
Ryzen 7 2700X $ 330 $ 320 $ 295
Ryzen 7 2700 $ 300 $ 295 $ 265
Ryzen 5 2600X $ 230 $ 220 $ 210
Ryzen 5 2600 $ 200 $ 190 $ 160
Ryzen 5 2400G $ 170 $ 160 $ 160
Ryzen 3 2200G $ 100 $ 100 $ 100
Athlon 200GE $ 55 N/A $ 60

Three products in this chart are much harder to find than the rest. The Core i5-8400 and to a lesser extent the Core i3-8100, are out of stock at reasonable prices in many places. The Pentium Gold G5400 is available but still appears to be teetering on the border of stock issues.

As for pricing, back in July everything was looking pretty normal, and all products were in stock. Intel’s mid-range and budget chips were usually available at the MSRP or slightly below, it was typical to find a $10 discount on chips like the 8600K and 8400. And the Core i7-8700K was the most heavily discounted, selling for $30 under the MSRP at an attractive $350.

But since July, prices have gone up for nearly every product in this line-up, the one exception being the Core i3-8350K, which isn’t a surprise considering that CPU is pretty poor value as is. Some price hikes have been fairly small, the Core i5-8600K and Core i3-8100 have only risen by $10, and in the case of the 8600K this only brings it back to an MSRP level.

The Core i7-8700K has risen from $350 to $376 on Amazon, which puts it back up around the launch price. That’s not terrible, it’s still slightly below the MSRP, but it has completely reversed the downward trend in pricing up to July.

One of the larger hits is to the Core i5-8400 which is well known to be the best value product in Intel’s 8th-gen desktop line-up.

One of the larger hits, though, is to the Core i5-8400 which is well known to be the best value product in Intel’s 8th-gen desktop line-up. Three months ago, 8400s were in plentiful stock at around $10 lower than its $190 launch price. Today, 8400s are out of stock at many retailers, with the cheapest in-stock CPU going for $220. That’s a 22% increase on July pricing and 16% on the MSRP. And then there’s the G5400, which used to sell for $75 and now can’t be found for less than $110, a massive 47% increase that really hurts the value of this budget chip.

Over on the AMD front, it’s a completely different story. Not a single Ryzen CPU is selling for above the MSRP at the moment, in fact the only chip that remains at the MSRP is the Ryzen 3 2200G, every other SKU has fallen in price. The recently-released Athlon 200GE is the only real concern here, it’s currently out of stock at most retailers, and before it went out of stock, it was selling for about $5 above its $55 MSRP.

The pricing trend for AMD CPUs is clear: in July, you were able to get a decent discount for most products, and today that discount is even larger. The Ryzen 5 2600X, Ryzen 7 2700 and Ryzen 7 2700X are between 9 and 12 percent cheaper than their MSRPs, while the Ryzen 5 2600 has seen a significant 20 percent price drop. Unlike on the Intel side with the Core i5-8400, AMD is very aggressively pricing their best value CPU at the moment, the 2600 with a price tag of just $160. Prices for 8-core Ryzen CPUs are very good as well, the 2700 is currently available for around the same price as Intel’s 6-core, 6 thread Core i5-8600K.

Unlike on the Intel side with the Core i5-8400, AMD is very aggressively pricing their best value CPU at the moment, the 2600 with a price tag of just $160.

So this is a very different market situation to when these products launched. Even flicking back to the launch of 2nd-gen Ryzen, we had slightly cheaper Intel CPUs and full price Ryzen CPUs, whereas today the value proposition has swung much more towards AMD’s favor. But how much in AMD’s favor? Well let’s take a look at some performance and value graphs to see where everything falls.

Here we have data for Blender running on Intel and AMD’s higher-end processors. This is data taken directly from our original Ryzen 5 2600 review. You’ll see a mix of both stock and overclocked results here, and just quickly, for the overclocks we had the 8700K and 8600K at 5.2 GHz all core, while the 2700X and 2600 were at 4.2 GHz, and the 2600X at 4.1 GHz. But you can check back to our full review if you’re interested in a performance breakdown.

Anyway in Blender we had the stock 2700X beating the 8700K, though Intel claws back the lead when overclocked. Meanwhile the 2600 and 2600X smoke the Core i5-8400. With these results it’s no surprise to see AMD take a resounding win with today’s CPU prices: their entire line-up of Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 CPUs are better value than Intel’s competing options, even the 2700X is better value than the Core i5-8400, Intel’s value champion, and even a 5.2 GHz overclock for the 8600K can’t match the stock 2700X for value. That’s all down to Ryzen’s highly competitive price and Intel’s rising prices, particularly for the 8400.

In fact when we go back and look at July pricing, the 8400 is immediately much more competitive in this workload. It’s not Ryzen 5 2600 levels of value, but it trades blows with other AMD processors, though AMD can handily reclaim the lead when factoring in overclocking. We also see a situation where the 2700X is much closer to the 8700K in terms of value, compared to current prices where the 8700K is non-competitive.

Looking at the budget end of the spectrum, again it’s a strong victory for AMD. The Ryzen 3 2200G remains a fantastic value CPU for budget system builders, destroying the Core i3-8100 from a value perspective when stock, and of course you can overclock it to extend the lead further. The G5400 is shocking value at its massively inflated $110 price point, but with the Athlon 200GE mostly out of stock, it’ll be interesting to see how that conversation changes if the 200GE returns with a higher price.

Handbrake isn’t as kind to AMD processors: here Intel’s line-up outperforms their AMD counterparts, especially when overclocked. When looking at value, it’s an interesting chart even going on today’s pricing. Stock or overclocked, the 8700K is still the worst value CPU and gets handily beaten by the much cheaper 2700X in terms of value.

The 8600K looks okay when overclocked, but realistically it will be worse value than the Ryzen 7 2700 not seen in these charts, which performs around the same as the 2700X when overclocked, but comes in at the same price as the slower 8600K. And then of course, we have the Ryzen 5 2600 which is by far the best value CPU of the lot right now, with its crazy $160 price tag.

Looking back to July pricing, and things would be different: the 8700K is very competitive with either the 2700X or 2700, the 8600K and 8400 are both decent buys, and the 2600 isn’t as much of a clear value winner. Today, it’s a different story.

Of course, we all know that AMD CPUs are strong for productivity workloads, how about gaming? Well here we have Battlefield 1 in a CPU limited situation, running at 1080p medium settings with a GTX 1080 Ti, and we’re specifically looking at the 1% low results. Intel’s entire line-up beats even the fastest Ryzen processor in this test, and there’s quite a large margin between the 2700X and 8700K when overclocked.

Even with today’s prices that heavily favor AMD, Intel remains competitive from a price to performance perspective. The 8700K is only slightly worse value than the 2700X, and will lose by a larger margin to the 2700. An overclocked 8600K is a pretty good match value-wise compared to the 2700 or the cheaper 2600X, while the 8400 even at its inflated price tag is competitive against the similarly-priced 2600X, whether stock or overclocked. However again, the Ryzen 5 2600 is the standout value option, beating every other CPU by a large margin.

Three months ago it was a completely different story, Intel’s line-up was much better value for gaming, particularly the Core i5-8400, but even the 8700K was a standout buy up against AMD’s 8-core offerings. AMD’s aggressive price cuts have definitely evened up that race.

Of course, it’s also important to note that this gaming value discussion only applies in CPU limited scenarios, like 1080p with a flagship GPU. Anyone playing at higher resolutions, or with slower GPUs, will see the value of Intel’s faster gaming CPUs shrink, and AMD retake a strong lead. Certainly if you’re GPU limited, there’s no reason to buy an 8700K over the excellent value Ryzen 5 2600.

So looking across the line-up of CPUs you can currently buy, it’s not a great time to purchase an Intel CPU, especially with AMD’s aggressive price drops for their Ryzen line-up. The Ryzen 5 2600 is the best value CPU on the market right now by a fair margin, though those that need something faster should also consider the Ryzen 7 2700, whether you’re gaming or running productivity apps. Budget shoppers should be looking at the Ryzen 3 2200G, or the Athlon 200GE if you can find one in stock for a reasonable price.

I haven’t even factored in platform costs here, for things such as a motherboard or memory, which often swings things even more into AMD’s favor. For example, you can comfortably overclock the Ryzen 5 2600 on a budget B450 board, whereas Core i5-8600K buyers will have to fork out for a more expensive Z370 board to access overclocking.

I think this is also a good precursor for what’s to come with 9th-gen. The Core i5-9600K, Intel’s new six-core, six-thread replacement for the 8600K, is $20 more than the 8600K right now, and the 8600K is already worse value than Ryzen alternatives. Then we have the 8-core 9700K going for $410, which is more than the 8700K, so it’d have to offer much higher performance to position itself as a value contender. And then of course, the 9900K at $530. Well, it’s hard to see how that competes with the $300 Ryzen 7 2700X unless again, it is capable of monstrous performance.

It’s not looking good for Intel on the value department, as they don’t have a single win right now and it’ll take something crazy with 9th-gen to have that change. It’s also bad news for consumers, as AMD really doesn’t have any incentive to further lower the cost of Ryzen processors: they are standout value options right now, so why make them cheaper? A more competitive Intel line-up could have forced further price cuts, or a nice price battle between the two companies, but we’re just not going to get that right now.

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