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Earlier this year we updated our CPU buying guide putting Ryzen front and center, and while that guide is due for an update now that Ryzen 3 and Threadripper have landed, those picks are still as valid today as they were back then with the Ryzen 5 1600 offering the best performance for your buck for most users.
Today we're going to do something a little different just for fun and look at the top 5 worst CPUs released in the last few years. This is not intended to be taken as seriously as one of our buying guides, and if you happen to have one of these CPUs please don't be offended. In fact, under certain conditions they might even be a justified purchase. Without further ado, let's see why we think these are bad picks for most users...
Intel Core i7-6950X (Broadwell-E)
Most of these picks will no doubt be controversial, but this one might stir up the comments more than others. From a technical standpoint the Core i7-6950X was a bit of a marvel. At the time of release it was by far the most powerful desktop CPU, and it didn't just smash productivity workloads but was also a very capable gaming processor.
In terms of performance it had no weakness, power consumption was very reasonable for a 10-core/20-thread CPU and while not the best overclocker, again for a 10-core part it was impressive. Sounds good so far, but the issue was the price.
After a reasonably long wait, the Core i7-6950X landed at an insane $1750(!). Enthusiasts were like, please Intel. We called it "The king of diminishing returns."
Intel previous generation flagship had been released 2 years prior costing $1000. After a reasonably long wait, the Core i7-6950X landed at an insane $1750(!). Enthusiasts were like, please Intel. We called it "The king of diminishing returns." The price gouging rubbed the PC tech community the wrong way and it became clear Intel was simply taking advantage of its market dominance (in a way, opening the door for AMD's comeback, should they have a viable product). This is what absense of competition leads to and the 6950X was a rude reminder of that.
Intel Core i7-7740X/Core-i5 7640X (Kaby Lake-X)
Moving on from taking advantage of enthusiasts with deep pockets, Intel decided to confuse the hell out of us by releasing quad-core CPUs on their high-end desktop platform. Is this 2013 or what? Because that's the last time we saw a 4-core CPU on Intel's premium desktop platform, yet here we're thinking the arrival of Ryzen would force Intel to increase core counts in a meaningful way and they go and do this.
After the world's tech media put their heads together and tried to work out why Kaby Lake-X was even a thing, now we have an even more confusing lake to navigate. Anyway, no one really worked out this riddle and from what we've heard from retailers, it seems consumers didn't get it either.
Looking at Amazon's CPU best sellers we found the Core i7-7740X in the 44th spot. The list is updated every hour, but damn, Amazon seems to be selling more AMD FX processors, ouch. We're proud though to see the Core i7-7800X, 7820X and 7900X all ranked higher, so it's good to see consumers are doing their homework.
Well yeah, come on, you knew this one was coming. Even the most hardened battle ready AMD fans have given up on this, admitted defeat, and moved on to rally behind Ryzen. From the release of the FX-8150 back in 2011 to the motherboard frying FX-9590 in 2014, the FX-series has sucked worse than any CPU we can remember in the last decade. From day one the FX series proved to be about as efficient as a hybrid era Honda powered F1, there were endless FX owners sitting back in lawn chairs waiting for their games to load.
Well yeah, come on, you knew this one was coming.
The only option here for AMD was to reduce prices so low they had lost sight of what it looked like to break even. You were better off buying a Core i3 from about 2013 onwards.
Intel Core i3-7350K
Next to the AMD FX series, the most heavily nominated worst CPU was the Intel Core i3-7350K and we have to admit we were hesitant to include this one. In terms of price vs. performance it makes no sense at all, even at its new $140 price. Even so in order to actually take advantage of the 7350K's unlocked clock multiplier you need to purchase a more expensive Z-series motherboard and don't forget it also doesn't come with a cooler. A cooler adds at least $20 to the asking price, so were back at $160, and we still need a motherboard that supports overclocking.
Once you factor in all the additional costs you essentially end up with a really expensive dual-core that's more than twice the price of the G4560 and not a great deal faster. Still, the Kaby Lake architecture is very good, so in terms of performance and efficiency the 7350K isn't bad. Perhaps the weakest choice of the 5 worst CPUs, it's still hard to recommend this Core i3 with other better alternatives sitting right next to it.
Billed as a low powered 8-core CPU, the FX-8320E was anything but. Out of the box it used well over 50% more power than an equivalent Haswell-based Core i5 and was at best able to match it in productivity workloads. Then when it came to games the 8320E would get blasted by the Core i5-443, to cite an example, even when overclocked beyond 4.5 GHz.
The only saving grace was the Core i3-like asking price ($142) for the 8320E, though the FX-8370E that we're focused on was going for almost $200. The E variant of FX processors was a desperate move in late 2014 to try and move inventory.
Looking back, if you invested in an FX-8370E for $194 in 2014 or the Core i5-4670K for $242, that extra $50 means that 3 years later in 2017 you'd still have a capable gaming system that's still not really in need of an upgrade. Meanwhile the FX-8370E would be plaguing you with horrible 1% low performance in many modern titles and you'd be having a bad time.
We picked two AMD FX processors to rag on but really the FX-9590 and FX-8370E represent the entire series, AMD really soiled the bed on that one. Admittedly the Core i3-7350K is a sketchy pick, but with Kaby Lake offering zero improvement over Skylake in terms of IPC gains, Intel keeps using a rubbish TIM on their premium unlocked models, and the fact that it took them so long to offer another sub-$200 unlocked part...
Update (9/11): Just a week after publishing this article, we reviewed the AMD's latest APU, the A12-9800. Not based on the newer Zen architecture, the A12 is really bad, scoring 20 over 100. If timing would have been better, this processor certainly would have made this list as we can't come up with one valid reason or situation where these CPUs make an ounce of sense.
Meanwhile, the Core i7-7740X and Core-i5 7640X, aka "Krappy Lake" are an obvious and well deserved choice for this list and we'll never forgive Intel for the Core i7-6950X pricing. Any review outlet that awarded both the i7-7740X and i7-6950X scores in excess of 90% probably need to have a long hard look at themselves, but hey, we all make mistakes.
If you happen to have a computer with an older CPU, maybe an FX processor, and you want to upgrade, then check out our new Upgrade My PC Please! series and we're set to give whoever you vote most deserving a $500 upgrade package tailored to their needs.