Looking back, quad-core processors have had quite the run already. Intel's first quad-core CPU, the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 was released almost three years ago, with the much more popular Q6600 following up months later at a rather steep $850. As you may recall it was quite the luxury then to have one of these at your disposal.

AMD came to market with their own quad-core solution a year later, marking the release of the first Phenom X4 processors. Though in all fairness, it took them about one more year to get things going right.

Today we find ourselves with very different and diversified offerings from both companies, that are not only cheaper but also significantly faster. Just take for example AMD's Phenom II X4 945 that can be purchased for as little as $170, not to mention Intel's most recent release, the Core i5 750, which is meant to crush its competitors offering top notch performance at the $199 price point.

With more powerful quad-core processors becoming mainstream, and with so many options currently available, we wanted to know which CPU provides users with the most value at under $300. That said, we won't just be evaluating the value of the individual processors, but also their accompanying platforms.

At the upper end of the scale we have the Intel Core i7 920 processor, which was just recently joined by the Core i7 860; both cost around $280. Although the Core i7 860 is clocked 140MHz higher, it is designed for the LGA1156 platform, and therefore lacks the triple-channel memory controller of the Core i7 920. Also, the Core i7 860 should make for a more affordable build, as P55 motherboards will be cheaper than comparable X58-based boards.

Processor Cores / Threads Clock Speed L3 Cache Size TDP Socket Price
AMD Phenom II X4 965 4/4 3.4 GHz 6 MB 140 W AM3 $245
Intel Core i5 750 4/4 2.66 GHz 8 MB 95 W LGA1156 $200
Intel Core i7 860 4/8 2.80 GHz 8 MB 95 W LGA1156 $280
Intel Core i7 920 4/8 2.66 GHz 8 MB 130 W LGA1366 $280

Moving down the ladder we have the Phenom II X4 965, which is the current AMD flagship processor. The Phenom II X4 965 operates at 3.40GHz, and with a retail price tag of $250, it’s quite a good value option. Also worth keeping in mind is the Phenom II X4 955, which is virtually the same processor at a 24% discount. Both are “Black Edition” processors featuring unlocked multipliers, so by simply increasing the multiplier of the X4 955 by one notch, you get the 3.40GHz of the Phenom II X4 965.

Finally we have the new Core i5 750 processor which costs just $200 and boasts similar specifications to those of the Core i7 920. The key difference between the two, besides the different socket/platforms, is that the Core i5 only features a dual-channel memory controller and Hyper-Threading is disabled. The Core i5 750 is designed for the new LGA1156 platform just like the Core i7 860, so it will be interesting to compare the performance of these two processors as well.