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Group test: what's the best processor?

The best CPUs you can install

PC Advisor reviews the best PC processors you can buy today.

5. Intel Core i7 980X

Intel Core i7 980X
  • Reviewed on: 19 March 10
  • RRP: £889 inc. VAT
  • Rating: Rated 9 out of 10

The Intel Core i7 980X is simply the fastest processor available to consumers. It is the unchallenged performance king, on just about any test. However, the margin of difference in performance, between this six-core and the older four-core processors is the sticking point. It is understandably positioned at the top commanding flagship prices, targeted at those who will build the rest of their desktop using similarly top-end components to prevent bottlenecks. But until software catches up with being able to utilize that much computing power, only the extreme desktop computing enthusiasts would be able to justify purchasing this processor.

4. AMD Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition

AMD Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition
  • Reviewed on: 23 December 10
  • RRP: £161.21 inc VAT
  • Rating: Rated 9 out of 10

Both, the Phenom 1100T Black Edition and the 1035T have a great value proposition. Who does not want to buy a processor with more cores and more speed, at a lower price? The only reason these processors don't steamroll Intel's counterparts, is that many users looking for even higher performance are willing to pay the big bucks and that is where Intel has an advantage. Else, those looking to build a mean machine on a budget, or those looking to upgrade from an existing AM3 processor are better served by this duo from AMD.

3. AMD A8-3850 APU

AMD A8-3850 APU
  • Reviewed on: 4 July 11
  • RRP: £100 inc. VAT
  • Rating: Rated 8 out of 10

The Lynx platform is impressive, but what we're seeing is par for the course from AMD. What the part lacks in raw computing power, in makes up for with a (relatively) powerful integrated graphics processor. Will it be enough? If you're on a tight budget, the answer is a resounding yes. AMD is playing to its strengths, and manages to deliver a platform geared towards media-savvy consumers who want to enjoy high-definition video - and even some light gaming, if they temper their expectations. Adding a discrete graphics card only improves things. Some configuration will be necessary (and AMD promises to improve the transition with BIOS updates later on), but coupling a relatively inexpensive graphics card offers a measurable bump in performance - a great way to eke more performance out of your media center without adding too much cost to your machine.

 

2. Intel Core i7-2600K (Sandy Bridge)

Intel Core i7-2600K (Sandy Bridge)
  • Reviewed on: 6 January 11
  • RRP: £251 inc. VAT
  • Rating: Rated 9 out of 10

The Intel Core i7-2600K is a worthy successor to the i7-860 and i7-920 chips at default clock speeds. If Sandy Bridge permeates the entire market, the (relatively) lower-end LGA1156 motherboards and processors can walk away. In fact, even the X58 line (including the hexacores) can now be scratched off the wish-list of most aspiring gaming/performance PC buyers, replacing the same with a Sandy Bridge board and processor instead. On balance, paying about the same amount for a higher-end processor and getting a 25 per cent increase in performance (besides overclockability) is a deal that is very hard to pass up. Despite the rapid socket changes Intel is going through, we can safely say that those looking to build a performance PC won't regret a Sandy Bridge purchase.

1. Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition

Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition
  • Reviewed on: 15 November 11
  • RRP: £839 inc. VAT
  • Rating: Rated 9 out of 10

The Core i7-3960X is a worthy successor to last year's Extreme Edition processors, but the same caveats apply to it as to them. You'll see the greatest benefit in programs that are heavily threaded - computation-heavy spreadsheets, video encoding applications like Sony Vegas Pro, and 3D rendering applications like Maxon Cinema 4D, for example. On the gaming front, whether you use Intel's excellent overclocking assistant or muck about in the BIOS, you'll be able to cobble together a nauseatingly potent performance machine. And if a £900 CPU is within your gaming budget, you can't go wrong. This processor is poised to be the foundation of many of 2012's performance desktop juggernauts, and a few early efforts that have already trickled into the lab are sure to make waves. But if you aren't overclocking - or looking to get some gaming done - you don't need this much power. Ivy Bridge does throw a wrench into the works. At the moment, we know very little about the platform: It'll be shrunk down to the 22nm processor, which should cut power consumption a bit. Is Sandy Bridge E worth it? Even at this price, the answer is a resounding yes - if you're using the right apps, are a dedicated overclocker, or have barrels of cash that you simply can't spend fast enough.

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