HotHardware PC Components Gift Guide 2014-2

Brains Of The Operation: Processors

Last week we offered you all our picks for mobile tech goodies for good girls and boys this holiday season. Nothing says I love you and care, now get into this selfie with me, like a new smartphone, tablet or notebook -- even if that loved one is, well, you.  You're on the nice list after all, so it's all good. 

But what if you're the kind that likes to build it yourself, make your own, dial-in a dynamite desktop with only the choicest of components? Well then, our components gift guide should help to get you into that holiday spirit better than spiked egg nog -- and it's healthier for you too. Journey-on gift guide gear heads.  We've got some of the good stuff for you too.

These days processor are getting more affordable, especially when you consider multi-core designs and the horsepower they're capable of putting out. As the nucleus and brains of your desktop or small form factor operation, they're also critical for balanced throughput and without a good CPU at the helm, you'll be floating around the galaxy aimlessly, wasting time and power.

Ultimate Processing Power


Corei7

Intel Core i7-5960X - $1000
Okay, so we lied about processors getting more affordable; please don't tell Santa. This one is definitely not very affordable unless you're in need of workstation-class performance or a top-shelf enthusiast number cruncher.  Intel's Haswell-E-based Core i7-5960X is an octal-core, (that's 8, count 'em), processor based on Intel's latest-gen enthusiast class architecture, with a base clock speed of 3GHz and Turbo Boost to 3.5GHz.  It doesn't offer the absolute fastest single-core performance but it's close. In multithreaded workloads (which is the majority of what we all work with every day), this thing is so fast it should be illegal. Checkour review here for all the details and head on over to Amazon if you've got the Benjamins.


Killer CPU Throughput


Intel Devils Canyon


Intel Core i7-4970K  - $299

However, if you want a CPU purchase to require fewer bucks to get the bang and don't mind a few less cores, Intel's Core i7-4970K ought to do the job nicely. In addition, it could strike fear in the hearts of would-be opponents when you game with a chip code named "Devil's Canyon."  Cool branding factor aside, this quad-core CPU is based on Intel's Haswell architecture and has base clock of 4GHz and turbos up to a blistering 4.4GHz. Intel took a page from the enthusiast wish-list with this one, retooling the packaging and thermal interface material of the chip, to eek out every bit of clock speed they could under full warranty. Of course you can overclock it as well, so check out our full review for details and hit up our store here for deals.


Mainstream Workhorse Number Crunchers


Corei5


Intel Core i5-4690K -  $209
Maybe you still want to save a few more pesos on your CPU to invest in your graphics subsystem (we've got you covered on the on the pages ahead by the way). If that's the case, this Intel quad-core has a base frequency of 3.5GHz and will still almost kiss 4GHz with a Turbo Boost speed of 3.9GHz.  At $209, it's aheck of a deal and still sports a fat 6MB shared cache and an unlocked multiplier, so you can twist up clock speeds if you're in the mood for a little OC action.


AMD FX

AMD FX-8350 - $139 
Then again, if you simply must have MOAR CORES but are still on budget constraints, maybe an 8-core AMD FX-8350-based platform is in order.  You'll want to check out our motherboard recommendation for this but AMD's latest midrange FX chip has a scorching-fast 4GHz base clock and a 4.2GHz boost clock, with 8MB of cache and is based on AMD's highly regarded VIshera architecture. We stepped through performance of this chip's faster brother, the FX-8370 right here, for reference on general performance metrics.


Budget Binary Badgers


Intel Pentium

Intel Pentium G3258
 - $69.99
Though a lot of folks build powerful full-sized desktops, some of us are interested in low profile, quiet computing for the living room, den, kitchen or home office. And again, maybe you've got a lot of good little elves to say thank you to for their hard work over the year.  Good elves aren't easy to come by and are so much easier to handle than the evil ones. As such, maybe you might want to consider going a little retro with a new breed of Pentium from Intel.  This isn't your grandma's old Pentium though.  This is a dual core chip with a 3.2GHz base frequency and even some of the latest technologies like Intel Quick Sync video transcoding on board. We've heard it overclocks like a banshee as well, in the neighborhood of 4.4GHz.  Not bad for a $70 CPU, eh? 

AMD APU
AMD A8-7600 - $97.74
Ahh, but you're not interested in compromising the core count down past 4 and you want a little graphics muscle on board as well, just in case you feel the need to game a bit on that HTPC you plan on building?  Perhaps AMD's A8-7600 is a better choice.  This chip has 12 compute cores, 4 of which are CPU and 8 of which are Radeon R7-class GPUs and 4MB of shared cache, in a 65 Watt envelope.  It's just the thing for that home theater rig or something else small form factor that needs a little multimedia muscle.  Again, this is a socket FM2+ chip, so make sure you check out our motherboard recommendations in this guide.
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