Contrary to the past, choosing a CPU is relatively easy for veteran users because of easy access to information and clear-cut guides. AMD stepping up to the plate after so many years made it easier to choose. This guide is nothing more than a supplement in helping you narrow down your choices. In some countries, a combo purchase of a motherboard and a CPU could get you a small discount. I’ve heard in some stores around India, retailers refuse to sell either the CPU or motherboard separately which is strange and wrong at the same time. But there are many stores out there and there are online options.
While we are making a recommendation for CPUs, we also have to consider the feature sets motherboard chipsets provides, in entry-level, mid-end and high-end category. As an example, AMD B and the X series chipsets allow overclocking, but that’s not the case with Intel B series chipset. However, seeing the premium unlocked CPU carries, it is a little bit challenging to recommend. While the no-brainer would be to recommend motherboard combos, there are multiple brands with multiple options. It is not realistic for one to evaluate all motherboards available in the market. Some brands have non-gaming branded motherboards which are regurgitated into gaming sub-brands with a different colour scheme, sink design and maybe some RGB headers.
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Upper mid-end choice: AMD Ryzen 5 2600
I am recommending the AMD Ryzen 5 2600 as the top choice for the mid-range computers- ranging between gaming, multi-tasking workload and even streaming. Co-incidentally a lot of streamers would opt for mid-segment CPUs since it serves their process. AMD second generation Ryzen six-core-twelve thread with base/boost clock of 3.4GHz/3.9Ghz is perfect. The least talked about the part is that generally, AMD provides a better-bundled (for a stock) CPU cooler compared to Intel. Unlike the good old days, most people do not overclock, but you can always bump the UEFI set to run the clock speed to 3.9 GHz at all times if you have that need to. The best part is the ability to pair it with varieties of motherboards- AMD B350, X370 with the newer BIOS update to the new B450 and X470 chipset. It wouldn’t make sense for a lot of people with a lot of use case to opt for X series chipset motherboard, but the options and the choices are there.
When you look at the price and its multi-threaded performance, you narrow it down to a Ryzen SKU such as the Ryzen 5 2600.
The middle-man: AMD Ryzen 5 2400G
You can consider a four-core eight-thread unlocked APU. The Ryzen 5 2400G is a very balanced option. On-chip graphics is for many games in low-to-mid settings at 1080p with Vega 11 integrated graphics. This is also a ‘safe haven’ APU for those who can build a PC but want to grab a graphics card at a later date. It makes a better sense than getting a non-on-chip graphics with a low-end graphics card. We have not tested the GT1030, but the 2400G is the ideal choice. In a way, it would help to free up some money for rams (how about a 16GB 3200MHz DDR4?) or an SSD.
Not-sure-where mid-end CPU: Intel Core i5 8400
This Intel Core i5 8400 somewhere…somehow. This is a six-core-six-thread CPU. It is good for a gaming PC who won’t overclock or have a specific single-thread performance. Also, if for some reason, you’re uptight for Intel-only for whatever odd reason, God bless you!
The pricing and offering favour Ryzen 5 2600. Ryzen option gives two-threads per core against Intel with one-thread per core. Intel option does provide better single-threaded performance more suited for a 100% gaming PC. This might change with the upcoming Intel 9xxx series, so we might replace this if that happens within Q4 2018. This is, of course, depending on how favourable the pricing is. Intel will have to re-learn the art of competitive pricing since AMD has become very active towards the DIY PC market.
Neither AMD nor Intel (or its PR agencies and partners) have supplied any review units, and therefore whatever testing we have done is by CPUs from various sources.