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.[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”The entry-level performance” ]
There can be only one…because there is only one!
Once upon a time, both Intel and AMD had fierce competition one generation after the other. All of a sudden something happened to AMD and Intel became mostly the default option for the high end. It wasn’t a clean sweep for entry-level to mid-end since AMD had Phenom II chips- 550/555BE which had the change to unlock into quad cores. Then there’s the X4 965BE and the FX-8350.
AMD Ryzen 3 2200G
It would be an understatement, to say the least, AMD caught Intel with its pants down in the open-ish field of the entry-level CPU market. We have stuff like Intel Core i3-8350K. It did not make any sense as it did not fit anywhere. The novelty of overclocking this entry-level CPUs is only on the expensive Z370 chipset made it ridiculous! This is a collector’s item(like the Pentium Anniversary G3258?) without the collector’s label on it.
Take a look at the Ryzen 3 2200G. Under this price bracket, you get an APU just a tad below 2400G. This is a four-core-four thread unlocked CPU with Vega 8 on-chip graphics. You have the B350 with a bios update and B450 for good pricing. There is something to work on! Not really something I would consider for on-chip graphics gaming even in mid-settings for 1080p, but its there. This also makes sense for a feature loaded non-gaming pc build systems like a general purpose PC or an HTPC.
Intel Core i3 8100
I hope things look good with the upcoming Intel entry-level CPUs. But they need to enable overclocking on entry-level motherboard chipsets.[/nextpage]
(Edit: 01.10.2018): Daniel Gianstefani via the comments suggested the Core i3 8100 and it is a valid suggestion. The Core i3-8100 is something you can look at. Just like the mid-end option, you do get a better single-threaded option. It is a bit expensive compared to the Ryzen 3 2200G. But both of that argument goes out the window if you are using a discrete graphics card. I never built a system with it nor I had a chance to test it. Happens to the best and rest of us. That’s why always read the comments![nextpage title=”The high-end performance” ]
For those who have single dual high-end GPU setups with GTX 1080/GTX 1080Ti, 144Hz monitor or monitors with VR headsets, you want the best possible experience you can get with overclocking option. There are two simple options: The Ryzen 7 2700X and the Core i7-8700K. There’s a good why we slotted this towards the end. But not everybody buys high-end just for gaming. There are other heavy workloads.
OPTION 1: Intel Core i7-8700K
The Core i7 8700K gets you the performance of up to 4.7GHz via turbo. But if you are buying something like this, you will be geared towards overclocking. This is the highest/best possible mainstream CPU you can get from Intel until the 9xxx series are out.
OPTION 2: AMD Ryzen 7 2700X
The Ryzen 7 2700X is an eight-core-sixteen-thread bulldozer- no pun intended.
Between the two- the Core i7-8700K is somewhat faster for gaming performance but not a big deal enough to regret Ryzen 7 2700X purchase at all. What makes this difficult is while the Intel offering is a little expensive than the Ryzen 7 2700X, the motherboard pricing balances both of them (again- depending on the local pricing and availability). The main benefit that favours the Ryzen 7 2700X is with heavy workloads that benefit from a multi-threaded performer.
As you can see, this is where it stands.
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.