Tag Archives: Intel

Intel Core i5 FI

The best processors you can buy

Editor’s note: this is a guest post by Dave at TechRadar.com, one of our favourite sources for tech news and reviews. Here are his thoughts on the best processors around today.

Things have been changing pretty quickly in the world of processors recently. First off AMD tried to make a big splash with its brand new Bulldozer architecture in its FX series CPUs, and last month Intel went crazy and released its super-enthusiast chips, the Sandy Bridge E series.

These chips weren’t designed to go head-to-head with AMD’s top FX chip, the 3.6GHz FX-8150, coming in around the £200 mark and the Sandy Bridge E top end part sitting at £810. That’s a big gulf in price and, despite AMD’s new chip claiming to have eight cores, the hex-core Core i7-3960X is a processing marvel.

There are a lot of flavours of CPU outside of those two big boys, and the traditional Sandy Bridge processors, like the Core i7 2700K and i5 2500K, still have an awful lot left to give.

We’ve gone into depth about the latest advances in CPU technology in our Best CPU guide and we’ve checked out the serious contenders for the top processor crown too.

You may have noticed we’ve left the Core i7-3960X out of the list, but at over £800 it’s out of the price range of most, and if you need the sort of performance it can give you’ll pay the premium.

So here’s our list of the top CPUs around right now.

8. AMD FX-8150 – 3 stars

Eight cores. Two billion transistors (or 1.2 billion depending on how AMD is feeling at the time of asking). A radical modular architecture. 16MB of cache memory. And Turbo clockspeeds north of 4GHz. How could something that sounds so awesome end up so wrong?

One day, the full story of AMD’s troubled new PC processor architecture will emerge. It should make for a fascinating tale. After all, the Bulldozer architecture that underpins the FX 8150 must have seemed like a great idea. It’s all about balancing threads with cores with a view to delivering the most efficient and effective processor architecture possible.

However, that 1.2 to 2 billion transistor count makes it very expensive to manufacture, while its disappointing performance puts a limit on the price tag AMD can attach.

And more than anything else, it’s just not a great chip for PC gaming.

Read TechRadar’s AMD FX-8150 review.

7. Intel Core i3-2100 – 3 stars

Take a cheap chip. And clock the living bejesus out of it. This, friends, has long been the path to great PC performance for the pathologically penniless.

Enter, therefore, the Intel Core i3-2100. Like it or lump it, Intel has by far the best CPU architectures today and the feisty little 2100 is part of its latest generation of chips, known as Sandy Bridge.

With an unlocked multiplier, this thing could seriously rock. Without one though it’s merely OK.

Read TechRadar’s Intel Core i3-2100 review.

6. AMD FX-4100 – 3 ½ stars

Consider the AMD FX 4100. We can’t be absolutely sure about this without official confirmation, but we reckon it’s based on the very same two-billion transistor processor die as the range-topping FX 8150.

The difference is that two of the 8150’s four Bulldozer modules have been nuked from orbit.

The best that can be said about this dual-module Bulldozer is that it’s not far behind its triple and quad-module brethren in games.

If only they weren’t all off the pace.

Read TechRadar’s AMD FX 4100 review.

5. AMD FX-6100 – 3 ½ stars

When is a six-core PC processor not a six-core PC processor? When it’s AMD’s new FX 6100.

Long before AMD released its fancy new FX chips, we had a feeling a fit of fisticuffs was brewing over the definition of what constitutes a processor core. Now the FX has arrived and the gloves are off.

At stock clocks and with the final module hidden, it’s not terribly exciting. However, if it turns out that most of all 6100s will happily run with the final module enabled, it might just be worth a roll of the dice.

If that happens, we’ll be more than happy to upgrade the 6100’s status to buy.

Read TechRadar’s AMD FX 6100 review.

4. Intel Core i7-3930K – 4 stars

The Intel Core i7-3960X is a positively preposterous processor. This is the Intel Core i7-3930K and it’s not the same chip. Not precisely, anyway.

We’ve reviewed the 3960X elsewhere and deemed it disappointing, moderately sinister (it’s prima facie evidence of Intel carpet bagging in response to AMD’s failure to bring out a really quick chip) and largely irrelevant to human existence.

So, here’s the best bit. The 3930K costs over £300 less.

OK, £500 is still a big ask. But the difference in price alone is enough to buy a half decent desktop PC or a cheap laptop.

The point, then, is that this cheaper Sandy Bridge E gives you everything the top chip delivers for a lot less money. There’s  absolutely no reason to spend.

We’re not completely convinced even this truly means the 3930K is good value for money. But it’s still a very fast processor and the chip we’d buy if we had a big budget.

Read TechRadar’s Intel Core i7-3930K review.

3. Intel Core i7-2700K – 4 stars

The 2700K is the new de facto king of Intel’s line of LGA 1155 models. For us, it’s the LGA 1155 socket that’s really relevant to PC enthusiasts and gamers, not the highfalutin’, server-derived LGA 2011 platform and its quad-channel silliness.

The 2700K, then, is the fastest chip any mere mortal is likely to run in his PC any time soon.

Unfortunately, what it ain’t is a big step forward over the existing Core i7-2600K.

What’ll she do, mister? The answer during our testing and in the context of air cooling and a modicum of extra voltage is an overclocking speed of 4.8GHz.

A very good result, we think you’ll agree. But not materially better than you can expect from most 2600K processors. Again, the game doesn’t move on.

Read TechRadar’s Intel Core i7-2700K review.

2. AMD Phenom II X6 1100T – 4 ½ stars


Little did we, or frankly AMD, know how good we had it with the Phenom II X6 1100T.

Only now, with the release of AMD’s all-new Bulldozer architecture and the FX processors it powers, can we truly put what was once known as Hammer into full context.

It’s not that far off when it comes to threading. But it also ponies up that little bit more per-core performance that could make the difference between smooth frames rates and the occasional chugging that really spoils the experience.

It’s a bizarre thing to be asking, But please, AMD, have another go with the Hammer.

Read TechRadar’s AMD Phenom II X6 1100T review.

1. Intel Core i5 2500K – 4 ½ stars

Odd as it is for a CPU that’s a year old and still offers the most advanced computing technology available, the Core i5-2500K feels like an old friend.

Of all Intel’s CPUs it seems like the most honest, the most straight forward. If you’re a keen gamer, it’s probably still the fittest for purpose.

Only the higher clocked 2700K has it beaten. That’s beyond impressive for a relatively elderly and affordable chip.

Chuck in the ability to go well beyond 4GHz on air cooling and you have an unbeatable package.

Read TechRadar’s Intel Core i5-2500K review.

For a full list of the processors we’ve looked at over on TechRadar.com check out our constantly updated CPU reviews.

Dave James is the Components Editor for TechRadar.com and as such is a massive PC geek of the highest order. What he hasn’t destroyed through benchmarking, overclocking or general tweakery isn’t worth looking at.

Dabs Diamond Awards

Diamonds are a Dabs' Best Friend… (I'm sorry)

The stage was set and the tension could be cut with a knife at the 4th Annual Diamond Awards held in the Manchester Hilton on Thursday night. Hundreds of delegates from some of the industry’s biggest names sat in anticipation, waiting to hear the results. But we’ll get to those later.

So close to Halloween, those lucky enough to attend (nominees only) were also treated to a spooky-themed dining area, complete with travelling Adams Family (Lurch looking rather unsteady on his stilts, it must be said) featuring a rather lascivious Morticia (Gomez didn’t seem to mind) who rather unnerved us Dabs lot. Our tables covered in little diamonds and Damien Hirst inspired skulls (unfortunately I don’t reckon they would have fetched the same price tag), it was a rather odd but welcome setting for one of the biggest and most prestigious award ceremonies in the electronics world.

After a champagne reception and a lovely three course (silver service might I add) meal, it was time to get on with the awards themselves.

All awards that follow were voted for by you, the customers, so if your horse won give yourself a nice little pat on the back.

Best Memory manufacturer – Kingston – eg. Kingston 8GB HyperX DDR3

Best Print manufacturer  – HP – eg. HP Officejet Pro 8000 Wireless (With free warranty)

Best Components manufacturer – Intel – eg. Intel Core i7 – 2600K

Best Networking manufacturer  – Cisco – eg. Cisco 1000Base-SX GBIC

Best Storage manufacturer  – Samsung – eg. Samsung 1.5TB Story Station

Best Software manufacturer  – Microsoft – eg. Microsoft Windows 7 Professional

Best Audio Visual manufacturer  – Epson – eg. Epson EH TW5900 HD/3D Ready Projector

Best Display manufacturer  – Samsung – eg. Samsung SyncMaster24″ Widescreen Monitor

Best Enterprise Storage manufacturer  – HP – eg. HP 36.4GB Hot Plug SAS SFF 15K

Best Unified Communications Product manufacturer  – Plantronics – eg. Plantronics GameCom 367 Headset

Best Laptop manufacturer  – Samsung – eg. Samsung RV150 Laptop

Best Desktop manufacturer  – HP – eg. HP P3300 Tower

Well done to one and all! Now where’s the Alka Seltzer?



The best Intel Sandy Bridge motherboards around

Editor’s note: this is a guest post by Dave at TechRadar.com, one of our favourite sources for tech news and reviews. Here’s his thoughts on the best Intel Sandy Bridge motherboards around today.

Intel’s current best consumer processor is undoubtedly its Sandy Bridge range with the second generation of Intel’s Core architecture. You know, that ‘visibly smart’ stuff.

But, as ever, you need to have the right motherboard in order to get the most out of your CPU. There are a host of motherboards out there capable of playing host to your Sandy Bridge CPU, ranging from £40 all the way up to well over £200.

It’s all down to what chipset you drop your CPU into – the bottom of the range is the H61 chipset, which is about as basic a Sandy Bridge setup as you can get, and at the top you’ve got the all-singing, all-processing Z68. We’ve looked at the lot in our recent Buying Guide on TechRadar.com.

We’ve taken a look at seven of the best Z68 boards around as well as a selection of the lower-end chipsets.

7. MSI Z68A-GD65 – 4 stars

MSI definitely had the enthusiast in mind when it designed the Z68A-GD65. It has some features on the board that only they could appreciate; for example there is a checkpoint block to take direct measurements of various voltages the board is using via a probe.

As usual MSI has gone to great lengths to get the best components for the power circuitry, which it likes to call its Military Class II. These top notch Hi-c Caps, Super Ferrite Chokes and Solid Caps all help to keep the board stable, particularly when it’s being pushed hard during overclocking.

6. Gigabyte Z68XP-UD3-iSSD – 4 stars

Gigabyte has wasted no time in producing boards using the Z68 chipset, in fact you could say it’s gone slightly overboard with the excitement as it has no less that 20 motherboards currently in its line-up.

These iSSD boards though offer something very different, namely a tiny mSATA connection that allows the installation of small form factor SSDs to work alongside Intel’s Smart Response Technology (SRT). The drive bundled with this board comes in the shape of one of Intel’s new 20GB MLC 311 series SSDs.

This isn’t a board for everyone, but if SRT appeals to you, and you can’t afford a serious SSD, the Z68XP-UD3-iSSD is an interesting option.

5. ASRock Z68 Extreme 4 – 4 stars

The Extreme 4 performs about as well as we’ve come to expect from standard Z68 boards: our 2600K happily hitting the 4.6GHz mark. That’s no market leader, but it’s not a bad mark up for a 3.4GHz CPU.

The Z68 Extreme 4 keeps up the tradition of good build quality, using first-rate components and stable performance that has come to represent ASRock boards in recent times. And having reasonable price tag for a board sporting the latest hardware doesn’t do it any harm either.

4. Zotac Z68-ITX Wi-Fi – 4 stars

The Zotac Z68-ITX Wi-Fi really is an ITX board. Zotac, the mad fool, has opted to stick Intel’s latest and greatest tech – the Z68 chipset with Sandy Bridge processor architecture – onto one of the smallest motherboard form factors available, but that’s what Zotac does…

Beautiful build quality, solid if unremarkable benchmarks and a neatly packaged product help justify the pricing of this latest Intel Z68-based motherboard.

3. Asus P8Z68-V Pro – 4 stars

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As a whole the Intel Z68 chipset, as represented here by the Asus P8Z68V Pro, does indeed provide the best of both H67 and P67 worlds, with a few extras thrown in for good measure. The combination of iGPU and discrete graphics working together has made the P67 all but redundant unless you’re steadfastly a PC gamer only.

This then is the platform many have been waiting for before they take the plunge into Sandy Bridge, and the Asus P8Z68V Pro handles the responsibility pretty well.

2. Gigabyte Z68AP-D3 – 4½ stars

The Z68 platform has seen a lot of love from Gigabyte since it came about, and the Z68AP-D3 has to be one of the cheapest Z68 boards we’ve ever seen. But does that also mean it’s one of the weakest?

If you’re looking to build a budget Sandy Bridge machine the Gigabyte Z68AP-D3 will give you relevant performance compared with pricier boards and allow you to spend more in other areas of your build.

1. ASRock Z68 Pro 3 – 4½ stars

At the price ASRock can apparently produce motherboards like the ASRock Z68 Pro 3 you might find yourself asking the utterly reasonable question: “what’s the point of anything else?”

It’s not just a winner on price. At stock settings, benchmarks for the ASRock Z68 Pro 3 look good too. It’s got all the hugely desirable features of Intel Z68, including the ability to turn QuickSync on and off, and yet costs less than some low-end H67-based motherboards we’ve seen.

And the rest…

P67 chipset

Asus Republic of Gamers Maximus IV Extreme

The P67 was the first performance chipset for the Sandy Bridge era, but unfortunately lacked the later Z68’s ability to access all the processor graphics goodness; namely the QuickSync video for lightening HD video transcoding.

But if that doesn’t float your boat and straight-line performance is your bag then the Maximus IV Extreme will wring every last MHz of speed out of an unlocked, K-series Sandy Bridge chip. It’s all about overclocking here, and if that’s your bag look no further. There is also a Z-series version featuring the Z68 chipset too.

H67 chipset

Gigabyte H67MA-UD2H

The H67 chipset may not have the overclocking capability of its performance sibling, the P67, but with its full support for the integrated graphics of Sandy Bridge processors it makes an ideal base to build a powerful home theatre PC.

It’s good to see Gigabyte paying as much attention to the small-form factor focused H67MA-UD2H as it does on its full sized ATX motherboards. So this is a well-featured board then, perfect for the HTPC if not the performance crowd.

H61 chipset

Foxconn H61MX

The H61 chipset is basically a cut down version of the H67, with only SATA 3Gbps support and up to 10 USB 2.0 ports instead of 14, making it an ideal platform for entry-level PCs.

If you are on a very tight budget and want to experience what the Sandy Bridge CPUs are like, then the H61MX might be worth having a look at, but even at this price it does feel like a false economy.

Dave James is the Components Editor for TechRadar.com and as such is a massive PC geek of the highest order. What he hasn’t destroyed through benchmarking, overclocking or general tweakery isn’t worth looking at.