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CPU Buying Guide

Most people think about upgradeability when they buy new kit – but only a fraction of us ever actually upgrade. If you re-vamp every couple of years, then technology will have moved on and a new rig might be more appealing. Whether you're looking for a CPU inside a new system, looking to upgrade or even build your own PC, KitGuru has an expert opinion for you.

Buying a CPU can be complicated, you need to consider how many cores (brains) it has, how fast the cores are, how fast the data bus is and how much power it uses. Also, clock for clock, Intel processors tend to do more work than AMD chips – but they also cost more.

If you are looking for price-performance, then AMD offers good options. At the entry level, they have X2 processors with 2 cores and we like the Athlon II X2 250. The Phenom II X4 designs have 4 cores, with the ‘965' chip falling in price to become very competitive. At the high-end, the latest chips (like the 1095T) have 6 cores. Right now, AMD is the only company with a quad core processor that sells to the trade under $100 – with the Athlon II X4 630. AMD chips serve a purpose, but tend not to overclock as well as Intel CPUs.

There are 3 families to look at here, Core i3 (2 cores), Core i5 (2-4 cores) and Core i7 (4-6 cores). The entry level i3-530 processor sells to the trade around $100, runs at 2.93GHz as standard, but can clock up near 4GHz. The Core i5-650 is a dual core processor with more power and can normaly clock up to 4Ghz. The Core i5-750 is a quad core processor that sells to the trade around $170 and can also clock up to 4Ghz. Enthusiasts are in love with the i5-750 as well as its big brother, the Core i7-930. This costs over $200 trade and also clocks to 4Ghz. Top of the tree is the 6 core i7-980 Extreme Edition which is almost $1,000.

KitGuru loves AMD’s Phenom II X4 925 quad core processor at just over $120 trade as well as the 1095T Black Edition 6 core processor at just over $200. From Intel, we like the Core i5-650 and the i5-750. We advice that you get the latest release of each processor, as AMD/Intel constantly improve production processes.

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