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Fall Processor Pricing – Finding the Best Bang for the Buck
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by Rob Williams on September 5, 2008 in AMD Processors, Intel Processors

If pondering an upgrade, the time to purchase a new processor is now. Both AMD and Intel are offering a great collection of models that fit all budgets, and we take a look to find the best options available. Whether it’s a Dual-Core or Quad-Core you’re after, there’s undoubtedly a model that fits nicely into your price range and won’t let you down.

Introduction

It’s not too often you’ll overhear someone saying, “It’s a horrible time to think about purchasing a new processor”, because lately, there’s not too many occasions where that might be the case. Both AMD and Intel have a good selection of processors available right now, and neither company has any notable releases right around the corner that should halt you from picking up a new model now.

But, there’s a caveat. If you are someone who doesn’t mind throwing half a wallet’s worth of bills at a new processor, then Intel’s Nehalem is going to be worth waiting for. There’s been no official launch date given, but rumors are speculating it will happen between mid-October and early November, so it’s something to bear in mind. However, whereas a nice CPU upgrade now will cost you a few hundred dollars at most, Nehalem will undoubtedly cost you more.

Intel hasn’t made known what Core i7 processor will be released first, but if history is anything to go by, it will be the Extreme Edition, priced at $999. Past that, two more models will be released, the lowest being priced at around $316 per 1,000 units. How long the secondary CPUs will take to launch after the initial EE, or whether or not all three will launch at once, we’ll have to wait and see.

Besides the CPU itself, though, Core i7 uses a new socket-type, LGA1366, which means you’ll need a brand-new motherboard and CPU cooler. Luckily, the new platform sticks with DDR3, so if you have any of that kicking around currently, you should have no problem carrying them on over. As with any brand-new architecture launch, I wouldn’t expect any of the launch hardware to be inexpensive, and in the end, upgrading to Nehalem will cost more than just the CPU. Minus the graphic cards, it’s almost like building a completely new system.

How about getting on with it?

Alright, this article isn’t about Nehalem, but it’s important to bring up since it really is just around the corner. For those who aren’t afraid to spend some money, I’d highly recommend holding off on a new CPU purchase, as we’ve found out in the past many times over that it’s more than likely going to be worth the wait.

If I said we haven’t written “many” buyer’s guides in the past, I’d be lying, because we’ve done none, save for holiday guides. Over the past year, we’ve had a few requests to begin implementing them, and we thought it would be a good idea to take the requests to heart and see how well-received such articles would be. You can be sure that this will not be the last buyer’s guide we do, and we could continue along with other product-types as well, should there be further interest.

Our choice for recommended CPUs are based off of our expertise. We stalk new CPU releases, benchmark them the life out of them in our labs and also keep a close eye on pricing, as is evident by our news section. Because of the sheer number of processors available on the market, we don’t include all of them here, but rather pick different models are varying price-ranges that seem to make the most sense. We’ll cover the low-end, mid-range and high-end, making sure to cover every type of customer out there. We will not be including the extreme low-end, however, such as anything under $100.

‘High-End’ might be the wrong term to use in this buyer’s guide, since neither AMD nor Intel have true high-end products at their disposal. Intel does have a semi-high-end model on the market, but I’ll touch base on the next page on why it is not wise right now to go that route.

In order to find the best pricing available for each of the processors mentioned within, we took a trip around various e-tailers to compare, beginning with what’s likely to be the most popular among enthusiasts, NewEgg. Throughout the guide, many of the prices and model names that are URLs will bring you to our internal Pricegrabber shopping engine, which helps support the site if you choose to use it. We thank you in advance if you do choose to do so.

With that all said, let’s jump right into our look at current Intel processors on the market, and what we recommend.