CPUs! The 2020 mid-year update! (5/16/20)

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Intel and AMD have been at it, creating newer, faster, and better CPUs than we’ve seen in a long time. With so much out there, what on EARTH do you get? What should you avoid? Well, we tackle this topic for you today!


Due to a technical glitch, however, Part 1 of the show was lost. Oh no! But, no fear, here are the notes complete with links! Click to continue!

No-Go options

  • AMD A-Series: Below entry level, but too entry level. Poor value for the money.
  • AMD Athlon: Below entry level, but again, too entry level.
  • AMD FX series: Runs hot, power hungry, pretty much beaten out by anything modern. Only a deal for very specific users who would still be served better by modern chips.
  • Intel Pentium/Celeron: Below entry level. Poor value for the money.

Entry Level Chips (basic everyday use, light productivity, light gaming, light content creation)

The point here is to have a good, solid computer for light users. While there are cheaper options, going too low to save a few bucks will often result in an unsatisfactory experience when trying to work, surf, etc. While nobody wants to spend too much, there is such a thing as spending too little.

  • Ryzen 3 2300X
    • Inexpensive, competent quad-core. No hyperthreading (1 core = 1 thread)
    • Older chip now, might get a good sale on a PC with it.
    • Might be better off waiting for the 3300X and 3100 if you can.
  • Ryzen 3 3300X and 3100 (Zen 2)
    • Inexpensive quad-core CPUs that frankly perform amazingly well. Can actually compare decently with 2017’s Kaby Lake i7-7700K ($330) for about 1/3 of the price. Have hyperthreading (1 core = 2 threads).
    • Currently Tom’s Hardware #1 cheap/budget chip
    • Core i3 8th and 9th Gen
      • Inexpensive, 8th gen comes in dual- (hyperthreaded) and quad- (no hyperthreading) core variants.
      • Inexpensive, 9th gen only comes in quad-core. No hyperthreading.
      • Newer 10th gen should be price comparable, comes in dual- and quad-core variants, all have hyperthreading (thanks AMD!).
      • Newer is generally going to be better than older. No real reason to go with 7th generation or older, even if you can find them.

Mainstream Chips (Great all around computer for work, gaming, content creation)

Note on threading: programs and activities have different needs and wants. Some programs (like Photoshop, Premiere, etc) want more THREADS. Some (like games) favor SPEED over threads. Generally speaking? If you benefit from THREADS, go AMD. If you need SPEED, then go Intel. Worth noting that web browsers usually have each tab as a single thread, so they want a mix of SPEED and THREADS, but that gets into whether you’re using web-apps/resource intense sites or got 32 tabs open at once.

High-End (Professional content creation/productivity machines and Enthusiast gaming)

So, if you want the best gaming, or you’re doing real work, this is it. However, at this point you also should pair it with a powerful video card. Games will want both, but many professional media creation programs actually make use of the video card’s GPU for work. Some programs, like professional video editors, really do need it for both editing and encoding your final product. Likewise, they’re going to want a LOT of RAM as well. Here, you need to consider the WHOLE computer, not just the individual parts. You really would need a fast SSD to maximize the power. You should really be considering a higher tier of monitor rather than the cheapest thing at the store (and by all means DON’T buy a small HDTV). You might need to look into add-in cards such as video capture, a dedicated audio card, gigabyte ethernet, and more.

  • Ryzen 7 3000 series
    • Most of the pros of the Ryzen 5 3000 series hold true here. Great price/performance, noticeable improvement over the 2000 series, PCIe 4 support, etc.
    • Gets Tom’s “Best Overall Value” award from the current top 6 CPU list.
    • While the i7 and i5 are better gaming chips at 1080p, going to higher resolutions (1440, 4K, etc) sees it doing better. More than that, if you intend to STREAM while gaming, the Ryzen 7 is the better option due to the additional computing resources.
  • Intel i7 9000 series
    • The pros and cons of the i5 hold true for the most part.
    • Best gaming CPu according to Tom’s right now.
    • 8 cores is great, and nothing to sneeze at. No hyper-threading (Intel removed hyperthreading from i7’s not long ago), but with that many cores its going to be very good for gaming, content creation, etc. Plus, its single-thread speed is great.
    • You are paying a premium for its performance.

Core i9, Ryzen 9, and Threadripper: Only Professionals Need Apply

If you are not making money with highly demanding programs and workloads? There is literally no reason to get any of these outside of extravagance. These are meant for workstations, servers, and more. Generally speaking the CPUs themselves will be very expensive (as much as a normal computer by themselves!), the mother boards will be very expensive, the RAM will be very expensive, etc.

Additionally, these CPUs favor higher cores and thread counts over raw speed. While they will be fast, the biggest draw is heavy workloads across many, many cores.

These, ultimately, are not chips for average, or even above average consumers. These are pretty much only for professionals in specialized fields doing heavy work.