We recommend the AMD A8-3850 to mainstream desktop PC users in search of capable gaming power and multithreaded application performance.
Intel Core i7-965 Extreme Edition
Thanks to an expensive new motherboard requirement, Intel's new Core i7 desktop processors will remain enthusiast and professional-level parts until more affordable complementary hardware comes out later next year. Speed never comes cheap, however, and if you're willing to spend for it now, you'll find yourself in possession of the fastest CPU on the market.
AMD Phenom X4 9850 ( 2.5GHz)
AMD's new Phenom X4 9850 is overpriced and outclassed compared with its Intel-based quad-core competition. If PC vendors can use this chip to make cheap systems (as they did with older Phenoms), we might have nicer things to say, but as a DIY part at this price, we can't recommend AMD's latest quad-core CPU.
AMD Phenom 9600 ( 2.3GHz)
AMD's new Phenom quad-core CPU has little to recommend it over competing chips from Intel. The Phenom is marginally less-expensive, but not enough to make up for its subpar performance. Unless AMD drops prices more aggressively, it looks like Intel will maintain its grasp on the CPU market for the foreseeable future.
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AMD Phenom 9500 ( 2.2GHz, OEM)
AMD's new Phenom quad-core CPU has little to recommend it over competing chips from Intel. The Phenom is marginally less expensive, but not enough to make up for its subpar performance. Unless AMD drops prices more aggressively, it looks like Intel will maintain its grasp on the CPU market for the foreseeable future.
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Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650
The CPU market is due for a lot of upheaval over the next 12 months, so you might be wise to wait for a clearer picture before plunking down $1,000 or so on Intel's new Core 2 Extreme QX9650 quad-core desktop processor. But if you want to claim ownership of the fastest multicore CPU around today, look no further.
Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850
The quad-core Core 2 Extreme QX6850 keeps the desktop CPU performance belt tied firmly around Intel's waist at a price that helps offset the lack of sizable performance gains. New products at the end of the year may outclass this new chip when they arrive, but for now, the QX6850 reigns supreme.
Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800
If you thought dual cores were over the top, get ready. Intel presents the Core 2 Extreme QX6700, a single CPU with four distinct processing cores. At $999, the first quad-core CPU will remain an enthusiast part for a while, but as a glimpse of the future, it's clear that clock speed is out and core counts are in.
AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+
AMD's new high-end dual-core CPU offers plenty of bang for the buck, outpacing Intel's Pentium 965 Extreme Edition, which costs $200 more. Sounds like a good deal, but wait to see what Intel's next-gen Core 2 Duo chips have to offer when they debut later this year.
AMD Athlon 64 FX-62
AMD's Athlon 64 FX-62 helps usher in the new Socket AM2 chipset, but incremental performance gains make AMD look vulnerable to Intel's next-gen chips, due later this year.