Like many computer users with a slightly older computer (and sadly we all know that often means more than just a year or more old), my computer is showing signs of age. For the most part, its decline has been graceful: I haven’t lost any files, nothing has crashed, and nothing catastrophic has happened-it’s just that things aren’t working as well as they once did. Videos don’t play well, programs take forever to open, and new software barely runs on my computer.
Consequently, I’m in the market for a new computer. Like a lot of computer users, I know that you can save big bucks by assembling your own computer. It’s really not that hard, it just takes a little technical knowledge and some patience in doing the research. But, I’ll take care of a good portion of that research by recommending the five top processors under $500. Of course, you will need additional components to build your computer: a motherboard, memory, a graphics card, a hard drive, DVD drive, and a case, but deciding on a processor is often the most difficult. Thankfully, there are many great deals to be had on processors.
The best processors under $500 include:
Intel Core i7 2600K – For many people, speed is the best benchmark for a processor. If that is your opinion, the Intel Core i7 2006K is the top processor under $500. While a bit more expensive than other options, it’s one of the fastest processors you can purchase. As of this writing it sells for a little over $300. For that price you get a quad-core processor running at 3.4 GHz with 4 MB of L3 cache and 1024KB of L2 Cache. This makes for one of the fastest processors around according to CPUBenchmark.com. Intel processors are always a solid value and this one is no exception. It will give you plenty of power to run games and business applications. The only downside is that motherboards can be a little difficult to find and that the stock fan isn’t that good (an upgraded fan is pretty cheap).
Intel Core i5 2500 – Another one of the best processors under $500 is the Intel Core i5 2500. You can find it online for right around $200, making it about $100 dollars cheaper than the i7 2600K mentioned above. However, you don’t sacrifice much. The processor still has a 3.3 GHz speed (3.7 GHz in turbo mode) and is plenty fast for most applications. CPUBenchmark.com rates it as one of the best values on the market. For those looking for value amongst the best processors under $500, this processor also includes its own video playback capabilities and reviews online indicate that it is great for everyday use. This can help save money when building your own computer and goes a long way towards making this one of the top processors under $500. The only downside is that it has less cache (meaning slightly slower performance), but for everyday use it’s unlikely that you would notice.
Intel Core i7 950 – The Intel Core i7 950 is another one of the best processors for under $500. All across the Internet people rave about this processor and its speed. For around $279 you get a 3.06 GHz processor with 8 MB of L3 Cache. It’s a quad-core, so multitasking will be no problem and you can easily run multiple applications at a time. Pair it with Windows 7 64-bit and it will fly! It doesn’t come with integrated video which can be either a benefit (if you want to choose your own card) or a drawback (if you want to save money). But it can be the foundation for a seriously fast computer and is easily one of the top processors under $500.
AMD Phenom II X6 1100T – Lest one think I only researched Intel processors, I also found a couple great deals for processors under $500 from AMD. I have used various AMD processors over the years and always have found them to be speedy and reliable. One of the best deals around right now is the AMD Phenom II X6 1100T. The processor can be had for about $240 (cheaper than the best Intel values) and runs at 3.3 GHz. It’s a six core processor meaning that it is great for multitasking and comes with a generous amount of cache (6 x 512K of L2 Cache) and 6 MB of L3 Cache. In common language, this means it is very fast. For those into customizing their computers, the AMD Phenom II X6 1100T is a great choice because it is easy to overclock (just get a good fan)-allowing you to achieve speeds higher than its advertised speed. It doesn’t have integrated video and isn’t quite as fast as the Intel chips, but it gets good ratings on common benchmarks.
AMD Phenom II X6 1090 – One of the best deals for a processor under $500, might just be the AMD Phenom II X6 1090. You can get this chip for under $200 and it’s a solid performer. It is a 3.2 GHz processor with the same cache as the Phenom II X6 1100T mentioned above. Like other AMD Phenom processors it can be overclocked if you wish (thereby expanding the value) and it runs very cool despite its speed. With six cores it will be difficult to slow down this processor. For best results, pair it with Windows 7 64-bit edition.
Anyone looking for a processor under $500 will be happy with any of the options listed above. They truly are some of the best processors for under $500 and will lead to many days of happy computing whether you do simple tasks like Internet and word processing or more complex tasks like gaming and photo editing.