Weighing the value of today's processors

When performance meets price

PROCESSOR REVIEWS TEND TO FOCUS on performance, and rightly so. We all want to see how well the latest silicon plays games, encodes media files, renders scenes, and performs various other tasks. But performance isn't the only metric that's important for CPUs. For instance, power consumption and energy efficiency are also an important piece of the puzzle, as is the actual cost of the chip. We've considered all of these things in our CPU reviews for years, but we've never before set out to quantify the value proposition—to show exactly how much bang you'll get from dropping your hard-earned bucks on a particular CPU.

Part of the reason we've avoided doing so is that, let's face it, it has the potential to be kind of cheesy. There's much more to a CPU's value proposition than a cold cost-benefit analysis can capture, and in truth, doing such an analysis well can prove rather tricky. That's why you should read our CPU reviews and our system building guides to see what they recommend.


A vocal contingent of our readers has long been asking for a closer look at price-performance issues, and we think we've cooked up some novel ways of expressing that data that may make it feasible. So we've decided to give it a shot.

Fortuitously, AMD and Intel both took an axe to their prices last month, and we recently added Intel's $113 Core 2 Duo E4300 to our constellation of test results, so now seems like a particularly appropriate time to consider performance per dollar. Join us as we look at the value proposition of 16 CPUs, from the Athlon 64 X2 3600+ all the way up to the Core 2 Extreme QX6800, across a wide range of games, applications, and even energy efficiency tests. Some of what we found surprised us, and it may change the way you think about CPU value.

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