TechPowerUp's Best of 2017 34

TechPowerUp's Best of 2017

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Best Processor 2017

2017 has been the most exciting year for client-segment processors in over a decade, with AMD finally finding its bearings. The "Zen" CPU micro-architecture may not be an Intel Core "killer," but is certainly competitive, enabling AMD to come up with the Ryzen family of multi-core processors that offer great performance and value relative to the Intel's lineup. AMD was able to quickly deploy "Zen" across every price-point from $119 to $999, even if none of these newer chips feature integrated graphics. Intel wasn't dormant, either, launching its largest-ever high-end desktop (HEDT) processor lineup under the Core X "Skylake-X" family, which had Intel close the year by restoring its performance leadership in the mainstream desktop segment with the 8th generation Core "Coffee Lake" family. Given heavy discounts from AMD towards the end of the year, it was extremely difficult to pick the best chips of 2017, however.

Winner: Intel Core i7-8700K

Had Intel not launched its 8th generation Core "Coffee Lake" family in time, a Ryzen 7-series part would have been our clear winner. The Core i7-8700K not only outperforms AMD's higher-end Ryzen 7 series, but goes on to cannibalize the lower-end of Intel's own Core X family. This six-core processor that isn't shy when it comes to overclocking has HyperThreading for a total of 12 logical CPUs, a healthy 12 MB of L3 cache, and better power-draw than competing AMD parts. Its stronger single-core performance means games and less-parallized tasks run faster, while 12 threads make for plenty of muscle for multi-threaded tasks.

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Runner-up: AMD Ryzen 5 1600

With Intel facing glaring supply issues for its Core i5 "Coffee Lake" processors, we're picking the AMD Ryzen 5 1600 as our runner-up. There's no overstating the popularity of this chip in the DIY retail markets. For $200-ish, you get 6 cores, 12 threads, 16 MB of L3 cache, and an unlocked multiplier. The processor offers sufficient performance for gaming and multi-threaded tasks and comes with a reasonably quiet stock cooling solution, the AMD Wraith Spire. The chip is ideal for builders who want to focus their investment on a faster graphics card or a bigger SSD with the money saved on the processor and CPU cooler.

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Honorable Mentions

2017 has just been such an exciting year, so where do we even begin? The Core i3-8100 transforms entry-level gaming builds. You now spend just $120 on a processor that rivals $200 parts from Intel's previous generation, with four physical cores, 6 MB of L3 cache, and reasonably high clocks. The Ryzen 7 1700 is another major player at its sub-$300 price point. This 8-core/16-thread chip may not be faster than Intel chips at less-parallized tasks, but its multi-threaded performance rivals HEDT processors. The Core i5-8400 is another chip we expect to sell exceptionally well once Intel irons out its supply issues. You can have six Intel cores for $190, with 9 MB of L3 cache thrown in; that is, if you can overlook its lack of an unlocked multiplier. Lastly, there's the Ryzen Threadripper 1920X. If you're purely concerned with multi-threaded performance, there's the 12-core/24-thread 1920X at $799 for performance rivaling Intel Core X processors $200 pricier. There's also plenty of platform connectivity, and it includes the PCIe lanes the sub-$1000 Core X processors lack.

Looking forward to 2018

2018 may not have the kind of fireworks we've seen for the client-CPU market this year, but there is certainly quite a bit to look out for. Intel is expected to expand its 8th generation Core "Coffee Lake" family with more parts, possibly 8-core, and more affordable motherboard chipsets. AMD will try and restore competitiveness of its Ryzen processor family with its second-generation "Pinnacle Ridge" to which Intel will respond with faster SKUs across the board. One should consider the possible Q1 launch of the Core i7-8720K before committing to the i7-8700K at its current higher-than-MSRP price. The HEDT segment is expected to be rather flat. For the value-orientated CPU buyer, AMD could stir the pot with its "Raven Ridge" desktop APUs that combine "Zen" CPU cores with "Vega" integrated graphics fast enough for eSports gaming at 1080p. We hope Intel tames prices and supply of its 8th generation Core processors as buyers are already stressed out by how pricey DDR4 memory has become, and AMD 2nd generation Ryzen chips will hopefully live up to expectations as well.
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