Pin Me

The Best Quad Core Processors: Published December 2009

written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 12/11/2009

Quad Core Processors have been on a roll lately. New products from both AMD and Intel have finally made quad core processors flexible enough and inexpensive enough to be mainstream, while the latest high-end quad core processors provide unparalleled performance.

  • slide 1 of 4

    Four Times the Fun!

    Quad cores are becoming increasingly relevant to mainstream PCs. It has long been the case that the price barrier of quad cores kept them from being easy to recommend to most users. However, modern quad core processors are both more affordable and more powerful than ever, making them a good idea for many more users. The three quad cores listed here are great picks for those who are looking for a quad core processor.

  • slide 2 of 4

    AMD Athlon II X4 620

    The AMD Athlon X4 620 is a great inexpensive quad core processor AMD's Athlon II line of processors recently added two new quad cores to its stable, the X4 620 and X4 630. They are actually very similar, but the X4 620 made the biggest waves because of its typical retail price of $99, making it the least expensive quad core processor ever.

    What does $99 dollars get you in a quad core? Quite a lot, actually. The Athlon II has many similarities to the Phenom II, meaning that it performs very well. The base clock speed of 2.6Ghz for the X4 620 isn't bad, either. There are still some situations where buying a higher clocked dual-core processor, such as an X2 550, is a better idea. Gamers in particular might want to pick the X2 550 instead. However, the X4 620 has definite advantages in heavily multi-threaded applications. For those who want or need to edit images, video and data, but don't have a large budget, the X4 620 is king.

  • slide 3 of 4

    Core i5 750

    Intel's Core i5 750 is one of the best mainstream processors to come along in some time, and it is also a great quad core. The secret to the Core i5 750 is its turbo boost feature. This new feature, debuted in the Core i7 line and now refined in the latest Core i5/i7 processors, allows a the Core i6 750 to increase its clock speed when multiple cores are not being heavily loaded.

    This means that the Core i5 750 offers the best of both worlds. During every day use it provides the speed of a dual core processor, but once all four cores are loaded it provides stunning multi-threaded performance. The transition is seamless and happens without the user ever noticing. This means that the Core i5 gets rid of the classic flaw with quad core processors - low clock speeds.

    There is a price to pay for this. The Core i5 750 is $200 dollars and a good motherboard will still run around $150. This is hardly unaffordable, however, and the performance is well worth the price. The only problem is that it doesn't come with Hyper Threading, which is addressed by the CPU below.

  • slide 4 of 4

    Core i7 860

    While the Core i7 860 is part of the Core i7 line, it uses the same relatively affordable P55 board with LGA1156 socket as the Core i5 750. At first glance, it can in fact be hard to tell why the Core i7 860 is advantageous over the Core i5 750. The 750 is rated for 2.66Ghz, while the 860 is rated for 2.8GHz, a small improvement considering the Core i7 860's price of $290 makes it $90 bucks more.

    There are, however, some major under the hood differences. First, the Core i7 860 uses turbo boost more aggressively then the Core i5 750, which means it should be faster when all four cores are not loaded. In addition to this, the Core i7 860 has hyper-threading enabled. This means that each core turns into two virtual cores. Programs will view the Core i7 860 as if it is an eight core processor and utilize its resources as such.

    This translates to major boost in performance in some applications. And since the Core i7 860 uses the same motherboards as the Core i5 750 the price difference between the processors is the only extra price you'll pay to use the Core i7 860. If you choose, you can upgrade to the much more expensive and slightly more powerful Core i7 870, but the Core i7 860 represents a much better value.