Best CPUs of 2015

When building a new computer or upgrading an existing system many start with the CPU as it’s arguably the most critical component in a PC. Picking the right CPU can be a challenge with dozens of options not very well differentiated and priced too close to each other (we are talking $25 gaps in-between). Case in point, there are over three dozen $200+ options as of writing.

Narrowing down the potential options to a certain budget certainly helps. Then you have to decide whether you go AMD or Intel, and if you’re definitely going for the latter, Intel has current offerings based on the LGA1150, LGA1151 and LGA2011-3 platforms.

After extensive testing you are familiar with, we’ve come up with this quick guide to bring you the best CPU choices available right now, divided into four categories: The Best Enthusiast/Value Gaming CPU, Best Extreme Desktop CPU, Best All-Round High-End CPU and Best Budget CPU. Finally, we’ll digress on which is the best overall platform to invest in right now.

Best Enthusiast/Value Gaming CPU

Best Budget CPU

Best Extreme Desktop CPU (Any Price)

Best All-Round High-end CPU

Best Platform

When picking the best value gaming CPU or the best budget CPU, we also take the platform into account, but it isn’t the primary factor. Price and performance play key roles in our decision. Removing the CPU from the equation for a moment, we asked ourselves which platform provides the most useful features at the best price?

In the past Intel’s Extreme CPUs were supported by outdated chipsets that sucked, if we are honest. The X79 was a classic example of that. The situation is considerably better with the Intel X99 that powers our two most expensive processor picks, the Core i7-5820K and the Core i7-5960X, however that doesn’t make it the best value platform. Among the reasons, its limited CPU support and the fact there is no upgrade path beyond the three existing Haswell-E processors, assuming Intel skips Broadwell-E and moves right to Skylake-E sometime next year.

The LGA1150 socket and the Z97 chipset face a similar situation and the final nail will be driven into the coffin once Skylake Core i5 and Core i7 pricing stabilizes.

Therefore we are going with the platform that powers our enthusiast/value gaming CPU choice. The LGA1151 socket is supported by a number of chipsets, but it’s the Z170 that we are interested in. This chipset is the only in the 100-series to support CPU overclocking and multi-GPU configurations. There are also 20 PCIe 3.0 lanes and the potential for up to three PCIe storage devices.

Another key advantage the Z170 enjoys over its predecessor is the new DMI 3.0 interface which allows support for high-end graphics cards as well as high-speed storage devices such as the Samsung SSD 950 Pro without compromising on bandwidth.

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