Despite the fact that the value segment including CPUs priced between $40 and $100 seems to be pretty narrow, AMD and Intel offer a large variety of very diverse solutions in it. This diversity makes it tricky to find an optimal CPU for one’s needs. Moreover, just like with high-performance platforms, you should always consider the way your inexpensive system will be used when you shop for a suitable processor.
As we have just determined inexpensive Intel processors perform pretty well in typical office applications, but yield significantly to competing solutions from AMD under heavier load, such as video transcoding, data encryption or 3D games. And this isn’t surprising at all: LGA775 being a very old platform that has hard time catching up with the contemporary needs has definitely affected its performance. In fact, LGA775 processors are simply unable to score higher than value Socket AM3 CPUs in those tasks where high performance is required.
However, Celeron and Pentium CPUs have another important advantage: they are much more energy-efficient than Athlon or Phenom. And it is not about some formal superiority, but about a significant practical advantage. Therefore, we can strongly recommend Intel processors for those systems, where low noise and small size matter more than performance in resource-hungry apps. Especially, since mainboard makers have a lot of modifications of miniature mainboards designed for LGA775 form-factor.
I would also like to say a few words about Intel Pentium G6950, because it is a truly unique processor – it is the only LGA1156 product that falls into the Value price segment. However, it doesn’t prevent this CPU from showing very disappointing results: it was outpaced by almost the entire LGA775 Pentium family, not to mention the competitors from AMD. It is obvious that Intel has restricted the functionality of their Clarkdale core too severely. Although Pentium G6950 does have a few real advantages. Besides a pretty decent integrated graphics core, it is also compatible with the mainboards for Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, which means that it could be a good choice for those users who intend to upgrade at a later day.
In order to better illustrate the consumer advantages of value processors from Intel and AMD, we created a diagram showing how the average performance of the today’s testing participants correlates with their price:
As you can see from this diagram, the best price-to-performance ratio in the Value segment belongs to Athlon II X3 CPUs. Multithreaded applications are not a rare thing these days, even many contemporary games can successfully utilize more than two processor cores. Therefore, Athlon II X3 CPUs look like one of the most optimal choices with a small price tag: they offer three computational cores and pretty high clock speeds. And if we also consider the possibility of unlocking the fourth core, it becomes perfectly clear why we think Athlon II X3 445 and Athlon II X3 450 are the absolute best choices in the sub-$100 price range today. We are proud to award these two processors our Recommended Buy title:
If you are looking for something even less expensive than that, then you should try to find something like an Athlon II X2 220. Unfortunately, they are being distributed only through OEM channels and may be quite hard to come by in a computer store. But if you manage to find one of those, you will be rewarded with a good CPU performance at a minimal price. Moreover, just like Athlon II X3, this processor can potentially turn into a triple- or even quad-core piece due to activation of the disabled cores. To our great regret, there are no attractive offerings like that among officially shipped Athlon II X2.
If you are a devoted Intel fan or if you are looking primarily for an energy-efficient solution, you should check out Pentium E5700 or Pentium E6700, which offer the best price-to-performance ration among their counterparts. At the same time, they consume considerably less power than any dual- or triple-core AMD CPUs.