Hardware 2.0: Best CPUs and motherboards list (2012 edition)

Hardware 2.0: Best CPUs and motherboards list (2012 edition)

Summary: Let's kick off this series by looking at processors and motherboards in three different price categories.


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  • Best CPUs and motherboards list of 2012

    You asked for it, so here it is: the first installment of the final "Hardware 2.0" Best Kit Lists for 2012.

    We're kicking off this series by looking at CPU and motherboards in three different price categories -- extreme, mainstream, and budget, where we're going to look at CPUs and motherboards ranging from an eye-watering $1,000 to a very reasonable $50.

  • Extreme: Intel Core i7-3970X Extreme Edition - six-core, 3.5GHz

    This is the king of CPUs.

    The Core i7 processors represents a new era in architecture for Intel, and the 3970X the next stage in desktop processors based on the Sandy Bridge-E architecture -- the next stage in evolution of the six-core CPU.

    This is a 3.5GHz part that can be Turbo Boosted up to a whopping 4.0GHz. It has six cores, which when combined with Hyper-Threading makes a whopping 12 threads available. Add to this 15MB L3 cache, triple-channel DDR3-1066 memory interface, 150W TDP.

    The ideal choice for hardcore gamers, video editors, and show-offs!

    Price: $1,080.

    Image source: Intel.

  • Extreme: ASUS Rampage IV Extreme

    An extreme CPU needs an extreme motherboard, and they don't come much more extreme than the ASUS Rampage IV Extreme.

    This board supports the Socket 2011 found on the Intel Core i7-3970X and offers support for up to 64GB RAM via 8 DIMM slots, and comes with a total of support for 12 separate USB 2.0 ports, eight USB 3.0 ports, and eight 6Gb/s SATA ports.

    The OC Key allows system information to be overlayed on the screen, showing you real-time information when you want need.

    Price: $450.

    Image source: ASUS.

Topics: Hardware, Intel, Processors

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  • Why buy the Intel Celeron

    The AMD Choice of A10 or A8 with most any MOBO supporting the socket would be worlds faster both on CPU and GPU!
    • Quite simply: price and approval

      Did you fail to note that the AMD APUs were over twice the cost of the Celeron? And the selection of supporting motherboards far narrower? You need to go farther down the AMD APU line to compete on price with the Celeron, to the A4 or A6. And then you still face the problem of acceptance. A lot of businesses simply won't buy anything that isn't Intel in a PC. They don't trust AMD compatiblity or the stability of the company. Fair or not, that is what you have to deal with when doing PC builds for the small business market.
      • Compete on price with the Celeron?

        A $45 AMD A4 basically comes with the equivalent of a $60 video card, so no, the Celeron is not competitive at all. Any business that sees that even IE, Flash, and Office 2010/2013 get real GPU acceleration will realize the benefit of going AMD in the low-end, and this doesn't even take into consideration all of the content creation applications available.

        AMD also has ISV-certified FirePro APU's available for lower-cost graphics workstations. Any professional graphics card will always sell for a higher price than a comparable-performance consumer card, but having this bundled in a socket FM2-compatible package means that any motherboard for the consumer APU's means that there is now a cheap option with Eyefinity for 3 monitors for use with high-level workstation applications - but allows for ISV-certified graphics drivers for proper acceleration, so you're not compromising by using a consumer-grade machine that isn't supported. That's a big bonus that Intel isn't offering.
  • AMD motherboard recommendation

    The Gigabyte board kinda blows. I put some Kingston Hyper-X 1866 RAM in it, and set the timings to 9-11-9-27 @ 1.65V (which is what Kingston says to set it to) and it wouldn't go past the BIOS logo. I had to put a *BETA* BIOS on it to work properly, which is less than ideal. No motherboard maker should ever put out a beta BIOS, EVER!

    This RAM is pretty standard Kingston 1866 RAM, but it works perfectly in ASUS's A85X chipset boards (ASUS has a micro-ATX version too), so long as you do set the timings manually. RAM over 1600MHz generally doesn't have JEDEC timings for faster speeds, so you always have to adjust it manually in every motherboard BIOS, but it works perfectly when you do this with ASUS' boards.

    Also, Gigabyte's UEFI logo is atrocious. If you set the system up with native UEFI (and, optionally Secure Boot), it has the "UltraReliable" tagline on it, and Windows displays it during the OOBE.
  • Celeron! really?

    Anyone in tech that has built or been forced to use a Celeron equipped pc knows it is a dog.
    Sure, you can cheap out on your build/spec and save a few bucks on your business hardware but you will lose that saving a hundred fold over in loss of productivity. The Celeron is the rejected child on Intel's assembly line!
    • Celeron

      Maybe you should jump over to Passmarks' CPU rating charts and see where the Sandy Bridge Celerons come in at.
  • extra words

    "Budget: Intel Celeron G540 - dual-core, 2.5GHz
    Nowhere near as attractive as the Core i7-3970X Extreme Edition, but the Sandy Bridge-based Celeron G540 is a great choice for those looking for those looking for a cheap processor."

    You repeat yourself: for those looking for those looking for a cheap processor.
  • processors

    It is good to have a processor and compatible MB listed together, I have never built a system, someday, I might. I don't do gaming (except for Freecell) so a $1000 processor is not needed. I don't have any ideas on which parts go together. Articles like this are informational.
  • Quad-Channel


    While the LGA 2011 Sandy Bridge-E processors do support triple channel configurations, why would you recommend triple channel when these chips can support quad channel memory configs?
  • Intel builders beware

    In the coming years Intel's plan in the near future is to make custom PC building virtually impossible by making the processor permanent (welding it on) on the mobo.
    Looks like many Intel fans will become AMD fans. Hahaha