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Processor Buying Guide 2022

Any of the Intel i3, i5, i7, Xeon or AMD Ryzen systems that we offer can provide a modern level of performance and user experience.  Surprisingly, there’s been little in the way of performance improvement between a quad-core processor from 10 years ago compared to some brand new quad core processors today.  Systems from the last 4 years (8th-12th generations) added additional processor cores rather than trying to push pure processor clock speeds.  If you’re on a budget you’re often better investing in graphics card upgrades rather than processor upgrades with almost all processors we offer able to deliver an acceptable entry to mid-level gaming experience.

If you’re looking for something newer, or a keen gamer looking for that extra performance combined with a higher-end graphics card, then you’re likely to benefit from the later generation (new) Intel or AMD Ryzen systems.

AMD vs Intel
We believe that choosing a processor should be based on getting the best value performance for your requirements rather than picking or limiting yourself to a particular platform. We offer a selection of both Intel and AMD processors to meet different usage requirements. Many people believe that AMD processors are the clear winner, and if you watch enough Youtube videos you may come to the same opinion. While AMD processors use a much more advanced manufacturing technology, use less power, run cooler, are more overclockable, have claimed the performance crowns, offer more cores (on some models) and support faster memory – they also have their limitations. In Australia, AMD is not always as competitively priced as it is in the US, and Intels “F” series processors are available at better pricing locally often making the Intel the better value processor option. While it is true that the AMD offers overclocking advantages which Intel restrict, most of our customers never overclock their system, and when this is factored into account the Intel processors also offer better performance per dollar. While we offer predominantly Intel processors for their value/performance (and availability), there are a couple of great value AMD options that we include in our line-up that deliver great performance at an affordable price point with the flexibility to overclock for those that want to pursue that option. For systems with very high core counts the AMD options are a great option. Refurbished systems with older AMD processors are largely unsuitable for gaming or any heavy usage, so our refurbished systems are exclusively Intel at this point. We have included a table below that provides a comparison of relative processor performance both across generations of Intel processors and between current Intel and AMD processors. At the end of the day, both Intel and AMD are great value options and you can’t really go wrong with either – so buy what you’re comfortable with, or what provides the best performance within your budget!

i3, i5 and i7 considerations
Welcome to one of the most confusing and misunderstood naming conventions in the market. The majority of the customers we see are of the opinion that they should never buy an i3, and should (ideally) get an i7 processor – without really understanding what that means. While some retail stores are still selling 7th generation i7 processors, the 10th generation i3 processor is actually better than almost all i7 processors up until the 8th generation!  And for many workloads the 12th Generation i3 is now faster than an 11th generation 6 core i5 processor! We’ve put together a comparison of processors in the table below where you can see that from the 2nd to the 7th generation all i3/i5/i7 maintained a consistent core/thread count between generations. The 2nd-7th Generation I3 processor had just 2 cores and the i5 and i7 processors had 4 cores, with the i7 gaining an extra 4 threads which helped with multi-tasking. We definitely recommend a minimum of 4 cores and for that reason all older i3 processors are definitely ones to avoid. But from the 8th generation on things really started to change, the i3 gained 4 cores, and then with the 10th generation it scored 8 threads with the 10th generation i3-10100 processor now matching the 7th generation i7-7700 spec for spec (same base and turbo clock speeds, same core and thread counts). For the most part, the i3-10100/10105 and now even the 12100 represent some of the best value-for-money processors available and provide great gaming performance with their high clock speeds. So while earlier i3 processors should be avoided, current i3 processors actually represent great value performance and out-class high-end i5 and i7 machines from a few years ago!

For legacy refurbished systems using 2nd-7th generation processors, the difference between an i5 and i7 processor is minimal. If you’re running very CPU intensive applications, or lots of active applications at the same time, or advanced gaming then the additional threads essentially allow the i7 processor to do more at the same time. At the higher end of the gaming spectrum for example, when using a decent graphics card you may find that the difference between and i5 and an i7 amounts to fewer dropped frames in a game. Yes, the i7 is better – but only if you’re really pushing the PC… and it’s definitely overkill for general computing use. One of the other factors to consider is demand. Because there are a lot of older computers out there, people often look to upgrade their existing PC rather than buy new… for many this means looking for an i7 that will work in their existing i5 system. Given that many fewer i7s are sold in the first instance and lots of people look to upgrade this means that secondhand i7s demand quite a premium and therefore represent a notable price jump that doesn’t necessarily reflect the performance advantage they offer. Consider that a used i7-7700 sells on ebay for more than $300 while a brand new i3-10100 (of identical spec) sells brand new for under $150!

For new systems, the 10th generation i3 processor is adequate for most, and the latest 6 core i5 processors are pretty much better than any prior generation i7 processor. Unless you’re doing very high end gaming, engineering or video rendering work, there’s typically no need to even consider choosing a modern i7 or even i9 processor

Processor 2nd Gen 3rd Gen 4th Gen 6th Gen 7th Gen 8th Gen 9th Gen 10th Gen 11th Gen 12th Gen
i3 2/4 2/4 2/4 2/4 2/4 4/4 4/4 4/8 4/8
i5 4/4 4/4 4/4 4/4 4/4 6/6 6/6 6/12 6/12 6/12+4EC*
i7 4/8 4/8 4/8 4/8 4/8 6/12 8/8 8/16 8/16 8/16+4EC*
i9 8/16 10/20 8/16 8/16+8EC*

*EC = Efficiency Cores, new to 12th generation offer additional processing capacity for some background tasks and overall performance improvement.  Efficiency cores are not available on all SKUs.

Processor Generations
While some may query buying a 3rd or 4th generation processor that’s several years old, the fact is that there’s minimal performance difference between that and later generations is often overlooked, especially considering the value they offer. With no moving parts the processors can last decades in normal use (the CPU cooling fan may fail, but these are very cheap to replace!). We’ve included a graph showing the relative performance of processors from the 1st generation of i5 processors through to the latest i3, i5, i7 and i9 alternatives.

First generation i5 as well as Core2 (E8500), and especially earlier models of i3, Celeron, Pentium or Atom processors (not pictured) all perform substantially slower than second generation and later i5/i7 processors (or 9/10th generation i3) – so just because they’re of a similar age or GHz speed value doesn’t mean they perform the same… and this might have been your experience with computers of similar age (but quite different specification) in the past. If you’re looking at either an i5-3470 or above then you’re getting close to the performance of modern computer for a fraction of the price.

If you are keen to get that little bit extra performance, the selection of suitable secondhand processors in later generation equipment is significantly harder to find and unless we have a stock item on hand that suits, our recommendation is typically to buy new. When the latest brand new Intel i3-10105 both outperforms a used i7-7700 (and is cheaper to buy!) our recommendation is either to go new (with a warranty) or buy a used 3rd/4th/6/7th generation system because the more recent 8th and 9th generation platforms don’t deliver any significant performance benefit and demand cost premiums that aren’t justified.

Please note that you can’t typically upgrade a CPU between generations without also changing the motherboard (and in some cases also the memory) – so buying an older i7 is as fast as that system will be able to go without major upgrades.

Processor Performance
To provide a baseline comparison we use the Cinebench R20 benchmark results for “single core” workloads – with all of the new and used processors offering a minimum of 4 cores (and many games only able to utilise 4 cores) this provides a good indication of the relative gaming performance across the different platforms, generations and clock speeds.  If you are intending to play the latest games that demand 6 core processors, or are doing video rending or other processor intensive tasks then the second graph of relative multi-core performance will be more relevant showing the sheer processing power of the different platforms.