We view the Core i5-7600K from Intel as the best option for gamers and PC builders today who don't wish to fork out on more expensive options, but desire the capacity to overclock and improve performance further.
Update for 2017: We've replaced both the Core i5-6600K and Core i3-6100 processors with their spiritual 7000-series Kaby Lake successors.
Intel Core i5-7600K
The Intel Core i5-7600K is part of the company's mid-tier processor line, sporting a quad-core design with no multi-threading for a total of 4 logical cores. This allows for increased productivity and performance, and the "K" in the name of this specific model dictates the allowance for overclocking, an added bonus for the price.
Bottom line: The Core i5-7600K hits the sweet spot for many and is a perfect processor for your next PC build.
One more thing: Can't hit that FPS target in a CPU-intensive application/game? Be sure to get overclocking.
Why the Intel Core i5-7600K is the best processor for your PC
It's a quad-core processor without hyperthreading, but there's plenty of scope for overclocking should you have adequate cooling. All this at a reasonable price makes the Core i5-7600K an exciting choice.
When looking for a new CPU, it's easy to automatically go for the more expensive options expecting a return in performance. And you'd be correct in that assumption — but the question is whether or not you need that kind of power and to pay that much. When it comes to value in performance versus cost, the Intel Core i5-7600K is your best bet. It takes everything that made the i5-6600K so good and slaps some Kaby Lake on top.
It's a mid-range processor in the Core i5 family of chips, with its total of 4 physical cores. Before you assume Windows will see that as 8 cores thanks to hyperthreading, it's worth noting that this CPU does not support Intel's dual-stream technology. That said, you're investing in a solid quad-core processor that is fully unlocked. Coupled with a sealed watercooling unit, this chip can be overclocked to 4.6GHz and above, depending on other components and the chassis you have.
If you're not into overclocking, the base frequency of 3.8GHz is more than enough for general use and the processor can turbo up to 4.2GHz without any settings being fiddled with. We would actually find it difficult to recommend a processor more powerful than the i5-7600K simply due to its performance, price and available overclocking capabilities. If you're looking for a processor for gaming and can afford such a chip, it's definitely worth considering.
The FX-8 series of chips by AMD are its current top-of-the-line processors with a whopping 8 cores. What makes this exceptionally exciting for consumers is the price with this FX-8320E starting at just over $100, a bargain for anyone looking to grab a deal on their CPU. It's not quite comparable to Intel counterparts, but there's some serious performance per dollar here.
Bottom line: If you're tight on budget but really want to purchase a powerful CPU, AMD has your back with the FX-8320E, one of the most affordable octa-cores available.
One more thing: Be sure you're picking up the FX-8320E and not its 2012 predecessor, the FX-8320.
Intel Core i7-6950X
This is the dad of dads, the king of consumer chips. Meet Intel's Core i7-6950X, which only sports a total of 10 physical cores with hyperthreading. That's right, you get a total count of 20 cores with this thing inserted into a compatible motherboard socket. Should you require incredible amounts of performance, this chip is for you.
Bottom line: You don't need this processor, and probably never will. That said, if you happen to have more than $1,000 laying around to spare, some could class it a worthy investment.
One more thing: There's one issue with the i7-6950X and that's the price. This powerful processor will set you back around $1,600.
Intel Core i3-7100
Don't have a serious budget for a high-end CPU but wish to hop aboard the Kaby Lake Core processor train? Intel has the Core i3-7100 available at around the $120 mark, making this CPU an ideal investment with some serious power for the price. There's no overclocking capabilities out-the-box, but it'll be more than enough for some gaming and productivity.
Bottom line: The Intel Core i3-7100 is perfect for those watching their pennies but wish to have a Core CPU running on the Kaby Lake architecture.
One more thing: This cheap CPU has hyperthreading, so you'll be bagging a total of 4 logical cores in your chosen OS. Not bad for $120.
There are a plethora of processors available and with AMD's Zen platform just around the corner we would recommend anyone to hold out on upgrading for now. But should you be unable to wait for prices of Intel chips to fall, or to see if AMD finally launches a decent line of processors, you really can't go wrong with the Intel Core i5-7600K. You can even look to increase the performance of this CPU through overclocking.
Intel Core i5-7600K
The Intel Core i5-7600K by Intel is part of the company's mid-tier processor line, sporting quad-core chips with no multi-threading for a total of 4 logical cores. This allows for increased productivity and performance, and the "K" in the name of this specific model allows for overclocking, an added bonus for the price.
Bottom line: The Core i5-7600K hits the sweet spot for many and is a perfect processor for your next PC build. It's also future-proof to a degree thanks to being unlocked.
One more thing: Can't hit that FPS sweet spot in a CPU-intensive application/game? Be sure to get overclocking.