INTEL PENTIUM G4600 $87
WHEN WE SET OUT to build our budget machine a year ago, we turned to AMD for the brains of the operation. Given that we set ourselves an even tighter overall system price this year, you would be forgiven for thinking that AMD would be an obvious choice this time around, too. However, it’s actually Intel that holds our budget hearts right now. Its Pentium brand has been getting us hot under the collar for a while, and this G4600 manages to check a surprising number of our essential boxes, given its lowly price tag.
There are actually plenty of choices at the bottom of the processor market, with older AMD Semprons vying with Intel Celerons, starting from as little as $32. Such chips lack anything approaching real oomph, though, with low core counts and low, low operating frequencies holding your general computing experience on the back foot. In fact, it isn’t until you get closer to the $100 price point that the silicon begins to deliver where we need it.
This quad-thread Kaby Lake chip (two physical cores) boasts a healthy operating frequency of 3.6GHz, crams the Intel HD Graphics 630 into its silicon, has 3MB of L3 cache, and a thermal design power of 51W. Obviously, we have no interest in using the integrated graphics, because we’ve budgeted for a discrete graphics card from the off, but it’s always good to have a backup, in case anything goes wrong.
An important factor when choosing this chip is the inherent upgrade path on offer, thanks to the fact that it uses the LGA1151 socket, which means that, at a later date, you could drop in a Core i5 or even a Core i7 for a huge speed boost. The fact that the Pentium G4600 supports up to 64GB of DDR42400 memory gives you another upgrade option, too.
For now, at least, the Pentium family gets the nod for any budget build. But it shouldn’t be long before we see AMD APUs coupling Ryzen brains with Vega brawn to power a completely different kind of budget gaming machine, so watch this space.