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I'm currently in the market for a new computer, so I'm curious about the recent trends of processor speed versus core count. Core count seems to be 'all the rage' these days, but things are really getting out of control and there really doesn't seem to be a purpose to having a multi-threaded 6-8 core (12-16 virtual core) processor, at least from my position, as I don't need to be rendering a high-quality 3D movie while editing video and playing the latest video game at 1000% quality while computing SHA-512 hashes of everything on my hard drive, etc.

The current models I'm looking into are:

  1. The Intel Core i7-2600K 3.4GHz Quad-Core processor. [$315]
  2. The Intel Core i7 980x 3.33GHz Hexa-Core processor.* [$999]
  3. The AMD FX-8150 Zabezi 3.6GHz Octa-Core processor. [$280]

*Note: #2 doesn't seem to be available anymore.

It seems that AMD gives the best bang for your buck; at $280, you get 8 cores at a pretty good clock. Nevertheless, there are tons of AMD haters out there, so bad reviews abound.

My question is this: What should I be looking for in a processor these days? I just want my machine to run wicked fast, and I'd like to be able to do a Handbrake encode and still be able to compile stuff at the same time. Is it worth the extra money to get an i7-2600k to get less physical cores and a slower core clock?

I'm not going to be doing too much, but I'll probably be encoding movies with Handbrake while hacking on Python, Java, and compiling Linux kernels. I'll probably dual-boot the machine so as to be able to create music in SONAR and play the occasional game in Windows. I'm looking to get something that simply stays fast despite what I might throw at it. I'm not someone who renders 3D scenes while rendering movies while processing something in photoshop, etc.

Also, this isn't a shopping request. I'm asking what I should actually be looking for in a processor: GHz or cores.

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closed as off topic by Simon Sheehan, Daniel Beck, ChrisF, Mokubai, RedGrittyBrick Oct 16 '11 at 21:32

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It will help if you include what you will use the computer for. Development? Game playing? Word processing and Email? Watching streaming video? –  Daniel Mallott Oct 16 '11 at 21:08
Where in that list of products and prices is a 100$ difference between two of the options? –  Daniel Beck Oct 16 '11 at 21:12
This is basically a shopping recommendation and as such is off topic. For more information see Q&A is Hard, Let's Go Shopping! –  ChrisF Oct 16 '11 at 21:12
why was this closed? It's not a shopping question, it's a cores vs GHz question!?! –  Naftuli Tzvi Kay Oct 16 '11 at 21:49
Even if it's not a shopping question it has been asked before: superuser.com/questions/324487/… –  Mokubai Oct 17 '11 at 19:09

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