The 10 Coolest Processors Of 2014 (So Far)

Processing The Best Processors

It's halftime in the 2014 processor battle as AMD, ARM, Intel and Samsung slug it out for title of brawniest, most affordable, fastest or most power-efficient chip. So far, the year has seen an impressive butting of heads from old rivals AMD and Intel to new foes Nvidia and Qualcomm.

While many of this year's most anticipated chips have yet to be released, such as Intel's Skylake processor, here is a look at this year's coolest chips so far.

Mobile: Intel Broadwell

Intel has just begun shipping its much anticipated Broadwell chip to customers, with systems expected on store shelves by the end of the year. The Broadwell processor is Intel's fifth-generation Core-series chip and will power most of the new laptops and desktops released over the next 18 months. Broadwell's big advance is that it boasts 30 percent more efficiency and 30 percent less power compared with its Haswell predecessor while increasing performance nominally.

Graphics: Nvidia's GeForce GTX 800M

Nvidia's GeForce GTX 860M may just be a nudge faster than last year's 765M model, but the graphics chip maker's biggest update to the chip was with game-related features such as Battery Boost and ShadowPlay.

The Battery Boost feature dynamically adjusts how much power is drawn from the GPU while keeping frame rates at 30 FPS. ShadowPlay is a gamer feature that lets users retroactively save gameplay for up to 20 minutes of past play (kind of a TiVo for gamers) so they can later share conquests online.

Server: Intel's Xeon+FPGA

In June Intel unveiled its latest Xeon chip with integrated FPGA, which boasts a 20X performance boost. The Intel FPGA (which stands for field-programmable gate arrays) aspect of the chip design allows customers or developers to buy the chip and program it with software to make sure it is customized and optimized for specific workloads.

Tablet: Samsung's Exynos ModAP

Samsung unleashed its quad-core Exynos ModAP that is conceived and built for its Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy S6 phone. The processor is the company's first-generation integrated LTE Modem-AP with advanced 4G LTE connectivity. The mobile system-on-chip processor is said to be faster and more battery-friendly than predecessors.

Server: IBM's Power8

IBM's Power8 processor for high-end computer systems was announced in 2013 but just began shipping in early 2014. This is not your average IBM chip, because Big Blue has licensed it to the OpenPOWER Foundation, a group of companies that include Google, Nvidia and Samsung. The consortium will be joining to help build ecosystems around Power8 and design custom-made versions of the processor for use in task-specific applications such as big data and cloud computing.

Low End: Intel's Core i3-40005U Haswell

Intel's Core i3-40005U processor based on the Haswell microarchitecture fits nicely in the chip maker's economy line of chips. The chip won't break any benchmark records for speed, but it will allow vendors such as Acer to roll out its C720 Chromebook, with an impressive 8.5 hours of battery life, for less than $200.

Smartphone: Qualcomm's Snapdragon 805

Qualcomm's latest mobile processor, the Snapdragon 805, boasts an "Ultra HD" capability that promises not only the ability to capture 4K video, but play it back at the same quality on either a smartphone or tablet using the quad-core chip. Qualcomm also claims as much as 40 percent more graphics horsepower than previous models.

Innovative: AMD's Beema and Mullins chips

AMD's update to its low-power Kabini laptop chip and Temash tablet SoC is not what you would expect from an iterative update of both. The replacements, quad-core Beema (notebook) and Mullins (tablet) SoC, may share similar chip architectures, but AMD has added a lot of new functionality into the processors, such as Turbo Core, ARM TrustZone, reduced leakage and new power management. The above features add up to a 20 percent reduction in power usage all while improving performance. Beema, for example, boasts 10 percent better graphics performance at 40 percent less power.

Desktop: Intel Core i7-4790K (Haswell Refresh)

Intel's Intel Core i7-4790K (aka Devil's Canyon) quad-core processor with hyperthreading, delivers more than just a jump in clock speed. With this release in June, Intel has used this Haswell refresh to address criticism that the first-gen Haswell ran too hot and offered only single-digit performance gains. The Devil's Canyon released tackled those gripes head-on and claims increased clock speeds by 15 percent (4GHz, up from 3.5GHz). Intel also added what's called a thermal interface material to the chip that keeps the chip much cooler.

Desktop: AMD A10-7850K (Kaveri)

AMD released the A10-7850K APU in February, making it the chip maker's top-of-the-line APU and successor to its A10-6800K chip. Formerly known as Kaveri, the A10-7850K uses the chip maker's latest update to the Bulldozer CPU architecture, code-named Steamroller. Most improvements to this line of processors are to the GPU side of the chip. The A10-7850K is a quad-core processor with 512 GPU cores, an upgrade from the AMD A10-6800K with 384 cores. That focus on the chip's GPU delivers a near 30 percent bump in refresh rates when playing games and using other graphics-demanding applications, AMD says.