The 10 Coolest Processors Of 2016 (So Far)

Speed Freaks

As it stands right now, the market for designing and manufacturing processors is dominated by just a few vendors. But maybe that's OK, because those vendors -- Intel, AMD, Qualcomm and Nvidia -- have been no slouches. As the expectations of users continue to rise around computing speed and functionality, chip and graphics processor vendors have been steadily advancing their technologies for powering advanced productivity, entertainment and gaming (including for users who are on the go).

Here are the 10 coolest new processors we've come across from just the first half of 2016.

(For more on the "coolest" of 2016, check out "CRN's Tech Midyear In Review.")

Intel Core vPro 6th Generation

These Skylake chips are aimed to meeting the modern computing needs of the enterprise by embedding business-specific features right into the processor hardware. Security is one focus, with a key feature being the Intel Authenticate Solution for multifactor authentication, as a way to bolster the PC's identity protection. The chip's upgrades to performance and graphics aren't too shabby, either.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 625

This processor, targeted at smartphones, is aimed not just at performance increases but also at enabling advanced features on highly affordable mobile devices. The Snapdragon 625 promises ’premium-tier user experiences’ on camera, video and connectivity for a wider portion of the smartphone world.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080

Based on new processor architecture from Nvidia, dubbed Pascal, the GTX 1080 is being touted as the most powerful graphics card to yet hit the market. While it's ideal for modern PC gaming, virtual reality is where this graphics card really aims to shine, and Nvidia contends that performance of the GTX 1080 is actually twice that of a leading processor, the GeForce GTX Titan X.

Intel Xeon Phi 2nd Generation

Targeted at supporting high-performance computing, the new generation of Xeon Phi processors -- known as Knights Landing -- have 72 cores on Intel's 14-nanometer Tri-Gate Transistor process. That, according to Intel, allows for higher-performing supercomputers as well as for running artificial intelligence and deep learning in data centers.

AMD Radeon RX 480

This graphics card is aimed at nothing less than starting a ’revolution’ in virtual reality and PC gaming, according to AMD. The processor features upgrades including a huge 2.8X boost in performance/watt over the previous-generation Radeon R9 290.

Intel Core i7 Extreme Edition

The cool factor with the Core i7 Extreme Edition is pretty easy to characterize -- it is, in fact, Intel's first 10-core processor for desktop PCs. Translation: it's the company's most-powerful desktop processor yet, ideal not just for gamers but also for creators of content such as video, visual effects and music.

Intel Xeon E7 v4

Yes, Intel had a busy first half of 2016—and with the new Xeon E7 v4 family, that also included a new set a processors aimed at feeding the world's growing big data obsession. For meeting the needs of real-time analytics, these processors offer a big boost in performance (they're aimed at supporting configurations of up to 256 sockets) and memory capacity (up to 24 TB in a system of eight sockets), according to Intel.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060

While the GTX 1080 is the top of the line on gaming performance (and a price to match) Nvidia also debuted a more-affordable graphics card in this line during the first half of the year, the GTX 1060. The processor enables the high performance of the previous-generation GTX 980 but with twice the energy efficiency, the company says.

Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear

Targeted at supporting new advances in the wearables category, Qualcomm introduced the Snapdragon Wear platform during the first half of the year. The new line includes the Snapdragon Wear 1100 chipset, which contains a number of low-power features and is ideal for use in smartwatches for children and for elderly users, as well as smart headsets and fitness trackers, Qualcomm said.

AMD A-Series 7th Generation

Aimed for better performance on video rendering, file compression and gaming in notebooks, AMD recently launched the newest generation of its A-Series mobile Accelerated Processing Units. The processors contain up to four cores and, along with performance boosts, aim to enable all-day battery life in devices, according to AMD.