The 10 Coolest Processors Of 2016

Processor Power

Competition in the chip industry heightened in 2016 as vendors packed more power and performance than ever into their processors.

With the launch of Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system last year, many consumers were looking to upgrade their software this year – and that gives them an incentive to also upgrade their hardware. Chip manufacturers like Intel, Qualcomm, and AMD have jumped on this opportunity to release an array of new processors this year.

The target markets for processors have also expanded in 2016, with vendors setting their eyes on low-power Internet of Things applications in addition to the mobile and desktop markets. Here are the 10 coolest processors of the year.

Intel Seventh-Generation "Kaby Lake"

Intel began shipping its seventh-generation Core processor – code-named "Kaby Lake" – in July.

The new 14-nanometer chipset includes a Core m3 processor and Core i3, i5 and i7 processors. Kaby Lake also features a boost in performance, with a 12 percent increase and productivity over its sixth-generation Core processor.

What's Cool About It: Beyond performance, Intel is pushing for a better experience in gaming and virtual reality with its seventh-gen Core – the company said Kaby Lake will lead to a 3D graphics performance that is more than three times better than five-year-old PCs.

Intel Core i7 Extreme Edition

Intel in May launched its high-end Core i7 Extreme Edition desktop processors.

The processors will feature improved specs, running at 3GHz with boosted speeds of up to 3.5GHz. According to Intel, the Core i7 Extreme Edition’s i7-6950X model, its first 10-core desktop CPU, is almost 35 percent faster than its predecessor, the Haswell-generation i7-5950X model.

What's Cool About It: The Core i7 Extreme Edition, which runs on Intel's Broadwell architecture and is available Tuesday, is meant for high-end desktops -- the i7-6950X model starts at a hefty $1,723.

Intel Xeon Phi "Knights Landing"

In June, Intel started shipping the second generation of its Xeon Phi processors, code named "Knights Landing."

The 14-nanometer processor, which succeeds Intel's current 22nm 61-core Xeon Phi version ("Knights Corner"), has 72 cores manufactured on Intel's 14-nanometer Tri-Gate Transistor process.

Knights Landing aims to squeeze more performance out of supercomputers – and the processors can also be used for deep-learning systems and artificial intelligence in data centers.

What's Cool About It: The Xeon Phi co-processor will also work as a host processor, capable of running an operating system and applications on its own.

AMD Seventh-Generation "Bristol Ridge"

AMD in September lifted the curtain on its new seventh-generation processors, "Bristol Ridge," based on the company's Carrizo architecture and on a 28-nanometer manufacturing process.

AMD said its Bristol Ridge processors trump its previous generations of APU – the processors have a 17 percent compute boost over its sixth-generation Carrizo APU as well as a 27 percent enhancement in graphics.

What's Cool About It: Bristol Ridge will also feature AMD Radeon Graphics Core Next graphics, with full support for Microsoft DirectX 12 – Microsoft's latest version of its application programming interface for multimedia tasks.

AMD Seventh-Generation "Bristol Ridge Pro"

AMD's commercial version of its seventh-generation processor, Bristol Ridge Pro, was announced in October.

Bristol Ridge Pro targets ultra-thin notebooks, ultra-small form factors, and desktops. AMD said its Pro APUs for desktop clock at 4.2 GHz and have 17 percent more system performance than Intel's competing Core i5-6500T model.

What's Cool About It: The new Pro processors will have enterprise-targeted features – such as reliability and manageability. For instance, the APU Pro processors will come with 18-month image stability, 24-month product longevity and "commercial grade quality assurance," ensuring higher grade commercial quality.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 410E

Qualcomm in September released two new Snapdragon processors designed to reach a broader market and target low-power IoT applications – and one of them is the Snapdragon 410E.

The Snapdragon 410E, currently available for an undisclosed price, clocks at 1.2 GHz and is targeted for low-end applications such as smart homes, medical equipment and digital signage.

What's Cool About It: With its new processor, Qualcomm is also roping in the distribution channel to offer its chips to a broader market. For the first time, the company is using a distributor, Arrow Electronics, to offer initial sales and support for the Snapdragon chips.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 600E Series

Qualcomm Snapdragon 600E is the other processor the company released to target IoT applications.

The Snapdragon 600E, which clocks at 1.5GHz, will be available in 2017 for applications with higher processing power, like portable sonograms.

The 600E features multi-core performance and 3D graphics, through supporting Qualcomm’s Adreno GPU models and Hexagon DSP. It also supports Bluetooth and GPS for connected applications.

What's Cool About It: This processor is expandable for a variety of use cases with SATA, DDR memory and PCIe interfaces, according to Qualcomm.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 625

Qualcomm in February released the Snapdragon 625 for smartphones. The Snapdragon 625 features a boost in performance and upgraded image quality – so consumers can get 24-megapixel camera capabilities.

The Snapdragon 625 also supports Qualcomm's Adreno 506 GPU for advanced graphics.

What's Cool About It: Qualcomm has added a significant boost in battery life to the Snapdragon 625 – the processors supports 35 percent lower power usage than its predecessor, meaning that smartphones sporting the processor could last up to 24 hours.

Intel 3900 Processor Series

Intel in October lifted the curtain on a new generation of Atom processors for Internet of Things applications – the E3900 series.

Intel boasts that its new series packs more than 1.7 times the computing power of its previous generation.

The E3900 Series is also designed to enable faster memory speeds and memory bandwidth, providing the efficient processing capability needed for edge to cloud network computing, Intel said.

What's Cool About It: Intel's E3900 series contain advanced image processing to support various vision system needs – an essential feature for IoT applications like retail, video, industrial and manufacturing. The series has four vector image processing units, which Intel said will result in better visibility, quality video in low light, noise reduction and detail preservation.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 835

Qualcomm in November announced its new Snapdragon 835, a processor that the company delivers a 30 percent lift in area efficiency and 27 percent higher performance.

The Snapdragon 835 is targeted for mobile devices and will have a 40 percent reduction in power consumption.

What's Cool About It: The Snapdragon 835 will be built on 10-nanometer Samsung FinFET technology – the first in the industry to do so. The 10-nanometer manufacturing process is preceded by 14-nanometer technology.