For the past two weeks I’ve completely changed my PC to one that’s decidedly much more “lower-specced” while I review the Athlon X4 845. It isn’t a flagship, but it isn’t supposed to compete in that segment either. It’s a ~$70 CPU designed for gamers on a budget or those looking for a low-cost computing solution. So yeah, in terms of absolute performance you’re seeing a decrease, but the actual difference in FPS, or points, score and time, is not necessarily an issue in real-world computing situations. In fact, it may very well be mostly transparent in all but the most demanding of tasks.

Athlon X4 845

The X4 845 is a hard charger despite what you might think

It’s been quite the eye-opener as I’ve used a minuscule mITX FM2+ platform for everything, from encoding of videos (for the upcoming review, for example), to playing games and even some HPC applications as well. It’s eye-opening because it’s helped bring a perspective that I completely forgot about. That is, even the lowest-end CPU can still smoothly provide a great user experience. Office work, large Excel spreadsheets, sorting through data and entering it into different forms is a task best left to nearly any CPU. Sure it isn’t demanding, and it does excel here. The new power efficiency advancements actually help to make an Excavator-based APU or CPU quite competitive compared to the Intel counterpart. When paired with an R7 370, the X4 845 only consumes ~100W total while buried in a thousand-cell deep Excel spreadsheet with Chrome providing music and other duties. Not terrible, and competitive with an Intel CPU with the same GPU attached.

But that’s all well and good. Office work doesn’t have the system break a sweat at all, and isn’t really the eye-opening experience that I was earlier describing. The real revelation came while playing games. I’ll have to clarify that benchmarking certainly showed a difference that you’ll shortly see in the full review, but that difference fades when one simply immerses themselves in the actual game. When you play the game instead.

Comparing against an i7-5960X is unfair, and ridiculous anyway. But even then, the X4 845, and Intel processors in the same price-point, could provide much the same actual subjective experience when actually playing as opposed to comparing numbers. It could be not only enough, but perfect for your situation. Budget-friendly CPUs are strong and can give you good gameplay. That’s what I learned while using this mini-machine, that when I sat down to play for my own enjoyment, of which I completed DOOM just recently and still enjoyed it. Certainly, I had to limit myself to 1080P (not a big deal for me personally) and less than Ultra, but the differences are negligible unless I stood and looked intently at the screen. It looked good, played faster than a console and was actually, perhaps unusually, rather enjoyable.

My point is that perhaps in our pursuit of the most FPS and highest score we forget why we like PCs in the first place, as a way to escape into other worlds and characters via  video games. I’m an enthusiast like many others, and I enjoy the top-of the line at all times, but when actually enjoying a game, it seems that sometimes more isn’t always, well, necessarily better for the budget.

That said, some workloads do tend to subjectively feel far slower and certainly can use more expensive gear. Btu for those on a budget and looking for a budget-friendly CPU. Those, too, can provide just the performance you’re looking for. You don’t always need the most expensive to get a good experience.