You no longer have to splurge in order to get the best processor. Thanks to the competition between Intel and AMD you can now get a chip that is not only more powerful but also way cheaper than before. From productivity chips for demanding workloads (such as 4K video editing) to the best gaming CPUs, there are so many choices for each price range and market category. This means that it is now easier than ever to find a suitable processor for your needs without worrying if you can afford it.
When you’re looking for the best processor for your system, you better make sure to balance its performance and functionalities with the rest of the components in your desktop PC. Our buying tips and best choices below will help you choose the perfect CPU for you. But before we get to our rankings we will teach you how to choose the best processor for you.
How to choose the best processor for you
The processor is one of the most important hardware components in your PC. It dictates the speed with which the entire computer operates, from RAM to SSDs. And unlike the graphics card, which you’ll probably need to upgrade every couple of years, the CPU can last you for five or more years, thus you have to make sure that you’ll make the right choice, one that you will not regret in the long run.
When buying a new CPU, it’s easy to opt for the most expensive option and in most cases, this approach works. However, many users are now asking themselves whether or not they need that kind of power and whether or not they really need to pay that much. If you are one of them, then in order to choose the right processor for you you will have to answer the following questions.
- Are you upgrading your desktop PC or building a new one?
- Does raw power or value matter more to you?
- Does the clock speed or core count matter more to you?
- Is it a PC for productivity, gaming, or both?
- AMD, or Intel?
All these questions are crucial in order to get the right chip since no single CPU is the absolute best for all users. So, the best way to move forward is to answer these questions and narrow down the field as you make your choices.
Upgrade or new build?
If you are upgrading an existing desktop PC, your CPU options will be limited by the existing motherboard’s architecture, socket, and compatibility. If you are willing to swap the motherboard, then that project becomes a new build.
Choosing a processor can be a daunting task. There are a lot of terms thrown around when buying a CPU, so let’s first familiarize ourselves with the most common among them.
The number of cores. It’s a coarse simplification, but think about the number of cores as the number of cylinders in an engine; more cores generally indicate more power, if everything else is equal. The problem is that everything else is rarely equal and comparing the number of cores is really significant only within a given line of CPUs of the same generation. That said, more cores are generally better.
Multithreading. Both Intel and AMD have CPUs that support multithreading. Simply put, multithreading allows the PC to perform two discrete processing assignments, or threads, on each core. This doubles the potential for simultaneous processing (assuming that the software and operating system can exploit it). Intel calls this Hyper-Threading (HT), while AMD uses the term Simultaneous Multi-Threading (SMT). They’re basically the same thing.
Base clock, boost clock. The base clock is the default speed – measured in gigahertz (GHz) – at which the chip’s cores operate. The boost clock is a higher frequency to which one or more cores can “ramp up” when an activity requires it and when the system’s thermal conditions allow it. Similar to core count, these two specs are only comparable within a certain family of processors.
Socket. The Socket is the physical site on the motherboard that keeps the processor in place. As such, the first thing you will want to check is that the motherboard’s socket matches your processor (or vice versa). Each brand and (sometimes) line of processors has its own type of socket. If you are buying a new CPU and a new motherboard, check their specifications to make sure that they both use the same socket (we suggest that you decide which processor to buy first and then find a corresponding motherboard).
Chipset. Each processor will have a number of chipsets with which it is compatible. These chipsets are essential when choosing a motherboard since they determine whether some features will be enabled or not. More advanced chipsets unlock more advanced functions (more PCIe lanes, more USB 3.1 ports, more SATA ports, etc.).
Locked vs unlocked multiplier. A chip that supports overclocking has its clock multiplier left unlocked for tweaking via the BIOS or using an in-OS overclocking software.
Should you consider overclocking?
One way in which some gamers on a budget try to bridge the gap between what they want and what they can afford is to overclock a cheaper CPU in order to match the performance of a more expensive one.
Overclocking is now easier than ever, but it is still a process reserved for the tweakers among us. Overall, performance earnings from overclocking are considered modest (at best) for productivity users, and thus it is a process recommended only for enthusiasts.
Why? Because the results from overclocking vary greatly from chip to chip — what is known among hobbyists as the “silicon lottery” — and you also have to use a more robust cooling solution to handle the extra heat, as well as a motherboard and CPU suitable for the task, since not all chips are unlocked and not all chipsets support overclocking. Once you add up all these extra investments to your budget, you will realize that with the money you spent on overclocking, you could have bought a better CPU in the first place.
The most important thing to consider when choosing a processor is what you intend to use it for. Just because a CPU is “the best” in a given category or price range doesn’t mean that it’s the ideal CPU for you.
Are you looking to build a desktop PC for…
… basic use. Then choose an Intel Core i3 or i5 or an AMD Ryzen 3 or 5. You can also consider one of Ryzen’s “G” chips (with integrated graphics) if you also want to do some light gaming or simply do not need a dedicated graphics card (make sure that the motherboard is equipped with the video output that you need). These processors cost from $100 up to $150. For very basic use, an Intel Pentium or AMD Athlon CPU that costs less than $100 can be more than enough for you.
… gaming on a budget. If you don’t have the money for a graphics card then opt for a Ryzen “G” CPU. If, on the other hand, you intend to use a dedicated GPU, then consider buying a Core i5 or a Ryzen 3 or 5 processor. These units start at around $150 and can go up to $200.
… gaming competitively. Here you will want to make sure that your CPU doesn’t “choke” your GPU; thus you will need a high-end one. The Intel Core i7 and i9 are the perfect examples of that. You will have to spend between $250 and $400.
… creating multimedia content. Time is money, thus you want an Intel Core i9 or an AMD Ryzen 7 both of them boasting at least 8 cores and 16 threads. Expect to pay from $250 to $700.
… creating professional-grade content. The Intel Core X-Series and AMD Threadripper have been built for this market segment. The latest generation Intel Core X-Series chips cost around $1,000, while the latest Threadrippers (non-Pro) can go from $1,000 up to $2,000.
AMD or Intel?
Despite AMD’s massive improvements when it comes to all-around performance, Intel still holds the crown for the best gaming CPU. That said, the gap has shrunk exponentially in recent years, with AMD now offering excellent gaming performance to its users.
Thus, if you’re looking for the best gaming performance and nothing else, pick an Intel processor. However, if you want a solid gaming performance and the best multitasking performance, it’s better to go with an AMD CPU.
Quick buying tips
Before choosing a processor, consider the following:
- It doesn’t matter if you go with Intel or AMD: as long as you are considering current-generation models, the difference in performance between the two brands changes nothing on a practical level, especially in games. As a rule of thumb, some Intel processors are best suited for games while some AMD models handle tasks such as video editing faster (thanks mainly to their higher number of cores and threads).
- For gaming, clock speed is more important than core count: a higher clock speed results in better gaming performance, while more cores will help you run heavier workloads, that take time, much faster.
- Try building a balanced system: don’t pair a powerful CPU with a weak GPU (and vice versa), with not enough RAM, or a slow HDD.
- Overclocking isn’t for everyone: for most of us, it makes more sense to spend those extra $70 in order to buy a better processor, rather than spend them on a better motherboard and CPU cooler needed for overclocking.
These are the best processors for productivity or gaming in 2023
AMD Ryzen 9 7950X: High Performance for Gaming, Creating, and Streaming
When it comes to gaming, creating, and streaming performance, competition between the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X (Check on Amazon) and Intel’s best CPUs is tight… but AMD wins. The Ryzen 9 7950X sports 16 cores and 32 threads and delivers more consistent performance across a wider range of applications.
It’s not only a great choice for gaming and streaming but also a monstrously powerful CPU in its own right. With a clock speed of nearly 6GHz and plenty of cache, it’s the ultimate choice for those who want a powerful processor for content creation like video editing and streaming.
However, it’s important to note that you’ll need to upgrade your motherboard to AM5 and your RAM to DDR5, as these are the only options supported by the 7950X, thus plan accordingly.
Cooling can also be an issue since this processor gets quite hot, so pairing it with a fairly capable AIO liquid cooler is recommended.
In conclusion, the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X is the perfect CPU for creators who need a lot of cores for intensive workloads. It’s also not bad for gaming, making it a great all-rounder. With its powerful performance and latest features, it is the vanguard for a new generation of CPUs. While it might not be the best gaming processor, it’s still a great choice for those who want to be future-proof. And with the recent price reduction (Check on Amazon), it’s now more affordable than ever.
Intel Core i9-13900K: The Ultimate Choice for Gamers
The Intel Core i9-13900K (Check on Amazon) is the company’s latest 13th-generation flagship processor and an authentic enthusiast-class chip. With 32 threads and 24 cores (8 performance and 16 efficient), which can reach a blazing 5.8GHz – some overclockers have managed to push beyond 8GHz! – it’s ideal for intense workloads like encoding, streaming, and professional applications. That being said, it’s a power-hungry processor, and you’ll need a very capable cooler and a solid power supply to keep it running at peak performance.
If you like gaming, the Core i9-13900K is the ultimate choice – however, the Intel Core i5-13600K is much cheaper (Check on Amazon). It can handle any game and when paired with a high-end graphics card will deliver high frame rates. The chip supports DDR5-5600 (but also DDR4-3200) RAM along with 16 lanes of PCIe 5.0 and four additional lanes of PCIe 4.0 for M.2 SSDs, allowing you to build a future-proof gaming PC.
Intel has established the Core i9-13900K as a mainstream processor, making it accessible to enthusiasts and content creators. It’s a worthy addition to any build, especially if you need a workstation that can handle demanding workloads but also outpaces the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X (Check on Amazon) on gaming tasks.
The Core i9-13900K holds the title of fastest gaming processor on the planet and is the current leader in x86 single-threaded performance and core count.
Bottom line, if you need peak gaming performance, the Intel Core i9-13900K is the one chip to consider. It’s a 24-core, 32-thread monster that gobbles up games but also demanding workloads, making it an ideal choice for gamers who are also content creators. Just be prepared to splurge (Check on Amazon) for the privilege!
AMD Ryzen 5 7600X: The Perfect Mid-Range Gaming CPU
The AMD Ryzen 5 7600X (Check on Amazon) is a fantastic addition to the Ryzen 7000 series, offering the best value for money. This processor stands out in the current lineup and is perfect for gamers or those who don’t require a large number of threads for jobs such as streaming or content creation. The Ryzen 5 7600X is similarly priced to its closest Intel counterpart, the Core i5-13600K (Check on Amazon), but offers significantly fewer cores and threads which are, however, faster.
The new Zen 4 architecture based on a 5nm process makes the Ryzen 5 7600X incredibly efficient, while also sporting integrated graphics, allowing you to boot your PC without a GPU. This processor offers six cores and 12 threads, with a boost clock of 5.3GHz, and is unlocked for overclocking – provided that you have a decent cooler.
One drawback of the Ryzen 5 7600X is that it only supports DDR5 RAM, which means you’ll need a new motherboard with an AM5 socket. However, this processor offers solid performance for the price (Check on Amazon) and all the latest connectivity standards like PCIe 5.0 and USB4.
While it can’t compete with the 16-core AMD Ryzen 9 7950X (Check on Amazon), its single-core performance is nearly on par with its bigger siblings. Also, the lack of a V-Cache doesn’t affect its gaming performance, and the more affordable cost makes it a great option, especially since it offsets the cost of a new motherboard and RAM.
In conclusion, the AMD Ryzen 5 7600X offers the latest Zen 4 CPU architecture at an affordable price and allows you to use the fastest RAM and SSDs on the market. It’s important to note that you’ll need a new AM5 motherboard but luckily the Ryzen 5 7600X doesn’t get very hot under load so you won’t need a different cooler if you already have one that’s AM4 capable.
Intel Core i5-12600K: Best Intel Gaming Processor
The Intel Core i5-12600K (Check on Amazon) (which is part of the 12th generation Alder Lake processors) offers the best gaming performance in its price range: not only does it beat the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X (Check on Amazon) (although the 5600X still beats it in multi-core tests, thus remaining the best CPU in this price range for workstations) but it also outperforms the Ryzen 7 5800X (Check on Amazon) and even the Ryzen 9 5950X (Check on Amazon) in some games. The fact that it demolishes the Intel Core i9 11900K (Check on Amazon) across the board is just the icing on the cake!
All this is thanks to its hybrid architecture – a real gamble for Intel when it was announced -. The 12600K boasts 10 cores and 16 threads – six “P” cores (supporting hyper-threading) running at 3.7/4.9 GHz and four “E” cores (single thread) running at 2.8/3.6 GHz. It’s an evolution that obviously doesn’t add much to the desktop experience but has certainly paid off in gaming performance.
Obviously, the cutting-edge design doesn’t stop there: this chip supports 16 lanes of the PCIe 5.0 interface thus raising the performance limit for newer SSDs. And it also supports the new DDR5 memory (as well as the old DDR4). Most gamers will appreciate the lower price of DDR4 RAM but you can upgrade to the more expensive DDR5 if you think that you need even more speed.
The Intel Core i5-12600K has a maximum power rating of 150W, but the chip draws far less power than its previous generation counterpart. The low power consumption allows this chip to work well with a wide variety of air and water coolers, just make sure that your motherboard supports the LGA 1700 socket.
Speaking of which, you’ll need a new 600 series motherboard, thus the initial expense may be a tad more than planned, but the performance and future support are worth it.
However, if price matters more than performance to you, the total cost of the Ryzen 5 5600X platform + AM4 motherboard + DDR4 RAM may be the most sensible option – at least as long as Intel 600 series motherboards and DDR5 memory kits don’t come down in price.
Intel Core I5-11600K: A Valid Alternative
The Core i5-11600K is a superlative mid-range processor and the best among Intel’s 11th gen CPUs. The Rocket Lake platform isn’t perfect, which is why most of our recommendations focus on the previous generation (Comet Lake), except when it comes to gaming. The Intel Core i5-11600K is slightly more expensive than the Intel Core I5-10600K (Check on Amazon) but boasts the same six cores and 12 threads. Its base clock speed was lowered to 3.9 GHz (from 4.1 GHz), but its boost clock frequency was increased to 4.9 GHz (from 4.8 GHz). Its built-in graphics are also better, although you should still pair it with a dedicated graphics card.
In games, the 11600K has a small but measurable advantage over the 10600K. Although we can’t talk about a generational leap in gaming performance (which Intel fans hoped for), the 11600K shows that you don’t need a high-end processor for gaming.
The aforementioned generational improvements become clear in productivity tasks where the 11600K is significantly better than the previous generation Intel models and offers a much more credible competition to AMD’s mid-range chips. Of course, the 11600K fails to beat the Ryzen 5 5600X in benchmarks, but you won’t notice the difference between the two in real-life productivity apps.
Its real advantage? The price. The Intel Core i5-11600K costs “just” (Check on Amazon) compared to the (Check on Amazon) you’ll have to fork out for the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X. Obviously, if six cores are not enough for you, then you can always opt for the Ryzen 7 3700X (Zen 2) (Check on Amazon) or the Core i7-10700KF (Comet Lake, no PCIe 4.0) (Check on Amazon).
However, for us, the Core i5-11600K is an incredibly competitive next-gen chip, and given its price, it becomes our new recommendation for gaming. You could also take a look at the Core i5-11600KF variant (no built-in graphics): if you intend to use a discrete GPU (as you should) this chip offers the same performance as the standard model but costs even less (Check on Amazon).
This chip easily fits in a Z490 or 500 series motherboard and comes with an unlocked multiplier, meaning that you’re free to overclock it – you could push it up to 5.3GHz and make it run on a par with a Core I9-10900K (Check on Amazon) – but you’ll need an expensive cooling system for that. It also supports PCIe 4.0 (for the graphics card and a single M.2 slot) and AVX-512 which speeds up specific workloads if you use certain tools.
The catch? Despite an advertised TDP of just 125 watts (PL1 rating), the 11600K can absorb well over 200 watts under load (it has a PL2 rating of 251W, a huge increase of 69W compared to the 182W limit of the 10600K). With that much power being drawn you will need a decent power supply as well as a more than capable CPU cooler to cope with all the extra heat. Remember that Intel’s K-series chips do not include a cooler, so you will have to add its cost to your budget, plus a relatively high power consumption.
Anyhoo, the Intel Core i5-11600K is a great gaming CPU. It comes with enough juice for gaming and decent power for productivity and this combination is hard to find for “just” (Check on Amazon). That said, the previous-gen Intel Core i5-10600K (Check on Amazon) manages to offer almost the same things so consider it a valid alternative.
Intel Core i5-13600K: The Best Mid-Range CPU
The Intel Core i5-13600K (Check on Amazon) is the perfect balance of performance and price for a mid-range build. As part of Intel’s 13th generation lineup, it offers a hybrid architecture with six P-cores (they prioritize foreground applications) and eight E-cores (they handle background tasks), making it capable of handling any activities with ease. The P-cores can clock up to 5.1GHz and support hyper-threading, allowing you to game and stream simultaneously.
The i5-13600K also features support for 16 PCIe 5.0 interface lanes and up to 5,600 MHz DDR5 memory, rendering it future-proof. However, it does get hot under load and is more power-hungry than its predecessor, thus be sure to pair it with a capable cooling solution.
This CPU is also an affordable option for gaming, with its 14 cores and 20 threads and therefore excellent performance-to-price ratio. It offers comparable performance to the more expensive i7 and i9 models while dominating the AMD competition. And the potential pairing with a DDR4 motherboard makes upgrading to this CPU even more affordable.
This processor is also unlocked and can be pushed up to a maximum TDP of 181W, making it a great option for overclocking. And if you have an Intel Arc GPU, you can use it alongside the i5-13600K to unlock features like Deep Link and Hyper Encode.
Our extensive testing shows that the i5-13600K offers leading performance in its price range, beating out AMD’s current Ryzen 7000 lineup. Plus, it costs “just” (Check on Amazon) making it an affordable choice for gamers too.
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D: Best Gaming Processor Overall
The AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D (Check on Amazon) is the best gaming processor on the market. Its performance is nothing short of incredible, being the first desktop chip boasting 3D-stacked SRAM and thus beating the AMD Ryzen 9 5950X (Check on Amazon) and Intel Core i9-12900K (Check on Amazon) when it comes to gaming.
It is essentially an AMD Ryzen 7 5800X (Check on Amazon) (it has the same eight cores and 16 threads but the clock speed is 200 MHz lower) with triple the memory (96 MB of L3 cache – which makes a big difference in games) thanks to AMD’s new 3D V-Cache technology – a new micro-architecture that takes advantage of TSMC’s latest packaging processes and allows AMD to “stack” the cache on the CPU. Moreover, it retains the same AM4 motherboard socket as previous Ryzen chips, meaning you don’t need to spend more to upgrade your motherboard, and has a much lower power consumption than the Core i9-12900K, meaning you don’t require expensive components, such as a powerful cooler or power supply.
In 1080p games, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D is about 10% faster than the Core i9-12900K. However, this is a highly specialized CPU for gaming that cannot keep up with similarly priced CPUs in productivity apps. The Core i9-12900K is about 30% faster in single-threaded tasks and 60% faster in multi-threaded jobs. Unfortunately, its Zen 3 architecture doesn’t support the cutting-edge connectivity options of Intel’s Alder Lake (12th generation) chips, such as DDR5 and PCIe 5.0.
All of this means that the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D (Check on Amazon) is an impressive chip and the best solution for a gaming PC, especially if you intend to upgrade an existing AMD system.
Intel Core i5-12400: Best Budget Intel Gaming Processor
If you’re looking for the best budget Intel gaming processor, the six-core, 12-thread Alder Lake Core i5-12400 (Check on Amazon) is your best bet. With the right tuning (the lack of the letter “K” at the end of the name doesn’t limit its overclocking capability), it’s even faster in games than the previous generation Intel Core i9-11900K (Check on Amazon) flagship CPU.
It comes with six P-cores that support hyper-threading (but obviously lacks the highly efficient hybrid cores seen on other models) that operate at a base speed of 2.5 GHz and a Boost speed of 4.4 GHz and by using a motherboard capable of exploiting its overclocking capability we were able to easily push it up to 5.2 GHz!
The 12400 also offers state-of-the-art connectivity with support for DDR4 memory up to 3200 MHz and DDR5 memory up to 4800 MHz, along with 16 PCIe 5.0 lanes and an additional four PCIe 4.0 lanes for M.2 SSDs.
The Intel Core i5-12400 delivers solid performance in all types of productivity applications while its single-threaded performance (important for gaming) beats the Ryzen 5000 series processors [including the Ryzen 5 5600X (Check on Amazon)]. Furthermore, the Core i5-12400 costs significantly less (Check on Amazon) than any comparable AMD CPU, thus earning the title of best budget gaming processor.
The cooler (included in the box) is very capable and can handle its 65W/117W power (in Boost mode), however, you will also need a new 600 series B or H motherboard (we recommend a B660 board).
Last but not least, while most gamers will appreciate the lower price of DDR4 RAM, you can upgrade to a more expensive DDR5 kit in the future.
Intel Core i9-12900K: Best Premium Intel Gaming Processor
The Intel Core i9-12900K (Check on Amazon) is the fastest gaming processor at the moment. It even outperforms the AMD Ryzen 9 5950X (Check on Amazon) in multi-threaded applications making it also ideal for streamers.
Of course, it also offers cutting-edge connectivity with support for DDR4 and DDR5 memory along with 16 PCIe 5.0 lanes for the latest SSDs.
This chip comes with eight “P” cores (supporting hyper-threading) running at 3.2/5.2 GHz (using Turbo Boost Max 3.0 algorithms) and eight “E” (single-threaded) cores that run at 2.4/3.9 GHz (via Turbo Boost 2.0 algorithms) for a total of 24 threads.
It is rated at 125W PBP (base) and 241W MTP (peak), however, we recorded significantly lower power consumption than its previous generation counterpart.
You will need a serious power supply and a capable cooler to get the most out of it. And it must be paired with a new 600 series motherboard – one compatible with the new LGA 1700 socket.
The real problem, though, is that you only get a few more frames per second than with the Intel Core i5-12600K (Check on Amazon). Therefore the i9-12900K (Check on Amazon) is only worthwhile if you’re building a high-end PC for not just gaming, but more serious tasks like content creation.
AMD Ryzen 5 5600G: Best Entry-Level Gaming Processor
The Ryzen 5 5600G (Check on Amazon) arrived on the market during the worst graphics card shortage in history, so many will be using its powerful integrated graphics until GPU prices drop.
It is an “APU” (it has 6 cores and 12 threads clocked at 3.9/4.4 GHz, paired with 7 Radeon graphics cores clocked at 1.9 GHz), which are chips with built-in graphics powerful enough not to require a discrete GPU to run most games at 720p or 1080p resolution.
The real advantage of the 5600G is the AM4 socket, which is particularly abundant right now. It also comes with its own cooler (Wraith Stealth).
At (Check on Amazon) the AMD Ryzen 5 5600G gives you 90% of the gaming performance (on integrated graphics) compared to its more expensive sibling, the Ryzen 7 5700G (Check on Amazon), but for 30% less money and that fact makes it the APU with the best performance/price ratio on the market.
AMD Ryzen 7 5700G: Best APU
AMD’s APUs (Accelerated Processing Units) are the best processors to plug into your system if you don’t plan on using a graphics card but still want a modicum of gaming performance, and the AMD Ryzen 7 5700G (Check on Amazon) is simply the best.
Unlike previous offerings, the Ryzen 7 5700G is much more of an all-rounder CPU as it sports eight cores with 16 threads with a clock speed of 3.8 GHz and a boost speed of 4.6 GHz, as well as powerful integrated Vega graphics thanks to its 8 Radeon cores running at 2GHz. This means that its processing power is almost on par with AMD’s best-in-class Ryzen 5000 series processors, plus it has the graphics power to run eSports titles at 1080p easily.
The problem is that it lacks PCIe 4.0 support (to use the fastest SSDs) and requires high-speed RAM to make the most of its GPU’s power.
That said, the AMD Ryzen 7 5700G (Check on Amazon) is an excellent all-around AMD processor and a helpful option if you can’t afford a graphics card immediately.
AMD Ryzen 9 5950X: Best High-End Processor for Productivity
Do you like the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X (Check on Amazon) but are afraid that it won’t meet your productivity needs? Then get the Ryzen 9 5950X (Check on Amazon) — it’s the perfect choice for content creators who need unlimited multithreaded power in a “reasonably priced” CPU that can also fit into a mainstream platform. In fact, it boasts almost HEDT-class performance, having 16 cores and 32 threads and a 105 W TDP — and Intel has nothing to compete with it, even in their HEDT lineup. For comparison, the Intel Core i9-10900K (Check on Amazon) has “just” 10 cores and 20 threads, and a 125 W TDP.
AMD’s HEDT processors (Threadripper family) offer maximum performance, as long as you’re willing to pay a higher price. Apart from the purchase cost, these chips need to be inserted into expensive platforms – premium motherboards (TRX4 socket) and quad-channel RAM memory. Add to all this the inevitable trade-offs, such as reduced performance in applications and games that can’t leverage their maximum thread count (gamers are better served by mainstream processors, with fewer cores but higher clocks, which are often faster in games) and cost-conscious users who could benefit from the multithreaded power of a HEDT processor, in the end, choose to go with the mainstream offerings.
The AMD Ryzen 9 5950X expands its predecessors’ mission to bring HEDT-class performance to mainstream motherboards (AM4 socket), thus lowering costs. This CPU offers some of the best productivity performance the mainstream market has to offer. Not only will get any and all tasks done without even breaking a sweat, but it will also work quite well with modern AAA games as well. However, if you’re only interested in playing games, opt for the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X or the Intel Core I9-10900K which offers a better performance/price ratio. That said, the AMD Ryzen 9 5950X (Check on Amazon) still offers a great gaming performance and outperforms both when it comes to heavier workflows.
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X: Best Processor Overall
If there is a processor that really impressed us in 2020, it was the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X (Check on Amazon). Delivering the same performance for almost half the energy cost of the Intel Core i5-10600K (Check on Amazon), the Ryzen 5 5600X is our choice for the best processor overall.
The cheaper Ryzen 3 3300X (Check on Amazon) still offers the best value among all gaming processors, but the Ryzen 5 5600X is markedly better all around.
When it comes to games, everything we wrote about the Ryzen 9 5900X (Check on Amazon) also applies to this much more convenient Zen 3 chip. In games, in fact, there is almost no difference between the Ryzen 5000 series chips, and this means that the Ryzen 5 5600X offers almost the same performance as the much more expensive 5900X! This fact is simply amazing if you think about it: getting the same high-end performance from the cheaper Zen 3 CPU?
This CPU has six cores and 12 threads, a base clock of 3.7GHz, and a boost clock of 4.6GHz, and costs little more than the previous generation model, offering a significant increase in performance capable of justifying the extra spending. The Ryzen 5 5600X even beats the Intel Core i9-10900K in games, which is an incredible feat given its price range. Not to mention that it’s the most efficient desktop PC processor we’ve ever tested – 65W TDP rating (the previous model was rated at 95W).
It also includes a Wraith Stealth cooler inside the box and doesn’t need expensive super-fast RAM to get the best out of it. In addition, it is compatible with all existing X570 and B550 motherboards, and most X470 and B450 motherboards after a BIOS update, thus offering great flexibility when it comes to choosing a new motherboard.
All this makes the 5600X an incredibly complete chip that can handle any kind of game while ensuring more than enough performance for everyday productivity applications.
Yes, the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X (Check on Amazon) and Ryzen 9 5900X CPUs are technically a bit faster and better suited for things like streaming, 3D rendering, and the like, but if all you look for is a solid foundation for a good all-round desktop PC, the Ryzen 5 5600X gives you everything you need.
AMD Ryzen 9 5900X: Best High-End Gaming Processor
If you want the best gaming processor, you can narrow down your choices between the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X (Check on Amazon), Ryzen 9 5900X (Check on Amazon) and 5950X, or Intel’s Core i7-10700K (Check on Amazon) and i9-10900K (Check on Amazon). They are all similar in gaming performance and since modern games require no more than 8 cores, the best high-end choices would be the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X or the Intel Core i7-10700K.
However, if you want the very best, the recent Ryzen 9 5900X, based on AMD’s new 7nm Zen 3 architecture, is the new undisputed champion, surpassing both the Ryzen 9 3950X (Check on Amazon) and Core i9-10900K – and in certain benchmarks even the Ryzen 9 5950X.
The AMD Ryzen 9 5900X scores the biggest generational leap in single-core performance ever. AMD’s Zen architecture has improved with each generation, but the fact that AMD managed to score a 19% IPC (Instructions Per Cycle) improvement with Zen 3 is nothing short of staggering. The significance of all this for gamers is that this improvement means AMD is now on par with Intel when it comes to gaming – even in those games that strongly favor Intel’s processors, such as Red Dead Redemption 2.
If you only care about having the best gaming processor, you should choose the Ryzen 5 5600X (Check on Amazon) and in doing so save a lot of money to invest in a better graphics card. But if you want the fastest gaming CPU ever or a 3D rendering-capable chip, the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X is simply unmatched.
The Ryzen 9 5900X sports 12 cores and 24 threads, a base clock of 3.7GHz, and a boost clock of 4.8GHz. It also supports PCIe 4.0 and has ample overclocking capabilities. You will need to buy a cooler sold separately and the bigger the better – cooling has an impact on the performance of high-end Ryzen 5000 processors! The Ryzen 9 5900X fits into existing 500-series motherboards (B550 and X570) and supports the latest generation B450 and X470 chipsets via a BIOS update — before buying make sure the motherboard manufacturer already has or is planning to release an update.
Note: Like all AMD 5000 series processors, the 5900X is sold out in most retailers as of January 2021. It really is the best gaming processor currently available, so we recommend waiting until you find one. For gamers who want to build a high-end gaming PC right now though, the best choice is Intel’s Core i7-10700K and i9-10900K processors. The most sensible choice between the two is the 10700K, but if money doesn’t matter then the 10900K is the only processor capable of approaching the goodness of the Ryzen 9 5900X.
You can also opt for the Ryzen 9 5950X, which gives you as many as 16 cores and 32 threads! It costs even more though, and you won’t notice any tangible benefit from splurging.
AMD Ryzen 3 3300X: Best Budget Gaming Processor
If you want a gaming CPU with integrated graphics buy the Ryzen 3 3200G (Check on Amazon) and don’t think about it. If, instead, you intend to pair your new processor with a dedicated graphics card then the Ryzen 3 3300X (Check on Amazon) is unrivaled at this price.
It’s processors like this that really push technology forward. This chip can’t beat CPUs of the likes of Ryzen 9 3900X (Check on Amazon) and Intel Core i9-9900K (Check on Amazon), but its excellent performance, coupled with its convenience, breaks down the barrier of entry-level gaming PCs. Suddenly, users don’t have to spend much to know what it feels like to have high-end hardware.
Previously, the title of the best budget gaming processor was reserved for AMD’s Ryzen 5 2600 (Check on Amazon), which is the predecessor of our current best gaming processor: the AMD Ryzen 5 3600 (Check on Amazon). But now AMD has released the new budget king in the guise of the Ryzen 3 3300X, and this CPU is too good not to be included in our list of top processors.
This third-generation Ryzen chip uses Zen 2 architecture coupled with a 7nm construction process. It has four cores, eight threads, and a 4.3GHz Boost clock capable of pushing mid-to-low graphics cards to the max; and all this with just 65W TDP. Not only that, but it also supports PCIe 4.0, so it’s even future-proof. While its multi-core performance lags slightly behind the Ryzen 5 2600, its single-core performance is much better — and that’s what matters for gaming.
In fact, the Ryzen 3 3300X achieves equal or higher performance than Intel’s former flagship, the Core i7-7700K (Check on Amazon), at a fraction of the cost, delivering unprecedented value. It’s also more than enough for gaming, being just a few steps behind the Ryzen 5 3600, so if you don’t need the latter’s extra cores for productivity tasks, this gaming CPU offers you the best performance/price ratio.
AMD also includes a Wraith Spire cooler in the box. However, you might consider buying a better aftermarket one, particularly if you intend to overclock.
You can pair it with a cheap motherboard (X470 or B450) but you’ll lose access to the PCIe 4.0 interface. Alternatively, AMD will launch its new B550 motherboards in mid-June 2020. These new motherboards will support the PCIe 4.0 interface and will have entry-level pricing.
For all these reasons the AMD Ryzen 3 3300X is our preferred processor in 2021!