Of all the components in a computer, few outweigh the processor, which is responsible for most of the calculations. AMD and Intel offer multiple options, and while this is certainly a good thing, it also makes choosing the ideal one for your needs more complicated than you might think.
Some have high speeds or great power, while others impress us with their price compared to what they offer. The Ryzen 5 3600 is the best of the low-cost processors, while the Ryzen 9 5900X takes the crown of the highest quality. But of course, there is more.
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Best entry-level processor
5000 series processors AMD’s Ryzen are very popular right now and for good reason. The Ryzen 5000 is impressive, although the model is still young, with the cheapest processor clock at $ 300 (if you can find one in stock). For around $ 200, you can get the 3600 of the last generation that features six cores and 12 threads with a base frequency of 3.6GHz. Plus, you can find the 3600 available at most major retailers.
The only other option around $ 200 is Intel’s i5-10400. Not only does the 3600 outperform the 10400 in productivity, but it also gives it a reasonable fight in games. You can also overdrive the 3600 to narrow the gap in gaming and save yourself a motherboard.
The best low-priced processor
For between $ 100 and $ 150, our recommendation is the Ryzen 3 3300X. It is a quad core chip with a frequency of up to 4.3GHz. However, the 3300X, like many Ryzen processors, is missing from the inventories of major retailers. Instead, we recommend the Core i3-10100.
Like the 3300X, the 10100 is a quad-core processor that can clock up to 4.3GHz. Unlike previous i3 processors, the 10100 gives you access to four physical cores and eight simultaneous threads for just over $ 100. It doesn’t include a cooler like the 3300X, but there are cheaper CPU coolers on the market.
Performance wise, the 10100 falls behind the 3300X in most productivity benchmarks. That’s true for all 3rd-gen Ryzen processors. Compared to the Intel range, the 10100 is astonishingly efficient, reaching similar performance levels as the i7-7700 and occasionally outperforming the i5-9600K. The 10100 is still far from being equipped to handle 3D models, but it does present some good competition. The good news comes in gaming, where the 10100 exhibits minimal performance difference between similarly priced chips.
The best mid-range processor
AMD has always been the best choice in budget processors, but in a strange twist, we are recommending an Intel processor in this category. From gaming to light productivity, the i5-10600 is a more capable chip. It has six cores and 12 threads with a base frequency of 4.1GHz. However, 10th Gen Intel processors are known for how well they throttle. This Model K processor is unlocked, which means you can overclock it with a compatible motherboard. The 10600K can reach 5GHz just like the i9-10900K.
The 10600 will probably soon be part of the new generation too, so the price is on the downside. You can find the 10600K available at most online retailers for about $ 260. AMD’s rival chip, the Ryzen 5 5600X, is slightly more expensive at $ 300. It has the same cores as the 10600K, but the AMD chip is better in gaming benchmarks, especially at lower resolutions. You have to take into account how well the 10600K overdrives, which can easily narrow the gap with the 5600K when it comes to gaming, approaching the performance of the Ryzen 7 5800.
Most of AMD’s 5000 series processors are not in the majority of most retailers’ inventories and Intel is expected to unveil its 11th generation desktop platform soon. If you need a processor for around $ 250, the 10600K is the best option. If you can wait for it to be in stock, the 5600X is the best performing chip overall and we are still waiting to see what Intel introduces in stores for the next generation.
The best processor for enthusiasts
The Ryzen 7 5800X occupies a strange place. If gaming is your concern, the cheaper 5600X is the best option. It costs $ 150 less than the 5800X and is just as efficient in gaming. When it comes to productivity tasks, the 5800X is an upgrade from the 5600X. However, the 5800X is only $ 100 less than the flagship 5900X and that processor is superior in productivity.
However, that doesn’t make the 5800X unnecessary. If you’re primarily interested in gaming and need some productivity power – say, game image encoding or video editing in Premiere – the 5800X is the perfect balance. The 5900X is great for productivity, with gaming being its second best feature. The 5800X is perfect for the opposite.
As for the processor itself, the 5800X comes with eight cores and 16 threads with a 3.8GHz base clock. It can hit 4.7GHz, falling just below the 5GHz mark (AMD will get there one day). Although it is too much to play with and not enough for serious productivity, few processors handle both situations at a reasonable price, making it an ideal option in some situations.
This is also compared to the Ryzen 5000. The 5800X is still a step ahead in performance compared to Intel’s current options and AMD’s last-generation offerings, especially when it comes to gaming.
The best high-end processor
AMD Ryzen 9 5900X
Two chips lead the AMD processors, the 5900X and the 5950X. The 5950X is undoubtedly the most powerful processor, boasting 16 cores and 32 threads against the 12 cores and 24 threads of the 5900X. The 5950X is also $ 250 more expensive and in the vast majority of applications, that is money wasted.
The 5900X far outperforms the previous generation’s 3900X, as well as the 10900K, Intel’s main competitor. The underlying Zen 3 architecture is the reason, with excellent single- and multi-core performance. In rendering and encoding, the 5900X meets or exceeds the past-generation 3950X in most categories. In some cases, the 5900X even outperforms the 5950X.
The best processor for productivity work
If AMD changed the conversation with its main Ryzen 3000 series processors, with Threadripper 3000 it took over the script.
But, even among that ridiculously powerful generation of high-end chips, the Threadripper 3990X stands out as a really ridiculous and unnecessary CPU. If you can, take advantage of its 64 cores and 128 threads, as there is no other CPU of this level outside of the server range. This processor, in addition to having more cores and threads than most applications will be able to take advantage of, it also boasts simply fantastic single-threaded performance. It can go up to 4.3 GHz on just one core, which means that it will perform well on thread-limited tasks like gaming, although that would be a total overkill. That means that even when you can’t use all of its cores, you still get excellent performance.
The price is high, almost $ 4,000 dollars, but it is tens of thousands of dollars less than the more than 50 top options from Intel. If you don’t need that much power, you can always get the 32-core Threadripper 3970X for half the price. However, the 3990X is made for productivity, so if you make money working on your computer, particularly processor-intensive tasks like CAD and video encoding, the price may be justified.
You don’t have to get carried away with all the paraphernalia to find a processor that meets all your needs. AMD is the leader with its current line of processors, but that could change when Intel launches its 11th generation desktop chips.
Whether you’re on a budget or looking for something more powerful, we have excellent recommendations to suit your specifications. As your needs change, you can always adjust your computer to suit. Price, compatibility, and user need drive demand for a wide range of processors – a bit of research is needed to decide which one you need; hopefully our list will help you with that.