The best processor is actually something without which a PC or laptop can’t survive. Whether you have a gaming PC or a laptop, an Ultrabook, a Mac, or whatever else, they all have motherboards. And the most critical part of the motherboard is the processor. Choosing the best processor for your computer could make the difference between a good and poor performance machine.
Choosing the best processor may be trickier than you think. The latest one in the market is not always the best processor suitable for you. You need to consider a few things before making that choice. This article will describe the considerations in detail and inform you about the latest trend in the market. To top it all off, we will be reviewing some of the best processors available today. So bear with us. Let’s talk about the type of CPUs that are available so you can make a better choice for the best processor.
Best Processors 2021
- Intel Core i9 7900X Unlocked – Best 10 Cores CPU
- Intel Core i9 10900K – Best 10th Gen Processor
- AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X – Best Powerful
- AMD Ryzen 9 3950X – Best Budget Processor
- AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X – Best 16 Cores Processor
- Intel Core i5 8400 – Best i5 Processor
- Intel Core i7 9700K – Best i7 Processor
- AMD Ryzen 5 3600X – Best Affordable CPU
Best Processor Considerations
Unlike man, all processors were not created equal. You may find this dramatic, but it is true. As already explained, depending on the job you expect from the processor, they are designed differently. Here are a few points to keep in mind when you are looking for the best processor.
You can think of a core as the central processor of instructions that are given to a computer. Not more than ten years ago, there was always only a single core in a processor. That means, even at unimaginable speeds, it could only process an available instruction at a time. But, with the development of smaller sized cores, an idea of parallel processing came into being. Most processors now a day are equipped with more than a single core.
The idea of multiple cores is simple. You are increasing the number of instructions that can be carried out simultaneously. In other words, you are processing simultaneously. You can find CPUs ranging from 2 to 8 cores available in the market. But, the best processor for you is the one that your software can utilise. As an example, if you only need a laptop to work in an office, a processor with 8 cores is not the best processor for you. But, if you want to use the processor for gaming or graphics design. You should go for the maximum cores that you can afford.
Hyperthreading: When we talk about multiple cores, another technology has made its way to the market. Usually, one core has a single thread, which means it can carry out only one instruction at a time. But, in hyperthreading, a single core is given multiple threads (max 2 so far). In other words, a single core can act as 2 cores performing 2 instructions simultaneously.
In simple terms, a cache is the memory of the processor. It is a tiny amount of memory when compared to RAM or Hard drive. Yet, it is designed to be very fast as it stores data that is to be quickly retrieved. This memory is utilised when the CPU is carrying out instructions. The relation between the cache and the best processor is straightforward, higher the amount of cache the better. Obviously, the more memory your bets processor has, the faster it can retrieve the required information.
The frequency is the speed at which the processor operates. Usually, it is measured in GHz (Giga Hertz). With single-core processors, the frequency was the only measure of speed. But, with multi-core processors, that is not the case. Frequency does remain the primary measure of a processor’s speed. But, the factors mentioned above are essential contributors to speed as well. In other words, you cannot choose the best processor, depending on the frequency alone.
Also read: Best Gaming Laptops 2021.
Thermal Design Power (TDP)
Almost all electric components give off heat when operated, and processors are no different. The amount of heat that is going to be released is known as TDP. Although TDP has no direct relation with choosing the best processor. But, when you are installing a processor on your computer, you have to know the TDP.
The reason for that is that overheating is the main danger to all computer components. They are designed to withstand a certain level of heat and temperatures over that could physically damage. If you know the TDP of a processor, you know what kind of cooling system you require to keep it under the temperature limit. So, TDP may not help you choose the best processor, it will help you keep it cool enough to operate smoothly.
Almost all processors come with an integrated graphics processing unit (GPU) as well. The GPUs make calculations regarding graphical information and display it on your monitor or screen. These GPUs pack enough power to do everyday tasks like watching videos and displaying ultra HD graphics on screens. But, they are not powerful enough to run high-end games or support graphics designing etc.
Although they are not an integral part of the processor, a dedicated GPU is what you need. These dedicated GPUs come packed with enough processing power and memory to support high-end tasking. And if that is what you want with your computer, even the best processor with integrated graphics can’t help.
Also read: Best Graphics Card 2021.
One of the usually ignored fields is physical compatibility. No matter how many cores or caches your best processor has, it is of no use if you cannot install it on your motherboard. You have to make sure that the socket for CPU available on your motherboard can hold your selected processor. Because changing the complete motherboard for a processor hardly makes sense right? So, you should choose for a processor that is hardware compatible with the socket on your motherboard.
One more significant factor is the value for money. One of the Intel’s processors may be running slightly better than AMD but at a much higher cost. Overall, Intel’s high-end processors are much costlier. In comparison, AMD provides a higher number of cores in relation to the price.
Keeping all the above factors in view to a varying degree, here is our verdict. For high-end enthusiasts who need to have the top edge in performance no matter what the cost, Intel’s top of the line versions take the win. But, AMD is performing way better in both mid and entry-level processors. The best processor for you, if you are looking for mid-level performance would be AMD. They will not only cost you less, but they will also be performing overall better. Now that you have a fair idea of what the best processor needs to do, here are the reviews of some best CPUs that you might consider.
Best Processor Reviews 2021
1. Intel Core i9 – 7900X Unlocked
The Core i9 – 7900 X is a 10 core processor with hyperthreading technology. That means that the 10 cores can handle 20 instructions simultaneously. The base clock speed of 7900X is 3.3 GHz. When you compare it with the previous 6950X, it is not a massive jump from its 3.0 GHz. But, the unlocked CPU can be overclocked, and that is where the difference kicks in. As opposed to 3.5 GHz overclocking speed of the 6950X, the 7900X gives you a 4.3 GHz overclock. That is a significant bump considering that the price has actually gone down.
One downside to the processor is that it needs the new LGA 2066 socket on your motherboard. If you are running an older motherboard, it won’t be compatible. Another obvious problem for gamers is that the processor runs hot if pushed too much over the limits. To bring the temperature down, the processor significantly throttles back on clock speed. But you have nothing to worry about until you stay within the prescribed 4.5 GHz overclock speed.
Overall, the 7900X shows a remarkable performance and a never before speed in its category. But, the best Intel processor edge is tiny, and it comes at a very hefty price. So, you may want to look at competitor options.
2. Intel Core i9 – 10900K
The 10th gen Core i9 processor by Intel is dubbed the best Intel Processor in the market. Still working on the 14nm++ size, it is a 10 core and 20 thread processor just like the 7900X. But, there is a significant difference in clock speeds. The 10900K comes unlocked and boosts an all core 4.9 GHz increased speed, with room to go up to a staggering 5.3 GHz. Now that is enough to make jaws drop, but this comes at a significant power consumption rate. Consequently, the thermal efficiency of the processor will leave you wanting. If you’re going to run Intel’s new best gaming processor, you will need a hell of a cooling system.
Obviously, with such high cooling requirements, these are hardly meant for mobile devices. The 10th Gen Core i9 is the best desktop processor by Intel. Although, when you compare it with the Ryzen’s 3900X and 3950X’s 12 core 24 thread and 16 Core 32 thread respectively, you will find it lacking. Another downside to the best gaming processor by Intel is the overwhelming power consumption. At base clock speed it is rated at 125W, this exceeds well beyond 200W when running at top speed. But, if you can meet the cooling and power requirements, this is undeniably the best gaming processor in the market.
3. AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X
AMD has gone plus ultra with their threadripper series bringing in never before seen number of cores to the user’s desk. But, that comes at a significant price. If not for this processor, you could probably put together a high-end gaming PC in a lesser amount.
But, the best AMD processor gives you a staggering 64 core and 128 thread count. No matter how you look at it, this is one monster of a processor. Simply, AMD has combined the higher speed technology with the more number of cores to create this beast. But, the processor is mainly aimed at the AMD fan base and enthusiasts who like to boast off the specs. Because no technology in the user level market utilises such overpowered processors. The best AMD processor has a very narrow user base in the rendering and creating field.
It has a 2.9 GHz base, and 4.2 GHz overclock speed. Don’t let the relatively lower number bother you when you expand it to 64 cores, it is a beast. The cache memory is 250MB, and the TDP is a staggering 280W. That is not surprising considering the number of cores it employs.
4. AMD Ryzen 9 3950X
The Ryzen 9 3950X is meant to be the flagship by AMD in best gaming processors. As mentioned earlier, Ryzen came back into the field of competition with its Ryzen 7 release and has been a significant player since. Built on the super small Zen 2 architecture, the best gaming processor by AMD has two 7nm chips with 8 cores on each. The number of cores is significantly higher than the rival best Intel processor in the category. Boasts a base clock speed of 3.5 GHz and it is overclockable at a staggering 4.7 GHz as compared to 5.0 GHz by Intel. So, in sheer clock speed, Intel takes the win.
Ryzen 9 3950X is not just the best AMD processor for gaming, it also brings all these features to the table at a much lower price. In other words, in high mid-level pricing, 3950X gives you the high-end performance of a top-tier performer. As for the downside, the extra number of cores makes it harder for 3950X to keep the TDP down. As compared to the 95W by Intel, Ryzen is at 105W. Consequently, you need a relatively robust cooling system to keep the temperatures under control. To offset the temperature balance, AMD had to reduce the clock speeds.
5. AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X
The 2950X is a value for money, 16 core 32 thread processor by AMD. Just so we can make something clear. As an average gamer, there are hardly any tasks that will require you to use the full 16 cores. But, it is sweet to have the next generation of games covered already with the threadripper 2950X. It has got a base clock speed of 3.5 GHz and can boost up to 4.4 GHz. Not only has AMD improved the 2950X in every way from its predecessor the 1950X, but it is actually $100 cheaper as well.
As a downside for running such a high number of cores, the TDP is 180 watts. That means traditional air cooling is just not going to cut it. But, any liquid cooling kit is going to have it run on optimum levels. One advantage of the 2950X is that you can mount it on the already widely in use X3999 motherboard. AMD’s 2950X may not be the best gaming processor available in the market, but it gives you a decent performance. Also, it is just as fast as its Intel counterparts, for a relatively much lower price.
All said and done, this is not a processor for any regular gamer. The 2950X packs much more power and costs much more as well. when compared with other processors in its category, it is one of the best processors on the market. Unless you are doing heavy power graphics rendering on your computer, you should not be spending this much on your processor.
6. Intel Core i5 – 8400
When we talk about the gaming Coffee Lake CPUs by Intel, it is always Core i7 that is the star in headlines. But, for mid-range gamers, it is Core i5 – 8400 that has been the real star. It is arguably the best gaming processor from Intel’s Coffee Lake when we talk about value for money. But, it still does not beat AMD’s Ryzen 5 chips.
It is a 6 core processor, and with no hyperthreading, you have 6 threads as well. But, this power is adequate for the standard gaming requirements of today. You will not find yourself getting disappointed by the processor’s performance. The base clock speed is 2.8 GHz, but it can hit a max of 4.0 GHz under loads. 8400 is not an unlocked CPU, so you cannot really push it far beyond its limits.
But, that comes with consumption and TDP advantages. It is rated at 65W, so any regular cooling system will make it run smoothly on your PC. When it comes to raw power and processing, it is not the best Intel processor. But, as far as value for money and performance is concerned, it is an excellent entry-level processor that will fulfil all gaming requirements.
7. Intel Core i7 – 9700K
The core i7 – 9700K by Intel is a replacement for the predecessor 8700K. 9700K is an 8 core processor with a base clock speed of 3.6 GHz, making it 100 MHz slower than 8700K. But, the boost clock is 4.9 GHz as compared to 8700K’s 4.7 GHz. It is made on Intel’s 14nm architecture, which is a severe drawback to Intel compared to AMD’s 7nm Zen 2 competitors.
If we talk about pure gaming performance, the i7 – 9700K may be the best gaming processor in its category. But, many other computing functions take a hit, and AMD’s Ryzen 7 turns up much better. One more thing to ponder is the absence of hyperthreading. While the predecessor 8700K supported hyperthreading, the 9700K doesn’t and operates on 8 threads. When we talk about gaming requirements, hyperthreading hardly makes a difference, but rendering tasks really take a blow.
So, regular gamers might not notice anything different, but the fact is that 9700K does not support hyperthreading. Essentially cutting the predecessor’s performance to half. Overall, the 9700K is a decent gaming processor, but the rivalling AMD is a much better value for money.
8. AMD Ryzen 5 3600X
Ryzen 5 3600X is a 6 core 12 thread processor which just might be contesting Intel’s crown in the Core i5 series. As compared to the simple 3600, 3600X has a 3.8 GHz base clock and boosted up to 4.4 GHz. The 3600 has a 3.6 GHz to 4.2 GHz range. Now, in a first glance, Intel offers a max 4.6 GHz speed. You might be thinking about what gives. But as already explained, with multi-cores and hyperthreading, clock speed is not the sole decider of performance. Intel’s rival CPU’s do not offer the hyperthreading technology, thereby reducing the instructions being carried out at any time to half as that of AMD. The 3600X is a significant jump in TDP than the 3600 (95W compared to 65W), but you expect that with higher clock speeds.
Overall, in computing tasks, AMD is offering much better performance to price ratio. Not to mention the unlocking and hyperthreading options that AMD adds to the mid-level processors at a much lower price. Moreover, the 7nm Zen 2 architecture is also much advanced than Intel’s 14nm technology in the mid-level range. So, is Intel’s crown in danger? We seem to think so.
Types of Processors
Processors are made, keeping the user in mind. The same generation processor by the same company could have 2-3 different versions for different uses. Here are the major types.
As you would have guessed by the name, they are built for desktop computers. Speaking of desktop computers, you know they are not short on power. In other words, they don’t run on batteries and have direct access to power. So the best processor for desktops offers better thermal tolerances. And since they can tolerate more heat, they are also more compatible with overclocking. In short, the best processor for desktops can put performance overpower and thermal efficiency.
As the name suggests, they are designed for mobile devices, like laptops and smartphones. They are usually a bit toned down on raw power, so they are more consumption efficient. It’s useful because whenever you get a mobile device, the battery timings are among the topmost considerations. Consequently, they are not designed to withstand high heats. The best processor for laptops and other mobile devices are supposed to be power efficient.
But, mobile processors also offer some additional features. E.g., Wireless Display Technology (WiDi) is only available in mobile processors. You can share all kinds of media with other devices on Wi-Fi.
Servers are usually subject to unplanned stresses and processing requirements. So, the best processor for servers is designed to be sturdier than typical processors. These considerations are in addition to the standard processing power. Obviously, servers require much higher processing powers and are housed in much cooler spaces. The best processor for servers is put through several thermal and processing stress tests. In other words, they are pushed to their limits and sometimes beyond to see if they hold their performance integrity.
What’s more, is that these servers usually do not rely on a single processor CPU. They are fitted with a backup processor which operates in case of failure. These fail-safes are only specific to the best processor for servers.
Now that we know the types of processors available to you, we need to look at considerations. When you choose the best processor according to your needs, you should keep these points in mind. These are basically the benchmarks for the best processor or CPU performance.
The Processor Market
When it comes to manufacturing processors, there are two main competitors in the market. We have the AMD and Intel. If you follow the market, you’ll know that for a long while Intel dominated the market and AMD was lacking behind. But, that changed with the release of AMD’s Ryzen 7 series, which is supposed to rival the Core i7 by Intel. They later released the Ryzen 5 and 3 to be the competitors of Core i5 and i3 respectively.
Although the debate about the best processor in the market is still on-going, AMD is now back in the competition. AMD’s contesting Intel’s monopoly over the CPU market as we speak. There are many technical factors to consider once you are comparing CPUs from two different manufacturers. We will try to summarise the debate to give you a conclusion on which one to opt for when you go to the market. Here are the criteria that we will compare in.
Frequency or Speed
As we already discussed, in multi-core processors frequency is not the only thing determining speed. But, it is still one of the main things to look at. When we look only at the frequency of the processors being manufactured, Intel takes the win. Intel is manufacturing the best processor in terms of speed. To give you an idea, Intel’s latest Core i9-9900KS clocks a remarkable 4.0 GHz. Whereas AMD’s competitor Ryzen 9 3950X offers a 3.5 GHz speed.
But, when you come down to the mid-range or entry-level processors being offered by both companies, AMD is doing better. AMD starts their mid-range processors at 3.1 GHz speed, e.g., Ryzen 5 2600E. But, the competing Intel’s model starts at a much lower 1.7 GHz with the Core i5 8500T.
All said and done, you cannot judge performance purely based on clock speed anymore. Multithreading and parallel processing add many other things to the list for considering.
If you have an actual interest in this information and have been patient, you know what cores are already. So, let’s talk about the number of cores in the best processors by both AMD and Intel. When we talk about the high-end latest versions, Intel’s Core i9 offers you 10 to 18 cores in their series. AMD is not far behind either. Ryzen Threadripper has comparable 8, 12, or 16 cores. Overall, there is not a massive difference between both the top end performers.
Coming over to the mid and entry-level by both companies, we see AMD in the lead. The Ryzen 5 chips offer 4 to 6 cores, the Ryzen 7 chip boasts 8 cores, and all of them offer hyperthreading. In comparison, Intel’s Core i5 offers only 4 cores and i7 only 6 cores. Also, only the Core i7 is available with hyperthreading function.
Another function available in most modern processors is overclocking. As we have already discussed, CPUs are manufactured with a frequency or speed. Overclocking is the ability to go beyond the manufacturer’s set speed and perform much better. The unlocked CPUs are the ones that are capable of overclocking. Although both the companies are offering overclockable CPUs, AMD is doing so much more cheaply. Intel offers unlocked models of its CPUs at a much higher price. But there is one more thing that is the K at the end of CPUs which indicates the unlocked CPUs. AMD’s processors come unlocked in base models at very affordable prices.
Overall, if you want to push your CPU beyond its set specifications, AMD is your answer. But, overclocking is only possible if your motherboard also supports it.
As you can see in the above discussion, both the companies offer varying levels of performance options. Where AMD takes the lead in the number of total cores, Intel is still offering the top speeds of processors. Deciding the best processor based on performance is no easy task. Our experts have run both the processors through a multitude of tests involving different conditions and software. But, what can be said about the best processor for you with certainty is that it depends upon your usage.
As an example, video editing tools like Magix pro run better on Intel’s newest Core i9 and AMD Ryzen comes in at a close second. But when it comes to 3D rendering, Ryzen wins by somewhat of a margin. So, depending upon the work you want from your CPU, the best processor for you may differ.
In today’s market, almost anything is available in all kinds of configurations. You’ll find a high number of cores with slower speeds and vice versa. You’ll also find overpowered beasts boasting specs that sound too good to be true. But, when it comes down to the best processor for you, you have to keep something in mind. Your requirement from the processor will largely dictate what you should buy.
As far as the Intel vs AMD debate is concerned, it is always continuing. Fueled in part by the fan bases of both the companies. Our research suggests that high-end CPUs may be best Intel processors. But, when it comes to value for money and price per core, AMD has come back to the market with a bang. It is competing in almost every category and visibly dominating the entry and mid-level category as well.