Best Processor Ranking: Buying guide for CPUs

There is a lot of competition in the desktop processor market. But which CPU is the price-performance winner for gamers and in the office? In This article you will learn which one is the best processor for you and what you should look for.

best processor ranking

Whether it’s a gaming computer or an office machine – anyone who wants to build their own computer cannot avoid the question of which processor should power the computing machine. With AMD and Intel, two chip giants are fighting for supremacy. For a long time, gamers had no choice but to use an Intel processor – until AMD put pressure on the competitor with its Ryzen processors.

And exactly this competition leads to an interesting situation in the processor market. Beyond the affection for one or the other brand, consumers can grab potent gaming processors for as little as around $200.

In the following article, we explain what to consider when choosing a processor in 2021. We provide an overview of AMD and Intel processors in the price categories (entry-level, mid-range, and high-end) and select the cross-brand price-performance winners.

Best Processor Ranking: The overview

If you’re looking for a processor, you should be clear beforehand what tasks the chip is supposed to calculate, how fast it does it, and how big a budget you’re willing to spend. Processors are divided into entry-level, mid-range, and high-end categories based on their performance and price.

Both AMD and Intel serve each category – but the processors differ in price and performance. Generally, entry-level processors are sufficient for standard office computers if they have an integrated graphics unit.

If you are looking for a gaming CPU, you can save money for an integrated graphics unit because a separate and powerful graphics card takes over this work. The best price-performance ratio is decisive because every dollar saved should be invested in a more powerful graphics card.

Buyers of the top class, on the other hand, are interested in pure performance. These are mostly gamers who do not want to make any compromises or professional users who edit videos or create 3D models on the computer.

The following table shows which processors from Intel and AMD face each other in the respective classes. This is followed by a classification of which CPU is the better choice in the individual category.

BeginnersCore i3 10100Fabout $160
Middle class six-coreCore i5 11600KFaround $340
Middle class eight-coreCore i7 10700KFaround $300
upper middle class Core i7 11700KFabout $480
High endCore i9 11900Kabout $610
BeginnersRyzen 3 3100about $195
Middle class six-coreRyzen 5 5600Xabout $380
Middle class eight-coreRyzen 7 3700Xaround $310
upper middle class Ryzen 7 5800Xabout $450
High endRyzen 9 5900Xaround $810

Please note that the prices of the processors are always subject to fluctuations that are related to the availability of the chips, among other things. The prices are listed according to April 28, 2021, and take as a benchmark to appraise the processors.

Processor ranking: The entry-level class

The Core i3 10100F and the Ryzen 3 3100 face each other in the entry-level class. Both processors are quad-cores that have Hyperthreading. In terms of price, they are $35 apart, and that’s even though the performance of the Intel processor is a spark above that of the Ryzen 3 3100. But even the price of the Core i3 10100F seems high because there is already a six-core Intel Core i5 10400F for around $180. This makes the entry-level class look obsolete since most quad-cores around $100 are currently sold out, and dual-core processors will be outdated in 2021.

Mid-range: Core i5 and i7 vs. Ryzen 5 and 7

Most buyers looking for a powerful gaming CPU with the best price-performance ratio are interested in the mid-range. It ranges from $150 to just under $500, most processors are found here, and the market is exceptionally competitive. Two six-core processors, the Intel Core i5 11600KF and the Ryzen 5 5600, are in this price range. The Core i7 and Ryzen 7 processors have eight cores.

If you purchased a CPU or a CPU cooler, read How to Remove & Apply Thermal Paste on CPU

Mid-range six-core

More than a $100 difference between the Intel Core i5 11600KF for $340 and the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X for $370. The Core i5 belongs to Intel’s latest processor generation called “Rocket Lake.” Up to now, AMD held the performance crown in gaming in the six-core sector with the Ryzen 5 5600X. The Core i5 11600K does not change this – but the Intel processor is on par with the Ryzen 5 5600X in most games.

Only in competitive shooters like “Counter Strike – Global Offensive” or “Valorant” does AMD have a clear lead over Intel. If you are looking for a six-core gaming CPU, you should still go for the Intel processor, because in comparison, $370 for the AMD processor is too expensive. Especially when you consider that eight cores like the Intel Core i7 9700KF are already available for $333.

Intel Core i5-11600KF Desktop Processor

Cores / threads6/12
Clock frequency3900 MHz
Single core boost4900 MHz
TDP125 watts

Price-performance tip: If you are looking for a real price-performance hit for gaming, you should take a look at the Intel Core i5 10400F. The processor offers six cores and costs around $180. On the other side is the Ryzen 5 3600, which costs about $80 more. Both processors are on the same level in terms of performance. The next fastest CPU is the Intel Core i5 10600KF, which also costs around 200 Euros. However, the performance difference between the processors is so tiny that the Intel Core i5 10400F is the best mix of price and performance.

Intel Core i5-10400F Desktop Processor

Cores / threads6/12
Clock frequency2900 MHz
Single core boost4300 MHz
TDP65 watts

Mid-range eight-core

Most games are still satisfied with six cores. However, buyers are more secure for the future with an eight-core CPU. And there are two very interesting options with the Intel Core i7 10700KF and the Ryzen 7 3700X. Both processors belong to the previous generation from Intel and AMD, both offer Hyperthreading, and both currently cost around $300. And that is simply too expensive for the Ryzen chip because the Intel processor offers about 10% more performance in comparison. It is better to buy the Intel Core i7 10700KF for the same price.

Intel Core i7-11700KF Desktop Processor

Cores / threads8/16
Clock frequency3800 MHz
Single core boost5100 MHz
TDP125 watts

Price-performance tip: The Intel Core i9 9900KF is an eight-core processor that currently costs less than $380 and is only slightly weaker than the Core i7 10700KF. The Core i9 9900KF works on the 1151 socket, the Core i7 10700KF with the current 1200 socket. If you are looking for a combination of motherboard and processor, you should take a look at the Core i9 9900KF because motherboards with the 1151 socket are a bit cheaper.

Intel Core i9-9900KF Desktop Processor

Cores / threads8/16
Clock frequency3600 MHz
Single core boost5000 Mhz
TDP95 watts

If you want to save even more, you should take a look at the Intel Core i7 9700KF. The processor currently costs around $320. The only downside is: It does not offer Hyperthreading.

Intel Core i7-9700KF Desktop Processor

Cores / threads8/8
Clock frequency3600 MHz
Single core boost4900 Mhz
TDP95 watts

Upper mid-range

The upper mid-range is shared by the Core i7 11700KF and the Ryzen 7 5800X. Once again, they are eight-core devices with 16 threads, and both cost the same at under $480. And this time, both processors don’t have much in terms of performance. In general, the Intel processor performs a bit better in games that prefer a high clock rate. Otherwise, the processors are on par.

Intel Core i7-11700KF Desktop Processor

Cores / threads8/16
Clock frequency3600 MHz
Single core boost5000 MHz
TDP125 watts

However, the Core i7 11700K does not work as energy-efficiently as the Ryzen 7 5800X – this does not make a noticeable difference on the electricity bill, but the Intel processor wants to be cooled better. Without a powerful CPU cooler, buying the Intel processor does not make sense. It remains to be said that the price is the decisive factor when deciding between the two processors. And since that is currently on par, the existing hardware will be powerful for most buyers. If you have an AM4 motherboard that can handle the Ryzen 7 5800X, you should stay loyal to AMD. Those who have a 1200 motherboard will do the same with Intel. If you buy both new, you will opt for the cheaper mix of motherboard and processor.

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X Unlocked Desktop Processor

SocketAM 4
Cores / threads8/16
Clock frequency3800 MHz
Single core boost4700 MHz
TDP105 watts

High End: Core i9 vs. Ryzen 9

In the high-end processor segment, the battle is somewhat unbalanced. This is due to the fact that Intel’s new processor generation is limited to a maximum of eight cores, whereas AMD gives its Ryzen 9 5900X a whole 12 cores, and the Ryzen 9 5950X even 16 cores. In return, the Ryzen 9 5900X and the Core i9 11900K are $80 apart. In terms of gaming performance, the same applies as for the mid-range: In most games, the performance difference is insignificant because sometimes Intel and sometimes AMD is ahead.

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The fact that only a few games even use all eight processing cores of the processors. In applications that can utilize more than eight processing cores – such as video editing – the Intel processor is at a disadvantage. Therefore, it makes sense to spend $80 more for 4 additional cores if you do not only want to play games but also edit videos or pictures. It is not known why Intel only gives its top processor eight cores. The energy-efficient architecture of AMD’s Zen3 chips clearly pays off in the upper class.

AMD Ryzen 9 5900X Unlocked Desktop Processor

SocketAM 4
Cores / threads12/24
Clock frequency3700 MHz
Single core boost4800 MHz
TDP105 watts

The office tip: At least four cores

In 2021, you’ll definitely want to buy a processor with four physical cores; for games, at least a six-core should be there. This is because game and software developers are increasingly optimizing their programs to get the full performance out of multi-core processors. Some programs even no longer start when the CPU only has two cores. Dual cores are quickly overwhelmed when Outlook, Teams, Excel, and the browser are open at the same time.

In the previous comparisons, only the raw processor performance was considered because most gamers and professional users are interested in. However, there is no need for a separate graphics card in the office, and many processors come with an integrated graphics unit, which is sufficient for office programs. In terms of the integrated graphics unit, AMD has a slight lead over Intel.

However, the low-priced quad-core chips from both manufacturers are hard to come. And that makes an office tip more difficult. For example, the Intel Core i3 9100 would be a suitable office processor – if it cost around $200. But it doesn’t, and since much more potent chips, like the Core i5 10400F, are available for $30 less. The processor is only suitable as an office solution to a limited extent. Because the Core i5 10400F doesn’t have an integrated graphics card. The Core i3 9100 remains the only viable office solution. If you still have a graphics card left, you should instead go for the Core i5 10400F.

Intel Core i3-9100 Desktop Processor

Cores / threads4/4
Clock frequency3100 MHz
Single core boost3700 MHz
TDP35 watts

Intel or AMD: Price war is on

Intel has caught up with AMD’s Zen3 architecture processors with its new Rocket Lake series in most segments in terms of performance. However, this comes at a high price because the Intel processors are not as energy-efficient compared to the Ryzen chips, need a lot of power, and therefore crave a good cooling solution.

Nevertheless, Intel’s prices are very attractive, especially true for the tenth generation of processors. However, this is also because AMD cannot meet the high demand for its CPUs, and the prices are correspondingly high. For example, the Ryzen 7 3700X was still available for about 280 Euros at the end of 2020 – it currently costs about 40 Euros more.

Tray or boxed – what should I buy?

Many retailers offer tray and boxed versions of the processors. The difference: Boxed versions usually include a cooler. Exceptions prove the rule: This is not the case with some powerful Intel processors. However, if you’re spending several hundred dollars on a processor, you’ll also want to consider buying a powerful heatsink with it. The heatsinks supplied by manufacturers are usually noisy and not particularly powerful. In return, they are usually a few euros cheaper. If you already have a cooler that fits the corresponding socket, you can save a few Euros.

Hyperthreading or more cores?

If you look around for processors, you will quickly notice that manufacturers label their hardware with four cores and eight threads, for example. Threads mean that one core of the processor can process several tasks of the same program. This means: If you are doing one task with one program, Hyperthreading speeds up completing the task.

On the other hand, if you have many programs running alongside, you are better off with many cores. The most modern multi-core processors can process several threads anyway, i.e. they have Hyperthreading. Hyperthreading is, by the way, Intel’s label for the technology. AMD calls the same technology “Simultaneous Multi-Threading” (SMT).

This is what the processor identifiers are all about

Intel and AMD launch their processors in different versions and mark this with different combinations of numbers and letters. An example: The Intel Core i5 of the tenth generation is available as i5 10400, 10400F, 10600, 10600K, or 10600KF and for different prices. Generally, the “10” stands for the generation, and the “400” or “600” gives information about the performance within the processor family. The table provides clarity about the letters:

KClock not lockedGWith integrated graphics unit
F.Integrated graphics card is switched offXHigher clock rate ex works
Theatrical VersionClock not blocked / integrated graphics card switched offXTOptimized production, higher cycle
TOptimized for energy efficiencyE. Optimized for energy efficiency

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