The Best CPUs: Productivity and Gaming

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Top Choices From $80 to $700

Since readers are constantly asking which processor they should buy, and after all the extensive testing you know,  processor purchase guide narrows the list down to a few recommendations that you can trust.

We usually choose the top 5 processors currently on the market, but in conditions of record-high competition, for the most part there are no clear winners, and the right choice largely depends on your use case. Therefore, we will look at the pros and cons of each option so that you know exactly what will suit you best.

To familiarize ourselves with our recommendations, we will go from the least expensive to the more expensive and first discuss gaming performance, then overall performance and other considerations.

Core i3-12100F or Ryzen 5 5600 from $80 to $130 Price: $117
Core i5-12400F or Ryzen 7 5700X from 180 to 240 dollars Price: 197 dollars
300-320 USD Ryzen 5 7600X or Core i3-13600K or Ryzen 5 5800X3D Price: 297 USD
400-440 USD Core i7-13700K/KF or Ryzen 7 7700X Price: 436 USD
Ryzen 9 7900X/7950X or Core i9-13900K/KF from $550 to $700 Price: $699
There are many great options, and you are unlikely to go wrong. AMD and Intel are fighting a fierce battle right now, and it’s nice to see.

Although we are updating this purchase guide for the holiday season, if you can wait a few more weeks to make a CPU purchase, we recommend that you do so. We usually see interesting announcements at CES, and we expect AMD to try to breathe life into AM5 sales, which could mean 3D V-Cache models or more affordable versions without X.

Budget processor (80-130 USD)
Core i3-12100F or Risen 5 5600
IN NUMBERS
Price:
117 dollars
on Amazon
User Reviews:
9.6
Contenders in this segment include processors such as Ryzen 5 4500, Core i3-10100F or 10105F, each of which can now be bought for about $ 80, and then there are Ryzen 5 5500 and Core 13-12100F for $ 100. In the next step, you will get about $120 for the Core i5-10400F and Ryzen 5 3600, and Ryzen 5 5600 can be bought for $ 130.

For those of you who are building a new PC from scratch, we recommend avoiding the Ryzen 5 4500 and Core i3-10100F/10105F. They are now only $20 less than the Core i3-12100F, which offers significantly better performance and can be upgraded to 13th generation Raptop Lake components in the future.

The Core i3-12100F offers a solid $100 value, and even when combined with the available DDR4-3600 CL16 memory, it is slightly faster than the Ryzen 5 5500 for gaming, providing an average of 15% more performance in our tests. There are also a number of inexpensive Intel B660 boards that can support Core i9 processors without any throttling issues, for example, the $130 MSI Pro B660M-A, but if you never want to upgrade above Core i5, the Asrock B660M Pro RS will do. for $90 — an extra $40 for the MSI model really buys you a more powerful product in terms of power delivery.

If you put it all together: $100 for the 12100F, $140 for a good B660 motherboard, and $60 for 16GB DDR4-3600 CL16 memory, and you’ll get a great platform upgrade for just $300, or $350 if you opt for a 32GB kit. Alternatively, if you want to invest in DDR5, we would skip the B660 boards and instead opt for the Asrock Z690M PG Riptide, a great $160 board. As for memory, the Crucial 8 GB modules work quite well, and $85 for a 16 GB kit is very cheap. If you are a little more serious about your RAM, the G.Skill Ripjaws S5 DDR5-5200 memory with a capacity of 32 GB can be purchased for $ 145, and for a combination of DDR5 — $ 405.

An alternative is the Ryzen 5 5600, which can be installed on a high-quality B550 motherboard for just $90, for example, the MSI B550M—Pro VHD WiFi, and the Asrock B550 Pro4 for $ 100 is another good option. Then for $60, you’ll get a decent 16GB DDR4-3600 CL16 memory kit, or $110 for 32GB, which means you can put together an AM4 combo for just $280— $20 less than the 12100F, and you have the luxury of being able to upgrade to 5800X3D in the future, or for 5900X performance or 5950X.

These two budget options basically have the same price considering the cost of the platform. Both are excellent processors with reliable upgrade paths, and frankly, it would be difficult for us to choose between them, since the performance they offer now is great, and the upgrade option to 13600K or 5800X3D is also great. Raise the price in your region, as this may be the deciding factor.

Upstairs ▵
Main CPU (180-240 USD)
Core i5-12400F or Ryzen 7 5700X
IN NUMBERS
Price:
$197
on Amazon
User Reviews:
9.4
Increasing the budget opens up a number of options for AM4, AM5, LGA1200 and LGA 1700. There are more than a dozen processors in this group, but we can quickly narrow down the choice to two options. You can safely ignore Intel’s 10th and 11th generation options above $150, they are simply uncompetitive. Most parts of the AM4 also don’t make sense, like the 5600X, you can just take the 5600.

A $180 Core i5-12400F is a good way to get in the door, and on something like the Asrock Z690M PG Riptide, this option might make sense in combination with the G.Skill DDR5-5200 32GB, i.e.This combination will cost $485 — almost 40% more than the 12100F build, and 50% more cores.

The Ryzen 7 5700X can offer comparable gaming performance, and even for $240, you can build a 32GB DDR4 build on an entry-level B550 board for about $40 less. However, in bandwidth-demanding games, the Intel combination will work much better. On the other hand, for performance with a large core volume, the 5700X is the best option, as it provides about 30% higher performance.

In short, the Core i5-12400F offers a better upgrade path and the ability to support DDR5 memory, while the 5700X combination is slightly more affordable, provides similar gaming capabilities and is more productive.

Upstairs ▵
CPU of average performance (300-320 USD)
Ryzen 5 7600X or Core i3-13600K or Ryzen 5 5800X3D
IN NUMBERS
Price:
$297
on Amazon
TechSpot Meta-assessment:
85
User Reviews:
7,8
In this segment, we settled on such variants as Core i5-12600K, 13600K, 12700K, 11900KF and Ryzen 5 7600X. So let’s discard some of them… the $355 11900KF doesn’t make sense, not that the 11th generation Core i9 ever made any sense, and the 12700K is now meaningless as it costs more than the 13600K and is slower in everything. The i5-12600K for $280 is a reasonable deal, but as we found in a recent cost analysis, it’s worse than the 13600K for gaming, and much worse when it comes to performance, so the 12th generation Core i5 can also be written off. .

So the best choices are the Core i5-13600K for $320 and the Ryzen 5 7600X for $300. The advantage of the Core i5-13600K is its superior performance, as it can efficiently use these E-cores, offering a significant gain over the 7600X. Also, for those of you who like to tinker with your hardware and indulge in overclocking and memory tuning, the 13600K is the best choice, offering a larger margin and a greater degree of customization.

It also offers a wider range of motherboards priced under $200 thanks to support for Intel 600 series cards, and backward compatibility with DDR4 means that you can use old memory or purchase it from an extensive pool of already available DDR4 memory. The CPU-bound performance of DDR4 will usually be lower than that of DDR5, so if you’re building a brand new PC, we recommend switching to DDR5 now.

The advantage of the Ryzen 5 7600X is that it is a more efficient chip that consumes less power, which theoretically should make it easier to cool, although we don’t think cooling plays an important role here. The real advantage of Ryzen 5 is the excellent AM5 platform, which will support at least two more generations of processors, offering a wide upgrade path for those who invest now.

There is really no right or wrong option here, by default they are both great products, ultimately you have to choose between higher performance and platform durability. We also mention 5800X3D because it’s the best way to upgrade for current AM4 owners who want to maximize gaming performance without spending money to upgrade the entire platform.

Upstairs ▵
High-performance CPU ($400-440)
Core i7-13700K/KF or Ryzen 7 7700X
IN NUMBERS
Price:
$436
on Amazon
TechSpot Meta-assessment:
88
User Reviews:
8.2
If you’re spending $400 on a new processor, there’s no reason to consider any previous-generation processors. Even 5800X3D is hard to sell if you haven’t invested in AM4 yet. Thus, Ryzen 7 7700X costs $ 400, Intel Core i7-13700KF — $ 420, and the version with integrated graphics (K-SKU) — $ 440. For just an extra 5%, you could also get 13700K for things like QuickSync support.

 

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