The best Intel processors | Computing
Even if AMD’s Ryzen processors offered real competition to Intel when they debuted in 2017, Intel chips are still arguably the best for gaming and other predominantly single-threaded tasks. Whatever reason you want to go Intel on your next upgrade though, this guide will show you the best Intel processors whether you’re looking for something entry level, or a little more on the high-end side of the spectrum.
For a more varied look at great CPUs for any budget, check out our manufacturer-agnostic guide to the best processors available today.
As nice as it is to see Intel upping the core counts of all its eighth-generation processors, the real sweet spot in the Coffee Lake line up is the Core i5-8400. Hailed by many as the best mainstream gaming processor in generations, it comes with some impressive specifications considering its relatively diminutive price point.
Although it lacks hyperthreading and the ability to easily overclock it, the i5-8400 comes with six cores, which is more than enough for most programs and a decent frequency of 4.0GHz when in turbo mode. Although its base frequency of 2.8GHz might look weak compared to previous generations, that helps keeps its power demands to just 65 watts.
In many benchmarks, especially in gaming, this chip easily outperforms the beloved Core i5-7600K from the previous generation and even rivals the much heftier Core i7-7700K in some tests. That’s very impressive considering the 8400’s significantly cheaper price than either of those options. The only real downside to the 8400 is that as part of the newest generation of CPUs, it is only compatible with 300 series motherboards. That means that whatever set up you’re running now you’re going to need a new motherboard too.
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Pentium Gold G5600
The best budget Intel processor
If you’re looking for a new eighth-generation processor that doesn’t set your wallet on fire, the Pentium Gold G5600 is your golden ticket. It’s a two-core chip clocked at a steady 3.9GHz that doesn’t provide any additional boost speeds. The chip consumes a mere 54 watts of power making it a great selection if you don’t plan on installing a meaty power supply in your desktop.
Benchmark results regarding this chip depend on the operating system. The best scores seen on Geekbench for a Windows-based machine sees the chip with a 4,939 score for the single-core test and a 9,403 score for the multi-core test. It’s a nice jump over the previous-generation gold-free Pentium G4560 in single- and multi-core performance, but it falls slightly behind the Core i3-8100 four-core chip in single-core performance. The Pentium can’t compete with the Core i3 in multi-core testing given it’s locked down to two physical cores.
But the Core i3-8100 is a $117 part, and you’re not even breaking into three digits with the Pentium Gold G5600. Launched in the second quarter of 2018, the G5600 features the benefits of Intel’s eighth-generation design including an integrated UHD Graphics 630 GPU component, higher speeds, and so on. What this specific chip doesn’t support is Turbo Boost Technology and Intel Optane memory.
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The best high-end Intel processor
If you want an awesome processor that doesn’t require selling your kidney on the black market, Intel’s Core i7-8700K is the ideal solution. Based on Intel’s eighth-generation architecture, this caffeinated chip was one of the first to introduce a six-core design to the mainstream market with a base speed of 3.7GHz and a maximum speed of 4.7GHz. And while that speed and core count may sound like music to gamers’ ears, the performance comes with a $350 price.
On a Windows-based machine, the Core i7-8700K produces impressive results. In benchmarks, it peaks at a score of 9857 in single-core tests and peaks at 43238 in multi-core tests. It’s not a big jump in single-core performance compared to the seventh-generation Core i7-7700K, but the multi-core aspect is where the Core i7-8700K packs a punch given it sports two additional physical cores. Unfortunately, it doesn’t beat AMD’s Ryzen 7 1800X eight-core chip in multi-core tests.
Originally pitched as the best processor for gaming, the core i7-8700K supports 64GB of DDR4 system memory clocked up to 2,666MHz, Intel Optane memory, vPro technology, and hyper-threading. On its own, the chip scan handle a maximum of 16 PCI Express lanes while drawing only 95 watts of power. If you’re looking to build a gaming machine, this is a great, affordable starting point.
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Core i9-7900X ($960)
The best pure performance
In response to AMD’s Ryzen and Threadripper CPUs Intel introduced a number of staggeringly powerful processors in the latter half of 2017, so there’s a lot to pick from. However, when you’re talking about spending upwards of $1,000 on a processor, there are certainly some with more bang for buck than others.
Although still expensive at $960, the 7900X is the cheapest of the Skylake-X range of Core i9 CPUs and is a fantastically powerful processor. With 10 cores, 20 threads (with hyperthreading), and a frequency that can turbo up to 4.5GHz using Turbo Boost Max 3.0, it offers ridiculous single and multithreaded performance. If you’re a sporadic upgrader, it will easily futureproof you for a few generations without missing a step.
The 7900X is still overkill for most users, but if you want one of the fastest Intel processors in the world without remortgaging your home, the 7900X is the best choice.
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