Best processors 2017: top CPUs for your PC

Hot off of the respective releases of AMD’s Ryzen and Intel’s Coffee Lake CPUs, the two tech giants are finally at each other's’ throats again after a long period of silence. Both AMD and Intel are featuring some of the best processors you can get your hands on right now, each one offering a compelling and valuable solution for any budget or use case. 

This new-found competition is not only an exciting time for anyone who is passionate about the best processors, but it’s also one of the best times to shop for a new processor. Unfortunately, the CPU market is notoriously unstable, especially when it comes to the pricing and availability of the best processors. Don’t let that scare you off though, we here at TechRadar have your back, and we’ll help you find all the best processors available right now. And, don’t worry if you can’t find that brand new Coffee Lake CPU – there are still plenty of comparable Kaby Lake processors out there that are still amazing.

One exciting thing that naturally emerges out of this new-found competition is that now there is a chance for anyone to get their hands on one of the best processors, no matter the budget. Both Intel and AMD have a wide variety of great processors in every shape and size. So, if you’re a crazy enthusiast who wants all the theoretical performance you can get your hands on, or even if you’re trying to save a couple bucks, this competition and innovation is good for everyone.

We get it though, the second you look at the listings on Amazon or Newegg, it becomes immediately clear that finding the best processor isn’t exactly a walk in the park. This is one of the unfortunate side effect of having such a healthy and booming market. Luckily, though, the TechRadar editorial team has put their expertise to use to find the best processors you can buy today. Plus, every processor we’ve included has been tested or reviewed by us, so you know they’ve earned their spot. So, sit back, put your feet up, and get ready to elevate your PC to another plane of performance. 

Best CPU: Intel Core i7-8700K

Overclockable champion, now with more cores

Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Base clock: 3.7GHz | Boost clock: 4.7GHz | L3 cache: 12MB | TDP: 95W

Hyper-threading overtakes Ryzen
Low-impact overclocking
Overclocking only on K models
Requires new motherboard

During the Coffee Lake-S launch, Intel claimed that it’d be giving us its best gaming processor ever; they weren’t wrong. This ’K’ series chip decimates AMD’s flagship in almost every way possible. Abandoning the company’s invisible rule to keep processors sporting over four cores out of the hands of the mainstream, the i7-8700K makes hexa-core the new vogue. 

Read our full review: Intel Core i7-8700K

Best high-end CPU: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X

Ripping threads and breaking records

Cores: 16 | Threads: 32 | Base clock: 3.4GHz | Boost clock: 4.0GHz | L3 cache: 32MB | TDP: 180W

Ready for the ultimate mega-tasking
Easier to install than Intel
More power-hungry than Intel’s rival
Switching profiles requires a full restart

When AMD released its Zen architecture-based Ryzen chips back in June, they relied on the promise of a price-to-performance ratio that finally knock Intel off of their untouchable throne. Simultaneously, however, they fell quite short of Intel in terms of raw horsepower. That all changed overnight with the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X, a chunk of silicon that’s not only a better value than Intel’s Core i9-7900X, but it’s also easier to anchor into the socket of any x399 motherboard. 

Read the full review: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X

Best mid-range CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 1600X

Six cores for less than the price of four-core chip

Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Base clock: 3.6GHz | Boost clock: 4.0GHz | L3 cache: 16MB | TDP: 95W

Awesome multi-core performance
Cool running chip
Tricky overclocking

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that with its mid-range chip, AMD offers more cores for less money when compared to Intel. While in year’s past this has equated to making compromises in other areas to keep the costs low, the Ryzen 5 1600X remains economical without being shown up. After all, operating with six cores and 12 threads, there’s no shame in a 3.6GHz base frequency, not to mention the 4.0GHz boost in addition to overclocking capabilities. 

Read the full review: AMD Ryzen 5 1600X

Best entry-level CPU: AMD Ryzen 3 1300X

Welcome to the circus of value

Cores: 4 | Threads: 4 | Base clock: 3.5GHz | Boost clock: 3.7GHz | L3 cache: 8MB | TDP: 65W

Impeccable value
More cores than most budget CPUs
Lagging benchmark scores
Runs a little too warm

Many people will assume that because it requires discrete GPU to use, the AMD Ryzen 3 1300X is built solely for gaming. Once you drop your assumptions, though, you’ll see it as the little processor that could. That’s because, at a price that’s the definition of reasonable, you’re getting a chip that’s 53% faster at encoding video than the Intel Core i3-7350K in Handbrake and – with the right GPU attached – can easily help you attain 60 frames per second in Overwatch. 

Read the full review: AMD Ryzen 3 1300X

Best gaming CPU: Intel Core i5-7600K

“K” series Core processing at an i5 cost

Cores: 4 | Threads: 4 | Base clock: 3.8GHz | Boost clock: 4.2GHz | L3 cache: 6MB | TDP: 91W

Easy to overclock
OC approaches i7-6700K stock speeds
Negligible upgrade over Skylake

Like the 7700K that preceded it on this list, the Intel Core i5-7600K is an unlocked, overclockable quad-core processor from Intel. However, it also suffers from the same integral shortcoming; that is that it’s barely an upgrade over the i5-6600K. Be that as it may, squeezing out only 300MHz over its precursor brings it nearly in line with the last-gen Core i7-6700K when overclocked. All the while, it won’t put too much of a dent in your budget either.

Best VR CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 1800X

Ryzen to the occasion and VR-ready to rumble

Cores: 8 | Threads: 16 | Base clock: 3.6GHz | Boost clock: 4GHz | L3 cache: 16MB | TDP: 95W

Stunning multi-core performance
Insane price
Overclocking is touch and go
Temperatures are ‘unique’

The primary contender to Intel’s Core i7-7700K, the AMD Ryzen 7 1800X poses a convincing threat to Intel’s flagship. While it’s unfortunately more expensive than the 7700K, uncharacteristic for the oft value-focused Red Team, the Ryzen 7 1800X most certainly keeps up with some of Intel’s older chips. Plus, unlike the Core i7-5960X and -6700K it most intimately rivals, the AMD Ryzen 7 1800X is much more qualified for VR now and into the future.

Read the full review: AMD Ryzen 7 1800X

Best video editing CPU: Intel Core i7-7820X

X gon’ give it to ya

Cores: 8 | Threads: 16 | Base clock: 3.6GHz | Boost clock: 4.3GHz | L3 cache: 11MB | TDP: 140W

Solid multi-core performance
Best value for an eight-core Intel chip
Little benefit over cheaper Ryzen 1800X
Threadripper is cheaper

The naming convention is confusing, given that the Intel Core i7-7820X is part of Intel’s “Skylake-X” series rather than the X-class chips built on the 14nm Kaby Lake node, but semantics matter very little when you get to go hands-on with an Intel CPU boasting this many cores. Although the fact that you’ll need a new motherboard to use this octa-core monster might be enough to scare some users off to Ryzen, Intel loyalists shan’t mind the upgrade. 

Best performance processor: Intel Core i9-7980XE

This 18-core processor dominates all

Cores: 18 | Threads: 36 | Base clock: 2.6GHz | Boost clock: 4.4GHz | L3 cache: 24.75MB | TDP: 165W

Exceptional performance
Single-core results are incredible 
Price, price, price
Monstrous overclocking power draw 

Intel's 18-core processor is all about brute force. With the ability to kick up all of its cores to 4.8GHz (by our testing at least), this monstrous CPU brings performance to a new level of insanity. The only caveats are this processor power draw and price are equally beastly.

Read the full review: Intel Core i9-7980XE

Best budget CPU: Intel Pentium G4560

Intel Core i3 power at a Pentium price tag

Cores: 2 | Threads: 4 | Base clock: 3.5GHz | L3 cache: 3MB | TDP: 54W

Closely tails Core i3-7100
Supports hyper-threading
Limited to DDR4-2400 memory
Inferior performance to Intel Pentium G4560

With the amount of money you’ll save by purchasing the Intel Pentium G4560 over a Core i3 chip, we promise you won’t mind the ever-so-slight loss in performance you can expect from this hardy value chip. As the first Pentium processor in quite some time to feature hyper-threading, the G4560 goes out of its way to show us all what we’ve been missing. And, in benchmarks, it proves itself eerily adjacent to the more expensive Intel Core i3-7100.

Best HTPC CPU: AMD A12-9800

Integrated graphics, now there’s a novel idea

Cores: 4 | Threads: 4 | Base clock: 3.8GHz | Boost clock: 4.2GHz | L2 cache: 2MB

Doesn’t require graphics card
Compatible with AM4 mobos
Limited to DDR4-2400 memory
Inferior performance to Intel Pentium G4560

Maybe you’ve probably heard some bad things about the AMD A12-9800, some of which are justified, but some salty impressions we’ve seen are just based on how AMD’s first AM4-compatible APUs aren’t Zen-based. Instead, the A12-9800 takes advantage of the Bristol Ridge architecture, which is basically just a refresh of the Bulldozer family AMD has been slowly iterating on since 2011. Even so, this is the best way single AMD chip build independent of a discrete GPU – for now.

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