Last year, when AMD’s Ryzen and Intel’s Coffee Lake burst out onto the scene, the long-standing rivalry between the two manufacturers blew up. And, now that Ryzen 2nd Generation is out, and Intel’s Coffee Lake-S and Cannon Lake are on the horizon, that fiery competition is going to keep burning. Luckily, this only benefits the consumer – there’s never been a better time to buy one of the best processors.
In 2018, the best processors come in every shape, size and budget. If you’re trying to save a bit of cash, Intel has you covered with some low-powered T-Series desktop CPUs. And, if you’re trying to squeeze as much performance out of your machine as possible – and money isn’t an issue – you may want to take a look at AMD Ryzen Threadripper and Intel’s Skylake-X processors.
Even if you can’t get your hands on the latest and greatest CPUs, there are still plenty of great Kaby Lake and Ryzen gen 1 processors out there that can still pack a punch. These older processors aren’t just still good, they’ll let you spend more on the best graphics cards.
On the other hand, since there are so many great CPUs, shopping for the best processor for gaming can result in a deluge of confusing model numbers. Luckily, we here at TechRadar have your back – we’ve created this list of the best processors you can buy today. Since we’ve tested all of these processors ourselves, you can be confident they’ll be worth your time and money. So, sit back, relax and get ready to realize PC performance you’ve previously only dreamed of.
Best CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 2700X
AMD’s victory lap
Cores: 8 | Threads: 16 | Base clock: 3.7GHz | Boost clock: 4.3GHz | L3 cache: 16MB | TDP: 105W
For the longest time, AMD has played second fiddle to Intel in many categories but value. Those days are over. With the Ryzen 7 2700X, and Ryzen 2nd Generation in general, AMD introduces the first 12nm CPUs and the performance backs that up, beating Intel in both single and multi-core workloads for the first time in recent history. If you’re looking for a high-performance CPU at a reasonable price, trust us, look no further.
Read the full review: AMD Ryzen 7 2700X
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
When AMD launched its Zen architecture-based Ryzen processors in 2017, it offered a promising price-to-performance ratio that would finally put Intel on the defensive. However, at least with the first Ryzen chips, AMD fell short of Intel in sheer horsepower – until the Ryzen Threadripper 1950X exploded onto the scene. This block of silicon wasn’t just a better value than the Intel Core i9-7900X, but it was also more flexible. And, if that wasn’t enough, it looks like AMD is going to continue the trend if that rumored 32-core Threadripper 2nd Generation chip makes it to market.
Read the full review: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X
Best mid-range CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 2600X
Top performance on a budget
Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Base clock: 3.6GHz | Boost clock: 4.32GHz | L3 cache: 16MB | TDP: 95W
If you’re looking for an affordable CPU for content creation, look no further than the AMD Ryzen 5 2600X. With 6 cores and 12 threads and a base clock of 3.6GHz, you’re getting far better performance than the pricier Intel Core i5-8600K – with a dope RGB CPU cooler included. Sure, the gaming performance increase over the blue team is marginal, but when you start multi-tasking – and who doesn’t like having 100 Chrome tabs open while gaming – the value starts to show itself in spades.
Read the full review: AMD Ryzen 5 2600X
Best Entry Level CPU: AMD Ryzen 3 2200G
Integrated graphics on a budget
Cores: 4 | Threads: 4 | Base clock: 3.5GHz | Boost clock: 3.7GHz | L3 cache: 4MB | TDP: 65W
If you’re looking to put together a gaming PC on the tightest budget, the AMD Ryzen 3 2200G can take you a long way. While it doesn’t feature the hyperthreading capability of its predecessor, the Ryzen 3 1200, the introduction of integrated graphics makes this APU one of the cheapest ways to experience casual PC gaming. We were even able to play Overwatch at 4K Ultra-HD resolution at ‘Epic’ settings.
Read the full review: AMD Ryzen 3 2200G
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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 Ryzen 5 2400G
Ryzen and Vega finally meet
Cores: 4 | Threads: 8 | Base clock: 3.6GHz | Boost clock: 3.9GHz | L2 cache: 2MB
One of the only things that we were left wanting when AMD’s Ryzen CPUs blew up is that they didn’t support integrated graphics, limiting their appeal to PC enthusiasts. However, with the Ryzen 5 2400G, that’s all changed. Featuring impressive Vega graphics, it’s a great APU that anyone looking to build a HTPC will love. And, now that AMD has slashed the price, you can get in on this 4K action cheaper than ever.
Read the full review: AMD Ryzen 5 2400G