When assembling a computer, you can choose exactly which screen, system and other components you want. It is critical to tailor the end result to your needs and desires, and choosing the best processor is an essential step in your efforts.
Some processors are characterized by high speeds or high performance, while others impress us with a value based on what they deliver. AMD Ryzen processors do all of the above, so they dominate our list. If you are building a PC for the first time, do not forget to read our instructions for building a computer.
The best processors in 2020 at a glance
The best budget processor: AMD Ryzen 5 2600
AMD may have a new line of third-generation Ryzen processors that are in the spotlight, but at the end of the CPU spectrum, you'll now find some of the best chips of the last generation. The Ryzen 5 2600 is arguably the best of them all. It has six cores and 12 threads and although it is not automatically raised above 4 GHz, overclocking over 4.1 GHz is easily possible with air cooling.
If you don't spend more than $ 100 on a CPU in your budget, there are alternatives that you should consider.is around this price and enjoys built-in Vega graphics for some entry-level gaming skills. It only has four cores and four threads, which makes it a less powerful CPU than the Ryzen 5 2600, but it's a great little chip at a very affordable price.
Intel offers several alternatives at similar costs, such as: B. the 10th generation Core i5-10400F with the same number of cores and threads. It has a slightly lower base speed, but a higher single-core boost at almost the same cost. However, the Intel chip does not contain any onboard graphics – this is included in the Core i5-10400 for around $ 25 more.
The best entry-level processor: AMD Ryzen 5 3600
Dan Baker / Digital Trends
The Ryzen 5 3600, the successor to our favorite budget CPU, is an amazing feat for AMD. It has the same Zen 2 architecture improvements as the rest of the Ryzen 3000 series, and the same six cores and 12 threads as its more expensive sibling, the 3600X. While the clock rate lags behind the brothers of the new generation, AMD's automated overclocking brings the performance of its larger brothers very close at a greatly reduced cost. But it does everything for under $ 200.
It is comparable to the more expensive 9600K (and 10600K) from Intel in the gaming sector and, thanks to its 12 threads, can exceed its weight in productivity workloads. This is a CPU that delivers the performance that would have been the reserve of the best of the best just a few years ago. When you consider the affordable upgrade path that AMD's multi-generation AM4 motherboards offer, the 3600 is a good place to start from scratch, no matter what you plan to do with it.
When sold on an Intel chip for a similar price, the Core i5-10600 has an identical number of cores and threads. However, the base speed is slightly slower, while the single-core boost reaches 4.8 GHz. This chip costs around $ 50 more than the AMD CPU.
The best processor for enthusiasts: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X
Dan Baker / Digital Trends
If you're just looking for a gaming CPU, we probably recommend the Ryzen 5 3600. However, if you want to do something else on your PC (or additional), the Ryzen 7 3700X is the chip for you. With eight cores and 16 threads, it decimates the Intel competition for multithreaded workloads and even fights for first-class chips like the Intel Core i9-9900K.
Although the 3700X does not have as many cores and does not achieve the same clock speeds as its larger brothers in the 3000 series, it is probably the best all-rounder. With its eight-core configuration, it is more future-proof than the usual six-core chips.
An Intel alternative at this price would be the new Core i7-10700F with the same number of cores and threads. The base speed is lower at 2.9 GHz, while the single-core boost reaches up to 4.8 GHz. The Intel chip costs just over $ 20 more and doesn't contain onboard graphics.
The best high-end processor: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
Dan Baker / Digital Trends
The crown jewel of the AMD Ryzen 3000 series is the Ryzen 9 3900X. While the 3950X is more impressive, it is 50% more expensive, making it more Threadripper-Lite than a real mainstream CPU. With 12 cores, 24 threads and a boost clock that at times creeps close to 4.6 GHz, the 3900X is an astonishingly powerful CPU considering its price. Only the Intel Core i9-9900K can keep up with gaming, but it's a tight race. Our review found that the AMD chip should progress in many scenarios.
The AMD Ryzen 3900X impresses with productivity workloads such as Photoshop, video transcoding and video editing. With so many threads to play, it is superior to the next competition at a price that is fiercely competitive.
If you are a pure player and do nothing else, the Intel Core i9-9900K is still the better chip. The newer Core i9-10900K, introduced in April 2020, is also a good candidate if you choose a newer CPU at an affordable price.
Still, the 3900X is the best CPU in the world – especially given the recent price cuts.
The most powerful processor: AMD Threadripper 3990X
When AMD changed the conversation with its Ryzen 3000 series mainstream processors, it reversed the script with Threadripper 3000. But even under this ridiculously powerful generation of high-end CPUs, the Threadripper 3990X alone stands for a really ridiculous and unnecessary CPU. However, if you can use the 64 cores and 128 threads, there is no comparable CPU outside the server area.
Not only does this CPU have more cores and threads than most applications know to use, but its single-thread performance is just fantastic. It can reach up to 4.3 GHz on just one core, which means that it works well for limited thread tasks like games – even if it were a complete overkill. However, this means that you can achieve excellent performance even if you cannot use all of the cores.
The price is high at nearly $ 4,000, but tens of thousands less than Intel's over 50 core options. If you don't need that many, you can always get the 32-core 3970X thread ripper at half the price.