Choosing a CPU best suiting to your purpose and budget can be a tedious task given the variety of options we have at our disposal today. Whether you are upgrading your existing system or building a new PC entirely, we intend to help you choose the best CPU for your purpose and budget. Higher clock speeds and core counts can make a major difference in performance, providing a snappier system, smoother gameplay and faster completion of intensive tasks such as video editing and transcoding.
Budget Gaming - Intel
Core i3 - 10105(F)
For office and budget gaming systems, you cannot go wrong with the i3-10105(F). While the 4 cores and 8 threads of the i3 10105(F) might cause it to struggle in heavily CPU-bound games or anything short of the most basic productive workloads, it is simply unmatched for value in the quad core market. Its main competitor is the 3100, however the 3100 at current pricing is not even worth considering.
Core i3 - 12100(F)
Coming in at the bottom of the 12th gen lineup is the Intel i3-12100(F). Intel has decided to keep this as a 4 core/8 thread CPU but it still performs adequately in newer games thanks to its improved single core performance. The i3 12100(F) still suffers in productivity due to having a limited numbers of cores, but as an inexpensive entry-level CPU, it is great. The 12100(F) has support for DDR5 memory, though the pricing, performance, and availability of DDR5 memory is not worth the upgrade over DDR4. If you have the budget for DDR5, spend it on getting a better CPU like the 12400(F).
Core i5 - 10400(F)
In our next budget range, we have the 10400(F). A solid 6 core and 12 thread CPU that's not too expensive and will handle just about any game you throw at it well. The main limitations come with certain productivity workloads, which it may not excel at, but will handle smaller workloads just fine. However, its performance is unmatched in this price range. Especially since the Ryzen 5 3600, the CPU it competes with, cannot be found at this price anymore. At the time of writing, the 3600 is $300 USD on Amazon, versus the $150 USD of the 10400F.
Mainstream Gaming - Intel
Core i5 - 12400(F)
The 12400 brings Golden Cove's 10nm efficiency and performance into a very affordable mainstream offering. Just like all 12th gen i3 and i5 non-k SKUs, it features a more traditional layout without E-Cores, at 6 cores and 12 threads. An impressive performance uplift of around 25% over our above recommendation gives it incredible value at $200, while competiting with the 5600x. A solid all rounder, it's able to hold it's own with casual productivity workloads and offers stable gaming performance.
Mainstream Gaming - AMD
Ryzen 5 - 5600G
A competitor in this price range is the 5600G, another 6 core, 12 thread CPU in the Zen 3 architecture. Better known for its iGPU performance rather than its performance as a CPU, the Vega 7 is close to being the best iGPU on a desktop CPU. This is perfect for those with needs of a cheap, good performing system, or need temporary graphics in times of GPU shortages.
Gaming + Streaming - Intel
Core i5 - 12600K(F)
Newly released, it has shown itself to be fiercely competing with AMD's offerings this time around. With 6 P cores and 4 E cores for a total of 10 cores and 16 threads, the 12600K is a great choice in this price range. It has great gaming and productivity workload performance, with a decent price. It also offers PCIe Gen 5.0 and support for the brand new DDR5. However, it requires a Z690 motherboard, and with some of them, strictly DDR5, which at their current prices, can be quite pricey. The CPU requires a good enough aftermarket cooler with support for LGA 1700.
Gaming + Streaming - AMD
Ryzen 7 - 5700G
The cut down version of the 5800X with a Vega 8 iGPU and an overall lower price than the 5800X. Everything that applies to the 5600G applies here, with the main difference being the extra 2 cores, for a total of 8 cores and 16 threads for extra productivity performance.
Productivity and Gaming - Intel
Core i7 - 12700k(F)
Yet another Alder Lake CPU making it onto the list, with 8 P cores and 4 E cores for a total of 12 cores and 20 threads. Like the 12600K(F), it has great overall performance for both gaming and productivity at the expense of requiring a more expensive motherboard, more expensive and effective cooling and possibly having to pay extra for DDR5.
Gaming + Streaming - AMD
Ryzen 7 - 5800X
A solid 8 core and 16 thread CPU. Will easily handle gaming and productivity workloads at the expense of being very difficult to cool effectively and a very high MSRP. It comes with PCIe Gen 4.0 support should you need it and has the benefit of having cheaper motherboards available for it, as opposed to the 12600K(F) previously mentioned.
Workstation and Gaming - Intel
Core i9 - 12900K(F)
For those who want high performance and the most cores on mainstream Intel, or just the fancy box to display and show off to your friends, the 12900K has you covered. With 8 P cores and 8 E cores, this CPU is 24 Threads of pure power. So unless your workload requires the massive core count of a Threadripper, you will be satisfied. Just make sure to avoid looking at your bank account afterwards.
Workstation and Gaming - AMD
Ryzen 9 - 5950X
At the top end of the Ryzen 5000 series stack, we have the 5950X. With 16 cores and 32 threads, it has the highest thread count and is tied for core count out of all mainstream CPUs. Because of that, its productivity performance is only matched by Intel's new flagship 12900K. As well as offering fantastic gaming performance to boot. Just like with the 12900K, don't look at your bank account for a while afterwards.