October 22, 2020

The Top-Ten Best CPUs for 2021


The computer does its primary work in a part of the machine we cannot see, a control center that converts data input to information output. This control center, called the central processing unit (CPU), is a highly complex, extensive set of electronic circuitry that executes stored program instructions. Am I preaching to the choir? Oh sorry, let’s get on with the review of the best CPUs to boost your PC’s performance, then.

The easiest way to tell if your CPU is crippling your PC’s performance is to take a look at your CAM dashboard to monitor how much processing power your PC is using during heavy computing like gaming. If this number is close to 100% for long periods of time it’s definitely time to think about upgrading to a new CPU.

You might be one of those who believe it’s better to invest in a new computer system than to upgrade your CPU. Granted, upgrading to a new CPU may not be worth the money and effort, but taking the initiative to build a system that suits your needs and delivers fantastic computing power may be a bigger win for you.  All the same, this article will outline and dissect the top ten CPUs that will compete with even new releases by 2021.

Upgrading a CPU is not very difficult, provided you have all the right information and tools at your disposal. If you built your PC from scratch, then upgrading your central processing unit (aka processor, or CPU) shouldn’t present too much of a challenge — just reverse the steps you used to install it.

Upgrading your existing system or building a new PC? The CPU is very important- a lot.  Higher clock speeds and core counts can make a major difference in overall PC performance, providing a snappier system, smoother gameplay and faster completion of intensive tasks such as video editing and transcoding. Ready to invest in a new CPU? Below are four points to ponder.


We’re going to base this review on the obvious two leading names in CPU manufacturing, namely; Intel and AMD. To determine the best CPUs, the following points are worthy of your consideration:


A CPU core is a CPU’s processor. Unlike in the distant past when every processor had just one core that could focus on one task at a time, modern CPUs sport an upward of 18 cores, each of which can work on a different task.

CPU core counts are synonymous to engine cylinders.  More cores essentially translates to more power, other factors considered.

Apparently, everything else is rarely comparable, and comparing the core count is only really important within a given CPU line and in the same line Gen. All the same and as a rule of thumb, the more the cores, the better. If using a multithreaded software, more cores would help.

More so, heavy-duty PC games often demand a specific core count with four as the typical minimum. CPUs often have descriptions of core/thread count on them that look like this: 8C/16T, meaning 8 cores and 16 threads. However, doubling the number of cores will not simply double a computer’s speed. CPU cores have to communicate with each other through channels and this uses up some of the extra speed.


Sounds almost like a ‘jailed or jail-broken’ iPhone? Yeah, that’s the idea. An “unlocked” CPU makes overclocking possible. This is because the unlocked CPU has an open clock multiplier which encourages the possibilities of further tweaking within the BIOS or in-OS overclocking software. Yep, this isn’t the case in all chips. For example, Intel Core X-Series, AMD Ryzen, and AMD Ryzen Threadripper chips are unlocked, while Intel’s mainstream Cores are mostly locked.

An unlocked CPU had the clock multiplier unlocked, which allows for much greater overclocking. Intel’s unlocked processors also usually have a higher default clock than the locked version of the same processor. Locked processors can still be overclocked, but you have much less flexibility.

So, if you want to overclock then get an unlocked CPU. But if you don’t, then there’s not much point in buying the unlocked version. But I do recommend buying the unlocked version so that if you want to overclock in the future then you can do so instead of buying a new CPU.


When a PC is able to run two threads on each core on an OS that can leverage the processing assignments, the multitasking capacity of the PC is amplified.

The general term for this attribute in a system is known as Symmetric Multithreading (SMT), while it is simply referred to by Intel as Hyper-Threading (HT). A computer system with support for symmetric multithreading is ideal for computing tasks that demand heavy-duty central processing such as video rendering.

Multithreading refers to the general task of running more than one thread of execution within an operating system, while Hyperthreading, on the other hand, refers to a very specific hardware technology created by Intel, which allows a single processor core to interleave multiple threads of execution more efficiently.

Simultaneous multithreading (SMT) is a technique for improving the overall efficiency of superscalar CPUs with hardware multithreading. SMT permits multiple independent threads of execution to better utilize the resources provided by modern processor architectures.

These days, only the Core i9 chips support HT, thanks to the newer 9th Generation mainstream Core CPUs from Intel which has taken symmetric multithreading further up the rungs . SMT goes much further down into mainstream chips in AMD’s Ryzen desktop line.


Base clock, measured in gigahertz (GHz), is where the processor will run at idle or during low power tasks, it will consume less power and put out less heat as well. Boost clock is when the system says “Hey, give me everything you’ve got” and the processor will increase power to achieve the turbo boost or boost clock.

Depending on features like software, CPU cooling hardware, attributes of the CPU itself and its motherboard; a sped up clock rate up to the boost rate might kick in on some or all of the system’s cores, sometimes varying at any given time from core to core.

Yes, the base clock speed can affect PC performance. Obviously the higher the base speed the better the performance will be. Intel uses Turbo Boost and Windows uses power management settings to determine the clock speed. Based on how much the CPU is being stressed.

A clock speed of 3.5 GHz to 4.0 GHz is generally considered a good clock speed for gaming but it’s more important to have good single-thread performance. This means that your CPU does a good job of understanding and completing single tasks. This is not to be confused with having a single-core processor.


AMD Ryzen 9 3950X

AMD Ryzen 5 3400G

AMD Ryzen 5 3600X

AMD Ryzen 7 3700X

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X

Intel Core i5-8400

Intel Core i7-9700K

Intel Core i9-9900K

Intel Core i9-10980XE Extreme Edition


AMD Ryzen 9 3950X

base frequency: 3,500 MHz (3.5 GHz, 3,500,000 kHz)

core count: 16

Locked clock multiplier: No

Max CPU count: 1

Max memory: 131,072 MiB (134,217,728 KiB, 137,438,953,472 B, 128 GiB, 0.125 TiB)

Max memory bandwidth: 47.68 GiB/s (82.963 GB/s, 48,824.32 MiB/s, 0.0466 TiB/s, 0.0512 TB/s)

Max memory channels: 2

Socket: Socket AM4

Supported memory type: DDR4-3200

TDP: 105 W (105,000 mW, 0.141 hp, 0.105 kW)

Thread count: 32

Turbo frequency: 4,700 MHz (4.7 GHz, 4,700,000 kHz)

Word size: 64 bit (8 octets, 16 nibbles)

AMD Ryzen 5 3400G


CPU Cores/Threads: 4/8.

GPU Cores: 11.

Base Clock: 3.7GHz.

Max Boost Clock: 4.2GHz.

Total L1 Cache: 384KB.

Total L2 Cache: 2MB.

Total L3 Cache: 4MB.

PCI Express Version: PCIe 3.0 x8.

Default TDP / TDP: 65W

Max Temps: 95°C

AMD Ryzen 5 3600X

Microarchitecture: Zen 2

Data width: 64 bit

CPU cores: 6

Threads                : 12

Floating Point Unit: Integrated

Level 1 cache size: 6 x 32 KB

Level 2 cache size: 6 x 512 KB

Level 3 cache size: 2 x 16 MB Cache latency: 4 (L1 cache)

12 (L2 cache)

40 (L3 cache)

Multiprocessing: Uniprocessor

Frequency: 3800 MHz

Maximum turbo frequency: 4400 MHz

Socket: Socket AM4

AMD Ryzen 7 3700X

Locked: No

Frequency: 3,600 MHz

Turbo Frequency: 4,400 MHz

Word Size: 64 bit

Cores: 8

Threads: 16

Max Memory: 128 GB

Socket: Socket AM4

Level 1 cache size: 8 x 32 KB 8-way set associative instruction caches 8 x 32 KB 8-way set associative data caches

Level 2 cache size: 8 x 512 KB 8-way set associative unified caches

Level 3 cache size: 2 x 16 MB 16-way set associative shared cache

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X


Cores: 32

Base Clock Speed: 3.7 GHz

Maximum Boost Speed:                4.5 GHz

L3 Cache: 128 MB

Locked: No

Frequency: 3,700 MHz

Turbo Frequency: 4,500 MHz

Bus rate               8 × 16 GT/s

Clock multiplier 37


Chipset: TRX40

Word Size: 64 bit

Threads: 64

Dimension: 58.5 mm × 75.4 mm

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X

Number of Cores: 16-core

Compatible Processor SocketSocket: TR4

Clock Speed: 3.5 GHz

Max Turbo Speed: 4.4 GHz

Cache Memory Details: L3 – 32 MB

L2 – 8 MB

L1 – 1.5 MB

Number of Threads: 32

Ryzen Master Utility

Cache: 32 MB

Intel Core i5-8400

Frequency: 2800 MHz

Maximum turbo frequency: 4000 MHz (1 core)

3900 MHz (2, 3 or 4 cores)

3800 MHz (5 or 6 cores)

Low power frequency: 800 MHz

Bus speed: 8 GT/s DMI

Clock multiplier: 28

Socket: Socket 1151 / H4 / LGA1151

Size: 1.48″ x 1.48″ / 3.75cm x 3.75cm

Data width: 64 bit

CPU cores: 6

Threads: 6

Level 1 cache size: 6 x 32 KB

Level 3 cache size: 9 MB 12-

Physical memory: 64 GB

Multiprocessing: Uniprocessor

Intel Core i7-9700K

Base frequency:               3,600 MHz (3.6 GHz, 3,600,000 kHz) +

Bus links: 4

Bus rate: 8,000 MT/s (8 GT/s, 8,000,000 kT/s)

Bus type: DMI 3.0

Chipset: 300 series

Clock multiplier: 36

Core count: 8

Integrated GPU: UHD Graphics 630

Integrated GPU base frequency: 350 MHz (0.35 GHz, 350,000 KHz)

Integrated GPU max frequency: 1,200 MHz (1.2 GHz, 1,200,000 KHz) +

Integrated GPU max memory: 65,536 MiB (67,108,864 KiB, 68,719,476,736 B, 64 GiB)

Socket: LGA-1151 +

Supported memory type: DDR4-2666

TDP: 95 W (95,000 mW, 0.127 hp, 0.095 kW)

Thread count: 8

Turbo frequency:  (1 core) 4,900 MHz (4.9 GHz, 4,900,000 kHz)

word size: 64 bit (8 octets, 16 nibbles)

Intel Core i9-9900K

Locked: No

Frequency: 3,600MHz

Turbo Frequency: 5,000 MHz (1 core),

4,800 MHz (3 cores),

4,700 MHz (5 cores)

Bus type: DMI 3.0

Bus rate: 4 × 8 GT/s

Platform: Coffee Lake

Chipset: 300 series

Word Size: 64 bit

Cores: 8

Threads: 16

Max Memory: 128 GiB

Multiprocessing: Max SMP 1-Way (Uniprocessor)

TDP: 95 W

Max Type: DDR4-2666

Supports ECC: No

Max Mem: 128 GiB

Max Bandwidth: 39.74 GiB/s

Intel Core i9-10980XE 

Cores: 18

Threads: 36

Base: 3.0

Boost: 4.8

PCIe: 48 Gen 3

DRAM: Quad DDR4-2933

TDP: 165W

L3 Cache (MB): 24.75

Base Freq.: 3.0

Turbo Boost 2.0: 4.6

TB Max 3.0 (Two Fastest Cores): 4.8

TB Max 3.0 (Two Next-Fastest Cores): 4.7




AMD Ryzen 9 3950X

Sixteen cores on the Ryzen 9 3950x alters the line between consumer and prosumer processors and between gamers and content creators. In other words, this CPU is vying for a unique position all to itself. This is easily your best bet when it comes to high-end desktop processors right now.

What else can be said about a CPU that blazes through every task you fancy to throw at it such as  video conversion in programs like Handbrake, or 3D rendering in Blender, or setting an all-time record for the fastest frame-rate results you may have ever seen in the game; Counter Strike: Global Offensive.

As is to be expected in prosumer processor like the Ryzen 9 3950X this chip lacks a stock CPU cooler in the box, which means you’ll have to get one for yourself if you do not have one already.

As far as CPUs go, this is a smart choice where multitasking and a content-creation engine are concerned. I can tell you that you won’t find another processor that delivers a performance that rivals AMD’s Ryzen 9 3950X in value and raw performance.

Fastest prosumer CPU on the market.

Great price-to-performance ratio.

Modest TDP for what it is.

Overkill for PC gamers.


Single-core performance is still a bit slower than cheaper Intel processors.

AMD Ryzen 5 3400G

AMD’s flagship APUs demonstrates that graphics cards are less than absolutely necessary for PC gaming; this CPU, if I may call it so, is an incredible little thing. Newcomers to CPUs may find AMD’s processor roster a bit perplexing especially since AMD’s CPUs sometimes come without graphics unlike, for example, Intel’s mainstream CPU lineups.

The Ryzen 5 3400G is pretty much the best integrated graphics on a desktop chip as it is a quad-core processor; one of AMD’s APUs (Accelerated Processing Unit) that blends Ryzen CPU cores and Vega GPU cores.

If you had thought that building a gaming PC rig requires a graphics card as a necessity, think yet again. AMD’s Ryzen 5 3400G is your loyal buddy especially for a novice making a foray into the PC gaming world at the super-budget level. Despite the low-priced chip that the Ryzen 5 3400G is, the CPU and GPU cores are unlocked which gives you the freedom for a bit of twerking and tinkering for an even better improved system performance.

So, should you buy this CPU chip?  It’s definitely worth the investment. This is a fantastic budget chip that delivers extra- impressive performance, particularly from its integrated GPU.

Quad-core with hyperthreading

Astonishing integrated graphics performance

Unlocked CPU and GPU cores

Efficient and cool-running

Stock cooler is terrific


Not based on Zen 2 or Navi

Previous gen 2400G pricing more attractive

Stock settings push voltage

Not based on Zen 2 or Navi

Previous gen 2400G pricing more attractive

Stock settings push voltage pretty high

AMD Ryzen 5 3600x

Like AMD’s Ryzen 5 3600 CPU, the 3600X is a 6-core/12-thread processor that are obvious successors to the 2600 and 2600X from the product lineup. With the 3rd generation Ryzen processor family, AMD has taken the multi-chip module (MCM) approach to building these processors. This stack share both some similarities and dissimilarities to the Ryzen Threadripper. The Ryzen Threadripper and the 53600x both have CPU cores spread across separate dies to reach an up to 16 core counts. On the other hand, they’re dissimilar in that there’s a second kind of die, the I/O controller.

AMD succeeded in designing a processor in which all dies with CPU cores talk to a centralized I/O controller die that has a monolithic memory controller. In this way, CPU cores can have have the full bus width of the memory interface. This same technology is replicated in the Ryzen 5 3600x which is one of AMD’s 3rd Gen CPU.

This means that two 8-core CPU complex dies talk to an I/O controller die over Infinity Fabric, which has the processor’s dual-channel memory interface and PCI-Express root complex. For its 8-core Ryzen 7 series and 6-core Ryzen 5 series parts, AMD physically uses just one 8-core “Zen 2” chiplet.

One more thing that is worthy of note is that AMD’s switch to 7 nm allows the Ryzen 5 3600X to clock speeds as high as 3.60 GHz with 4.20 GHz boost without budging from its 65 W TDP. More so, the base-clock multiplier of Ryzen 5 3600 CPU is unlocked, thereby making room for overclocking.

Multithreading support.


Robust management software.

Backwards-compatible with older AM4 motherboards.

Included cooling fan.

No integrated graphics.

Hampers performance on some demanding games.


AMD’s Ryzen 7 3700X is a generational CPU update that’s worth shouting about. Packed with the very latest AMD chiplet architecture, AMD Zen 2, and a minimal 65W TDP, this chip is the best eight-core processor in the Ryzen 3000 lineup. As per gaming, this is a choice processor by AMD. Even at its comparatively low price, you still get an 8-core/16-thread CPU with a Wraith Prism cooler.  As a pure gaming CPU, the 3700X is good.

The main differences between the 3800X and 3700X is the extra 100 MHz of boost clock frequency on the 3800X and extra TDP headroom (105W for the 3800X versus 65W for the 3700X) for about $70 USD premium. The 21% higher release price translates to just a 2% higher effective speed over the 3700X.

In Cinebench R15’s multi-core test, the Ryzen 7 3700X is about 30% faster – and that Core i7 is probably significantly faster than the Core i5. Even in single-core workloads, the Intel Core i7-9700K doesn’t pull as far ahead of the Ryzen 7 3700X as Intel may want you to believe.


Just 65-watt TDP.

Attractive pricing.

Support for PCI Express 4.0.

Lots of L3 cache.

Multithreaded, with eight cores and 16 threads.

Easy overclocking tools.

Good in-box cooler.

Single-core performance occasionally behind competing chips.

No integrated graphics processing.

AMD Threadripper 3970X 

This 3rd Gen AMD Ryzen Threadripper CPU sports improved motherboards and tech, debuting the advanced PCIe 4.0 connectivity on high-end desktops ensuring increased bandwidth for creators. You can double the bandwidth with PCIe Gen 4, exclusively for high-end desktops on AMD TRX40 motherboards.

The Ryzen Threadripper 3970X will sufficiently help you realize your creative vision with a base clock speed of 3.7 GHz and a maximum turbo frequency of 4.5 GHz. Having 32 cores allows the processor to run multiple programs simultaneously without slowing down the system, while the 64 threads allow a basic ordered sequence of instructions to be passed through or processed by a single CPU core.

This is an unlocked CPU, thus, it can be overclocked past its maximum turbo frequency. I do not recommend this though, as it will cause the processor to run much hotter. You can also get yourself the dedicated graphics card of your choice since the Ryzen Threadripper 3970X CPU does not contain any integrated graphics. However, a CPU cooler is not included and must be purchased separately.

More so, 32 cores deliver 64 threads of concurrent multi-processing power, while 144MB of combined cache and vast I/O from the enthusiast-grade AMD TRX40 platform work together to deliver high-end performance that includes 88 total PCIe 4.0 lanes for large GPU and NVMe needs, plus quad-channel DDR4 with available ECC support.

Unmatched performance in multithread-aware tests, with 32 cores and 64 addressable threads.

Top-notch gaming results.

Support for ECC memory with certain mainboards.

Up to 256GB of memory, in quad channel, supported on TRX40 mainboards.

New TRX40 motherboard platform means high cost of entry.

Low overclock ceiling.

Single-core results are middling.

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X

Ryzen Threadripper 2950X is a multi-chip module of two 8-core, 12 nm “Pinnacle Ridge” dies, each of which controls two DDR4 memory channels, and 32 PCIe lanes; for a combined quad-channel DDR4 memory interface, and 64-lane PCIe. This 2nd Gen CPU undeniably lives up to its name, “Threadripper.” The Threadripper 2950x is AMD’s CPU that is capable of delivering massive thread counts and the ability to burn through pretty much any intensive computing task.

The Ryzen Threadripper 2950x is the direct replacement for the 1950X, with the same core/thread counts, but a slightly increased base clock speed of 3.5GHz (with the ability to boost to up to 4.4GHz) and a lower cache latency, and that’s hardly where the improvements stops.

Even AMD’s 2-core, 64-thread Threadripper 2990WX is an overkill for most prosumers both in terms of pricing and raw computing power. To that end, the Threadripper 2950x CPU is an especially best bet for you if you’re building a tricked-out video-editing workstation, or yearn for a gaming-and-streaming rig, just as long as you have the cash.

Excellent multi-threaded performance.

64 PCI Express lanes.

Expanding ecosystem of components.

Easy-to-use Ryzen Master software utility.

Variable performance on 1080p gaming.

Complex installation process.

Intel Core i5-8400

For gaming purposes, Core i5-8400 is definitely the way to go, delivering 25-35 percent better performance than the Ryzen 5 parts. This Intel Core i5-8400 easily vies for the position of best overall processor in the mainstream market.

The Core i5-8400 brings a powerful six-core design to the mid-range, offering class-leading gaming performance and competitive performance in heavier applications. More expensive models offer more performance in both categories, but the Core i5-8400 is easily the pound-for-pound gaming champion.

The Intel Core i5-8400 is a hexa-core processor without hyper-threading, with a base clock speed of 2.8GHz and can boost up to 4.0GHz. And while the i5-8400 isn’t unlocked, it still can’t be overclocked, so this means there’s no reason to go with an expensive motherboard.

The Core i5 8400 is still a six-core CPU, but without HyperThreading it remains stuck at six threads of processing power. It’s also been saddled with a relatively low 2.8GHz base clockspeed, but is capable of hitting a maximum Turbo speed of 4GHz.

Often bests previous-generation Core i7-7700K flagship CPU on multi-core tests.

Best-in-class gaming performance, when paired with a dedicated graphics card.

Not unlocked for overclocking.

Requires a new motherboard, despite Z370 chipset offering no substantive new features.

Intel Core i7-9700K

The Core i7-9700K, including a decent cooler, runs about $450—that’s 50 percent more than a Ryzen 7 2700X, and the 9700K is only 12 percent faster in games! But you don’t just buy a CPU; you need the motherboard, memory, storage, case, power supply, and above all a good graphics card.

The 9700K stock CPU ends up at 127FPS AVG, marginally better than the 8700K at 5GHz. There is about a 12% uplift over the stock 8700K, a noteworthy gain, and this comes down to stock frequency increases in the 9700K.

Additionally, overclocking the i9–9700K CPU is often worth it. Many benchmarks show it being stable at 5GHz with a decent cooler, and it can often get to 5.3GHz with a very good one, and potentially even higher if you’re lucky with silicon quality.

Despite being just another iteration of Intel’s 14-nanometer process, the Core i7-9700K is comparatively a behemoth of a processor. In gaming, the single-threaded performance is going to be more than enough for years beyond 2021, and the processor will last you for years.

Very good single-core performance.

Handles demanding 3D graphics well.

Maintains high frame rates for high-refresh gamers.

No Hyper-Threading support.

Cooling fan and heatsink not included.

No PCI Express 4.0 support.

Intel Core i9-9900K

Even as a seemingly late entrant in mainstream octa-core processors, Intel’s Core i9-9900K CPU is an impressive debut. The Intel Core i9-9900K is a fitting processor for creatives such as video editors and Photoshop professionals. This chip delivers ample increase in processing power.

Impressively, the 9900K CPU’s scaled-up mainstream specifications does not prevent it from being highly economical with power that is on par with other Intel’s last Gen chips. The reintroduction of a soldered heat spreader has also amounted to one of Intel’s coolest-running chips in years. However, this is probably not the best bet for buyers yearning for the best in gaming processors.

All the same, Intel’s Core i9-9900K mainstream flagship CPU is a spirited performer, no matter what you task it with. If you don’t need the RAM bandwidth or PCI Express lanes of Intel’s Core X or AMD’s Threadripper platforms, this chip is peak silicon for a new build.

Two more cores than previous top Coffee Lake CPU.

A flamethrower for multi-threaded applications.

5GHz peak one-core clock for single-threaded apps.

Unlocked multiplier.

Creates new, costlier price tier above former Core i7 flagship CPUs.

Runs hot.

No stock cooler.

Intel Core i9-10980XE

The i9-10980XE is Intel’s advanced core X series CPU for high-end desktop PC prosumers. This is Intel 19’s Extreme Edition for serious power users; a latest entry into Intel’s 10th Gen CPU wave. However, the core i9-10980XE shares similar specs with the preceding core X processor- the core 19-9980XE.

With almost complete similarities with its predecessor in specs and performance, behind a less-expensive AMD Ryzen alternative, Intel’s Core i9-10980XE is otherwise an enthusiast-class CPU that, however, can’t quite live up to the “Extreme” in its name.

This CPU sports a new architecture built on Intel’s Cascade Lake microarchitecture (here dubbed “Cascade Lake-X”), a 14-nanometer production process on which most of the company’s latest Xeon server and professional workstation chips are also built. This processor is great for 4K or 8K video editing, data science applications, or compiling immense code bases.

Incremental performance improvements

Lower power consumption


Backward compatibility

Price not suitable

Dead-end platform

PCIe 3.0


Deciding on the best choice of CPU ultimately lies with the user, or more aptly, the prosumer after a careful consideration of specs such as the review provides.

The microprocessor is the leading component of your PC, so you’re right to want to know what you’re doing before taking that plunge. You could end up with broken parts, incompatible hardware- or a prosumer’s worse nightmare- not enough power, if you buy the wrong CPU. But if you want to know our pick of the absolute best CPU by popularity and benchmarks, in that case, the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X is the all-winner.