Only the best processors can see you through the most demanding, resource-hungry tasks. With many powerful chips that are more affordable than ever – thanks in large part to the fiery competition between Intel and AMD, you no longer have to break the piggy bank to get a CPU that will see you through demanding tasks. That means that you can get the most ideal processor for your needs without worrying too much about what you can afford.
From already established greats to AMD’s and Intel’s latest chips, there’s quite a selection out there for the best PC games or the most demanding 4K video editing workloads. And, most of them are accessible to most people, price-wise. If you’re building a new PC that could rival the best computers on the market – or even if you’re just upgrading your existing one, you won’t have to scrimp and save to take home one of the best processors.
Whether you should stick with Intel’s latest chip or give AMD a chance, go for one with an excellent multi-core performance or better single-core performance, or even stay on budget or go all in, however, still depends on your computing needs. So, we rounded up the best processors in 2021 to narrow down your options and help you make the right choice.
From Intel’s latest chips like the impressive Comet Lake-S to AMD’s Ryzen 5000 chips, here are our top picks. When you've picked out your new processor, make sure that your components are protected with one of the best PC cases and the best motherboard.
The AMD Ryzen 9 5900X brings the biggest gen-on-gen jump in a single performance in years, making it a terrific upgrade. This latest release from AMD is not just a stronger processor across the board. It’s also an incredibly powerful processor for gaming and creative work full stop. The fact that you won’t need a new motherboard is just a nice perk.
Read the full review: AMD Ryzen 9 5900X
The highest tier in the Ryzen 3000 series is the performance powerhouse you’re looking for, if you want something for heavily threaded computer work. Besides high-end gaming, the Ryzen 9 3950 also blasts through processing tasks. It’s expensive, but for a mainstream processor that can go toe-to-toe with HEDT processors, that’s hardly a surprise. And, it’s also well worth the price, if you need its level of performance. Just remember that it may take a bit to keep cool so be sure to follow AMD’s guidance.
Read the full review: AMD Ryzen 9 3950X
With more threads than the Intel Core i5-9600K, this mid-range graphics card delivers impressive multi-threading performance. However, the AMD Ryzen 5 3600X doesn’t just stop there: it takes that budget-minded stage of performance to a new level, with its increased IPC (instructions per clock) performance and a higher clock speed while staying at the same price point. It also stays competitive in even the most intense single-threaded applications.
Read the full review: AMD Ryzen 5 3600X
Budget-minded consumers who missed out on all the 3rd-generation Ryzen excitement the first time will appreciate AMD’s latest attempt in the entry-level sphere. There’s no denying that the AMD Ryzen 3 3100 is appealingly cheap, but it does so without compromising on performance. In fact, this chip delivers a performance that could almost rival that of processors double its price, without sucking up much power. And, it’s an excellent choice for budget gamers who are looking for something that can handle 1080p gaming.
Read the full review: AMD Ryzen 3 3100
Intel no longer has the monopoly on gaming CPUs. Rocking 8 cores and 16 threads, along with much stronger single-core performance, the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X is among the best CPUs for gaming – as well as less demanding creative work – right now. And it comes with a much more approachable price tag compared to most of Intel’s offerings, making it a much better value.
Read the full review: AMD Ryzen 7 5800X
Mid-range buyers will appreciate the fact that they actually don’t have to shell out quite a bit of cash for Intel’s hyper-threading technology. With Intel’s Core i5-10600K, among Intel’s latest chips to hit the streets in 2021, it’s possible to have it for much less than $500. This chip may lack PCIe 4.0 support and has a higher power consumption, but it makes up for those in spades. Besides hyper-threading, this processor also delivers superb multi-core performance as well as improved single-core performance. What’s more is that it’s got great thermals to keep that pesky heat down.
Read the full review: Intel Core i5-10600K
Launched alongside the even more potent Ryzen Threadripper 3970X, the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X may have the same core count as its predecessor. However, it comes with a brand-new architecture that delivers performance gains as well as PCIe 4.0, making it among the best processors in the Threadripper arena. The 3960X delivers dramatically improved single-threaded performance and has successfully reduced its predecessors’ idiosyncrasies that affect their own performance. It may come with a higher price tag and require the TRX40 motherboard – not to mention, a powerful cooler – but it’s certainly worth the fuss if you can maximize its skills to your advantage.
Whether you’re looking for a processor for your media center or for your desktop PC, the AMD Athlon 300GE is among the best processors you can find on the market today in terms of value. It’s reliable and surprisingly fast for what it can do. It’s never going to deliver a breathtaking performance, but for a processor in the budget space, it’s definitely going to impress you.
With a noticeable, if small, performance advantage over its predecessor, AMD’s Ryzen 5 3400G is a capable option for your home theater PC and budget gaming computer. That means that it’s among best processors for folks who don’t quite take gaming as seriously as the big gamers, touting a solid 720 and a fairly decent 1080p gaming performance.