Best CPU in 2024 – the top AMD and Intel processors tested

The heartbeat of any system, we present seven superb processors worthy of serious attention.

The Intel Core i7-14700K stands on the shoulders of the best CPUs.

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Finding the best CPU is like watching a closely contested tennis match. The ball might be in AMD’s court, but blink and you’ll miss it shoot right over to Intel’s again. Processors land on shelves faster than you can speedrun Super Mario 64 but don’t stress over what silicon to select. We’ve tested the lot.

Choosing the right chip is particularly important, as they’re not easy to swap. Each requires a specific socket, meaning you’ll need to pick the best gaming motherboard to go with your new processor. Hop on the bandwagon early enough in a new socket’s life, and you might be in luck, as both Intel and AMD are getting better with backward compatibility. Once you’ve picked your allegiance, however, the path to the other side may be closed for years to come.

It’s a tough decision, to be sure, but both giants produce excellent chips across a range of budgets. Whether you fancy the latest Ryzen 7000 Series, Intel 14th Gen Core, or perhaps a previous-gen model to save some pennies, there’s something for everyone.

In this guide, we venture into the silicon jungle to unearth the magnificent seven – the CPUs that not only promise but deliver a spectacle of performance worthy of acclaim. In our tests, the AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D is the king of gaming thanks to its bulky 3D V-Cache at a reasonable price. The latest Intel Core i7-14700K, however, is an absolute powerhouse, provided you don’t mind it chugging from your power supply.

At a glance

  1. AMD Ryzen 9 7950X – best CPU overall
  2. AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D – best CPU for gaming
  3. AMD Ryzen 5 5600 – best budget CPU
  4. Intel Core i7-14700K – best premium CPU
  5. Intel Core i9-14900K – best CPU for content creators
  6. Intel Core i5-13600K – best mid-range
  7. AMD Ryzen 9 7900 – best efficient CPU

Best CPUs for gaming

The AMD Ryzen 9 7950X CPU sitting on a wooden table.

1. AMD Ryzen 9 7950X

The best overall CPU.

Base clock4.5GHz
Boost clock5.7GHz
L3 Cache64MB
ArchitectureZen 4
SocketAMD 5
Max TDP170W
MSRPFrom $536

The AMD Ryzen 9 7950X remains Team Red’s crown jewel in early 2024. Although 16 cores and 32 threads are a familiar sight, the latest Zen 4 architecture orchestrates a symphony of multitasking excellence. The processor more often than not tops our benchmarks. At times, it slips and nips at the heels of Intel’s i9 offerings, but those where it pulls ahead, it leaves its rivals in the dust.

The quest for computational supremacy isn’t just a journey of synthetic benchmarks. The Ryzen 9 7950X flexes its real-world prowess in games thanks to the harmony between the 5.5GHz boost clock and the precision of 64MB L3 cache. It barely breaks a sweat, pushing triple-digit frame rates in most titles, and even hits the highest fps in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.

Of course, these halls of performance need enough electricity, and you’ll need choose the right power supply for the task. It’s one of the most efficient processors for the horsepower under the hood, but its 170W TDP is far above most other CPUs. Once you satisfy this electrical hunger, you get a silicon behemoth that doesn’t merely process tasks; it dances through them with a blend of rare elegance and ferocity.

A premium CPU comes at a premium price, but you certainly get what you pay for. We’ve not seen a high-end chip with this much bang for your buck before. Based on the X670E platform, the AM5 platform will stay alive until at least 2026 with a few BIOS updates, giving you a decent upgrade path. Just make sure to pair it with a good AIO cooler to get the most out of it, and you won’t be left wanting for years to come.

Read our AMD Ryzen 9 7950X review for the full breakdown.


Brilliant performer
Improved single-thread
Great platform
Onboard IGP
Good value


Slightly high power consumption

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The AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D processor held up with trees in the background.

2. AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D

The best CPU for gaming.

Base clock4.2GHz
Boost clock5.0GHz
L3 Cache32MB + 64MB 3D V-Cache
ArchitectureZen 4
SocketAMD 5
Max TDP120W
MSRPFrom $396

With a promise of innovation, the AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D is a silicon savant that’s more than your standard processor. Its not-so-secret sauce does away with the brute-force approach of its rivals, making it our favourite CPU for gaming. 

Structurally, it looks a lot like its predecessor. It touts eight cores and 16 threads; it has a similarly modest 105W TDP; it even uses AMD’s 3D V-Cache. The difference is that the Ryzen 7 7800X3D amps things up by more than doubling the L3 up to 96MB. Combine this with an elevated base clock of 4.2GHz and 5.0GHz boost clock, and it’s a gaming powerhouse. 

In real-world terms, these specs put it on par with Intel’s best and brightest. In our gaming tests, the Ryzen 7 7800X3D gives the Intel Core i9-13900K and KS a run for their money. Frame rates are consistently higher in most games, and it’s exquisitely efficient, not guzzling even half the power needed to run its rivals. 

When the curtain falls, the AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D is cool, competitive, and far more contemporary than most alternatives here. It makes some minor sacrifices to keep the price relatively affordable for what you get, which is as remarkable as it is reliable. 

Take a look at our full AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D review here. 


Gaming Goliath
Scarily frugal


Low peak frequency
Mediocre app performance
Wonky value

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The AMD Ryzen-5 5600 processor sitting on a grey wooden table.

3. AMD Ryzen 5 5600

The best budget CPU.

Base clock3.5GHz
Boost clock4.4GHz
L3 Cache32MB
ArchitectureZen 3
SocketAMD 4
Max TDP65W
MSRPFrom $135

At the crossroads of affordability and performance, it’s best to look at processors past to soften the blow to your bank account. The AMD Ryzen 5 5600 was a beacon for the budget-conscious when it originally launched and still holds tremendous value over a year and a half later.

The six-core, 12-thread design is a statement that you don’t need to voyage into extravagance to get something great. It’s a chip that’s as adept at multitasking as it is economical, ensuring that every task is a stride into a realm of swift, reliable performance. Better yet, it’s a dab hand at gaming, so long as you’re fine with 1080p resolution.

With a base clock of 3.5GHz that leaps up to 4.4GHz, the Ryzen 5 5600 crafts a narrative of speed and reliability. It regularly outpaces the Intel Core i5-12400F, which is its closest counterpart, while consuming less power. In fact, its 65W TDP sits closer to Ryzen 3 and i3 chips.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the AMD Ryzen 5 5600 runs on the AM4 chipset. New processors use AM5, meaning your upgrade paths are limited if you’re not already running a previous-generation motherboard. That said, they’re cheaper than ever and accompanying DDR4 RAM is similarly low in price.

Check out our AMD Ryzen 5 5600 review to find out more.


Cracking value
Price to performance
Wide compatibility
Cooler in the box


Previous generation

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The Intel Core i7-14700K processor sitting in the LGA 1700 motherboard socket.

4. Intel Core i7-14700K

The best premium CPU.

Cores20 (8P+12E)
Base clock3.4GHz
Boost clock5.6GHz
L3 Cache33MB
Architecture14th Gen Raptor Lake
SocketLGA 1700
Max TDP253W
MSRPFrom $418

The Intel Core i7-14700K isn’t quite a revolution, but it is an evolution on its predecessors where it counts. Team Blue massages frequencies enough to make this the most notable CPU in its latest line-up. You get up to a 5.6GHz boost clock right out of the box, which pushes it ten per cent faster than the i7-13700K. In fact, it’s not too far from the performance of its i9 alternative relative to the price you pay.

Featuring a hybrid architecture that combines eight performance (P-Cores) and 12 efficient cores (E-Cores), the i7-14700K operates with a total of 20 threads. This offers a small bump, pushing its capabilities beyond its predecessor and the AMD Ryzen 9 7900X. Generally, it’s a closely run race between the three processors, but Intel’s latest pulls ahead in most benchmarks.

As usual, Intel doesn’t pack a CPU cooler, so you’ll need to source one yourself. It’s best you don’t just chuck any old blower on it, either. With a max 253W TDP, the i7-14700K runs fairly hot and benefits from a 240mm or 360mm AIO cooler.

Even with the extra overhead, its performance calls into question more expensive CPUs. The Core i7-14700K sits at $418 / £435, which is the same MSRP as its predecessor and a worthy premium over the Ryzen 9 7900X.

Read our Intel Core i7-14700K review here.


Great MT performance
Best chip for ≈$400
Uplift over previous generation
Faster than Ryzen 9 7900X


High power usage
No CPU cooler in box

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Intel Core i9-14900K CPU close up.

5. Intel Core i9-14900K

The best CPU for content creators.

Cores24 (8P+16E)
Base clock3.2GHz
Boost clock6.0GHz
L3 Cache36MB
Architecture14th Gen Raptor Lake
SocketLGA 1700
Max TDP253W
MSRPFrom $593

There’s no denying that the Intel Core i9-14900K steps onto the silicon stage looking a little like the i9-13900K. After all, it’s a Raptor Lake refresh rather than something entirely new. In some ways, it’s better off for it. Based on the same LGA 1700 socket, it’s an easy upgrade for those of you already on Team Blue.

It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s one of the most powerful processors on the market. It boasts a 6GHz boost clock straight out of the box, and topped almost every test we threw at it. Whether it’s gaming or content creation dealing with 4K edits, animations, and all that jazz, it wears a champion’s cloak. This is largely thanks to its assortment of 24 cores (eight performance and 16 efficiency), 32 threads, and a healthy 68MB L3 cache.

Hardware isn’t the only driving factor in the Core i9-14900K’s success. The APO software and Thread Director handle resource allocation and thread scheduling in real time. This helps improve frame rates in Metro Exodus and Rainbow Six Siege, but your mileage may vary depending on whether a game is P-Core optimised.

All this performance comes with hefty power requirements. A base 125W TDP doesn’t sound like a lot, but it chews through its max 253W TDP rating to hit heights of 330W in our benchmarks. It’s the hungriest processor we’ve seen, and you’ll need a cooler that can keep pace. Fortunately, it hasn’t been subjected to inflation and is available at the same MSRP as its predecessor.

Read our Intel Core i9-14900K review for our full chip impressions.


Great for content creators
Out-of-the-box 6GHz
Wide motherboard support


Requires massive power
Needs a 360mm AIO cooler
Small performance jump

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Intel Core-i5-13600K sitting on a table.

6. Intel Core i5-13600K

The best mid-range CPU.

Cores14 (6P+8E)
Base clock3.9 GHz P-Core, 2.6 GHz E-Core
Boost clock5.1GHz P-Core, 3.5 GHz E-Core
L3 Cache24MB
Architecture13th Gen Raptor Lake
SocketLGA 1700
Max TDP181W
MSRPFrom $308

For those seeking a balance between performance and price, the Intel Core i5-13600K is a compelling mid-range CPU. Part of the previous 13th Gen series, it’s the second generation to use hybrid architecture with six P-Cores and eight E-Cores. The aim is to better prioritise tasks based on their intensity, and it does a pretty good job.

Armed with a 3.9GHz base clock and 5.1GHz boost clock, it lends itself best to 1080p gaming first and foremost. In fact, it matches or surpasses 12th Gen i7 processors and even some AMD Ryzen 7000 chips when targeting HD. It’s not all-play, however. The 13600K touts commendable single-core and multi-core performance in our benchmarks, sitting just below 2021’s i9.

Despite launching in 2022, the 13600K offers a lot of flexibility and wide compatibility. With DDR4 and DDR5 support, you can pair this with most motherboards released over the past decade. The former offers a cheaper route to get you started, while the latter gives a great upgrade path to lead onto the 14th Gen series.

It also packs amazing value, currently rated third on our price-to-performance list. Granted, you’ll need to source your own CPU cooler since this doesn’t come with one, but the price tag should be slim enough to fit one in the budget. You could call the Intel Core i5-13600K a jack-of-all-trades, but we just call it a good deal no matter what you use it for.

Read our Intel Core i5-13600K review to see our benchmarks.


Super performance
Top-notch value
Great gaming
Wide compatibility
DDR4/DDR5 support


No cooler in box

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The AMD Ryzen 9 7900 CPU sitting in the AM5 motherboard socket.

7. AMD Ryzen 9 7900

The most efficient CPU.

Base clock3.7GHz
Boost clock5.4GHz
L3 Cache64MB
ArchitectureZen 4
SocketAMD 5
Max TDP65W
MSRPFrom $390

Performance versus power consumption is a delicate balancing act. Usually, the higher up the chain you go, the more the chip needs to feed on. That’s not the case with the AMD Ryzen 9 7900, which is a limited version of the premium 7900X. Boasting a similar power but without the overhead, there’s a whole lot of value in the non-X model.

Firstly, AMD drops the Ryzen 9 7900 power requirements from a max 170W TDP/230W PPT to a manageable 65W/88W. That’s a 62 per cent improvement, which is no small feat. It comes with slimmer clock speeds, but the drop is worth it for efficiency. From 4.7GHz to 3.7GHz, the base clock suffers the most, with a 21 per cent difference. The boost clock narrows the gap, though, as 5.4GHz isn’t a far cry from the original 5.6GHz.

All of this is to say that it performs close to its premium counterpart, sitting within arm’s reach in our tests. There’s just a single frame difference between the two in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Forza Horizon 5, and Far Cry 6 using DXR. Bizarrely, it even overtakes the 7900X in Time Spy and PCMark 10.

Currently, the Ryzen 9 7900 is untouchable in our efficiency rating chart, being 21 per cent ahead of the next closest entry. With Intel’s latest struggle to reasonably cap power consumption, the only thing that can take the crown from AMD is probably AMD itself. Chuck in a bundled RGB-lit Wraith Prism CPU cooler at a cheaper price, and it should be a real contender for your next processor.

Take a glance at our AMD Ryzen 9 7900 review for more information.


Superbly efficient
Great performance
Unlocked to overclock
Cooler in box


Costly platform

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What are CPU cores?

The central processing unit (CPU) acts as the brain of your PC, laptop, and smartphone. It’s about as complicated as one, too. Nowadays, chips are so advanced that they pack several cores. Each core usually comes with a couple of threads attached. Akin to having multiple diligent employees in an office, having more cores means your CPU can handle several tasks simultaneously, streamlining operations. However, more isn’t always merrier. Not all applications can utilise multiple cores effectively, and there’s a plateau beyond which adding more cores offers diminishing returns. The key lies in balancing core count with your computing demands, ensuring a smooth sail through daily tasks and intensive computing.

What is CPU clock speed?

The heartbeat of a CPU is echoed in its clock speed, a measure of how many cycles or tasks a processor can execute in a second. This is measured in Gigahertz (GHz). Generally, the higher the number, the faster tasks are completed, giving you a snappier, more responsive experience. However, a faster beat isn’t without its trade-offs. Higher clock speeds can increase heat output and power consumption, necessitating robust cooling solutions and a well-ventilated setup. A harmonious blend of clock speed, core count, and cooling, orchestrated to the tune of your computing needs, creates a symphony of efficient, seamless performance.

Should I overclock my CPU?

Most people won’t need to overclock to get the most out of their CPUs. It’s not as risky as it used to be, but processors are so powerful that there are diminishing returns in doing so. Overclocking might appeal to the speed demons yearning for that extra ounce of oomph in their gaming, but it comes with the trade-off of heat and power consumption. The added cost of power supplies and CPU coolers probably isn’t worth it for a few frames here and there. Still, there is plenty of headroom in our picks for enthusiasts to shoot for the stars.