The best Intel processors for 2021

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Even the best Intel processors have fallen short of the AMD Ryzen competition, but that doesn’t mean Team Blue is a bad choice in 2021. In a twist, Intel processors are generally cheaper than their AMD counterparts, and purchase previous-generation chips. , you can make big savings while getting the same performance.

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From the top of the line to the most wallet-friendly, our guide rounds up the top Intel processors on the market to help narrow down your search. NS Core i5-10600K The new Core i5-11600K tops our list with a balance of price and performance, despite the release of the new Core i5-11600K.

If you take a look at our list, you’ll notice the surprising absence of Intel’s latest Rocket Lake processors. Although the new chips deliver improvements in single-core performance, they are more expensive than their 10th-gen counterparts without major performance improvements overall. In some cases, such as the i9-10900K, previous-generation parts perform even better.


Intel is in a holding pattern right now as it prepares to launch its Elder Lake processors later this year. If you want an Intel CPU right now, it’s best to stick with 10th-gen chips until you find an 11th-gen option on sale.

Best Intel Processors at a Glance

Intel Core i5-10600K

Intel Core i5-10600K Box.

Intel’s 10th-gen Comet Lake processors arrived in 2020, and in 2021, the leading i5 from the lineup remains our top pick. Intel is leading the way with its 11th-gen desktop platform, but the 10600K offers most of the performance of its next-gen counterpart at a significantly lower price. Plus, the 10600K is compatible with cheap motherboards and has very little demand on your PSU and cooler.

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The 10600K has a 4.1GHz base speed and a maximum single-core boost clock of 4.8GHz. TDP is a bit higher than the previous generation model at 125 watts, but with clever power management, it doesn’t run too hot. It doesn’t ship with a stock cooler, so be sure to grab one with this top pick (our best CPU cooler guide has some options).

In benchmarks, the 10600K roughly matches Intel’s Core i7-9700K, an older $300 eight-core, eight-thread chip. It stacks up well against a competing AMD processor (3600X), which has six cores and 12 threads for $290. It doesn’t perform as well as AMD’s $300 Ryzen 5600X, but the 10600K can still hold its own in gaming.

One amazing aspect of this processor is its overclockability. With the right cooling and tweaking – read our best AIO cooler guide to get started – it can reach frequencies above 5.0GHz and gaming performance can approach the stock 10900K, a processor that costs almost twice as much. Overclocking is important for gaming, allowing you to increase the speed of each core.

in totality, 10600K Provides a lot of bang for your buck, especially if you intend to overclock. It’s not much slower than the Core i7-10700K right out of the box, making it ideal if you’re looking to save some money, and can still go a long way. Keep in mind that this chip only works in the LGA 1200 socket, so if you’re interested, go for a board with a Z490 or Z590 chipset.

Intel Core i5-11600K

Intel Core i5 11600K in the box.

Intel’s 11th-generation Rocket Lake platform isn’t perfect, which is why most of our recommendations focus on the previous generation. For gaming, however, the i5-11600K is an exception. It’s a bit more expensive than the 10600K, but comes with the same six cores and 12 threads. It reduces the base clock speed from 4.1GHz to 3.9GHz, but comes with a higher boost clock speed at 4.9GHz. It also has better integrated graphics, but you should pair it with a dedicated GPU.

It depends on the game, but 11600K 10600K . maintains a small but measurable lead on in most titles. in some games, such as death stranding, the 11600K actually trails the last-gen’s 10700K and can match the 10900K in the others. Although Intel fans didn’t expect a generational improvement, the 11600K proves you don’t need a high-end processor for gaming.

Gen-on-gen improvements are evident in non-gaming tasks. The 11600K goes beyond Intel’s last-gen offerings and offers more reliable competition to AMD’s mid-range chips in productivity tasks, with application-specific accelerators to great effect. Single-core performance also tops out without major trade-offs in multi-core performance.

Intel charges for the privilege, though — not in dollars, but in power. Despite an advertised TDP of 125W, the 11600K can draw well over 200W under load. With more power, and thus more heat, you need a good power supply, cooler, and motherboard for the 11600K. Intel is also switching sockets with its upcoming Elder Lake launch, so you’ll need a new motherboard if you decide to upgrade the line.

Even then, 11600K It is a great gaming processor. It comes with enough juice for gaming while still delivering decent power for productivity tasks, and that combination is hard to find for under $300. That said, 10600K is the most you get out there, so consider it as an option if you can’t find 11600K in stock.

Intel Core i5-10400F

Intel Core i5 10400F box on front of PC.

Despite not sporting the Core i3 tag, the 10400F is one of Intel’s cheaper processors. That’s an incredible value at around $150, packing in six cores and 12 threads, a base clock of 2.9GHz and a boost clock of 4.3GHz. Sporting the same specs, it’s about $80 cheaper than the 10600K. The biggest difference is the “F” suffix, which means the 10400F requires discrete graphics.

Even with the low price, the 10400F performs well. In rendering tasks, the 10400F is able to match the 9700K, surpassing AMD’s budget Ryzen 3000 chips. Although the 10400F is underpowered for most CPU intensive workloads, it’s still a great Intel processor for web browsing, light image editing, and office applications.

If you’re a gamer, the 10400F is an even better choice. With plenty of cores and a solid boost clock, the 10400F can put the CPU at just shy of three times its price. If you pair this with a good graphics card, you can get gaming performance similar to the i7 and sometimes the i9.

NS 10400F Intel has a sweet spot in the range. Below this, performance degrades significantly without much cost savings, and above that, the price rises faster than performance. If you’re looking for an everyday CPU with enough power for light productivity and gaming, the 10400F is hard to beat.

If you can afford it, a viable option is the new generation 11400F. It’s a little faster, but it runs about $80 more than the last-gen part.

Intel Core i7-10700K

Intel Core i7-10700K Box.

If you want high-end performance without the paralyzing sticker shock of a Core i9 CPU, this is the Intel i7 processor to get. It packs eight cores and 16 threads with a 3.8GHz base frequency and 5.1GHz maximum single-core turbo frequency.

As the “K” implies, this chip supports multiplier-based overclocking, though it doesn’t ship with the stock cooler. That’s a decent performance for its cost less than the previous-generation Core i9-9900K, even after a little tweaking under the hood. It also gives the Core i9-10900K a run for its money, which is about $100 more.

Intel’s Core i7 processor targets AMD’s Ryzen 7 3700X, another eight-core 16-thread chip at a lower price, but without the integrated graphics. Benchmarks show that AMD’s chip runs behind the 10700K right out of the box, and even more so after overclocking both. The Ryzen 5800X puts the 10700K in its place, but it’s about $100 more expensive.

Like our top recommendation, the 10700K has a new equivalent: the 11700K. You can save about $50 by going with the 10700K without giving up much performance.

Like all other new Comet Lake desktop CPUs, you’ll need a motherboard compatible with the LGA 1200 socket. 10700K. If overclocking is on the menu, go for a board with a Z490 or Z590 chipset.

Intel Core i9-10900K

Intel Core i9-10900K Box.

When it comes to the best raw performance, this 10-core, 20-thread Core i9 chip tops the charts. The 10900K has a base frequency of 3.7GHz, while its maximum single-core turbo frequency is 5.3GHz with the new Velocity Boost algorithm. With heavy overclocking, some 10900Ks can even handle 5.3GHz on all cores.

Intel’s 10-core chip lists a TDP of 125 watts. If you increase the power limit using a large enough power supply, some users report that heavy overclocks can cause this Intel processor to draw up to 325 watts. If you make these changes, there are steps you should take to avoid overheating the Core i9 CPU, like adding a powerful cooler and some solid PC fans.

The 10900K is still one of the best gaming CPUs on the market today, and its price is dropping with the release of the 11900K. If you want to save even more, consider the 9900K. For gaming specifically, the 9900K matches the 10900K, and you can usually find one for around $300. Keep in mind that the 9900K is a few generations old, so tracking one down can be tough.

Why not recommend a new chip? Well, it doesn’t offer much improvement over the 10900K to justify the price. Although single-core performance is better on Intel’s latest flagships, it reduces the core count to eight instead of 10. This reduces multi-core performance significantly at 11900K.

NS Core i9-10900K 2021 is still a gaming powerhouse, even if AMD competition has long eclipsed it.

Intel Core i7-11375H

Laptop built with the Intel Core i7-11375H under the hood.

Although a newer Intel desktop processor can have some issues, Tiger Lake mobile processors are excellent. For a great balance of performance and power, we recommend the i7-11375H. It comes with four cores and eight threads, a base clock of 3.3GHz and a staggering boost clock of 5GHz, while the power demand is under 35 watts. The i7-11375H takes the lead in Intel’s new Tiger Lake H35 processor, which targets portable gaming laptops with 14-inch screens.

The processor appears in a laptop like the MSI…

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