The best processors in 2022: AMD and Intel duke it out


AMD and Intel have fought for supremacy for decades, climbing to make the best processors you can buy. The competition is fierce, and that’s a great thing for PC enthusiasts. In 2022, the list of the best CPUs is larger than ever and packed with options from Team Red and Team Blue.

Intel’s flagship Core i9-12900K tops our list, but there are great options regardless of your budget or purpose.


Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Intel Core i9-12900K

The best processor you can buy

Pros

  • Outpaces the Ryzen 9 5950X in most workloads
  • Significantly cheaper than the Ryzen 9 5950X
  • DDR5 support
  • Solid overclocking headroom
  • PCIe 5.0 on supported motherboards

Cons

  • High power demands
  • Runs a little hot

The Core i9-12900K is a monster CPU. Packing 16 cores and a max boost clock of 5.2GHz, Intel’s latest flagship shines across gaming and productivity applications. It beats AMD’s competing Ryzen 9 5950X across the board based on our testing, and it sells for about the same price.

Intel was able to achieve such high performance with a unique hybrid architecture. The Core i9-12900K packs in two types of cores: Eight efficient cores and eight performance cores. Governed by a technology called Thread Director, the chip can assign tasks to the cores based on our intense they are, better delegating work to improve performance.

Outside of the processor itself, Intel’s 12th-gen platform comes packed with the latest technologies – namely, DDR5 and PCIe 5.0. We don’t have PCIe 5.0 SSDs quite yet, and DDR5 memory is still ungodly expensive, but the Core i9-12900K is primed to take advantage of them once prices come down.

Although the Core i9-12900K is the best CPU you can buy now, it could have some stiff competition in the future. AMD just revealed its Ryzen 7000 processors, which are set to launch this fall.

Intel Core i9-12900K

Intel Core i9-12900K

The best processor you can buy

amd cache reckoning is upon us ryzen 7 5800x3d review 1

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D

The best processor for gaming

Pros

  • The fastest gaming CPU on the market
  • Solid thermal performance
  • Works with AM4 motherboards
  • Inexpensive
  • Low power requirements

Cons

  • No overclocking
  • Lackluster general CPU performance

The Core i9-12900K was previously the best gaming processor, but AMD recently dethroned Team Blue’s best. The Ryzen 7 5800X3D might be the first processor ever specifically built for gaming, and it blows everything else out of the water. Why? A curious technology called 3D V-Cache.

For specs, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D is slightly worse than the base Ryzen 7 5800X. It comes with the same eight Zen 3 cores, but the clock speed is 200MHz slower and you can’t overclock the 3D-stacked part. The difference is that the Ryzen 7 5800X3D comes with an additional 64MB of L3 cache stacked on top of the processor.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but extra L3 cache makes a big difference in games. The Ryzen 7 5800X3D beats everything while gaming, including the Core i9-12900KS that costs twice as much.

The Ryzen 7 5800X3D is the best gaming CPU by a long shot, but it takes a backseat in other tasks. If you plan on doing intense video encoding or other productivity tasks, it’s better to go with an AMD or Intel chip with a higher core count.

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D

The best processor for gaming

An Intel Alder Lake Core i5-12600K CPU and its packaging.

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Intel Core i5-12600K

The best value Intel processor

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • 10 cores and high boost clock
  • Excellent gaming performance

If you don’t need all of the power of the Core i9-12900K, the Core i5-12600K is a great alternative. You still get 10 cores and a max boost clock of 4.9GHz, just for less than half of the cost of Core i9-12900K. There are a few cases where 16 cores makes a difference, but the Core i5-12600K is still an excellent choice for gaming and productivity.

As part of the 12th-gen Alder Lake family, this i5 CPU still has access PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 memory, and it utilizes a hybrid architecture to improve performance. In this case, it comes with six performance cores and four efficient cores, leaning more heavily on the performance side.

For performance, you’re getting most of what the Core i9-12900K has to offer for around $300. Gaming performance is almost identical, and productivity is shockingly close outside of heavily multi-threaded applications. Intel’s Core i5 offerings are usually a sweet spot, and this generation is no different.

Intel Core i5-12600K

Intel Core i5-12600K

The best value Intel processor

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X processor.

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

The best value AMD processor

Pros

  • Very inexpensive
  • Excellent gaming and day-to-day performance
  • High boost clock speed

Cons

  • Six cores may limit some intense applications

The Ryzen 5 5600X has always been a great gaming CPU, but it’s even more attractive in 2022. The six-core Zen 3 part sells for around $200 now, which is a great value. Even at its list price of $300, it made our list. The prices now, in the lull before Ryzen 7000 launches, make it even more attractive.

Although it’s a great day-to-day CPU, the Ryzen 5 5600X excels in gaming. It can put up almost identical performance to the Ryzen 9 5950X in games while only costing a third as much. And it draws very little power (65W).

Six cores is plenty for the vast majority of applications. Intense video editing workflows or data science prefer more cores, however, which is where the Ryzen 5 5600X falls a bit behind. Considering the price, though, the Ryzen 5 5600X is among the best AMD processors you can buy.

AMD - Ryzen 5 5600X

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

The best value AMD processor

Intel Core i3-12100F box sitting in front of a gaming computer.

Intel

Intel Core i3-12100

The best processor under $150

Pros

  • Sells for around $100
  • Four performance cores
  • Includes a CPU cooler

It’s tough finding CPUs under $150 in 2022, but the Core i3-12100F is a standout. It’s part of the Alder Lake family just like the Core i5-12600K and Core i9-12900K, just for a whole lot less money.

The Core i3-12100F is a quad-core CPU that ranks among the best Intel processors you can buy. It doesn’t come with a hybrid architecture, instead opting for four performance cores, but that doesn’t hurt performance too much.

Gaming is certainly possible, even if it’s a bit behind the six-core Ryzen 5 5600X, and day-to-day use is excellent. This is an entry-level processor, no doubt, but the Core i3-12100F still punches above what its price would suggest.

As we cover in our CPU buying guide, the F suffix on the Core i3-12100 means it doesn’t come with integrated graphics. That saves you some money, but make sure to pair the CPU with one of the best graphics cards to have a usable machine.

Intel Core i3-12100F

Intel Core i3-12100

The best processor under $150

Retail box of the AMD Ryzen 7 5700G APU on a white background.

AMD Ryzen 7 5700G

The best processor with integrated graphics

Pros

  • Excellent integrated graphics
  • Includes a CPU cooler
  • Low power draw

Cons

  • iGPU isn’t powerful enough for AAA gaming

Gaming without a GPU is possible, but it’s not an ideal experience. The Ryzen 7 5700G is an exception. It’s a clear winner when it comes to integrated graphics on a CPU, allowing you to hit playable frame rates in popular titles at 1080p.

It will likely stay that way, too. Although Ryzen 7000 is on the horizon (with integrated RDNA 2 graphics), they won’t be powerful enough for gaming. The Ryzen 7 5700G is an APU with a full graphics engine under the hood.

Although you won’t play the latest AAA games with the integrated GPU, you can still get by. Even better, the Ryzen 7 5700G has eight powerful cores and a 4.6GHz boost clock speed, so you can throw one of the best 1080p graphics cards in your PC and have a gaming monster.

AMD Ryzen 7 5700G

AMD Ryzen 7 5700G

The best processor with integrated graphics

AMD Ryzen processor inside a motherboard.

AMD Ryzen 9 5950X

The best enthusiast-class processor

Pros

  • 16 powerful cores
  • Tons of overclocking headroom
  • Relatively inexpensive

Cons

  • Next-gen Ryzen CPUs are launching soon

The AMD Ryzen 9 5950X is a monster 16-core CPU that held the crown as the most powerful processor for several years. The Core i9-12900K pushed it off the throne, but don’t discount AMD’s flagship when you build your next PC.

You get 16 cores of Zen 3 power, as well as a boost clock of up to 4.9GHz. Although Intel’s flagship wins in some cases, the Ryzen 9 5950X still holds its own in gaming and productivity. It draws around half as much power, too, leaving much more room for CPU overclocking.

The Ryzen 9 5950X is much cheaper than it used to be, as well. You can pick one up for around $550, as opposed to the $800 AMD asked when the CPU launched. AMD’s Ryzen 7000 CPUs are launching in the fall, so now is the best time to find a great deal on the Ryzen 9 5950X.

AMD Ryzen 9 5950X

AMD Ryzen 9 5950X

The best enthusiast-class processor

Frequently Asked Questions

Which processor is the fastest?

The fastest processor you can buy right now is the Intel Core i9-12900K. It comes with 16 cores and high clock speeds, allowing it to rip through games and intense productivity applications.

AMD has its Ryzen 9 5950X, which is also very fast. However, we’re waiting on the next-gen Ryzen 7000 processors to see if AMD can retake the crown.

Is i7 better than i5?

Intel Core i7 and Core i5 processors are both excellent options. As the names suggest i7 processors are faster and more powerful than i5 processors, and they’re more expensive. They may not be the best choice for everyone, though.

For several generations, Intel has segments six cores to its Core i5 processors and eight cores to its Core i7 processors. The two extra cores provide a performance boost, but they’re not as important if you’re gaming or running basic applications on your PC.

Which type of processor is the best?

AMD and Intel are the main CPU manufacturers, and they tend to leapfrog each other every couple of years. Currently, Intel processors are the best option for raw performance, but AMD processors still provide great performance with much better power efficiency.

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