Best Intel Processors

Updated July 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

22 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
306 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best Intel processors

Last Updated July 2020

Although computers need quite a few components to run properly, the processor is the most important component. This processor chip, also called the central processing unit (CPU), is the chip that handles the processing of the data the computer needs to operate. Because of its importance, some people call it the “brain” of the computer.

For consumer-level desktop and laptop computers, two processor manufacturers — Intel and AMD — lead the market by a wide margin. Intel is the better known of the two manufacturers, as it has been delivering processors since the dawn of consumer- and business-level computing. Their processors offer different numbers of cores, varying clock speeds, and other features to meet your needs.

Although installing an Intel processor is not a simple process, you can affix the Intel processor to the motherboard yourself, giving your computer an instant boost in power and performance. To learn more about Intel processors and find the best option for your computing needs, continue reading our buying guide.

Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce founded Intel in 1968, although they called it NM Electronics originally (using the last name initials of the founders).

Key considerations

Compatibility

When you are ready to begin shopping for an Intel CPU, you need to first determine compatibility. The Intel CPU you choose must be compatible with the processor socket on the motherboard

This is part of the reason Intel offers such a large number of CPUs. There are many different socket designs, and different Intel processors must be available to fit those sockets.

To find a compatible processor, search the internet for your motherboard and socket number. You then can figure out which Intel processors will fit in that socket.

Core processors

The primary Intel processor family for consumer-level computing is the Core family. It has a few different subfamilies.

  • X-series: The X-Series processor has up to 18 cores. It’s meant for extremely demanding software needs, such as high-end gaming or video editing.
     

  • i9: The i9 offers up to eight cores. It’s made for consumer-level computing needs at the upper end of the scale. This processor is useful for above average gaming and video streaming needs.
     

  • i7: The Core i7 delivers above-average performance for general computing. It’s good for multitasking in laptops or desktops that need high clock speeds.
     

  • I5: For those with average computing needs, the i5 will serve them well. It can handle all day-to-day computing tasks efficiently. It even works nicely for average gaming needs.
     

  • I3: The Core i3 is the budget-friendly member of the Core family. It will deliver decent performance levels, but it’s not made for high-end gaming or for those who need significant multitasking capabilities.

Premium CPU power

This Intel processor delivers excellent power for the price you’ll pay. For those who want to do video or graphics processing, this CPU handles those intensive tasks smoothly. When you want to overclock the CPU for gaming, this chip excels in that arena too. However, it’s only compatible with a limited number of motherboards.

 

Features

Here are some of the features you’ll want to pay attention to when comparing Intel processors.

  • Adaptix: With Adaptix technology, Intel processors are easier to overclock, even allowing software makers to fine-tune the performance of the CPU to the needs of the software when overclocking.
     

  • Clock speed: This measures the speed (in GHz) with which the Intel CPU processes instructions. Higher numbers signify faster performance. An Intel CPU will have a maximum clock speed listed in its specifications, but you can overclock to go beyond this number.
     

  • Cores: This is the number of individual processing sections within the overall Intel processor. Having more individual sections allows for multitasking. Don’t confuse the number of cores with Intel’s Core brand name.
     

  • DL Boost: Short for Deep Learning Boost, this technology delivers artificial intelligence features to improve the performance of Intel 10th generation processors.
     

  • Gig+: The latest generations of Intel Core processors support WiFi 6 technology, also called Gig+.
     

  • Hardware level security: In most of their processors, Intel includes a few different security features designed to protect the computing system and your data, including Software Guard Extensions (SGX), BIOS Guard, and Boot Guard.
     

  • Hyper-threading: This is Intel’s technology that allows individual cores to run two threads (or different tasks). Threading further enhances the chip’s multitasking capabilities.
     

  • Iris Plus: With Iris Plus graphics rendering technology in 10th generation Core chips, graphics rendering in 4K becomes a seamless process for gaming or video streaming.

EXPERT TIP

Before installing a new CPU, always unplug the computer. Wash your hands as well. CPUs are delicate pieces of electronics and require extremely clean environments.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

For the majority of computer users, the clock speed of the processor is more important than the number of cores it has.


Staff  | BestReviews

Intel processor prices

Intel processors are available at a variety of price points, and their older models are typically sold at a significant discount. The clock speed, the number of cores, and the number of transistors on the chip will affect the price of Intel CPUs significantly. Higher numbers generally equal more power.

The lowest-priced Intel CPUs are chips with limited power, such as Pentium or Celeron. They may also be Core CPUs that are a few generations old. You can expect to pay $40 to $125 for these processors.

Moderately priced Intel Core processors are lower-end new processors or higher-end processors that are a generation or two old. Expect to pay $125 to $300 for a mid-range Intel processor.

The priciest Intel processors are extremely powerful chips from the latest generation. You can expect to pay $300 to $600 for processors made for desktop or laptop computers. If you want a powerful Intel chip made for servers or specialized advanced computing work, you may need to pay as much as $1,000.

Easy to use

When you need a budget-priced CPU that still can deliver the performance average gamers need, this processor is a smart choice. It has an overclocking capability, which is also helpful for running games. This is a smaller chip, which simplifies installation. However, it does tend to run hotter than some other processors.

 

Tips

Intel has quite a few different families of processors. Some of these names may be unfamiliar to you, as some of the families are not made for consumer use. Here are some tips for understanding common use cases for each of the Intel families of processors.

  • Atom: The Atom processor from Intel is a low power processor that’s found in mobile and battery-operated devices.

  • Celeron: The Intel Celeron family works with computer desktops and laptops, but they are far less powerful than the Core family or the Pentium family. These are fairly inexpensive.

  • Core: Intel Core processors are the most common chips found in consumer level laptops and desktops.

  • Itanium: Intel offers Itanium processors for computing applications that require the power and speed found with the high-performance computing market. They carry more power than Xeon processors.

  • Pentium: Pentium processors are made for consumer-level desktops and laptops, as well as tablets. These chips aren’t as powerful as Core processors, but they work nicely for simple computing tasks.

  • Quark: You’ll find Intel Quark processors in low-power devices that will be part of the Internet of Things (IoT). These are better at power conservation than Atom processors, but they’re also smaller and run slower.

  • Xeon: Xeon processors from Intel are powerful. They’re made for real time analytics, managing data centers, and cloud computing with high end servers.

DID YOU KNOW?

Intel processors can appear in a variety of devices, including desktop computers, laptops, mobile devices, servers, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Other products we considered

Because so many Intel processors are in the market, you may need something other than what is found in our matrix. Here are a few other Intel CPUs that we considered. 

When you want maximum processing power (and when you have a big budget), the Intel Core i9-9900K is an eight-core processor with significant overclocking capabilities. 

For those with middle-of-the-road processing needs, the Intel Core i7-6700K quad-core processor has a reasonable price. It’s compatible with several different motherboard models.

For a budget-priced processor that still has quite a few nice features, we like the Intel Core i3-9100. It’s a quad-core CPU with an impressive 4.2-GHz clock speed. 

When you can get by with limitations in processing power, it’s tough to argue with the excellent price of the Intel Celeron G3900. However, it has only two cores and a 2.8-GHz clock speed.

For the best performance, buy the highest-performing CPU you can buy rather than relying on overclocking to deliver the speed you want.

FAQ

Q. How can I keep my Intel processor cool?
A. An Intel processor may ship with a heatsink over the top of it, which is a series of metal fins that dissipate heat inside the computer case. The CPU may have a fan too, which helps to move hot air away from the chip. For a high-end Intel processor that runs very hot, you may want to invest in a liquid cooling system.
 

Q. Do I have to purchase the latest generation of Intel CPU?
A. Not necessarily. The latest processors are made for intensive applications and software. The majority of computer users will not be doing the type of work that will push Intel processors to the max. Instead, you can buy an older generation or two and save some money.
 

Q. What do the code names of Intel processors mean?
A. The code name is the name Intel engineers give to the processor internally during the development phase. When the chip appears in the commercial market, Intel stops using the code name. So code names are only important for those who like to look ahead to the introduction of the newest Intel processors.
 

Q. Do I need a processor with Intel Inside technology?
A. Actually, Intel Inside is a marketing slogan. It’s not a special type of technology or a feature within a particular Intel processor. The slogan is meant to let people know the computer they’re purchasing has an Intel processor inside it.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Kyle
    Kyle
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Steph
    Steph
    Web Producer

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