March 27 2019

CPU Hierarchy

Processors are at the heart of any PC build. They are particularly important if you’re building a gaming rig. Processors have a huge impact on gaming. Core number, thread number, PCIe lanes, IPC score – all these numbers matter. But for a lot of people, these numbers are also boring and confusing.

Even if you do understand all the numbers, going through every single product that’s for sale is an arduous task.

So, we sat down and made a list for you. It’s a CPU hierarchy list.  A list of processors rated on the basis of their overall performance. No matter what you’re needs are, chances are, you’ll find the right processor for you in our list.

We have categorized this list into sections. Each section describes what the processors in that list are most likely to be used for. But, overall, this is a list of processors organised in descending order of performance.

It’s important to note that this IS NOT a gaming hierarchy. It’s based on overall performance with a preference towards gaming and price. So, if the overall performance of a processor is vastly better than a gaming processor, it will be placed higher.

To make things simpler for us gamers, all processors good for gaming will have a ‘G’ before the product name.

Some products are a better buy than others. They offer a good combination of both, value and performance. These will be denoted with a ‘B’ sign.

Both these designations are, of course, with respect to the category they are placed in.

HEDT Processors

HEDT (High-End DeskTop) processors are mainly designed for high end workstations and enthusiasts. They are very expensive and offer very high performance to go with that price tag.

Are these processors for you?

Probably not.

Let’s put it this way. If you have to Google about them, they’re not for you.

ProcessorCore and Thread CountMax. Clock Speed Without OverclockingCPU Model SocketThermal Design Power
B - Intel Xeon  W-3175X28 - 564.3 GHzLGA 3647225 W
Intel Core i9-9980XE18 - 364.4 GHzLGA 2066165 W
Intel Core i9-7980XE18 - 364.2 GHzLGA 2066165 W
Intel Core i9-7900X10 - 204.3 GHzLGA 2066140 W
Ryzen Threadripper 2990 WX32 - 644.2 GHzTR4250 W
Ryzen Threadripper 2970 WX24 - 484.2 GHzTR4250 W
B - Ryzen Threadripper 2950 WX16 - 324.4 GHzTR4180 W
Ryzen Threadripper 2920 WX12 - 244.3 GHzTR4180 W
Ryzen Threadripper 1950X16 - 324.0 GHzTR4180 W
Ryzen Threadripper 1920X12 - 244.0 GHzTR4180 W
Ryzen Threadripper 1900X8 - 164.0 GHzTR4180 W

Professional Gamers and Content Creators

If you want the very best components for high-end gaming, or if you do a lot of video editing, streaming, and use other 3D media creation applications, these processors are for you.

This is also the place you’ll find the very best gaming processors.

The processors below make up the top-end of mainstream CPUs. They aren’t cheap by any means but deliver excellent performance.

ProcessorCore and Thread CountMax. Clock Speed Without OverclockingCPU Model SocketThermal Design Power
B - Intel Core i9- 9900K8 - 165.0 GHzLGA 115195 W
Intel Core i9- 9700K8 - 84.9 GHzLGA 115195 W
G, B - Intel Core i7- 9700K8 - 84.9 GHzLGA 115195 W
G - Intel Core i7- 8700K6 - 124.6 GHzLGA 115195 W
Intel Core i7 - 87006 - 124.6 GHzLGA 115165 W
Intel Core i7 - 77004 - 84.2 GHzLGA 115165 W
AMD Ryzen 7 2700X8 - 164.3 GHzAM4105 W
G - AMD Ryzen 7 27008 - 164.3 GHzAM465 W

The Mainstream CPUs

These are the CPUs that most people end up buying. There are good reasons for this. These processors aren’t too expensive and yet offer excellent performance. In the below list, you will also be able to find some of the best AMD processors for gaming.

Yes, high-end gaming isn’t one of them. But, the difference isn’t much.

If you’re a casual gamer building a gaming rig, the processors below are the best ones.

ProcessorCore and Thread CountMax. Clock Speed Without OverclockingCPU Model SocketThermal Design Power
Intel Core i5 - 9600k6 - 64.2 GHzLGA 115195 W
B, G - Intel Core i5 8600k6 - 64.3 GHzLGA 115195 W
AMD Ryzen 5 2600x6 - 124.2 GHzAM495 W
Intel i5 86006 - 64.3 GHzLGA 115165 W
G - AMD Ryzen 5 2600 6 - 123.9 GHzAM465 W
AMD Ryzen 7 1800x8 - 164.0 GHzAM495 W
Intel i5 85006 - 64.1 GHzLGA 115165 W
G - Intel i5 84006 - 64.0 GHzLGA 115165 W
AMD Ryzen 7 1700X6 - 123.9 GHzAM495 W
Intel i5 7600K4 - 44.2 GHzLGA 115191 W
B - AMD Ryzen 5 2600X6 - 124.2 GHzAM495 W

Budget CPUs

If you’re building a PC for the first time, the processors below are a good place to start.

They are inexpensive, but perform quite well.

Obviously, most of these processors aren’t great if you plan to do serious gaming or any form of media creation. However, for light gaming and simple non-gaming tasks, these processors are more than enough. We recommend going for some of the best i5 processors for gaming if you’re on a tight budget.

ProcessorCore and Thread CountMax. Clock Speed Without OverclockingCPU Model SocketThermal Design Power
B - AMD Ryzen 5 26006 - 123.9 GHzAM465 W
Intel i5 76004 - 44.1 GHzLGA 115165 W
AMD Ryzen 5 1600X6 - 123.6 GHzAM495 W
Intel Core i3 83004 - 43.7 GHzLGA 115162 W
G - Intel Core i3 81004 - 43.6 GHzLGA 115165 W
Intel Core i5 75004 - 43.8 GHzLGA 115165 W
Intel Core i5 74004 - 43.5 GHzLGA 115165 W
AMD Ryzen 7 17008 - 163.8 GHzAM465 W
AMD Ryzen 5 2400G4 - 83.9 GHzAM465 W
Intel Core i3 7350K2 - 44.2 GHzLGA 115165 W
Intel Core i3 71002 - 43.9 GHzLGA 115165 W
AMD Ryzen 5 14004 - 83.4 GHzAM465 W
G - AMD Ryzen 3 2200G4 - 43.7 GHzAM465 W
AMD Ryzen 3 1300X4 - 43.7 GHzAM465 W
Intel Pentium G46202 - 43.7 GHzLGA 115154 W
Intel Pentium G45602 - 43.5 GHzLGA 115154 W
AMD Ryzen 3 12004 - 43.2 GHzAM465 W

Important CPU Questions & Facts

As you might have noticed, processors of the same series don’t always perform similarly. Newer processors perform better but are expensive. On the other hand, some older processors are actually better than the latest gen CPUs.

The pith of the matter is that the generation doesn’t always matter. Nor does the price tag. Yes, they are very important but not the only factors that decide performance.

We have given priority to overall performance rather than exclusively gaming. While we have a more comprehensive buying guide on this site, here’s a simple one with respect to this list.

Understand Performance

Not all processors are built for the same task. Some are good at overclocking and handling multi-threaded applications while others are good at gaming. Therefore, simply buying the most expensive processor won’t necessarily solve your problem.

For example, if you are building a gaming PC and are thinking of an AMD processor, the top-of-the-line Threadripper CPUs are useless. You’re better off with much cheaper Ryzen 7 2700x. There are many AMD CPUs for gaming, but the Threadripper isn’t one of them.

So, define performance. What do you want your computer to do?

Are you a video editor, or use a lot of 3D rendering applications? If so, AMD processors are the way to go. Is gaming your primary concern? Intel gaming processors are the best in the market.

Understand and define your needs clearly. It’ll help you a lot.

New or Old Gen

By default, the latest generation products offer the most features and are the most advanced. So, if you’re building a rig from the scratch, it’s better to stick to the latest products.

But if you’re just upgrading parts, consider older generation products as well. For example, if you built a rig an year ago and used an AM3+ socket motherboard, it doesn’t really make sense to switch to a Ryzen 2000 series processor. They use an AM4 socket which is incompatible with your rig.

i5 gen vs i7 gen intel cpu

Instead, it might be better to upgrade to a processor that uses the same socket. This way, you won’t end up spending a ton on your upgrades.

Price and Running Costs

If you do end up choosing an older generation CPU, know that they consume a lot of power. And they get very hot, meaning you need powerful cooling solutions.

Make sure you take another look at the TDP figures on the list. If the power consumption is very high, air coolers won’t suffice. You will need liquid coolers and they are not exactly cheap. The best CPU coolers have to keep your processor cool even when its working at full speed.

These are some of the costs associated with a processor. Make sure you know about these costs before you buy one.

The Gamer’s Dilemma

Most people building their gaming rig usually have one question in their mind. Which is the best processor for gaming?

Well, the answer isn’t straightforward. Technically speaking, the best processor for gaming is the i9 9900k. But most gamers don’t actually buy this CPU.

worlds best gaming processor intel presentation


Because it’s way too expensive.

Yes, it’s amazing to play games. It can run games at excellent resolutions and render very high fps.

But it’s not drastically better than, say, an i7 8700k. The 9900k is better, but just by a small margin. There’s one factor in which the margin is very big and that’s price. It’s almost $150 dearer and that matters.

Because, gaming performance – be it fps or resolution – is more dependent on the GPU. Going through a GPU hierarchy and spending that additional $150 there will make a huge difference.

This example simply illustrates that figures and numbers aren’t everything. The best gaming processors aren’t always the most expensive ones. On paper, maybe. In the real world, not so much.

CPUs: Frequently Asked Questions

Are AMD Processors Better than Intel?

This is the most popular question about CPUs. The simple answer is – Intel. If this explanation is enough for you, take a look at some of the best Intel CPUs for gaming available. For those who want a more detailed explanation, check out our Ryzen vs. Intel comparison guide.

AMD makes some amazing CPUs. But when it comes to gaming, Intel clearly has the lead. However, if you aren’t a serious gamer and use a lot of applications that depend on multi-threaded performance, AMD CPUs better.

amd vs intel divided by lightning

You will see a dip in gaming, yes. But the margin isn’t huge and AMD processors are significantly better at handling multi-threaded applications.

What is IPC in a CPU?

IPC stands for Instructions Per Cycle. In simple terms, it’s a score that shows how much work a CPU can do in a given time. It has a direct impact on core strength.

The importance is clearly seen when it comes to gaming. Most games can make use of only 4 cores. They are incapable of using more cores. So, irrespective of the number of cores, only 4 can work. Strength per core is important in this case.

If the given four cores can handle more work, they’ll render games better. Intel processors consistently have better IPC scores than their AMD counterparts, meaning Intel cores are more powerful. This explains why Intel processors render games beter.

Should I Overclock My CPU?

If you’re a casual user, or a casual gamer, or don’t have any obvious benefits from overclocking – don’t.

Overclocking, in essence, is making the processor run at higher speeds than the stock speeds. Enthusiasts will tell you that it’s an art and we’ll admit that it’s pretty fun doing it. Get it right and you’ll see a solid performance boost.

burning cpu exploding out of a pc when overclocked

Get it wrong and you no longer have a CPU.

If you have someone to guide you, then it’s amazing. If you’re willing to research for hours, wade through forums for hours and try it very carefully in small increments, then that’s okay. Or else, it makes more sense to buy a faster CPU.

If you have your heart set on overclocking, make sure you have enough cooling. Invest in good coolers. Depending on the exact product and how much you want to push it, an air cooler might not be sufficient. You may need a liquid solution and we recommend you invest in it.

Better be safe than sorry is our take on it.

Final Words

These are some of the factors that you should consider before buying a CPU. In the real world, when you ignore the numbers momentarily, you won’t really go wrong with Intel or AMD. Just make sure you do your due diligence before spending a ton of cash.

In case you are a CPU expert, you might have noticed we haven’t included any AM3+ processors in our list. If you’re especially interested in them, please check out our article about the best AM3+ processors for gaming.

We wish you all the best, and let us know how it goes!


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Akash Hoslok

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