How to find the optimal CPU for your PC
The CHIP test center evaluated these products. More info.
When it comes to processors, there are only two options: AMD or Intel. Both manufacturers offer a variety of models that hardly differ at first glance. If you are not careful, you will quickly go wrong. CHIP tests CPUs with performance benchmarks and classifies them in a list of the best. In this post we name the best processors and say which points are important when buying.
How much money do you want to spend on a CPU? Depending on the price range, the performance often makes significant leaps - but of course it also depends on the requirements you place on your computer. First of all, there are CPU models between 50 and 150 euros for simple PCs with little performance, but which are sufficient for office and web surfing. Much more computing power is offered in the category between 120 euros and 280 euros. Good gaming PCs can already be equipped with these models. AMD offers some attractive models with six or eight cores in this segment, but Intel also has good offers in the race, such as Core i5 CPUs with six cores and a high clock frequency.
The high-class Core i7, Core i9 and Ryzen 7 models from Intel and AMD are usually between 180 and over 500 euros and are worthwhile for high-end systems that have to cope with several difficult tasks at the same time. Only those who want to operate computationally intensive special software quickly have to invest even more money.
First, we will show you the five best CPUs from our test in our always up-to-date list of the best. Then we will tell you in the detailed purchase advice which points are important when buying a processor. If you are particularly interested in Intel CPUs, we can recommend the Intel processors comparison.
The best CPUs in the test
|Test winner||Price tip||Best Intel CPU||Gaming tip|
AMD Ryzen 9 3950X
AMD Ryzen 5 2600X
Intel Core i9-9900K
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X
approx. 769 euros
approx. 129 euros
approx. 510 euros
approx. 289 euros
very good (1.0)
very good (1.0)
Most popular shop
Most popular shop
| View on Amazon || View on Amazon || View on Amazon || View on Amazon |
These points count
If you want the best bang for your buck, you must first and foremost pay attention to the overall performance when purchasing a processor. But power consumption also plays an important role. Clock frequency, number of cores and special functions are also relevant in the assessment. You can read how detailed and objectively CHIP tests processors in the description of our processor test procedure. In the following we tell you what to look out for.
1. CPU performance
Performance is the most important parameter when evaluating a processor. Anyone who knows exactly which applications are in the foreground can also read useful information from the individual benchmarks. Handbreak tests how well a processor codes, which is important for video editing. Cinebench is a popular test to test the multicore capability of a system. Meanwhile, PCMark measures how well a PC works in everyday life. We measure how well a CPU performs in gaming in the synthetic benchmark 3DMark Fire Strike in cooperation with an Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics card.
Downloads: processor benchmarks
2. Processor manufacturer
The crucial question is: Intel or AMD? Both processor manufacturers have their advantages and disadvantages. Intel's CPUs currently provide the highest clock frequencies and perform many instructions per clock cycle (IPC), which makes them shine in applications that only require one process thread. Since 2017, AMD has been in the fast lane with Ryzen processors. The manufacturer has made six- and eight-core processors with multithreading socially acceptable and is constantly undercutting Intel's prices - in every performance range.
Of course, the CPU manufacturer also determines which chipset belongs to the mainboard. Accordingly, features can differ greatly: Intel's Z390 chipset natively supports USB 3.1 and WLAN-ac, while AMD's X470 can combine SSD and hard drive to form a powerful storage device.
3. Cooling capacity
Processors convert a lot of electricity into heat. With AMD the chips require up to 250 watts of cooling power, with Intel it is up to 165 watts. In the mainstream desktop area, however, it is only up to 105 watts. If you don't want to build half a workstation or mercilessly overclock, you don't have to worry too much when buying a power supply or cooler. Incidentally, the watts of the TDP have nothing to do with the power consumption.
4. Technical data
If no benchmark results are available, the technical data provide information on the performance of a processor. This includes the number of cores, base clock, turbo clock, structure width of the smallest components, and size and speed of level 2 and level 3 cache. Without a deep understanding of the micro-architecture and the associated features, the data can only be used to roughly say which CPU is better than the other. When making a purchase decision, you should therefore simply use our performance evaluation as a guide.
At least we can give you a rule of thumb on the way: The more cores, the higher the clock frequency, and the higher the IPC value (Instructions per Cycle, averaged number of instructions per clock cycle), the more powerful the CPU. Unfortunately, the extremely important IPC value cannot be easily reached.
Professional tip for purchasing a processor
If you want to upgrade an existing computer with a new CPU, you must make sure that the processor fits the existing mainboard and its socket. For current CPUs - i.e. two to three years old - the choice is as follows: Intel's Kaby Lake CPUs (7th generation) require socket LGA 1151. Intel Coffee Lake (8th and 9th generation) requires socket LGA 1151v2. CPUs and mainboards of these two similar sounding sockets are not compatible with each other. Intel's high-end range requires LGA 2066 socket. The socket information (and often a list of compatible CPUs) can be found in the product description of the mainboard.
AMD's Ryzen CPUs require AM4. AMD wants to keep this socket compatible for several generations, so you don't have to buy a new board when you update. However, new boards and chipsets bring useful features. AMD's high-end processor - Ryzen Threadripper - needs the TR4 socket.
However, the fact that a CPU fits into the socket is no guarantee that it will work. It is best to download a current board manual from the manufacturer's website and consult it, as the most current list of supported CPUs is usually listed there.
in the test