The 7 Best i7 Processors of 2020

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The Rundown
"The i7-10700K is not only one of the newest Intel CPUs on the market, it's also one of the best available."
Runner-Up, Best Overall:
Intel Intel Core i7-10700 at Amazon
"On the surface, the i7-10700 and the i7-10700K look almost identical, but there are a few critical differences."
"These were the first of Intel's consumer processors to increase the core count from four to six."
"Hits right on that performance sweet spot for many users."
Runner-Up, Best for Gaming:
Intel Core i7-7700K at Amazon
"This flagship product from that line continues to serve gamers and power users alike."
Best for Content Creation:
Intel Intel Core i7-9700F at Amazon
"Content creators who work with large, raw video files, the Intel Core i7-9700F is the perfect CPU."

Whether you're building a PC from scratch or just looking to upgrade your CPU, the best i7 processors have a lot of factors to consider before deciding which is right for your needs. If you're an avid gamer, you may want a CPU with higher overclocking speeds and that supports high amounts of RAM. Content creators need a lot of RAM and 4K video support, but not necessarily blazing fast clock speeds. Business professionals and home users need security and stability as well as fast access to frequently used programs like Microsoft Office.

There have been several generations of the i7 processor from Intel, with the latest being the 10th generation Comet Lake chips like the Intel Core i7-10700K at Amazon. The latest CPUs have all kinds of fancy features that, unfortunately, also come with high price tags. However, you can still find 9th generation CPUs like the Intel Core i7-9700K at Amazon. These slightly older CPUs still offer plenty of power and features but are more affordable. Whatever you need your computer to do, there is an Intel i7 processor to suit. We've gathered our top picks to help you choose which is right for your computer.

If you're shopping around for a new CPU for your latest build, make sure to consult our handy guide before committing to one of the best i7 Processors.

Best Overall: Intel Core i7-10700K

What We Like
  • Optane Memory support

  • Integrated graphics

  • 4K ready

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • No cooling fan included

The i7-10700K is not only one of the newest Intel CPUs on the market, it's also one of the best available. It features 8 cores and 16 threads with a base clock speed of 3.8GHz that's capable of being boosted to 5.1 GHz with Turbo Boost Max 3.0. It supports up to 128GB of DDR4 RAM and works with Intel's Optane Memory technology to learn your most-used apps and programs and keep them at-the-ready for faster access than ever before. With integrated Intel UHD 630 graphics, you won't have to drop extra cash on a fancy, dedicated video card in order to get great images and framerates. The i7-10700K is 4K ready, allowing you to future-proof your PC and take full advantage of the integrated graphics technology.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Intel Core i7-10700

What We Like
  • Includes cooling fan/heatsink

  • 4K ready

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • No overclocking

On the surface, the i7-10700 and the i7-10700K look almost identical, but there are a few critical differences. The 10700 has a base clock speed of 2.9GHz that maxes out at 4.8GHz with Intel's Turbo Boost Max 3.0 technology. And, unlike its big brother, this CPU comes packaged with a heatsink and cooling fan for optimum operating temperatures without expensive liquid cooling rigs. It supports 128GB of DDR4 RAM and Intel's Optane Memory for extra-fast access to frequently used files and programs. It also has integrated Intel UHD 630 graphics so you can start gaming right away without a discrete GPU. It supports 4K video and gaming at a refresh rate of 60Hz so you'll get buttery smooth motion even during action-packed scenes. With this CPU, you can use up to three displays for better multitasking and media streaming.

Most Popular: Intel Core i7 8700K

What We Like
  • Six cores with 12 threads

  • Fast gaming performance

  • Reasonably priced

What We Don't Like
  • Other options offer similar performance

To keep pace with the powerful Ryzen processors from rival AMD, Intel introduced its Coffee Lake architecture and 8th-generation chips, headlined by the Intel Core i7-8700K. These were the first of Intel's consumer processors to increase the core count from four to six. Hyper-threading also allows each of the cores to function as two virtual cores, for a total of six cores and 12 processing threads. This lets the i7-8700K work more efficiently by running more processes at the same time.

There are CPUs today from both Intel and AMD that boast more cores and more threads, but the i7-8700K's impressive single-core performance still makes it a fast, reasonably priced option, particularly if you're focused on gaming. Its formidable 3.7GHz base rate can be boosted to 4.7GHz, and it tends to stay cool enough that you could overclock it to 5GHz in the right setup without too much difficulty. Even though it comes with UHD 630 integrated graphics, you'll want to pair the i7-8700K with dedicated graphics card to see its full potential. Coupled with the right GPU, you'll be able to handle high-quality 4K games with ease and hit blazing-high frame rates at 1080p.

"The i7-8700K is likely the most common processor to find on a gamer's rig, for good reason. With its ability to overclock to 5GHz with the right setup, it can keep your gaming futureproof for years." — Alan Bradley, Tech Editor

Best for Gaming: Intel Core i7-9700K

What We Like
  • Fast and overclockable

  • Eight physical cores

  • Better value for gaming than higher-end i9s

What We Don't Like
  •  No hyper-threading

If you're looking to build a gaming rig and don't want or need the newest CPU, the Intel Core i7-9700K is a great option. It features 8 cores and 8 threads with a base speed of 3.6GHz that can be overclocked to 4.9GHz with Turbo Boost 2.0 technology. It supports up to 128GB of RAM as well as 4K video and graphics so you can tackle even the most graphically challenging games. With integrated Intel UHD 630 graphics and 64GB of VRAM, you won't have to drop a ton of money on a discrete graphics card in order to play your favorite games. 

The i79700K is optimized for Optane Memory for faster access to your most-played games; it also supports DirectX12 and Quick Sync Video so you can edit and share your greatest gaming moments. This CPU can support up to three monitors so you can game, chat, and stream with ease.

"If you're a heavy user, the 9th gen i7-9700k offers better performance than the comparable Ryzen 3900X for both multitasking and gaming. It also won't hit your wallet as hard as an i9 or Threadripper." Ajay Kumar, Tech Editor

Runner-Up, Best for Gaming: Intel Core i7-7700K

What We Like
  •  Fast 4.2GHz rate out of the box, boostable to 4.5GHz

  • Good performance for the price

What We Don't Like
  • Some newer, faster alternatives

  • Only four cores (eight threads)

  • Can run hot

Intel's Core i7-7700K might be a quad-core Kaby Lake processor from a couple of generations back, but this flagship product from that line continues to serve gamers and power users alike. It runs at a fast single-core frequency of 4.2GHz, going up to a 4.5GHz stock speed thanks to Intel's Turbo Boost feature. There's some room to overclock the unlocked processor if you can successfully manage the power usage and temperature, which tends to run fairly hot.

Even out of the box, the speedy base clock speed and hyper-threading capabilities give the i7-7700K the versatility and power necessary to take on high-end games and other tasks. Your graphics card often plays a bigger role in creating a smooth gaming experience than the CPU does, so the i7-7700K is fast enough for a lot of setups. You'll get performance similar to newer processors while potentially saving money for your graphics card, cooling system, and other components of your gaming rig.

Best for Content Creation: Intel Core i7-9700F

What We Like
  • Optane Memory compatible

  • Supports 128GB of RAM

  • Built-in security

What We Don't Like
  • No fan included

  • No Overclocking

  • Requires a dedicated GPU

Content creators who work with large, raw video files, the Intel Core i7-9700F is the perfect CPU. Much like its cousin, the 9700K, it has 8 cores and 8 threads. However, it has a slightly slower base speed of 3.0GHz and an overclock max of 4.7GHz. This, along with support for up to 128GB of RAM, makes it great for rendering large video files and multitasking graphic design programs. Like the other i7 CPUs on this list, it's optimized for Intel's Optane Memory so you get fast, reliable access to your most-used programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, or Sony Vegas Pro. This CPU also features built-in security tokens and AES encryption to protect your hard work and personal data from unauthorized access and theft.

Best for Laptops: Intel Core i7-9750H

What We Like
  • Triple display support

  • Hyper threading

What We Don't Like
  • Only 6 cores

For customers who prefer laptops to desktops, the Intel Core i7-9750H is the best 9th generation Intel CPU available for laptops. It has 6 cores and 12 threads, allowing for Hyper Threading; this lets you take full advantage of a CPU's core to multitask more efficiently and get more work done. It has a base clock speed of 2.6GHz but can be overclocked to 4.5GHz with Turbo Boost 2.0. With Flex Memory, you can add up to 128GB of DDR4 RAM to your laptop while having your CPU remain in dual-channel mode. It has integrated Intel UHD 630 graphics and 64GB of VRAM, letting you stream your favorite shows and movies or play popular games without a dedicated GPU. The CPU is also compatible with 4K video and graphics, so you get excellent detail and lifelike images. It supports up to three displays so you can connect your laptop up to two external monitors if you need to multitask or prefer multi-monitor set-ups.

Final Verdict

The Intel i7-10700K is the best i7 CPU on the market. It's 4K ready and has a max clock speed of 5.1GHz for tons of power. The i7-10700 is a close second with a slightly slower max clock speed of 4.8GHz. However, the i7-10700 comes packaged with a cooling fan where the 10700K does not.

How We Tested

While our expert reviewers and testers haven’t reviewed any Intel Core i7 processors yet, when they do, we’ll be evaluating them for their ability to handle productivity, multitasking, and gaming. To test processors, we put them in our custom build, keeping all other components the same. Then we put the processor to the test by running benchmark tests like PCMark, Geekbench 5, Passmark to get objective scores. We also use the processors in our workflow, using them for video rendering and gaming, and other productivity tasks. Finally, we look at price and competitor benchmarks to get an idea of the value proposition and make a final judgment. Lifewire purchases all review products; we do not receive them from manufacturers. 

About Our Trusted Experts

Taylor Clemons has over three years of experience writing about games and consumer technology. She has written for Lifewire, Digital Trends, TechRadar and her own publication, Steam Shovelers.

Anton Galang has been writing about tech since 2007. A contributor to PC Magazine, he's intimately familiar with computer hardware and has well over a decade of experience covering consumer technology.

Ajay Kumar is Tech Editor at Lifewire. With over seven years of experience, he's previously been published in PCMag and Newsweek where he reviewed thousands of products including PC hardware, monitors, phones, laptops, and other devices. He built his own gaming rig and though he uses a Ryzen 3700X, he has previously used Intel processors.

Alan Bradley is Tech Editor at Lifewire. He has over a decade working in the media industry and has previously been published on PC Gamer and GamesRadar+. With thousands of reviews under his belt, he's also built his own gaming rig and has used and tested various Intel processors.

What to Look for When Buying Intel i7 Processors

Multitasking - The biggest factor that determines what processor to get is how much multitasking you need to do. i7 processors with more cores and features like multi-threading can run more programs at the same time. This is particularly useful for graphic designers, media editors, and other people who have work that requires a lot of numbers to be crunched or images to be rendered.

Gaming - A gaming processor doesn't need to have the top specs in terms of core count, but it should be able to handle heat and overclock well. Overclocking can significantly increase how capable your gaming PC is and extends its lifespan for several years. These processors that are overclockable are marked by having a "K" at the end of their name.

Budget - How much an i7 processor costs will be a major factor. These processors already tend to be on the more expensive end of the Intel lineup which consists of the i3 and i5. The i3 may be fine for basic browsing and word processing, while the i5 will work for a mix of workflows along with some gaming. The price difference is usually fairly significant. Depending on what you plan to do, these or AMD's more affordable Ryzen lineup could be better buys.