The 8 Best Processors to Buy in 2018

Get your computer running at its best

When you're building or upgrading a computer, one of the most important steps is figuring out which processor, or central processing unit (CPU), is right for your needs. If you’re a gamer or frequent media editor, you’re probably going to want a high-performance CPU that has more cores and can handle more complex tasks. If your computer is going to have a lighter workload — think media streaming and web browsing — then it probably isn’t necessary to invest in such a workhorse of a processor (and you’ll save some money, too). Knowing your budget, your computer’s workload and the amount of power consumption it can handle will help you choose a CPU that delivers the performance you want without overheating your machine. Read on for our selection of the best processors for all kinds of needs and budgets. 

Best Overall: Intel Core i7 8700K

If you’re a PC user and you want a CPU that can handle whatever you throw at it, the 4.7GHz Intel Core i7 8700K is the best option. From gaming to virtual reality to streaming in 4K, the 8700K can process it all. And that's because it's the first of its kind — Intel has never before made a consumer-grade processor with more than four cores. The 8700K has six, meaning it can deliver up to 50 percent more power than its predecessors. Intel’s Hyperthreading technology facilitates 12-thread multitasking support that translates into a huge bump in frame rates across all kinds of applications (video editing, general multitasking and more). Running at a base clock speed of 3.7GHz, the 8700K can "Turbo Boost" to 4.7GHz for an increase in overall performance.

Best Budget: Intel Pentium G4560

The Intel Pentium G4560 is a smart choice for PC buyers looking for good performance on a budget. With a base clock speed of 3.5GHz, the Pentium G4560 is about five percent slower than Intel’s Core i3 lineup. But it still delivers solid performance for all your necessary computer tasks, and the significantly cheaper price tag makes it a great budget option. By adding two-cores and Hyperthreading, Intel has created a CPU that can handle multitasking with ease. And if you're looking to create a gaming laptop, you can pair the G4560 with an equally budget-friendly graphics card and dive into the online gaming world without breaking the bank. 

Best Entry-Level: AMD Ryzen 3 1300X

The AMD Ryzen 3 has set a new standard for entry-level processors with its four-core design. With a base clock speed of 3.5GHz, the Ryzen 3 can jump into high gear with AMD’s XFR technology, hitting a maximum clock speed of 3.7GHz. This CPU is perfect for lighter workloads and handles power consumption well. The heat level stays comfortably low, peaking at 90W before overclocking (a good number for CPU longevity). Complete with four cores, the Ryzen 3 outperforms the competitors around its price point and still performs well while encoding video and multitasking.

Best for Gaming: Intel Core i5-8400

Conventional wisdom says that the best PC gaming processor is the most expensive one. Fortunately, that’s not the case with the Intel Core i5-8400. Moderately priced for its power, the 8400 has six cores to tackle the most demanding PC games and maintains competitive functionality while multitasking. The 2.8Ghz base clock leaps to 4.0GHz on a single core during intense use, further complemented by multi-core boosts (based on the number of active cores). And if you're worried about the heat that comes with this kind of power, Intel is already a step ahead. The 8400 has a cooling system that ensures it does not exceed 65W TDP. The result is a more stable CPU environment in gaming sessions and increased longevity overall.

Best for Video Editing: Intel Core I7-7820X

With its eight cores able to deliver impressive frame rates, the Intel Core i7-7820X is a superior choice for video editors. With a base clock speed of 3.6GHz, Intel’s incorporation of Turbo Boost 2.0 brings the maximum clock speed up to 4.3GHz. And the Turbo Boost 3.0 can jump that up even higher to 4.5GHz when you're deep in 4K video edits. For editing feature-length movies or rendering smartphone video, the 7820X handles transcoding and streaming with ease.

The eight-core, 16-thread output is great for serious multitaskers who want a system that can handle video editing as well as the day-to-day tasks of browsing, creating spreadsheets or writing papers. PC builders looking to push the envelope will find the 7820X open to overclocking, though the faster the clock speed the more thermal wear (which can ultimately affect the processor's lifespan). 

Best Mid-Range: AMD Ryzen 5 1600X

Looking to disrupt Intel’s long-standing mid-range dominance, the AMD Ryzen 5 1600X is a competitively-priced six-core, 12-thread CPU with impressive power. For heavy multitaskers who demand multi-thread CPU performance to keep up with a variety of open windows and applications, the Ryzen outpaces Intel’s lineup with twice as many active threads to ensure stability and prevent applications from freezing or shutting down. The base 3.6GHz clock frequency can jump to 4.0GHz and adds overclocking — AMD's XFR technology introduces another 100MHz of CPU potential for demanding applications. The 1600X is great for gamers, too, and able to outperform equivalent Intel options.

Best for VR: AMD Ryzen 7 1800X

The AMD Ryzen 7 1800X processor has eight cores and 16 total threads, making it a multitasking powerhouse that’s perfect for VR. As the most dominant AMD CPU without Threadripper technology, the 1800X boasts a 3.6GHz clock speed with boosts up to 4.0GHz (XFR provides an extra 100MHz). The 1800X also has an integrated neural network that helps it learn and customize itself to meet the needs of individual applications. But perhaps the highlight is the eight-core architecture, which helps it excel at high-end gaming, streaming and editing 4K video and, of course, providing much-needed performance for virtual reality. It's able to encode video at faster speeds than competitive Intel models while simultaneously supporting VR gaming. 

Best Splurge: AMD Threadripper 1950X

For the ultimate in multitasking, AMD’s Threadripper 1950X is the current king of PC processors. This CPU includes a massive count of 16 cores and 32 threads and, at the size of a small smartphone, is a pricey but reliable solution for hardcore gamers, ardent overclockers and anyone else whose multitasking requires the most robust consumer CPU on the market. The base clock speed of 4.0GHz can be boosted up to 4.2GHz with XFR technology, making this processor well-suited to heavily threaded applications like video and photo editing and 4K video. 

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