Intel CPUs have been mentioned often as the best for powering gaming platforms and platforms that are geared towards one-way tasking. As the leader of the CPU market, Intel has a myriad of types of processors – making it a little trickier to figure out which one is the best for your gaming computer. In this roundup the VG crew selects and analyzes the best intel CPUs available today.
- Best Budget Buy: Intel Core i5-8400
- Best for Speed: Intel Core i7-8700K
- Best for Multi-tasking: Intel Core i9-7900X
- Best for Tasks OTHER than gaming: Intel Core i9-7980XE
- Purchase Options
At around $250 on Amazon, the Intel Core i5-8400 is a budget buyers dream. The affordability of this unit would give a lot buyers pause when it comes to the performance but the performance is at a highly competitive level. In terms of benchmarks it has improved its clockspeeds from the previous 4th generation model. It has a base clock of 3.8GHz with a Turbo Clock: 4.0GHz. This unit also offers a compatible cooler in the box to protect against any overheating that might occur.
The Intel Core i5-8400 is also proven to be faster than all Ryzen processors in the gaming sector. You will need to be aware of the motherboard you pair with the Intel Core i5-8400 and ensure that it is compatible. Other than that this unit is an amazing steal that is both fast and affordable and should be heavily considered given that overclocking won’t be a detriment to it.
With the Core i7-8700k, you will get the highest clock speeds in the stock sector that Intel has ever had the capacity to offer. This unit will come equipped with 6 cores that will provide one of the highest boosts of speed that you will be able to currently find on the market created by Intel. The Core i7-8700k really is in a league of its own. Currently there are little to no games that use more than 4 cores but that could be slowly changing.
Until you use the additional 2 cores with this unit for gaming, you can use the functionality for streaming and other tasks. The main drawbacks for the Core i7-8700k is the fact that it does not come with its own cooler so you’ll have to purchase one separately. Also, Intel has a Thermal Interface Material that limits overclocking abilities. Other than this two things, with base clocking and turbo clocking at 3.7GHz and 4.7Ghz respectively, this unit would be a fantastic buy for those looking for speed in their CPU.
The Intel Core i9-7900X is the CPU of choice when it comes to using a computer for more than just gaming. This unit comes in closely behind to the 8700K when they are both overclocked as far as gaming, not to mention it is more than 50 percent faster in CPU limited workloads in several different situations. This assists the user, which is many cases is a professional, in tasks such as video editing.
One major downside to this unit is the cost. It will run you about $1,300 dollars on Amazon which is almost 3x the cost of the comparable 8700k model. Also, it can tend to overheat which leaves the cooling methods of the machine much to be desired. The Intel Core i9-7900x has a base clock of 3.3GHz and a turbo clock of 4.5GHz respectively.
If you are more governed by activities that some might call more “productive” than by gaming functionalities for your CPU then you might want to shift your attention this way to the Intel Core i9-7980XE. The price tag for this unit comes in at around $2,000 dollars which definitely alludes to the important tasking capabilities that it has. The Intel Core i9-7980XE has the power and ability to get the most complicated jobs done and quickly. With its 18 cores and 36 threads this unit is undoubtedly the fastest consumer processor and is aided by a base clock of 2.6GHz.
Obviously, a ding against the Intel Core i9-7980XE is its price tag and not to mention its slower speeds in games despite boasting 80% more cores and its need for extreme cooling. If you’re looking for freedom and performance in your content creation process and a high price is of no deterrence to you, definitely give this unit a try.
Intel vs AMD CPUs
In this roundup we dealt with Intel CPUs which we mention are the leader in the processors. Their main competitor is AMD which with their Ryzen series has become a strong #2 in the processor market. Some would argue Intel and AMD are on even ground now. For gaming however, we still think Intel has the edge. Intel processors offer a greater number of instructions per cycle (see below) which measures the number of instructions a chip can carry out over a given time frame. This number is really important for things like gaming. The Ryzen processors offer more cores (also see below) which is better for people doing intense video editing.
How to Buy a CPU
The CPU is what makes your computer a computer. The processor will set the tone for the type of gaming experience you’re going to get. You don’t have the luxury of paying for an expensive CPU while getting a budget RAM or graphics cards. Essentially your entire budget should revolve around the type of CPU you buy, making it likely the toughest and more important decision when building a PC. If you buy an expensive CPU your other accessories will follow and vice versa. Here are the following things, listed by importance, to look out for when making your decision.
For gaming, clock speed is the most important number to pay attention to when buying an Intel CPU or any processor for that matter. Measured in GHZ, the higher the number the faster the processor. The faster the processor the smoother your computer is going to run games. For a smooth gaming experience, we recommend shelling out for a processor in the 3 to 4 GHZ range.
Each processor has a certain amount of “cores” where each core handles a different task. The more cores, the more tasks, and the more things you can do at once on your computer (editing, streaming & gaming vs just gaming). If you are building a PC mostly or just for gaming, you are good going with just 4 cores. If you are video editing, streaming – multi-tasking on your PC – we would recommend between 6 and 8. Unless you are doing some intense data analysis with massive data sets and running complex algorithms, anything more than 8 is overkill.
Instructions per Cycle and Threads
These two metrics are related to the number of tasks the chip can do at once. While this just sounds like what cores do, modern processors can actually carry out multiple tasks per core. Something Intel calls Hyper-Threading. Games are generally lightly threaded so having a chip that hyper threads is not entirely necessary. Having a higher thread count is good if you are running intense programs like video editing.