Best Processors 2020: Top CPUs For Gaming & Productivity

Processor is the core component of your desktop, laptop, tablet computers or even mobile phones. Since bigger computing machines are running on x86-64 architecture including gaming desktops, servers and gaming laptops, they have exceptional high speed performance compared to smaller devices like smartphones and tablets which are powered by ARM chip architecture to save loads of power output from batteries.

Another name for the processor is CPU (Central Processing Unit) that acts like a left brain to calculate, compare, encrypt, decrypt, measure and so on. Whereas GPU is  matching to the right brain similarities by rendering visual images, motions, colors and even audio enhancements. In fact, both components are very interdependent on each other. CPUs are also chunked into small independent cores which can complete the same task in a shorter time due to divided micro calculations between them. Speed of processors is heavily dependent on higher frequency numbers translated into GHz. Cache memory is also included inside CPU package since they need quick memory to store the information in split seconds.

This particular topic is focused on the best CPU picks for nowadays games and productivity workloads. You can choose the best CPU that suitable for your future PC system by popularity order. The lower you go the higher performance expected.

Best All Rounder Processor Under $200: AMD Ryzen 5 3600

Brand Model: AMD Ryzen 5 3600 | Cores:| Threads: 12 | L3 Cache: 32MB | Base Clock: 3.6 GHz | Turbo Clock: 4.2 GHz | Integrated Graphics: No | Code Name: Matisse | Stock Cooler: Wraith Stealth | TDP: 65W

World’s most famous 7nm Zen 2 processor for gamers and content creators that doesn’t need any introduction. Because specifications of this chip speak by themselves while the whopping big performance difference compared to expensive Intel’s Core i5-9600K that comes without stock cooler. In productivity tasks, Ryzen 5 3600 simply just superior by obliterating i5-9600K in terms of V-Ray rendering, Vegas Pro video encoding, Davinci Resolve content creation and Encrypt/Decrypt tasks. However, Ryzen 5 3600 is slower than i5-9600K by 5-10% in gaming benchmarks which is negligible difference according to mainstream gamers who focus to save on higher performance GPU pairing with Ryzen 5 3600 rather than i5-9600K without stock cooler. Matisse code named Ryzen 5 3600 stands out different to Intel’s Core i5 models by boasting with monstrous 32 MB cache to operate smoothly with zero hiccups while doing productivity tasks.

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Best Relevant Mainstream Intel Processor Under $150: Intel Core i5-9400F

Brand Model: Intel Core i5-9400F | Cores: | Threads:| L3 Cache: 9MB | Base Clock: 2.9 GHz | Turbo Clock: 4.1 GHz | Integrated Graphics: No | Code Name: Coffee Lake | Stock Cooler: Basic Intel Stock Cooler | TDP: 65W

The only mainstream gaming CPU from Intel that makes big sense is i5-9400F without Integrated Graphics. This chip stands on a sweet spot for budget mainstream gamers who prefer to pair it with GTX 1660 Ti or RTX 2060 Super to avoid CPU bottleneck, thanks to 6 Core configuration. 9 MB large level 3 cache enhances the stability of CPU. Most notable feature of 9th Gen i5-9400F is the liquid-metal soldered silicon chip onto Internal Heat Spreader (IHS) which makes a cooler thermal performance difference compared to hot running last gen Core processors. In the near future, you are not required to delid your i5-9400F because liqiud-metal lasts longer than thermal compound inside the CPU package. Incredible 65W rated TDP will give you the most efficient power consumption even though you play heavy triple A titles. 

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Best Budget Processor with iGPU Under $100: AMD Ryzen 3 3200G

Brand Model: AMD Ryzen 3 3200G | Cores: 4 | Threads: 4 | L3 Cache: 4MB | Base Clock: 3.6 GHz | Turbo Clock: 4.0 GHz | Integrated Graphics: Vega 8 3GB | Code Name: Picasso | Stock Cooler: Wraith Stealth | TDP: 65W

Here is the AMD quad core APU called Ryzen 3 3200G that comes with Vega 8 integrated graphics solutions. Attractive feature of Picasso APUs are the fast integrated GPUs that even matches the entry level Nvidia’s GT1030 GDDR5 version. Tight budget gamers who play less graphics demanding esports titles always choose Ryzen 3 3200G with basic stock Wraith Stealth CPU cooler. In terms of processor performance, Intel Core i3-9100F edges out Ryzen 3 3200G by 5-10% in average frame rate. Somehow, Ryzen 3 3200G is more popular than i3-9100F due to decent Vega 8 graphics allowing you to smoothly play COD Mobile, PUBG Mobile, PUBG Lite, Starcraft 2, DOTA 2 and League of Legends without bulky expensive discrete graphics card. Surely, this APU would cost you less than i3-9100F price for just below $90. Note: 3 GB Video Memory (VRAM) Buffer can be unlocked only in Asus A320, B450, X470 and X570 motherboards. 

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Best Budget Intel Processor Under $100: Intel Core i3-9100F

Brand Model: Intel Core i3-9100F | Cores: 4 | Threads: 4 | L3 Cache: 6MB | Base Clock: 3.6 GHz | Turbo Clock: 4.2 GHz | Integrated Graphics: No | Code Name: Coffee Lake | Stock Cooler: Basic Intel Stock Cooler | TDP: 65W

9th Gen i3-9100F is the most exciting processor from Intel. Amazing price to performance rating from this quad core chip is actually unmatched to any budget CPUs from Intel and AMD. Superior single core charged by fast turbo 4.2 GHz frequency which is the clear advantage over current AMD’s Ryzen 3 3200G where CSGO alike quick paced shooting game takes benefit on most occasions. But, single caveat of i3-9100F is the absence of integrated graphics, according to Intel you must have discrete GPU to enjoy best visuals. Costing below $100 mark this chip is in unique position to power up your sweet spot GTX 1660 or RX 580 GPU in order achieve balanced frame rate.

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Best Processor with Fastest iGPU Under $150: AMD Ryzen 5 3400G

Brand Model: AMD Ryzen 5 3400G | Cores: 4 | Threads: | L3 Cache: 4MB | Base Clock: 3.7 GHz | Turbo Clock: 4.2 GHz | Integrated Graphics: Vega 11 3GB | Code Name: Picasso | Stock Cooler: Wraith Spire | TDP: 65W

Meet the King of APUs a.k.a The Fastest Processor with Integrated Graphics. Hard to believe that GTX 750 Ti and GT1030 GDDR5 are 5-7% slower than Ryzen 5 3400G’s Vega 11  with 3 GB VRAM. AMD owns revolutionary chip architecture licenses but the most distinguishable success is coming from APU division where Playstation 4 (Pro) and XBOX One (X) consoles are powered by amazing fast custom APUs, besides that, upcoming PS5 and XBOX Scarlet will also contain the cutting edge AMD APUs combined by 7nm Ryzen processor with Radeon graphics. For consumer market AMD also produces remarkable high performance APUs for laptops and desktops. Relatively, if you get Ryzen 5 3400G Picasso APU you would get combined performance of Intel Core i7-3770 with GTX 750 Ti for just below $150. That’s exactly everyone is talking about because even second hand i7-3770 and GTX 750 Ti are ridiculously expensive with similar Ryzen 5 3400G performance specifications.

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Best Midrange Processor Under $250: AMD Ryzen 5 3600X

Brand Model: AMD Ryzen 5 3600X | Cores:| Threads: 12 | L3 Cache: 32MB | Base Clock: 3.8 GHz | Turbo Clock: 4.4 GHz | Integrated Graphics: No | Code Name: Matisse | Stock Cooler: Wraith Spire | TDP: 95W

Ryzen 5 3600X is the bigger brother of Ryzen 5 3600. It boasts with only two distinct features over it’s sibling by possessing extra 200 MHz base/turbo clock speed and a decent Wraith Spire stock cooler that may hold it’s 95W TDP required cooling. Around 3-5% higher performance department has no much difference to Ryzen 5 3600 performance but 95W power headroom might pave the way to effective overclocking since Ryzen 5 3600X is better binned chip. If you prefer to get edging performance over mainstream Ryzen 5 3600 then it’s bigger “X” brother is suitable to pair with RTX 2070 Super or RX 5700 XT GPUs.

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Best Performance Processor Under $350: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X

Brand Model: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X | Cores:| Threads: 16 | L3 Cache: 32MB | Base Clock: 3.6 GHz | Turbo Clock: 4.4 GHz | Integrated Graphics: No | Code Name: Matisse | Stock Cooler: Wraith Prism | TDP: 65W

Adorable Wraith Prism Premium RGB cooler is unbelievably included with Ryzen 7 3700X. Amazing 8 Core 16 Thread multitasking power will provide Super User alike experience for as low as $350. Any productivity software might be shredded into pieces when Ryzen 7 3700X in charge of your system. Mostly, full time streamers and video editors might want to get this mouthwatering chip for lower price than i7-9700K’s cost. Speedy 4.4 GHz turbo clock provides bursting high frame rate performance in most modern gaming titles. Additionally, cutting edge 7nm dominating power efficiency and multicore parallel computing will push your productivity to the next level. Behemoth RTX 2080 Super and Radeon VII are only best match for Ryzen 7 3700X to realize your dream productivity hardware specs.

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Best Single Core Oriented Processor Under $500: Intel Core i9-9900K

Brand Model: Intel Core i9-9900K | Cores:| Threads: 16 | L3 Cache: 16MB | Base Clock: 3.6 GHz | Turbo Clock: 5.0 GHz | Integrated Graphics: Intel UHD 630 | Code Name: Coffee Lake | Stock Cooler: No | TDP: 95W (But it eats lots of power)

All Hail to the Single Core performance oriented King the i9-9900K. Nowadays game engines are long-adapted to the single core speed CPUs. For instance, Fortnite and PUBG fast paced battle royale shooter games require single core high performance processors like i7-9700K and i9-9900K rather than Ryzen 7 3700X and Ryzen 9 3900X. All contemporary game engines favor Intel Core series chips since game developers were creating their games to optimize on Intel hardware codes for a long time since AMD failed to produce decent gaming CPUs from 2011 till 2016. Slowly, this trend is fading away since true multicore Ryzen processors showed up in 2017, as a result game developers are gradually creating games for processors more than 6 core configuration. Still, the highest frame rate gaming processor King is i9-9900K without stock cooler. However, this processor is discouraged to get for serious productivity people because AMD’s upcoming more than 12 Core processor is simply bang for your buck.

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Best High End Processor Under $600: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X

Brand Model: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X | Cores: 12 | Threads: 24 | L3 Cache: 64MB | Base Clock: 3.8 GHz | Turbo Clock: 4.6 GHz | Integrated Graphics: No | Code Name: Matisse | Stock Cooler: Wraith Prism | TDP: 105W

Only true 12 Core 24 Thread consumer processor is the productivity King Ryzen 9 3900X. With a whopping 64 MB cache and stunning RGB Wraith Prism cooler this CPU is the champion in it’s own league. Costing for only under $600, Ryzen 9 3900X is literally the best processor for AutoCAD, Lumion Pro 9, Revit 2020, Adobe Premiere Pro CC and After Effects CC rendering choice. Staggering TDP rating of 105W gives much efficient performance per watt that makes you happy after opening your electric power bills. Currently, there is no CPU competitor for Ryzen 9 3900X in terms of pricing and performance terms. No wonder there was a brief shortage of this processor from AMD since the July 7 launch till October 2019. Surely, 2020 is the year of multicore processing pushed by AMD without putting any hefty price tag. Only RTX Titan can tame this 12 Core beast to produce some scientific achievements in the area of machine learning and advanced simulation.

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Best High End Processor Under $750: AMD Ryzen 9 3950X

Brand Model: AMD Ryzen 9 3950X | Cores: 16 | Threads: 32 | L3 Cache: 64MB | Base Clock: 3.5 GHz | Turbo Clock: 4.7 GHz | Integrated Graphics: No | Code Name: Matisse | Stock Cooler: No | TDP: 105W

Recently released and world’s first consumer grade processor with physical 16 Core 32 Thread is no joke to everyone. Ryzen 9 3950X highhandedly beats whole Intel HEDT lineup using 7nm process wonder technology. Fresh 3D Mark software benchmark results illustrated that Ryzen 9 3950X crushes upcoming Intel’s expensive top of the line HEDT i9-10980XE CPU by up to 24%. Finally, many people are beginning to understand that Cores Matter for productivity and multitasking. AMD has sharpened it’s brand new Zen 2 processors with 7nm technology from TSMC. Chiplet design is the key factor of scaling the CPU to have up to 16 Cores in smaller sized CPU package effectively. Ryzen 9 3950X will cost below $750 in most online retailers unless 7nm chip shortage comes back that will push prices up again due to higher demand for multicore processors. As soon as it appears in shelves you must grab it.

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Sweet Spot Octa Core Processor: Ryzen 7 3800X

Brand Model: AMD Ryzen 7 3800X | Cores:| Threads: 16 | L3 Cache: 32MB | Base Clock: 3.9 GHz | Turbo Clock: 4.5 GHz | Integrated Graphics: No | Code Name: Matisse | Stock Cooler: No | TDP: 105W

Ryzen 7 3800X is a Big brother of 3700X processor. In reality there is no huge difference between them unless you may notice 3-5% better performance from 3800X due to binned silicon that produces stable turbo boost clock speed. Similarly, it comes with astonishing beauty attached within the box that is Wraith Prism RGB stock cooler. In contrast, 105W rated thermal power design of Ryzen 7 3800X makes it to be outstanding overclocking CPU compared to it’s little brother 3700X. All in all, getting Ryzen 7 3800X could be a sweet experience to stand out little bit ahead of Ryzen 7 3700X users. Unlock your PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD’s hidden potential after building X570 system with Ryzen 7 3800X.

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Best characteristics of x86-64 processors are the capacities of versatile usage for gaming, heavy computing, cryptography, rendering and scalability of up to 64 Cores and 128 threads to power super computers. Amazing gaming experience is strongly dependent on processor since 3D game engine require loads of processing utilization to control the character and objects. Back in 2017, gamers only needed up to 4 cores and 8 threads to run triple A game titles like GTA V.

However, these days at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, you might need more than 6 Cores to run heavy gaming titles similar to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Battlefield V, Gears 5, Control, Wolfenstein Youngblood, Rage 2, Metro Exodus and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Since legendary Steve from Hardware Unboxed has thoroughly benchmarked Ryzen 5 1600 (6 Core/12 Thread) vs Intel Core i5-76ooK (4 Core/4Thread) in 2019 and indeed, results are shocking. Because Steve found out that latest triple A game titles tend to utilize more than 4 Cores already as a result multicore Ryzen 5 1600 takes the lead from quad core i5-7600K after 2 years.

Besides joyful gaming experience, people like scientists, architects, 3D designers, content creators and engineers know how to use incredible rendering power of CPUs till the last drop of their juice. These people are the frontier super users who appreciate the processing technology more than anyone else. Sometimes, you heard about 14nm, 12nm, 10nm or 7nm technology characteristics that are hard to understand. Simple way to put is the smaller the nano meter (nm) size the faster performance and lower power consumption. For instance, 7nm Ryzen 7 3700X is 15% faster in gaming benchmarks and 25% more efficient than 12nm Ryzen 7 2700X chip.

In 2020, all gamers are entering into new era of gaming experience where multicore processors are necessary to run their games as butter smooth. AMD and Intel are making the biggest effort to produce more than 8 Core processors, now gamers even have a good news from freshly released AMD Ryzen 9 3950X the first 16 Core gaming processor in the world and rumored 10 Core Comet Lake CPU from Intel. It’s the only matter of time until games begin to use multicore CPU’s strength soon.


Uson Abdilazhanov

Editor and Computer Expert A hardcore tech enthusiast and computer expert Uson Abdilazhanov who holds a degree in communications started writing in his personal blogs since 2012. That time he was interested in the technical part of the computer. But now the software aspect plays an important role in his career. Currently, he runs a PC building and repairing shop which helps a lot of designers and gamers who always like to try new things.

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