Processors

The Best Intel Processors for 2021

7 Mins read

Featured image credit: Intel Corporation

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For a long time Intel dominated the consumer CPU market with its products. However, in the past few years AMD has managed to catch up with its fearsome rival, and even take the lead in the CPU race. This is primarily thanks to the 7 nm manufacturing process which AMD managed to introduce way before Intel. Compared to AMD, Intel is still using its 14 nm processing node to produce CPUs, even though this technology is now more than six years old. However, choosing an Intel CPU still has its benefits, especially if you are a gamer or a workstation professional.

Read more: The Best AMD Ryzen CPUs for Gaming in 2021

When it comes to gaming, Intel still makes the best CPUs. And here is why. Unlike AMD, which has gone down the “more cores and threads” approach, Intel’s CPUs feature much faster core clocks, and better IPC (instructions per clock) performance. This is why Intel’s Core CPUs score much better single-threaded results compared to AMD’s Ryzen CPUs, and as such perform much better in gaming. When it comes to content creation, Ryzen CPUs are clear winners here, as they can easily take an advantage of applications that require a lot of cores to process data.

Intel’s CPUs are also much better for emulation or virtualization. These tasks heavily rely upon CPU’s single-threaded performance, and high-end Intel’s CPUs, such as the Core i9-10900K, can easily handle these jobs. However, having great single-core performance comes with certain costs, and that is power consumption. Intel’s Core CPUs consume much more power compared to AMD’s Ryzen CPUs, and they also produce a bit more heat waste. This is why buying an efficient aftermarket cooler is very important thing to do if you decide to purchase an Intel CPU.

In this roundup we will show you the best Intel processors you can buy today. Some of the processors we’ve listed here are better suited for gaming, while some of them are better optimized for use in workstation or office PCs. Take a look, and decide which one best suits your needs.


Best Overall:

Intel Core i5-10600K

Ultimate Performance:

Intel Core i9-10900K

Best for High-End Gaming:

Intel Core i7-10700K

Best Mid-Range Intel CPU:

Intel Core i5-10400F

Best Budget Intel CPU:

Intel Core i3-10100


Best Overall: Intel Core i5-10600K

Cores/Threads: 6C/12T | Base Clock: 4.1 GHz | Boost Clock: 4.8 GHz | TDP: 125W | PassMark Score: 14.661


  • Fantastic gaming performance
  • Great single-threaded results
  • Outstanding overclocking potential
  • Good thermal design
  • Doesn’t ship with a stock cooler

The Intel Core i5-10600K is simply an amazing processor. Compared to its predecessor, the Core i5-9600K, this CPU features hyper-threading support, and it comes with a significantly faster boost clock of 4.8 GHz. Despite the fact that it features a relatively high TDP of 125 W, the i5-10600K runs quite cool. Unfortunately, the CPU doesn’t ship with a stock cooler, so be sure to grab one before purchasing it.

In benchmarks, the Core i5-10600K easily beats the AMD Ryzen 5 3600, and Ryzen 7 3700X, which we consider to be an awesome performance for a mid-range CPU. In some games, such as Red Dead Redemption 2, it even beats its much more expensive cousin, the Core i7-10700K, if overclocked to 5.0 GHz. Overall, the Core i5-10600K is hands down the best Intel’s 10th Generation CPU, as it’s able to offer great performance for a reasonable price. If paired with a good Z490 motherboard, this CPU can even match the performance of stock Core i9-10900K through overclocking.

Ultimate Performance: Intel Core i9-10900K

Cores/Threads: 10C/20T | Base Clock: 3.7 GHz | Boost Clock: 5.3 GHz | TDP: 125W | PassMark Score: 24.101


  • The fastest gaming CPU around
  • Features 10 cores and 20 threads
  • Supports overclocking
  • Quite expensive
  • Very high power consumption

The Intel Core i9-10900K is a monstrously powerful desktop processor. Featuring full 10 CPU cores at its heart, this is the first time Intel brought such a powerful processor to a consumer market. Add into that equation support for HyperThreading technology, and you get 20 threads of processing power that can complete any task you throw at it in no time.

Due to its relatively high price tag, and low TDP efficiency, the Core i9-10900K isn’t able to take the spot as the outright best CPU for gaming. Nevertheless, if money isn’t the problem for you, then this deca-core CPU will surely bring you incredible gaming experience if you pair it with a high-end graphics card, such as the GeForce RTX 3080. The Intel Core i9-10900K is also a perfect CPU for streaming, video editing, and 3D modelling, so if you are into that business, this CPU will pay itself off quite quickly thanks to its amazing processing power.

Best for High-End Gaming: Intel Core i7-10700K

Cores/Threads: 8C/16T | Base Clock: 3.8 GHz | Boost Clock: 5.1 GHz | TDP: 125W | PassMark Score: 19.616


  • Excellent gaming performance
  • Great overclocking headroom
  • High boost clock
  • Reasonably priced
  • Requires aftermarket cooler
  • Doesn’t support PCIe 3.0 interface

If Intel Core i9-10900K is too expensive for you, but still want something more powerful than the Core i5-10600K, then Core i7-10700K is a perfect gaming CPU for you. Featuring 8 cores and 16 threads that can run at boost clock of 5.1 GHz, the new Core i7 also comes with an updated microarchitecture, and noticeably reduced heat dissipation compared to its predecessor – the Intel Core i9-9900K.

The Intel Core i7-10700K can be found for less than $350, which is a great price for performance this CPU has to offer. This CPU can also boast with excellent overclocking headroom, which means you can squeeze out a lot more performance from it, provided that you cool it down with a high-end liquid CPU cooler. When it comes to multi-threaded performance, the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X is a much better choice, but if single-core and gaming performance is all that interests you, then this is the right CPU for you.

Best Mid-Range Intel CPU: Intel Core i5-10400F

Cores/Threads: 6C/12T | Base Clock: 2.9 GHz | Boost Clock: 4.3 GHz | TDP: 65W | PassMark Score: 12.611


  • Competitively priced
  • Easily beats AMD Ryzen 5 3600
  • Very good TDP
  • Heatsink included
  • Doesn’t support overclocking
  • Features no integrated graphics

The Intel Core i5-10400F is a fantastic sub-$200 desktop PC processor. Featuring 6 cores, 12 threads, and 12 MB of shared L3 cache, it is quite similar to the high-end Core i7-8700, except that it comes with lower clock speeds and it costs 50% less. Speaking of its performance, the Core i5-10400F is about 3% faster than the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X, and is only 5% slower than the Intel’s current-generation flagship CPU – the Core i9-10900K.

The Core i5-10400F can also boast with very low power consumption of only 65 watts, as well as with very good thermal design which won’t be forcing you to purchase an efficient aftermarket cooler. The bundled heatsink does the job of keeping this CPU cool just fine. One major big caveat of this CPU is that it doesn’t support overclocking, nor it features any integrated graphics, so purchasing a dedicated GPU is mandatory. Overall, the Core i5-10400F is a very fine gaming CPU, and if you don’t mind the lack of overclocking support, then this CPU is a true bargain purchase.

Best Budget Intel CPU: Intel Core i3-10100

Cores/Threads: 4C/8T | Base Clock: 3.6 GHz | Boost Clock: 4.3 GHz | TDP: 65W | PassMark Score: 8.916


  • Reasonably priced
  • Supports HyperThreading
  • Integrated graphics
  • Comes with a cooler
  • Doesn’t support overclocking
  • Requires Z490 board to run at full speed
  • Not much cheaper than the Core i5-10400F

The Intel Core i3-10100 is a very good desktop processor for users on a tight budget. For a price of around $130, the Core i3-10100 is able to offer 4 cores, 8 threads, and a boost clock of 4.3 GHz. It is also worth mentioning that this CPU features an integrated graphics solution, so if you are planning to build a home office or home theater PC with it, then this CPU will do the job just fine.

Speaking of its performance, the Core i3-10100 is around 18% faster than the previous-generation Intel Core i3-9100F, and only around 8% slower than the AMD Ryzen 3 3300X. Overall, the Core i3-10100 offers very decent performance in office and Internet-based applications, and it’s even quite suitable for gaming. The only big problem with this CPU is that it requires an expensive Z490 motherboard in order to run at full speed. The i3-10100, however, will run perfectly fine on a cheaper B460 motherboard, but you won’t be able to run memory as fast as possible due to chipset limitations.

Conclusion

And that’s it! These were the best Intel CPUs you can buy right now. We hope our buying guide helped you in search of the information you were looking for. If you still feel confused, and need advice about buying, feel free to post comment below. We will try to help you.

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About author
Before he joined ViCadia, Nicholas worked as a journalist for several tech magazines. Over the years he gained a lot of knowledge about computers. His main area of interest are processors, motherboards, and operating systems.
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