The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the brain of any computer and therefore, it is important to equip the PC with one that can scale up to the requirement. These days, CPU tech has advanced so much that it is now possible to cram in multiple cores while still miniaturizing the fabrication process. When it comes to CPUs, the major players in the desktop CPU space are Intel and AMD who fight out each other every year to produce the best and most cost-effective CPUs. While you really cannot go wrong with any of the CPUs in this list, AMD's Ryzen offerings have taken back a significant chunk of market share from Intel.
While shopping for CPUs, it is important that you first assess the purpose of your build. Tasks like gaming or video editing (depending on the program) are more favorable to high single-core performance and higher clocks while multi-threaded apps favor a number of cores. It is also important to see if the CPU comes with a good cooling solution included. More often than not, you might have to factor in a more powerful air cooling or even liquid cooling in order to keep the thermals under check. The greater the temperatures, the greater is the tendency of the CPU to throttle resulting in performance degradation.
With that information, we present to you the CPUs which are currently some of the best selling parts in the market at various price points. So, here are the 10 best CPUs to buy in 2019.
1. Intel Core i9-9900K
The Intel Core i9-9900K is the latest flagship CPU of the 9th generation. It is based on the 14nm++ FinFET fabrication process and is a response to AMD's surging dominance in the mainstream desktop CPU market. The Core i9-9900K features 8 cores and 16 threads and can turbo boost up to 5 GHz under a 95W TDP envelope. This CPU is multiplier-unlocked so you can overclock it depending on the extent of cooling you can provide. We recommend going for a liquid cooling solution to get the maximum performance.
While Intel always enjoyed a good single-core performance, the Core i9-9900K brings good multi-core performance as well that can actually compete with AMD's offerings. So users who multitask like gaming, streaming, editing, etc. can do all at once without breaking a sweat. The Core i9-9900K is the best CPU you can get for gaming today and with adequate cooling, there are no major throttling issues to be worried about.
- Pros: Excellent single and multi-core performance; Great for gaming and video editing
- Cons: Expensive; Not very energy efficient
2. Intel Core i7-9700K
The Intel Core i7-9700K is in many ways a departure from Intel's conventional naming scheme. No longer does the x700 series offer hyperthreading so you are limited to 8 cores and 8 threads unlike the 9900K that offers 8 cores and 16 threads. However, that should not be a major deterrent as the Core i7-9700K is being targeted as a gaming CPU and most games are hardly optimized for multi-threaded operations. Still, the 9700K offers excellent performance at a price that is much more reasonable than the 9900K.
When it comes to single-core performance, the Core i7-9700K is not very far off from the 9900K, but the difference is immediately noticeable in multi-core performance due to lack of hyperthreading. However, most users will not notice this in day-to-day use. For the most part, the 9700K goes head-to-head against the AMD Ryzen 7 2700X and easily trumps the latter when it comes to gaming at 1080p. Differences in games above 1440p are minimal and are more GPU dependant. The maximum single-core turbo boost is up to 4.9 GHz. Since this is an unlocked CPU, you can push it even further and given appropriate cooling, there is not much throttling that is observed. This makes the 9700K an excellent choice for all kinds of workflows.
- Pros: Great for gaming; No throttling at load
- Cons: No hyperthreading
3. AMD Ryzen 7 2700X
The AMD Ryzen 7 2700X has so far been one the best CPUs in the market and has managed to give its Intel counterparts a run for their money. AMD is known for strong multi-core performance and it is evident with the Ryzen 7 2700X. You get 8 cores and 16 threads with a 3.7 GHz base and 4.3 GHz boost clock. The best part about the 2700X is that it is unlocked and when paired with high-end chipsets such as the B450 and the X470, it can automatically set its boost clock without the need for manual overclocking. AMD calls this Precision Boost and it works based on the TDP and the available thermal headroom. AMD also provides a cool Wraith Prism RGB cooler within the box. The Wraith Prism should be sufficient even for heavy workloads, but you can always opt for a liquid cooling solution if needed.
The AMD Ryzen 7 2700X is hard to beat when it comes to raw performance amongst mainstream desktop CPUs. It boasts improvements in single-core performance but multi-core is where it shines. One can expect at least a 20% performance boost from the previous generation Ryzens and at least a 30% lead in multi-core performance when compared with 8th generation Intel CPUs. Although Intel is still the preferred choice when it comes to gaming, the Ryzen 2700X is no slouch and with more and more games such as Battlefield V becoming increasingly multi-core dependent, this is one of the best processors you can get today.
- Pros: Excellent multi-core performance; Wraith Prism RGB cooler
- Cons: None as such
4. AMD Ryzen 5 2600X
If the Ryzen 7 2700X seems a bit out of the budget, consider the AMD Ryzen 5 2600X. The Ryzen 5 2600X offers 6 cores and 12 threads and supports the same high-end features as the 2700X including Precision Boost, XFR2, etc. Despite the lower clocks, the 2600X offers great single-core and multi-core performance with comparable improvements from the previous generation. It does trail behind the 2700X significantly but that should not be a concern given its price target and the fact that most users will not be noticing it in daily use. The 2600X makes for one of the best CPUs for home use and given the lower core count, can do gaming extremely well.
Like the 2700X, the Ryzen 5 2600X also comes with the Wraith Spire cooler included. However, this does not feature RGB lighting like Wraith Prism. Nevertheless, it does an excellent job in the keeping the thermals under check. There are no issues of throttling and the processor performs consistently even for long periods under load. The Ryzen 5 2600 can do 1080p and even 1440p gaming extremely well but 4K gaming will require some fine-tuning of visual details. All in all, this the best value for money CPU in the market currently and offers a good blend of performance and price.
- Pros: Excellent value for money; Great for all-around work
- Cons: None as such
5. Intel Core i7-8086K
The Intel Core i7-8086K is a limited edition CPU to commemorate 40 years of the x86 architecture that was first developed by Intel. The 8086K has 6 cores and 12 threads and has a base clock of 3.7 GHz. It was one of the first processors that was demonstrated to boost up to 5 GHz. The 8086K is based on the 14nm++ FinFET process and comes with an unlocked multiplier. Compared to the 7th generation CPUs, the 8086K offers improved performance in both single and multi-core tests. This processor is primarily targeted at gamers but content creators can also make good use of it.
The Intel Core i7-8086K offers integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630 that is capable of driving multi-display setups. It can play the latest games at low settings but don't expect good frame rates. The TDP is rated at 95W and will require using a good aftermarket cooling solution to keep temperatures and throttling under check. Single-core performance is comparable to the AMD Ryzen 7 1700 while multi-core performance is comparable to the Intel Core i7-9700K making this a very versatile CPU for gaming and content creation. Just be sure to snag it up before it goes out of stock as it is a limited edition chip.
- Pros: Good for gaming and content creation
- Cons: Single-core performance needs improvement
6. AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X
For those who require the absolute best when it comes to multi-threaded performance, the AMD Threadripper CPUs are the best in the business. The 2nd generation Threadrippers have much better clocks, double the core counts, and almost double the performance as the previous generation. The AMD Ryzen Threadrippper 2950X is a monster of a CPU featuring 16 cores and 32 threads. The Threadrippers are targeted at the high-end desktop computing (HEDT) market that requires extreme multi-tasking ability and high uptimes.
Needless to say, the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X makes a good meal of most mainstream CPUs when it comes to multi-threaded workflows. The single-core performance is good but most games will not take advantage of this. Luckily, AMD offers the ability to disable half the cores via the Ryzen Master software so that gamers can have increased performance. Compared to the Intel Core i9-7900X, the Threadripper 2950X offers nearly 40% higher performance for the much lesser price.
- Pros: Excellent multi-core performance
- Cons: Not really suited for gaming
7. AMD Ryzen 5 2600
The AMD Ryzen 5 2600 is currently the best value for money CPU in the market. It is similar to the 2600X in many ways except for the fact that it does not offer automatic overclocking and also has a lesser TDP value. The best part about 2600 is that it has a higher base clock than the Ryzen 7 2700, which means that games will immensely stand to benefit from this. The Ryzen 5 2600 is compatible with all AMD Ryzen motherboards including those based on the A320, B450, and X470 along with their respective predecessor variants.
Performance-wise, the AMD Ryzen 5 2600 has better single-core performance than an Intel Core i7-6920HQ or a Xeon E3-1535M. Multi-core performance is almost on par with the Ryzen 5 2600X and is just shy of the Intel Core i9-8950HK. For those looking at a good processor for home use that can also game well, the Ryzen 5 2600 should be on top of the list. It might not offer as much of overclocking headroom as the 2600X but should suffice for both gaming and content creation.
- Pros: Excellent value for money; Energy efficient
- Cons: None as such
8. AMD Ryzen 5 2400G
The Ryzen 5 2400G is an Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) that belongs to the Raven Ridge family. Unlike other Ryzen CPUs, the APUs come with integrated Radeon Vega graphics that offers decent hardware acceleration for games and applications. The Ryzen 5 2400G is a 4 core 8 thread part with a base clock of 3.6 GHz and a boost clock up to 3.9 GHz. The onboard Vega graphics has 11 compute units and is clocked at 1,250 MHz. Both the CPU and GPU are unlocked so they can be overclocked as long as there is sufficient thermal headroom.
In terms of performance, the 2400G is faster than an Intel Core i7-7700HQ and is on par with the Ryzen 5 1500X. The APU shows no perceivable thermal throttling. However, make sure you pair it with the fastest RAM possible as the Vega 11 GPU makes use of system RAM. Gaming on the Vega 11 is good enough for an integrated GPU and is in fact, on the same level as the NVIDIA GeForce MX150. Thus, you can game at low details but don't expect high frame rates at high settings. The Ryzen APUs are compatible with all existing and upcoming Ryzen motherboards.
- Pros: Good iGPU performance; Value for money
- Cons: Low L3 cache; Low core count
9. Intel Core i5-8400
The Intel Core i5-8400 is an excellent budget CPU for gaming and productivity. The 8400 belongs to the 8th generation Intel Coffee Lake family and is fabricated on a 14m++ process. It comes with 6 cores and 6 threads and thus, offers no hyperthreading support. The base clock is at 2.8 GHz, which is somewhat on the lower end but the boost clock at 4 GHz is easily attainable with proper cooling.
Single-core performance is better than the 7th generation CPUs and multi-core performance is on par with the Core i5-8600K. Therefore, this is one of the best processors for gaming and other similar workloads. This is not an unlocked chip so it is not possible to overclock it. Due to the lower TDP, the cooling requirements are also on the lower side although, using an advanced air or liquid cooler can help with sustaining the boost clocks.
- Pros: Good for gaming and productivity
- Cons: Not unlocked
10. Intel Pentium Gold G5600
If all you need is a basic CPU for running Office or streaming videos, opting for the Intel Pentium Gold G5600 can save a lot of money. The Pentium G5600 is a 2 core 4 thread chip that has a clock of 3.9 GHz. There is no turbo boost facility here so 3.9 GHz is the maximum speed you can get. The G5600 is compatible with most Intel 300 series boards and comes with a thermal solution included.
A good feature of the Pentium G5600 is the inclusion of the Intel UHD Graphics 630 iGPU. This is a very good solution for basic hardware acceleration. You can play certain games on this but do not expect excellent gaming performance like in the Core series. The TDP is also lower at just 54W so robust cooling solutions aren't really needed.
- Pros: Great for basic home or office use
- Cons: No turbo boost
Dear readers, those were some of our recommendations for the best CPUs to buy in 2019. While shopping for an appropriate processor for your system, make sure to factor in your budget and use case. It is normal to overshoot the budget for a more expensive CPU but more often than not, you wouldn't be actually using all that power. It is also important that you pair with a good compatible motherboard and appropriate RAM for the best performance.
We hope that this list of the best-performing CPUs will help you in your purchase decision. Also, if you have any additional questions, do let us know in the comments below and we’ll do our best to respond at the earliest.