Top 6 Best Desktop CPUs – January 2021

Introduction

Surprising even myself, I see some good reasons to pick an Intel CPU right now. These are mainly due to pricing and availability. My list is filtered down to favor CPUs that are actually currently available. This post is a quick summary of my current picks for the Top 6 Best Desktop CPUs – January 2021.

Top 6 Best Desktop CPUs – January 2021

I have three categories here. Budget CPU, General Purpose CPU, and High Performance Gaming CPU. If your finances permit, most people will probably be much happier with a General Purpose CPU choice compared to a Budget choice. The High Performance Gaming CPU category is going to be overkill for gaming in most situations. Having a CPU from that category will give you much better general purpose and content creation performance though.

Best Budget CPU

My top budget CPU choices are the Intel Core i3-10100 and the AMD Ryzen 5 3400G. Both of these processors have integrated graphics, which means you don’t need to have a discrete graphics card. You can always add a discrete GPU later, as GPU availability improves.

The Intel Core i3-10100 is a 14nm 4C/8T Comet Lake CPU with a base clock speed of 3.6 GHz and a max turbo speed of 4.3 GHz. It has 6MB of L3 cache and a TDP of 65W. The processor supports DDR4-2666 RAM. It typically sells for about $120.00.

Top 6 Best Desktop CPUs - January 2021
Intel Core i3-10100

The AMD Ryzen 5 3400G is a 12nm 4C/8T Zen+ CPU with a base clock speed of 3.7 GHz and a max turbo speed of 4.2 GHz. It has 4MB of L3 cache and a TDP of 65W. The processor supports DDR4-2933 RAM. The “G” suffix means that it is an APU, so it has integrated graphics. This processor will not work in a B550 motherboard, so you will want a B450 motherboard. It typically sells for about $150.00, but current prices are often higher. Personally, I would not pay more than $150.00 for this processor.

Top 6 Best Desktop CPUs - January 2021
AMD Ryzen 5 3400G

These are both very capable entry-level CPUs, but right now, the Intel choice is a better buy and also easier to find. If you live close to a Micro Center, you can pick up the Intel Core i3-10100 for $99.99, plus you will get a $20 bundle discount if you also get a motherboard.

Best General Purpose CPU

Unless you are severely budget constrained, moving up to this next level is a much better choice that will be more versatile and have a longer useful life. Having 6C/12T instead of 4C/8T actually is pretty significant both for general purpose usage and for gaming.

My two general purpose CPU choices are the Intel Core i5-10400F and the AMD Ryzen 5 3600. Both of these CPUs require a discrete GPU. Getting decent discrete GPUs is a real problem right now.

The Intel Core i5-10400F is a 14nm 6C/12T Comet Lake CPU with a base clock speed of 2.9 GHz and a max turbo speed of 4.3 GHz. It has 12MB of L3 cache and a TDP of 65W. The processor supports DDR4-2666 RAM. It typically sells for about $165.00. The “F” suffix means that it doesn’t have integrated graphics, so you will need a discrete GPU.

Intel Core i5-10400F
Intel Core i5-10400F

The AMD Ryzen 5 3600 is a 7nm 6C/12T Zen 2 CPU with a base clock speed of 3.6 GHz and a max turbo speed of 4.2 GHz. It has 32MB of L3 cache and a TDP of 65W. The processor supports DDR4-3200 RAM. This processor also does not have integrated graphics, so you will need a discrete GPU. It typically sells for about $199.00, but current prices are sometimes higher. Personally, I would not pay more than about $220.00 for this processor.

Ryzen 5 3rd Gen PIB
AMD Ryzen 5 3600

If you live close to a Micro Center, you can pick up the Intel Core i5-10400F for $139.99, plus you will get a $20 bundle discount if you also get a motherboard. Micro Center currently is selling the AMD Ryzen 5 3600 for $199.99 (plus you get a $20 bundle discount if you also get a motherboard).

Best Performance Gaming CPU

Just to be clear, unless you are gaming at 1080P or lower, with a pretty high-end GPU, the FPS you will see in most games is going to be GPU limited. As long as you have a decent 6C/12T CPU, you won’t be CPU limited, and having a faster, more expensive CPU won’t really help gaming much.

My two performance gaming CPU choices are the Intel Core i9-10900K and the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X. The AMD CPU requires a discrete GPU. Unfortunately, getting decent discrete GPUs is still a real problem right now.

The Intel Core i9-10900K is a 14nm 10C/20T Comet Lake CPU with a base clock speed of 3.7 GHz and a max turbo speed of 5.3 GHz. It has 20MB of L3 cache and a TDP of 125W. The processor supports DDR4-2933 RAM. It typically sells for about $550.00. The “K” suffix means that it is unlocked, so it can be overclocked.

Intel Core i9-10900K
Intel Core i9-10900K

The AMD Ryzen 9 5900X is a 7nm 12C/24T Zen 3 CPU with a base clock speed of 3.7 GHz and a max turbo speed of 4.8 GHz. It has 64MB of L3 cache and a TDP of 105W. The processor supports DDR4-3200 RAM. This processor does not have integrated graphics, so you will need a discrete GPU. It typically sells for about $550.00, but current prices are often higher. Personally, I would not pay more than about $600.00 for this processor.

AMD Ryzen 9 5000 Series PIB
AMD Ryzen 9 5900X

If you live close to a Micro Center, you can pick up the Intel Core i9-10900K for $469.99, plus you will get a $20 bundle discount if you also get a motherboard. Micro Center currently is selling the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X for $549.99 (plus you get a $20 bundle discount if you also get a motherboard).

Final Words

As I said above, the Intel choices in every category are easier to find and cost less money right now. These CPUs are my choices for the Top 6 Best Desktop CPUs – January 2021. The popularity of AMD CPUs has increased demand, and helped cause some scarcity and higher prices. BTW, you might find this post useful.

If you have any questions about this post, please ask me here in the comments or on Twitter. I am pretty active on Twitter as GlennAlanBerryThanks for reading!

AMD, Intel, PC Hardware

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