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Best CPUs for Workstations 2022

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you're after the best processor for work, a lot of the decision boils down to just what your work is. Most processors can handle just about any workload you throw at them, given enough time. But faster CPUs (with more cores and/or faster clock speeds) chew through tough workloads in much less time, making them great CPUs for productivity. This list focuses on performance in productivity applications for workstations, while our Best CPUs for Gaming article will give you a better picture of gaming performance. For an even more in-depth look, our CPU Benchmarks Hierarchy has all the processors ranked based on performance in gaming, single- and multi-threaded workloads.

A processor that excels at gaming isn't always the best CPU if your workload is productivity-focused, so the AMD vs Intel rivalry rages on in the workstation market, too. In fact, as highly threaded CPUs become more common, gaming CPUs and work CPUs are increasingly different silicon beasts, making it tougher to choose which CPU is the best for your workload. So we've compiled a list of processors representing the best bang for your buck in common productivity tasks, based on our years of benchmarking and testing data.

We recently took AMD's Threadripper Pro 5995WX and the Threadripper Pro 5975WX through our extensive set of normal benchmarks and workstation-class tests. These chips set the new standard for workstation chips, taking the top two recommendations in our list. The Threadripper chips will eventually grapple with Intel's forthcoming Sapphire Rapids-X / Fishhawk Falls processors.

The Ryzen Threadripper 5000 Pro chips do double duty for both workstations and the enthusiast HEDT market, as AMD has decided not to create separate lineups for this generation as it has in the past. Unfortunately, pricing remains out of reach for most HEDT users, meaning there is no longer a value platform for workstation users. Meanwhile, Intel's Alder Lake chips have taken over the lower-priced tiers due to the addition of ECC memory support and overclocking to the company's workstation W680 motherboards.  

AMD and Intel's desktop PC processors now pack more cores than ever and leverage the increased throughput of DDR5 memory, making them viable options for the entry-level workstation market. We recently put the Zen 4 Ryzen 7000 through the wringer and included workstation-class testing in our Ryzen 9 7950X and Ryzen 5 7600X reviews. However, Intel also has its Raptor Lake in the offing and it will arrive on October 20. We'll update this listing as soon as we see how Intel's latest stacks up. 

Quick Shopping Tips

  • Know the apps you use: If your apps take advantage of superior core counts or memory channels, you might want to get an AMD chip. But if you're using lightly-threaded apps or want the broadest spate of officially supported software, Intel tends to perform better.
  • Get the latest gen: You usually won't save a lot by going with an older chip, and you may limit your upgrade options down the road.
  • Keep the motherboard in mind: The priciest CPUs require more expensive motherboards than cheaper chips.

Best Workstation CPUs at a Glance:

Best Highest-End Workstation CPU:
AMD Threadripper Pro 5995WX

Best High End Workstation CPU:
AMD Threadripper 5975WX
Alternate: Intel Core i9-10980XE

Best High Performance Value Workstation CPU:
Intel Core i9-12900K
Alternate: AMD Ryzen 9 5950X

Best Overall Workstation Value CPU:
Intel Core i7-12700K
Alternate: AMD Ryzen 9 5900X

Best Budget Workstation CPU:
Intel Core i5-12400
Alternate: AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

Best CPUs for Workstations 2022

Best Highest-End Workstation CPU: AMD Threadripper Pro 5995WX

AMD Threadripper Pro 5995WX (Image credit: AMD, Shutterstock)
Best Highest-End Workstation CPU

Specifications

Architecture: Zen 3
Socket: WRX80
Cores/Threads: 64/128
Base Frequency: 2.7 GHz
Top Boost Frequency: 4.5 GHz
TDP: 280W

Reasons to buy

+
Unmatched performance in threaded work
+
Competitive single-thread performance
+
Industry-leading 128 lanes of PCIe 4.0
+
Octo-channel memory

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive chip pricing
-
Expensive motherboard pricing
-
Limited DIY motherboard options

AMD's Threadripper Pro 5995WX slots in as the workstation market's uncontested leader in multi-threaded work with 64 cores, 128 threads, and supports up to 2TB of memory spread out among eight memory channels. It also comes with an incredible 128 lanes of PCIe 4.0 connectivity. 

The Zen 3-powered Threadripper Pro 3995WX is pretty much exactly what AMD says it is: A highly specialized processor that provides incredible performance in a narrow cross-section of workloads. Like its predecessor, the 64-core Threadripper Pro 5995WX is a specialized beast that delivers unbeatable performance in workloads that can leverage parallelism. That said, some applications simply don't benefit from 64 cores, so you should know your workload before you pull the trigger. However, you won't find this many cores or PCIe lanes in a single-socket Intel workstation — the Intel Xeon W-3300 lineup is outclassed with its maximum of 38 cores and 64 PCIe lanes from a single chip. You'll have to pay a heart-stopping $6,499 for the retail 5995WX, though.

AMD's decision to pair 64 cores and 128 threads with higher boost frequencies pays big dividends in VFX, 3D animation, and ray tracing workloads with more performance than you would expect from any comparable workstation-class solution, not to mention even some dual-socket servers. The higher boost frequencies provide snappy performance in everyday lightly-threaded applications and devastating threaded performance in workloads that scale well. 

The price tag is eye-watering, but for professionals that can benefit from the 5995WX's generous complement of cores and threads, it's worth every penny — you simply won't find a comparable processor on the market.

Read: AMD Threadripper Pro 5995WX Review


Best High-End Workstation CPU: AMD Threadripper Pro 5975WX

AMD Threadripper Pro 5975WX (Image credit: AMD, Shutterstock)
Best High-End Workstation CPU

Specifications

Architecture: Zen 3
Socket: WRX80
Cores/Threads: 32/64
Base Frequency: 3.6GHz
Top Boost Frequency: 4.5GHz
TDP: 280W

Reasons to buy

+
Unmatched performance in threaded work
+
Competitive single-thread performance
+
Industry-leading 128 lanes of PCIe 4.0
+
Octo-channel memory

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive chip pricing
-
Expensive motherboard pricing
-
Limited DIY motherboard options

While the Threadripper 35995WX brings the utmost performance possible to bear, the exotic design does result in slower performance in some common workloads, leaving room for the Threadripper 5975WX to serve as the more reasonable option for the productivity-minded. 

The 32-core, 64-thread Threadripper 5975WX delivers devastating threaded performance in its price range, trouncing Intel's most exotic silicon. The $3,299 32-core Threadripper Pro 5975WX is the more rational choice for most professionals, again delivering stellar performance while offering all of the connectivity of its more expensive counterpart. This chip offers the lion's share of the 5995WX's performance and isn't as subject to finicky performance in some workloads.

AMD's forward-thinking adoption of the PCIe 4.0 interface is another attraction that will help win over the semi-professional crowd. While the faster interface isn't as useful on the mainstream desktop, the ability to stack up throughput-craving devices behind the chipset without the radical throughput restrictions we see with Intel's DMI is another big win.

Read: AMD Threadripper Pro 5975WX Review


Best Alternate High-End Workstation CPU: Intel Core i9-10980XE

Intel Core i9-10980XE (Image credit: Intel, Shutterstock)
Alternate Pick - Best High-End Workstation CPU

Specifications

Architecture: Cascade Lake-X (Skylake)
Socket: LGA 2066
Cores/Threads: 18/36
Base Frequency: 3.0GHz
Top Boost Frequency: 4.8GHz
TDP: 165W

Reasons to buy

+
Incremental performance improvements
+
Lower power consumption
+
Overclockability
+
Backward compatibility

Reasons to avoid

-
Price
-
Dead-end platform
-
PCIe3.0

The Core i9-10980XE is a solid alternative pick, just be aware that you'll sacrifice quite a bit of threaded horsepower by selecting the Core i9-10980XE. 

For streamers and professionals who can make use of the extra I/O of and quad-channel memory, Intel’s Cascade Lake-X flagship earns its niche, but the Ryzen 5950X and 3950X are a better value for most productivity workloads where the more-robust HEDT platform is less important.  

That leaves a preciously slim slice of the market where Intel has an advantage in this price bracket (users that need quad-channel memory or more PCIe lanes). Overclocking performance is a factor if you're willing to spend the cash. You can drop the -10980XE into an existing X299 board if you're willing to sacrifice a few PCIe lanes, but be aware that this is the end of the line for the X299 platform.

The 14nm process equates to faster clock speeds, and thus performance, at lower overall power consumption. The Core i9-10980XE also has much higher overclocking headroom than its predecessor. But the 10980XE’s advantage after tuning over the AMD Ryzen 5950X comes at a $280 premium and requires more robust cooling and power delivery, so you should factor that into your purchasing decision. In most cases, the Ryzen 9 5950X and 3950X, both listed below, remain the better choice if you can find those chips on shelves. 

Read: Intel Core i9-10980XE Review


Best High Performance Value Workstation CPU: Intel Core i9-12900K

Intel Core i9-12900K (Image credit: Intel)
Best High Performance Value Workstation CPU

Specifications

Architecture: Alder Lake
Socket: LGA 1700
Cores/Threads: 16 (8P+8E) / 24
Base Frequency: 3.2
Top Boost Frequency: 5.2
TDP: 125W

Reasons to buy

+
ECC Memory Support on W680
+
Competitive pricing
+
DDR5 and PCIe 5.0
+
Leading single-threaded performance
+
Multi-threaded performance
+
Overclockable

Reasons to avoid

-
No bundled cooler
-
Requires LGA1700 motherboard
-
Platform pricing

The Intel Core i9-12900K once held the title of the fastest processor on the planet. At $589, it even outperforms AMD's Ryzen 9 5950X in heavily-threaded content creation tasks, making it an exceptional value for high-end game streaming, too. It's also the uncontested leader in x86 single-threaded performance. Perhaps most importantly, you can pair this chip with Intel's workstation W680 chipset and it supports ECC memory and CPU overclocking, making it a potent chip for entry-level workstations. 

The 12900K also supports leading-edge connectivity with support DDR4-3200 or up to DDR5-4800 memory, along with 16 lanes of PCIe 5.0 and an additional four lanes of PCIe 4.0 from the chip for M.2 SSDs.

The chip comes with eight P-cores that support hyper-threading, and eight single-threaded E-cores for a total of 24 threads. The P-cores have a 3.2 GHz base, and peak frequencies reach 5.2 GHz with Turbo Boost Max 3.0 (this feature is only active on P-cores). Meanwhile, the E-cores have a 2.4 GHz base and stretch up to 3.9 GHz via the standard Turbo Boost 2.0 algorithms. The chip is also equipped with 30MB of L3 cache and 14MB of L2.

This 12900K has a 125W PBP (base) and 241W MTP (peak) power rating, but we recorded considerably lower power consumption than its prior-gen counterpart. You get industry-leading performance in exchange. 

You'll need to buy a capable cooler for the chip, and you'll also need a new 600-series motherboard. You can find a wide selection of high-end motherboards that support DDR5 memory, and although you'll only find lower-end and mid-range DDR4 motherboards, there's still plenty of selection available. Most users will enjoy the lower price and comparable performance of DDR4, but you can step up to the more expensive DDR5 if you need access to more memory throughput.

Read: Intel Core i9-12900K Review


Best Alternate High Performance Value Workstation CPUAMD Ryzen 9 5950X

AMD Ryzen 9 5950X (Image credit: AMD, Shutterstock)
Alternate Pick - Best High Performance Value Workstation CPU

Specifications

Architecture: Zen 3
Socket: AM4
Cores/Threads: 16/32
Base Frequency: 3.4GHz
Top Boost Frequency: 4.9GHz
TDP: 105W

Reasons to buy

+
Class-leading 16 cores & 32 threads
+
Overclockable
+
Higher boost frequencies
+
Reasonable price-per-core
+
Power efficiency
+
PCIe Gen 4.0

Reasons to avoid

-
Requires beefy cooling
-
No bundled cooler
-
Higher gen-on-gen pricing
-
No integrated graphics

High end desktop (HEDT) processors have long offered the ultimate in performance, as long as you were willing to pay the price. Aside from high pricing, HEDT chips also require expensive accommodations, like beefy motherboards and the added cost of fully populating quad-channel memory controllers. Add in the inevitable trade-offs, like reduced performance in lightly-threaded applications and games, and any cost-conscious users who could benefit from the threaded horsepower of a HEDT chip just settle for mainstream offerings.

AMD's Ryzen 9 5950X, with 16 cores and 32 threads, expands on its predecessors' mission of bringing HEDT-class performance to mainstream motherboards, lowering the bar for entry. The 5950X carries a ~$550 price tag, but that’s downright affordable compared to competing HEDT processors that don't offer the same class of performance. 

The Ryzen 9 5950X's healthy slathering of cores and threads are incredibly adept at productivity workloads. Still, it does come with a dual-channel memory controller that can restrict performance in workloads constrained by memory throughput. However, outside of that notable restriction, if you're after a chip and platform that can do serious work seriously fast, but still be nimble enough to deliver high-refresh gameplay at the end of the day, the Ryzen 9 5950X fits the bill like no other CPU before it, blurring the lines between HEDT and mainstream platforms. 

Read: AMD Ryzen 9 5950X Review


Best Overall Workstation Value CPU: Intel Core i7-12700K

Intel Core i7-12700K (Image credit: Intel, Shutterstock)
Best Overall Workstation Value CPU

Specifications

Architecture: Alder Lake
Socket: LGA 1700
Cores/Threads: 12 (8P+4E) / 20
Base Frequency: 3.6 GHz
Top Boost Frequency: 4.9 GHz
TDP: 125 / 190W

Reasons to buy

+
Price
+
Single- and Multi-threaded performance
+
ECC Memory Support on W680
+
PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 memory
+
Overclockable
+
Power efficiency improved

Reasons to avoid

-
No bundled cooler
-
Platform pricing
-
Draws more power than Ryzen

At $385, the 12700K thoroughly beats the $330 Ryzen 7 5800X and even unseats the pricey $550 Ryzen 9 5900X. Intel's addition of ECC memory support and CPU overclocking on its workstation-class W680 chipset is the cherry on top that makes this chip an exceptional value for lower-end production systems.

Our benchmarks show the Core i7-12700K is a potent all-rounder if you're interested in a balanced blend of price and performance. The 12700K has serious chops in productivity work: In lightly-threaded apps, the 12700K is ~17% faster than the 5800X and 5900X. In threaded work, the Core i7-12700K is 2.5% faster than the Ryzen 9 5900X, though the 5900X does carve out a few wins in heavily-threaded apps.

The Core i7-12700K has eight P-cores (high-performance) and four E-cores (Efficiency), for a total of 20 threads. The P-cores run at a 3.6 / 5.0 GHz base/boost while the E-cores weigh in at 2.7 / 3.8 GHz. In addition, the chip is fed by 25MB of L3 cache and 12MB of L2.

The 12700K also supports leading-edge connectivity with support DDR4-3200 or up to DDR5-4800 memory, along with 16 lanes of PCIe 5.0 and an additional four lanes of PCIe 4.0 from the chip for M.2 SSDs. The 12700K has a 125W PBP (base) and 190W MTP (peak) power rating. Still, we recorded considerably lower power consumption than its prior-gen counterpart, and you get ultra-competitive performance in exchange. 

You'll need to buy a capable cooler for the chip, and you'll also need a new 600-series motherboard. You can find a wide selection of high-end motherboards that support DDR5 memory, and although you'll only find lower-end and mid-range DDR4 motherboards, there's still plenty of selection available. Most users will enjoy the lower price and comparable performance of DDR4, but you can step up to the more expensive DDR5 if you need access to more memory throughput.

Read: Intel Core i7-12700K Review


Alternate Pick - Best Overall Workstation Value CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900X

AMD Ryzen 9 5900X (Image credit: AMD)
Alternate Pick - Best Overall Workstation Value CPU

Specifications

Architecture: Zen 3
Socket: AM4
Cores/Threads: 12/24
Base Frequency: 3.7GHz
Top Boost Frequency: 4.8GHz
TDP: 65W

Reasons to buy

+
Support for PCIe 4.0
+
Unlocked multiplier
+
Compatible with 500-series motherboards
+
Excellent gaming performance 
+
Excellent single- and multi-threaded performance

Reasons to avoid

-
No bundled cooler
-
Higher gen-on-gen pricing
-
No integrated graphics

If you’re truly only concerned about the best gaming CPU and basic productivity tasks, you should go with the Core i5-12400 and save yourself some money. However, if you prize a brutal mix of performance in all aspects, like single- and multi-threaded work and gaming, the Ryzen 9 5900X is your chip – it delivers in all facets. 

The 12-core 24-thread Ryzen 9 5900X is rated for a 3.7 GHz base and 4.8 GHz boost, but we clocked it in at 5.0 GHz during our own testing. Not only is the 5900X incredibly potent in threaded applications given its price point - it is also the uncontested fastest gaming chip on the market, so you'll get the best of both worlds. 

There’s also support for PCIe 4.0 and overclockability to consider. The Ryzen 9 5900X drops into existing 500-series and some 400-series motherboards (be sure to assure compatibility). You'll need to bring your own cooler, and the bigger, the better — cooling definitely has an impact on performance with the higher-end Ryzen 5000 processors. However, if you're looking for a chip with a great mixture of both single- and heavily-threaded performance, the Ryzen 9 5900X is a great option. 

Read: AMD Ryzen 9 5900X Review


Best Budget Workstation CPU: Intel Core i5-12400

Intel Core i5-12400 (Image credit: Amazon, Shutterstock)

Intel Core i5-12400

Best Budget Workstation CPU

Specifications

Architecture: Alder Lake
Socket: LGA 1700
Cores/Threads: 6 (6P + 0E) / 12
Base Frequency: 4.4
Top Boost Frequency: 2.5
TDP: 65W

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent gaming performance
+
Strong single- and multi-thread
+
Ultra competitive pricing
+
PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 memory
+
Supports memory overclocking

Reasons to avoid

-
Requires LGA1700 motherboard

If you're looking for the hands-down best budget CPU for workstations, the mid-range Alder Lake six-core 12-thread Core i5-12400 is your chip, especially after recent price reductions that bring it down to an incredible $160. As with Intel's other Alder Lake processors, this chip supports ECC memory on the W680 chipset, making it a great chip for workstations.

With the right tuning, it's even faster at gaming than the previous-gen $549 Core i9-11900K flagship, so it should go without saying that it's also faster than the Ryzen 5 5600X that we list as an alternate for this price range.

The chip comes with six P-cores that support hyper-threading that operate at a 2.5 GHz base and 4.4 GHz boost speed. The 12400 supports leading-edge connectivity with support DDR4-3200 or up to DDR5-4800 memory, along with 16 lanes of PCIe 5.0 and an additional four lanes of PCIe 4.0 from the chip for M.2 SSDs.

Our testing shows that the Core i5-12400 serves up solid performance in all manner of threaded productivity applications, and its snappy single-threaded performance beats even the fastest Ryzen 5000 processors. If some entertainment is on the menu, too, the Core i5-12400 delivers incredible levels of gaming performance but at a much lower price point than any comparable AMD processor, setting a new bar for budget gaming chips.

The Core i5-12400 comes with a capable cooler that can handle its 65W/117W base/peak power rating, but you'll also need a new 600-series motherboard. Most users will enjoy the lower price and comparable performance of DDR4, but you can step up to the more expensive DDR5 if you need access to more memory throughput.
Read More: Intel Core i5-12400 Review


Best Alternate Budget Workstation CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X (Image credit: AMD, Shutterstock)
Alternate Pick - Best Budget Workstation CPU

Specifications

Architecture: Zen 3
Socket: AM4
Cores/Threads: 6 / 12
Base Frequency: 4.1GHz
Top Boost Frequency: 4.8GHz
TDP: 65W

Reasons to buy

+
Strong gaming performance
+
Strong in single- and multi-threaded workloads
+
Relatively easy to cool
+
PCIe 4.0
+
Bundled cooler
+
Power efficiency
+
Works with existing 500-series motherboards

Reasons to avoid

-
Higher gen-on-gen pricing

The AMD Ryzen 5 5600X offers a compelling blend of pricing and performance in its price range, but the six-core 12-thread chip lands at $159. However, the 5600X brings more than enough extra application performance to justify the pricing, not to mention that it's among the most power-efficient desktop PC processors we've ever tested. That means it is easier to cool than competing chips in its price range, ultimately resulting in a quieter system.

AMD's Zen 3 microarchitecture results in a stunning 19% increase in IPC, which floats all boats in terms of performance in gaming, single-threaded, and multi-threaded applications. The 5600X serves up more than enough performance for day-to-day application workloads, but you'll need to align your expectations with the fact that this is a six-core processor. If entertainment is also on the menu, the 5600X is an incredibly well-rounded chip that can handle any type of gaming, from competitive-class performance with high refresh rate monitors to streaming.

The Ryzen 5 5600X has a 3.7 GHz base and 4.6 GHz boost clock, but with the right cooling and motherboard, you can expect higher short-term boosts. The chip also has a 65W TDP rating, meaning it runs exceptionally cool and quiet given its capabilities (the previous-gen model was 95W). 

Existing AMD owners with a 500-series motherboard will breathe a sigh of relief as the 5600X drops right into existing 500-series motherboards, and some 400-series models (be sure to check compatibility lists). If you need a new motherboard to support the chip, both 400- and 500-series motherboards are plentiful and relatively affordable, with the B550 lineup offering the best overall value for this class of chip. 

Read: AMD Ryzen 5 5600X Review: The Mainstream Knockout


Paul Alcorn
Deputy Managing Editor

Paul Alcorn is the Deputy Managing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage and enterprise hardware.

  • abryant
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/id-3795358/gaming-performance-cpus.html
    Reply
  • javiindo
    When is this going to be updated with the new ryzen 3? :-) I'm wondering which processor is the best value/performance.
    Reply
  • LiviuTM
    There's a small mistake in the description of the new AMD processors -> manufacturing process is listed as "7nm LP GlobalFoundries".
    Reply
  • caqde
    LiviuTM said:
    There's a small mistake in the description of the new AMD processors -> manufacturing process is listed as "7nm LP GlobalFoundries".
    Thats nothing check out the process listed for the Xeon W-3175X it says 14nm Glofo. LOL didn't know Global Foundries started making chips for Intel. Come on guys fix your information. Although I do agree with the chip choices at least until Zen2's TR4 chips come out where the Xeon W-3175X will likely be usurped by AMD's 32core (Maybe 64?) threadripper based on Zen2 .
    Reply
  • logainofhades
    I think some pricing changes need to be put into this copy/paste article. Amazon and Newegg have been selling the R5 2600, for $129.99-$139.99, for quite some time now. The R7 2700 should probably be in the sub $200 list now, given that it has been under $200 for a good while now.
    Reply
  • LordConrad
    I see the i9-10980XE as pretty useless. Depending on need, I would instead choose either the Ryzen 3950x or Threadripper 3960x. I can't think of any use case that wouldn't be better served by one of these two processors.
    Reply
  • Rdslw
    javiindo said:
    When is this going to be updated with the new ryzen 3? :) I'm wondering which processor is the best value/performance.
    peformance per dolar 2200 stays on top because of price cuts, But if you have 10$ to add, 3200 is faster so you just have a nice options to exact match your budget.
    another 15$ will give you 2400 and another $15 is 3400.
    Reply
  • Computer Surgeon
    Boy that AMD Ryzen 5 3600 is sweeet! i Edit 4k video on Davinci no problem. smooth as can be. 3-4 min music videos render in seconds to a minute. Obviously there's other components playing a part in this awesome performance but still, sold CPU
    Reply
  • BogdanH
    Article needs correction for 5900X.. TDP is 105W, not 65W.
    And about missing bundled cooler.. I think nobody expect it for such class CPU.
    Reply
  • geok1ng
    Weird that 10980xe and dual channel CPUs mande into the list, but the dual Xeon E5 2696v3 are left out. Its a 18/36 like the 10980xe, with all core turbo of 3.8ghz after turbo boost unlock. Running 36/72 até 3.8ghz and octo Channel memory, they offer by far the best gang for the buck workstation power. One can find Supermicro mobos for them, or brand new chinese mobos, with ecc ddr3 support. Total system cost way below 5800x builds, Effective Power sits a bit below the TR 3970x and quite above 5950x and 10980xe
    Reply