Best (Non-Gaming) Performance CPUs

 

Most processors can handle just about any workload you throw at them, but faster processors (with more cores and / or faster clock speeds) chew through heavy workloads faster, which ultimately saves time. A processor that excels at gaming isn't always the best choice if your workload is more productivity-focused, so we've compiled a list of processors that represent the best bang for your buck in common productivity tasks. 

AMD's Ryzen and Threadripper processors excel in heavy workloads that respond well to increased cores and threads, like decompression, compression, video processing, and rendering applications. Intel's Coffee Lake and Skylake-X processors also provide acceptable performance in heavily-threaded applications, but they excel in lightly-threaded apps, like Adobe's Creative Cloud Suite, web browsers, single-core rendering workloads, and encoding.

Quick Shopping Tips

When choosing a non-gaming CPU, consider the following:

  • Know the apps you use: If your apps take advantage of AMD's superior cores / threads per dollar, you might want to get an AMD chip. But if you're using lightly-threaded apps or Adobe products, Intel will perform better.
  • Get the latest gen: You don't save a lot by going with an older chip.
  • Keep the motherboard in mind: The priciest CPUs require more expensive motherboards than cheaper chips.
  • Play it cool: Most expensive chips don't come a cooler, requiring you to buy your own.

For even more information, check out our CPU Buyer’s Guide, where we discuss how much you should spend for what you’re looking to do, and when cores matter more than high clock speeds.

Why Trust Us

Tom's Hardware has been reviewing PC components for more than two decades. We put each CPU through a bevy of benchmarks which measure everything from its single- and multi-core performance in applications and games, to its power consumption. We've tested hundreds of models, at both stock and overclock settings where applicable, so we can separate the best from the multi-core disappointments.

MORE: AMD Ryzen 2 vs. Intel Coffee Lake: What's the Best CPU Platform?

Best High-End Desktop (HEDT) CPU

If you commonly run workstation-class workloads or fall into the semi-professional category, high end desktop processors are the best solution. Intel's X299 and AMD's X399 platforms come with robust connectivity options, like expanded PCIe lanes that accommodate additives like high-speed LAN, more graphics cards, and quad-channel memory. Intel's Skylake-X family has a wide range of core counts that satisfy almost every use-case, but you'll have to pay a premium. Intel also restricts its Core i9 models to 44 PCIe lanes, which can't compete with AMD's hefty allotment of 60 usable lanes.

AMD's Threadripper lineup comes with three models with various core counts, but you'll pay far less per core than you do with Intel's processors. Intel still holds the per-core performance advantage, but AMD's less-expensive price points offset that. AMD also has its much-anticipated second-gen Threadripper models coming to market soon, which means you'll find great deals on the current models.

 

Alternative Pick:

Best Mainstream Desktop CPU ($300 - $400)

Flagship mainstream desktop processors fall within sane price ranges and the motherboard selection can be both cheap and plentiful. You'll have only 16 usable PCIe lanes from the processor and dual-channel memory, but these processors satisfy the needs of all but the highest-end users.

For applications, the flagship mainstream models in Intel's Core i7 and AMD's Ryzen 7 product families offer the best value. Intel's Coffee and Kaby Lake models offer a strong blend of single- and multi-threaded performance in common applications, but AMD's Ryzen 7 series comes with more cores, which you might find attractive if you have more demanding requirements, such as rendering or streaming. You can also often find AMD's Ryzen processors well below MSRP.

Intel's sub-$400 processors come with an integrated graphics engine, meaning you won't need a discrete graphics card, but AMD only offers two models (Ryzen 5 2400G and Ryzen 3 2200G) with integrated graphics.

Alternative Pick:

Best Mid-Range CPU ($200 - $300)

Mid-range processors typically land in the $200 to $300 price range and still offer enough power to handle heavy workloads, albeit at a slower pace. AMD's Ryzen processors have truly reinvigorated this segment and often come with a discount, too. This price range finds two distinct price tiers, but you can often find the best value around the $200 mark if the processor has an unlocked multiplier.

It's best to step up to the more expensive models in this class if overclocking isn't in your plans. If overclocking is on the menu, you'll have to select a pricier K-series Intel chip and pair it with a Z-series motherboard. Meanwhile, all of AMD's processors can be overclocked on value-centric B-series motherboards.

Alternative Picks:

Best Budget CPU ($100 - $200)

The lower end of the processor spectrum is incredibly competitive, particularly with the copious core counts, bundled coolers, and unlocked multipliers you can find in the AMD lineup. Intel processors tend to offer the best single-threaded performance at stock settings. And since you can't overclock them, in this price range they're suitable for less-expensive B- and H-Series motherboards that can't overclock.

Alternative Picks:

Best Sub-$100 CPU

AMD's less-restrictive feature set grants the Ryzen processors the uncontested lead in this segment of the market. Unfortunately, the Ryzen 3 2200G is the only model that falls into the sub-$100 category, but its support for AVX instructions and four physical cores easily beats the Intel Pentium lineup.

Alternative Pick:

MORE: Best Gaming CPUs

MORE: Intel & AMD Processor Hierarchy

MORE: All CPUs Content

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  • WINTERLORD
    non gaming cpus nice title
  • cryogenic
    WoW, very long time since Toms has shown AMD winner in all categories, last time it happened was in Athlon 2 era.
  • salgado18
    hahahahahahahaha sorry Intel :D better luck next gen
  • Soda-88
    A more fair title would be Best (Non-Gaming that can also game) Performance CPUs
  • Eximo
    Bang for your buck? I suppose for gaming they did pick the i5-8400.

    Still neat to see.
  • theyeti87
    Anonymous said:
    A more fair title would be Best (Non-Gaming that can also game) Performance CPUs


    My 1700 is feeling a little disrespected! Happy to game with that chip.
  • Quaddro
    It's maybe looks like better if the title is "Best Productivity CPU"..
  • Verrin
    I know, people think that because your 1700 *only* gets 170FPS compared to 220FPS on a 5GHz coffee lake, that it's apparently "bad at gaming". I used to think when the game wouldn't run or you'd get an FPS so low it was effectively a slide show, that meant your hardware was "bad at gaming".
  • Kenneth_72
    2600 specs are wrong and the link takes you to a 2400G...
  • abryant
    Anonymous said:
    2600 specs are wrong and the link takes you to a 2400G...


    fixed now. thanks.
  • isaac.277.elifer
    Excuse me, but AMD has X, B, and A-series motherboards. Z-series is for Intel motherboards.
  • LokkenJP
    Hello.
    The specs table show a 3.6/4.2 base/boost frequencies and 95W TDP for the AMD Ryzen 5 2600, while those are the AMD Ryzen 5 2600X specs.
    Also, below in the description of the AMD Ryzen 5 2600 best budget pick the description states: "The plucky 2600 has a 2.4-GHz base frequency that boosts up to 3.6" which is quite different of what can be seen at the 2600 review (https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/amd-ryzen-5-2600,5625.html -> 3.4 Base freq, 3.9 boost)
  • msroadkill612
    IMO they looked over the sweetest of all - the 2600x.

    With all the fuss about ipc vs threads, then the 2600x is the best balance.

    Yes it has inter ccx latency, but only 2 of it's 6 cores are affected, as opposed to 4 on amd 8 cores.

    The x option just seems so cool. It has taken til this revision of zen to bring out the power of ~1000 sensors spread around zen, and using them to use to dynamically squeeze the best from your cpu in your ecosystem.

    It makes Zen blossom, and only zen+, X models have the full kit to do it - xfr2 & PB2.
  • PaulAlcorn
    Anonymous said:
    Hello.
    The specs table show a 3.6/4.2 base/boost frequencies and 95W TDP for the AMD Ryzen 5 2600, while those are the AMD Ryzen 5 2600X specs.
    Also, below in the description of the AMD Ryzen 5 2600 best budget pick the description states: "The plucky 2600 has a 2.4-GHz base frequency that boosts up to 3.6" which is quite different of what can be seen at the 2600 review (https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/amd-ryzen-5-2600,5625.html -> 3.4 Base freq, 3.9 boost)


    Thanks for the heads-up, fixed!
  • PaulAlcorn
    Anonymous said:
    Excuse me, but AMD has X, B, and A-series motherboards. Z-series is for Intel motherboards.


    Oops, fixed!
  • jpe1701
    So I'm confused and I don't think I'm the only one. For the 2700 you mention precision boost overdrive. I thought that was only for the x parts? If precision boost overdrive works on the 2700 as well as my 2700x then the 2700x is kind of pointless for me.
  • raskery
    So is it socket AM4 or 1331? I guess it might be better to stick to the AM4 convention as thjat is what will be written on the motherboard (and most other places).
  • linkdead
    these are all perfectly good at gaming ..
  • paul prochnow
    It seems as if no one would ever pay over $500 for a Ryzen 2700X, so why the link?
    Could it be one sale and the seller can retire? LOL!!!

    Price drop happened to the Ryzen 2700 already, it is only 65w. I got one and changed out a 2200G Ryzen
    into a 2018 HTPC with NO VIDDIE CARTZ and it is cool. It is NOT a gamer.

    The Ryzen 2700 is coupled to a 1080EVGA SC -- it is just great. I like the idea of 65w. giving me
    all the CPU I need. In Destiny 2 I can see eight core lit up to 30% and the SMT cores barely making
    a graph line.....Ryzen is a processing Titan for the money...but not the R&G CPU like a 5GHz Intel.
    But I got the CPU for $210 on Amazon .
  • Ben_88
    My 1700 with a 1080 Ti Aorus is amazing in 4k. I have it at 1.2 volts at 3.7ghz with 3000mhz vengeance ram. I can't find any 4k benchmarks comparing the 1700 overclocked to the 2700x in 4k.