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2023's Top CPUs: Your Ultimate Guide to Performance and Value

Central Processing Unit

In the fast-paced realm of technology, nothing is more essential to your system's performance than the central processing unit (CPU). Whether you're an avid gamer, a creative professional, or simply a PC enthusiast, having the appropriate CPU can significantly impact your computer's capabilities. In the year 2023, there is a fresh surge of innovation and competition among leading CPU manufacturers, all striving to claim the top position. After extensive market research, benchmarking, and rigorous testing, we have curated a definitive list of the top 5 CPUs that are revolutionizing the world of computing. From the impressive overclocking abilities of gaming powerhouses to the exceptional multitasking capabilities of productivity workhorses, we will explore a diverse range of options tailored to meet your specific requirements. Prepare to immerse yourself in cutting-edge technology as we reveal the CPUs that are defining the standards for 2023. Whether you're a gamer, a content creator, or seeking a high-performance solution for everyday tasks, this list offers something for everyone. Without further delay, let us delve into our compilation of the most formidable and versatile CPUs of the year.

Ryzen 5600 or Intel Core I3 12100

Starting with the most budget-friendly CPU options, our primary focus is on gaming performance. In this category, there are only a handful of CPUs worth considering. The most affordable AM5 processor comes in at a price point of $225 USD. If you're on a tight budget, it might be best to steer clear of AMD's latest platform and instead explore the AM4 options. Our top recommendations within this category include the Ryzen 5 5500 or, in our opinion, the preferable choice, the Ryzen 5 5600.

Switching gears to Intel, we have the Core i3 12100 series. For those embarking on a new PC build from scratch, we strongly advise steering clear of the Ryzen 5 4500 and any 10th gen Core i3 offerings. While they may be marginally cheaper than the Core i3 1200F and its newer counterparts, the 12th gen models offer a substantial performance boost and pave the way for future upgrades to the 13th gen Raptor Lake.

For those operating on a tight budget, either for a new PC build or a platform upgrade, the Core i3 1200F is an excellent entry point, priced at just $90. It delivers exceptional value, especially when paired with affordable DDR4 3600CL16 memory. In gaming, the Core i3 12100 surpasses the Ryzen 5 5500 by approximately 15%.

There are also reasonably priced B660 motherboards available, capable of supporting Core i9 processors without any thermal constraints. The MSI B660M-A, priced at $150 USD, is a solid choice. However, if you're planning to upgrade only to a Core i5, the ASRock B660M Pro RS at $95 USD is a good fit. It's worth considering the extra $55 for the MSI model, given its more capable power delivery system.

To provide you with an estimate of costs, pairing the $90 Core i3 12100F with a decent $150 B660 motherboard and a $40 16GB DDR4 3600CL16 memory kit would bring the total to just $280 USD. It's recommended to invest an extra $20 for a comparable 32GB kit, as the additional memory proves quite valuable in modern games, raising the total build cost to $300 USD.

However, our current recommendation leans towards DDR5. In this scenario, we suggest bypassing the B660 motherboards and instead opting for a B760 motherboard. Several respectable models are available for approximately $150 USD. Additionally, there are now several 32GB DDR5-5600 kits on the market for around $80 USD, which represents only a marginal premium over the DDR4 3600 kits. This configuration would amount to just $320 USD, with the added memory bandwidth resulting in noticeable improvements in CPU-intensive modern games like Spider-Man Remastered, Hogwarts Legacy, and Star Wars Jedi Survivor.

The only other viable alternative to the Core i3 12100 series is AMD's Ryzen 5 5600, which can still be found for $130 USD. Pairing this AM4 processor with a quality B550 motherboard, such as the MSI B550M-Pro VDH Wi-Fi for $100 or the ASRock B550 Pro for $105, is recommended. Once again, spending around $60 on a decent 32GB DDR4 3600 CL16 kit would allow you to assemble an AM4 combo for as little as $290 USD. This is $10 less than the 12100F and provides the flexibility to upgrade to the 5800X 3D or, for enhanced productivity performance, the 5900X or 5950X down the line.

Ultimately, for a similar price when considering platform costs, both the Core i3 12100F and Ryzen 5 5600 present excellent options with solid upgrade paths, making the choice between the two a challenging decision.

Core i5-12400F or Ryzen 7 5700X

The Ryzen 7 5700X may catch your eye with its reasonable $190 price tag, but its worth is primarily unlocked for those who are already invested in the AM4 platform or prioritize productivity performance. This is because the Ryzen 5 7600 on the AM5 platform doesn't come at a significantly higher cost and can face tough competition in today's market, even when compared to Intel's 12th generation offerings.

Now, for $150, the Core i5-12400F emerges as a viable entry point into the market, especially when paired with the MSI B760-P Pro or ASRock B760 MPG Riptide motherboards, along with a generous 32 gigabytes of DDR5 5600 memory priced at approximately $80. This combination totals $380 in the US, which is just a 20% increase over the DDR5 Core i3 setup, while providing a substantial 50% boost in the number of processor cores. In challenging titles like Cyberpunk 2077, we noted an impressive 32% performance gain with the 12400 over the 12100.

While the Ryzen 7 5700X can indeed offer comparable gaming performance and may seem like a tempting choice at $190, it's possible to build a 32-gigabyte DDR4 system on an entry-level B550 motherboard for roughly $30 less. However, in games that demand high memory bandwidth, the Intel configuration excels. If your tasks heavily lean towards productivity and rely on multiple cores, the 5700X proves to be the superior option, delivering around 30% more robust performance. On the flip side, the Core i5 12400F lays out a more promising path for future upgrades and boasts support for DDR5 memory. While the 5700X combo may be generally more budget-friendly, it offers a similar gaming experience and stands as a considerably more potent choice for productivity tasks.

Core i5-13600K or Ryzen 7 7600

For those contemplating the value proposition of the $210 US-priced 13400F, it's important to note that both the 12400F and the 5700X offer superior value alternatives. Now, let's explore other options, including the Ryzen 7600 series, Core i5 13600 series, Ryzen 7 5800X 3D, and Ryzen 7 7700 series. In terms of value, the K SKU 12th generation Core i5 processors no longer make for compelling choices, and the same holds true for the i7 and i9 models.

Among these options, the most budget-friendly processor is the Ryzen 5 7600, available at just $225 US. This is primarily because the cheapest K SKU 13th generation part, the Core i5 3600KF, comes at a $290 price point. There's also the 7600X, priced at $245, and based on recent benchmarks, the AMD processor exhibits an overall performance edge of approximately five percent. Consequently, both the 3600K and the 7600 should perform quite similarly across a wide spectrum of games.

The Core i5 does excel in productivity performance, thanks to its e-cores, but this advantage is accompanied by higher power consumption. On the flip side, the Ryzen 5 is more budget-friendly, provides similar gaming performance with lower power usage, and benefits from a platform that's set to support at least two more CPU generations. When taking into account motherboard and memory prices, both options shape up as strong contenders, especially for gaming.

Nevertheless, the Core i5 3600K is more in line with the pricing of the Ryzen 7 7700 and even the 5800X 3D, both currently costing $325 US. For those assembling new systems, the Ryzen 7 7700 proves to be an enticing option, effectively rivaling the 5800X 3D, particularly given the advantages of Zen3 3D V cache. The 7700 offers similar gaming performance while delivering stronger productivity performance on a more recent platform, all at a comparable price point.

The question then becomes whether to opt for the Ryzen 7 7700 at $325, the 13600KF at $290, or the 13600K at $310. In terms of power usage, the 7700 demonstrates significantly lower consumption compared to the 13600K, although the Core i5 part can exhibit up to 30% better performance for tasks that benefit from its capabilities. However, it's worth noting that in scenarios where the e-cores are underutilized, performance tends to balance out. In gaming, they typically trade blows, but the 7700 slightly pulls ahead in overall performance. When considering the match between the 7600 and 13600K or the 7700 and 3600K, it's a bit of a deadlock. There isn't a wrong choice here, and, weighing value and performance, my personal preference would lean toward the Ryzen 7 7700 for its superior power efficiency and platform longevity.

Ryzen 7 7800X3D or Intel Core i7-13700k

For those in search of a gaming PC on a budget hovering around $400, the standout choice is undoubtedly the 7800X3D. In many scenarios, it outperforms the 13700K, showcasing a 3D V cache component that's a remarkable 20% faster or even more. However, this enhanced performance is most notable when paired with the pricier DDR5 7200 memory, which starts at approximately $160 in the US. On the other hand, the DDR5 6000 memory used for testing with the 7800X3D is available for just $120. If you were to employ this same memory with the 13700K, the result would be only a slight average performance reduction of around 5%. Nonetheless, it would still give the Ryzen processor an edge.

While one could consider cost savings by opting for the 13700KF at $390, it's a suboptimal choice for gaming, despite being fairly fast. Moreover, the Core i7 consumes more power during gaming, posing concerns about both your electricity bill and the performance of your motherboard's VRM, CPU cooler, and room temperature. If productivity is also a priority, the 7800X3D might not be the most efficient solution. In this context, the 13700KF does hold an advantage. However, for just an additional $30, the Ryzen 9 1700 becomes a viable alternative. With PBO enabled, it can match the performance of the 13700K while utilizing less power, even in applications that leverage e-cores, such as Cinebench.

The 7900 is somewhat less versatile but generally outperforms the 13700K in gaming. So, if power consumption isn't a pressing concern, one could argue that Intel presents an excellent all-around option for the $400 price range with the 13700K. Another crucial factor to consider for Intel is the platform support. While there is anticipation of a refresh on the LJ 1700 platform, it's likely to be just that – a refresh. In contrast, AM5 promises genuine architectural upgrades and is expected to have at least two of them. Consequently, for gaming enthusiasts, my unequivocal recommendation would be to opt for the 7800X 3D. However, for those focusing on productivity, the choice should be based on which CPU yields the best results in your specific applications. In my experience, either the 13700K or the 7900/7900X have consistently stood out as top choices.

Core i9-13900K or Ryzen 9 7950x

The most recent processors you should consider include the Ryzen 9 7900X3D, 7950X, 7950X3D, and the Core i9 13900 series. However, in my view, the $550 price tag on the 7900X3D doesn't make it a prudent choice. For tasks centered on productivity, it's more sensible to opt for the least expensive 7900, priced at $420, or the 7900X at $430, as the disparities between them are quite minimal. If your priority is gaming, the $450 7800X3D stands as a dependable choice.

The 7950X3D, which comes in at $700, offers a more logical option, especially if you're crafting a single PC and aiming for peak gaming and productivity performance without overheating concerns. In comparison to the Core i9 13900KS, the 7950X3D, paired with DDR5 7200 memory, showcases an impressive 8% performance boost in the Blender Open Data benchmark. Remarkably, the Ryzen 9 processor operates on nearly half the power, drawing just 279 watts compared to the Intel processor's 497 watts. Although the 7950X3D carries a higher price tag than the $560 13900K, it stands as a worthwhile investment for productivity due to its efficiency in power consumption and its enduring platform.

While the Core i9 13900K does present itself as a competent all-rounder, it significantly compromises on power efficiency and platform support. If gaming takes precedence in your considerations, my recommendation leans toward the more budget-friendly Ryzen 7 7800X3D. For those seeking a harmonious blend of gaming and productivity performance, the Ryzen 9 7950X3D is the optimal path to follow.


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