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The best Intel processors for 2022

Even while facing downAMD's Ryzen 7000 processors, Intel has come out on top with its Raptor Lake CPUs. The best Intel processor you can buy right now is the Core i5-13600K, but in a strange change of pace, Intel has several excellent options on the market right now.

From high-end gaming CPUs to some recent 12th-generation CPUs that are under $100, Intel has a compelling option at just about every price point. The AMD versus Intel war rages on, but for fans of Team Blue, these are the best Intel CPUs you can buy.

Intel Core i5-13600K Desktop Processor 14 cores (6 P-cores + 8 E-cores) 24M Cache, up to 5.1 GHz
Intel Core i5-13600K
The best Intel processor
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Intel Core i5-12400F
Intel Core i5-12400F
The best budget Intel processor
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Intel Core i9-12900K
Intel Core i9-12900K
The best high-end Intel processor
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Intel Core i9-13900K
Intel Core i9-13900K
The fastest Intel processor
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Intel Core i5-12600K
Intel Core i5-12600K
The best Intel processor for gamers
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Intel Core i3-12100F
Intel Core i3-12100F
The best Intel processor under $100
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ASUS ROG Strix Scar 15 (2022)
Intel Core i9-12900H
The best 12th Gen Intel mobile processor
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MSI Stealth 15M Gaming Laptop
Intel Core i7-11375H
The best 11th Gen mobile Intel processor
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Intel Core i5-13600K installed in a motherboard.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Intel Core i5-13600K

The best Intel processor

Pros
  • Cheaper than AMD competition
  • Support for 600-series motherboards and DDR4
  • Solid multi-core improvements
  • Surprising gen-on-gen improvements
Cons
  • High power demands
  • Small gaming performance gains

Why you should buy this: It's inexpensive, packed with cores, and offers much more performance than its price would suggest.

Who it's for: Gamers and power users who want peak performance without breaking the bank.

What we thought of the Intel Core i5-13600K:

The dilemma between Core i5 and Core i7 is always present with Intel processors, but the Core i5-13600K changes that dynamic. It's around $120 less than the Core i7-13700K while offering similar performance in both productivity tasks and gaming. In some cases, it even beats down the flagship Core i9-13900K, making it one of the best CPUs you can buy right now.

For around $300, you're getting a 14-core CPU with clock speeds upward of 5.1GHz, which would have been unheard of even a couple of years ago. Not all of those 14 cores are built equally, though. Similar to Intel's previous generation, the Core i5-13600K mixes performance (P) cores and efficient (E) cores. With the Core i5-13600K, you're getting six P-cores and eight E-cores.

The six P-cores are more than enough for gaming, which is what allows the Core i5-13600K to compete with AMD's Ryzen 5 7600X at the same price. It's the extra E-cores where Intel shoots ahead, though, offering better multi-core performance in demanding tasks like video encoding and rendering.

In addition, the Core i5-13600K isn't pushed to the brink like the more expensive chips in Intel's Raptor Lake lineup. It still has some headroom for CPU overclocking, so power users can squeeze extra performance out of the processor.

Intel Core i5-13600K Desktop Processor 14 cores (6 P-cores + 8 E-cores) 24M Cache, up to 5.1 GHz
Intel Core i5-13600K
The best Intel processor
Intel Core i5-12400F box sitting in front of a gaming PC.

Intel Core i5-12400F

The best budget Intel processor

Pros
  • Excellent value
  • Six cores on a recent architecture
  • Fantastic gaming performance
Cons
  • No integrated graphics
  • Doesn't support overclocking

Why you should buy this: It's inexpensive while still offering highly competitive performance.

Who it's for: PC builders on a tight budget that only need a few cores.

What we thought of the Intel Core i5-12400F:

Intel always follows up its main releases with more budget-friendly options as a generation goes on, and unfortunately, they don't always get the limelight they deserve. That couldn't be more true than it is with the Core i5-12400F. At around $100 less than the Core i5-12600K, you're getting similar performance and a recent Intel architecture.

This one comes from the last-gen Alder Lake range, but don't let that scare you off. Instead of a hybrid architecture, the Core i5-12400F opts for six performance cores and no efficient cores. That means you're still getting 12 threads, along with a boost clock speed of 4.4GHz.

Gaming is where the chip shines most, oftentimes only taking a backseat of 5% to 10% compared to the more expensive Core i5-12600K. You can push the processor further by removing its power limit, too, allowing it to rival even the Core i9-11900K from a couple of generations back. That's a lot of CPU power for around $150.

There are a couple of caveats for this one, though. For starters, it doesn't support overclocking, but you can still remove the power limit for a performance boost. In addition, it doesn't include integrated graphics, so you'll need to pair the CPU with one of the best graphics cards. You can pick up the Core i5-12400, which is the same CPU with integrated graphics, but it's about $25 more expensive.

Intel Core i5-12400F
Intel Core i5-12400F
The best budget Intel processor
intel core i9 12900k review 2
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Intel Core i9-12900K

The best high-end Intel processor

Pros
  • Outpaces the Ryzen 9 5950X in most workloads
  • Significantly cheaper than the Ryzen 9 5950X
  • DDR5 support
  • Solid overclocking headroom
  • PCIe 5.0 on supported motherboards
Cons
  • High power demands
  • Runs a little hot

Why you should buy this: It's the second most powerful Intel processor you can buy right now.

Who it's for: Anyone who needs the best without majorly overpaying.

What we thought of the Intel Core i9-12900K:

Intel's flagships haven't been impressive over the past couple of generations, but the Core i9-12900K changes that. It's the flagship of flagships, sporting 16 cores and single-core boost speeds of up to 5.2GHz. It blows past everything else on the market, making it a great choice for gaming, content creation, and everything in between.

Our testing shows that the Core i9-12900K can outperform the competing AMD Ryzen 9 5950X by as much as 30% in some cases. It holds a solid lead in gaming, but the Core i9-12900K really shines in content creation workloads, where it's much faster than the competition. For gaming, the recently released AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D is yet another rival to Intel's best.

It's power-hungry, but most Intel chips are these days. The Core i9-12900K is a clear showcase of Alder Lake's hybrid architecture and what it can do for PCs, offering up a high core count and plenty of bandwidth for multitasking. Although the Core i9-12900KS is slightly better, it's also much more expensive.

The more recent Core i9-13900K is certainly faster than Intel's last-gen flagship, but it's also much more expensive. Right now, you can find the Core i9-12900K somewhere around $200 cheaper, all while offering 24 cores and top-shelf performance.

Intel Core i9-12900K
Intel Core i9-12900K
The best high-end Intel processor
Intel Core i9-13900K held between fingertips.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Intel Core i9-13900K

The fastest Intel processor

Pros
  • Cheaper than AMD competition
  • Support for 600-series motherboards and DDR4
  • Solid multi-core improvements
  • Surprising gen-on-gen improvements
Cons
  • High power demands
  • Small gaming performance gains

Why you should buy this: It's the fastest Intel processor you can buy right now.

Who's it for: High-end enthusiasts who don't mind spending up for the best of the best.

What we thought of the Intel Core i9-13900K:

The fastest CPU on the market right now is undoubtedly Intel's Core i9-13900K, and that's surprising because it's not even the most expensive. At nearly $700, it's still a pricey chip, but the Core i9-13900K manages to undercut AMD's competing Ryzen 9 7950X while offering better performance in many cases.

No small part of that performance advantage is that the Core i9-13900K comes with 24 cores. You get eight P-cores and 16 E-cores, giving you a total of 32 threads to work with. Even more impressive, the processor can boost up to 5.8GHz out of the box, offering some of the highest clock speeds available in a desktop CPU right now.

Despite sporting the new 13th-gen Raptor Lake architecture, you can still use older 600-series motherboards and DDR4 memory with the Core i9-13900K, too. That makes it a much more compelling (and cheaper) upgrade path if you haven't jumped to DDR5 quite yet.

The only downside of the Core i9-13900K is that it's too powerful. It runs hot and draws a lot of power, and in tasks like gaming, the cheaper Core i5-13600K offers almost identical performance. If you need peak horsepower, though, nothing beats the Core i9-13900K.

Intel Core i9-13900K
Intel Core i9-13900K
The fastest Intel processor
An Intel Alder Lake Core i5-12600K CPU and its packaging.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Intel Core i5-12600K

The best Intel processor for gamers

Pros
  • Inexpensive now that Raptor Lake is here
  • Excellent gaming performance
  • Relatively cool
Cons
  • Still requires a new motherboard
  • Slightly outclassed by the Core i5-13600K

Why you should buy this: It's the best Intel processor for gamers.

Who it's for: Gamers who need a little extra bandwidth.

What we thought of the Intel Core i5-12600K:

If you're looking for the best gaming processor, it's hard to beat the Intel Core i5-12600K right now. It comes packed with 10 cores for around $300, with six performance cores and four efficiency cores. The performance cores shred through games, while the extra efficient cores provide some extra bandwidth for more demanding workloads.

The single-core improvements with Intel's 12th-gen processors shine with the Core i5-12600K. In games, it can outpace even the AMD Ryzen 9 5950X in some cases — and that processor is nearly three times as expensive. Overall, it manages to top the gaming charts, only playing second fiddle to the more expensive processors from Intel's 13th-gen lineup as well as some high-end AMD options like the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, which is, again, pricier than the Core i5-12600K.

It also benefits from the hybrid 12th-gen architecture. This class of CPU is most commonly best for pure gaming. For gaming and streaming, we usually recommend bumping up a step. That's not the case with the Core i5-12600K. The 10 cores provide plenty of bandwidth for gaming and streaming, which is something we rarely see on a $300 processor.

Intel Core i5-12600K
Intel Core i5-12600K
The best Intel processor for gamers

Intel Core i3-12100F

The best Intel processor under $100

Pros
  • A step-up over the Core i3-10100F
  • Suitable for light gaming and daily use
  • Good performance for the price
Cons
  • Requires a discrete graphics card

Why you should buy this: It's a cheap, yet decent current-gen processor that costs around $100.

Who's it for: Users on a budget who still want a versatile CPU.

What we thought of the Intel Core i3-12100F:

With the release of the current-gen Intel Alder Lake processors, many of the slightly older CPUs on this list were dethroned and replaced by their 12th-generation counterparts. There's no denying that this line of processors has been a good one for Intel, and this shows even through wallet-friendly models priced at close to $100 such as the Core i3-12100F.

Although it's firmly in the entry-level range, Intel Core i3-12100F offers excellent value for the money and can provide you with quite a large scope of things it's capable of doing. It should deliver much better performance than the previous budget king (Intel Core i3-10100F, found below), and while yes, it does cost a little bit more, the price is pretty negligible considering the upgrade you're getting. For an extra $20-$40, your processor receives a two-generation bump and the performance to go with it.

Equipped with four cores and eight threads as well as clock speeds reaching up to 4.3GHz, this processor is a bit of an oddity in the Alder Lake lineup, as it doesn't share the hybrid architecture of its more expensive siblings and instead serves up only P-cores. That doesn't make it unsuitable at all, however, and it will carry its own weight through both gaming and various daily tasks. It may not be your first choice if you want something truly powerful, but if you're looking to keep the costs low, this should be your go-to for 2022.

Intel Core i3-12100F
Intel Core i3-12100F
The best Intel processor under $100
Asus ROG Strix Scar 15 (2022) laptop.

Intel Core i9-12900H

The best 12th Gen Intel mobile processor

Pros
  • One of the best mobile processors on the market
  • Powerful for gaming and productivity
  • Acceptable power consumption for this performance level
Cons
  • It's still fairly difficult to find

Why you should buy this: It's a high-end processor for laptop gamers and professionals alike.

Who's it for: Gaming enthusiasts and other users who value performance over the price.

What we thought of the Intel Core i9-12900H:

Mobile Alder Lake CPUs are slowly becoming the norm in some of the best gaming laptops, introducing the new generation to the fans of gaming on the go. This brings us to the Intel Core i9-12900H, a fantastic, if expensive, mobile CPU.

This is a high-end Intel processor with 14 cores (six of which are performance cores, and eight — efficient cores) and 20 threads as well as 24MB of combined Intel Smart Cache. The clock speeds are hitting new heights for a mobile processor, capping at 5.00GHz in Turbo mode. There is no better way to put this — this CPU is a beast, and it'll breeze through just about anything you want to throw at it. There are more powerful mobile Intel CPUs, such as the Core i9-12900HX with 16 cores and 24 threads, but the Core i9-12900H tends to be a little bit cheaper, and it isn't quite such a drain on battery life.

In the example shown above, the Core i9-12900H is housed inside the Asus ROG Strix Scar 15 laptop and paired with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti. Put together, these two components are certain to deliver next-level gaming capabilities, and depending on the configuration, the price is still fairly reasonable. Get it if you want to be able to play AAA titles without issues but don't necessarily want to spend a fortune on a laptop.

ASUS ROG Strix Scar 15 (2022)
Intel Core i9-12900H
The best 12th Gen Intel mobile processor
msi stealth 15m slim gaming powerhouse

Intel Core i7-11375H

The best 11th Gen mobile Intel processor

Pros
  • It's still one of the best Intel mobile processors
  • Offers smooth gaming and productivity
  • Powerful specs, but low power consumption
Cons
  • There are better Intel Alder Lake options available

Why you should buy this: It's one of the most powerful Intel mobile chips, priced lower than the current-gen Alder Lake options.

Who it's for: Mobile users that demand a little more power than a normal mobile CPU.

What we thought of the Intel Core i7-11375H:

Although the desktop processors from that generation may not always be user favorites, the Tiger Lake mobile processors are excellent. For a great balance of performance and power, we recommend the i7-11375H. It comes with four cores and eight threads, a base clock of 3.3GHz, and a staggering boost clock of 5GHz, all while keeping power demands under 35 watts. The i7-11375H leads Intel's new Tiger Lake H35 processors, which target portable gaming laptops with 14-inch screens.

The processor shows up in laptops like MSI's Stealth 15M, but many manufacturers are switching over to 12th Gen CPUs. Despite sporting similar specs, the i7-11375H passes even the top Tiger Lake chips with its extended power budget. That translates to some performance improvements in single-core performance. With the same underlying architecture, however, you should expect more of a performance benefit in multithreaded tasks.

It's hard to say anything definitive about a mobile CPU, though. The wrong build can make even the best processors look weak, and a decent configuration can make underpowered CPUs shine. The i7-11375H is one of the most powerful mobile Intel CPUs available, but it's important to consult individual laptop reviews. The example mentioned above, MSI Stealth 15M, is an excellent gaming laptop that will let this CPU truly shine.

If you're looking for more raw power, Intel also offers the Core i9-11980HK in premium gaming laptops. It comes with eight cores and 16 threads and a turbo speed of 5GHz, so it's certainly faster than the i7-11375H. However, it mainly shows up in high-end gaming machines, so it's not for everyone. There are also Intel Alder Lake options already available, such as the Intel Core i9-12900H.

MSI Stealth 15M Gaming Laptop
Intel Core i7-11375H
The best 11th Gen mobile Intel processor

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between K and F Intel processors?

Intel uses multiple suffixes to indicate different features, but "K" and "F" are among the most common. "K" processors are unlocked, so you can overclock them with a compatible motherboard. "F" processors don't come with integrated graphics, so you'll need a dedicated graphics card. You may even find a "KF" processor, indicating that it's unlocked and requires discrete graphics.

You can usually find variants of Intel's leading i9, i7, and i5 processors with either or both suffixes. If you're planning on building a gaming computer, you can save a few dollars by purchasing the "F" variant of a processor. On the other side, "K" processors are slightly more expensive with their overclocking capabilities. If you want a full breakdown on Intel's naming scheme, make sure to read our CPU buying guide.

How good are AMD Ryzen processors compared to Intel?

Intel Core and AMD Ryzen both offer excellent processors at different price points and in different forms, so one brand isn't definitively better than the other. That said, if you're shopping for a desktop processor in 2022, AMD Ryzen currently falls behind Intel, but not by much. The newer AMD Ryzen processors pack a lot of cores and perform well, so they're still very capable CPUs, and you may be able to snag one of them cheaper than Intel's 12th-gen Alder Lake offerings.

It's worth noting that this may change with the release of the upcoming AMD Ryzen 7000 processors, which are said to be better than many of the Intel models. Intel will soon be catching up, though, because it will release its next-gen Raptor Lake CPUs too.

In the mobile world, Intel used to dominate. Now, you can find machines with AMD Ryzen processors, too, and they perform great. That said, there is still a far greater number of machines that come with Intel processors, and they stack up well against the AMD competition.

In short, an Intel processor is generally better on desktop, and Intel and AMD are evenly matched on mobile, though Intel has more options available. Keep in mind that the power balance between Intel and AMD changes with each processor release, so although Intel is better right now, it may not always be that way. Remember that picking up an AMD processor will also require an entirely different motherboard than an Intel processor would.

How do you know which processor is best for your needs?

To find the best processor for your needs, you need to consider the applications you want to run. If you're into gaming, for example, a processor with strong single-core performance is a good choice because games usually stress only a handful of cores at a time. On the other hand, content creation applications like Adobe Premiere Pro and DaVinci Resolve can take advantage of a greater number of cores, so a processor with a lot of cores is better for them.

Those are good rules to follow. Games like a fast processor over one with a lot of cores, and content-creation apps like more cores over faster ones. Some processors, such as the Intel Core i9-12900K and AMD Ryzen 9 5900X, offer both. If you want a processor for browsing the internet and using basic apps, any processor with four or more cores from the last few years should work well.

How can you tell if a PC processor is any good?

The best way to tell if a PC processor is good is to look at individual benchmarks. Specs like core count and clock speed don't tell the full story — they only show what the processor is capable of within its own range of products. If you've settled on a certain brand or series, however, looking at core counts and clock speeds can show you where the processor sits in the range.

If you want to test your own processor, there are plenty of tools available. Cinebench is a great benchmarking tool that focuses solely on the processor, while PCMark 10 provides an overview of performance across a suite of day-to-day tasks.

Where can you find a full breakdown on Intel’s naming scheme?

Intel's naming scheme can get a little confusing sometimes, but once you know your way around it, you'll be able to navigate every processor by heart without needing to check what it does.

Let's assume the processor you're trying to look up is called "Intel Core i9-12900KS." The first part, Intel Core, refers to the brand of the processor. Intel has several brands that are not Intel Core, such as the low-end Intel Pentium or Intel Celeron.

The second part is the brand modifier. This is important and refers to how powerful a particular CPU is within its generation. Starting with the budget i3, Intel also offers i5, i7, and i9. The i5 and i7 lines are typically mid-range to high-end, and the i9 is reserved for high-end processors.

Moving on to the numerical part of the name, the first two digits refer to the generation of the processor. As an example, Intel's 12th-generation processors, Alder Lake, all start with a "12." The final three digits refer to the specific model and also go up depending on how good a model you're dealing with.

The letter at the end refers to the type of processor. There are many variants, so check them out on Intel's website if you want a full list. The most common ones include:

  • K - Unlocked (overclockable)
  • F - No integrated graphics
  • S - Special edition
  • T - Low power, lower performance

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