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Best Intel CPUs in 2022: For gaming, creative workloads, and tight budgets

Intel 12th Gen Core I9 Hero Boxes
(Image credit: Future)

Intel is still the king of the CPUs, and with Alder Lake, the company is offering CPUs with new hybrid cores, higher frequencies, and better efficiency across the board. The Core i5-10600K is the obvious choice if you want the latest silicon, but there are plenty of great alternatives across all price points. We've rounded up the best CPUs from Intel right here.

Intel Core i5-12600K

(Image credit: Intel)
The best overall Intel CPU

Reasons to buy

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Decent value
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Solid performance
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10 cores and 16 threads
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Unlocked for overclocking
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Hybrid core design

Reasons to avoid

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Needs a new 12th Gen motherboard
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No bundled cooler
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Not designed for creative use

The Intel Core i9-12900K is an absolute machine of a processor. It'll easily handle almost anything you can think of throwing at it, but for most people, you only require a processor with a few cores (and a lower price tag). This is where the excellent Intel Core i5-12600K comes into play.

This is part of Intel's new hybrid family of processors, rocking both performance and efficiency cores. There are 10 physical cores and 16 threads. This is composed of six performance cores with Hyperthreading, as well as four efficient cores for handling lesser tasks. 

Capable of hitting a boost speed of 4.9GHz, this processor is ideal for gaming and other general use. It supports DDR4 and DDR5 RAM, PCIe 5.0, and is built on Intel's new 10nm manufacturing process. If that wasn't enough, you get all this performance at a TDP of 125W.

As a daily driver, the Intel Core i5-12600K is an incredible processor. It's mightily impressive and has very few shortcomings. If all you need is a great CPU for gaming at 1080p and 1440p resolutions, this is all you need.


Intel Core i7-12700K

(Image credit: Intel)

Intel Core i7-12700K

Best Intel CPU for gaming

Reasons to buy

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12 cores and 20 threads
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Excellent gaming performance
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Decent value
+
Unlocked for overclocking
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Hybrid core design

Reasons to avoid

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Not the most efficient CPU
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No bundled cooler

Should you require a little more performance than what the Core i5-12600K offers but don't want to fork out for the Core i9-12900K, the Intel Core i7-12700K is a great middle ground. It comes packing 12 physical cores and 20 threads for some impressive performance figures.

Capable of hitting a clock speed of 5GHz under ideal boost conditions, you can easily enjoy your favorite and most demanding PC games without issue. The Core i7-12700K would pair well with the best graphics card up to an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090. It's a little power-hungry, however.

To truly enjoy what the Core i7 has to offer, you'll want to use a capable all-in-one liquid cooler to handle the heat output. This CPU is rated by Intel to reach a TDP of 190W when boosting to higher frequencies. For gaming and general computing, you'll feel right at home here.


Intel Core i3-12100

(Image credit: Intel)

Intel Core i3-12100

Best budget Intel CPU

Reasons to buy

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Incredibly affordable
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Available for under $150
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4 cores and 8 threads
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Solid performance for daily use

Reasons to avoid

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No integrated graphics
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No bundled cooler
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No overclocking support
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No hybrid cores

If you're into buying a 12th Gen Intel processor on a tight budget, look no further than the Intel Core i3-12100. To keep costs low, Intel opted to only include four performance cores with Hyperthreading, so there aren't any efficient cores present for better workflow.

The lack of any integrated graphics shouldn't be an issue for most people since discrete GPUs are used in desktop computers, but it's something to bear in mind if you're building an office setup. When paired with a decent graphics card, this turns into quite the gaming machine.

At just 60W for TDP, the Core i3-1200 doesn't require a beefy cooler, allowing you to save even more on the cooling solution. It's just a shame it cannot be overclocked.


Intel Core i9-12900K

(Image credit: Intel)
Best enthusiast Intel CPU

Reasons to buy

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16 cores and 24 threads
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Outstanding performance
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Unlocked for overclocking
+
Hybrid core design

Reasons to avoid

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High power usage
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Requires beefy cooler

The Intel Core i9-12900K is a monster of a processor. Inside this small chip are eight performance and eight efficient cores, resulting in a total thread count of 24. This allows the processor to boost up to a TDP of 200W and a clock speed of 5.1GHz for impressive performance.

Whether you're wanting enough headroom for 4K gaming with the best graphics card you can afford, or plan to do some rendering and other creative work, this Intel CPU is perfect. One issue you may encounter is heat. The Core i9-12900K pumps out a lot of heat, and you will require one of the best AIO liquid coolers.

Choosing the best Intel processor

Whether you're looking for a budget option or are interested in a 10-core CPU that blazes through everything you throw at it, Intel has something to offer at all price points. The Core i5-12600K, in particular, stands out because it delivers outstanding performance without being too expensive. If you're looking to play the latest games and need a CPU that keeps up, the Core i5-12600K is the ideal option.

If you need a more budget-focused option, the Core i3-12100 is still a great choice in 2022. When paired with a decent video card, you can play most titles at 1080p and QHD, so if you're not switching to 4K gaming just yet, it is a solid option. For those that desire ultimate performance, you'll want to consider the mightily powerful (and expensive) Core i9-12900K.