CPU Hierarchy 2021 – PC Processors Tier List

Learn how processors from AMD and Intel stack up against each other in this ultimate CPU hierarchy that we keep up-to-date at all times.

When upgrading a computer to get more FPS in games or to be more productive, the GPU and CPU are the main pieces of hardware that must be changed. The GPU’s role is to handle all visuals-related tasks such as video games, videos, etc. while the CPU handles almost everything else.

With so many processors available on the market and different price points, finding the right one is never easy.

To ensure that the PC enthusiasts reading this article make the correct choice, we have created this hierarchy of CPUs of the last couple of generations to help conceptualize exactly what they need.

We’re ranking CPUs in tiers based on their performance in gaming and productivity.

Without further ado, here it is!

Related:What Is A CPU?What CPU Do I Have?CPU vs. GPU – What Is The Difference?

Table of ContentsShow

S Tier

CPU Hierarchy S Tier

The S-tier is where the most powerful and most expensive processors belong. These CPUs are for those that either want to maximize their FPS in the most graphically demanding games or to do professional work such as rendering.

Keep in mind, high-end processors won’t have too large of an impact with high-resolution gaming because of GPU bottlenecking. But, they will definitely increase your FPS in competitive titles, at lower settings and 1080p.

For productivity, there are a couple of options out there. Third-generation Threadripper is some of the most powerful CPUs out there. The Threadripper 3990X, for example, has 64 cores and 128 threads. But, we’re not sure if the 3990X is really part of the consumer market considering that it costs $4000. That price point is closer to server CPUs.

Alternatively, the Threadripper 3960X is priced at $1,400 with 24 cores and 48 threads. If you are looking for an Intel alternative, the i9-10980XE has 18 cores/ 36 threads at $1000. We wouldn’t recommend these for gaming though.

AMD’s Ryzen 5950X, 5900X, 5800X and Intel’s i9-11900K, i7-11700K are for S-tier gaming which MSRPs are $800, $550, $550, and $400 respectively.

Gaming

Model Frequency Cores/Threads TDP
1.AMD Ryzen 5950X4.9 GHz16/32105W
2.Intel i9-11900K5.3 GHz8/16125W
3.AMD Ryzen 5900X4.8 GHz12/24105W
4.AMD Ryzen 5800X4.7 GHz8/16105W
5.Intel i7-11700K5.0 GHz8/16125W

Productivity

Model Frequency Cores/Threads TDP
1.AMD Threadripper 3990X4.3 GHz64/128280W
2.AMD Threadripper 3970X4.5 GHz32/64280W
3.Intel Xeon W-3175X3.8 GHz28/56255W
4.AMD Threadripper 3960X4.5 GHz24/48280W
5.AMD Threadripper 2990 WX4.2 GHz32/64250W
6.Intel Core i9-10980XE4.8 GHz18/36165W
AMD Ryzen 9 5950X
Currently the most powerful consumer CPU in the world.

A Tier

CPU Hierarchy A Tier

The A-tier of CPUs consists of new and older generation CPUs that do not cost an arm and a leg, and also have a lower core count.

Here, we have the Ryzen 5600X competing against Intel’s i5-11600K. Both of these CPUs are similarly priced and have 6 cores/12 threads. They are also considerably cheaper than S-tier CPUs at around $300.

The Ryzen 5700G and 5600G (AMD’s CPUs with iGPU) also fit in here, right below the i9-10900.

But, we also have last’s generation 10700K or 10900K. Both of these should be faster than the 12 thread processors.

AMD’s 3rd generation also deserves a spot in this A-tier. Specifically the Ryzen 3900X and 3700X.

Model Frequency Cores/Threads TDP
1.Intel i9-10900K5.3 GHz10/20125W
2.Intel i7-10700K5.1 GHz8/16125W
3.AMD Ryzen 5600X4.6 GHz12/2465W
4.Intel i5-11600K4.9 GHz6/12125W
5.Intel i9-10900/T5.20 GHz/4.60 GHz10/2065W/35W
6.AMD Ryzen 3900X/XT4.6 GHz/4.7 GHz12/24105W
7.AMD Ryzen 5700G4.6 GHz8/1665W
8.AMD Ryzen 5600G4.4 GHz6/1265W
9.Intel i5-11400F4.40 GHz6/1265W
10.Intel i5-10600K4.8 GHz6/12125W
11.AMD Ryzen 3800X/XT4.5 GHz/4.7 GHz8/16105W
12.Intel i5-10400F4.3 GHz6/1265W
13.AMD Ryzen 3700X4.4 GHz8/1665W

B Tier

CPU Hierarchy B Tier

We’ve reached the B-Tier of CPUs. Don’t be mistaken. The processors in this category are still more than capable to handle modern-day games and output competitive FPS. B-tier processors might provide the best price-per-performance out of all other options.

Ryzen 3600 was and probably still is one of AMD’s most successful processors. A 12-thread processor with a low power draw and sold for just $200. How can you not love it?

These days, you could probably grab the 3600 or even the 3600X for no more than $180.

AMD Ryzen 5 3600
Ryzen 3600, one of AMD’s most valued CPUs.

Some of Intel’s 9th generation CPUs also fit perfectly here. The 9900K and even the 8-thread 9700K are still good enough. Of course, at a much lower price than MSRP.

Model Frequency Cores/Threads TDP
1.Intel i9-9900K5.0 GHz8/1695W
2.Intel i7-9700K4.9 GHz8/895W
3.Intel i9-99005.0 GHz8/1665W
4.Intel i7-97004.7 GHz8/865W
5.AMD Ryzen 3600X4.4 GHz6/1265W
6.AMD Ryzen 36004.2 GHz6/1265W
7.Intel 3300X4.3 GHz4/895W
8.Intel i5-9600K4.6 GHz6/695W
    

C Tier

CPU Hierarchy C Tier

We’ve reached the category of processors that will start showing their age, lack of cores, and power, especially in the latest video games.

AMD’s second generation of Ryzen still provides incredible value, but its IPC is pretty weak, leaving a lot to desire. The same goes for Intel’s 9th generation i5s and i3s.

The Ryzen 2700X is a pretty good offer since you can grab it for less than $200 and get an 8 core and 16 thread CPU. But, this is Zen+, do not mistake it for AMD’s Zen 2 (3600, 3700X, etc.). It is considerably slower in single-core performance.

Intel’s i5s (such as the 9400F) aretoo are also outdated considering they are locked to just 6 threads while i3s are stuck at 4 threads. That’s too low for today’s standards.

Model Frequency Cores/Threads TDP
1.Intel i3-103004.4 GHz4/865W
2.Intel i5-9400/F4.1 GHz6/665W
3.Intel i3-101004.3 GHz4/865W
4.Ryzen 2700X4.3 GHz8/16105W
5.Ryzen Pro 4750G4.4 GHz8/1665W
6.Ryzen 31003.9 GHz4/865W
7.Ryzen 3400G4.2 GHz4/865W

D Tier

CPU Hierarchy D Tier

This is the D Tier, a category of CPUs that can considerably hinder the full potential of your GPU, especially if you have a flagship GPU like an RTX 3090 or RX 6900XT.

Even after considering the low costs of CPUs such as the 2600X, i3-9100, and others, they’re difficult to recommend as there are similarly priced SKUs with much better performance.

Model Frequency Cores/Threads TDP
1.Ryzen 27004.1 GHz8/1665W
2.Ryzen 2600X4.2 GHz6/1295W
3.Ryzen 26003.9 GHz6/1265W
4.Intel i3-91004.2 GHz4/465W
5.Ryzen 3200G4.0 GHz4/465W
6.Ryzen 2400G3.9 GHz4/865W
7.Ryzen 2200G3.7 GHz4/465W
8.Intel Pentium G66054.3 GHz2/458W

Final Words On The CPU Hierarchy

This tiered list is made out of about 40 CPUs. That is a pretty low number considering there are hundreds of CPUs out there. However, we decided to limit these tiers to the last three generations of processors from both AMD or Intel.

Additionally, there are some exclusions from the latest generations too as some CPUs can only be bought together with an OEM PC or pre-built systems.

These CPU rankings are based on several review websites and youtube tech channels including Tom’s Hardware, Hardware Unboxed, and Gamers Nexus. We’ve also compared scores from benchmarks such as Cinebench and Geekbench 5.

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Branko Gapo
Branko Gapo

Keeping up with the incredibly fast evolution of computer technology is almost impossible. That's why Branko will be using his knowledge on this matter to share news and information on all the latest essential technological innovations and advancements related to CPUs.