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How to Choose the Best Intel Processor for Home, Work, and Play.jpg

How to Choose the Best Intel Processor for Home, Work, and Play

Jolene Dobbin
Reading time: 9 minutes
As one of the leaders in the CPU market, Intel ® offers an array of high-performing, cost-effective CPUs that are ideal for both desktop and laptop computers across industries and use cases.
The company is continually innovating with new and improved products, so it can be difficult to determine the best processor for one's specific needs. We'll help ease those decision-making processes by offering some strategies for choosing the best Intel processor for various use cases, including those CPUs that are perfect for home, work, and play (or gaming).

What is a processor/CPU?

The central processing unit (CPU) of a computer is also referred to as its “processor.” It is arguably a computer's most important component as it enables the system to perform tasks through applications and carries out and controls the computer's program instructions: receiving, directing, and processing the data; it's truly the brain of the entire system.

Features that you'll find in processors

Let's touch on some of the important features comprising processors and what to look for, including:
  • Cores
  • Threads
  • Base/Turbo clock speeds
  • Overclocking capabilities (if applicable)


A CPU “core” is another word for the pathway that a CPU uses to execute a “process” or set of instructions. When processors were first developed nearly 49 years ago, they had only one core that focused on a single task.
As computers got more sophisticated and started doing more than one computation at a time, processors added additional cores. The first multi-core processor came on the scene 20 years ago and they've been adding capability ever since.
Today's CPUs have between 2 and 64 cores, each of which carries out a unique task. CPUs with more cores are usually more efficient than those with fewer cores.
Although dual-core processors are still around and, indeed, are quite functional, quad-core processors have come down in price and gone up in processing power to take over the sweet spot for most use cases. They're great for multitasking in industrial applications, compute-heavy functions, and high-end visual design.
You may want to move up to a hexa- or even octa-core processor if you're looking for more “oomph” in your tasks and activities or need to use complex software. CPU intensive software includes AI (artificial intelligence), crunching large data sets, advanced programming, gaming, and running multiple applications simultaneously.
You'll also get better results from your GPU performance for tasks like video/audio editing, 3D rendering, and VR when you have a robust CPU that can help handle the load.

Cores in laptops vs desktops

When comparing the number of cores in desktop PCs and laptops, keep in mind that laptops generally will have fewer cores than desktops. This is because desktop computers have more internal space for fans and liquid cooling, allowing them to use more cores simultaneously without worrying about overheating.


Threads refer to the number of independent processes that a CPU can handle at the same time, so multithreading allows a single core to create two processing threads. More threads translate into enhanced performance and multitasking capabilities by enabling more work to be completed in parallel. Intel calls this Hyper-Threading (HT) technology.

Base/turbo clock speeds

Measured in gigahertz (GHz), base clock speed is the average speed at which the CPU operates. This represents the number of clock cycles (or calculations) that a processor can manage in a second. Boost (or turbo) clock speed refers to the maximum speed that the CPU can reach.
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Higher CPU speeds enable your system to run better and faster while using multiple applications. As an example, speeds of 3.5 to 4.0 GHz are considered ideal for most use cases. However, while faster speeds are better, be sure to only compare processors from the same family, generation, and manufacturer.


“Overclocking” is the practice of manually setting higher clock speeds to achieve more performance. When a CPU has overclocking capabilities, it means that it can be adjusted to enhance performance within its cores and speed processing times. Keep in mind, though, that overclocking can void warranties and wear out components faster.
Intel has built Turbo Boost into its processors throughout many generations. This overclocking feature allows some of the chip's cores to run faster than their base clock speed when only one or two of the cores are needed.

Intel processors: What's in a name?

There are hundreds of different kinds of Intel processors available for both desktop and laptop computers. In fact, the company has released major processor models for decades now. Each model comes with a distinct name, number, and suffix along with various specialties and capabilities regarding overall performance, multitasking, graphics, and more.


One of Intel's most popular set of CPUs is its Intel® Core™ Processors, including the i5, i7, and i9. These well-established processors are now on the 10th Generation, each one building on the previous processor microarchitecture with an enhanced feature set and faster speeds compared to those of earlier generations.
You'll recognize the generation of the processor by the first number after the i5, i7, and i9 (and after the hyphen). For instance, the i5-9600K is a 9th Generation i5 CPU.
The CPUs in this article are all either 9th or 10th Generation Intel Core Processors. Both are powerful processors, with the 10th Generation delivering substantial performance upgrades for increased productivity and connectivity, including more battery life, up to 5.3 GHz turbo speeds, Intel® WiFi 6 (Gig+), Thunderbolt™ 3 technology, immersive 4K HDR, intelligent system optimization, and more.

What do suffixes mean?

You'll also note that some CPUs have a letter at the end of the model name. Here is a guide to what they mean:
  • K: Unlocked for overclocking
  • H: High-performance graphics
  • T: Optimized for efficient desktop computing
  • U: Optimized for laptop power efficiency
  • F: High-performance processor used with discrete graphics cards (ex. Gaming)
  • X: Unlocked for extreme desktop performance

The 13 best Intel Core processors for work, home, and play

There are far too many CPU models to cover within this short overview, so please consider what we're suggesting below as a sample of some of the best Intel products. While it's not possible to answer the question “What is the best Intel processor?” in such an overview, we've separated each by use case as well as desktop and laptop computers.

Best Intel processor for home

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In both desktop and laptop computers, Intel Core i5 CPUs cater to consumers looking for value, while they also need superior performance for mainstream and other applications. These CPUs are ideal for activities such as email; paying bills; connecting with family, friends, or colleagues on Zoom; fast browsing capabilities; and loads of other multitasking needs. These best i5 processors are perfect for the whole family.

Desktop: Intel Core i5-9400T

Laptop: Intel Core i5-10210U

Best Intel processor for school

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The Intel Core i5 processors here are ideal for performing virtually every type of educational task that is thrown at them; working within Microsoft Office, using video applications, browsing the web, using social media, partaking in distance learning, and more. And they're future-proofed to grow along with students' increasingly heavier responsibilities and workloads.

Desktop: Intel Core i5-9400

Laptop: Intel Core i5-1035G1

Best Intel processor for work

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All three of the Intel Core processors featured here – including i5, i7, and i9 – work well for both desktop and laptop computers for various business use cases. For example, the Intel Core i5 is often found in All-in-One (AiO) desktops, which are space-efficient, portable, and compact and thus perfect for front desk applications.

Desktop: Intel Core i5-9500 vPro

Intel Core i7

You'll find the Intel Core i7 in both desktops and laptops since it's ideal for multitasking as well as performing high-powered computations and running high-powered applications. It also offers high-level graphics quality for design-intensive programs like CAD, 3D, graphics, architecture, and more.
Both i5 and i7 processors use Intel Turbo Boost, which dynamically increases the clock speeds when more power is required, ensuring that the CPU draws less power and produces less heat. The 10th Generation of i7, in particular, is one of the best Intel i7 processors for running dual monitor setups.

Desktop: Intel Core i7-8700

Desktop: Intel Core i7-9700

Laptop: Intel Core i7-8665U (Base)

Laptop: Intel Core i7-10510U (Better)

Intel Core i9

As one of the most powerful Intel Core processors available, the Intel Core i9 boasts enhanced multi-threading capacity, extreme speeds, and power efficiency. For professional power users, this best i9 processor may be most appropriate if you require high-intensity computing power or perform a lot of design-intensive tasks such as photo and digital video editing, animation, and AI.

Laptop: Intel Core i9-9880H (Intensive)

Desktop: Intel Core i9-10900X (Intensive)

Best Intel processor for gaming

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The number of cores in a CPU can have a direct impact on your gaming experience. Both of these 8- and 10-core processors have 16 and 20 threads, respectively, and at least 5.0 GHz boosted speed capabilities will be more than enough processing power for playing most of the resource-demanding and power-draining triple-A (AAA) titles and other games, in addition to game streaming. We've listed two of the best Intel CPUs for gaming.

Desktop: Intel Core i7-10700F

Laptop: Intel Core i7-10750H

The best Intel Core processor

Picking the best Intel processor is not always an easy task, since there are many excellent choices for a wide range of needs and use cases. Those that are ideal for home applications, for instance, may not be equally adept in an intensive, hard-core gaming setup.
If you are looking for a recommendation for the best Intel Core processor overall, choosing the 10th generation of the i7 processors for both desktop and laptop computers will meet many of your overall needs for work, home, school, and play.

About the Author

Jolene Dobbin is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Jolene is an East Coast-based writer with experience creating strategic messaging, marketing, and sales content for companies in the high-tech industry.

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