CPU Benchmarks and Hierarchy 2021: Intel and AMD Processors Ranked


Our CPU benchmarks performance hierarchy ranks all the current and previous generation Intel and AMD processors, including all of the Best CPUs for Gaming, based on performance. Your CPU has a huge effect on overall performance and, to many, is a computer’s most important component. CPU benchmarks help us suss out the differences, but when it comes time to buy a CPU for your desktop, you’ll find a dizzying collection of model numbers and specs from both Intel and AMD.

We’ve listed the best CPUs for gaming and best processors for workstations in other articles, but if you want to know how each chip stacks up against all the others and how we come to our decisions, this CPU benchmarks hierarchy is for you. We also recently added a new article covering the CPU benchmarks hierarchy for Cyberpunk 2077, a dedicated piece to show performance scaling in the most hotly-anticipated game in recent history.

The world of chips, and our resulting CPU benchmarks, is changing quickly. At launch, AMD’s Ryzen 5000 processors represented a watershed moment: The company swept our CPU benchmarks hierarchy and took the lead in every metric, including our gaming, single-threaded, and multi-threaded categories. You can see the Ryzen 5 5600X, Ryzen 9 5950X, 5900X, and Ryzen 7 5800X in our rankings, along with all of the previous-gen Zen 3, Zen+, and Zen 1 versions of those chips.

Intel fired back, though, with its 11th-generation Rocket Lake-S CPUs. We recently finished our in-depth look at the Core i5-11400, and this is the hidden star of Intel’s new lineup. AMD has no response for this chip on the lower-end of its price range – in fact, the Core i5-11400 grapples with the two-year-old Ryzen 5 3600. As a result, the Core i5-11400 takes the top spot in its bracket easily, offering a great deal of value. It also scores a spot on our list of best GPUs for gaming.

We have the full details of the flaghsip models in our Intel Core i9-11900K and Core i5-11600K review, but Intel has improved its competitive standing tremendously. The Core i9-11900K now vies for CPU gaming benchmark supremacy with the best Ryzen chips, though it does still trail slightly at 1080p while taking a slight lead in 1440p gaming. However, the performance delta is slim enough that most gamers won’t notice, particularly if they use mainstream GPUs or game at higher resolutions. You can see the 11900K square off with the 5900X in our faceoff.

Meanwhile, the six-core twelve-thread Core i5-11600K lands at $262, making it much more competitive with AMD’s $300 Ryzen 5 5600X that currently sells far over suggested pricing due to shortages. The Core i5-11600K has a very competitive price-to-performance ratio compared to the $300 Ryzen 5 5600X in a broad swath of games and applications, and it’s a solid generational advance over the Core i5-10600K.

While the Core i5-11600K may not claim outright supremacy in all benchmarks, its mixture of price and performance makes it a solid buy if you’re willing to overlook the higher power consumption. The 11600K actually serves up quite a bit of performance for a ~$262 chip, and the graphics-less 11600KF is a steal if you can find it anywhere near the $237 tray pricing. As a result of its solid performance and AMD’s continued chip shortages, the Core i5-11600K is now our Best CPU for gaming

We have the Rocket Lake and Comet Lake lineup in our charts, and we also recently added the 9th-Gen and 8th-Gen Intel processors. Well, at least the models we have on hand.

We’ll explain how we ranked the processors under each table. The game testing ranking is first. We also include an application performance metric in our application score tables, which we’ve split up into single- and multi-threaded measurements (below gaming table). The most powerful chip gets a 100, and all others are scored relative to it. If you want our recommendations for specific price bands, please check out our Best CPUs for gaming page.

We are busily retesting our full arsenal of processors with a newer version of Windows 10 to measure performance for our CPU benchmarks. As such, chips without a score are ranked according to their previous rankings with our older CPU benchmarks test suite. We’ll add specific measurements for those chips as our CPU benchmarks testing continues. 

CPU Benchmarks and Performance Hierarchy Charts

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(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)
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Tom's Hardware CPU Performance Benchmarks

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Tom's Hardware CPU Performance Benchmarks

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Tom's Hardware CPU Performance Benchmarks

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Tom's Hardware CPU Performance Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)
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Tom's Hardware CPU Performance Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)



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