Identifying the fastest CPU available in the market is a task that depends largely on your specific needs and use case.
When it comes to enhancing your computing experience, whether for gaming, server management, or general use, the central processing unit (CPU) plays a pivotal role. The best processor—be it the best Intel processor, the best AMD processor, or even the best Apple processor—involves balancing speed, power consumption, and compatibility with other components.
Recent benchmarks often show AMD processors outpacing their Intel counterparts in terms of speed. For instance, AMD’s 96-core EPYC 9654 stands out as the fastest overall CPU according to PassMark, particularly for server use. However, its application is less practical for everyday home use.
It’s important to note that the fastest CPU for any environment is going to come with a higher price tag and substantial power requirements. It may also requires the best CPU cooler possible to maintain optimal performance. Thus, the fastest CPU isn’t always synonymous with the best choice for every user.
We delve into the realms of Intel Xeon and AMD Ryzen when exploring options for server-grade CPUs. For gaming enthusiasts, choices span across Intel’s Core and AMD’s Ryzen series. Additionally, we consider CPUs fitted in currently available Windows laptops, while also acknowledging Apple’s M-series CPUs in Macs.
By providing a comprehensive overview, we aim to assist you in finding the fastest CPU tailored to your specific needs, ensuring a balance between performance, cost, and efficiency.
The fastest CPU in 2023
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We break down the fastest processors across the four major computing categories: laptop, desktop, workstation, and server.
The fastest CPU for servers
While Intel dominates the gaming field, there’s no beating AMD when it comes to the fastest CPUs for servers. The AMD EPYC 9754 family of CPUs, in particular, is the fastest on the planet right now. The 128-core ‘Bergamo’ model, which operates across 256 threads, has a base clock speed of 2.4GHz and a turbo speed of 3.7Ghz. With its predecessor, the EPYC 9654, running at more than twice as fast as the Intel Core i9-13900KS, according to the latest PassMark benchmarks, you can only imagine where it could rank once there’s enough benchmarking data to aggregate.
It’s the absolute pinnacle of CPUs available across all use cases, as these kinds of processors tend to be; as such, they’re unsuitable for usage in day-to-day machines like laptops or desktops, so we wouldn’t recommend this by any stretch of the imagination if, say, you’re building a PC at home. But they are ideal for workstation tasks like AI, data simulation, and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD).
This CPU also costs up to $12,000, which may not represent the best value for money, and could prove to be overkill based on the workloads you’re intending to run. It’s also difficult to discount Intel options, when considering what the best CPU might be, given that while AMD CPUs tend to boast the most compute power, Intel alternatives do pose an advantage when it comes to, say, machine learning workloads and high-bandwidth memory.
The fastest CPU for laptops
There’s often a fine line between the highest-end CPUs, but the newly launched AMD Ryzen 9 7945HX3D is one that’s set to claim pole position for the fastest laptop processor. This is because it’s a souped-up version of the AMD Ryzen 9 7945HX, which has dominated benchmarking, according to aggregations compiled by PassMark and Kelaptop. The 16-core 5nm CPU is based on the Zen 4 microarchitecture and has a base clock speed of 2.3Ghz which can hit up to 5.4Ghz on turbo. It also offers an additional 64MB 32 V-Cache against the conventional model.
Once internal benchmarking is completed, we expect it to be blisteringly fast compared with other components fitted into the best ultraportables and professional-grade machines out there today. We’ve only considered CPUs that currently ship inside laptops today, rather than CPUs you can buy off-the-shelf if you were building your own PC. At the time of writing, we’ve only spotted it in the Asus Rog Strix SCAR 17 X3D, although we expect this repertoire of high-end machines to grow in the near future.
The fastest Apple silicon
Apple’s commitment to producing CPUs in-house has paid off, with its M-series chips consistently proving themselves to be among the fastest laptop out there with each passing generation. The fastest available right now is the 24-core Apple M2 Ultra, found in machines like the Apple Mac Studio. This iteration has 24 CPU cores and 76 GPU cores, alongside a base clock speed of just over 3.6Ghz.
The M2 Ultra is certainly Apple’s most powerful and efficient chip for a professional-grade workstation, and its 800GB/s of unified memory bandwidth is twice that of the M2 Max. It also supports a ‘breakthrough’ of up to 192GB of unified memory, which translates into immense multitasking capabilities. Another key inclusion is a Neural Engine that’s 40% faster than that in the M2 Max, which is capable of 31.6 trillion operations per second. Combining the GPU with the CPU, too, means devices run far more efficiently. While it may not represent the best value for money, it’s unbeatable when it comes to speed in a Mac.
The fastest CPU for desktops
In our Intel Core i9-14900K review, components editor John Loeffler found that the 14900K vs 13900K didn’t show the kind of performance improvement he and many others had hoped for, but there’s still now question that the 14900K is the fastest processor you can buy for desktop PCs, both in terms of real world performance as well as its stock clock speeds.
Intel claims that the 14900K is the world’s fastest desktop processor, and with its boost technology allowing bursts of up to 6.0GHz, this is definitely accurate as far as the numbers go. Only overclockers are going to be able to acheive higher frequencies than what comes standard with the chip, and even then you’ll likely need a very sophisticated cooling setup in order to make it all work, since the Core i9-14900K runs hot enough to fairly easily defeat the best CPU coolers out there.
Beyond the factory clocks, there’s not much that’s changed from the Intel Core i9-13900K, so you still get the same DDR5 and DDR4 support, as well as PCIe 5.0, so the Intel Core i9-14900K pretty much has it all as far as performance and compatibility is concerned.
The fastest CPU for gaming
You might not think that a midrange Ryzen 7 CPU can easily best some of the fastest processors on this list, but when it comes to playing the best PC games at the fastest frame rates, the AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D hits the gaming sweet spot with a methaphorical sledgehammer.
While the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D has twice as many cores as the Ryzen 7 7800X3D and the Intel Core i9-14900K absolutely takes the title as the fastest desktop processor in terms of clock speed, for gaming, the 7800X3D pulls out a surprise win over all its rivals.
With the 14900K vs 7800X3D, the 7800X3D put out a geometric average of 322 frames per second across several games we tested it against, compared to 14900K’s 290 frames per second, for an 11% better showing than Intel’s best.
Against the Ryzen 9 7950X3D, we were very surprised to see the smaller Ryzen 7 chip come out on top, but when you drill down into the architecture, it makes sense, seeing as the 7800X3D uses a monolithic 3D V-cache chiplet on top of the whole compute die, giving all cores direct access to the additional cache, while the 7950X3D actually splits the additional 3D V-cache into two chiplets. This turns out to be a substantial advantage as the Ryzen 9 7950X3D’s geometric frames per second average was just 257 fps, which is about 20% slower than the 7800X3D. So if what you’re looking for is the fastest gaming processor, the 7800X3D really has no equal right now.
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