When it comes to programming, the CPU is the workhouse of your system. It’s responsible for executing the expressions, functions, and equations in your code — and equipping your PC with the right one can have a measurable impact on the speed and efficiency of your work.
Different types of programming call for CPUs with different traits. A web developer who spends their days working on a laptop in coworking spaces or coffee shops will want a good enough CPU that saves power. A machine learning programmer running complex algorithms or working with large datasets will want a high-end processor with multiple cores and threads fit for the job.
With so many CPUs on the market, it can be hard to choose the right one for your needs. To help you out, we’ve researched the latest and greatest in CPUs to bring you our top picks for the best CPUs for programmers. From budget-friendly picks to high-end processors with above-average processing power, we’ve got you covered.
Whether you’re a web developer, data scientist, or game developer, read on to find the best CPU for your programming needs.
Best CPUs for Programmers
We’ve split our round-up into two parts. In the first part, we’ve gone over the best processors for desktop computers. And in the second, we’ve looked at the best CPUs for programming laptops.
CPUs for desktops and those for laptops can’t necessarily be used interchangeably. The typical desktop CPU uses well over 100 Watts of power, whereas the most capable laptop CPUs use up 45 Watts (and don’t require as much cooling).
See our selection below.
- 13th-generation Intel Core i9 processor
- Manufactured with Intel 7 lithography
- 24 cores (8 P-cores, 16 E-cores)
- Capable of operating at up to 5.80 GHz frequency
- Unlocked for overclocking
- 2.1 MB L1, 32 MB L2, and 36 MB L3 cache
- 125 W base power, 253 W turbo power
- Built-in Intel UHD Graphics 770
When it comes to CPUs, the Intel Core i9-13900K Processor is our top pick for general-purpose programming. Here’s why.
Part of Intel’s 13th-generation Core i9 processor lineup, the Core i9-13900K is a powerhouse of a processor that’s meant for desktop computers. With its Intel 7 lithography (10-nm Enhanced SuperFin), this CPU is manufactured using the latest semiconductor technology, ensuring that it delivers the maximum performance possible.
But what really sets this CPU apart is its 24 cores, eight of which are performance cores (P-cores) and 16 of which are efficient cores (E-cores). This means that the processor is capable of executing a total of up to 32 threads concurrently, making it ideal for running multiple programs or complex algorithms at once.
The Intel Core i9-13900K is also powered by Intel Turbo Boost Technology, which allows it to operate at a maximum single-core frequency of 5.80 GHz. Its base P-core frequency is 3.00 GHz, with a maximum P-core turbo frequency of 5.40 GHz, while its base E-core frequency is 2.20 GHz, with a maximum E-core turbo frequency of 4.30 GHz. This gives you a lot of headroom for running high-performance applications and multitasking.
In addition to its processing power, this processor also sports a total of 36 MB Intel Smart Cache, which allows all cores to share access to the last level cache dynamically. The total L1 cache of 2.1 MB, L2 cache of 32 MB, and L3 cache of 36 MB helps to further speed up processing times.
One thing to note is that the Intel Core i9-13900K is a power-hungry processor, with a processor base power of 125 Watts and a maximum turbo power of 253 Watts. But if you’re willing to invest in a high-quality cooling solution, you’ll be rewarded with blazing-fast performance.
The Core i9-13900K supports a maximum memory size of 128 GB, up to DDR5 5600 MT/s and up to DDR4 3200 MT/s, so you won’t have to worry about running out of memory when running memory-intensive programs.
Finally, the Intel Core i9-13900K comes with a built-in Intel UHD Graphics 770 processor with a graphics base frequency of 300 MHz and a maximum dynamic frequency of 1.65 GHz, capable of max HDMI resolution of 4096 x 2160 @ 60Hz and supporting up to four displays. This means that you can use it to power your display, even if you’re not running graphics-intensive applications.
Overall, our top pick is a fantastic choice for general-purpose programming. With its impressive performance, top-of-the-line technology, and impressive features, it’s sure to meet the demands of even the most demanding programmers. It’s also unlocked for overclocking (and has been overclocked to as much as 9.00 GHz using helium cooling).
- 9th-generation AMD Ryzen processor
- Manufactured with TSMC 5-nm FinFET technology
- 16 cores
- Capable of operating at up to 5.7 GHz frequency
- Unlocked for overclocking
- 1 MB L1, 16 MB L2, 64 MB L3 cache
- 170 W base power
- Built-in AMD Radeon GPU
If our top pick is unavailable or if you prefer an AMD processor, our runner-up desktop pick is the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X Processor.
With 16 cores, this processor is part of the AMD Ryzen product family and the ninth generation of AMD Ryzen processors. It is manufactured with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC)’s 5-nm FinFET process, which allows for greater power efficiency and performance.
The architecture and process node of this generation of AMD Ryzen CPUs is completely revamped and delivers superior clock speeds and power delivery to the individual cores of the processor, making it better from previous generations of AMD Ryzen CPUs in many ways.
The AMD Ryzen 9 7950X Processor is capable of operating at 32 concurrent threads and comes with 1 MB L1 cache, 16 MB L2 cache, and 64 MB L3 cache. It also supports the latest-generation PCIe 5.0 interface and DDR5 system memory type (2x1R DDR5-5200, 2x2R DDR5-5200, 4x1R DDR5-3600, or 4x2R DDR5-3600).
Like our top pick, our runner-up pick is unlocked for overclocking, allowing you to tweak and tune your processor’s power, voltage, core, and memory for your desired performance. This processor also comes with a built-in AMD Radeon GPU with 2 cores and 2.2 GHz graphics processing frequency, making it a great choice for programmers who can make use of a good built-in GPU instead of or alongside a standalone GPU.
While it may not be as fast as our top pick, the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X Processor is a strong choice for those who prefer AMD processors and want a powerful and flexible CPU for general-purpose programming.
Intel Core i7-10750H
If you’re in the market for a laptop CPU that offers great value for the money, the Intel Core i7-10750H might just be the one for you. Although it’s not the newest CPU on the market, it still packs a punch when it comes to performance, making it a great choice for programming laptops.
This is a fast 45-Watt processor designed for use in larger, more capable laptops. Although you can’t buy it the way you can buy a desktop CPU, we’ve rounded up a number of highly-rated laptops that sport this processor down below.
Released in Q2 of 2020, the Intel Core i7-10750H belongs to the 10th generation of Intel Core i7 processors. It’s made with 14-nm lithography and has six cores, supporting up to 12 concurrent processing threads. This processor has a maximum single-core frequency of 5.00 GHz and an average power consumption of 45 Watts.
One of the best things about this processor is the amount of memory it can support. With a maximum memory size of 128 GB (DDR4-2933) and a memory bandwidth of up to 45.8 GB/s, you won’t have to worry about running out of memory any time soon. The only drawback is that it doesn’t support DDR5 the way the Intel Core i9 H-series does.
The Intel Core i7-10750H is fitted with the Intel UHD integrated GPU, which operates at a maximum dynamic frequency of 1.15 GHz. It has a maximum HDMI resolution of 4096 x 2304 at 30Hz with DirectX 12 and OpenGL 4.5 support. While the graphics processing capabilities aren’t the most powerful out there, it’s still enough for basic programming tasks (although if you need a more powerful GPU, you will need to get a dedicated one for your laptop).
Overall, if you’re looking for a solid, reliable, and proven laptop processor that won’t break the bank, the Intel Core i7-10750H is worth considering. Its performance and memory capabilities make it a great choice for most programming laptops.
Laptops with this processor:
AMD Ryzen 5 PRO 5675U
If you’re in the market for a laptop CPU but, for one reason or another, want to explore options outside of Intel’s offerings, the AMD Ryzen 5 PRO 5675U is a great choice. As part of the AMD Ryzen family and PRO 5000 series, this CPU was released in Q1 of 2020, making it a contemporary of our top pick, the Intel Core i7-10750H.
Built using Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC)’s 7nm FinFET process, the Ryzen 5 PRO 5675U boasts 6 cores and 12 concurrent threads, giving it plenty of power for general programming tasks. With an operating frequency of up to 4.3 GHz, it’s fast and capable enough to handle even highly-demanding programming projects.
In terms of cache, the Ryzen 5 PRO 5675U has 384 KB L1, 3MB L2, and 16 MB L3 cache, allowing for quick access to frequently used data. And with a default TDP of 45 Watts, this processor is powerful but also energy-efficient enough to squeeze into a laptop.
While the Intel Core i7-10750H is our top pick for a programming laptop CPU, the AMD Ryzen 5 PRO 5675U is a strong contender, especially if you’re looking for a more affordable option or prefer AMD processors.
Laptops with this processor:
The CPU is the main component of a computer system, which performs most of the processing and computations. It’s basically the “brain” of the computer, interpreting and executing instructions from software and hardware components to perform tasks.
More specifically, the CPU is responsible for executing instructions related to arithmetic, logic, input/output operations, and controlling the flow of data between various components of the computer system. It fetches instructions from the memory, decodes them, and then executes them.
One common term you’ll read and hear when researching CPUs is their architecture. “Architecture” refers to the design of the CPU, which determines how quickly the CPU performs calculations, accesses and stores data, and communicates with the rest of the computer’s components. There are several CPU architectures in use today, but two of the most common ones are x86 and ARM.
x86 architecture is the architecture used by most PCs and some servers. It’s a complex instruction set computing (CISC) architecture, which means it can execute a large set of instructions, including complex instructions that can perform multiple operations at once. The x86 architecture is primarily used in devices running Microsoft Windows or Linux.
ARM architecture, on the other hand, is used in most smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, as well as in Apple devices since Apple started to manufacture its own chips. It is a reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architecture, so it executes a smaller set of instructions — but each is designed to execute quickly and efficiently. The ARM architecture is primarily used in devices running mobile operating systems like Android and iOS.
Microsoft Windows and most Linux systems can run both on x86 and ARM chips. However, most computer software is written for x86 architectures, and although they can operate on ARM chips through emulation, they will work slower than on their native architecture, x86. This is why, generally speaking, x86 CPUs are the better option for PCs.
Cores and threads are key because they affect a processor’s ability to multi-task by performing multiple calculations at the same time, which can greatly impact the speed and efficiency of your computer.
A core is basically a single processing unit that can do calculations and run instructions. A processor with many cores can perform multiple tasks or calculations simultaneously, which can greatly improve its performance when running multiple applications or tasks at the same time.
Threads, on the other hand, refer to the number of independent sequences of instructions that can be executed by a processor at the same time. A processor with multiple threads can handle more tasks simultaneously — and is better suited to running multi-threaded applications or concurrent tasks.
The clock speed is the speed at which a processor can execute instructions. It’s measured in gigahertz (GHz) and is the rate at which a processor can complete a processing cycle. The clock speed is determined by the processor’s oscillator, which generates a continuous series of pulses that synchronize the CPU’s operations.
The clock speed of a processor is directly proportional to its performance; a higher clock speed means that the processor can execute instructions more quickly. However, clock speed is just one of the multiple factors that affect processor performance, and other factors such as the number of cores and threads, the size of the cache, and processor architecture also play a role.
Cache is a high-speed memory built directly into the CPU. Its purpose is to help the processor access frequently-used data and instructions more quickly, improving the system’s performance as a whole.
There are three levels of cache: L1, L2, and L3. L1 cache is the smallest and fastest, while L3 cache is the largest and slowest. The size of each cache varies depending on the CPU, but as a golden rule, larger caches are always better for performance.
The lithography (or process) used in manufacturing a CPU is a factor that can significantly impact the performance and power consumption of the processor. The technology refers to the size of the transistors on the CPU, measured in nanometers (nm). A smaller size generally translates to more transistors packed into a smaller space, resulting in better performance and power efficiency.
For example, a processor made using a 7 nm process technology has smaller transistors compared to a processor made using a 14 nm process technology. This means that the 7-nm processor can fit more transistors on a chip, resulting in better performance while using up less power for the same tasks.