Today, building a powerful workstation PC is well within reach for creators and enthusiasts. Gamers especially can expect to build a beastly machine without totally breaking the bank (depending on your choice of components) If you are looking to build for Content creation, however, it can get pretty pricey and you’ll want to make sure you are getting the best bang for your buck.
The options for high ends CPUs have somewhat stagnated over the past few years as Intel and AMD duke it out for gaming supremacy. That said, there is still a healthy market for workstation chips. Whether you’re streaming on Twitch, creating YouTube videos, or working as a professional 3D animator, you will need a CPU that can keep up with you.
Here is our list of the top five most powerful workstation chips you can buy.
- Most Powerful High-End Desktop CPU Overall: AMD Threadripper Pro 3995WX
- Best HEDT Alternative: AMD Threadripper 3970X
- Most Powerful Non-HEDT CPU: Intel Core i9-12900K
- Best Non-HEDT Alternative: AMD Ryzen 9 5950X
- Best for Video Editing: Ryzen 7 3700X
Most Powerful High-End Desktop CPU Overall: AMD Threadripper Pro 3995WX
- Industry Leading 64 Cores and 128 Processing Threads, the Highest Multiprocessing Performance You Can Get In a Professional Workstation Processor
- Incredible 4.2 GHz Max Boost Frequency, with a Huge 288MB Cache
- Eight-channel DDR4 and 128 total PCIe 4.0 lanes, the most bandwidth and I/O you can get on workstation desktop processor
- AMD Ryzen Threadripper PRO processors provide unique, built-in data protection, seamless manageability, and reliable longevity so you can work confidently and more securely.
- 280W TDP, Cooler not included
At the head of the pack is the AMD Threadripper Pro 3995WX. This 64-core/128-thread behemoth can absolutely shred through multicore processes. This chip is far and away the most powerful chip on the HEDT market. Intel has lagged behind in this arena for some time and this has allowed AMD to all but corner the market.
It has around 2 TB of supported memory paired with 128 lanes of PCIe 4.0 connectivity. In addition, the impressive 8 memory channels bump up the overall performance of your machine.
That said, for all the 3995WX power, there is only a narrow selection of people who need or can even afford this monster. The chip costs nearly $7K closing it off from all but professionals and enthusiasts willing to shell out that much cash.
Check out AMD Threadripper Pro 3995WX on Amazon.
Best HEDT Alternative: AMD Threadripper 3970X
- An astonishing 32 cores and 64 processing threads for serious designers and artists
- Incredible 4. 5 GHz max boost frequency, with a huge 144MB cache
- Unlocked, with new automatic overclocking feature
- Quad-Channel DDR4 and 88 total PCIe 4. 0 lanes
- 280W TDP, Cooler not Included. OS Support : Windows 10 - 64-Bit Edition, RHEL x86 64-Bit, Ubuntu x86 64-Bit
This is a chip for those who want to stay in the AMD HEDT ecosystem but don’t want to go broke doing so. The AMD Threadripper 3970X has a ton of horsepower with 32-cores/64-threads. It’s an older model AMD HEDT chip but you still get PCIe 4.0 connectivity and 4 memory channels. It supports up to 256 GB of memory across those 4 channels.
This chip might be cheaper than its successor, but it still doesn’t come cheap. When it was first released it came with a $1999 price tag. These days it’s pretty hard to find new and you can expect to pay around 2k on Amazon based on what we found.
Check out AMD Threadripper 3970X on Amazon.
Most Powerful Non-HEDT CPU: Intel Core i9-12900K
- The processor features Socket LGA-1700 socket for installation on the PCB
- 30 MB of L3 cache memory provides excellent hit rate in short access time enabling improved system performance
- 10 nm enables improved performance per watt and micro architecture makes it power-efficient
- Intel 7 Architecture enables improved performance per watt and micro architecture makes it power-efficient
AMD has been eating Intel’s lunch for the past few years. This is demonstrated nowhere better than in the HEDT market, a market where AMD has a virtual monopoly. However, in the gaming space, Intel is fighting back. And with the Intel Core i9-12900K Intel landed a haymaker on AMD.
The 16-core/24-thread chip is a powerhouse of gaming performance and isn’t too bad as a workstation chip either. It has a very impressive single-core performance and can reach boost speeds of 5.2 GHz. That puts it above the Threadripper 3995WX in terms of clock speed.
Still, you have to remember that clock speed is not everything. The impact it has on workstation performance won’t mean much if the chip doesn’t have the cores to back it up.
This processor is an incredible value at $569 now on Amazon. For gaming, it is the fastest chip around but if you are looking for a workhorse machine, this chip may fall short of what you need.
Check out Intel Core i9-12900K on Amazon.
Best Non-HEDT Alternative: AMD Ryzen 9 5950X
- The best processor for gamers meets the best processor for creators, with 16 cores and 32 processing threads
- Can deliver elite 100 plus FPS performance in the world's most popular games
- Cooler not included, liquid cooler recommended
- 4.9 GHz Max Boost, unlocked for overclocking, 72 MB of cache, DDR-3200 support
- For the advanced Socket AM4 platform, can support PCIe 4.0 on X570 and B550 motherboards
Want HEDT performance without paying HEDT prices? Well, the AMD Ryzen 9 5950X is close enough to get you there. The 16-core/32-thread chip is great for workstations on a budget. It isn’t going to give you eye-melting performance like the Threadripper but not all content creators need that.
This is a great chip for video or photo editing and some audio production as well. Better yet, it is compatible with the AM4 socket so you can pick up a mainstream motherboard. Most HEDT CPUs require specialized motherboards that can run upwards of $700. Making this chip a great entry point for high-end performance without high-end prices.
Check out AMD Ryzen 9 5950X on Amazon.
Best for Video Editing: Ryzen 7 3700X
- The world's most advanced processor in the desktop PC gaming segment
- Can deliver ultra-fast 100 plus FPS performance in the world's most popular games
- 8 Cores and 16 processing threads bundled with the AMD Wraith Prism cooler with color controlled LED support
- 4 4 GHz max Boost unlocked for overclocking 36 MB of game Cache DDR4 3200 MHz system memory specification
- For the advanced socket AM4 platform can support PCIe 4 0 on x570 motherboards. Maximum Operating Temperature (Tjmax)- 95°C
Finally, we have the Ryzen 7 3700X. At first glance, it might not seem like this chip belongs on a list of the most powerful workstation CPUs. However, for the price, the Ryzen 7 3700X is probably the best overall chip for video content creators.
Video editing professionals, YouTubers, and even independent filmmakers will be well served by this CPU. It has 8-cores, 16-threads, and incredibly low power consumption. It is built with the older Zen 2 architecture using the 7nm manufacturing process but it still holds up when compared with equivalent Intel offerings.
The main thing is its multi-threaded performance, which is outstanding for the price. This chip can handle heavy 4K workloads, 2D motion graphics, and even some light 3D work with ease. Getting into video editing can be cost-prohibitive for a lot of people. This chip opens the door for people to break into video editing.
So, it won’t give you the blazing speed of the others on this list but for lots of creators, that isn’t necessary. The value proposition alone earns this chip a place on this list.
Check out Ryzen 7 3700X on Amazon.
How To Pick The Best High-End CPU: Step by Step
Narrowing down what you need in a CPU is key to getting the best performance out of your machine. But it isn’t as easy as just picking the one with the highest core count or clock speed. Many factors go into a CPUs power, but it also matters what you plan to use it for.
The chip that works best for gaming isn’t necessarily going to give you great performance in After Effects or Cinema 4D. So, what are the elements you should be looking at?
Easy one, right? The chip with the highest core count is going to be the best, case closed. Not so fast. While it is true that high core counts are going to help performance in some areas, it isn’t always going to be where you need it.
If you want to build the most powerful gaming rig possible, high core count just isn’t going to get you there on its own. High-core counts are better for applications that utilize multiple cores, like After Effects, Final Cut, or Maya. These programs need to do massive calculations; the more muscle you can put behind each program, the better.
Clock speed and IPS (instructions per second) are going to count for a lot more in gaming. Specifically in multiplayer gaming where speed is everything. Higher clock speed means that calculations are processed faster. This reduces lag, load times, and frame drops.
Boosting your clock speed means you can push the limits of how fast your CPU can run calculations. This is great for gaming where you can reach some pretty impressive speeds. But this practice is also pretty hard on your CPU.
Overclocking offers next to no advantage in content creation software. So, if you are looking for a pure workstation, you can basically ignore the boost clock speeds as they will just wear out your CPU faster for no gain.
If we are going to talk about workstation chips we need to talk about HEDT, or High-End Desktop CPUs. HEDT CPUs are designed with content creation and other processor-intensive work in mind. This basically refers to the core count, which is higher in these chips, and the type of lithography used.
Typically, chips that are 12 cores or above are in the HEDT range. AMD uses 7nm Lithography in their HEDT chips, Intel has used 10 nm and 14 nm processes. This increases the amount of transistor density of the chip. The more transistors in an individual chip, the more power.
As the power of chips gets higher, so does the price. That’s one of the main reasons why finding the right chip for what you need is key. For most people, HEDT chips just aren’t worth the money you will spend. Those chips are developed with large movie studios and 3D animation in mind. You can find some pretty incredible workstation chips that won’t make you destitute.
What To Know Before Buying a High-End CPU
Before you go out and drop a load of money on a high-end chip, there are a few things you should consider. High performance often means high power consumption which can elevate the price even further. In addition, you will need to make sure you have a premium cooling system. These chips run hot crunching through all that data.
With most of these chips, you are going to want to invest in some serious liquid cooling and make sure you have enough power for the machine to operate. If that is a concern, it might be worth looking into the energy efficiency of each chip you’re considering.
Finally, remember that specs are created by manufacturers to sell their products. You can trust the numbers that are given but AMD and Intel are going to spin their individual cards to seem like the only viable option. It is important to understand the fundamentals of a CPU to get the right one.
Using A High-End CPU: What It’s Like
So, you’ve got the CPU of your dreams, now you’re ready to take on anything. Before you get started though, here are some things that will keep your CPU running in top shape.
Dig into the preferences of the software you are using and make sure the program is optimized for maximum output. Most programs will do this automatically but it is a good idea to understand just how much computing power is being used up by individual programs.
Also, make sure your storage is optimized as well. A CPU can crunch through intense calculations but your performance will be impacted if your drives are full. For video editing, it is a good idea to configure your storage for optimal use. The best case would be to house our OS and all your applications on an SSD. Then store your media and projects on HDD spin disks. For extra protection, you might look into a raid configuration. Always helps to have redundancy.
Those are just a few of the chips that can power your workstation. These chips represent the most powerful workstation chips you can buy today but a new generation of chips is long overdue from both Intel and AMD. There are rumors that Intel is working to recapture the HEDT market. It will be interesting to see how they can square off with the forthcoming Zen 4 architecture.
Last update on 2022-09-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API