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If you’re building your own PC from scratch or if you’re planning to upgrade the CPU in your existing desktop or laptop, one of the best i7 processors might be a good option if you want something priced in that mid-range. There’s an i7 processor to fit just about every need and budget. You can find a lower-tier i7 from a previous generation for less than $200, while some of the newer gaming-grade i7 CPUs will cost you more than double that amount.
If you are an avid gamer, you’ll want to look for a CPU with higher clock speeds that supports high amounts of RAM. However, don’t get too caught up in the number of cores and threads, as this will likely have less impact than other factors like clock speeds, memory, and your overall system storage. For content creators, it’s probably worth it to shell out a bit more cash for extra cores. You’ll also want more RAM and 4K video support, but you don’t necessarily need those blazing fast clock speeds. Business professionals and home users need security and stability, as well as fast access to frequently used programs like Microsoft Office. If you’re using your PC for work, school, or home use, you can get away with a low of mid-tier i7, and you don’t always need to tack on those extra costs for more cores or lightning-fast clock speeds.
Whatever you need your computer to do, we have you covered with the best i7 processors in different categories and price ranges. Our top pick is the Intel Core i7-10700K because it’s a powerful processor at a reasonable price. If you’re looking for something different, we’ve also included budget picks, as well as our top picks for gaming, content creation, and other areas.
The unlocked Intel i7-10700K is the best i7 CPU on the market. It’s 4K ready, and it has a base clock speed of 3.8 (max 5.1GHz) and tons of power. The locked i7-10700 is a close second, as the i7-10700 comes packaged with a cooling fan where the 10700K does not.
We evaluate CPUs based on their ability to handle productivity, multitasking, and gaming. To test processors, we put them in our custom build, keeping all other components the same. Then we put the processor to the test by running benchmark tests like PCMark, Geekbench 5, Passmark to get objective scores. We also use the processors in our workflow, using them for video rendering and gaming, and other productivity tasks. Finally, we look at price and competitor benchmarks to get an idea of the value proposition and make a final judgment. Lifewire purchases all review products; we do not receive them from manufacturers.
Erika Rawes has been writing professionally for more than a decade, and she’s spent the last five years writing about consumer technology. Erika has reviewed roughly 125 gadgets, including computers, peripherals, games, A/V equipment, mobile devices, and smart home gadgets.
Taylor Clemons has over three years of experience writing about games and consumer technology. She has written for Lifewire, Digital Trends, TechRadar and her own publication, Steam Shovelers.
Anton Galang has been writing about tech since 2007. A contributor to PC Magazine, he’s intimately familiar with computer hardware and has well over a decade of experience covering consumer technology.
Ajay Kumar is Tech Editor at Lifewire. With over seven years of experience, he’s previously been published in PCMag and Newsweek where he reviewed thousands of products including PC hardware, monitors, phones, laptops, and other devices. He built his own gaming rig and though he uses a Ryzen 3700X, he has previously used Intel processors.
Alan Bradley is Tech Editor at Lifewire. He has over a decade working in the media industry and has previously been published on PC Gamer and GamesRadar+. With thousands of reviews under his belt, he’s also built his own gaming rig and has used and tested various Intel processors.
Multitasking and usage – What do you use your PC for? Are you spending most of your time surfing the web and word processing, or are you performing heavier tasks like content creation? How much multitasking do you need to do? Higher end i7 processors with more cores and features like multi-threading might help boost your PC’s performance. This is particularly useful for graphic designers, media editors, and other people whose work requires a lot of numbers to be crunched or images to be rendered.
Gaming – A gaming processor doesn’t need to have the top specs in terms of core count, but it should be able to handle heat and it should have fast clock speeds (and overclocking). Overclocking can significantly increase your gaming PC’s capabilities. Processors that are overclockable are marked by having a “K” at the end of their name.
Budget – These processors typically cost less than the i9 series, but they still aren’t cheap. You might be able to get away with an even more affordable CPU from Intel’s i5 or i3 lineup. The i3 may be fine for basic browsing and word processing, while the i5 will work for a mix of workflows along with some gaming. Depending on what you plan to do, these or an affordable model from AMD’s Ryzen lineup could be better buys.