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Workstations, by definition, are special computers that are designed for professional and technical work. These computers offer high performance than mainstream personal computers and are often fitted with more powerful CPUs, GPUs, among other components. While there are a ton of powerful processors out there that can be used inside workstations, there's a select few from AMD and Intel that are especially worth buying in 2023.

There hasn't really been a lot of updates in the workstation CPU space in recent years, so your options — at least for now — are fairly limited. AMD Threadripper CPUs used to be bang-for-buck champions but now they're boring and expensive (but powerful) chips for professionals, much as Xeon used to be. Speaking of Intel's Xeon lineup, it's been in a rough position for years now, though Intel is finally launching new fourth-generation models this year. However, they're not quite ready for prime time yet, which means we mostly recommend AMD CPUs for workstations.

These are the best workstation CPUs in 2023

AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro 5000
Source: AMD
AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro 5975WX
Best AMD workstation CPU

A powerhouse in raw performance and features

$2520 $3300 Save $780

The AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro 5795WX lands in the middle of the Threadripper 5000 Pro series with its 32 cores, 64 threads, and large 128MB L3 cache. It comes with 128 PCIe 4.0 lanes and support for eight-channel memory, putting it on par with even the fastest server CPUs for data centers.

  • 32 cores is enough for high-end workstations without being overkill
  • Tons of PCIe 4.0 lanes
  • Over two years old by now and missing PCIe 5.0 and DDR5

The 32-core Threadripper Pro 5975WX, having launched alongside the rest of the Threadripper 5000 Pro series in 2022, is the best overall workstation CPU right now. Although 32 is a somewhat midrange core count for a workstation CPU these days, this chip has strong points in its large 128MB L3 cache, its new Zen 3 architecture, and its support for eight memory channels.

Compared to 32-core EPYC Milan server CPUs (which are almost identical from a hardware perspective), the 5975WX and Threadripper 5000 Pro CPUs, in general, have higher clock speeds. For comparison, an EPYC 7543 server CPU has the same core count as the 5975WX, but a boost clock of only 3.7GHz. The 7543 and other EPYC CPUs do have some advantages. They can support up to 4TB of RAM as opposed to Threadripper 5000 Pro's 2TB, and some EPYC motherboards can support two CPUs. However, the higher clock speed is generally going to be more useful in a workstation.

Unfortunately, Threadripper 5000 Pro isn't the value monster Threadripper 3000 was. The 32-core 5975X costs almost as much as the 64-core 3990X when it launched. This is a natural consequence of AMD not offering a non-Pro version of Threadripper with fewer PCIe lanes and memory channels, features that not all workstation users might need. We would just continue recommending the 3990X instead of the 5975X, but these days it sells for almost double its launching price, making it more expensive than Threadripper 5000 Pro.

The Threadripper Pro 5975WX is a step back in terms of value for performance, but at least the higher price tag comes with more PCIe lanes and memory channels. It's still better than anything Intel has to offer, too (though not for long).

AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro 5000
Source: AMD
AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro 5995WX
Premium AMD workstation CPU

The fastest workstation CPU ever seen

The AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro 5995WX with 64 cores is effectively an overclocked EPYC server CPU, making it the fastest workstation CPU in the world and ideal for any multi-core workload that needs to be finished as soon as possible.

  • Top-end performance
  • Tons of cache
  • 64 cores is overkill
  • Soon to be eclipsed by Threadripper 7000 and Xeon Sapphire Rapids

The Threadripper Pro 5995WX is the 64-core version of the 5975WX. That's double the cores but also double the L3 cache (256MB versus 128). Although the 5995WX is much more expensive than its 32-core counterpart, it's also significantly faster, so it gets a recommendation from us. If you know you need this many cores for whatever you're working on and your time is worth quite a bit, then the 5995WX is worth picking up.

The advantages of Threadripper 5000 Pro over Threadripper 3000 (non-Pro) are pretty significant when we compare the 5995WX to the 64-core 3990X from the previous generation. If you have 64 cores and need to use them, odds are you probably need more memory too. The 3990X only supports 256GB of RAM, which is downright paltry in comparison to the 5995WX's support for 2TB of RAM. Plus, the 5995WX has eight memory channels against the 3990X's four.

The 5995WX is almost twice the price of the 3990X when it came out, but on the other hand, it's not constrained by RAM or PCIe lane limitations, not to mention it's significantly faster. If you have the money for a 5995WX and you're working on visual effects, large amounts of data, or some other massive multi-core workload, this is the CPU for you.

At the time of writing, the 5995WX is the world's fastest workstation CPU, even after the launch of Intel's 4th-generation Xeon chips using the Sapphire Rapids architecture. However, it's absolutely certain that the 64-core and 96-core Threadripper 7000 chips will be faster than both the 5995WX and Sapphire Rapids, though we don't know when the Threadripper 7000 series will launch. The 5995WX isn't a bad chip, but you might want to hold off a few months if you want something faster or if you want the 5955WX at a lower price.

The Intel 4th Gen Xeon Sapphire Rapids CPU.
Intel Xeon w9-3475X
Best Intel workstation CPU

Intel is finally back in the game

Intel's Xeon w9-3495X is the second-fastest in the 4th-generation Xeon W series, coming with 36 cores, a 4.8GHz boost clock, and 82.5MB of cache.

  • Good single-threaded and multicore performance
  • Support for 8-channel DDR5 memory
  • 112 PCIe 5.0 lanes
  • High TDP
  • A very late competitor to Threadripper 5000

So Intel has been having a rough time in the workstation market these past few years. It was stuck rehashing the same 14nm Skylake-X CPUs over and over again for years, and even when it finally got 10nm Ice Lake Xeons out the door in 2021, they weren't amazing. But Intel's second try at 10nm Xeon is much more promising, with its fourth-generation Sapphire Rapids CPUs. These use the same cores as 12th-generation Alder Lake CPUs (which in turn are very similar to 13th-gen Raptor Lake P-cores) rather than old Skylake-X or Ice Lake cores.

The w9-3475X comes with 36 cores that can boost to 4.8GHz, making it the second-fastest CPU in the 4th-generation Xeon W lineup. In terms of raw horsepower, this 36-core chip directly competes with the 32-core Threadripper Pro 5975WX and can't compare to the 64-core 5995WX, but the w9-3475X's 4.8GHz boost clock speed is really high, and it should make it one of the fastest workstation CPUs for single-threaded performance. However, that clock speed pushes the TDP on this chip to 360 watts, which is really high and requires an expensive cooling solution.

The w9-3475X isn't just an inefficient but powerful workstation processor either. It comes with support for 8-channel DDR5 memory (which means tons of bandwidth when using 8 sticks of RAM) and 112 lanes running at PCIe 5.0. To put that in perspective, a GPU typically uses 16 lanes and an NVMe SSD uses four. This isn't quite as much as Threadripper 5000's 128 lanes, though Threadripper 5000 supports PCIe 4.0 whereas Sapphire Rapids has PCIe 5.0. The w9-3475X can support much faster bandwidths for devices that need it versus Threadripper 5000.

Although the w9-3475X isn't the fastest CPU in its generation, it's overall the best thanks to its good single- and multi-threaded performance, support for 8-channel DDR5 memory, and 112 PCIe 5.0 lanes. It currently retails for about $4,000, which is significantly more than the 5975WX but less than other top-end workstation chips. If that's too expensive for your blood, you might be interested in the $2,800 w7-3465X, which only has 28 cores but has the same support for 8-channel DDR5 and 112 PCIe 5.0 lanes.

The Intel 4th Gen Xeon Sapphire Rapids CPU.
Intel Xeon w9-3495X
Premium Intel workstation CPU

The fastest workstation CPU from Intel in years

Intel's Xeon w9-3495X is the company's first competitive performance workstation CPU in years, coming with 56 cores, a 4.8GHz boost clock, and 105MB of cache.

  • Good performance
  • Modern features like DDR5 and PCIe 5.0
  • Supports up to 4TB of RAM and has 112 PCIe lanes
  • Won't be as fast as high-end Threadripper 7000 CPUs
  • Limited availability

The 36-core w9-3475X isn't Intel's fastest workstation CPU this generation. In fact, it barely has half the cores of the flagship Xeon w9-3495X, a 56-core CPU that is not only fast, but it's fast enough to finally match AMD's Threadripper 5000 series. As a top-end workstation CPU, you can expect to pay thousands of dollars for a single w9-3495X, but if time is money, it might be worth it.

Although Sapphire Rapids CPUs can have up to 60 cores, the w9-3495X has 56. However, that's offset by a high boost clock of 4.8GHz. This is pretty high for a workstation CPU, beating out even AMD's Threadripper 5000 Pro chips. However, this comes at a price: a massive 420W TDP. Workstation CPUs naturally come with high TDPs, but even the w9-3495X is pushing the envelope here; for reference, the 64-core 5995WX has a 280W TDP. Like the w9-3475X, the w9-3495X has the same 8-channel memory and 112 PCIe 5.0 lanes.

Of course, the biggest threat to the w9-3495X and the entire Sapphire Rapids lineup for workstations is Threadripper 7000. These CPUs will come with the same Zen 4 cores that the Ryzen 7000 series does, DDR5 support, and PCIe 5.0 support. The top-end Threadripper 7000 chip will have at least 64 cores, and it's likely AMD will launch one with the full 96. With 128 PCIe 5.0 lanes, AMD will also have a slight advantage there too.

Intel is recommending a price of $5,889 per its product page for the w9-3495X, though at retail, it goes for over $6,000. If you're just looking at performance, that's not great since the 64-core 5995WX goes for around $6,000 itself and has similar performance, but the w9-3495X's big advantage comes from its support for DDR5 and PCIe 5.0. The w9-3475X is also a better value than the w9-3495X, but if you have big pockets and benefit from higher multicore performance, then you might as well go all out.

The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X.
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X
Best value workstation CPU

Yes, $1,400 is value territory for workstations

The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X is a midrange workstation CPU aimed towards enthusiasts who need lots of cores but not much else. It's limited by supporting just 256GB of RAM and only four memory channels, but it's still excellent for those who just need its high-performance cores.

  • Relatively low price
  • Good amount of PCIe lanes and RAM
  • Aging hardware
  • Not much faster than the 7950X and 13900K

While Threadripper 5000 Pro is undeniably the fastest CPU on the market, there's no denying that the Threadripper 3000 was once the crème de la crème of the high-end desktop market. This was the go-to option for those who needed lots of cores on the cheap. Every single Threadripper 3000 CPU out there is basically out of stock, with one exception: The 3960X. It's not the best, most powerful Threadripper out there right now, but it certainly is one of the best value workstation CPUs that you get your hands on.

In terms of specification, the AMD Threadripper 3960X comes with 24 cores and 48 threads with 4.5GHz boost clock. The clock speed is on par with the current-gen Threadripper 5000 Pro, though the 3960X does have an architectural disadvantage as it uses the older Zen 2 design. Compared to the 5965WX, which uses Zen 3, the 3960X is slower in both single- and multi-threaded workloads, usually by a 10-20% margin. Still, that doesn't make the 3960X obsolete.

The 3960X is limited to just 256GB of RAM, four memory channels, and 64 PCIe lanes, which is significantly less than other Threadripper 5000 Pro CPUs, but for a value-oriented workstation with just 24 cores, this limitation won't likely be a problem. The biggest bottleneck in a workstation using the 3960X is likely to be the lack of cores, not the RAM or memory bandwidth.

The single most important weakness of the 3960X is its lack of an upgrade path. The TRX40 chipset only supports Threadripper 3000 CPUs, and both the 3970X and the 3990X are ridiculously expensive. If you choose the 3960X, you are probably locking yourself into a dead-end and will have to replace the CPU and the motherboard if you want to upgrade to something faster.

AMD Ryzen 7000 9
Source: AMD
AMD Ryzen 9 7950X
Best high-performance value CPU

Workstation performance without the pricey workstation features

$538 $565 Save $27

AMD's Ryzen 9 7950X is the flagship CPU of the Ryzen 7000 series, coming with 16 cores, 32 threads, and a 5.7GHz boost clock.

  • Almost as fast as older workstation CPUs like the 3960X
  • DDR5 ECC and PCIe 5.0 support
  • Very inexpensive
  • Far fewer PCIe lanes than true workstation CPUs
  • Only supports up to 128GB of memory

There's no doubt that high-end desktop (or HEDT) chips can offer incredible performance. However, they're way more expensive than a mainstream part. In addition to the processor cost, you also have to consider buying compatible high-performance components including motherboards, more memory sticks, a high-end cooler, and more. All these components add up to further increase the overall cost of the build. Some of the best mainstream CPUs can be good for workstations, and this is where the Ryzen 9 7950X comes in.

The Ryzen 9 7950X only has 16 cores, which is significantly less than most workstation CPUs, but it makes up for that with its new Zen 4 architecture and high clock speed. It can hit up to 5.7GHz, which is over 1GHz more than the next fastest CPU on this list. For single-threaded workloads, the 7950X is faster than any workstation CPU on the market. It also supports PCIe 5.0, a notable advantage since PCIe 5.0 workstation CPUs haven't quite come out yet, and ECC RAM.

That being said, the 7950X offers far fewer PCIe lanes than workstation CPUs (even if these are individually faster lanes), and the artificial limit of 128GB of RAM is going to be a problem for some workloads. The 7950X simply will not work out for a power user who needs lots of devices and lots of memory, which is a shame.

While AMD's Threadripper processors are significantly better in terms of multi-core performance, a workstation using the 7950X is much cheaper and lowers the barrier to entry. The 7950X is ideal for any user who doesn't need more than 16 cores, lots of RAM, or simply needs the lowest price possible for a workstation PC. We should also mention that Intel's Core i9-13900K has similar performance and features to the 7950X, but didn't get our ultimate recommendation since it has fewer PCIe 5.0 lanes; it's still one of Intel's best CPUs, however.

Best workstation CPUs in 2023: Final thoughts

While newer CPUs have brought more features and performance to the table, prices are also much higher. Perhaps the era of cheap workstation CPUs we saw from 2017 to 2020 was just a flash in the pan. The list as it currently stands is also heavily crowded with AMD options with very limited processors from Intel, which has been struggling to introduce new CPUs, especially for workstations. Hopefully, Threadripper 7000 and 4th-generation Xeon will make things better but there's no guarantee.

The workstation CPU that we like the most at this time is AMD's Threadripper Pro 5975WX. It has plenty of cores, great overall performance, lots of PCIe lanes, and support for tons of memory. Technically it's just a year old but the underlying technology is over two years old, and that means it doesn't support modern DDR5 and PCIe 5.0. This prevents it from being a no-compromises type of CPU, but it's still a good option nonetheless. The w9-3475X is a good alternative from Intel, but it consumes lots of power and the wider hardware ecosystem for 4th-generation Xeon is still emerging.

AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro 5000
Source: AMD
AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro 5795WX
The best overall workstation CPU

The AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro 5795WX lands in the middle of the Threadripper 5000 Pro series with its 32 cores, 64 threads, and large 128MB L3 cache. It comes with 128 PCIe 4.0 lanes and support for eight-channel memory, putting it on par with even the fastest server CPUs for data centers.

If you are looking to build a new PC, then we suggest you check out some of our other collection articles including the best CPUs and the best motherboards list. And if you are on the lookout for more Intel chips, then be sure to stop by our collection of the best Intel CPUs page to see what Intel's been cooking in the mainstream category.