Whether you’re just getting started in data science and machine learning or looking for an upgrade, I’m sure you want to purchase the best processor that you can get for your money.
I’ve read the other posts online where everyone recommends the most expensive processors on the market and says, “buy this.”
We’re not going to do that.
After doing a ton of research and thinking through ALL the processors we’ve used over the years…
We have nine top-of-the-line options to help you jump into data science and machine learning without breaking the bank.
Let’s do this.
1.) AMD Ryzen 5 4500
- Can deliver smooth 100+ FPS performance in the world's most popular games, discrete graphics card required
- 6 Cores and 12 processing threads, bundled with the AMD Wraith Stealth cooler
- 4.1 GHz Max Boost, unlocked for overclocking, 11 MB cache, DDR4-3200 support
- For the advanced Socket AM4 platform
What We Love
Looking for a great processor that can handle deep learning and regular machine learning models?
Look no further than the AMD Ryzen 5 4500 6-Core, 12-Thread Unlocked Desktop Processor.
This powerful processor ranks number 1 on our list for several simple reasons.
You won’t find a better processor in this price range.
Not only does it dominate data science, but It can also easily handle games up to 150 FPS and works well with many motherboards.
Plus, it’s easy to install and very reliable.
If you’re looking for the best processor for a budget build, the AMD Ryzen 5 4500 is our choice, and it can not be beaten at this price range.
Chip cache sizes are set to explode in the next couple of generations.
And with the advances AMD makes yearly, I wouldn’t be shocked if this whole series of chips ages poorly as software moves to utilize more CPU cache.
You’ll probably have to upgrade your BIOS (if upgrading from Ryzen 3 or 4), but this is still a great choice for budget-minded consumers.
2.) Apple M1
- Apple M1 Pro or M1 Max chip for a massive leap in CPU, GPU, and machine learning performance
- Up to 10-core CPU delivers up to 2x faster performance to fly through pro workflows quicker than ever
- Up to 32-core GPU with up to 4x faster performance for graphics-intensive apps and games
- 16-core Neural Engine for up to 5x faster machine learning performance
- Longer battery life, up to 21 hours
- Up to 64GB of unified memory so everything you do is fast and fluid
- Up to 8TB of superfast SSD storage launches apps and opens files in an instant
- Stunning 16-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with extreme dynamic range and contrast ratio
What We Love
The only “laptop” mentioned on this list, and it’s for a good reason (more here, in our full machine learning buying guide).
While we don’t think the M1 chip is a homerun (from a cost-to-performance ratio), the Apple ecosystem is perfect for machine learning and data science.
Let me explain.
In every machine learning team that I’ve personally worked on, everyone on the team has used a Mac.
Since macOS is Unix based, it shares many similarities with Linux-based systems.
This means you can build your model and code on a system similar to the environment where production models will be deployed.
While this may seem trivial, as you get further and further into data science and machine learning, having a system consistent with production is a massive advantage.
If you’re serious about this data science and machine learning thing, thinking long-term and going with the macOS ecosystem may be your best bet.
The new Apple M1 is a powerful and sophisticated computer that is sadly overpriced for the specs it provides.
If you’re unfamiliar with the macOS ecosystem, you’ll have to learn a new way of doing things.
And let me tell you, from personal experience, the keyboard shortcuts are a nightmare.
Even after all these things, we still think the M1 and the macOS ecosystem is probably the correct long-term play.
3.) Intel Core i7-12700F
- 12th Generation Intel Core i7 Processor
What We Love
If you’re looking for top-of-the-line performance without breaking the bank, the Intel CPU Core i7-12700F is a perfect choice.
This powerful processor offers performance on par with more expensive models (like the 12700K) but at a fraction of the cost.
The low TDP means it won’t strain your power supply, making it a great option for anyone looking to build a high-end coding/modeling PC on a budget.
So don’t wait any longer; grab an Intel CPU Core i7-12700F and start creating state-of-the-art data science and machine learning models!
While The Intel CPU Core i7-12700F is a powerful processor, realize that it can’t be overclocked.
While I love this processor, many people are correct when they mention the comparisons to the 12700K.
You can spend slightly more money ($80~) to purchase the 12700K for a more complete CPU.
We don’t think it’s worth it, however.
(Just buy the 12700F)
4.) AMD Ryzen 5 2600
- System ram type: DDR4_sdram
What We Love
Looking for a high-quality CPU that won’t break the bank? Look no further than the AMD Ryzen 5 2600 Processor.
This great piece of the Ryzen brand offers better performance than our #1 pick (AMD Ryzen 5 4500), only being slightly more expensive.
Not only that, it can be overclocked for even faster model training.
While we know cooling is usually an issue, with only a stock fan, you can rest assured that your investment will stay safe and sound.
The AMD Ryzen 5 2600 Processor is a little older now, and sadly the packaging that this CPU comes in is starting to show its age.
While you can probably get around the packaging problems, you won’t be able to get around Ryzens hyper-specific BIOS and MOBO (motherboard) compatibility.
Make sure you double and triple-check your station’s viability before you make a purchase.
While this is obvious to some with a history with Ryzen and AMD, you’ll need your own graphics card (GPU) for this CPU.
But despite that, the AMD Ryzen 5 2600 Processor is still a great choice (even now!!) for a powerful and versatile processor.
5.) AMD Ryzen 7 5700G
- Play some of the most popular games at 1080p with the fastest processor graphics in the world, no graphics card required
- 8 Cores and 16 processing threads, bundled with the AMD Wraith Stealth cooler
- 4.6 GHz Max Boost, unlocked for overclocking, 20 MB cache, DDR4-3200 support
- For the advanced Socket AM4 platform. Maximum Operating Temperature (Tjmax)-95°C
What we Love
The AMD Ryzen 7 5700G (APU!!) is perfect for anyone who wants to do light gaming or intense modeling in deep learning frameworks.
Since APUs, compared to CPUs, come with an integrated GPU, this opens the door for faster training as the GPU will unlock CUDA abilities in some deep learning frameworks.
You won’t need to buy your own GPU (which could be cheaper in the long run), and you can overclock the APU to get even more performance.
Plus, it has lower power usage than comparable Generation 9 Intel I5s, so you won’t have to worry too much about heat and noise.
While we love the AMD Ryzen 7 5700G, there are a few cons.
With 16MB of cache, it’ll “get the job done,” but an average cache for this price range.
Still, it will be perfect for intense computation, gaming, data modeling, and multitasking.
Even though many people spend more money on the 5800X (I wouldn’t), the 5700G is still a great choice for those who want a powerful CPU that can build high-end machine-learning models.
6.) Intel Core i3-12100F
- Intel Core i3-12100F Desktop Processor 4 (4P-0E) Cores Up to 4.3 GHz Turbo Frequency LGA1700 600 Series Chipset 58W Processor Base Power
What we love
Are you looking for a state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line CPU that can handle anything you throw at it?
Then you need the Intel Core I3-12100F, recently released in 2022!
This powerful processor is perfect for data scientists, creative professionals, and anyone who wants the best possible performance from their computer – without breaking the bank.
The Core I3-12100F features incredible download speeds, making it perfect for downloading large files – those HUGE datasets you need for accurate models.
Installation is a breeze, and with its great stock fan and included thermal paste; you can be sure that your system will be built quickly, stay cool, and run at peak performance.
And, if it’s not doing it for you at base settings…
This processor can be overclocked for even more power when needed.
Some users have seen this CPU being DOA (Dead On Arrival) since the packaging commonly used is incredibly thin.
While you’ll need to purchase your own GPU, you’ll want to double and triple-check compatibility since it’s a newer CPU.
7.) AMD Ryzen 5 2600X
- 6 Cores/12 Threads unlocked; Max Temps : 95 degree C
- Frequency: 4.2 GHz Max Boost; Includes Wraith Spire Cooler
- 19MB of Combined Cache; Pci express version is pcie 3.0 x16 and cmos 12 nm finfet
- Socket AM4 Motherboard Required. Base Clock 3.6GHz
- Supported technologies are amd storemi technology, amd sensemi technology, amd ryzen master utility and amd ryzen vr ready premium
What we love
This CPU is a homerun!
If you’re looking to take data science and machine learning seriously, look no further than the AMD Ryzen 5 2600X.
This powerful CPU outperforms its more expensive competitor, the Intel I7-8700K, while being nearly half the price!
That’s right – you can get all the performance of a top-of-the-line CPU without spending a fortune.
And with its internal Artificial Intelligence for optimal “guessing” during threads and automatic overclocking, you’ll get the most out of your CPU – without doing anything!
It has a low max temp of 95F, something those with internal cooling issues should be wary of.
Also, the instructions for installation are a little unclear, which may mean you need to use Youtube or a friend for help during installation.
8.) Intel Core i5-10600K
- 6 Cores / 12 Threads
- Socket Type LGA 1200
- Up to 4. 8 GHz Unlocked
- Compatible with Intel 400 series chipset based motherboards
- Intel Optane Memory Support
- Lithography: 14 nm
What we Love
The Intel Core i5-10600K is one of the best CPUs on the market, offering tons of room for overclocking (if you’re into that sort of thing), and it has shown great performance on all of the top machine-learning models.
This CPU lasts forever and is an excellent choice for anyone looking to build a data science-friendly machine.
Honestly, we just feel there are better models in this price range – presented earlier in our list.
Also, to take full advantage of this CPU, you’ll need to overclock it – which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
9.) AMD Ryzen 7 5800X
What we Love
The AMD Ryzen 7 5800X is a great all-around processor known to work through even the toughest data science problems.
An 8 Core CPU with a huge 36 MB cache will destroy any dataset in front of it.
No list would be complete without a mention of the 5800X, as AMD is revolutionizing CPUs even through 2023.
We think this is a great processor, just overpriced compared to the “lesser” CPU we mentioned above (AMD Ryzen 7 5700G).
Do I Need To Spend Thousands On A Processor For Machine Learning?
You do not need to spend thousands on a CPU to get started with Data science and machine learning.
Most of the processors recommended above come in around $200 or less.
Any of the processors above will have you on your way in your data science career.
Intel Vs. AMD Vs. Apple
The CPU industry is a tricky thing.
Intel historically dominated the industry, making most of the US-based chips that we see in our technology.
Within the last five years, Apple broke away from Intel and started making its own chips, called M1.
Many older Macs purchased (before 2020) will still have an Intel processor.
AMD, who historically had pretty poor performance, has essentially caught up to Intel, and many believe actually has passed them in performance and cost.
You can see this from the mentions of the “Ryzen” processors above.
Instead of Intel dominating the industry, we have great competition pushing the CPU industry forward.
Do You Need A GPU For Deep Learning?
You do not need a GPU for deep learning.
While a GPU is a nice addition to any computer, if you’re ever in a situation where you need to offload training to a GPU, it makes way more sense to use a cloud-based solution (like Kaggle free GPU notebooks) before spending thousands of dollars on a state of the art GPU.
Save your money and buy a better CPU (like the ones mentioned above!!).
How we rated these products
These products were all rated on a cost-per-performance basis.
Meaning these processors all perform well relative to their cost.
So while these aren’t the best-performing CPUs on the market, they’re the best-performing CPUs for their cost.
We believe this to be the best way to pursue a list like this, as we want as many people as possible to break into data science and machine learning without the cost barrier of a $3,000 processor.
Be wary of any list recommending processors that are thousands of dollars.
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