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Virtualization allows us to create a virtual version of hardware resources such as networks, storage devices or even an entire physical system.
Now, you may be wondering How is it possible to create a virtual version of an entire physical system? It’s possible due to a technology called Hypervisor. Let’s understand it with an example.
Suppose, you want to run 2 operating systems simultaneously, for that you’ll require 2 different laptops or PCs. Now, every time there is a requirement to run a new OS along with the old ones, you will be forced to buy new hardware. Indeed, this is not a cost-friendly option.
This is where Hypervisors come into play. A hypervisor can divide/isolate the resources of a single PC/Laptop and allows you to install a new OS using the isolated resources. So, on a single Laptop/PC, you can run multiple operating systems simultaneously.
The OS running on top of hypervisors are called Virtual Machines (VM) or Guest Machines and the system on which the hypervisor is running is called the host system.
So, if you want to run multiple VMs or allocate more resources to a single VM, you’ll require a lot of resources such as RAM, storage and CPU cores on the host system. Also, to use virtualization technology optimally, it should be supported by the processor.
Don’t worry, all the processors mentioned in this CPU for virtualization list support Virtualization technology.
Here’s the summary of the best CPU for Virtualization in 2023:
|CPU for Virtualization||Link to Product|
|Intel Core i9-13900K||See details at Amazon|
|AMD Ryzen 9 7950X||See details at Amazon|
|Intel Core i7-13700K||See details at Amazon|
|AMD Ryzen 7 5800X||See details at Amazon|
|AMD Ryzen 5 5600X||See details at Amazon|
Things to keep in mind:
I would like you to keep the following things in mind before proceeding with this list.
2. It’s your responsibility to check if the motherboard is compatible with the processor you’re purchasing.
3. I’m mentioning some key features of these processors. For a full list of features, visit the manufacturer’s website.
4. If you are planning to overclock or run these processors under heavy load, then make sure you arrange a good CPU cooler to avoid any damage to the CPU.
5. You may need to enable the virtualization in the BIOS unless it is enabled by default.
Best CPU for Virtualization
The first on this list is the Intel Core i9-13900K (13th Gen) processor. It has 24 cores and 32 Threads offering a max turbo frequency of 5.80 GHz.
The 24 cores are divided into 2 segments – 8 performance cores (P-cores) + 16 Efficient cores (E-cores) that free-up performance cores to focus on more important tasks. You can learn more about this hybrid design on the Intel website.
The performance core base frequency is 3.0 GHz and the efficiency core base frequency is 2.20 GHz. It consumes 125 W power when running on base frequency, but can go up to 253 W when using maximum Turbo Boost frequencies.
Moreover, Intel i9-13900K has a max memory size of 128 GB and also supports ECC memory. It also has Intel UHD Graphics 770 and DirectX 12 support.
Intel i9-13900K is not only a great CPU for Virtualization but also the best CPU to use with desktop computers.
Features of Intel Core i9-13900K:
- 24 Cores – 8 Performance + 16 Efficient cores.
- 32 Threads CPU.
- 3.00 GHz Performance-core Base Frequency.
- 2.20 GHz Efficient-core Base Frequency.
- 5.80 GHz Max Turbo Frequency.
- 128 GB Max Memory Size.
- 36 MB Intel Smart Cache and 32 MB L2 Cache.
- 125 W Processor Base Power.
- 253 W Maximum Turbo Power.
AMD Ryzen 7950X is a 16-core and 32-thread CPU with a base clock speed of 4.5 GHz and a max clock speed of up to 5.7 GHz. It is based on “Zen 4” architecture and has a default TDP of 170W. Moreover, it is unlocked for overclocking.
It supports a max memory size of 128GB along with ECC support. Moreover, it has integrated AMD Radeon graphics with 2200 MHz Frequency.
Ryzen 9 7950X also has support for AMD EXPO (Extended Profiles for Overclocking) technology. This means, when pairing this processor with an EXPO-compatible DDR5 memory, you can enable EXPO and enjoy higher memory frequencies with just a few clicks in the BIOS settings.
If you want the latest AMD CPU that offers excellent multi-core performance, then the Ryzen 9 7950X will be the best choice for your virtualization needs.
Features of AMD Ryzen 9 7950X:
- 16 Core, 32 Thread CPU.
- 4.5 GHz Base Clock.
- Up to 5.7 GHz Max Boost Clock.
- 128 GB Max Memory Size.
- 64MB L3 Cache and 16 MB L2 Cache.
- 170W Default TDP.
Another 13th gen Intel processor but this one is i7. Intel Core i7-13700K has 16 Cores and 24 Threads with a max turbo frequency of 5.40 GHz.
Just like the i9 processor mentioned before, this one also uses the hybrid design and the 16 Cores are divided into 2 segments – 8 Performance Cores + 8 Efficiency Cores.
The performance cores have a base frequency of 3.4 GHz whereas the efficiency core base frequency is 2.5 GHz. It uses 125 W power when using the base processor frequency and can go up to 253 W power when using maximum turbo frequencies.
Moreover, the i7-13700K has a max memory size of 128 GB and supports ECC memory and Intel (VT-d) to improve the performance of I/O devices in virtualized environments.
If you want the latest Intel i7 CPU for Virtualization that offers excellent performance, then this processor will be a great choice.
Features of Intel Core i7-13700K:
- 16 Cores – 8 Performance + 8 Efficient cores.
- 24 Threads CPU.
- 3.40 GHz Performance-core Base Frequency.
- 2.50 GHz Efficient-core Base Frequency.
- 5.40 GHz Max Turbo Frequency.
- 128 GB Max Memory Size.
- 30 MB Intel Smart Cache and 24 MB L2 Cache.
- 125 W Processor Base Power.
- 253 W Maximum Turbo Power.
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X has 8 cores and 16 threads with a base clock of 3.8 GHz and a max boost clock of up to 4.7 GHz. It has a default TDP of 105W and is unlocked for overclocking.
Unlike the previously mentioned Ryzen 9 7950X, this one is based on the “Zen 3” architecture and doesn’t ship with integrated graphics. However, the CPU is very power efficient with a default TDP of 105W.
Although performance wise this is a good CPU for virtualization, but with only $100 more you can get the Ryzen 9 5900X which gives you an additional 4 cores and 8 threads and double the amount of L3 cache that you get with Ryzen 7 5800X.
Therefore, if you are not keen on using the latest AMD CPU for virtualization, then you can go for the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X Processor.
Features of AMD Ryzen 7 5800X:
- 8 Core, 16 Thread CPU.
- 3.8GHz Base Clock.
- Up to 4.7GHz Max Boost Clock.
- 32MB L3 Cache and 4 MB L2 Cache.
- 105W Default TDP.
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X has 6 cores and 12 threads with a base clock of 3.7 GHz and a max clock of up to 4.6 GHz. It has a default TDP of 65W and is unlocked for overclocking.
It is based on Zen 3 architecture and like the Ryzen 7 5800X processor on this list, this one also doesn’t ship with integrated graphics. However, it does ship with a Wraith Stealth CPU Cooler which is a low-profile and quiet cooling solution for this CPU.
Ryzen 5 5600X offers great performance and is very power efficient compared to other processors in this price range.
If you don’t plan to do some heavy virtualization work or you’re on a tight budget, then AMD Ryzen 5 5600X is the best budget CPU that can cater to your virtualization needs.
Features of AMD Ryzen 5 5600X:
- 6 Core, 12 Thread CPU.
- 3.7GHz Base Clock.
- Up to 4.6GHz Max Boost Clock.
- 32MB L3 Cache and 3 MB L2 Cache.
- 65W Default TDP.
CPU for Virtualization Buying Guide
What to look for when buying a CPU for Virtualization?
A good CPU for virtualization will be the one that has more number of cores.
You can even run virtual machines on a dual-core or quad-core CPU. However, if you are expecting good performance, then having a minimum of 6 cores will be essential.
AMD vs Intel Which one should you buy for Virtualization?
Both AMD and Intel are leading names in the market for processors. They both offer virtualization features; VT-x, VT-d in Intel CPUs and AMD-V, AMD-Vi in AMD CPUs.
AMD uses No Execute (NX) bit and Intel uses Execute Disable (XD) bit to prevent the execution of certain types of code in the protected areas which in turn protects the VM from malware.
The best way of choosing the right CPU for virtualization is to look at the hypervisor you are planning to use. Some Hypervisors might have good support for AMD processors, others for Intel.
What about the other components like RAM and Storage for Virtualization?
Virtualization requires other resources like memory and storage to run virtual machines.
Apart from CPU, running Virtual Machines will require a significant of RAM. The exact memory required for virtualization will depend on your use case. However, having a minimum of 16 GB RAM will be a good starting point.
32 GB RAM (or more) is recommended for a smooth virtualization experience. If your computer allows RAM expansion, then you can go for it as the need arises.
Once again, the amount of storage required will depend on your particular use case. However, it is recommended to have a Solid State Drive (SSD) over the traditional spinning disks (HDD) for better performance.
Since SSDs are faster and more power-efficient, they have an advantage over HDDs while running multiple virtual machines that may require a significant amount of read/write operations.
Frequently Asked Questions
The CPU plays a crucial role in virtualization as it is responsible for executing virtual machine instructions and managing multiple virtual environments simultaneously. A powerful and modern CPU with support for virtualization technologies, such as Intel VT-x or AMD-V, ensures efficient resource allocation, reduced latency, and better overall performance for virtualized workloads.
To check if your CPU supports virtualization, you can review the specifications on the manufacturer’s website or consult your CPU’s user manual. Additionally, you can use software tools like “CPU-Z” to identify if your CPU has virtualization support (Intel VT-x or AMD-V). It is essential to ensure that hardware virtualization is enabled in the BIOS/UEFI settings to fully utilize this capability.
While most modern CPUs come with hardware virtualization support, not all CPUs are suitable for intensive virtualization workloads. For optimal virtualization performance, it is recommended to choose a CPU with multiple cores/threads and higher clock speeds. CPUs with features like Intel Hyper-Threading or AMD SMT (Simultaneous Multi-Threading) can significantly enhance virtual machine responsiveness and multitasking capabilities.
In virtualization, multi-core performance is generally more critical than single-core performance. Virtualization platforms can efficiently distribute workloads across multiple cores, benefiting from increased parallelism. Having more cores allows you to run multiple virtual machines simultaneously without causing significant bottlenecks. However, a balance between core count and individual core performance is ideal for a well-rounded virtualization experience.
Nested virtualization allows running virtual machines inside virtual machines. To enable nested virtualization, your CPU must support Intel VT-x or AMD-V virtualization technologies at the host level. Additionally, you should ensure that nested virtualization is supported and enabled in your hypervisor settings, as well as within the guest virtual machines. Nested virtualization is particularly useful for testing and development scenarios within virtualized environments
Depending on your use case and budget you can choose any of these CPUs for your virtualization needs. Moreover, the CPUs mentioned in this list are not only suitable for virtualization but for any general usage – like gaming, streaming, editing etc.
Also, you can check out my other articles/guides related to Virtualization here.