With the best CPU for gaming in your rig that expensive new graphics card, you’re about to drop a ton of cash on will always remain well-fed with game frames, and you can ensure it’s working to its full potential. Especially as we enter a new era of affordable 4K gaming. The best CPU is also a worthy investment for any creative work, editing, or streaming you might fancy doing with your PC, and means you won’t need a machine to handle a stream on its own. With more cores than ever available, you needn’t worry about multi-tasking pushing your gaming PC to the limits anymore.
Before deciding which gaming CPU to go with, there are a couple of things you need to consider. Should you get an AMD or Intel processor? Which generation? What is your upgrade path? Depending on what you pick, you need to make sure your motherboard is compatible with whichever one you opt for, as they are mutually exclusive. At least AMD has made things a little easier on this front, as all of its processors on this list slot into an AM4 socket and are supported by 300, 400, or 500-series chipsets.
Intel CPUs are a little trickier, as the latest Comet Lake release uses the new LGA1200 socket, and we’d go with either a Z490 or cheaper B460 motherboard at this point. Meanwhile, the 9th gen CPUs listed are compatible with the LGA1151 socket motherboards and are supported by the 300-series chipset. Whichever generation you go for, if you’re doing a full upgrade, the chances are that your old motherboard may not be compatible with your new CPU. Thankfully, our picks for best gaming motherboards are compatible with the CPUs on this list.
1. Best CPU For Gaming Intel Core i7 10700K
The Core i7 10700K wasn’t the chip that found its way into the early Comet Lake testing as Intel wanted to focus on either the 10-core 10900K, or 6-core 10600K, but for our money it’s the best gaming chip around. You will get a touch more performance going for the far more expensive Core i9 CPU, but not as much as would have you notice it in-game.
And compared with AMD’s 3700X, another 8-core, the 16-thread processor of the 7nm Zen 2 variety, it delivers a comprehensive gaming performance lead. It’s also close in productivity testing too, though the Ryzen chip will generally have the edge there, but again not by anything noticeable.
Then there’s the overclocking. AMD processors don’t have a lot of overhead in them, and in comparison with the single-core frequency neither do the Comet Lake CPUs, but you can easily push the 10700K over the 5GHz mark on all cores, and without melting through the heat spreader either.
The AMD platform does have the edge with PCIe 4.0 support, though it’s worth noting that despite Nvidia building it into the Ampere RTX 30-series cards it doesn’t have a lot of impact in gaming performance. What it will do is allow for the highest performance storage devices, with PCIe 4.0 SSDs.
But for pure gaming frame rates, we’d go with the latest Intel Comet Lake chip.
2. Intel Core i9 10900K
If you want the absolute best CPU for gaming, then the Core i9 10900K is all the CPU you need. It’s overkill for the vast majority of cases, apart from possibly at the very, very high-end, but there’s a reassurance to be had in the ‘world’s fastest gaming processor.’ You probably don’t need this processor, but if you do build a machine around it, you know it won’t be this chip that’s holding you back.
The Core i9 10900K is the first time Intel has managed to squeeze 10 processing cores into its mainstream line up, and given it’s capable of hitting 5.3GHz (however briefly), it definitely represents an impressive outing for the 14nm technology Intel has been tied to for so long. Gaming still benefits from high clock speeds, and that fact alone keeps Intel ahead for now.
You’ll need to invest in a Z490 motherboard to go along with this chip, and some serious cooling, (a decent PSU wouldn’t go amiss either). Don’t be fooled by that reasonable 95W TDP, as it’ll push way beyond that, especially if you’re thinking of exploring its overclocking chops.
3. Best CPU For Gaming AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
AMD’s third-generation Ryzen processors provide the company with its best showing ever in our gaming CPU tests. The 3900X may not be the absolute fastest gaming CPU, but it’s close enough at the settings and resolutions gamers use, and it’s unequivocally the most powerful CPU outside of games.
AMD’s Ryzen 9 3900X costs roughly the same as the last-gen Core i9 9900K, but it includes a decent Wraith Prism cooler and packs 50 percent more cores and threads. That translates into 8 percent slower gaming performance, but 25 percent faster performance in multithreaded workloads like video editing and 3D rendering.
If you’re mostly worried about gaming, that 8 percent deficit is only really apparent at lower quality settings and a lower resolution with the fastest GPU available (RTX 2080 Ti at 1080p ultra). It might matter if you’re a professional gamer aiming for 240fps at minimum quality, but anyone else would be ecstatic with the performance the 3900X delivers.
While overclocking is possible, AMD locks you into a single clock speed, and that usually means lower clocks in lighter workloads. Precision Boost Overdrive (PBO) can give up to 200MHz higher performance while maintaining turbo ratios and is the better solution for the 3900X.
You could also step up to the Ryzen 9 3950X, which gives you 16 cores and 32 threads. It costs 50 percent more for the CPU, however, and you also need to provide a cooler. For gaming purposes, and even most content creation chores, the 3900X is more than sufficient.
4. Best CPU For Gaming AMD Ryzen 7 3700X
Stepping down on price and core counts from the 3900X, the Ryzen 7 3700X is nearly as fast in games and has all the other benefits of AMD’s Zen 2 architecture. That includes PCIe Gen4 support, which isn’t necessary today but might become useful during the coming years. It’s the sensible AMD choice, and for around $280, you still get an 8-core/16-thread CPU with a Wraith Prism cooler.
Compared to Intel’s i7 9700K, it’s about 9 percent slower in gaming performance—again, at 1080p with an RTX 2080 Ti. If you buy a sensible GPU like AMD’s RX 5700 XT, any difference in gaming performance is going to be mostly meaningless. Elsewhere, in multithreaded applications, it’s about 18 percent faster, and overall it wins the matchup at both performance and price.
As a pure gaming CPU, the 3700X is good. Taking in the entire package, it’s one of the best buys right now. As with the 3900X, overclocking is relatively limited, but memory tuning can potentially make a more significant difference.
5. Best CPU For Gaming Intel Core i5 9400F
The Core i5 9400F is an exciting option. It’s slightly faster than the previous-gen Core i5 8400 but ditches the Intel integrated graphics completely. That’s not a problem for gamers, though if you want to use QuickSync, you’re out of luck, Nvidia’s NVENC on Turing is arguably better anyway. Overall, it’s an excellent budget-friendly choice that doesn’t cost much more than a Core i3 part.
There are other compromises, like the locked multiplier—no overclocking here. But you can save money and grab an H370 motherboard. At least you get a cooler in the box, something we’d like to see as an option with every CPU. Most boards will happily run the 9400KF at 3.9GHz as well, so don’t worry about the low base clock.
While the i5 9400F may not be as fast as other CPUs in multithreaded tests, in our gaming suite, it’s tied with AMD’s 3900X. Future games may start to push beyond its 6-core capabilities, but probably not before you’re ready for an upgrade. Right now, the i5 9400F is plenty fast and extremely affordable.
6. AMD Ryzen 5 3600
AMD makes a strong case for its third-generation Ryzen CPUs, with improved performance and efficiency. The Ryzen 5 3600 is slightly behind the 3900X when it comes to gaming and other tasks, but the emphasis is on the word ‘slightly’ for a reason—it’s typically a 5 percent difference or less. Plus, for a midrange CPU, we seriously doubt anyone is planning on pairing it with an RTX 2080 Ti. A better choice would be a midrange GPU like the AMD RX 5700, or even the previous generation RX 590. Either way, the 3600 won’t hold you back.
You still get a 6-core/12-thread processor, and outside of games, the 3600 is about 40 percent faster than Intel’s 9400F. But then, the 3600 also costs more. It has the other benefits of AMD’s Zen 2 architecture, like PCIe Gen4, and AMD’s CPUs have also had far fewer issues with side-channel attacks like Meltdown, Spectre, Foreshadow, and MDS, giving you some peace of mind as far as security goes.
You can also look at the Ryzen 5 3600X as a small step up in performance for $40 more, but the vanilla 3600 can overclock a bit better thanks to a lower starting point, effectively matching its more expensive sibling. Again, fast memory with tight timings helps performance with Ryzen CPUs.
These were some of the best CPUs that are available in the market for gaming. Let us know in the comment section if you want to know something else, we will try solving your issues.