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Buying a processor for a gaming rig isnâ€™t as hard as it used to be. Now that Ryzen 3000-series and Intelâ€™s 10th-gen Core CPUs come with more performance and cores than ever before, itâ€™s hard to buy a stinker these daysâ€”especially because most games favor graphics firepower over CPU oomph. All that said, there are specific chips that stand out from the horde as the best gaming CPUs due to their price, performance, or nifty extras.Whether youâ€™re on a budget or willing to pay for sheer face-melting speed, these are the best CPUs for gaming PCs that you can buy.Editorâ€™s note: We constantly updated this article as necessary. The latest iteration adds information about AMDâ€™s impending â€śZen 3â€ť announcement to the news section.Latest gaming CPU newsThe next generation of Ryzen chips are almost here. AMDâ€™s Ryzen 3000 chips have been delivering killer value (and PCIe 4.0 support) for over a year, and now AMD says their successors will be unveiled on October 3, powered by the companyâ€™s new â€śZen 3â€ť architecture.Â Things are looking less rosy for Intel. While its 10th-gen Core chips earn recognition at several points in this roundup, the company announced during its second quarter financial earnings that its 7nm transition is running a year behind expectations, and Intelâ€™s first 10nm desktop chips wonâ€™t be released until the second half of 2021.The best gaming CPU for most peopleAMD Ryzen 5 3600Â ($160 on Amazon)Intelâ€™s ruled the gaming roost for seemingly time eternal, but in 2019, AMD seized the mainstream crown. Overall, the $160 Ryzen 5 3600 is the best gaming CPU for most people, though Intelâ€™s rival 10th-gen Core processors compete much more fiercely than 9th-gen chips did. The $275 Core i5-10600K is a faster than the AMD chip at pure gaming frame rates, but costs significantly more overall and actually sells for closer to $300 on the street, so the Ryzen 5 3600 provides outstanding value. You canâ€™t go wrong with either chip. Gordon Mah Ung/IDGAMD bestows its Ryzen parts with simultaneous multi-threading, giving the six-core Ryzen 5 3600 a full twelve threads. That gives some serious productivity chops for a mainstream CPU. But for the first time in recent memory, AMDâ€™s mainstream chip hangs tough with its Intel counterparts, too. AMD infused its third-gen Ryzen chips with massive instructions-per-clock (IPC) improvements and faster clock speeds, with the 3.6GHz Ryzen 5 3600 capable of boosting up to 4.2GHz. AMD
The Ryzen 5 3600 comes with AMDâ€™s Wraith Spire cooler, while Intelâ€™s rival K-series processors require you to bring your own.
Together, those gains help the chip trades blow with Intelâ€™s Core i5-9600K in gaming benchmarks at TechSpot and GamersNexus. Both sites give the Ryzen 5 3600 a hearty recommendation. At this point itâ€™s the clear recommendation over the faster Ryzen 5 3600X ($210 at Amazon), which hasnâ€™t seen discounts nearly as steep at the non-X model. Most AMD motherboards support overclocking for the adventurous if you want to try your hands at even better performance.The newer 6-core, 12-thread, $275 Core i5-10600KÂ puts up a tougher fight against AMDâ€™s chip than its predecessor, thanks to its high clock speeds and the reintroduction of Hyper-Threading. Intelâ€™s chip is actually faster than AMDâ€™s at 1080p gaming overall in reviews at TechSpot, Digital Foundry, Gamers Nexus, and Anandtech, though the Ryzen 5 3600 wins a handful of comparisons, and the performance gaps shrinks substantially as you go up in resolution. Intelâ€™s chip especially rocks in esports titles. If you wonâ€™t accept anything but the fastest mainstream gaming performance, the Core i5-10600K is your chip. Itâ€™s on a par with last genâ€™s Core i9-9900K flagship, and Intelâ€™s best 10th-gen offering. Gordon Mah Ung
Intelâ€™s Core i6-10600K isnâ€™t that much slower than the flagship Core i9-10900K in gaming.
That said, the Ryzen 5 3600 mostly hangs with Intelâ€™s Core i5 for practical gaming purposesâ€”reviewers say the performance difference is close enough that you wonâ€™t see much change with your naked eye, outside of competitive gaming scenarios. We give the edge to AMD due to its lower overall cost: The Ryzen 5 3600 costs half the price of Intelâ€™s chipÂ the street, and it comes bundled with a Wraith CPU cooler. Youâ€™ll need to spring for your own cooler with the Core i5-10600K, and the Z490 motherboards youâ€™ll need to plop it into tend to cost more than established AMD AM4 motherboards. Plus, if you want to spend up for a newer 500-series AM4 motherboard, the Ryzen chip supports blazing-fast PCIe 4.0 storage. Intel hasnâ€™t jumped onto that bandwagon yet.The best budget gaming CPUAMD Ryzen 3 3300XÂ ($120 at B&H) orÂ Ryzen 3Â 3200G ($100 on Amazon)If you want a gaming CPU that wonâ€™t break the bank, look no further than the $100 Ryzen 3 3200GÂ if you want modest game-ready graphics included with your chip, or the $120 Ryzen 3 3300XÂ if you plan to BYO graphics card. AMDThe four-core, eight-thread Ryzen 3 3300X achieves performance equal to or better than Intelâ€™s former Core i7-7700K flagship at a fraction of the cost, delivering â€śunprecedented valueâ€ť per Digital Foundry. Gamers Nexus is just as glowing in its review, stating that â€śan R3 is enough for gaming.â€ť Itâ€™s only a few paces behind the Ryzen 5 3600 in most games, so if you donâ€™t need the more expensive chipâ€™s extra cores for productivity tasks, this is a great value for the money.Thereâ€™s never been a low-budget gaming chip with performance this competitive. Better yet, AMD tosses a cooler into the box, the chip can be overclocked, and compatible B450 motherboards are both cheap and plentiful. Alternatively, if you want to future-proof your system with a pricier 500-series AM4 motherboard, the chip can support PCIe 4.0 storage, though youâ€™ll probably want to wait for B550 motherboards to roll out in mid-June if youâ€™re going that route.The step-down Ryzen 3 3100 costs $100, but itâ€™s less compelling. Due to a technical difference in how its CPU cores communicate, it tends to lag behind the Ryzen 3 3300X in both productivity and gaming. Save up the extra $20.Another option would be to invest $100 in our other budget gaming pick, which can let you game even if you canâ€™t spend extra on graphics. The continuation of AMDâ€™s â€śAPUâ€ť strategy,Â the $100 Ryzen 3 3200GÂ blends four Ryzen CPU cores with eight of AMDâ€™s powerful Radeon Vega compute units. The end result? A solid-performing chip that can play PC games without the need for a graphics card. AMDItâ€™s built using 12nm Zen+ cores rather than the 7nm Zen 2 cores in other third-gen Ryzen processors, but the Ryzen 3 3200G should still deliver enough punch for basic gaming. Its predecessor,Â the Ryzen 3 2200G, handled e-sports titles likeÂ Fortnite, Dota 2,Â League of Legends, andÂ Rocket LeagueÂ with ease and turned in surprisingly good frame rates even in AAA games likeÂ Destiny 2Â andÂ Rise of the Tomb Raider. You might need to alter some graphics settings and maybe dial the game resolution back to 720p for the best results, but you can get the vast majority of games running between 30 and 60 frames per second with some tinkering.The Ryzen 3 3200G should perform slightly better thanks to faster clock speeds. Its CPU cores are about 300MHz faster than the 2200Gâ€™s, while the integrated Radeon Vega GPU cores are about 150MHz faster. That said, the Ryzen 3 3200Gâ€™s older manufacturing process and lack of multi-threading make the Ryzen 3 3300X a better pick if youâ€™re planning on jamming a graphics card into your system as well. Itâ€™s just plain faster as a processor.If youâ€™re buying a Ryzen APU, though, make sure your chosen motherboard includes an HDMI port. Without a graphics card inside your system, youâ€™ll be reliant on it for video output.The best high-end gaming CPUIntel Core i9-10900KS ($525 on Newegg) Gordon Mah Ung
The Core i9-10900K is the fastest gaming CPU ever.
If you absolutely, positively need the fastest frame rates possible, price be damned, youâ€™ll want Intelâ€™s $525 Core i9-10900K. Well,Â theoreticallyÂ $525. The high-end, ten-core chip just launched, and paired with Intelâ€™s ongoing supply constraints, itâ€™s hard to find on the street right now.If you can find one, this 10-core, 20-thread processor comes clocked at 3.7GHz base and can fly all the way up to 5.3GHz under the right conditions.Â It came out ahead of the Ryzen 9 3900X across all but one gaming test we threw at it. The wins usually come in the form of a single-digit percentage performance lead, but it earns more substantial victories in Far Cry: New Dawn and Gears 5.The Core i9-10900K is the worldâ€™s fastest CPU for gaming, full stopâ€”and thanks to the increased core count, it can now hang near AMDâ€™s high-end Ryzen chips in productivity tasks, too. IDG
The Core i9-10900K beats the Ryzen 9 3900X across the board in games, although it has two fewer cores and costs $100 more. (The shorter bar is better inÂ Civ VI Gathering Storm.)
It might not be the most practical option for most people, thoughâ€”even gaming enthusiasts with deep pockets. The blazing-fast clock speeds start to matter less when you pair the 9900KS with a high-end graphics card at 1440p or 4K resolutions, which shifts the performance bottleneck over to the GPU in most games. Youâ€™ll get the most out of Intelâ€™s ludicrously fast flagship at 1080p resolution. Because of that, and some other considerations, AMD and Intel both offer some very intriguing alternatives.It might not be the most practical option for most people, thoughâ€”even gaming enthusiasts with deep pockets. The blazing-fast clock speeds start to matter less when you pair the Core i9-10900K with a high-end graphics card at 1440p or 4K resolutions, which shifts the performance bottleneck over to the GPU in most games. Youâ€™ll get the most out of Intelâ€™s ludicrously fast flagship at 1080p resolution. The chip also chugs down a lot of power and lacks support for cutting-edge PCIe 4.0 storage. Because of that, and the sky-high cost of the 10900K, AMD and Intel both offer some very intriguing alternatives. IntelLetâ€™s start with Intelâ€™s options. If youâ€™re willing to accept a mere 100MHz off every major spec, the 10-core Core i9-10850K will cost around $455 when it hits the streets soon, and itâ€™s pretty much otherwise identical to the 10900K. Nobodyâ€™s reviewed the chip yet, but those mild nerfs and decent savings makes it a pretty good deal.Â Losing 100MHz across all specs adds up to about a 2 percent clock speed reduction over the Core i9-10900K at a price reduction of about 7.4 percent.Â If youâ€™re on the hunt simply for an optimal gaming experience and donâ€™t need a legion of cores and threads for productivity, the 8-core, 16-thread $425 Core i7-10700K might be worth considering. Itâ€™s just as fast as the pricier Core i9-10900K in gaming loads, per Gamers Nexus and TechSpot, but costs significantly less. But the Core i5-10600K discussed previously is essentially as fast for overÂ another $100 less, however, and Intelâ€™s Core i7 chip gets fiercely outmatched by comparable AMD processors in productivity tasks, especially when it comes to performance per dollar.Gaming isnâ€™t all most people do on their computers, of course. If you do a lot of work on your PC, especially resource-intensive tasks like streaming or media editing, one of AMDâ€™s third-gen Ryzen chips is probably a better option. AMDâ€™s been making aggressive price moves around Intelâ€™s 10th-gen launch to be more competitive. Ryzen 3000-series chips also hold an edge in power efficiency and PCIe 4.0 support. Gordon Mah Ung
AMDâ€™s 12-core Ryzen 9 3900X is the king of mainstream performance CPUs.
â€śIn the end, AMD still makes it a better choice and a better deal for most, but for those who want higher clock speeds and more performance on lighter workloads, Intelâ€™s 10th gen Core i9-10900K and its sibling at least are worth considering,â€ť we said in our 10900K review. â€śThat, frankly, is a victory from the situation it has been in.â€ťThe $750 Ryzen 9 3950X is by far the most powerful consumer desktop processor ever, sporting a whopping 16 cores, 32 threads, and the highest clock speeds of any Ryzen chip. Even the $410 Ryzen 9 3900XÂ comes loaded with 12 cores and 24 threads, outstripping Intelâ€™s options despite costing over $100 less than the Core i9-10900K after a steep price cut.Better yet, AMD infused its third-gen Ryzen chips with significant IPC and clock speed improvements, putting the 3950X and 3900X just barely behind Intelâ€™s fearsome 9900K in 1080p gaming benchmarks. The divide shrinks even further if you play at 1440p or 4K resolution, as those shift more of the bottleneck onto your systemâ€™s graphics card. Third-gen Ryzen chips burn rubber in gaming, especially at higher resolutions that systems with high-end parts like these usually run. The Ryzen 9 pairing absolutely pounds Intelâ€™s lineup in multi-threaded tasks.