It’s easily the most important component of any PC — the brains behind the entire operation. Every action performed on your computer, no matter how minor or complex, must first pass through the CPU.
Sounds like an important decision to make, doesn’t it? With modern games requiring billions of calculations per second, the processor better be up to the task.
And to put things properly into perspective, if a processor is running at 2Ghz, that means it can perform 2 billion instructions per second.
So, let’s find out which is the best CPU for gaming available now and which one could be perfect for you…
- 1 Best CPU For Gaming In 2021 – Top 8 Rated Reviews
- 1.1 1 Intel Core i9-9900K – Best 5Ghz CPU for Gaming
- 1.2 2 AMD Ryzen 5 3600 – Best 6 Core CPU for Gaming
- 1.3 3 AMD Ryzen 7 3700X – Best Value 8 Core CPU for Gaming
- 1.4 4 AMD Ryzen 9 3900X – Best 12 Core CPU for Gaming
- 1.5 5 Intel Core i7-9700K – Best Premium 8 Core CPU for Gaming
- 1.6 6 AMD Ryzen 3 3200G – Best Budget Quad Core CPU for Gaming
- 1.7 7 Intel Core i3-9100F – Best Entry Level CPU for Gaming
- 1.8 8 Intel Core i5-9600K – Best CPU for 1080p Gaming on Ultra Settings
- 2 Best CPU For Gaming Buying Guide
- 3 Other Great Gaming Reviews?
- 4 So, What Is The Best CPU For Gaming?
Best CPU For Gaming In 2021 – Top 8 Rated Reviews
1 Intel Core i9-9900K – Best 5Ghz CPU for Gaming
There are many great rivalries that exist in this world. Apple vs. Android, Coke vs. Pepsi, Marvel vs. DC, and in this case, Intel vs. AMD. The real winner in any of these competitions is us, the consumers. One pushes the other, resulting in products like these.
By featuring more cores, higher frequencies, and boosted performance, this becomes the fastest mainstream chip on the market. The cost, however, may limit this CPU to extreme performance enthusiasts.
Intel’s flagship model…
Running up to an impressive 5Ghz using 8 cores and 16 threads places this GPU in the top spot for on-paper performance. But how does it perform out there in the real world? And even more importantly, will it enhance our gaming experience?
More and more UHD 4K games are becoming available. You would hope a flagship processor could provide impressive results. Unfortunately, improvements in FPS compared to the cheaper i7-8700K processor are minuscule, if any.
Compatibility with other components…
If you’re interested in upgrading to the i9 series, chances are your motherboard won’t be compatible. This means another piece of hardware that will require upgrading—something to definitely take into consideration.
Another aspect to consider is power consumption and cooling. This CPU draws a lot of power, creating excess heat, therefore requiring an efficient cooling solution. In short, if you’re thinking of upgrading, perhaps a complete new build may be the better option.
- Fastest mainstream processor at 5Ghz.
- Great for video rendering and editing.
- Minimal improvement in gaming FPS.
- Not really suitable as an upgrade.
2 AMD Ryzen 5 3600 – Best 6 Core CPU for Gaming
Ryzen 5 has been described as the best value all round CPU. We are here today for gaming purposes. Gaming is included in ‘all-round,’ so we will focus on that area of its performance. There is comfort in knowing we’re dealing with a capable all-rounder, though.
Boasting 6 cores, 12 threads, and clocking between 3.6 and 4.2GHz, these specs on paper begin to reveal why the Ryzen 5 has earned its title. But as we saw previously, specs and real-world performance, particularly with gaming, can be very different.
Money saved, performance maintained…
If you want to play high-resolution gaming, that will come down to your GPU. What the CPU has a bigger influence on is the FPS (frames per second). For 1080p or 1440p resolutions, FPS are only a smidge behind the more expensive Intel i7-8700K.
Once you move into UHD 4K gaming, though, even with a capable GPU, this is where it starts to fall down. The average sits at about 47 fps but drops to sometimes as low as 16 fps. So even though 4K is possible, it won’t be the smoothest experience.
We can see why this is so popular…
Frequencies between Ryzen 5’s rivals are comparable. Where it starts to leap ahead is with things like a TDP (thermal design power) of only 65 W, resulting in less heat and lower power consumption.
Another impressive figure is the DDR4-3200 support with 24 lanes of PCIe 4.0. Allowing double the bandwidth for GPUs, SSDs, Wi-Fi, and the internet. It’s now becoming obvious why this is one of the most popular processors ever sold.
- Fantastic value for money.
- Great for 1080p or 1440p gaming.
- Low power consumption.
- 4K gaming pushes limits.
- Limited overclocking potential.
3 AMD Ryzen 7 3700X – Best Value 8 Core CPU for Gaming
If you were impressed with the Ryzen 5 but feel you could do with just a little more, here is your answer. The inclusion of an RGB Wraith Prism LED Cooler should give a hint to the gaming potential contained within the package.
For those that want some bang for their buck, the Ryzen 7 can deliver raw performance. This 8-core, 16-thread GPU can clock between 3.6 to 4.4GHz. Although Intel dominates single-core performance, AMD destroys the multi-core market.
Added gaming features…
AMD has included what they call GameCache technology. Located on the CPU die itself; this allows for faster access than system memory. Storing frequently used data in three separate caches allows more resources to be directed where they’re needed.
Using the same PCIe 4.0 as the Ryzen 5 provides huge bandwidth when paired with a powerful GPU. The other advantage is with SSDs. Data can be accessed with minimum latency resulting in faster and smoother operations.
Punching above its weight…
Ryzen 7 can keep up with and sometimes even surpass the more expensive Intel Flagship i9-9900K. Requiring less power to run with a TDP of just 65 W compared to Intel’s 95 W. And even using less power, it can still provide fantastic performance.
4K UHD gaming is only just behind the i9 too. When playing Middle Earth: Shadow of War, the Ryzen managed 118 fps, with the i9 running at 120 fps. A barely noticeable difference for the more affordable rival.
- Bang for your buck performance.
- Impressive FPS in 4K.
- Included LED cooler.
- Single thread performance behind Intel.
- Requires PCIe 4.0 compatible motherboard.
4 AMD Ryzen 9 3900X – Best 12 Core CPU for Gaming
Now we come to AMD’s top-level, mainstream processor. An absolute powerhouse that should keep any gamer happy. Of course, a high-end model of any product comes along with a high-end price tag.
Is the higher spend justified, though? Well, let’s have a closer look at exactly what we’re dealing with here. Featuring a hefty 12 cores and 24 processing threads, clocking between 3.8 and 4.6 GHz, things are starting to look worthy.
Playing for the win…
So the Ryzen 9 is ahead of Intel’s i9 for numbers of cores and threads. Intel does, however, have higher single core performance. This evens the playing field. So which is more useful for gaming? More overall cores, or higher single core performance?
Generally, for most tasks, clock speed is more important than core count. Higher clock speeds mean snappier performance for simple everyday tasks. More cores allow you to complete time-consuming workloads faster.
It’s not over yet…
AMD has managed to manufacture 7 nm processors compared to Intel’s 14 nm. One of the benefits is a larger cache size. With 70 MB of GameCache, this allows for faster performance while playing games.
The other significant benefit of reduced silicone size is energy efficiency. Not only does this save on electricity bills, but it also generates less heat. And as we all know, less heat equals higher performance when under load. With advancements in different areas of technology, who wins? We all do.
- Low power consumption.
- Less heat produced.
- 12 cores and 24 threads.
- Limited overclocking potential.
- Requires an expensive motherboard.
5 Intel Core i7-9700K – Best Premium 8 Core CPU for Gaming
Intel’s i7-9700K sits just below the i9 in performance standards but well below in price. As far as gaming capabilities are concerned, there’s not much between them. There’s no wonder it’s such a popular choice for gaming enthusiasts.
Flexing 8 cores, however lacking any hyperthreading, the i7 clocks between 3.6 and 4.9 GHz. Those are some impressive numbers. However, it’s more expensive than the Ryzen 7, and you still need to purchase a cooler.
Is it worth the premium?
Without the hyperthreading, you will see a difference when it comes to handling complex instructions from something like a video editing suite. There really is little effect on gaming, though, and after all, that’s why we’re here.
Up to 128 GB of DDR42666 RAM can be supported, as long as the motherboard being used is also compatible. Intel also includes a built-in graphics processor called the UHD Graphics 630. We imagine most would be purchasing a beefy GPU to pair with this CPU, though, kind of making it redundant.
When it comes to the still popular 1080p gaming, Intel’s i7 crushes the competition—consistently pumping out huge frames per second. When it comes to 4K gaming, though, the differences are much more even.
If you like to squeeze every last bit of potential from your hardware by overclocking, then Intel has your back. Using what’s called the Extreme Tuning Facility, both beginners and advanced users can overclock, monitor, and stress test their systems.
- Delivers incredible frame rates for 1080p gaming.
- Great single core performance.
- Overclocking potential.
- Cooler is not supplied.
- No hyperthreading.
6 AMD Ryzen 3 3200G – Best Budget Quad Core CPU for Gaming
Ryzen 3 could really be considered as an entry-level CPU for gaming. Giving decent results when paired with a mid-range GPU, it’s ideal for beginners or those that are on a tight budget. For the price, the results are more than satisfactory.
In fact, if you’re really on a budget, Radeon RX Vega 8 graphics come built in. Equivalent to a low-end GPU, you won’t be running multiple 4K monitors, but it will get you by. It also supports DisplayPort and HDMI if your motherboard has them built in.
Offering excellent value on a budget…
Not only do you receive reasonable built-in graphics, but a Wraith Stealth low-profile cooler is also included. Another cost-saving feature here is the efficient 65 W TDP, meaning you can save some coin on your power supply too.
As it’s compatible with most AM4-socket motherboards, it gives another cost-saving opportunity if building from scratch. Although, if it is an earlier-generation board, a BIOS update may be required before installation.
How about performance?
Using only the built-in Vega 8 graphics, it’s possible to play some AAA gaming titles at 720p with low settings. Sometimes you can even squeeze in some acceptable frame rates at 1080p. This totally exceeded our expectations.
As a quad-core processor without any threading, it clocks a respectable 3.6 to 4 GHz. The chip is unlocked, still leaving the potential for overclocking. We are highly impressed with what performance is possible at this budget.
- Great performance for a low budget.
- Impressive built-in graphics.
- Potential to save on other components.
- Gaming capabilities are limited.
- No multi-threading.
7 Intel Core i3-9100F – Best Entry Level CPU for Gaming
We’ve just checked out AMD’s entry-level gaming processor, now let’s have a look at what Intel has to offer. In direct competition is the Core i3-9100F, clocking 3.6 to 4.2 GHz. No multiple threads here either, only the 4 cores with the slightly higher GHz advantage.
Also, sharing the same 65 W power requirements, it’s still too hard to differentiate between these two processors. They’re also both manufactured using a 14 nm process. There must be something to separate these two?
Maybe the coolers will break this deadlock?
Nope, Intel also supplies a capable cooler with the i3 that can maintain efficient temperatures. You only need to add a cooling system if you really want to.
The only difference we can find, besides the very slight increase in clocked MHz, is the lack of built-in graphics on the i3. That means you will require a GPU for any gaming. You will have better gaming performance because of this, though.
Budget gaming capabilities…
Combined with even a mid-range GPU, 1080p gaming is possible even in ultra settings. Sitting around 90 fps is a respectable result given the budget price of this processor. Much better than expected for an entry-level product.
Of course, you’re not going to be setting the world on fire, but we never expected that now, did we? We expect that making a choice between Intel and AMD will come down to if you already have, or will be, purchasing a GPU.
- Affordable entry-level processor.
- Capable cooler is included.
- 1080p gaming possible.
- Limited capabilities.
- No multiple threads.
8 Intel Core i5-9600K – Best CPU for 1080p Gaming on Ultra Settings
To finish things off, we have Intel’s mid-range product. Well, it used to be anyway, but now with the i9 available, the i5 is kind of caught in no man’s land. There have been minimal generational improvements for the i5 lately, but let’s check out how it’s traveling.
It still has the same 6 cores as the last generation i5 and also misses out on any multi-threading. Clocking between 3.7 to 4.6 GHz with a 9 MB cache are decent numbers, but once again, only a marginal improvement over the previous generation.
A step above entry-level…
If we compare this i5 against the i3 9100F, let’s have a look at what you get for that extra outlay. Well, first of all, there are two extra cores. There is also a slight increase in clock speed, with its peak achieving an extra 400 Hz.
Another addition the i5 has over the i3 is the integrated UHD Graphics 630 GPU. It’s capable of clocking 1.15 GHz and can be used to play older games at reduced graphics levels.
Would we still buy it today?
Despite the lack of upgrades and almost being forgotten about, this is still a great product well suited as a gaming CPU. In fact, it even outperforms the previous generation i7-8700K in terms of gaming capability.
If you’re into high-quality 1080p gaming on ultra settings, that is where this CPU shines. With an average of 97 fps across a range of highly demanding titles, it appears there is still some life left in the Core i5. Please don’t forget it.
- Quality 1080p gaming performance.
- Outperforms previous Gen i7 in gaming.
- Integrated graphics.
- Minor improvements on previous Gen i5.
- No cooler included.
Best CPU For Gaming Buying Guide
There genuinely is something for everyone when it comes to gaming CPUs. From entry-level budget processors, right up to the latest state-of-the-art technology. Having AMD and Intel battle it out for supremacy can only mean one thing…
They will both continue to push each other to the limits of what’s possible in computer processing technology. All of these CPUs are capable of more than just gaming. They can also perform some amazing video rendering and editing, even as far as 3D animations.
But How Do I Choose?
One of the main factors to consider when purchasing a new CPU is budget. There is a significant price difference between an entry-level processor and the flagship. There are also some other considerations, like compatibility with other components like motherboards, RAM, and GPUs.
Once you have your budget worked out, you want to get the most for your money. But now, how do you decide which CPU will provide the best performance for our budget? Well, that depends on a few things.
Getting The Most Bang For Your Buck
We are here to find the best gaming CPU, but is there anything else you will be using your PC for besides web browsing and streaming? What about photo or video editing? Do you need to bring work home with you and require some major calculations?
Gaming doesn’t generally require so many cores or threads, although they do help. A faster clock speed is normally more beneficial. Well, luckily, we have two different manufacturers that specialize in each of those fields.
Intel Or AMD?
If you’re building a purely gaming-dedicated machine, we would probably lean towards the Intel processors. They just seem to be able to squeeze that extra bit of clocked power from their chips.
However, if you need more of an all-rounder, then we would choose the AMD. They have led the way in multi-thread technology, allowing those into 3D animation and even movie special effects to create some fantastic artwork pieces.
Up next, we will give you our verdict of what we believe is the best CPU for gaming and why.
Other Great Gaming Reviews?
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Back to the best gaming CPUs…
So, What Is The Best CPU For Gaming?
With such a difference in range, for us to decide which CPU we think is best for gaming, we used the following criteria.
The CPU must not only provide high FPS, high clocking, and energy efficiency, it needs to be excellent value too.
The product we feel performs within that criteria best is the…
Keeping up with the competitor’s flagship, while at the same time giving power efficiency means excellent value in our book.
Enjoy your gaming!