Buying a processor for a gaming device is not as difficult as it used to be. Now that Intel’s Ryzen 5000-series and 12th Core CPUs are packed with more performance and cores than ever before, it’s hard to buy smelly these days—especially because most games prefer the fiery power of graphics over the cuteness of a CPU. That being said, there are specific chipsets that stand out from the crowd as the best gaming CPUs due to their price, performance, or nifty add-ons.
Whether you’re on a budget or willing to pay for the ultimate face melt SpeedThese are the best gaming PC CPUs that you can buy.
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The best gaming CPU for most people
Mid-range CPUs are the perfect place for PC gamers. In fact, if you don’t need the extra cores of more expensive CPU options, this class of chipsets offer the same gaming experience as processors that cost hundreds more. The bigger question is: Intel or AMD? The answer is complicated.
On the raw performance front, Intel’s new 10-core, 16-thread Core i5-12600K crushes AMD’s 6-core, 12-thead Ryzen 5 5600X competitor in multi-core tasks and office productivity. It wins in games, too, though the margins are closer there: In our eight-game test suite, Intel has four wins and two draws, with the Ryzen chip making a pair of final wins. Overall, the Core i5-12600K is definitely the chip we’d recommend to most people – but there is a caveat.
Both are great processors for gaming or productivity, and both will run around $300, but the Ryzen 5000 series has been available for over a year now, so the motherboard package around it has been fully fleshed out. You can easily buy budget or mainstream models of AMD 500 series AM4 boards. But Intel launched Alder Lake with only its two-part Z690 high-end motherboards, which carry a hefty price tag. If you decide to choose one with high-end DDR5 memory support, the TCO will go up. If price matters more than raw performance, the lower overall cost of the Ryzen 5 5600X with AMD H-series motherboard and DDR4 might be a better option for you — at least until affordable Intel motherboards hit the streets.
The best high-end gaming CPU
Modern six-core Core i5 and Ryzen 5 chips provide roughly the same levels of gaming performance as more expensive processors, with a few edge exceptions. You only need to scale up to a high-end gaming CPU if you need more cores for productivity tasks, want eight cores for streaming or future proofing against console hardware configurations, or simply demand the absolute fastest frame rates possible in any situation.
If you’re in the market for peak performance, the $650-700 Intel Core i9-12900K is the world’s best gaming processor that breaks out of pure frame rates, tapping the title from AMD’s fierce Ryzen 9 5950X. The 16-core, 32-thread Ryzen chip costs $750 and manages to beat the 16-core, 24-thread CPU on some productivity tasks, as the Core chip uses a radically new mix of high-performance and efficient cores, but when it comes to raw gaming, The cheaper Core i9-12900K is the best. Note that you’ll need to buy high-end (read: expensive) DDR5 memory to push this beast to its full potential, although some Z690 motherboards support DDR4 (read: not that expensive).
AMD’s $550 Ryzen 9 5900X is another solid option that offers high frame rates, but paying that much for a 12-core chip doesn’t make sense if purely gaming is your goal.
If you simply want super-fast gaming frame rates and don’t need an insane amount of CPU cores for productive work, consider scaling down the Core i7-12700K and Ryzen 7 5800X as well. Each costs about $450, with street prices varying somewhat, and offers 12 and 8 cores, respectively. Either would be a great option for people looking to build a well-balanced PC for both work and play, with an Intel chip being better for pure gaming — although DDR5 and Z690 motherboards could make the total platform cost for Intel chips higher until they become more mainstream release. about options.
Best budget gaming CPU
It’s a tough time building a gaming PC on a budget, with very few CPUs available under $200. Intel and AMD have prioritized high-end CPUs while navigating a persistent chip shortage, with neither side offering an affordable Core i3 or Ryzen 3 processor in their latest lineups. You can’t even find AMD
last generation Ryzen 3 3100 or 3300X chips with ease now. sigh.
However, all is not lost. It’s hard to find more GPUs than CPUs at the moment – virtually impossible in fact. If you’re looking to build a new gaming PC from scratch and don’t already have a graphics card available, consider AMD’s $260 Ryzen 5 5600G or $260 Ryzen 7 5700G. Yes, these are not entirely reasonable prices. But instead of being direct CPUs, these APUs come with surprisingly good Radeon graphics cores built right into the chip, which means you can play most games in 720p or 1080p. It’s like a processor and an entry-level graphics card in one part. And once you can disable the graphics card, you can simply drop it into your system, because CPU cores are too good for mainstream gaming, as our Ryzen 7 5700G review showed.
The 5600G offers 6 cores and 12 threads, paired with 7 Radeon graphics cores clocked at 1.9GHz. The 5700G leverages up to 8 cores and 16 threads, along with 8 Radeon cores running at 2GHz. Most budget shoppers will be better off with the cheaper part, unless you have a specific productivity-related reason for choosing the CPU core count in a Ryzen 7 chip.
Do you already have a graphics card and just need a processor? You’ll need to move to the previous generation Intel parts, at least until (if) the rumored Core i3-12400 appears. Your best bets are the Core i3-10400F for $173 or the Core i3-11400F for $198. Both provide 6 cores and 12 threads. Intel’s 11th generation Rocket Lake chips didn’t offer a meaningful performance improvement over 10th generation chips, so feel free to opt for the 10400F if you’re on a tight budget. You’ll want to ditch the assembled stock cooler and go with a cheap third party option to get the best performance out of these chips.
The F denominator in those parts means that they lack an integrated GPU, so a graphics card is essential. Non-F versions are also available with integrated graphics, usually for around $20 more, but at this point you’re probably better off using Ryzen 5 5600G gaming-ready Radeon graphics.