From entry-level to the ridiculously overpowered, these are the best CPUs for gaming.

From entry-level to the ridiculously overpowered, these are the best CPUs for gaming.

Often considered the best processors for a high-end gaming PC comes after finding the best graphics cards. Its hard to argue against this logic after all the GPU ultimately determines which quality settings and resolution youll be able to run your games at. However, your processor is arguably as important as it dictates how well the rest of your gaming PC runs.The processor isnt just known as the central processing unit for kicks, its in charge of how quickly your whole computer operates from the system memory to the SSDs holding your games which is why its all so important to pick the best gaming CPU for your rig. Unlike graphics cards youll likely be swapping in every other generation, the best gaming processors can last for years, so be sure youre making the right choice you wont regret in the long term.Although the market for CPUs boils down to Intel and AMD, each company has myriad offerings, and the market is always changing rapidly. The confusing model numbers don’t help much either. To help you figure it all out, here’s our rundown of the best CPUs for every type of PC gamer.
TL;DR These are the Best Gaming CPUs:
1. AMD Ryzen 5 3600X
Best CPU for Gaming
Cores: 6 Threads: 12 Base Clock: 3.8GHz Boost Clock: 4.4GHz L3 Cache: 32MB TDP: 95W
The AMD Ryzen 5 3600X is the best bang for your buck CPU for gaming hands down. For (often) less than what Intel charges for its entry-level gaming Core i5-9400 CPU you’re getting as many processor cores and threads with a ton more speed and higher instructions per clock. What’s more, AMD’s Zen 2 architecture and chipset are far modern with their support for PCIe 4.0 solid-state drives and graphics cardswell the latter hasn’t appeared just yet.Thanks to AMD’s new 7nm Zen 2 architecture, the AMD Ryzen 5 3600X isn’t just more capable than its predecessor, it’s also more power-efficient and it runs cooler too. What’s more, overclocking this processor is a breeze thanks to Ryzen Master and you can easily get this chip to run above 4.0GHz across all cores. Another bonus of the AMD Ryzen 5 3600X is it comes with a CPU coolerand a good one at thatin the box, which will help you save even more money on your PC build.
2. AMD Ryzen 3 3200G
Best Budget CPU for Gaming
Cores: 4 Threads: 4 Base Clock: 3.6GHz Boost Clock: 4GHz Graphics: Radeon Vega 8 Graphics L3 Cache: 4MB TDP: 65W
The Ryzen 3 3200G is not only a fantastically affordable processor that costs only $99, but it also comes with incredibly powerful integrated Vega graphics that can let you get away with gaming without a discrete graphics card.Call me crazy if you like, this processor really has no problem playing modern games at Full HD and a decent frame rate all on its own. Weve even been able to run Overwatch at 4K resolution and Epic quality settings with a playable 30 fps frame rate. With all that in mind, the AMD Ryzen 3 3200G is the perfect processor to power your home theater PC or an extremely small PC.
3. Intel Core i9-9900KS
Best High-End CPU for Gaming
Cores: 8 Threads: 16 Base Clock: 4GHz Boost Clock: 5GHz Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 630 Intel Smart Cache: 16MB TDP: 127W
Intel’s Core i9-9900KS is essentially a special edition version of the Core i9-9900K that Intel released in October 2018. On paper, the only thing this CPU has over its predecessor is it can hit a maximum turbo clock speed of 5GHz on one core, 4.8GHz on four cores and 4.6GHz across all eight cores. Aside from that this is basically the same, best high-end mainstream processor for gaming. It can achieve higher frame rates in most games than any of AMD’s processors. Then in an instant, it can put even some of AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper chips to shame with its hyper-threading prowess.This high-end Intel CPU can also keep its cool even with a moderate air-cooler or all-in-one liquid cooler. The only downside of the Intel Core i9-9900KS is its exorbitant $513 price.
4. Intel Core i5-9600K
Best Midrange CPU for Gaming
Cores: 6 Threads: 6 Base Clock: 3.7GHz Boost Clock: 4.6GHz Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 630 Intel Smart Cache: 9MB TDP: 95W
The Intel Core i5-9600K is a very capable processor for gaming. Whether, youre trudging through Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice at 4K or trying to win your first match of Apex Legends on a high refresh rate monitor, the Intel Core i5-9600K help you achieve your PC gaming dreams. Intels flagship 9th Generation Core i7-9700K might have two more CPU cores, but theyll only help you gain a few extra frames per second, so its not worth the extra expense in our experience. If anything, youll be able to close that performance gap with the tiniest amount of overclocking.5. AMD Ryzen 9 3950X
Best CPU for Gaming Video Editing
Cores: 16 Threads: 36 Base Clock: 3.5GHz Boost Clock: 4.7GHz L3 Cache: 64MB TDP: 105W
I never thought I’d see the day a mainstream processor with a double-digit core count, but then the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X comes along to blow away everything you thought you knew about CPUs. With redonkulous 16-core, 32-thread specs squeezed into a regular consumer chip, the Ryzen 9 3900X delivers unparalleled multi-core performance that’s sure to make short work of any intense workload you throw at it.This processor eats video encodes and image processing batches for breakfast. And just in case you want to do all that and more while you’re gaming, the Ryzen 9 3950X can take that on too. At $750, however, this extremely high-end processor is best left to creative professionals who can make the most of this chips computing power to edit video, stream, and game all at the same time.
6. Intel Pentium Gold G5400
Best Super Cheap CPU for Gaming
Cores: 2 Threads: 4 Base Clock: 3.7GHz Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 610 Intel Smart Cache: 4MB TDP: 58W
Yes, weve picked out an even more inexpensive gaming CPU and its the Pentium Gold G5400. For such a low, low price, you get a chip built on Intels recent Coffee Lake architecture and it even includes hyper-threading. It’s a dual-core processor, but at 3.7GHz you’re still not going to have a problem running most games with a mid-level GPU like the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti. Give it a shot and save some dough while youre at it.7. AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X
Best High-End Desktop Processor for Gaming
Cores: 24 Threads: 32 Base Clock: 3.5GHz Boost Clock: 4.4GHz L3 Cache: 32MB TDP: 180W
Have you ever thought that eight CPU cores or 64GB of RAM just wasnt enough? Well, then a High-End Desktop (HEDT) processor might be just what youre looking for. The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X is a prime HEDT processor that comes with triple the number of cores found on even what most would call high-end CPUs.Whats more, it also offers quad-channel memory support for a total of eight sticks of RAM and access to an incredible 64 PCIe 4.0 lanes, which you can use to install multi-GPU setups and the fastest NVMe SSDs ever made. It also runs games nearly as well as a traditional, mainstream processor and its one of the cheaper chips in the HEDT space.
8. Intel Core i9-10980XE
Best Performance Processor for Gaming
Cores: 18 Threads: 36 Base Clock: 3GHz Boost Clock: 4.6GHz Intel Smart Cache: 24.75MB TDP: 165W
AMD might have Intel’s down for the count when it comes to packing an overwhelming number of CPU cores into its processors, but Intel still has a leg up when it comes to raw gaming performance. The Intel Core i9-10980XE may only feature 18-cores next to AMD’s lowest-tier HEDT processor that packs 24-cores, but it still races ahead.Most HEDT processors dont hit consistently high frame rates, as well as consumer CPUs, do, but the Intel Core i9-10980XE can. This processors high-end specs also make it a shoo-in for a streaming rig or anyone looking to start a lets play channel. In years past we would typically shy away from Intel’s HEDT line do to the astronomical prices of its chips, but thanks to AMD putting on the pressure with Threadripper, Team Blue drastically reduced the prices of its latest Core X CPUs.
9. AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990WX
Best Streaming Gaming Processor
Cores: 64 Threads: 128 Base Clock: 2.9GHz Boost Clock: 4.3GHz L3 Cache: 256MB TDP: 280W
While most modern processors have between six and eight cores and call it a day, AMD threw everything at the wall to make the Ryzen Threadripper 3990WX a 64-core CPU meant for consumers.Its incredibly high core count and astronomic 128-thread count make this processor a rendering juggernaut for video production. This CPU wont miss a step even if you suddenly decide you want to start streaming or rendering a video in the middle of playing a game.
What to Look in for a CPU for Gaming
Below we’ve broken down the two types of processors youll find online or on store shelves, and some of the key specs you should look for in a gaming processor.When looking for a gaming CPU, youll probably come across two types of processors: mainstream and High-End Desktop (HEDT). Mainstream processors are what youll primarily find on store shelves and online catalogs, and these typically include Intels Core i3, i5, i7 and, more recently, i9 products as well as AMD Ryzen 3, 5, and 7-series chips.
HEDT processors are less prevalent and are easy enough to spot. All Intel HEDT CPUs come with an X or XE suffix at the end of their model names, meanwhile, AMD HEDT chips all fall under the Ryzen Threadripper brand.
\Whats the difference between a mainstream processor and HEDT chip? Mainstream processors typically only support dual-channel memory for a maximum of four DIMMs up to 64GB and, thus far, a maximum of 24 PCIe lanes, which enable high-speed connections to graphics cards, NVMe solid-state drives, and Thunderbolt 3 ports. HEDT processors, on the other hand, are physically larger to make room for more cores, while bringing memory support up to quad-channel up to eight sticks for a total of 128GB of RAM and a maximum of 64 PCIe lanes.
So, if you have the money and the desire to build the ultimate gaming PC, HEDT is the way to go. But thatll probably be overkill for most users, so a mainstream processor should be what most users need.
Most users should aim for at least a quad-core processor
The next thing you should be mindful of is how many cores a processor has. Cores are essentially the part of the CPU that receives instructions to perform calculations or actions, so the more cores you have the more you can do. Most entry-level processors should have two to four cores, four to six cores on mid-range chips, and at least six or eight cores on the highest-end CPUs.How many cores do you need for gaming? Most users should aim for at least a quad-core processor like the AMD Ryzen 5 3400G or the hexa-core Intel Core i5-8400. Most modern games should run well, but if youre playing anything with a high character count or an abundance of in-game physicsi.e. anything from the real-time strategy genreyou might see frame rates improve with a hexa- or octa-core processor.
Processor threads are far less important for gaming, but they help with multi-tasking and multi-threaded workloads. Youll often see a number of threads right next to cores on the spec sheet of a CPU. Usually, the number of threads will be twice as high as the core count and they basically act as schedulers, telling the CPU core what to do next so that theres no downtime in between tasks.
This process is known as Hyper-threading on Intels platform and multi-threading on AMD-powered systems. Despite the different names, they achieve the same goal, whether that be making sure your next song streams in the background or your video renders as quickly as possible.
And thats everything you need to know about processors for now, but well be updating this list again soon enough. 2019 has already been a plenty interesting as AMD has finally introduced the worlds first 7nm Ryzen 3rd Generation processorswith a 16-core mainstream processor still on the waymeanwhile, Intel is poised to introduce 10nm Ice Lake CPUs by the end of the year as well.
Kevin Lee is IGN’s Hardware and Roundups Editor. Follow him on Twitter @baggingspam

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