Choosing the best gaming CPU is very complicated now because there are several similarly priced models available. The Intel and AMD are at constant war providing the best processors for gaming. This article explains the method to choose the best gaming CPU that suits you and lists the top processors available today for each and every purpose sorted by price.
The processor is one of the most important components of any PC since it is directly responsible for the overall performance of the computer, its useful life expectancy and also, in general, the applications and games that we can execute optimally with the help of it.
Making a choice when it comes to buying a processor can be very complicated. Currently, there are a lot of models and generations in the market and it is easy to get lost in these terminologies, but we must be very careful because a bad choice can totally ruin a configuration.
On the other hand, we must also take into account the choice of the processor of the system determines at the same time the platform that we are going to use, and this has effects on the possibilities of extension and on the useful life of the equipment.
We are aware of all this and for that reason, we have decided to make this guide as simple as possible so that you can choose your processor with a minimum effort.
As always, we hope you find it useful and if you have any questions you can leave it in the comments.
How to choose the best gaming CPU?
Over a long period of time, choosing a processor meant for many to choose between an Intel i3, i5 or i7. However, thanks to the launch of AMD Ryzen, this process has become even more difficult, but attention!! This is not bad news. AMD Ryzen not only offers better alternatives but also got Intel to lower prices significantly.
Choosing a CPU for a new configuration is the most important thing and is the first step to start with. Depending on the processor, you should choose the motherboard and the rest of the components. When choosing the processor, you need to know what kind of tasks you intend to perform on the PC. There are two types of tasks: the simplest and the most complex.
Simple tasks are those that use a thread that is, surfing the Internet, writing texts, listening to music etc, these are very simple tasks. The most complex tasks are those that include photo editing, video rendering, 3D editing etc, these are tasks that benefit from multi-core processors and threads.
While reading this, you may think that: “more cores, better”; it’s not like that. The reality is that many programs and games are not designed to run on an infinite number of cores, which is why most conventional CPUs have four cores and 6 to the maximum. But beware, now many professional programs can take advantage of all cores of Octa-Core processors.
Another option to consider while choosing a CPU is Overclocking. Overclocking is the process of increasing the clock speed of the CPU, which produces a benefit in performance, but also an increase in power consumption and consequently extra heating. One thing they should know is that not all CPUs are capable of overclocking,
Intel processors need a CPU with a “K” at the end and a motherboard with a Z-series chipset for efficient overclocking. AMD processors, on the other hand, are a bit simpler, since they all allow overclocking.
While power consumption is not exactly a major concern when selecting a CPU, it’s something to keep in mind, especially thinking about overclocking. The faster the processor, the more energy it will consume and, therefore, the more heat it will produce. This is why it is recommended to achieve good cooling in these cases.
While there are fans that come with the processor, these can serve its purpose only if they are not overclocked. However, if you want to increase your power, you might want to buy something more premium or even switch to liquid cooling.
Intel VS AMD
Choosing between one or the other is not as simple as before. Now they must take into account not only the performance but also the price and the possibility of overclocking.
In the case of Intel processors, with increasingly sophisticated models (i3, i5, i7, i9), they find more cores, a larger cache, and faster speeds. In the case of AMD and Ryzen, the result is very similar, with Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, Ryzen 7 and Threadripper.
Something you should also keep in mind is that some programs work better with some processors than with others. For example, until recently, the games performed better on Intel processors. However, after the release of Ryzen and a few months of testing, developers have already upgraded their software. In any case, before acquiring a processor, it is convenient to know which one is best for your tasks.
Another point to keep in mind is that AMD CPUs do not have built-in graphics. This means that if you buy an AMD processor, you should also buy a graphics card, while Intel CPUs already have an integrated card.
Gaming | Intel: Perhaps Intel has a small advantage that will disappear over time thanks to the number of patches that ensure better Ryzen compatibility with most games. Still, in some cases, the difference is so small that it may be better to get an AMD.
Productivity | AMD: There’s no doubt that the extra cores give AMD an exceptional edge. If you want to play and stream, AMD is great. If you are a designer or need to render videos in the shortest time possible, AMD is the perfect match, no doubt.
Value for money | AMD: As you could see from our list, in many cases you may find an AMD processor with similar or even better results than the more expensive Intel. Intel lowered its prices during these last months, but not enough to surpass AMD.
What to look for when buying a gaming CPU
What is your intended use?
It is the first thing you have to consider before deciding on a specific processor, since the processors are not the same for building a PC that you will use to play current titles and to one which is dedicated to office automation, multimedia content or demanding applications that can take advantage of a high degree of parallelism ( many cores and threads ).
In this sense, if your idea is to mount a PC for games, you should look for at least four physical cores, such as the Ryzen 3 1200 from AMD or the Core i5 7400, Core i3 8100 from Intel.
Most of the current games do not take advantage of more than four cores although there are some exceptions, so if your budget allows, it would not be a bad idea to opt for a processor with four cores and eight threads or six cores and twelve threads, whichever with which you can maintain a balanced configuration.
On the other hand, if you are going to use the PC for multimedia and office automation, any current dual-core processor will be sufficient, since they are not demanding tasks that require high processor power. So a simple Celeron G3900 or an A6-9500 will be more than enough.
Finally, in case you are going to use demanding professional applications capable of taking advantage of processors, it is advisable that you try to reach the highest optimal point that your budget allows.
We explain it to you with an example; if an application can take advantage of up to 12 cores and you can afford a quad-core and eight-core CPU or a six-core and six-core CPU, you should bet on the latter. Keep in mind that in most cases a processor with more real cores and fewer threads is better than another with fewer real cores and more threads.
Note: Processors like the Ryzen 3 1200 allow us to play any current title without problems and take advantage of high-end graphics cards with a minimum investment.
Recommended Read: Build Custom Gaming PC from $400 to $2000
Do not get blind with the work frequencies and cores
Having more cores does not always ensure a higher performance, and that is why it is necessary that we should be aware of the applications we are going to use are able to take advantage of all the processor cores.
Consider this example to understand it better. If you mount a PC for office automation and multimedia and decide to equip a six-core CPU you will not really notice a real difference compared to a computer with a dual-core processor, and the reason is simple, what you are going to execute is not capable of taking advantage of it.
If you have a very powerful processor but you are not going to take advantage of it in your day to day activities, you really have made an unnecessary purchase, we would say the purchase was a total waste of money.
With respect to working frequencies, it is important to be clear that they are not the most important either since a current processor will always offer a higher performance than another of previous generations even if it works at a lower speed.
Note: The processors of older generations, such as AMD FX, offer lower performance than current models (Ryzen) even in the versions that have twice the number of cores and a higher frequency of work.
Are you going to overclock?
The possibility of overclocking( configuring the computer hardware to a specification that it gives faster performance than what is specified by the manufacturers) helps to extend the useful life of a processor and affects the whole system.
The advantages of overclocking can be very large, in fact, we have seen an overclocked Core i5 2500K has grown working at 4 GHz +, but we must bear in mind that to make an overclock we will have to make a greater investment.
In the case of Intel, the K series processors are the only ones that allow a real overclock. These are more expensive; they come without a heat sink and only allow us to raise the working frequencies when they are installed on medium or high-end motherboards with a specific chipset.
All this implies an extra cost that on some occasions we could take advantage of to go directly to a higher processor or for a more powerful graphics card, so keep this in mind before deciding. Also, you may require high-end power supply units to get the full potential out of the configuration.
In the case of AMD Ryzen processors, they offer a simpler and more economical approach, since they support overclock, most include a fairly capable heat sink and it is also not necessary to accompany them with a motherboard with the high-end chipset.
Note: The overclock only makes sense in systems that will use games and demanding applications, so forget about it in computers for office automation and multimedia because these applications don’t need high performance.
Recommended Read: 18 Best Motherboards for Gaming
The other components
A good PC must be properly balanced, a general principle that we must apply to all components. In the case of the processor, office and multimedia equipment can work without problems with a processor which costs less, and it does not make sense to invest more.
When it comes to the case of gaming equipment, the ideal way is to find an adequate balance with the graphics card, since together with RAM it will be the most important combination when it comes to enjoying an optimal experience.
Recommended Read: 10 Best RAM for Gamers
If we have chosen a low or mid-range graphics cards, such as the Radeon RX 560 or GTX 1050, it does not make sense to mount a processor of more than $120. We could take more advantage of the difference of money with a processor of $200 if those $80 were invested in a higher graphics card.
Regarding the equipment for high-performance applications with parallel workloads, we recommend to look for the model with the best price-performance ratio, that is, we do not have to go directly for the most expensive model but for the most balanced one.
Note: You do not need a processor of $ 500 to move well a powerful graphics card such as the GTX 1080 TI or Radeon RX Vega 64. A Core i5 7500 or a Ryzen 5 1600 is enough to take advantage and they don’t cost more than $250.
If you are in a scenario in which you have spent months looking for PC that both need to perform gaming applications and also work optimally for office automation, then our team have carefully looked into this also, because in this article we have made a list with the best processors for games and multitasking.
Contrary to what used to happen, now the choice of a processor is much more complex than ever. With the new AMD processors, Ryzen, the choice is much more complicated, but if we add the price drop for Intel processors, then that’s a big “problem”. In addition, Intel has just released its new eighth-generation processors, which further complicates things.
But how to choose a processor?
It’s a rather complicated process, but perhaps the best way is to look at the benchmark results and compare the price-to-price ratio of each. But do you know the best of everything? We’ve done all this for you, so you do not have to waste time comparing one with the other or reading endless comments about all of them. It all depends on your budget and goals. Let’s look at one by one:
Best Gaming CPU – The Final List
Best processors less than $200
If you have a limited budget or want to set up a low-end computer, you may find some processors for less than $200 that may be worth it.
The Ryzen 3 1300X from AMD sets a new benchmark for the market for unlocked Quad-Core processors and is a very good alternative to the Ryzen 3 1200 which costs a little less but whose power per core is less.
With the launch of the new Intel i3-8100, the decision becomes more complicated. If you are thinking about overclocking and using a midrange graphics, then AMD is the best option. In addition, it also comes with a serial cooler, so if you want something better, especially for overclocking, you can build it on this.
Note: Please note that Ryzen processors do not come with integrated graphics (iGPU) such as Intel.
The new Intel i3 processors have 4 cores, 2 more than the previous generation, a big jump that makes them compete directly with the Ryzen 3. The main advantage of these processors is its integrated graphics, which allows creating a machine without a dedicated graphics card, perfect for offices.
Ryzen has the advantage of overclocking, something they will not find in an Intel processor. But still, Intel is the one that we fully recommended due to its price/quality ratio.
It’s a somewhat old CPU that managed to stay relevant by combining decent performance at a fairly low price. As it is an Athlon model, it does not come with a GPU. However, it offers an unlocked clock multiplier, which means it is ideal for overclocking.
It is cheap, has four cores at 3.6GHz (4GHz turbo) and, because of its 28nm manufacturing process, has a 95W TFT consumption – a bit high these days. This processor is at the level of the Skylake Core i3-6100T, although with a much higher TDP (three times), but at half the price.
Its predecessor of the Pentium G4400, it was one of the best options for low-cost processors, and the G4560 is even better as it offers the Kabylake architecture for a low price.
This 3MB L2 cache chip gets 3.3GHz in its Dual-Core configuration and consumes 54W TDP. It does not allow overclocking like the G3258, but its integrated graphics processor (HD510) supports DirectX 12 and 4K at 60Hz, making it ideal for a home theater PC.
An alternative to consider is the Intel Pentium G4600, which can achieve a small increment in each core and a balanced consumption.
If you want a processor to work with, but your budget is low, the i3-7100 is the most economical processor based on the KabyLake architecture. Using a 14nm node, it reaches 3.9GHz with a TDP of 51W. It has dual-core and 4-wire configuration and the integrated Intel HD 630 GPU.
To take full advantage of this processor, you must integrate it into a motherboard with a decent chipset (Z170) to run a faster memory (DDR4-2400).
If your budget does not allow, or you simply will not use an unlocked processor and with as much power as possible, then this i5 is an excellent alternative. Thanks to its 6 cores and 6 threads it enables you to make the most of any graphics and run any current game without problems.
If you are looking for a media range to play and are not thinking about overclocking, this i5 is a good option. However, if you need more threads because of the programs they usually use, you can also take a look at the Ryzen 5 1600, which costs a little less and is not bad at all, even in games.
As we said before, this processor is best suited for those who have a limited budget and want an experience which is oriented to content creation and not just gaming. The Ryzen 5 1600 offers 6 cores, 12 threads and 16 MB of L3 cache just like the more expensive 1600X. Like the rest Ryzen, this also allows overclocking.
For this price, you will have two options: The Ryzen 5 1500X or the i3-8350K. The main difference is that Intel is better in some games, while Ryzen can overcome it in other tasks such as rendering or multitasking. Although at the specification level Ryzen is superior, with its 4 cores and 8 threads, in addition to its cache of 16 MB vs. 8 MB in the i3-8350K.
With the release of this processor, we stopped recommending the i5-7600K, which was the most recommended i5 for gaming. This i3 has very similar specifications, but with more cache and a higher base frequency. When it comes to energy consumption, it is the same, still allowing you to overclock it.
The best gaming CPU from $200 – $400
For less than $300 our first recommendation is this i5 that has taken the place of the i7-7700K, one of the most purchased Gaming processors in recent years. This i5 has 6 cores and 6 threads with a great mono-core power, which makes it an excellent processor to play in high resolutions and with a high framerate. It also allows Overclocking.
The Ryzen 7 1700 has positioned itself very strangely in the gaming processor market. On one hand it outperforms Intel processors in multitasking, as it has more cores and threads, however, when it comes to gaming, the i5-8600K manages to outperform it due to the greater power in Single-Core.
If you want to work with design programs or run multiple programs while playing or working, the Ryzen 7 1700 is the best option without a shadow of a doubt. However, if you want to create a gaming-oriented machine, i5 is the best option. In addition, there is also good news for overclocking addicts, since, with this processor, you can reach 3.8 – 3.9GHz with the stock cooler.
This processor has 4 cores and 8 threads, 8 MB cache, 4.2 GHz base clock speed, a 4.5GHz turbo boost and an integrated Intel HD 630 graphics. It is a good processor but it is better to wait until that its price is lowered a little, or until some promotion appears.
If they want to make the most of their performance, they should overclock it. With a good motherboard, a good cooler and a good power supply, reaching the 5.0GHz are not very complicated. But if you are really serious about overclocking, it might be better to buy an AMD Ryzen 7 1700 or a Ryzen 5 1600, which with OC has results very close to the i7-7700K in gaming, for a much lower price.
Best high-end gaming CPU
If your goal is to create a powerful PC for gaming, this processor is best suited for less than $400.The PC should have a good monitor, with a high refresh rate, and a good graphics to take full advantage of what this processor has to offer, otherwise, it is recommended to choose some of the new i5 that are also in this list.
The difference in games may not be impressive these days, especially since many of them do not use the 6 cores of this processor. The fact is that this processor will last you a lot longer, and will allow you to multitask and work with design programs without hiccups.
If you have a more limited budget but still need a Multitasking processor, then maybe this AMD processor is the best alternative. The Ryzen 7 1800X is created through a 14 nm process and has 8 cores and 16 threads at a speed of 3.6 GHz. This means you can work and multitask without problems.
Unlike other Ryzen, this does not come with a cooler, since it needs more power than AMD Wraith. It also allows overclocking.
As you may have seen, this processor is the unlocked version of the one we presented to you earlier. It is slightly more powerful, but at a practical level and without overclocking, the results in games are very similar to those of the i7-8700. That’s why we only recommend this processor for those people who overclock, otherwise they will not get benefitted to a large extent.
It is a high-end X299 platform processor with 10 cores and 20 threads at 4.0GHz and with Overclocking possibilities. It also integrates 44 PCIe lines, allowing you to create a 4-way SLI and 4-way Crossfire configuration to get the most out of gaming potential.
Although AMD processors equivalent to this Intel are also great for gaming, we think they are a better option for multitasking. If you want a processor just to play, then i7-7800X or i7-7700K is a better option. But if you want to play to the fullest and also do a bit of multitasking, this Intel processor is possibly the best.
Not everyone wants a gaming processor. If you are interested in video editing, CAD, multitasking and other professional work, AMD Threadripper is a monster that you cannot ignore. It also allows to make OC, as expected, but to achieve good results should integrate good liquid cooling.
It is true that these processors have an excellent performance in the games, but their purpose is different. With its 16 cores and 32 Threads, they can run the most demanding programs without any problems and have several open to run at a good speed.
Until recently, Intel was the king when it came to high-performance processors with the i7-6900K, i7-7820X, i9-7900X and even the i7-6950X. However, the launch of Ryzen 7 and Threadripper, made the Intel processors lower their prices and also launch new processors
I think we have covered pretty much of everything related to buying the best processor for every use. Although the list is somewhat exhaustive, please feel free to comment your opinions and other models that should have gotten into the list. Hope this article help you find the best gaming CPU for your need.