Buying a processor for a gaming rig isn’t as hard as it used to be. Now that Ryzen 3000-series and Intel’s 10th-gen Core CPUs come with more performance and cores than ever before, it’s hard to buy a stinker these days—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 you’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.
Editor’s note: We updated the news section with AMD’s Ryzen XT announcement.
Latest gaming CPU news
AMD revealed slightly faster versions of its popular Ryzen 3000 processors on June 16, adopting the “XT” moniker introduced by the Ryzen RX 5000-series graphics cards. The $249 Ryzen 5 3600XT, $399 Ryzen 7 3800XT, and $500 Ryzen 9 3900XT will launch on July 7 with moderate clock speed boosts and no cooler for the two top-end chips. Read all about Ryzen XT here.
The best gaming CPU for most people
AMD Ryzen 5 3600X ($205 on Amazon)
Intel’s ruled the gaming roost for seemingly time eternal, but in 2019, AMD seized the mainstream crown. Overall, the $200 to $235 Ryzen 5 3600X is the best gaming CPU for most people, though Intel’s rival 10th-gen Core processors compete much more fiercely than 9th-gen chips did. The $275 Core i5-10600K is a bit faster than the AMD chip at gaming, but costs significantly more overall. You can’t go wrong with either chip. Meanwhile, the $175 Ryzen 5 3600 provides outstanding value.
AMD bestows its Ryzen parts with simultaneous multi-threading, giving the six-core Ryzen 5 3600X a full twelve threads. That gives some serious productivity chops for a mainstream CPU. But for the first time in recent memory, AMD’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 3.8GHz Ryzen…
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