If you’re looking for the best CPU for gaming we’ve got you covered right here with our top picks.
Having the right CPU is crucial in any gaming PC worth it’s salt. There’s no point in having the best GPU for 4K only for it to be bottlenecked by your processor. What’s more, modern games are only becoming more and more CPU intensive, meaning it could be a good idea to upgrade.
When you do buy a new CPU you’ll want to make sure it is the right one for you, to do this you need to balance performance, price and compatibility with the other parts of your build.
Some of the specific specs to look out for, in relation to gaming, are cache size, clock speed and thread count. Having a high one of these will unlock the highest level of performance.
We’ve got a range of options below, all of which perform excellently for their price categories. There’s also a detailed breakdown of each, so you can get a sense of which one is right for you.
Let’s get into our picks.
Best CPU for gaming
Best value CPU for gaming – AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D
AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D
- Currently the fastest CPU in the world
- Accessible price point
- Great overclocking support
- No DDR4 support
- Expensive AM5 ecosystem
The AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D arrived on the scene fairly recently and has made quite the splash, beating more expensive competitors from Intel and AMD themselves.
At an affordable $449, this CPU is a great future investment. It boasts eight cores and 16 threads operating at a 4.2GHz base clock, built upon AMD’s Zen 4 architecture.
It also features AMD’s second generation 3D V-cache, delivering an incredible 96MB of L3 cache that will provide an excellent gaming performance. Of course, 3D V-cache is especially prone to overheating, so you’ll need ensure you’ve got the best cooler for Ryzen 7 7800X3D.
If you’re wondering whether the Ryzen 7 7800X3D is worth it, we’ve considered everything you need to know. Overall though, though buying into AM5 might be pricey to begin with, the 7800X3D is 12% faster in gaming on average than Intel’s Core i9-13900K, and is considered an excellent investment if you want to future-proof your gaming set-up.
Best Overall CPU for gaming – Intel i9-13900KS
Intel Core i9-13900KS
P-cores 8 / E-cores 16
P-cores 6 GHz / E-cores 4.3 GHz
- Incredible all round performance
- Generous Core Count
One of the most impressive CPUs we’ve ever come across is the unique Intel i9-13900KS. With pretty insane performance out of the box – plus some respectable capacity for extendability – this has to be our favourite overall processor right now.
To start with, the ‘KS’ suffix is probably one you’re not used to seeing with Intel products. Essentially, it represents a new type of silicone technology which has been introduced for anyone interested in gaming or overclocking alike.
You might have noticed that the clock speed of the i9-13900KS is 3.2 GHz which, we suppose, isn’t anything to write home about. However, the new silicone being used will allow consumers to experience a pretty incredible 6 GHz during heavier gaming sessions.
Keep in mind that 6 GHz boost speed is combined with a whopping 24 cores, which – when Hyper-Threading is being utilized – can simultaneously access 32 threads. This is pretty incredible performance, but you should definitely be ready to pay more for it, as it’s not a cheap CPU by any means.
Read more: Best thermal paste for CPU and GPU
As you probably would expect with the above-listed specs, this processor is compatible with all of the latest standards (DDR4 and DDR5 memory, as well as PCIe 5.0 GPUs), meaning that – if you’re willing to invest in it – it’s possible to enjoy the greatest gaming experiences available right now.
Even titles like Red Dead Redemption 2 will generally run at beyond 100 frames per-second, and emulators like RPCS3 and Yuzu will also be able to utilise the extra cores and threads available to provide access to some amazing titles from the past and present.
So, it’s a definite powerhouse. However, that power comes not just with a significant pricetag, but also with serious cooling requirements (the TDP of 150W is going to need more than a stock heatsink if you’re going to be pushing the i9-13900KS in any way).
With that said, we really can’t think of a better processor for the money. This really does represent the next level in gaming, and we’d highly recommend it to anyone with the requisite funds, as it’s going to slaughter AAA games for at least the next few years.
Best cheap CPU for gaming – AMD Ryzen 7 5800X
AMD Ryzen 7 5800x
- Brilliant performance even at single-core
- Optimal for gaming
- Reasonably low TDP
- Expensive for some
For a budget gaming CPU, we feel confident in saying that the Ryzen 7 5800x has the best price-to-performance ratio for any readers seeking a great value option. Not only is it capable of running modern titles at fairly impressive speeds, but it also will allow you to put together a new gaming PC without breaking the bank.
The 5800x has 8 cores, which – by using AMD’s Simultaneous Multithreading technology – can handle 16 threads in total at any one time. The end result of this for you as a gamer is that there will be significantly less stuttering and bottlenecking when playing processor-intensive titles like Red Dead Redemption 2.
The number of cores and the base frequency of 3.8 GHz actually allow for significantly better performance than we were expecting with this CPU. For cutting-edge gaming, you want a minimum of 6 cores these days, and the fact that these can throttle up to 4.7 GHz is also nice.
Read more: AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D vs 9 7900X3D
In terms of its compatibility, this is a processor which – as you’d maybe expect for this price – is slightly dated. Compatible with DDR4 and PCIe 4.0 hardware, you’ll still be able to get a great gaming experience out of the 5800x, but it will start to show its limitations as we get closer to the next generation of PC gaming.
However, this is our favourite budget chip for a reason. Beyond the base specs, there’s an unlocked multiplier here, so you’ll be able to get some serious overclocking done with it. With a TDP of 105W, though, we’d recommend some good cooling even if you’re not interested in overclocking.
The Ryzen 7 5800x is an incredible piece of kit considering its price, and will allow gamers to put together a very capable gaming PC (provided you pair it with a competent GPU) while still managing to stay well under your budget.
Best CPU for 1440P gaming – AMD Ryzen 5 7600X
AMD Ryzen 5 7600X
- Incredible Single-Core Performance
- Very Power Efficient
- Surpasses Other CPUs With More Cores
- Runs Very Hot
For 1440p gaming, you want a good mid-tier processor that’s going to be able to easily handle 60 frames per second in modern titles, even at this increased resolution. After careful consideration, we think the Ryzen 5 7600X provided a great, affordable option for that kind of performance.
The Ryzen 5 7600X has 6 cores which run at a base clock speed of 4.7 GHz. While the number of cores is at the lower end of what we’d generally recommend, the increased frequency actually more than makes up for it.
Besides, that clock speed can be pushed even further under heavy load, going up to 5.3 GHz when your OS needs it. Add in the Simultaneous Multithreading, and you effectively have 12 threads to play with at breakneck speeds, allowing you to enjoy CPU-heavy titles like Red Dead Redemption 2 with a minimum of slowdown.
Read more: Ryzen 5 7600 vs Ryzen 5 7600X
What’s even cooler is that the 7600X has an unlocked multiplier, meaning it could be pushed significantly further than the official speeds advertised. It’s also fully compatible with DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 hardware, so the potential to really push this chip with a great GPU is massive.
It’s worth noting that the base frequency of this CPU is 105W, so – as with the 5800X we discussed above – we’d recommend that you invest in some additional case cooling, even if you have no interest in overclocking.
At the end of the day, playing modern titles at 1440P is still surprisingly demanding, and a lot of new hardware on the market will struggle to provide an enjoyable gaming session at these higher resolutions. The Ryzen 5 7600X will allow you to avoid those issues while still providing great value for money.
Frequently asked questions
What makes a CPU good for gaming?
A fast clock speed, good cache size and high thread count are some of the most important factors for a good gaming CPU. If you have all of this you can be confident your CPU won’t hold back your GPU allowing for top gaming performance.
Why is L3 cache good for a gaming CPU?
Cache is used to store certain bits of data that are drawn on by the CPU frequently. Because it is stored in the chip itself it is far faster to access that data in RAM. The way modern games are designed especially relies on cache so having a larger one will improve gaming performance.