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

Often considering 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 7 3700X
Best CPU for Gaming
Cores: 8 Threads: 16 Base Clock: 3.6GHz Boost Clock: 4.4GHz L3 Cache: 32MB TDP: 65W
Nowadays gaming often involves streaming, capturing or some form of video creation and so we feel the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X is the best gaming CPU that can do everything you’ll need. Sure, youll be able to pull out higher frame rates from an Intel Core i9-9900K, but it way more expensive for the same number of cores and threads.Thanks to AMD’s new 7nm Zen 2 architecture, the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X 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 at 4.4GHz across all cores. Another bonus of the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X is it comes with a CPU coolerand a good one at thatin the box, which will help you save 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 3900X
Best CPU for Gaming Video Editing
Cores: 12 Threads: 24 Base Clock: 3.9GHz Boost Clock: 4.6GHz 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 3900X comes along to blow away everything you thought you knew about CPUs. With redonkulous 12-core, 24-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 3900X can take that on too. While it comes with an included cooler like the Ryzen 7 3700X, you’ll want to get yourself a beefier CPU cooler to keep up with this monster of a processor.
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 2950X
Best High-End Desktop Processor for Gaming
Cores: 16 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 double the number of cores found on most consumer 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 lanes, which you can use to install multi-GPU setups and a ton of NVMe SSDs. 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 i9-9980XE
Best Performance Processor for Gaming
Cores: 18 Threads: 36 Base Clock: 3GHz Boost Clock: 4.4GHz Intel Smart Cache: 24.75MB TDP: 165W
The 18 core Intel Core i9-9980XE doesnt have as many CPU cores as the 32 core AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX, but in most cases, it races ahead of its rival, especially in gaming. Most HEDT processors dont hit consistently high frame rates, as well as consumer CPUs, do, but the Intel Core i9-9980XE 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.9. AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX
Best Streaming Gaming Processor
Cores: 32 Threads: 64 Base Clock: 3GHz Boost Clock: 4.2GHz L3 Cache: 32MB TDP: 250W
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 2990WX a 32 core CPU meant for consumers. Its incredibly high core count and astronomic 64 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’s Next for CPUs for Gaming
The processor world has been on fire with a non-stop stream of new CPU and it doesn’t seem like things will be slowing down any time soon.AMD just unveiled a new pair of processors with the AMD Ryzen 9 3900 and Ryzen 5 3500 on October 8th. The former was introduced to give users the same 12-core, 24-thread power of its older Ryzen 9 3900X brother, but at a much lower 65W TDP (rather than 105W). The Ryzen 3 3500 is an entry-level hexa-core chip meant to tackle Intel’s very popular Core i5-9400F, though this chip has only been introduced in China, so we’ll have to hope it comes stateside sometime soon.
Meanwhile, Intel also just introduced a new generation of Cascade Lake-X processors for high-end desktop PCs on October 6th. These new Core-X series CPUs introduce some pretty subtle improvements including an almost universal 4.8GHz Turbo Boost 3.0 speeds while adding support for 256GB of 2,933MHz DDR4 RAM, plus you’ll also find 48 PCI Express lanes and Wi-Fi 6 on the chip itself. The most impressive thing about these new HEDT chips is they’re far cheaper with the top-end Core i9-10980XE Extreme Edition costing only $579 and the Core i9-10900X going for only $590.
AMD also finally broke its silence on its Ryzen Threadripper 3000 chips, though, this time it only introduced two new chips with the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X and 3970X. As with Team Red’s other 7nm chips, Ryzen Threadripper 3rd Generation ups the ante with faster clock speeds. Interesting these new HEDT chips also introduced the first new socket for the first time since the Threadripper family was introduced in 2017. While it’s a bummer you’ll have to jump to a new motherboard to use these parts, at least they’ll all come with AMDs new X570 chipset that adds PCIe 4.0 support.
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 instruction 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