The Best CPUs for Gaming in 2021
Computers are complex machines by nature. When it’s time to upgrade, customer confusion comes into play, and some components can be tough to wrap your head around. When you’re ready to look for the best CPU for gaming, you will definitely need to be well informed.
The CPU is the brain of your machine, and you will want something speedy if you are a hardcore gamer. The cores and cache are only two areas to keep in mind, however, and Intel is no longer the only choice around.
How to Choose the Best CPU for Gaming
It takes more than just a powerful CPU to make a great gaming rig, and not everyone needs a top of the line chip. As with many PC components, you need to consider the overall specifications of your existing system against your needs if you plan to upgrade. The fastest CPU on the planet won’t do you a whole lot of good if you only have 8GB RAM behind it or your socket is incompatible.
Before we get into the fine details, consider your budget and the types of games you plan to play. That will help you narrow the field considerably which could make your decision incredibly easy. Once you know how much you want to spend and the system requirements you need to meet, it’s time to think about the cores.
Once upon a time, we lived in a world where central processing units only had a single core. Now, we have octa-core chips in smartphones and slates. Things have changed, and so have processors that power our devices as you now have to consider things like hyper-threading along with multiple cores.
A single core chip can get the job done, but a dual-core processor splits that workload between multiple cores. The more cores, the faster although an octa-core chip could be considered overkill for a casual gamer looking to play PUBG. You can get by with a Core i3 for that particular game, provided the rest of your system is solid.
As for hyper-threading, don’t let it fool you even if those virtual cores allow you to double up. If you pick up a quad-core chip with hyper-threading, it’s not going to be as fast one with eight cores sans the threading regardless of what your OS thinks. That said, hyper-threading will give any chip a boost and is not something to discount.
Clock speed or frequency is another specification to pay attention to once you understand the numbers. Clock speed is measured in MHz or GHz and is another area that’s changed greatly over the years. While a 3.8GHz chip is still “fast,” there are other factors including the architecture of the chip. There’s also a reason AMD processors are on the rise while others have declined in popularity amongst gamers. If you’d like to learn more about clock speed and cores, this piece sheds some additional light on things.
Compatibility and Sockets
If you are building your rig from scratch, you still need to consider compatibility but can pick a CPU based on the board. When upgrading your existing system, compatibility is the law of the land. While there are several areas, you need to consider although it all comes down to the socket in the end.
The socket on the motherboard is a physical connector where your new CPU will sit. The type of socket on your board dictates the type of chip you can use, so it’s of the utmost importance. Want that Ryzen Threadripper CPU to work? Well, you’ll need a TR4 socket and a board like the Zenith Extreme. Thankfully, there are only two chip makers you need to dwell on with Intel and AMD.
There are far too many motherboards and Frankenstein rigs on the market for us to go in-depth with compatibility. If you plan on using an AMD chip, check out their support page. As for Intel, there is no shortage of resources available although we prefer their official processor matching system.
8 Best CPUs for Gaming
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X
The Best AMD CPU
Is it a central processing unit or a modern version of the Flux Capacitor that will zap you back in time? That’s a question plenty of gamers will ask themselves after setting eyes on this slick looking chip. The AMD Ryzen Threadripper is definitely in the “Pro” class, and it’s one of the meanest processors around.
This VR-ready chip will be able to handle any game in your arsenal and has a whopping 16 cores and 32 threads. It’s clocked at 4.0GHz, but can hit speeds of 4.2GHz with XFR and has 40MB of cache memory. It also supports quad-channel DDR4 RAM in case you’re looking for the best RAM to go along with your gaming rig. Other features to note include SenseMI tech and 64 PCIe Gen3 Lanes.
It’s safe to say this chip isn’t cheap and not for the budget-savvy gamers looking to save a few bucks. There are two other versions of the processor if you prefer 8 or 12-cores over 16. The CPU is also available with a liquid cooler or board from GIGABYTE for an additional price.
- More PCIe lanes than the competition
- Game and Creator Mode
- 16 Cores of power
- 32 Threads
- Very Expensive
Intel Core i9-7900X
The Best Intel CPU for Gaming
Intel’s i-series has proved quite popular over the years, and the Core i9 is their top-tier chip. It’s also a great choice for gamers that want to take their performance to the next level and prefer Intel’s system over AMD’s.
This central processing unit is built for the Intel X299 platform and needs an LGA 2066 socket to call home. It features all the bells & whistles you would expect from the company, which means you’ll get Turbo Boost Max 3.0 and Optane Memory support. Full specs for this chip include 140W TDP, 10-cores, 20 threads, a 3.3GHz base clock and quad-channel memory support up to 128GB. You can “boost” this one up to 4.3GHz, and many consumers may consider the chip to be an option when looking for the best CPU for streaming as well.
Even hardcore AMD fans can appreciate this chip as Intel knocked it out of the park with this one. While still not as powerful as the Threadripper, it’s comparable and possibly a better choice depending on your “overall” needs. Either way you go, you’ll want to get a powerful CPU cooler as this one tends to run hot.
- Great performance out of the box
- Max Boost 3.0
- Optane support
- High temperatures
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
CPU for the Best Gaming Performance
Say hello to the best gaming CPU on the market right now. It is capable of giving you magnificent performance in all games, by allowing you to have over 100 FPS even in the most demanding games.
Ryzen 9 3900X has a total of 12 cores alongside 24 threads for fast and precise processing, which makes this processor super cast and gives the ultimate gaming experience.
To make things even cooler, there is a top-notch Wraith Prism cooler from AMD with the support for controlled LED lighting, which will make your rig prettier and deal with the additional heat by always keeping it to a minimum.
When it comes to the power, without overclocking Ryzen 9 3900X has 4.6GHz per core, with 70MB cache and full support for DDR3200. But, with bit tweaking, it can be even more powerful.
Apart from that, it can use a PCIe 4.0 slot for a more advanced AM4 platform, which is found on almost all X570 gaming motherboards.
- Total of 12 cores and 24 threads for faster processing
- Excellent power, up to 4.6GHz without overclocking
- Fully supports innovative AM4 socket found on new X570 motherboards
- It looks amazing
- Excellent cooler, to keep the heat to a minimum
- It is a bit pricy
Intel Core i7-9700K
An Excellent Top-tier Chip from Intel
When you’re looking for a top tier chip from Intel, the Core i7 lineup is the only way to go. The Intel Core i7-9700K is an ideal processor when you prefer physical cores to hyper-threading and aren’t a fan of AMD’s lineup.
The 9th gen Core i7-9700K has eight cores and no hyper-threading. The base speed is 3.60 GHz, but it can get a boost up to 4.90 GHz. The chip has 12 MB of smart cache onboard along with integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630 graphics if you don’t plan on using a dedicated card. Other tech specs of interest for this chip include a TDP of 95w and dual-channel DDR4-2666 support.
This chip is unlocked, easy to overclock and supports Intel’s Optane memory platform to boot. It’s one of the company’s fastest chips to date and performs just as you’d expect although it’s pricy and sans a heatsink or fan. It’s a chip we highly recommend if you can afford it and have a 300 series compatible board.
- Excellent performance
- 8 cores
- 12MB cache
- It’s Expensive
Intel Core i5-9600K
The Best Value for the Money
While we’re big fans of the i7, not everyone needs that much power and the price may rule it out for your build. The Core i5 series has always been an excellent choice when budget is a concern, and the 9th gen Core i5-9600K is no exception.
With a top speed of 4.6 GHz, the latest generation of the Core i5 has plenty of pop thanks to Turbo Boost Tech 2.0. The base speed is 3.7 GHz, so it’s not far off from the i7 in some regards although this one has six cores instead of eight. The cache takes a bit of a hit as well at 9MB, but we don’t think you’ll have any issue multi-tasking with this chip.
You’re getting a lot of bang for your buck with this chip, and it’s an excellent value for the price compared to its big brothers. Needless to say, it’s also a great chip for budget-friendly gaming builds. The Core i5-9600K is compatible with 300 series based motherboards and has a TDP of 95.
- 4.6 GHz boosted
- UHD Graphics 630
- Optane memory support
- Excellent price point
- Nothing significant
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X
Gaming CPU with Perfect Cooling
Ryzen 7 3700X from AMD is considered one of the best desktop processors you can choose from the market at the moment, and with good reason.
Firstly, it is capable of giving you stable and fast performance, by keeping your games at 100+ frames per second all the time, which is pretty amazing and will help you run your games pretty smoothly.
To help with that, there is a total of 8 cores and 16 processing threads, with the estimated power of 4.4GHz that works on DDR 3200 and can support up to 36MB of game cache, without the need to overclock it.
There is also extremely good Wraith Prism cooler from AMD, that will help to keep the heat to a minimum, without having to worry about demanding games giving you heat strokes in your room.
Along with that, this cooler has excellent LED color-controlled support, which will just make the entire CPU even prettier.
Apart from that, in order to be fully compatible with motherboards that are specially-made for AMD components, such as X570 gaming motherboards with AM4 platform, Ryzen 7 can be connected to a PCIe 4.0 slot.
- Gives extremely fast performance, with over 100 FPS
- 8 cores and 16 processing threads
- Very good 4.4GHz boost without overclocking
- Great cooling system
- Beautiful LED lighting
- Thermal paste is a bit too sticky, making it harder to remove the cooler if needed
AMD Ryzen 5 3400G
CPU with the Best Graphics on a Desktop Processor
AMD Ryzen 5 3400G comes with one of the best graphics on a desktop processor, which is the Radeon RX Vega 11, so you won’t have to get some extremely expensive graphic card.
With this CPU, you will be able to get a pretty smooth gaming experience because of the excellent performance of Ryzen 5, even in some of the most demanding games out there.
With a total of 4 cores and 8 processing threads, boosted up to 4.2GHz, 6MB cache, DDR 2933 and the ability to overclock, you will indeed be able to have full gaming experience.
Along with that comes AMD Wraith Spire cooler, to keep the optimal temperature, without the need for expensive cooling systems.
Also, Ryzen 5 3400G is built to work with the AM4 advanced system socket, which is supported with all X570 motherboards.
Furthermore, in this bundle, you will also get a total of 3 months of Xbox Game Pass if you get it from Amazon.
- Comes with powerful Radeon Vega 11 graphics
- Pretty good power and speed
- Excellent cooling system
- Supports AM4 platform
- Free 3-Months Xbox pass included
- It is aging fast, there are new and improved versions
Intel Core i3-8100
A Great Choice for Gamers on a Budget
The last chip from Intel’s 8th generation is the slowest of the pack, but still gets the job done for thrifty gamers. The Intel Core i3-8100 is the company’s answer to the Ryzen 3. The Coffee Lake chip comes with the same feature set found on the speedier CPUs albeit with a few slight drawbacks.
This chip is an upgrade from the older 7700K, but far from what most gamers would consider powerful. It sports 4-cores with 4 threads and comes with 6MB of L3 Smart Cache. The speed is listed at 3.6GHz out of the box, but there is no Turbo Boost tech on this chip. It’s set up with the dual-channel memory configuration and has 16 PCI express 3.0 lanes. Not too shabby, especially given its price. If your budget is tight, it’s certainly an option as the best CPU for gaming.
The biggest issue with this chip comes down to the competition and your current configuration. AMD’s Ryzen lineup is still a little cheaper at this range although both are comparable in terms of performance. That said, Intel also has a Core i3-8300 and the i3-8350K if you need a bit more power but dig the i3 lineup.
- Solid performance
- Great price
- No hyper-threading capabilities
- May not be worth the upgrade for some