This article has been just updated: December 11, 2019
Gamers tend to focus on graphics cards and forget that CPUs are often just as important for playing games at high frame rates. Of course, CPUs also affect everything from OS to application performance, so choosing the right CPU for your needs is essential.
Because 4-core/4-thread CPUs are ubiquitous, most games still target them, but we see more and more game developers utilizing 6-core and 8-core designs. In the near future, it’s likely that CPUs with a large number of cores will be the new standard for mainstream PCs, unleashing high-performance parallel processing in games and beyond.
When selecting a new CPU, you need to pay attention to motherboard compatibility and keep in mind Moore’s law, which is the observation that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles about every two years. In other words, even the best CPU on the market today won’t be very impressive just a few years down the road as CPUs, in general, become faster at a very predictable rate.
The good news is that you can get a great CPU for gaming regardless of whether your budget is $100 or $1,000. In this article, we feature the top 7 best CPUs for gaming that you can buy in 2018 to help you make the right purchase decision.
|CPU||Benchmark result||Price(according to Amazon)|
|1. Intel Core i3-8100||8,079||$114.99|
|2. AMD Ryzen 5 2600X||14,359||$239.99|
|3. Intel Core i9-9900K||20,263||$549.99|
|4. AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX||24,338||$1,699 99|
|5. Intel Core i7-9700K||17,373||$369.99|
|6. AMD Ryzen 3 2200G||7,424||$95.00|
|7. Intel Core i5-8400||11,669||$219.99|
The Core i3-8100 is a budget processor from Intel that has become a huge hit among gamers because it offers four physical cores for just a little over $100. What’s more, it comes with a reliable stock cooler that can keep it cool even inside budget cases with poor ventilation. Being a budget CPU, the i3-8100 doesn’t benefit from Intel’s Turbo Boost technology, but it’s hard to complain considering its price.
Pros: Very appealing price. Everything you need for esports gaming. Four physical cores. Reliable stock cooler.
Cons: Doesn’t benefit from Turbo Boost.
The AMD Ryzen 5 2600X is the mainstream gaming CPU all fans of the team red have been waiting for. For around $200, it offers formidable performance and excellent overclocking potential. It comes with a capable cooler, which only increases its already fantastic value. Pair the AMD Ryzen 5 2600X with a capable graphics card, and you won’t know what lag is.
Pros: Unlocked for overclocking. Competitive price that includes a capable cooler. Great for games that leverage multi-threading.
Cons: Its overclocking capabilities are quite limited.
Equipped with 8 cores, 16 threads, and the ability to boost up to a maximum 5.0 GHz clock speed, the Intel Core i9-9900K is Intel’s answer to AMD’s multi-core processors. If you don’t just play games but also record and edit them, you’ll appreciate its massive multi-threading performance. But if you’re just a regular gamer looking for a few extra frames per second in AAA games at high settings, there are far more sensible options out there.
Pros: Modest energy consumption. Massive multi-threading performance. Boost up to a maximum 5.0 GHz clock speed.
Cons: Expensive. Most games don’t benefit from its performance.
When it comes to sensible CPUs, the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX isn’t among them. This monster of a CPU has 32 cores and 64 threads, delivering mind-blowing performance at a steep price. A CPU like this isn’t for everyone, and those who need its incredible multi-threaded processing power already know it.
Pros: 32 cores and 64 threads—that’s all you need to know.
Cons: Extreme power consumption. Only a few applications can utilize its 32 cores.
The Intel Core i7-9700K is a great high-end CPU that doesn’t use as much power as i9 processors from Intel but still delivers great performance and offers some overclocking potential. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t come with a cooler, so add at least $50 to its price if you want your system to be stable even under heavy workloads.
Pros: Great performance at a decent price. Doesn’t use as much power as i9 processors from Intel. Some overclocking potential.
Cons: Doesn’t come with a cooler. Similar AMD processors offer better value.
Being the least expensive CPU featured in this article, you might expect the AMD Ryzen 3 2200G to be unfit for modern games, but that’s not true at all. While its single-threaded performance is relatively weak, it manages to run games like Fortnite, Overwatch, or League of Legends just fine. What’s more, it has in integrated graphics chip, making it perfect for HTPCs.
Pros: Costs less than $100. Has an integrated graphics chip. Can be overclocked. Perfect for home theater PCs.
Cons: Not great for single-threaded applications and games.
If there’s one CPU that really stands out from Intel’s 8th Gen Coffee Lake range, it’s the Intel Core i5-8400. With its 6 cores and 6 threats, it offers outstanding value and great multi-core performance, making it one of the most recommendable CPUs we’ve ever tested.
Pros: Excellent value. 6 cores and 6 threads. Great multi-core performance.
Cons: Can’t be overclocked and lacks HyperThreading.
We hope that this article has helped you find the right CPU for your gaming PC. As you can see, it doesn’t really matter what your budget is because great gaming CPUs are available within any budget. If you consider yourself to be a casual gamer, a budget CPU such as the Intel Core i3-8100 or the AMD Ryzen 3 2200G should provide you with all the processing power you need to enjoy smooth frame rates and great application performance. But if gaming is your passion, there are high-end multi-core juggernauts such as the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX to bring even the most demanding virtual experiences to life.