Home Buyer’s Guide Best CPUs for Gaming

Best CPUs for Gaming

by Jordan

A gaming PC is a complex beast, with the GPU, cooling, storage, and your mouse and keyboard all making a big effect on how you play. However, one thing can really give your gaming PC a boost. The best CPUs for gaming in 2020 can help your PC run even the most demanding games with ease. It is the powerhouse of your machine. While GPUs might get all the attention for their flashy graphics and ray tracing, they’re not much good without a powerful CPU to back all that up. These are the best CPUs for gaming currently available, with one to fit every type of PC.

The Best Gaming CPUs in 2020

1.  Intel Core i9 10900K – The Best CPU for Gaming Overall

The Intel Core i9 10900K is probably the best CPU for gaming in 2020. This model is definitely high-end, but it is basically all you’re going to need from a CPU. It is possible to go more powerful, but very few gamers would actually benefit from doing so. This is one of the best CPUs for gaming and streaming or just gaming on its own. Essentially, it is powerful enough to do whatever you need it too.

This chip has 10 processing cores packed in. This is the first time that Intel has managed that in their general line of CPUs. This of course has some impressive results. Playing demanding games is going to be a lot easier with this, and the high clock speeds that it hits.

The only real downside here is your increased motherboard and cooling concerns. However, you’re pretty much going to get this issue with any reasonably powerful CPU. They work best when paired with the best GPUs and other components, but this piece is worth building a PC around.

Pros

  • Best Overall CPU for Gaming in 2020
  • Great Potential for Overclocking
  • 10 Cores, 20 Threads
  • 7GHz Base Clock

Cons

  • Requires More Power and Cooling 

2. Intel Core I9-9980XE – The CPU Used by Pro Gamers

Professional gamers use a lot of different CPUs, but this Intel Core i9-9980XE is one of the most prominent among the highest skilled players, including Shroud and Summit1G. This is a pretty good testimony for their effectiveness, but there are reasons to go for this CPU other than emulating the pros.

This one is expensive, a CPU used by the pros is probably going to be! While the price is high, this is a really powerful CPU. You’re getting 18 cores and some impressive turbo boost abilities too. You getting the power for a lot of different workloads, and great performance in single and multi-threaded workloads. The only real downside is cooling and power consumption. However, if you’re going high-end, this is one of the best CPUs for gaming available.

Pros

  • 18 Cores
  • Turbo Boost Frequencies
  • Great Performance

Cons

  • Higher Power Consumption and Cooling Needs
  • Quite Expensive

3. AMD Ryzen 5 3400G – Best Budget CPU for Gaming

The AMD Ryzen 5 3400G is one of the best budget CPUs for gaming available at the moment, it might even be one of the best under $200 or the best CPUs under $150. It is a budget model, so you won’t get the same specs as with some of the others on this list. However, you are getting more than enough power for most uses.

This CPU gets you 4 cores with 8 threads, the base clock is 3.7GHz and the turbo clock hits 4.2GHz, there’s even good potential for overclocking. When you’re actually playing games, this device can definitely get you 60 FPS if you’re willing to compromise on resolution. That’s if you couple it with the right GPU of course.

This is one of the best CPUs for gaming on a budget as it can still achieve those thresholds of performance that are vital. You’re not getting the same power as others on this list, but it is hard to beat at this price point.

Pros

  • Good Budget model
  • Can Handle 1080p
  • Gets Good Performance if You Compromise on Settings

Cons

  • Motherboard Needs Video Ports
  • 4 Cores

4. AMD Ryzen 9 3900X – Best CPU for Gaming and Streaming

The best CPU for gaming and streaming has different needs to just straight-up gaming uses. They need to be better at multitasking and handle higher performance in-game for a good quality stream. This is one of the best CPUs for streaming and gaming in 2020, so it can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. It also comes in at a decent price point, so it’s a nice compromise between performance and cost.

This CPU is AMD, which gives it some advantages for gaming. It has 12 cores and 24 threads, which makes it great for plenty of non-gaming uses. This AMD CPU isn’t particularly overclock friendly, like their other options. However, this device is pretty good off the shelf.

There are some better CPUs that can help you hit a higher frames per second. But if you’re concerned with gaming and streaming then this is a great choice for your gaming PC. 

Pros

  • Fast CPU
  • Great for Gaming and Streaming
  • 12 Cores

Cons

  • Not Great for Overclocking

5. Intel Core i9-9900K – Fastest CPU for Gaming

Ninja is one of the biggest names in gaming and streaming, so it makes sense that his set-up is one of the best out there. This is the CPU that Ninja uses to run his gaming PC. It is one of the best CPUs for gaming in 2020, and one of the CPUs that professional competitive gamers use.

This is one of the fastest CPUs for gaming ever, and while expensive its price isn’t astronomical given what it can do. There are eight hyperthreaded cores, so you won’t have any issues with speed. This thing is going to enable you to get performance even with demanding games, especially when it’s paired with one of the best GPUs for gaming. The main downside is the same that most of the other best CPUs for gaming in 2020 have, higher costs for power and cooling.

Pros

  • Great Performance for Single and Multi-Threaded
  • Fantastic Gaming Performance
  • Fast

Cons

  • Price
  • Power and Cooling Needs

6. Intel Core i5 9400F – The Best Intel Budget CPU for Gaming

 The Intel i5 9400F is a nice bit of kit, especially when you consider its price. This is faster than a good deal of other Intel CPUs and can give you great performance if you aim for mid-range graphics. For a budget model, it has a lot going for it.

There are 6 cores, this is more than most at this price range. The base clock is 2.9GHz, while this can increase you don’t have any space for overclocking here. Keep this in mind if you were hoping to overclock and while building a budget PC, this one can handle it. The performance is going to be pretty good, especially when paired with a decent GPU. High-end GPUs will be wasted here, but if you’re making a solid mid-range or budget build of a PC, you could do a lot worse. This is a great choice for one of the best CPUs for gaming in 2020 on a budget.

Pros

  • 6 Cores
  • Good Price
  • Good Performance
  • Included Cooler

Cons

  • No Overclocking

7. Intel Core i5 9600K – The Best CPU for Overclocking

The best CPU for gaming in 2020 working perfectly out of the box is great, but what if you want to push things further? Overclocking is a pretty commonly done process in building a gaming PC, it lets you get more out of your components if you know what you’re doing. That’s why overclocking potential is important when choosing the parts you need. The Intel Core i5 9600K is the best CPU for gaming when overclocked in 2020. This CPU works pretty well as standard, but it can be overclocked to be even better.

With a little work, you can get this mid-range CPU performing very well, it can even hit around 5.05GHz afterward. Obviously, this comes with its cooling problems since it is overclocking. However, if you’re experienced in these things then you should consider this mid-range CPU. While fairly unassuming on its own, you can get a lot more out of it. 

Pros

  • Great for Overclocking
  • 6 Cores & Threads
  • Good Price

Cons

  • Only Compatible with Intel 300 Chipsets

8. AMD Ryzen 5 3600 – Best CPU for Gaming Under $200

 If you’re looking for a great gaming CPU under $200, then the AMD Ryzen 5 3600 is a pretty good candidate. This comes in a good chunk under $200 and gives you quite a bit for your money. This is one of the best CPUs for gaming overall, not just for those on a budget.

You’re getting 6 cores here and 12 threads, so you should be able to get pretty good performance out of this CPU, especially when paired with a decent GPU. You might get some slowdown with really demanding tasks, but when this is part of a well-built PC in general you shouldn’t have any problems.

This isn’t the best CPU for gaming, but if you’re on a budget it is one of the best available.

Pros

  • Great Price
  • 6 Cores and 12 Threads
  • 6 GHz Base Clock
  • Good Overclocking Potential

Cons

  • Not Great for Really Demanding Things

9. AMD Ryzen 3 3200G – Best Under $100

Can you get a decent CPU for gaming under $100? Well, it might not be as powerful or useful as the others on this list of the best gaming CPUs, but the Ryzen 3 3200G is a pretty good CPU considering the price.

This CPU clocks in under $100, so you can’t expect too much. This CPU will get you four processing cores. With an included graphics unit you can keep the costs of your PC and still get HD gameplay in most major games. You might need to scale things down quite a bit to get your FPS at a serviceable rate though.

While this is a cheaper CPU, it still has some decent overclocking potential. This device isn’t going to compete with a lot on this list. However, you can still get a decent performance for under $100.

Pros

  • 4 Cores
  • Great Price
  • 0 GHz Max Clock

Cons

  • Not Gonna Get the Same Performance as Even Mildly More Expensive CPUs 

10. AMD Ryzen 7 3700X – The Best Mid-Range Gaming CPU

This AMD CPU comes in under $300 and can cope with the majority of high-end gaming situations. It has AMD’s Zen 2 architecture, which can help future proof your purchase a bit. This CPU is going to get everything done that you need.

It has 8 cores and 16 threads, with a base clock of 3.6 GHz. This is going to get you good performance, but especially great performance when you consider the price. This is a great choice for a CPU for gaming if you’re looking for good value for money.

There is limited overclocking potential here. However, you are getting great performance in gaming and streaming, or anything else you need to do.

Pros

  • 8 Cores and 16 Threads
  • 6 Ghz Base Clock
  • Cooler Included
  • Great Value

Cons

  • Not Great for Overclocking

Best CPU for Gaming Buying Guide

Those are all great choices for a CPU. However, there are a lot of great options out there. So how do you pick which one of the best CPUs for gaming in 2020 is exactly right for you? This is what you need to know about what you need from a CPU, and how it affects gaming.

 Is AMD Better than Intel for Gaming?

AMD and Intel are the two biggest names in gaming, but which is better for a gaming CPU? Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. However, purely for competitive gaming, Intel does have a bit of an advantage. If this is worth it all comes down to your budget though.

A lot of games are designed to utilize both the GPU and CPU to achieve a great quality. This is what complicates choosing a CPU to go with your GPU. A lot of design puts the pressure onto single cores or processors. Usually, AMD CPUs are built for hyperthreading and multi-threaded workloads. This is great for performance, but not specifically for gaming. While Intel builds CPUs that are pretty great for gaming.

In recent years though, that’s changed. AMD now makes PCs that work great for gaming, provided you choose the right one. This is partially as demand has grown. Gaming PCs are a lot more common than they used to be, so all manufacturers have started catering to that market. There is no objective better choice here, but Intel does have a bit of an advantage. 

Does Your CPU Affect FPS?

Frames per second is one of the most important things for getting better results when gaming. A lot of the tinkering with settings in competitive games is built around this. A lot of gamers react badly to a game having a bad drop in FPS, even in a minor indie game. So how much your CPU actually affect your frames per second rate?

It all really depends on the game that you’re playing. Some games are optimized to kick in and take advantage of anything extra that they can get from your PC. This helps the game keep its FPS high. Most competitive games are decent enough at doing this. They don’t all do it, but the majority will utilize your CPU to some degree to improve your FPS and overall performance. 

Is Overclocking Your CPU Worth It?

The best CPUs for gaming in 2020 can be improved even more by overclocking. It isn’t as simple as just overclocking and watching your performance boost though. It isn’t a magic fix-all solution for your CPU.

Overclocking your CPU requires a bit of know-how, but also extra components. An overclocked CPU needs much better cooling if you want to things working well. You’ll have to invest in much better cooling systems that you would normally need. On top of this, it can damage a device’s lifespan.  This can be mitigated somewhat by better cooling and care though.

The upside is a much higher clock speed. Essentially this all comes down to a trade-off. Do you want to overclock a cheaper CPU and buy more cooling? Or do you want to buy a pricier CPU with better performance out of the box? In some cases, overclocking a CPU and buying great cooling is much cheaper than going for a more powerful CPU. In other, you’ll end up investing a lot in cooling for minimal improvements.

If you’re looking to overclock your CPU then you should do some research first. Find stories online of those with the exact same CPU, and try to establish how much of an improvement there was. Reddit is a great resource for this. You’ll really need to research your exact CPU. If that improvement seems worth it, then go for it. If not, maybe look at replacing your CPU instead.

Which CPU is best for Gaming?

These are all some of the best CPUs in gaming for at the moment. However, each fits a different set of requirements. The best CPU for gaming might be the Intel Core i9 10900K, but that won’t be perfect for everybody. Some people have different needs. This is what you need to think about to find the best CPU for gaming for you:

  • Price – This should be one of your first concerns. Only compare those in your price range, those outside of your price range may as well not exist for this purchase.
  • Cores and Performance – Measure the performance of these CPUs against what it is that you need. If you’re happier with a lower-end CPU then you don’t need to go higher just because it is in your budget.
  • GPU – Your GPU is also important here, maybe more so than your CPU. Consider how you’re balancing the two, and if going a bit higher end on one or the other of these components will get you better results than going for the same mid-tier choice for each.
  • Overclocking – Are you going to overclock now or in the future? Some CPUs just don’t have great potential for this, so it is worth keeping in mind.

All of that should help you to find the best CPU for gaming for you. A PC is more than just a CPU though. These are some guides to other components that you’re going to need, to make sure you’re building the best gaming PC that you can.

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