There are few things better than a fast, quiet gaming PC with crystalline graphics, and one of the single most important components to make this a reality is your CPU. When you’re considering which CPU to get for PC gaming, it’s best to choose one in the context of what will work for your particular PC build.

If you’re looking for the best processors for gaming, chances are you’re building your own gaming PC. Fortunately, building your own machine means that you can perhaps save money on more expensive components and focus on rather splurging a bit on the CPU.

The CPU is most important

Although the graphics card is a vital component in a gaming PC, your CPU is the lifeblood of your machine, and most modern games rely heavily on the central processor being able to process the complex systems that really give the game its realistic and immersive experience.

Noctua NH-L9i Low Profile CPU Cooler (9)

If your priority is solely gaming, then a CPU in the Core i5, i7 or Ryzen 5 range will suffice, but if you’re using a really advanced system and need something that can take the demands of sophisticated software, then it’s worth investing in a more high-end chip like the Intel Core i9s. Keep in mind that the more money you invest into your CPU, the better it will perform and the longer it will last.

So without further ado, here’s our list of the best CPUs you can buy for your gaming PC:

1. Intel Core i7-10700K

  • Great out the box performance
  • Ultra-efficient overclocking
  • Full range Hyperthreading

Touted as the best CPU for gaming available at the moment, the i7-10700K offers super-speeds and the ability for you to get over the 5GHz mark on all cores. Overall, the best quality and value CPU for gaming, with unsurpassed performance.

Cores: 8
Base clock: 3.8GHz
Turbo clock: 5.1GHz (single core)
Overclocking: Yes – 5.1GHz
Threads: 16
L3 cache: 16MB
TDP: 95W

2. Intel Core i7-8700K

  • Created for gaming
  • Powerful
  • Good balance between price and performance

Avid gamers will love this CPU, that performs without breaking the bank. This powerful processor will handle any and all gaming your software throws its way, and offers great value for money – sitting at just shy of the $300 mark.

Cores: 6
Base clock: 3.7GHz
Overclocking: Yes, 4.9-5.0GHz typical
Threads: 12
L3 cache: 12MB
TDP: 95W

3. AMD Ryzen 9 3900X

  • Great for gaming and even non-gaming needs
  • Efficient cooler included
  • Limited overclocking

As one of AMD’s biggest and best processors, this third-gen CPU might not be the fastest of all gaming CPUs, but it certainly boasts some of the best settings and resolutions when optimized properly. In spite of the hefty price tag of around the $700 mark, it does include a good cooler by Wraith Prism and you get 50% more cores and threads.

Cores: 12
Base clock: 3.8GHz
Boost clock: 4.6GHz
Overclocking: Yes
Threads: 24
L3 cache: 64MB
TDP: 105W

4. Intel Core i5-9400F

  • Great balance of price and performance
  • Cooler included in price
  • No overclocking potential

If you’re building your own PC and most of the components are Intel-based, then this CPU is for you.  Although the i5-9400F is not as fast as other CPUs, it is still a very strong model – especially if you’re building your PC on a budget. This processor comes in at just a couple of hundred dollars and includes a cooler. Although you can’t overclock this processor, you can still play many games without feeling it.

Cores: 6
Base clock: 2.9GHz
Turbo clock: 4.1GHz
Overclocking: No
Threads: 6
L3 cache: 9MB
TDP: 65W

5. AMD Ryzen 7 3700X

  • Great balance between performance and price
  • Excellent cooler included
  • Great multi-use CPU

Our best mid-range CPU on the list, the Ryzen 7 3700X is an excellent sibling to the grander 3900X. It is just as fast for gaming and boasts the same benefits of AMD’s Zen 2 models, but has a much milder price tag that includes a Wraith Prism cooler. Designers using software that requires 3D rendering and video editing will love the boost from this CPU.

Cores: 8
Base clock: 3.6GHz
Turbo clock: 4.4GHz
Overclocking: Yes, 4.2-4.3GHz
Threads: 16
L3 cache: 32MB
TDP: 65W

What’s the best processor for you?

Ultimately, when you’re building your own gaming rig, you will have an idea of the best components to use, and may even be brand loyal to a certain degree. With all of these options, performance, quality and bang for buck make them all strong contenders, and at the end of the day, your choice boils down to what games you play, what other components make up your machine, and your budget.

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