Best Gaming CPUs

If you don’t have the time to research benchmarks, or if you don’t feel confident enough in your ability to pick the right processor for your next gaming machine, fear not. We at Tom’s Hardware have come to your aid with a simple list of the best gaming CPUs offered for the money. This list is for gamers who want to get the most for their money. If you don’t play games, then the CPUs on this list may not be suitable for your particular needs. The criteria to get on this list are a mixture of price and performance. Cost and availability change on a daily basis. We can’t offer up-to-the-minute accurate pricing information in the text, but the prices in green are current. The chart is based on MSRP, while the list is based on the best US prices from Amazon, Newegg, and others. In other countries or at retail, your mileage will most certainly vary. Of course, these are new, retail CPU prices - we do not list used or OEM CPUs.

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October 2017 Updates

Intel's Core i5-8600K recently made its way through our lab, bringing impressive performance that highlights the magnitude of Intel's decision to add two more cores to its entire Core series lineup. The Core i5-8600K often provides more performance than the previous-generation Core i7-7700K, making it an incredible value offering if you are interested in gaming, specifically. That makes it a simple addition to our Best Gaming CPUs lineup as a replacement for the Kaby Lake i5-7600K. But there's a problem.

We gave the Core i5-8600K our Recommended Award based on suggested pricing. For now, the Core i5-8600K is almost impossible to purchase, and pricing for the rare few models that become available continues to climb. Intel set its recommended pricing for bulk purchases at $257, but the processors are currently retailing for $300 at Newegg and Amazon. Both retailers initially sold the processors for $260, so the limited availability has led to obvious price gouging. In the meantime, the Ryzen 5 1600X remains our top pick until the Core i5-8600K falls to reasonable pricing (and reasonable availability). The Core i5-7600K is also retailing at $20 below MSRP. 

Intel touts the Core i7-8700K as its best gaming processor, ever. Our tests validate that claim, but again, there is almost no availability, and pricing for the chip has shot up to $400. We added the processor to this Best Gaming CPU list immediately following our review of it, but we can't recommend the processor at its current price point and because of its limited (or non-existent) availability. For now, we're replacing it with the Core i7-7700K, our previous Best Pick in that price range.

We'll keep our eyes on the prices and update this page if things change. We've also got more Coffee Lake SKUs on the test bench, so stay tuned for more based on those outcomes.

The Ryzen 7 1700 offers a good option for those on the value hunt. AMD's hefty eight-core, 16-thread processor offers competitive performance after you overclock it, and its bundled cooler provides an excellent value. The Ryzen 7 1700 slots in as a capable and less expensive alternative if you're interested in overclocking.

Many e-tailers are taking Coffee Lake pre-orders sporadically, and shipments are arriving to end users in bursts as the retailers struggle to meet demand. We aren't sure of the expected timeline for widespread general availability.

As before, we're using a geometric mean of the 99th percentile frame times, which we convert into an FPS measurement, to provide an easy-to-read performance outlook. The 99th percentile results are a good indicator of smoothness. This methodology is applied to our entire suite, which includes five titles released in 2016 and five older games that launched in 2014/2015. Extra cores could enable more performance in the future as software evolves to utilize them better, so we also include a chart with newer games that exploit host processing resources more thoroughly. You'll find the Ryzen processors in red and the Intel competitors in blue.

We also have price-to-performance charts that get split up to include both the price of the processor and extra platform costs. For the models that don't come with a bundled cooler, we add an extra $25 you'll need to spend. We also add $20 if overclocking requires a more expensive motherboard (going from a cheaper Intel chipset to Z270, for example).

We plot performance against MSRP, but it's notable that AMD's surge has fueled a new wave of competition in the market, so you can often find these products at much lower prices. The Ryzen 7 series, in particular, often retails well below suggested pricing.

The Pentium G4560 offers impressive performance for a surprisingly low price point. You could eke out more performance by tuning the Ryzen 3 1200, but you will pay a $45 premium, so the G4560 remains our top budget pick. AMD's Raven Ridge APU's will attack this segment early next year.

The $129 Ryzen 3 1300X slots into the pricing gap between Intel's $117 Core i3-7100 and $147 i3-7300, but it offers a great mix of price and performance for $12 more than the Core i3-7100. It also offers nearly the same performance as the more expensive Core i3-7300 after a bit of overclocking. The Intel competitors can't compete due to their locked multipliers.

The Core i3-7300 and Ryzen 5 1400 are fierce competitors, but the Ryzen 5 1400 offers better performance in newer games at stock settings, and the value of its unlocked multiplier beats the locked i3-7300.

The surprisingly powerful Core i3-7350K requires both a cooler and a Z270 motherboard for overclocking, which boosts it into Ryzen 5/Core i5 price range. You're far better served by a six-core twelve-thread Ryzen 5 1600, and its very capable bundled cooler, for an extra $6. The unlocked ratio multiplier and beefy stock cooler make it the best mid-range value pick of the entire lineup. It dispatches the i5-7600 and the i5-7500, particularly with newer games. But we are impressed enough with the i5-7600 to add it as a runner-up, replacing the Core i5-7500.

We are well underway with testing the Coffee Lake Core i3 models. Stay tuned.

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  • adamovera
  • poppajoe512
    you have the wrong price on the intel i5 7500 $309.98 on Amazon its actually $198.03 on amazon and $204 on newegg would that make a difference on where you placed it ??
  • razorwindmo46
    $279.99 @ Micro Center
  • razorwindmo46
    Intel Core i7-7700K $279.99 @ Micro Center
  • Tom72468
    The i5 7500 is now 179.89 on Amazon!
    Typo here - swap prices:
    The $129 Ryzen 3 1300X slots into the pricing gap between Intel's $147 Core i3-7100 and $117 i3-7300
  • aldaia
    In the last 4 figures where it says "upper right corner", should read "bottom right corner".
  • jtenorj
    Where are Ryzen 3 1200 and Ryzen 7 1700? Maybe include Pentium G4600 as well.

    Also, ALDAIA is right about those last four charts. They should read "bottom right corner is best" if I'm reading the charts correctly.

    Price on the vertical axis and frames per second on the horizontal axis(cpu with lower price and higher frames is better).
  • jimmyEatWord
    threadripper 1950x , it looks like the stuff right out of command and conquer 3 tiberium wars . that game inspired many specially the staff at asus . i have a wireless card that looks like the disruptor from that game !
  • JackM3
    I would recommend a AMD CPU for performance per dollar. Intels are good in all but really expensive. The new RYZEN CPUs are really good at doing quite abit. They are some tough competitors for Intels lineup
  • sfcampbell
    @PaulyAlcorn It's great to see you include cost factors for third-party coolers (for CPUs without factory coolers) and overclocking mobo premiums -- very important factors for the overall price/performance result, especially when some comparators only differ by $10-20! Kudos!!
  • sfcampbell
    @PaulyAlcorn It's great to see you include cost factors for third-party coolers (with CPUs that don't include a factory cooler) and overclocking mobo premiums -- very important factors for the price/performance comparison, especially when some of the deltas only differ by $10-20! Kudos!!
  • mvh
    intel i7-6950X is the best one right now. (and it's expensive) :)
  • keith12
    I7 7440x?
  • none12345
    You've got the ryzen 1400 and 1600 linking to bundles with motherboards, so the price is incorrect.
  • Olle P
    Anonymous said:
    Where are Ryzen 3 1200 and Ryzen 7 1700? Maybe include Pentium G4600 as well.
    R3 1200: Definitely! With overclocking it's about as good as the 1300X, but at a lower price.
    R7 1700: A bit more questionable. For its price it's not that good for gaming, which is what this list is supposed to reflect. It's a better general use CPU than Core i7 though...
    G4600 is definitely a valid option when it perform better and cost less than the G4560.

    [Regarding R5 1600X]If you're overclocking, the 1600X also offers slightly higher processor and memory frequencies than its value-minded 1600 counterpart.
    Any proof of this? What I've seen the overclocking results are more a function of silicon lottery, cooling, motherboard and memory used.
    I'm yet to see an overclocking comparison between ten (randomly selected) 1600 vs ten 1600X mounted on the same motherboard with same cooling and memory.
  • SR TEE
    Actually the I5 8400 is a awesome deal for gaming because of having 6 full cores and can run on a more inexpensive motherboard. A lot of charts were showing it out perform an I7 7700K at stock and sometime even an overclocked I7 7700K if a game was more core dependent. it would be the best pick for gamer that want to save money, wattage and don't want to overclock.
  • navita_tftuser_01
    What's the best deal for i5 7500?
  • raycrayz
    Coffee Lake CPU's are now factory overclocked.

    Tim's missed it.

    You're not buying an 8th generation CPU from Intel.. it's more like you're buying a 7th generation CPU that's been overclocked.
  • Audrius_Viz
    What resolution was used to test and measure these CPU's? Please provide some methodology.