Best 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.

March 2017 Updates

After a busy couple of months in the CPU space (and lots of testing in the Tom’s Hardware labs), we have an updated list of recommendations based on data collected in real-world games and desktop apps.

The action is no doubt precipitated by AMD’s Ryzen processors—present and future. At the high-end, Ryzen 7 1800X is available right now. That model does battle with Intel’s Broadwell-E-based Core i7-6000-series chips (read more in AMD Ryzen 7 1800X CPU Review). We also have the Ryzen 7 1700 and 1700X running in the lab, and our reviews of them will go live in the next few days.

Here’s the thing about Ryzen 7, though. In a great many threaded applications, it fares well against the Intel competition for significantly less money. In games, the benchmarks aren’t as compelling. We’re still waiting to see if AMD or its motherboard partners can address the data in our launch review. But because our picks emphasize entertainment, last month’s list topped out with a Core i7-7700K for $350 anyway. A $500 Ryzen 7 1800X is not a step up in that context. As an honorable mention, we tapped Intel’s Core i7-5820K mostly for its 28 lanes of PCIe 3.0…if you need them. Even then, though, you’re out the door for less than $400. We eschew Broadwell-E altogether for gaming, and Ryzen 7 receives the same treatment.

Hopefully, Ryzen 5 improves AMD’s position in gaming with higher clock rates (since it won’t have as many cores) and lower prices. A little more maturity on the platform side won’t hurt, either. The introduction of these lower-end Ryzen CPUs can’t come soon enough. After all, with Socket AM4 a reality, we don’t want to continue pointing value-seekers in the direction of Socket AM3+-based processors anymore.

Regardless of how Ryzen 7 did on launch day, Intel is clearly feeling the pressure to make its entry-level offerings more attractive. Budget-oriented enthusiasts now have access to an unlocked Core i3, which we covered in Intel Core i3-7350K Review. Just don’t expect to find the -7350K on our list of recommendations. It’s simply too expensive once you factor in the retail box, requisite heat sink, and premium motherboard needed to exploit the unlocked multiplier.

More interesting are Intel’s Hyper-Threaded Pentiums, which many of you asked to see in last month’s Best Picks list. We wanted benchmarks in-hand before making that call though, and now we have them from Intel Pentium G4620 And G4560 Review: Now With Hyper-Threading. The short of it is that a Pentium G4560 offers a tremendous step up from the Athlon X4 750K. Even an Athlon X4 860K wouldn’t stand a chance. As such, we’re pleased to start this month’s list $10 cheaper with a much faster CPU.

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  • Supahos
    Not going to drop any of the ryzen CPUs in the hierarchy chart?
  • adamovera
    Anonymous said:
    Not going to drop any of the ryzen CPUs in the hierarchy chart?

    Updates to both articles should be live by now, try refreshing the page.
  • atavax
    The problem is for gaming CPUs only really matter for streaming or for the future. In streaming, the 16 threads of Ryzen is great And we don't know whether the Ryzen 1700 or the 7700k will be better in the future. Right now the 2500k is worse than the FX 8370 in a lot of modern games, but benchmarks at the time that used ultra low resolutions to try to predict the future had the 2500k way way ahead.
  • Slesreth
    Anonymous said:
    Here are the best gaming CPUs for the money. These processors offer the best performance at their price and are suitable for overclocking.

    Best CPUs : Read more

    Just wanted to say, @cangelini, that I read and appreciated your update on the state of the 1700 and 1700x benchmarking. In response to your comment on comparing performance, this link that Avro Arrow's post gives in U Mert BRO's thread 1700 vs 1700x is pretty good info on the history of octa-core computing, and its potential.
  • ajac09
    Intel love letter this basically is.
  • anubis44
    This Intel pandering has got to stop. With the obvious success AMD is having with Ryzen, and the fact that both existing consoles already use 8 cores, and the next generation consoles are both going to use 8 core Ryzen CPU cores, all of these CPUs are already obsolete. Within 12 months, the 7700K will be trailing badly in games coming out then.
  • Thomas_180
    I smell an assumption of success. Truth across all reviewers is Zen is great for most business but NOT so much for games. All due to Zen 4 core clusters meeting current software threading models.

    Currently Zen CPUs perform almost as if each 4 core cluster was a separate 10G ethernet linked server. Fine for business where individual tasks are not tightly linked in time sensitive order. Not so much for games when closely related threads must do time sensitive communication across much slower links between 4 core clusters.

    It will get better as game makers adapt software threading models to Zen.

    First AMD figures out how to keep the most sensitive and tightly linked clumps of related tasks together in the same 4 core Zen cluster. That is distribute the task clumps to different clusters before distributing individual threads within a cluster. Two tier task distribution (clumps then threads).

    Unfortunately before Zen will really shine, the gaming industry will take about 3+ years to create and adopt new threading models to do that in a way more easily recognizable to OS thread schedulers. Probably take some involvement by OS makers too to implement a 2 tier task distribution model.
  • Thomas_180
    Ryzen works best for applications when the job breaks down into independent tasks and which at most simply need to be completed within a certain time frame. Thus great for business and streaming tasks. Note that this is the same criteria as for Xeon CPUs with huge numbers of slower cores.

    But games are currently written with lots of critical paths (specific sequences of tasks done in order) which must also wait or check for certain other tasks outside the path to complete. This is why single core performance is usually still important to games in a multi-core world.

    It might be that Ryzen games should be written more like streaming applications. Break game timing along frames then break that "frozen in time" frame job into subtasks that must complete in less than 1 frame time. Then dynamically reallocate cores/threads to ensure all subtasks complete before frame end. Subtasks completely early would be OK. Then a brief coordination phase followed by next frame preparation.
  • po90266
    The gaming industry needs to wake up and smell the roses. They've been stuck in an intel rut.
  • Ammar 1
    Wrong socket number (LGA 2011) for Intel Pentium G4560 in table.
    It is LGA 1151.
  • ayushfunlover
    I hope Ryzen 5 will make up to this list