Best Gaming CPUs

11/21/2017 Update: Replaced all Kaby Lake-based Intel Core processors with their newer Coffee Lake counterparts. Changed format to reflect $100 price brackets and reduce the overall number of picks. Named the Intel Core i7-8700K Best Overall and the Intel Core i5-8400 Best Value in the CPU category.

If you don’t feel confident enough to pick the right processor on your own, we've compiled a simple list of the best CPUs offered for the money. This list is for gamers who want to get the most for their money, so if you don’t play games, the CPUs on this list may not be suitable for you. The criteria to get on this list is a mixture of price and performance, but cost and availability change on a daily basis, and while we can’t offer up-to-the-minute pricing information in text, the prices in green are current. These are new retail CPU prices for the US - prices will most certainly vary in other regions and on used or OEM markets.

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$300+ Best Pick

Flagship mainstream desktop processors come with the highest price tag of our recommendations, but those searching for the best performance to push the beefiest graphics cards will be rewarded with chart-topping performance. Both Intel and AMD offer high-end desktop models that scale beyond 16 cores, but those premium processors often don't deliver the same amount of gaming performance as the mainstream models. Also, they come with expensive platforms and typically support quad-channel memory, which adds yet more cost to the equation. The picture changes if you need more performance for other types of applications, like rendering or encoding, but the mainstream processors offer the best value for strictly gaming.

For most high-end gamers, the flagship mainstream models in Intel's Core i7 and AMD's Ryzen 7 product families offer the best value. Intel's Coffee and Kaby Lake models offer the best absolute gaming performance, but AMD's Ryzen 7 series comes with more cores, which you might find attractive if you have more demanding requirements, such as streaming or intense multi-tasking. You can also often find the Ryzen processors well below MSRP.

Alternative Pick:

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$200 - $300 Best Pick

Mid-range processors typically land in the $200 to $300 price range, and they offer satisfying performance for the majority of gamers. Stepping beyond the $300 price class typically grants less than a 10% overall performance improvement that isn't always worth the higher price tag.

AMD's Ryzen processors have truly reinvigorated this segment and often come with a discount, too. For the overclockers among us, AMD's processors all offer unlocked ratio multipliers that you can exploit on budget-friendly motherboards, while Intel's offerings are split into both locked and unlocked processors. With Intel, overclocking requires a step up to a Z-Series motherboard and a more expensive "K"-series processor.

This price range finds two distinct price tiers, but provided the processor has an unlocked multiplier, you can often find the best value around the $200 mark. It's best to step up to the more expensive models in this class if overclocking isn't in your plans.

Alternative Picks:

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$100 - $200 Best Pick

The lower end of the gaming processor spectrum is incredibly competitive, particularly with the copious core counts, bundled coolers, and unlocked multipliers you can find in the AMD lineup. Intel processors tend to offer the best performance at stock settings, and the locked multipliers in this price range make them suitable for less-expensive B- and H-Series motherboards.

These processors will often find a home in sub-$800 gaming rigs, so bundled coolers, particularly if they can handle overclocking, become more important.

Alternative Picks:

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Sub-$100 Best Pick

The entry-level finds limited competition for your enthusiast dollar, at least until AMD's new Ryzen APU lineup comes to market. For now, Intel offers the best performance in this category with its bulked-up Pentium processors, which now come with Hyper-Threading. You won't find several of the more advanced features on this class of processors, such as AVX or Optane support, but they make a great pairing for sub-$200 graphics cards.

Alternative Pick:

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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.