Best Gaming CPUs

May 1st Update: Added the AMD Ryzen 7 2700X (our new CPU in the $300 range), and the AMD Ryzen 5 2600X (a new alternate pick in the $200 range). Note that we have also tested a number of existing processors with the latest Spectre and Meltdown patches when reviewing the Ryzen 5 2600X. While there are measurable performance differences after the patches are applied (which you can see in the review), they are not significant enough to change our CPU picks in any of the categories below.

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.

MORE: Intel & AMD Processor Hierarchy

MORE: All CPU Content

$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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MORE: Best Cooling

$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.

If you have or will soon buy a graphics card, the Ryzen 5 2400G is not the best option, as the processor and graphics cores have to share power. In this price range, if a graphics card is destined for your rig, get the Intel Core i3 8100 instead--especially if Intel's more affordable 8th-gen B- and H-series motherboards are available by the time you read this.

Alternative Picks:

MORE: Best Memory

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MORE: Best Motherboards

Sub-$100 Best Pick

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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  • AndrewJacksonZA
    Wow, I am genuinely amazed to see AMD being recommended at so many price points, not for the so many tasks that it is best for at $ per performance, but for _gaming_.

    Well done AMD!
  • Loadedaxe
    Nicely done AMD.
  • xrodney
    Sorry but recommending 4c/4t Core i3 8100 over 6c/12t Ryzen R5 in $100-$200 price range is something I cant agree on.

    Currently even i5-8500 or R5 2600 is bellow $200.
  • salgado18
    Anonymous said:
    Sorry but recommending 4c/4t Core i3 8100 over 6c/12t Ryzen R5 in $100-$200 price range is something I cant agree on.

    Currently even i5-8500 or R5 2600 is bellow $200.


    But the R5 1600/2600 cost 50% more than the i3 8100. If you can't put in the extra money, the i3 is still an option.
  • ubercake
    Times they are a changin'. Who would have imagined even two years ago that we'd be at a point where Intel would be the "Value" choice and AMD the top performer???

    AMD's progress especially with the Ryzen 2 processors is great for competition. This is forcing Intel to sell 6 and 8 core processors which probably were to be slated as "extreme" or enthusiast processors as mainstream high-performance processors with prices hundreds of dollars less.

    This is really the first time in over a decade where the hype has equaled the performance coming out of AMD. And now the price of RAM is inching its way down... hmmmm... New Build???
  • Blas
    Sorry to pile on what i already mentionned in the Zen+ review, but: in the recommendations on top of the page, the Ryzen 2700X appears as using "socket 1331" while Ryzen 2200G or 2400G use "socket AM4", and it's the same socket. For novice users, it might be confusing. I would suggest using "AM4" as it's the most usual denomination of that socket. :)
  • AgentLozen
    ubercake said:

    Times they are a changin'....
    ...This is forcing Intel to sell 6 and 8 core processors which probably were to be slated as "extreme" or enthusiast processors as mainstream high-performance processors with prices hundreds of dollars less....


    I agree with this sentiment.

    Years ago I used to look at Intel's CPU timeline on Wikipedia following the Core 2 launch and wonder what kind of fantastic technology looms over the horizon (this would have been 2006-2008). The first gen Core 2s were dual core followed by quad cores soon after. So what will Nehalem offer? More clock speed? 6 cores? What wonderful secrets does Sandy Bridge hold? 8 core? 5+ Ghz???? I can't even begin to speculate on Ivy Bridge. Oh boy.

    But as we all know, that's not how Intel chips evolved. 2007 AgentLozen would have been disappointed to learn that if you wanted more than 4 cores after 2010, you would need to shell out tons of money. Clock speeds stopped scaling. IPC gains per generation became less and less. Thermal performance actually decreased in 2012 with Ivy Bridge.

    This is why Ryzen is so important to the CPU landscape right now. Growth has been so stagnant for the last 7 years that a CPU bought in 2011 still works perfectly well today. It's finally time to upgrade that old Sandy Bridge quad core CPU. Thank you AMD for bringing the heat.

    Edit: I wanted to mention that technologies surrounding the CPU have evolved nicely and modern chipsets reflect that. 2011 chipsets didn't offer M.2 slots or PCIe 3.0 and even USB 3.0 was mostly handled by 3rd party controllers.
  • elbert
    I would think an alternative to the i5-8400 would be the R5 2600. The Ryzen is a small bit higher priced but can outperform give it has the option to overclock.
  • xrodney
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Sorry but recommending 4c/4t Core i3 8100 over 6c/12t Ryzen R5 in $100-$200 price range is something I cant agree on.

    Currently even i5-8500 or R5 2600 is bellow $200.


    But the R5 1600/2600 cost 50% more than the i3 8100. If you can't put in the extra money, the i3 is still an option.

    In that case AMD Ryzen 5 1400 should be still option, $30 more expensive but with SMT and including cooler unlike i3.

    I don't think it's worth to buy i3 anymore as you might save maybe $20-30 on 600$ build but at cost of loosing 20-50% overall performance.
  • ghettogamer
    Locked Multiplier? lesser threads? next generation cpu needs new mobo? ... I think I pass..
  • Ilya__
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Sorry but recommending 4c/4t Core i3 8100 over 6c/12t Ryzen R5 in $100-$200 price range is something I cant agree on.

    Currently even i5-8500 or R5 2600 is bellow $200.


    But the R5 1600/2600 cost 50% more than the i3 8100. If you can't put in the extra money, the i3 is still an option.

    In that case AMD Ryzen 5 1400 should be still option, $30 more expensive but with SMT and including cooler unlike i3.

    I don't think it's worth to buy i3 anymore as you might save maybe $20-30 on 600$ build but at cost of loosing 20-50% overall performance.



    I wouldn't discount the entire i3 line. 8350K is a very potent cpu for those just doing gaming. Take a peek: https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/intel-core-i3-8350k-cpu,5304-5.html
  • logainofhades
    Problem with the 8350k is the cost to overclock it. For a similar cost to get a solid overclocking 8350k rig, you could get an R5 2600, even with an x470 board. More can be saved with a B350, or even some X370 boards. The 8350k is simply a poor value.


    PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

    CPU: Intel - Core i3-8350K 4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($164.69 @ OutletPC)
    CPU Cooler: CRYORIG - H7 49.0 CFM CPU Cooler ($34.89 @ OutletPC)
    Motherboard: MSI - Z370 SLI PLUS ATX LGA1151 Motherboard ($129.99 @ Amazon)
    Total: $329.57
    Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
    Generated by PCPartPicker 2018-05-02 12:22 EDT-0400

    vs

    PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

    CPU: AMD - Ryzen 5 2600 3.4GHz 6-Core Processor ($199.88 @ OutletPC)
    Motherboard: MSI - X470 GAMING PLUS ATX AM4 Motherboard ($130.98 @ Newegg)
    Total: $330.86
    Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
    Generated by PCPartPicker 2018-05-02 12:22 EDT-0400
  • mlee 2500
    It's good to have real competition in this space again.
  • shabbo
    Intel doesn't really helping in this list. Ryzen5 2600 is way better than the i5-8400. It offers better performance and comes with a nice cooler whilst also offering an upgrade path to Zen2 in 2019.
  • Malik 722
    alas i can't get ryzen easily in my country.
  • SpAwNtoHell
    Hmm surprised that temperature factor and delid headache is not included in all this...pun inteded intel...
  • lockiano53
    SORRY TO PUT A DAMPER ON THE "RYZEN" / "I7,5,3" LOVE, HATE CONVERSATION.
    I'M DISABLED WHICH PUTS ME MOSTLY IN A LOWER PRICE BRACKET. TO AVOID THIS PROBLEM ABOUT 3 YRS. AGO
    I WOULD SAVE MY LEFTOVER COIN OVER MONTHS TO BE ABLE TO WATCH AND SNAG BETTER PIECES FOR MY FIRST
    DESKTOP BUILD. UNFORTUNATELY TIME HAS BECOME EVEN SHORTER FOR SUPERIOR MODELS TO APPEAR.IS MY AMD
    FX 8370 8-CORE 4.3 GHz A YEAR AGO REALLY THAT DATED NOW, OR WILL I STILL COMPONENTS NEW ENOUGH TO
    BUILD THE POWERFUL MUSIC PRODUCTION BUILD I HAD PLANED TO?
    I'M STARTING ON IT IN ABOUT A MONTH.
  • hendrickhere
    It's not THAT dated depending on your needs. It'll handle all the tasks that you need and if you pare the 8370 with a modern GPU you can game just fine.
  • Giroro
    Is Ryzen R5 2600 missing from this list due to performance, or because it hasn't been reviewed yet?
    From what I've seen, even with the price hike, the R5 2600 (especially overclocked) be recommended over the 1600/1600x - possibly even over i5-8400.