Best Gaming CPUs

2/21/2018 Update: Replaced the Intel Pentium G4560 with the AMD Ryzen 3 2200G (our new Sub-$100 Best Pick).

2/15/2018 Update: Replaced the Ryzen 5 1400 with the Ryzen 5 2400G (our new Budget Pick in the $100-$200 range).

1/19/2018 Update: The rapidly evolving Spectre/Meltdown security fixes may (or may not) affect performance in significant ways. This will obviously require retesting. But as new OS patches and BIOS updates are currently arriving on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis, for now there’s currently no feasible way to keep our test results up to date. Any comprehensive re-testing would almost certainly be out of date by the time we could post it. In the meantime, you can head here for our latest updates on the Spectre and Meltdown saga.

Once a clearer picture of the post- Meltdown/Spectre landscape starts to take shape and we get a sense that fixes are final—or at least relatively stable—we will retest our hardware and update this page accordingly.

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

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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.

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:

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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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  • SteveRNG
    I don't necessarily disagree with your assessment of the Intel Core i5-8400 as a good value. But then I consider that by the time you need to get a more powerful CPU to keep up with mid-tier gaming performance, you'll either have to get a 8700K or a newer "good value" CPU. The newer "value" CPU will invariable fail to work on your Z370 motherboard, so you'll have to buy a new motherboard and probably RAM in order to use it.

    I don't have much of a problem with the fact that Intel keeps doing this. Because 99% of all computer end-users upgrade the platform as a whole. It's been five years for me, so of course I'm going to upgrade my CPU, Mobo, and RAM at the same time. But when I do, I'll be getting a much more powerful CPU than the 8400 to future-proof it and save money in the long run.
  • bollwerk
    Seems strange to me that the i5-8400 (best value) is showing cheaper (179) than your budget pick (Ryzen 5 2400G). Maybe just a pricing fluctuation anomaly?
  • bskchaos
    No love for the Ryzen 3 2200G? Those extra $30 are meaningless when compared with the G4560
  • BugariaM
    Now when there is Ryzen 3 2200G - there is no point AMD Ryzen 3 1200
  • mrmez
    Surprised the 8350K isn't in there. Beats the 8400 stock, and can OC heavily.
  • Nintendork
    Best gaming cpu right now is the new Ryzen 5 2400G.

    Want to do more than just gaming, Ryzen 5 1600-1600X
  • Nintendork
    The IPC from Ryzen to Skylake/KL/CL (they're the same cpu) is 5%.
  • Nintendork
    Dual cores in 2018 for gaming are a NO-NO. unless you love to have stuttering with the cpu pegged at 100% all the time, even the i3 8100 hovers near 100% on a GTX1060 in newer games while the 2400G dances around 75-85%
  • mrmez
    Anonymous said:
    Best gaming cpu right now is the new Ryzen 5 2400G.

    Want to do more than just gaming, Ryzen 5 1600-1600X


    Anonymous said:
    ...even the i3 8100 hovers near 100% on a GTX1060 in newer games while the 2400G dances around 75-85%


    An 8100 is better for gaming than a 2400G. What are you on about?

    The 2400G is ranked as the 75th fastest CPU, the 8100 45th fastest, even though it's much cheaper.
    The 8350k is ranked 19th fastest without overclocking, and costs the same as a 2400G
  • LordStreetguru
    Now how on earth does the G4560(a dead platform) beat out the Ryzen 3 APU?
  • herrwizo
    Anonymous said:
    Now how on earth does the G4560(a dead platform) beat out the Ryzen 3 APU?


    No idea as well. I used to be a strong advocate of using Intel CPUs for gaming for a long time, but picking G4560, a dual core with HT for cheapest gaming in 2018 is beyond my understanding. I would choose 2200G APU any day over it, even if it is slightly more expensive. 4 real cores and much better integrated GPU far outweigh the slight difference in price. What bothers me even more is that 2200G gets no mention at all, nowhere. But Ryzen 1200 does.
  • salgado18
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Now how on earth does the G4560(a dead platform) beat out the Ryzen 3 APU?


    No idea as well. I used to be a strong advocate of using Intel CPUs for gaming for a long time, but picking G4560, a dual core with HT for cheapest gaming in 2018 is beyond my understanding. I would choose 2200G APU any day over it, even if it is slightly more expensive. 4 real cores and much better integrated GPU far outweigh the slight difference in price. What bothers me even more is that 2200G gets no mention at all, nowhere. But Ryzen 1200 does.



    Agree completely. However, the category is for CPUs under $100, and there are no Ryzens below that price.

    That said, it would be very interesting to see a battle of a Ryzen 3 2100G (2C/4T) versus the G4560 (also 2C/4T), both overclockable and with stock coolers :D
  • herrwizo
    As far as I can see, MSRP for Ryzen 3 2200G is $99...
  • arielmansur
    Shame on you tom's.. your bias towards intel it's insane, they must pay you well.
  • comichero
    forshame...
  • tlrhodes
    "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."

    Would someone mind expanding on this for me? I was thinking about using the onboard video and then buying a video card later on when I don't have to sell an arm and part of a leg to buy a card. I understand that the onboard video and processor share power, but besides the price issues, what is the downside to running the 2400G with a video card?
  • nitrium
    "It comes with a bundled cooler and will make a good companion for B- and H-Series motherboards when they arrive early next year. For now, Z370 motherboards are the only option,"

    I assume you mean "this year"?
  • SR TEE
    The Pentium G4560 isn't a good choice for gaming at the moment with affordable quad cores out now.
  • RCaron
    Funny how this list hasn't been updated when Tom's already said that AMD's 2300G (sub $100 APU) "offers offers more performance in threaded workloads than Intel’s $85 Pentium G4620, decimating that chip's HD Graphics 630 solution in the process."

    So if it wipes the floor with the G4620, then it kills the 4520, and is sub $100.

    Why put out a list if you're not going to update it?