Best Gaming CPUs

Why Trust Us

Tom's Hardware has been reviewing PC components for more than two decades. We put each CPU through a bevy of benchmarks which measure everything from its single- and multi-core performance in applications and games, to its power consumption. We've tested hundreds of models, at both stock and overclock settings where applicable, so we can separate the best from the multi-core disappointments.

Quick Shopping Tips

When choosing a CPU, consider the following:

  • You can't lose with AMD or Intel: So long as you’re considering current-generation parts (AMD Ryzen 2000 or Intel 8th Generation Core “Coffee Lake”), this debate is basically a wash, with Intel doing a bit better on gaming and browsing and AMD handling tasks like video editing faster.
  • Clock speed is more important than core number: Higher clock speeds translate to snappier performance in simple, common tasks such as gaming, while more cores will help you get through time-consuming workloads faster.
  • Get the latest gen: You won't save much money in the long run by going with an older chip.
  • Budget for a full system: Don't pair a strong CPU with weak storage, RAM and graphics.
  • Overclocking isn’t for everyone: For most people, it makes more sense to spend $20-$60 more and buy a higher-end chip.

For even more information, check out our CPU Buyer’s Guide, where we discuss how much you should spend for what you’re looking to do, and when cores matter more than high clock speeds.

MORE: Intel & AMD Processor Hierarchy

MORE: AMD Ryzen 2 vs. Intel Coffee Lake: What's the Best CPU Platform?

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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$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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26 comments
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  • zodiacfml
    I have no idea since when you stopped recommending dual core CPUs for gaming and that is good to see.
  • caustin582
    The Amazon link you have for the 2700X actually points to a CPU/mobo bundle, causing the price to display as $537
  • gasaraki
    Very weird recommendations since this Article is titled "Best Gaming CPUs". The BEST gaming cpu for $300+ is the 8700K (or 8086). The one for $200-$300 is Ryzen 2600X. $100-$200 would be the 2400G and then <$100 is 2200G.
  • Loyde Kessroy
    Something smells fishy.
  • robax91
    The 8700k and 8600k outperform the 2700x in games, and one is $100 cheaper than the 2700x. Are you even trying? Just change the title to AMD CPUs we want you to buy (with affiliate links).
  • bigpinkdragon286
    Anonymous said:
    Very weird recommendations since this Article is titled "Best Gaming CPUs". The BEST gaming cpu for $300+ is the 8700K (or 8086). The one for $200-$300 is Ryzen 2600X. $100-$200 would be the 2400G and then <$100 is 2200G.
    Anonymous said:
    The 8700k and 8600k outperform the 2700x in games, and one is $100 cheaper than the 2700x. Are you even trying? Just change the title to AMD CPUs we want you to buy (with affiliate links).
    Not weird at all.

    The higher priced Intel CPUs only tend to handily beat the 2700x when the GPU is taken away as the limiting factor, which is rarely the case for budget limited, real world PC gaming scenarios. Heaven forbid the vast majority of buyers might consider pairing their 1050 Ti and 1060 cards with something other than Intel and see in most cases, margin of error differences! They paid less for a GPU than they could have, they may also want to pay less for a CPU than they might otherwise have. Also, a lot of these mid range buyers are doing online streaming of their gaming sessions, making the extra cores of the 2700x more valuable.

    Furthermore, the AMD CPUs come with competent, usable cooling solutions, making them far more valuable than just the difference in CPU price. With the price difference saved, if the user wanted to, they may be able to step up to the next GPU tier, gaining more performance than they would have from going Intel.

    The title of the article is not, Highest Frame Rate CPUs for the Money, it is Best, which is subjective, and not nearly as laser focused as to require the highest FPS generating CPUs.
  • DerekA_C
    Not sure why anyone would claim Toms as pro AMD they are absolutely pro Intel but value wise and upgradability wise AMD wins every 6 months now you need to upgrade mobo to get new CPU for intel.
  • Ztdutxjgxgtu
    Best cpu? I5 2500k as always
  • bystander
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Very weird recommendations since this Article is titled "Best Gaming CPUs". The BEST gaming cpu for $300+ is the 8700K (or 8086). The one for $200-$300 is Ryzen 2600X. $100-$200 would be the 2400G and then <$100 is 2200G.
    Anonymous said:
    The 8700k and 8600k outperform the 2700x in games, and one is $100 cheaper than the 2700x. Are you even trying? Just change the title to AMD CPUs we want you to buy (with affiliate links).
    Not weird at all.

    The higher priced Intel CPUs only tend to handily beat the 2700x when the GPU is taken away as the limiting factor, which is rarely the case for budget limited, real world PC gaming scenarios. Heaven forbid the vast majority of buyers might consider pairing their 1050 Ti and 1060 cards with something other than Intel and see in most cases, margin of error differences! They paid less for a GPU than they could have, they may also want to pay less for a CPU than they might otherwise have. Also, a lot of these mid range buyers are doing online streaming of their gaming sessions, making the extra cores of the 2700x more valuable.

    Furthermore, the AMD CPUs come with competent, usable cooling solutions, making them far more valuable than just the difference in CPU price. With the price difference saved, if the user wanted to, they may be able to step up to the next GPU tier, gaining more performance than they would have from going Intel.

    The title of the article is not, Highest Frame Rate CPUs for the Money, it is Best, which is subjective, and not nearly as laser focused as to require the highest FPS generating CPUs.


    I also though it was weird to recommend the $200 more expensive AMD CPU as the best gaming CPU. They themselves said the cheaper Intel had better single thread performance. It already has as many threads as almost any game ever uses, and it OC's better.

    The reason they picked it, was for non-gaming tasks. If the title said best overall CPU, they may have a point, but they are talking about gaming CPU's. This is also the non-budget CPU recommendation, so using budget gaming as a reason is also not a good one.
  • bigpinkdragon286
    Anonymous said:
    I also though it was weird to recommend the $200 more expensive AMD CPU as the best gaming CPU.
    Why do you think it's weird that a CPU not costing over $300 is not rated the best CPU in the $300 or higher category? This is neither rational nor does it fit with the premise laid out in the article, of having pricing segments, and recommending a CPU for a given price segment.
  • Fluffy_Hedgehog
    you have an icorrect link for the 2700X - please correct it is a bundle price you are displaying …
  • Fluffy_Hedgehog
    Anonymous said:
    The 8700k and 8600k outperform the 2700x in games, and one is $100 cheaper than the 2700x. Are you even trying? Just change the title to AMD CPUs we want you to buy (with affiliate links).


    actually no, both cpus come without coolers so the price difference even with 8600K is far from 100$ - if you factor in the more expensive mainboards you actually end up pretty much on par.

    unless you pair a couple of titans with the cpu or play gams at 720p and low settings, the cpu rarely is the limiting factor nowadays, so a negligible ipc-advantage does squat for your gaming experience. a bunch more cores do however keep your .1% lows in fps a lot more stable if windows or some tool you run in the background gets ideas about eating up a few cpu-cycles on the side.

    yes intels chips are faster in ipc (a steadily shrinking margin though) and do clock higher on a single core. but no, that does not give them any real world advantage if paired up with realistic graphics solutions.

    anyone going for an all-out gaming rig with a +1000,- $ graphics card will not need advice on what cpu to buy, anyone in the general public, is actually better served with a ryzen chip right now than with an intel one. having multi year support and upgrade paths open is just another bonus for people who do not happen to have millions at the bank.
  • kickstandparty
    Very disappointed that this article is inflating the CPU price of the Ryzen 2700X. It is the best value at $319.00 (at Amazon and Newegg), includes a high end air cooler, and has cheaper mainboard options. All you people saying Intel 8700K is better have Too Much Money to spend. I like to get the most performance per $$$. The recommendation is correct, but the price shown would steer people to Intel. BAD ARTICLE!!!
  • Gadhar
    It still makes me shake my head that for the first time in years we have viable options for cpu's yet the fan boys still cannot let go of the whole blue vs red arguement. We should all be happy that we have the choices we currently have. I have been around since the very first pc's crawled out of the ocean and started their hostile take over. This is a good time to build a PC, excluding ram prices, and I for one cannot wait to see what is around the corner. Can't we all just get along?
  • brokenjava
    socket 1331? is the AMD Ryzen 7 2700X not AM4 compatible?
  • brokenjava
    how to edit post? 1331 is am4 derp. thanks for continuity.
  • gasaraki
    People, the title is "The Best Gaming CPU", not "The Best Gaming CPU for the Price" or the Best CPU When Paired With a Mid or Lower End Video Card or "The Best All Around CPU". The 8700K gets the highest frames in games when paired with ANY video card.
  • matthew_258
    The I5- 8600k for less then 300$ and is very stable to OC...within .01 of the top...but good cooling is important :P
  • robax91
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    The 8700k and 8600k outperform the 2700x in games, and one is $100 cheaper than the 2700x. Are you even trying? Just change the title to AMD CPUs we want you to buy (with affiliate links).


    actually no, both cpus come without coolers so the price difference even with 8600K is far from 100$ - if you factor in the more expensive mainboards you actually end up pretty much on par.

    unless you pair a couple of titans with the cpu or play gams at 720p and low settings, the cpu rarely is the limiting factor nowadays, so a negligible ipc-advantage does squat for your gaming experience. a bunch more cores do however keep your .1% lows in fps a lot more stable if windows or some tool you run in the background gets ideas about eating up a few cpu-cycles on the side.

    yes intels chips are faster in ipc (a steadily shrinking margin though) and do clock higher on a single core. but no, that does not give them any real world advantage if paired up with realistic graphics solutions.

    anyone going for an all-out gaming rig with a +1000,- $ graphics card will not need advice on what cpu to buy, anyone in the general public, is actually better served with a ryzen chip right now than with an intel one. having multi year support and upgrade paths open is just another bonus for people who do not happen to have millions at the bank.


    The i5, a Z series mobo and a 25$ ish dollar cooler will outperform a 2700x with a x470 at stock speeds (they cost within 20$ as of right now on PCPartpicker, so yea debunked your first point with a 10s google search). The gap gets bigger when overclocking, as the i5 pulls far away at higher speeds while keeping cool, and you'll have to add a new cooler for a decent OC on Ryzen (another 10s search on youtube, several benchmark comparison vids). And if you want to say costs matter too, lets factor in that Ryzen RAM is expensive, because they reply on fast memory while Intel systems can use dirt cheap ram and not suffer more than a few FPS in games. I mean your points are somewhat valid, but google search results and benchmarks are worth more than some random person's comments.

    I'm not saying Ryzen isn't a good deal or platform, I'm saying that the article is clearly WRONG being titled BEST GAMING CPUS when it's clearly sponsored content and has affiliate links. BEST VALUE CPU FOR THE MONEY or BEST OVERALL CPUS FOR THE MONEY (that can game) would be better titles. In my next article mimicking this one let me write about FASTEST CARS UNDER 30k and put a Toyota Camry at #1 costing 24k and not a $25k Mustang just because the Camry is a better family car. See? Makes no sense, just change the title or the recommendation. Next thing you'll see BEST GAMING CARDS and have the vega 64 first on the list because "it can also mine!" Not fooling anyone here.