Best Gaming CPUs

AMD’s 2000-series Ryzen chips came on strong in 2018, with the Ryzen 7 2700X knocking Intel’s similarly priced Core i7s to alternate pick territory, thanks to improved performance at 1080p, an attractive bundled cooler, plus more cores for less money.

Intel still wins in the mid-range price bracket, with its excellent Core i5-8400. Down in the mainstream/budget territory, things are spit depending on your graphics choices. AMD’s Ryzen 5 2400G and Ryzen 5 2200G are excellent options if you don’t plan on splurging on a dedicated card. But if you are going to plug in a graphics card, Intel’s Core i3-3100 delivers better performance at a good price.

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

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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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  • Kenneth_72
    8400 over a 2600...get Tom BACK!
  • logainofhades
    B450 boards are showing up now, just as an FYI.
  • Dan_53
    As a video editor, I don't know why reviews about CPUs with many cores have 'good for video editing' as a feature. In my experience, you need fast drives and a good graphics card to edit videos. I can happily edit several 4k 10bit streams on my several-year-old X-99 based machine. This is because i've got a 1080 and a QNAP box with a 10gb connection, not because my CPU has many cores. I'd say cores are more important for 3d graphics etc, although what little of that I do these days seems to work better on GPUs too. Is it not true though that DX12 is supposed to take advantage of multi core chips? This surely will turn gaming on it's head when it finally gets properly implemented.
  • 1_rick
    I think it's more about stuff like transcoding than editing as such. Transcoding seems to scale pretty linearly with both core count and clock speed.
  • 1_rick
    Also, the 2400G capsule says if you're going to buy a video card, get an i3-8100 instead. But why not go for the 2200G instead of the i3? The 2200G will probably overclock to a higher speed than the 8100 and is $20-40 cheaper (Micro Center's online prices: $79 vs $119. Fry's: $109 vs $119. Newegg: $99 vs $119.)
  • Kenneth_72
    8400 over a 2600...get Tom BACK!
  • quilciri
    Anonymous said:
    8400 over a 2600...get Tom BACK!


    At stock speeds, the 2600 is further behind the 8400 than the 2700X is behind the 8700K.

    It's most likely because of the physical core difference. If the 2600 was an 8 physical core chip without multithreading, It would perform the same vs. the 8400 as the 2700X performs vs the 8700K.

    Yes, if you overclock, the 2600 is the better chip, but Tom's doesn't just consider people who will overclock in it's recommendations.
  • totaldarknessincar
    More nonsense.

    Best Gaming CPU in the 300+ is Intel 8700K, period. We aren't talking most cost effective, nor Best multi-use CPU, or which has a cooler and which doesn't. Best period is intel 8700K/8086, and while we are at it, the 7900x is better than the 2700 also.

    NO point in telling me which is best if I'm also steaming or doing intense multi-tasking. A very small minority of folks stream while gaming. And few multi-task if they are truly engaged in gaming. And as mentioned above, the 7900x will beat the 2700 in both games and multi-tasking as well. Lastly, it will be years from now when 6-10 cores actually matter much for gamers. By then people will have moved on to other processors.

    One last thing I want to say: Games so far have been so poorly optimized for cores that the old Sandy Bridge 2600K or my previously owned x79 3820, both of these chips overclock extremely easily, resulting in excellent FPS in games, whereas the GPU becomes the real bottle neck. So if we aren't choosing the absolute best (8700K or 8086), then the best may simply be to stick with that old trusty 2011 Core I7 2600K overclocked yet again.
  • quilciri
    You forgot two things.

    1. overclockers aren't the only gamers that buy CPU's

    2. this article has never been about the absolute most powerful CPU for gaming. The 8700K wouldn't even be close if that were the case. It's always been best value in each price bracket.
  • totaldarknessincar
    Again, then don't list the title as best cpu at various segments. Name it most cost effective, or best bang for the Buck.

    As you can see here. Even the even the 8600K beats the AMD 2700 in gaming, and its value is pretty damn good to boot.

    http://cpu.userbenchmark.com/Compare/Intel-Core-i5-8600K-vs-AMD-Ryzen-7-2700X/3941vs3958

    http://cpu.userbenchmark.com/ If you set this to show you fastest average bench performance, you'll see that there is a myriad of intel processors, some super expensive, some well within the price range of AMD's .

    What I will give to AMD, and I think what the article intended, but titled it wrong, was what is the best multi-purpose processor. Not what is best gaming. Best multi-purpose processor at that price range, is the 2700. And it should list it at ~300, not 300+, again, if you list 300 and above, and you don't specify price/performance, you again then open yourself up to the beasts like 7900x for which the 2700 was not meant to be compared to.

    Just my two cents.
  • quilciri
    Best fits. You're conflating "best" with "most powerful"..and you might also read the author's note at the top of this thread.
  • salgado18
    I think what would make everyone happy is a new category: Top Performance.

    It would have the fastest gaming CPU, independent of cost or other uses. So, probably the i7-8700k.

    I still think it would be a bad sensible choice, but as we see over and over, people are not sensible.
  • quilciri
    Anonymous said:
    I think what would make everyone happy is a new category: Top Performance.

    It would have the fastest gaming CPU, independent of cost or other uses. So, probably the i7-8700k.

    I still think it would be a bad sensible choice, but as we see over and over, people are not sensible.


    In that case, it would be the 7900X, not the 8700K.

    In saying 8700K is the "best" instead of the 7900X, people are already claiming a value proposition, rather than absolute best performance.

    In that context, denying that the 2700X is the best is contradictory.
  • kiniku
    This is huge for Tom's to de-throne the coveted, (and rushed) 8700K. Once again, just like 64bit, AMD has permanently changed the playing field and made 6 core+ systems mainstream versus where Intel had placed them as expensive revenue creating cash cows.
    Sorry, Intel fanbois. But competition is a consumer win.
  • totaldarknessincar
    "In that case, it would be the 7900X, not the 8700K.

    In saying 8700K is the "best" instead of the 7900X, people are already claiming a value proposition, rather than absolute best performance.

    In that context, denying that the 2700X is the best is contradictory."

    That's actually incorrect. For Pure Gaming, the 7900x is NOT better than the 8700K or 8086. It's single threaded performance at stock, and it's inability to overclock to or near 5GHz means that it almost always lose to the 8700K or 8086. It is though a much more balanced processor with it's 10cores.

    To the guy who said sorry intel fan boys. I don't have any allegiance to anyone. I was squarely in the came of AMD in the days of Athlon XP (I had the 1600+), and I again was in the AMD camp with Athlon 64. I kept that Athlon 64 for quite a bit of time actually until I simply couldn't keep it any longer and went with the Core-2 Duo E6600, then the Core 2 quad q9550, then the 3820k. Same with GPUs, I was squarely in AMD came with Radeon 32, then 64, then Radeon 9700, then got the 9800 (at the time nVidia had that crappy 5800 that was late to the show and ran hot as hell with that vaccum cleaner blower. After that I think i went with the nvidia 8800, after that back to AMD with Radeon 5850, then Radeon 7970, finally then back to nVidia with 970, and now 1080TI.

    so over the years, I simply have gone to either great price/performance like the Athlon xp, or went great performance but not Hot/loud, or recently just went with the best performance. Despite all that, I always was aware of what was the absolute Top performance, which currently is the 8700K/8086 for the CPU side, and the nVidia Volta/Titan/1080ti for the GPU side with respect to GAMING.

    my 2 cents.
  • quilciri
    Anonymous said:


    That's actually incorrect. For Pure Gaming, the 7900x is NOT better than the 8700K or 8086. It's single threaded performance at stock, and it's inability to overclock to or near 5GHz means that it almost always lose to the 8700K or 8086. It is though a much more balanced processor with it's 10cores.


    Like I've already said, these articles don't cater exclusively to overclockers.
  • nogaard777
    Ironically if you click on their own link the i7 is $10 CHEAPER than the Ryzen. lols. I'll hang onto my 4790k for another generation at least.
  • nogaard777
    Ironically, if you click their own link the i7 is $10 CHEAPER than the Ryzen. lols. Kinda takes the wind out of the sails of it being the far better value when the i7 still beats it in 4/5 games. I have no loyalties to either and prefer to see AMD compete and even beat intel, but I get a strong pro-AMD vibe from Tom's these days that just doesn't add up.

    Just read the review and it heavily downplays i7 strengths and gives half truths insinuating you aren't getting a cooler when in reality they add in the cost to replace the lackluster stock one, or that the RGB one is SO valuable. Any overclocker is tossing the stock cooler regardless. The Gigabyte z370 is only $170 so that "expensive platform cost" is simply untrue. The prices listed here are all higher for intel chips and boards than when you click them, and the AMD ones are accurate.

    Hell, there's even links to AMD wares everywhere on the page.

    Anyone here knows enough about hardware to actually understand the benchmarks, take 15 whole seconds to click a couple links and see REAL pricing and ?? the 9/10 AMD vs 7/10 I7 ratings. It's pretty obvious AMD has either a fanboi here, sponsors THG, or both.

    I'm only thankful the Ryzen exists to keep intel honest in it's pricing on it's still slightly superior offerings, even when you factor in value.
  • rich1051414
    The thing is, all of AMD's CPU's are overclockable, but the same cannot be said for Intel, you have to pay a premium for that privilege. Because of this, this disqualifies a lot of potential Intel processors, unfortunately.
    Additionally, with the cost of equivalent quality motherboards also being in AMD's favor, it is hard to insinuate that Intel is doing a good job right now with bang for the buck. They need to back down a bit on the cash grabbing before they start grabbing the cash out of their own wallets instead...