The Best CPU for Gaming in 2022

Best CPU for Gaming
Best CPU for Gaming (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Our picks below will show you the best CPU for gaming. Of course, when shopping for the best CPU for gaming, you'll want to balance performance and features with your PC budget. You can also see how all of these processors stack up in our CPU Benchmarks hierarchy, but for detailed help on picking the best processor for your gaming rig, you can check out our 2022 CPU Buying Guide. And if you're on the fence about which CPU company to go with, our AMD vs. Intel article dives deep into the topic and comes up with a winner.

Cyber Monday CPU Deals

Why you can trust Tom's Hardware Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

With Cyber Monday deal season upon us, we're seeing amazing prices on Intel and AMD processors, particularly from Intel's 12th Gen "Alder Lake" series and AMD's Ryzen 5000 series. We're tracking all of the savings on our best Cyber Monday CPU deals page. Our very favorite CPU deal right now is below. 

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D:  now $329 at eBay (opens in new tab)

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D: now $329 at eBay (opens in new tab) (was $449)
This is the best price on the best current CPU for gaming. The Ryzen 7 5800X3D dominates the competition thanks to its generous 3D V-Cache and sits atop our list of best CPUs for gaming.

Best CPUs: The Current Market

It's been a long time since we've seen the chip market so favorable to buyers — we've gone from a massive chip shortage to a massive glut, so now you can find stellar deals on the best CPUs for gaming. We tend to avoid making short-term changes to our recommendations due to sporadic sales, largely because the deals could be expired, but there are a few noteworthy deals that might garner your attention if you're upgrading an existing AMD AM4 platform. For instance, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D is currently ~$359 (opens in new tab), well below its recommended $449. Additionally, the previous-gen Ryzen 9 5900X (opens in new tab), Ryzen 7 5800X (opens in new tab), Ryzen 5 5600 (opens in new tab), and Ryzen 7 5700G (opens in new tab) are all at great pricing.  

Intel recently released the first Raptor Lake chips, which come in the form of the Core i9-13900K, Core i7-13700K, and Core i5-13600K. These chips are game-changers, upsetting AMD's product stack and offering a better value at every price point. They also have incredible overclocking headroom — we reached 5.6 GHz with very little issue — and deliver more performance than AMD's fastest models, thus earning our recommendation in the lists below. 

We're keeping a keen eye on AMD's Ryzen 7000 pricing, which we hope will see an adjustment soon — particularly in the mid- and high-end. For now, DDR5 memory and high motherboard pricing for AMD's enthusiast platforms are a pain point for builders. Intel's platforms provide DDR4 options for both motherboards and memory, offering a lower price point (though you do lose a negligible amount of performance in most types of work). The Raptor Lake chips can also drop into previous-gen 600-series motherboards with no performance loss - provided the 600-series board has the same power delivery as any given 700-series model. You'll just need to ensure that the 600-series model has a BIOS that supports the chip.

AMD also has B-series motherboards available, with more coming to market soon, which we hope will improve the value equation. Also, the AM5 socket will house further generations of chips, whereas Intel's socket will come to an end with Raptor Lake. Additionally, our recommendations are based on gaming performance and cost metrics, but performance deltas will shrink at higher resolutions or with lesser GPUs, so be sure to base your decisions on your system-level choices. We have the best CPU from each camp listed in each price bracket to help guide your decision.

AMD's Ryzen 7000 Ryzen 9 7950X, Ryzen 9 7900X, and Ryzen 5 7600X CPUs delivered impressive performance in our tests, but come with comparatively price tags for the chips and motherboards, making them hard to recommend over Intel for most gaming rigs. You also don't have an option for a DDR4-powered system. If you're looking for the best AMD CPU for gaming, the new Ryzen 7 5800X3D is the fastest AMD gaming CPU on the market. This chip and its 3D V-Cache aren't as fast as comparable chips in other types of work beyond gaming, though, so you'll need to be aware of the pros and cons. Also, its $449 price point is a bit higher than we typically recommend for gaming-centric builds, but it is an absolute hands-down winner if you're upgrading an existing AM4 system and you're primarily interested in gaming. 

If you're looking for the overall best gaming CPU at an accessible price point, the six-core 12-thread Core i5-12400 is the best CPU for gaming. Recent price cuts have made this chip an even better deal, catapulting it to the top of our list. Intel hasn't yet released a non-K Raptor Lake processor, but we do expect the Core i5-13400 to arrive early next year. 

The Ryzen 5 5600 is the best AMD CPU for gaming for ~$175, but Intel still holds the overall lead in this price range. If you're upgrading a first-gen Ryzen system this is a great deal because the 5600 brings the best of Zen 3 to even the oldest Ryzen systems.

The list below is for the best CPUs for gaming, while our list of best CPUs for workstations is for those who frequently tackle high-end content creation or professional work. Processors benefit from the best thermal paste, so check out our guide if you're shopping for a new processor. But if you're after the best CPU for gaming, you're in the right place.

Best CPU for Gaming at a glance (more info below):

Overall Best CPU for Gaming:
Intel Core i5-12400 (opens in new tab)
Alternate: AMD Ryzen 5 5600 (opens in new tab)

High Performance Value Best CPU for Gaming:
Intel Core i9-13900K (opens in new tab)
Alternate: AMD Ryzen 9 7950X (opens in new tab)

Overall Value Best CPU for Gaming:
Intel Core i7-13700K (opens in new tab)
Alternate: AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D (opens in new tab)

Mid-Range Best CPU for Gaming:
Intel Core i5-13600K (opens in new tab)
Alternate: Ryzen 5 7600X (opens in new tab)

Budget Best CPU for Gaming:
Core i3-12100 and Core i3-12100F (opens in new tab)

Entry-Level Best CPU for Gaming:
AMD Ryzen 5 5600G (opens in new tab)

Best CPU for Gaming Benchmarks

We rank all the Intel and AMD processors based on our in-depth CPU benchmarks hierarchy. You can see some of those numbers in the charts above, including CPU overclock performance results (marked as PBO for AMD processors) and results in Windows 10 and Windows 11.  

This group of results comprises only the chips that have passed through our newest test suite, and the first four are a narrower version that zooms in on only the most important modern chips for easier comparison. More expansive tests follow. Additionally, the tables in our CPU benchmark hierarchy include rankings based on past CPU benchmarks and also include breakdowns of single- and multi-threaded performance across a broad spate of processors. Finally, be aware that the pricing in the charts above can fluctuate.

Quick Shopping Tips

When choosing the best CPU for gaming in 2022, consider the following:

  • You can't lose with AMD or Intel: As noted in our recent AMD vs. Intel feature, Intel tends to make the best CPU for gaming for mainstream PCs lately. 
  • For gaming, clock speed is more important than the number of cores: Higher CPU clock speeds translate to snappier performance in simple tasks like gaming, while more cores will help you get through heavy workloads faster. 
  • Budget for a full system: Don't pair a strong CPU with weak storage, RAM, and graphics.
  • Overclocking isn’t for everyone, but if you follow our How to Overclock a CPU guide, you can scrape out extra performance gains. 

Best CPU for Gaming 2022

(Image credit: Amazon, Shutterstock)

1. Intel Core i5-12400

Overall Best CPU for Gaming

Specifications

Architecture: Alder Lake
Socket: LGA 1700
Cores/Threads: 6 (6P + 0E) / 12
Base Frequency: 4.4
Top Boost Frequency: 2.5
TDP: 65W

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent gaming performance
+
Strong single- and multi-thread
+
Ultra competitive pricing
+
PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 memory
+
Supports memory overclocking

Reasons to avoid

-
Requires LGA1700 motherboard

If you're looking for the hands-down best CPU for gaming, the mid-range Alder Lake six-core 12-thread Core i5-12400 is your chip, especially after recent price reductions that bring it down to an incredible $160. With the right tuning, it's even faster at gaming than the previous-gen $549 Core i9-11900K flagship, so it should go without saying that it's also faster than the $230 Ryzen 5 5600X in gaming.

The chip comes with six P-cores that support hyper-threading that operate at a 2.5 GHz base and 4.4 GHz boost speed. The 12400 supports leading-edge connectivity with support DDR4-3200 or up to DDR5-4800 memory, along with 16 lanes of PCIe 5.0 and an additional four lanes of PCIe 4.0 from the chip for M.2 SSDs.

Our testing shows that the Core i5-12400 serves up solid performance in all manner of threaded productivity applications, and its snappy single-threaded performance beats even the fastest Ryzen 5000 processors. Additionally, the Core i5-12400 delivers incredible levels of gaming performance but at a much lower price point than any comparable AMD processor, setting a new bar for budget gaming chips.

The Core i5-12400 comes with a capable cooler that can handle its 65W/117W base/peak power rating, but you'll also need a new 600-series motherboard. Most gamers will enjoy the lower price and comparable performance of DDR4, but you can step up to the more expensive DDR5 if you need access to more memory throughput. Luckily, Intel's partners now have B- and H-series motherboards available, and a B660 motherboard plus Core i5-12400 CPU will make a killer gaming combo.

Read More: Intel Core i5-12400 Review

(Image credit: AMD)

AMD Ryzen 5 5600

Overall Best CPU for Gaming - Alternate Pick

Specifications

Architecture: Zen 3
Socket: AM4
Cores/Threads: 6 / 12
Base Frequency: 3.7GHz
Top Boost Frequency: 4.6GHz
TDP: 65W

Reasons to buy

+
Competent gaming and application performance
+
Solid upgrade path for Ryzen 1000 owners
+
Bundled CPU Cooler
+
Overclockable
+
Broad support with 300-series motherboards

Reasons to avoid

-
Value prop is poor vs Intel chips
-
No integrated GPU
-
5500 only supports PCIe 3.0

The AMD Ryzen 5 5600 takes the top spot as the overall best AMD CPU for gaming with a solid blend of performance in both gaming and application workloads, bringing a new level of value to the Zen 3 lineup. The Ryzen 5 5600 makes a great value-centric alternative to Alder Lake for new builds and represents an absolutely unbeatable deal if you're updating a first-gen Ryzen system. However, competing Intel Alder Lake processors are a better deal for most new builds.

The 5600 unseats the Ryzen 5 5600X, a long-time favorite. The 5600X is only ~1% faster in gaming and multi-threaded PC work than the Ryzen 5 5600 but maintains a 4% advantage in single-threaded work. That said, the practical differences between the two chips will be almost imperceptible to the overwhelming majority of users, but the Ryzen 5 5600X costs $35 more, which is absolutely not acceptable given the slim differences. As such, consider the Ryzen 5 5600 the 5600X-killer.

You can find the six-core 12-thread Ryzen 5 5600 at $184, a deep discount brought on by competitive pressure from Intel. In fact, our testing shows that the Ryzen 5 5600 generally matches the gaming performance of its more expensive sibling, the ~$325 Ryzen 7 5800X. That makes the 5600 an incredibly well-rounded chip that can handle any type of gaming, from competitive-class performance with high refresh rate monitors to streaming, while also serving up more than enough performance for day-to-day application workloads. As with all AMD CPUs for gaming, you can fully overclock the CPU.    

The Ryzen 5 5600 has a 3.7 GHz base and 4.6 GHz boost clock, but with the right cooling and motherboard, you can expect higher short-term boosts. The chip also has a 65W TDP rating, meaning it runs exceptionally cool and quiet given its capabilities. Existing AMD owners with a 500-series motherboard will breathe a sigh of relief as the 5600X drops right into existing 500-, 400-, and 300-series motherboards. If you need a new motherboard to support the chip, AMD's AM4 motherboards are plentiful and relatively affordable, with the B-series lineup offering the best overall value for this class of chip. 

Read: AMD Ryzen 5 5600 Review

Intel Core i9-13900K (Image credit: Newegg)

2. Intel Core i9-13900K

High Performance Value Best CPU for Gaming

Specifications

Architecture: Alder Lake
Socket: LGA 1700
Cores/Threads: 16 (8P+16E) / 32
Base Frequency: 3.0
Top Boost Frequency: 5.8
Processor Base Power: 125W

Reasons to buy

+
Fastest gaming processor you can buy
+
Competitive pricing
+
Incredible overclocking headroom
+
DDR5 and PCIe 5.0
+
Leading single-threaded performance
+
Multi-threaded performance
+
Value platforms available

Reasons to avoid

-
No bundled cooler
-
Requires LGA1700 motherboard
-
Needs a powerful cooler for the best performance
-
Power use

The Intel Core i9-13900K has taken the title of the fastest gaming processor on the planet, wresting it away from AMD's Ryzen 7 5800X3D and the Ryzen 7000 family. At $589, it even outperforms AMD's Ryzen 9 7950X in our gaming testing and most heavily-threaded content creation tasks, making it an exceptional value for high-end game streaming, too. It's also the uncontested leader in x86 single-threaded performance. Intel’s generous sprinkling of more cores also gives it the lead in core counts for the first time since AMD’s Ryzen debuted back in 2017.

The 13900K also supports leading-edge connectivity with support DDR4-3200 or up to DDR5-5600 memory, along with 16 lanes of PCIe 5.0 and an additional four lanes of PCIe 4.0 from the chip for M.2 SSDs.

The chip comes with eight P-cores that support hyper-threading, and 16 single-threaded E-cores for a total of 24 threads. The P-cores have a 3.0 GHz base, and peak frequencies reach an amazing 5.8 GHz with Turbo Boost Max 3.0 (this feature is only active on P-cores). Meanwhile, the E-cores have a 2.2 GHz base and stretch up to 4.3 GHz via the standard Turbo Boost 2.0 algorithms. The chip is also equipped with 36MB of L3 cache and 32MB of L2.

This 13900K has a 125W PBP (base) and 253W MTP (peak) power rating, but we recorded considerably lower power consumption than its prior-gen counterpart. You get industry-leading performance in exchange. 

You'll need to buy a capable cooler for the chip, and you'll also need either a new 700-series or a previous-gen 600-series motherboard. You can find a wide selection of high-end motherboards that support DDR5 memory, and although you'll only find lower-end and mid-range DDR4 motherboards, there's still plenty of selection available. Most gamers will enjoy the lower price and comparable performance of DDR4, but you can step up to the more expensive DDR5 if you need access to more memory throughput.

Read: Intel Core i9-13900K Review

AMD Ryzen 9 7950X (Image credit: Future/Shutterstock)

AMD Ryzen 9 7950X

High Performance Value Best CPU for Gaming - Alternate Pick

Specifications

Architecture: Zen 4
Socket: AM5
Cores/Threads: 16/32
Base Frequency: 4.5 GHz
Top Boost Frequency: 5.7 GHz
TDP: 170W

Reasons to buy

+
Class-leading single- and multi-thread
+
Higher boost frequencies
+
Reasonable price-per-core
+
Overclockable
+
DDR5 and PCIe Gen 4.0
+
iGPU

Reasons to avoid

-
Requires beefy cooling
-
No bundled cooler
-
DDR5 only
-
Requires AM5 motherboard

AMD's Ryzen 9 7950X, with 16 cores and 32 threads, expanded on its predecessors' mission of bringing HEDT-class performance to mainstream motherboards, lowering the bar for entry. The 7950X carries a $699 price tag at launch, but that’s actually $100 cheaper than the launch price of the previous-gen model.

The Ryzen 9 7950X is the reigning overall performance champ for mainstream PCs, delivering unprecedented levels of performance on a mainstream platform. The 7950X pairs the Zen 4 architecture with the 5nm TSMC process to deliver a big gain in performance over the prior gen. This chip brings plenty of performance to bear, beating Intel's vaunted Core i9-12900K in gaming by 5% while also offering 44% more performance in threaded workloads. The Zen 4 architecture also closes the gap with Alder Lake in single-threaded applications.

The Ryzen 9 7950X brings all of the amenities we would expect from a modern processor, including support for DDR5, PCIe 5.0, and the latest USB connectivity standards. AMD has also added integrated graphics for a basic display out for the first time, which is a plus if you need to troubleshoot. 

AMD's new Ryzen 7000 series chips do require a bulky cooler, so plan for a 240mm-280mm or better AIO for the best performance. You'll also need a new AM5 motherboard, as the latest Zen processors are not backward compatible, and DDR5 memory is the only option. 

Read: AMD Ryzen 9 7950X Review

Intel Core i7-13700K (Image credit: Newegg)

Intel Core i7-13700K

Overall Value Best CPU for Gaming

Specifications

Architecture: Alder Lake
Socket: LGA 1700
Cores/Threads: 12 (8P+8E) / 24
Base Frequency: 3.4 GHz
Top Boost Frequency: 5.4 GHz
Processor Base Power: 125W

Reasons to buy

+
Price
+
Laregely matches 13900K gaming performance
+
Single- and Multi-threaded performance
+
PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 memory
+
Overclockable
+
Power efficiency improved

Reasons to avoid

-
No bundled cooler
-
Draws more power than Ryzen

At $385, the Core i7-13700K thoroughly beats the $399 Ryzen 7 7700X and even unseats the pricey $699 Ryzen 9 7950X, all while delivering essentially the same gaming performance as Intel's own $589 flagship Core i9-13900K — but for significantly less.

As always, if you aren't after top performance in heavy productivity tasks, the Core i7 model takes the shine off the Core i9. The Core i7-13700K is a great high-performance gaming chip at its $409 price point, offering 95% of the flagship Core i9-13900K's performance for $180 less. Better yet, you can overclock the chip and get basically identical performance to the Core i9-13900K. The 13700K is also 18.8% faster than the previous-gen 12700K and basically ties the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, but beats it after overclocking.

Our benchmarks show the Core i7-13700K is also a much better all-rounder than Ryzen if you're looking for performance in productivity work — The $409 Core i7-13700K is 35% faster in threaded work than the similarly-priced $399 Ryzen 7 7700X,

The Core i7-13700K has eight P-cores (high-performance) and eight E-cores (Efficiency), for a total of 24 threads. The P-cores run at a 3.4 / 5.4 GHz base/boost, while the E-cores weigh in at 2.5 / 4.2 GHz. In addition, the chip is fed by 30MB of L3 cache and 24MB of L2.

The 13700K also supports leading-edge connectivity with support DDR4-3200 or up to DDR5-5600 memory, along with 16 lanes of PCIe 5.0 and an additional four lanes of PCIe 4.0 from the chip for M.2 SSDs. The 13700K has a 125W PBP (base) and 253W MTP (peak) power rating. Still, we recorded considerably lower power consumption than its prior-gen counterpart, and you get ultra-competitive performance in exchange. 

You'll need to buy a capable cooler for the chip, and you'll also need a new 700-series or previous-gen 600-series motherboard. You can find a wide selection of high-end motherboards that support DDR5 memory, and although you'll only find lower-end and mid-range DDR4 motherboards, there's still plenty of selection available. Most gamers will enjoy the lower price and comparable performance of DDR4, but you can step up to the more expensive DDR5 if you need access to more memory throughput.

Read: Core i7-13700K Review

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D (Image credit: AMD)

3. AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D

Overall Value Best CPU for Gaming - Alternate Pick

Specifications

Architecture: Zen 3
Socket: AM4
Cores/Threads: 8/16
Base Frequency: 3.4GHz
Top Boost Frequency: 4.5GHz
TDP: 105W

Reasons to buy

+
The fastest AMD gaming CPU money can buy
+
Competitive price
+
Support for PCIe 4.0
+
Compatible with AM4 motherboards
+
Passable single- and multi-threaded performance
+
Low power consumption

Reasons to avoid

-
No overclocking support
-
No bundled cooler
-
No integrated graphics
-
Not as strong as competing chips in desktop PC applications 

The $449 Ryzen 7 5800X3D's 3D V-Cache tech represents an innovative engineering effort that conquered the technical challenges associated with bringing the first desktop PC chip with 3D-stacked SRAM to market, yielding a chip with an incredible 96MB of L3 cache, and to great effect: The end result is a comparatively low-power chip that delivers incredible gaming performance. The Ryzen 7 5800X3D is the fastest AMD gaming chip you can buy, but Intel's new 13th-Gen Raptor Lake chips are slightly faster while not requiring substantial performance tradeoffs like this chip.

However, you have to be aware of the tradeoffs with this highly-specialized chip — our gaming benchmarks show that the 3D V-Cache doesn't boost performance in all games, though we found that it impacted nearly every single title we tested. Additionally, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D is optimized specifically for gaming, but it can't keep pace with similarly-priced chips in productivity applications. If you're looking for a more balanced chip that does well at both gaming and applications, our tests show that the $409 Core i7-13700K is a better choice.

The 5800X3D drops into existing socket AM4 motherboards dating all the way back to the 300-series that debuted in 2017, so it will make a great high-performance drop-in upgrade for Ryzen owners. Be aware that AM4 is on the way out to make room for the 5nm Ryzen 7000 ‘Raphael’ Zen 4 CPUs in the AM5 socket. Also, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D also doesn't support Raptor Lake's leading-edge connectivity options, like DDR5 and PCIe 5.0.

The Ryzen 7 5800X3D has much lower power consumption than the Intel competition, making it a far cooler processor that won't require as expensive accommodations, like a beefy cooler, motherboard, and power supply. That means the 5800X3D delivers top-notch gaming performance along with a cooler, quieter, and less expensive system than you'll get with a Core i9.

If you're willing to accept the lower but still competent performance in desktop PC applications, and also do your homework to make sure the Ryzen 7 5800X3D accelerates the types of games you play frequently, it's hard to go wrong with this chip — especially for upgraders with AMD systems. If you have a taste for higher-end fare and a good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D is an impressive chip that delivers te best gaming performance from an AMD chip and leaves room for future GPU upgrades.

Read: Ryzen 7 5800X3D Review

Intel Core i5-13600K (Image credit: Newegg)

4. Intel Core i5-13600K

Best Mid-Range CPU for Gaming

Specifications

Architecture: Alder Lake
Socket: LGA 1700
Cores/Threads: 10 (6P + 8E) / 20
Base Frequency: 3.5
Top Boost Frequency: 5.1
Processor Base Power: 125W

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional gaming performance
+
Competitive pricing
+
PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 memory
+
Overclockable (5.6 - 5.7 GHz)
+
Outgames the Ryzen competition

Reasons to avoid

-
No bundled cooler
-
Higher power limits than before

Our in-depth testing shows that the $319 Core i5-12600K provides leading gaming performance at its price point, beating AMD's entire Ryzen 7000 lineup. Coupled with the snappy single-threaded performance, this is one of the best CPUs for gaming on the market.

The $319 Core i5-13600K is a stellar gaming chip — Intel raised the price by $30 over the prior-gen model, but the stock 13600K beats AMD's entire Ryzen 7000 lineup at 1080p, even the $699 model, albeit by slim margins. In addition, overclocking propels the Core i5-13600K to the same level as the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, an impressive feat, as it lands within ~5% of the Core i9-13900K. 

The Core i5-13600K comes with six threaded P-cores that operate at 3.5 / 5.1 GHz and four E-cores that run at 2.6 / 3.9 GHz, for a total of 20 threads. That's paired with 20MB of L3 and 24MB of L2 cache. 

The chip supports 16 lanes of the leading-edge PCIe 5.0 interface and an additional four PCIe 4.0 lanes for a speedy M.2 SSD port. The leading-edge connectivity doesn't stop there, though: The Core i5-13600K also supports either DDR4 or DDR5 memory. Most gamers will enjoy the lower price and comparable performance of DDR4, but you can step up to the more expensive DDR5 if you need access to more memory throughput. 

The 13600K comes with a maximum power rating of 181W, but the chip sucks significantly less power than its prior-gen counterpart while delivering much more performance in gaming. The lowered power consumption allows the chip to work well with a wide variety of standard air and water coolers, but you'll need to make sure your model supports the LGA 1700 socket. Additionally, this is a new peak for power consumption for Core i5 models, so you'll need a more robust cooler than we're accustomed to in this range.

Speaking of which, you'll also need a new 700-series or previous-gen 600-series motherboard for the processor. You can find a wide selection of high-end models that support DDR5 memory, and although you'll find fewer lower-end and mid-range DDR4 motherboards, there's still plenty of selection available.

Read: Core i5-12600K Review 

(Image credit: AMD)

4. AMD Ryzen 5 7600X

Best Mid-Range CPU for Gaming - Alternate Pick

Specifications

Architecture: Zen 4
Socket: AM5
Cores/Threads: 6/12
Base Frequency: 4.7
Top Boost Frequency: 5.3
TDP: 105W

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional gaming performance
+
Strong single- and multi-thread
+
PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 memory
+
Overclockable
+
iGPU

Reasons to avoid

-
No bundled cooler
-
Requires AM5 motherboard
-
DDR5 Only
-
Platform pricing

AMD's six-core 12-thread Ryzen 5 7600X delivers solid performance at the $300 price point, but it trails the similarly-priced Intel competition.

The 7950X pairs the Zen 4 architecture with the 5nm TSMC process to deliver a big gain in performance over the prior gen. The Ryzen 5 7600X offers basically the same gaming performance as the 7950X that’s now the fastest ‘standard’ AMD gaming chip on the market, but at less than half the cost. That makes it an exceptional gaming chip at the $300 price point.

The Ryzen 5 7600X supports all the standards we expect from a modern processor, including DDR5, PCIe 5.0, and the latest USB connectivity standards. AMD has also added integrated graphics for a basic display out for the first time, which is a plus if you need to troubleshoot.

AMD's new Ryzen 7000 series chips require a capable cooler, so plan for a mid-frame tower cooler (or equivalent) for the best performance. You'll also need a new AM5 motherboard, as the latest Zen processors are not backward compatible, and DDR5 memory is the only option. 

AMD’s 600-series motherboards offer modern connectivity options, like DDR5 and PCIe 5.0, and also bring other additives, like USB4, to bear. In addition, the Ryzen chips also now feature an iGPU sufficient for a basic display out, which is an important step forward. 

Read: Ryzen 5 7600X Review

Intel Core i3-12100 (Image credit: Intel, Shutterstock)

5. Intel Core i3-12100

Budget Best CPU for Gaming

Specifications

Architecture: Alder Lake
Socket: LGA 1700
Cores/Threads: 4 (4P + 0E) / 8
Base Frequency: 3.3
Top Boost Frequency: 4.3
TDP: 60W

Reasons to buy

+
Superb price/performance
+
Leading gaming and single-thread performance
+
Capable bundled cooler
+
Supports DDR4 and DDR5
+
PCIe 5.0
+
Low power consumption
+
Supports memory overclocking 

Reasons to avoid

-
No Turbo Boost 3.0 (only 2.0)
-
Core frequency not overclockable

Like the rest of the Alder Lake family, the $122 Core i3-12100 comes to market with disruptive pricing. The chip also comes as a $99 F-series Core i3-12100F that Intel ships with deactivated integrated graphics for $25 less than the full-featured model. In fact, with no clear current-gen competitor from AMD and stellar performance for its price point, the Core i3-12100 easily leads our CPU benchmark hierarchy in the $105 to $130 bracket. Overall, our testing shows that the quad-core i3-12100's potent combination of price, performance, and improved stock cooler dominates the $100 to $130 price range while punching up against more expensive competitors.

The Core i3-12100 now reigns as the fastest budget gaming CPU on the market and it's plenty impressive in lightly-threaded apps, too: None of AMD's chips match the 12100 in single-threaded work, so you'll have to look to other Alder Lake chips to find faster performance. The Core i3-12100 is also impressive in threaded productivity workloads for its price point.

The Core i3-12100 comes with a 60W PBP (base) and 89W MTP (peak) power rating. The chip clocks in with a 3.3 GHz base and boosts up to 4.3 GHz. It also comes with 12 MB of L3 cache. Intel's Alder Lake drops into Socket 1700 motherboards from the 600-series, including Z690, H670, B660, and H610. The Core i3-12100 is a locked chip, meaning it isn't overclockable. However, Intel supports memory overclocking on Z690, B660 and H670 motherboards (Z690 doesn't make sense for this class of chip, though).

The Core i3-12100 doesn't have a similarly-priced competitor from AMD that can keep pace. However, despite a total lack of competition, it still brings impressive generational performance gains to the table. In fact, our 1080p gaming benchmarks show the $129 Core i3-12100 delivers 88% of the $299 Core i5-12400's performance, but for 56% less cash. That's a winning blend of price and performance.

Read: Intel Core i3-12100 Review

AMD Ryzen 5 5600G (Image credit: AMD)

6. AMD Ryzen 5 5600G

Entry-Level Best CPU for Gaming

Specifications

Architecture: Zen 3
Socket: AM4
Cores/Threads: 6/12
Base Frequency: 3.9GHz
Top Boost Frequency: 4.4GHz
TDP: 65W

Reasons to buy

+
Stellar price-to-performance ratio
+
Faster Zen 3 CPU cores
+
Passable 1080p, solid 720p
+
Excellent power consumption and efficiency
+
Great overclocking headroom
+
Bundled cooler
+
Compatible with some AM4 motherboards

Reasons to avoid

-
PCIe 3.0 connectivity

The Ryzen 5 5600G steps into the arena as the new value champ for APUs, which are chips that come with strong enough integrated graphics that they don't require a discrete GPU for light gaming, albeit if you're willing to accept lowered quality settings.

At $259, the Ryzen 5 5600G gives you 96% of the gaming performance on integrated graphics than its more expensive sibling, the $359 Ryzen 7 5700G, but for 30% less cash. Our testing shows that its level of performance makes it the best value APU on the market. As long as you're willing to sacrifice fidelity and resolution, and keep your expectations in check, the Ryzen 5 5600G's Vega graphics have surprisingly good performance in gaming. 

The 5600G's Vega graphics served up comparatively great 1280x720 gaming across numerous titles in our tests, but options become more restricted at 1080p. Of course, you can get away with 1080p gaming, but you'll need to severely limit the fidelity settings with most titles.

With eight cores and 16 threads that operate at a 3.9 GHz base and boost up to 4.4 GHz, the Ryzen 5 5600G also offers solid performance for its price point in standard desktop PC applications. The chip also comes with a bundled Wraith Stealth cooler, sweetening the value prop, and drops into existing 500-series and some 400-series motherboards, though support on the latter will vary by vendor.

Read: AMD Ryzen 5 5600G Review

If your budget is tight and you're looking to build a system for modest gaming, you should check out our Best Cheap CPU feature. Some of those chips can deliver passable gaming performance without a graphics card, and their prices start at just $55 (£40). Also, be aware that Intel has its Raptor Lake processors coming to market this year, and AMD has its Zen 4 Ryzen 7000 in the works, too.