Best Gaming CPUs for 2019

After your GPU, your CPU has the biggest impact on your computer's gaming capabilities. When you're shopping for a CPU, you need to balance performance and features with your build budget. Our quick tips and picks below should help you get started. But for detailed help on picking the best CPU for your build, you can check our CPU Buying Guide.

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 ( see our AMD Ryzen 2000 vs Intel Coffee Lake feature for more details), the performance debate is basically a wash. Intel does a bit better on gaming and browsing and AMD handles tasks like video editing quicker. That said, many Intel CPUs are currently selling for higher than MSRP due to ongoing production shortages. So you may find better deals on an AMD Ryzen CPU until the production issues ease, which Intel expects to happen later in 2019.
  • Clock speed is more important than core number: Higher CPU 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.

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1. Intel Core i7-9700K (9th Gen)

Best Overall

Rating: 4/5 (Editor's Choice)

Architecture: Coffee Lake | Socket: 1151 | Cores/Threads: 8/8 | Base Frequency: 3.6GHz | Top Boost Frequency: 4.9GHz | TDP: 95W

Pros: Great gaming performance • Eight cores excel in parallelized workloads • Strong single-threaded performance thanks to high Turbo Boost clock rates • Solder TIM improves thermal transfer

Cons: No bundled cooler • No Hyper-Threading Technology • Expensive

If you can spend over $400 (£380, $650 AU), our favorite gaming CPU overall right now is the Intel Core i7-9700K, which dominates thanks to its eight cores and excellent single-threaded performance. much smarter choice for gaming than the pricey Core i9-9900K. It serves up similar gaming performance at a significantly lower price than the i9, making it the best gaming CPU you can buy today.

That said, at about $100 less with an in-box cooler (which Intel’s unlocked CPUs lack) AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X is arguably a better value for gamers on a tight budget—especially if you’re gaming at or close to 4K resolutions, where frame rates tend to even out between Intel and AMD.

Read Review: Intel Core i7-9700K

Alternative Pick:

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2. Intel Core i5-8400

Best Value

Rating: 4/5

Architecture: Coffee Lake | Socket: 1151 | Cores/Threads: 6/6 | Base Frequency: 2.8GHz | Top Boost Frequency: 4GHz | TDP: 65W

Pros: Incredible Value • Six cores • Strong performance in games and applications • Affordable price includes bundled cooler

Cons: Locked ratio multiplier

The Core i5-8400 brings a powerful six-core design to the mid-range, offering class-leading gaming performance and competitive performance in heavier applications. More expensive models offer more performance in both categories, but the Core i5-8400 is easily the pound-for-pound gaming champion.

The chip packs six physical cores and no Hyper-Threading, which is 50% increase in cores compared to the Kaby Lake i5 Series. The 2.8 GHz base frequency jumps to 4.0 GHz on a single core, complimented by varying multi-core boost frequencies based upon the number of active cores.

The -8400 drops into the LGA1151 socket on 300-Series motherboards and comes with a bundled cooler and makes a good companion for B- and H-Series motherboards that start below $60.

Read Review: Intel Core i5-8400

Alternative Pick:

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3. AMD Ryzen 5 2400G

Budget Pick

Rating: 4.5/5 (Editor's Choice)

Architecture: Zen | Socket: AM4 | Cores/Threads: 4/8 | Base Frequency: 3.6GHz | Top Boost Frequency: 3.9GHz | TDP: 65W

Pros: Good value Higher frequencies Solid 720p gaming performance Passable 1080p gaming in some titles with low settings Unlocked multipliers

Cons: Eight lanes for PCIe slots Need to ensure motherboard BIOS compatibility Non-metallic TIM Requires a better heatsink for overclocking

AMD's latest Ryzen chips with onboard Vega graphics make gaming without a card a serious possibility. Don't expect to run games above 1080p, or even always at 1080p with the Ryzen 5 2400G. But if you're after a chip that will let you achieve smooth frame rates on recent titles at low settings without buying an overpriced card, the Ryzen 5 2400G is your best bet today.

Read Review:
AMD Ryzen 5 2400G

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4. AMD Ryzen 3 2200G

Entry-Level Pick

Rating: 4/5 (Editor's Choice)

Architecture: Zen | Socket: AM4 | Cores/Threads: 4/4 | Base Frequency: 3.5GHz | Top Boost Frequency: 3.7GHz | TDP: 65W

Pros: Sub-$100 price Higher frequencies Solid 720p gaming performance Unlocked multipliers

Cons: Eight lanes for PCIe slots Need to ensure motherboard BIOS compatibility Non-metallic TIM Requires a better heatsink for overclocking

When money is tight, being able to game without a graphics card can lead to serious savings. And with RAM still fairly high, those working with small budgets need to tighten the strings anywhere they can.

That makes the four-core, four-thread Ryzen 3 2200G particularly appealing for budget gaming builders and upgraders. The $99 chip delivers solid 720p performance thanks to its Vega on-chip graphics, decent CPU muscle for mainstream tasks, and can be dropped into an older inexpensive 300-series motherboard (after a requisite BIOS update), to form the basis of a surprisingly capable low-cost PC. It’s also unlocked, so with proper cooling you can tune the graphics or the CPU to best suit your needs.

Read Review: AMD Ryzen 3 2200G

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