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Best Gaming CPUs for 2019

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After your Graphics card, your processor or CPU has the biggest impact on your computer's gaming capabilities. When you're shopping for a CPU, you'll need to balance performance and features with your PC budget. Our tips and picks below will help you get started. But for detailed help on picking the best CPU for your build, you can check out our 2019 CPU Buying Guide. For a list of all processors by performance, check out our Desktop CPU Hierarchy. We also maintain a list of best CPUs for productivity, for those who frequently tackle high-end content creation, or other tasks that benefit from high core counts.

While we await the promised arrival of AMD's flagship 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X --now pushed back to November-- there has been plenty of news on the CPU front. Intel says its promised 5GHz Core i9-9900KS will arrive sometime in October. And though we still don't know what it will cost, we were able to do some testing on this as-yet-unreleased high-end CPU.

Intel also recently announced its upcoming Cascade Lake X high-end desktop processors, along with significant price cuts per core compared to its previous-generation HEDT chips. The price changes are no-doubt influences by AMD, both from the mainstream Ryzen side, and Threadripper on the high-end front. And while we still have no official word about details of Team Red's upcoming third-generation Threadripper chips, we're starting to see regular leaks, including new compatible motherboards, so it's likely that AMD's new high-end CPUs are coming in for a landing soon.

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.


MORE: Intel and AMD Processor Hierarchy

MORE: Best CPUs for Desktop Applications

Best Overall

Intel Core i7-9700K

Intel Core i7-9700K
(Image credit: Intel)

Intel Core i7-9700K (9th Gen)

Best Overall

Architecture: Coffee Lake | Socket: 1151 | Cores/Threads: 8/8 | Base Frequency: 3.6GHz | Top Boost Frequency: 4.9GHz | TDP: 65W

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
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. It's a much smarter choice for gaming than the pricey Core i9-9900K or the iGPU-disabled Core i9-9900KF. It serves up similar gaming performance at a significantly lower price than the i9s, making it the best gaming CPU you can buy today.

That said, at about $100 (£80) 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

   
MORE: Best Cheap CPUs

MORE: All CPU Content

Best Overall Value

(Image credit: AMD)

AMD Ryzen 7 3700X

Best Overall Value

Architecture: Zen 2 | Socket: AM4 | Cores/Threads: 8/16 | Base Frequency: 3.6GHz | Top Boost Frequency: 4.4GHz | TDP: 65W

Support for PCIe 4.0
Bundled cooler
Unlocked multiplier
Compatible with X470 motherboards
Indium solder
Requires expensive X570 motherboards for PCIe 4.0 support
Limited overclocking headroom

If you’re truly only concerned about gaming and basic productivity tasks, you can skip down to the Intel Core i5-8400 and save yourself some money. But if you’re thinking of getting into game streaming, you occasionally edit video, or you just like the idea of having more threads available when you need them, AMD’s Ryzen 7 3700X is an incredible value.

It delivers twice the threads of the Core i7-9700K at a lower price, while sipping less power. And while that Intel chip will deliver higher frame rates at 1080p with a high-end graphics card, if you step up to 1440p or higher, the frame rate differences tend to even out, as the GPU becomes the bottleneck. Either processor will easily deliver triple-digit frame rates at 1080p when paired with a capable card. So unless you have a high-refresh gaming monitor, you may not benefit from the extra frames the 9700K can push, anyway.

There’s also support for PCIe 4.0 (when paired with an X570 motherboard) to consider. And the AMD chip ships with a capable and attractive Wraith Spire RGB cooler, while Intel makes you bring your own to the i7 or i9 party. The value seekers among us will also appreciate this CPUs backwards compatibility with lower-priced X470 motherboards.

Read Review: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X

   

MORE: Best Graphics Cards

MORE: How to Buy the Right Graphics Card

Best Mid-Range CPU

(Image credit: AMD)

AMD Ryzen 5 3600X

Best Mid-Range CPU

Architecture: Zen 2 | Socket: AM4 | Cores/Threads: 6/12 | Base Frequency: 3.8GHz | Top Boost Frequency: 4.4GHz | TDP: 95W

Leading gaming and application performance
PCIe 4.0
Bundled cooler
Power consumption
Unlocked multiplier
Requires expensive X570 motherboard for PCIe 4.0
Extremely limited manual and auto-overclocking headroom

Out of the box, the Ryzen 5 3600X is the best processor in its price range for gaming and productivity, marking a massive shift in the mid-range. At stock settings, the Ryzen 5 3600X regularly beat the more expensive Core i5-9600K in both categories, albeit by slim margins in gaming, reversing the long-held trend of Ryzen being best for productivity while Intel ruled the gaming roost.

If you're into overclocking, the Intel processors are going to deliver more performance, but you'll have to provide your own beefy cooler to get there, significantly adding to the cost, while AMD includes a capable, attractive cooler in the box. The majority of enthusiasts looking for a fast set-it-and-forget-it processor that can handle common computing tasks with relative ease will find incredible value in the Ryzen 5 3600X.

Read Review: AMD Ryzen 5 3600X

  

MORE: Best Gaming Monitors

MORE: How We Test Monitors

Budget Pick

AMD Ryzen 5 2400G
(Image credit: AMD)

AMD Ryzen 5 2400G

Budget Pick

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

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

   

MORE: Best Motherboards

MORE: How To Choose A Motherboard

Entry-Level Pick

AMD Ryzen 3 2200G
(Image credit: AMD)

AMD Ryzen 3 2200G

Entry-Level Pick

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

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

   

If your budget is tight and you're looking to build a system for modest gaming, you should check out our Best Cheap CPUs feature. Some of those chips can deliver passable gaming performance without a graphics card, and their prices start at just $55 (£40).

MORE: Best CPU Cooling

MORE: How To Choose A CPU Cooler

  • abryant
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/id-3795320/cpus.html
    Reply
  • davidm.maya
    mmm What about the i5-9600K ? Why are you actually recommending to buy earlier generation processors? Going against your own recommendations?

    I can understand why the i5-8400 got the 1st place but I can't get it why are you still recommending i5-8600K given that the i5-9600K is very close in price from the new generation and better.
    Reply
  • davidm.maya
    *Removed repeated post*
    Reply
  • totalinsanity4
    Given that the R5 2600 is only $1 more than the 2400G, why not replace that as the budget pick? Two more cores and four more threads are definitely beneficial, ESPECIALLY at that price point
    Reply
  • gx240
    I'm actually curious about the i5-9600K too. Its price seems to be almost identical to the i5-8600K. For the last week I've seen it selling for about $10 to $30 dollars more for an appreciable increase in boost frequency. Any reason not to recommend it?
    Reply
  • kiniku
    I just ordered the 9700K for my new build. It was splitting hairs between the 2700X, but I have a 35" G-Sync monitor, and I game 95% of the time. While the cost is higher, I feel the 9700K covers all the bases.
    Reply
  • dekfin6
    CPU is one of the important parts of the computer or laptop so it I very important to have the best quality CPU and for my point of view AMD Ryzen 7 2700X, AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X, AMD Ryzen 5 2600X, Intel Core i5-8600K also can take help from windows error code 0x8024a105 and also has any query then also it will help you.
    Reply
  • gibo.w.tk
    I am going to play at 3440x1440p at 200hz and hdr with the new acer x35 should I get a 9900k or 8086k and a rtx 2080 ti for gaming only, for my upgrade of a fx 4300 and gtx 1050.
    Reply
  • SR TEE
    I have my disagreements with these ratings. I'd still think an overclocked I7 8700K would be the best gaming CPU at the moment for the price and availability, but if I looked at it in a future sense the R7 2700X would be the best value choice considering how often Intel changes their sockets and leaves their customers high and dry with no upgrade path beyond two CPU generations.

    I also disagree with the Ryzen 2400G for that price range, the R5 2600 is going for around $160(on some sites has gone up to $200 though) and if gotten at that price it beats out the R5 2400G.

    Now with an R5 2600 at $160 that kind of displaces the Intel I5 8400 a little bit. If that's the case you may as well go up to the R7 2700 or maybe an Intel I5 8600K.

    Just my opinions, but as prices change and the value propositions are altered my opinion will change as well.
    Reply
  • xravenxdota
    21541164 said:
    I have my disagreements with these ratings. I'd still think an overclocked I7 8700K would be the best gaming CPU at the moment for the price and availability, but if I looked at it in a future sense the R7 2700X would be the best value choice considering how often Intel changes their sockets and leaves their customers high and dry with no upgrade path beyond two CPU generations.

    I also disagree with the Ryzen 2400G for that price range, the R5 2600 is going for around $160(on some sites has gone up to $200 though) and if gotten at that price it beats out the R5 2400G.

    Now with an R5 2600 at $160 that kind of displaces the Intel I5 8400 a little bit. If that's the case you may as well go up to the R7 2700 or maybe an Intel I5 8600K.

    Just my opinions, but as prices change and the value propositions are altered my opinion will change as well.

    I personally would pick the 8700k over any 99xx series as i agree the price to performance on the 99x models are just not there.The 9900k are almost double the price of a 2700x here.

    On the second one.I built my brother a 2400g which was a budget built for the fact he doesn't need a dedicated gpu to play games.I went with the 2600 as i have a gpu so it made more sense.I will agree the 2600 are by far the budget king but for the same price the 2400g as a igpu.

    My brother will get this 1050ti of mine when i upgrade during this month but as when i built his pc his value was far better as mine as he did not have to by a gpu to play games out of the box.

    Reply