Best CPU for Gaming – Top 6 AMD & Intel Picks of 2019

best cpu for gaming

After spending nearly 100 hours researching and reviewing CPUs, I’ve concluded that the Intel i9-9900K is the best overall gaming CPU. With plenty of cores and multithreading, this CPU has enough power to handle all of your gaming tasks. But don’t worry, we have five more of the top processors in the land that fit a variety of needs (and budgets). 

If you are still unsure about the AMD or Intel route then you can do a bit more research into the current gaming CPU landscape, and if all of this sounds like nonsense, then don’t worry: we go over everything you’ll need to know about gaming CPUs below.

Editor’s Pick
Intel i9-9900K

Intel i9-9900K

Editor’s pick for best overall gaming CPU

This latest gen processor is an absolute beast overall with its high core and thread count paired with fast speeds and unrivaled performance.

When it comes to choosing the best overall processor the Intel i9-9900K is a great choice. This processor may be quite pricey but it is capable of handling anything you throw at it.

The i9-9900K has more than enough power to handle high-end gaming systems. This chip is not to be underestimated and if it can fit into your budget then it must be considered.

Best CPU for Gaming
Intel Core i7-9700K

Intel Core i7-9700K

A powerful gaming processor

When it comes to sheer power, the Intel Core i7-9700K is often thought of. With stellar single core performance combined with blazing fast speeds, this processor works great for gaming.

Choosing the best Intel CPU for gaming was a rather easy decision. In fact, the i7-9700K is such a powerful processor that it’s arguably the best processor for gaming when you consider its value.

Packing quite a punch, the i7-9700K has a range of 3.6 - 4.9 GHz. This is good, the chip can conserve power when not being used and ramp up to some great speeds when under stress.

Best Mid-Range Gaming CPU
AMD Ryzen 7 2700X

AMD Ryzen 7 2700X

The best Mid-Range gaming CPU

The AMD Ryzen 7 2700X processors boast fast clock speeds, greater overclockability, AM4 motherboard compatibility, and competitive pricing. A truly great mid-range CPU pick.

This CPU is before we start breaking into the low-end builds, and the tight budget builds. You can still game on this with some fantastic performance for the price otherwise we wouldn’t mention it. There is a noticeable difference between Intel's top chips and this mid-range pick but it stacks up well against the newest Gen i7 at a fraction of the price.

The Ryzen 2700X suits a lot of consumer needs whilst still coming under $300, great value.

Best Budget gaming CPU
Intel i5-9600K

Intel i5-9600K

The best gaming CPU on a budget.

The Intel Core i5-9600K is a great choice for a mid-range gaming CPU. You get 6 cores and 6 threads and it can go as fast as 4.6GHz! With this CPU you can get similar performance to the older i7-8700K but for around $100 less.

Maybe you’re in the market for something a little less pricey but will still give you great performance.

The Intel Core i5-9600K is a fantastic budget CPU. It may seem pricey for a budget pick but its great performance is matched by its value making this a solid new gen pick that won't break the bank. 

The best tight budget gaming CPU
AMD Ryzen 5 2400G

AMD Ryzen 5 2400G

The best budget gaming CPU from AMD

If you’re looking for a processor that’s cheap and efficient, then look no further than the Ryzen 5 2400G. With speeds that can clock up to 3.9GHz this Quad-core CPU is unmatched for value. It supports multithreading, and all for under $200!

The $100-$200 range is where we start mixing with CPU's for lower end builds. You can still game on these but you will be making some sacrifices with a mixture of lower frame rates, resolutions and graphical settings.

The Ryzen 2400G fits that description perfectly and is an excellent CPU for gamers on a tight purse string.

How We Choose

When choosing our recommendations, we do extensive research first. We are gamers too and we only want to bring the best products to your attention accompanied by accurate information. This involves several steps to ensure quality.

First, we make sure we’re up to date on current releases. We wouldn’t want you to get old and stale information when building your system as that is a waste of hard earned cash!

Next, we scour online sources for gaming CPU benchmarks. With benchmarking we see what CPUs are doing best in each field and how they stack up against each other. This helps ensure that the processors we suggest to you will work for gaming (even if only just a little when it comes to the super budget builds).

After we make sure the processors will work for their intended category, we make sure they have received good reviews from both consumers and critics alike. We look at well-known sites, such as Amazon and Newegg. to make sure they get great reviews and have the build quality to last.

Terms to Know

Choosing a CPU can be daunting for first-time buyers and there are things you should consider before just buying that shiny new piece of hardware. You wouldn’t want to buy one and find out it won’t work in your system!

There are a lot of terms you will see thrown around in regards to CPUs, so let’s go over some of the most common ones before jumping into which one to pick.

Cores and Threads

A processor is made up of cores and threads. Nowadays, CPUs have multiple cores, allowing them to do multiple tasks; think of it as the literal embodiment of the old saying that two (or more) heads are better than one.

The computer treats threads as virtual CPUs. In this metaphor, threads would be how many tasks each head (core) could handle. They can only do one thing at a time, but they can switch extremely fast. As such, threads serve as a fast, efficient way for your CPU to effectively switch between handling multiple tasks.

Clock Speed

Clock speed, sometimes known as cycle speed, refers to how many cycles a core will perform every single second. This is measured in megahertz. So 4MHz would be 4 billion cycles per second.

There are certain types of processors: locked processors and processors that can be overclocked to attain higher clock speeds than its stock speed. However, overclocking has to be done right or you’ll risk damaging your CPU, rendering it useless. Nevertheless, it’s a rule of thumb to ask: “Is overclocking worth it?” before doing so.

If you’re unsure which processor you should get, read our article on which CPU do you really need? Or you can check our CPU hierarchy to see a detailed list of CPUs and which category they belong to.

Putting it all Together

Together these will give you a general idea about how well the processor in question will perform, but let's delve a little deeper. For instance, IPC (instructions per cycle) tells us how many actions can be taken every cycle and is often much harder to find. Moreover, certain tasks utilise fewer cores, like gaming, which means you’ll want strong single core performance (it’s still good to have at least 4 cores for gaming, though). While other tasks, like video rendering, utilise a lot of resources, meaning you’ll want extra cores (at least 6 or 8).

Ultimately, this is why we always benchmark the CPU's and test processors performing different types of tasks.

Socket types

The socket is the physical mount on your motherboard that holds the processor in place. As such, the first thing you’re going to want to check is that the socket on your motherboard matches whatever processor you’ve chosen (or vice versa!).

Each brand and (sometimes) line of processors have their own socket type and won’t fit in one not designed for it. For example, an AMD Ryzen 7 uses the AM4 socket type and won’t fit onto Intel’s LGA 1151 socket, which is meant for their Core processors, and vice versa.

If you’re purchasing a new CPU and a new motherboard together, check the specs to make sure they’re both the same socket type (I suggest deciding on your processor first, then find a matching motherboard).

If you’re upgrading one or the other, check the specs online and make sure the new piece of hardware matches up accordingly.

Chipsets

Each processor will have a set of chipsets that it’s compatible with. These chipsets are important when choosing your motherboard, as they determine whether or not some features will be disabled.

The more advanced the chipset, the more features that will be unlocked (More PCIe lanes, more USB 3.1 ports, SATA ports, etc). As with the socket types, check your hardware specs to see what chipsets are compatible, and what each one will unlock on your board.

For example:

Chipsets
AMD Ryzen 7 2700 supported chipsetsIntel Core i7-8700K supported chipsets
A300B360
A320H370
B350H310
B450Q370
X370Z370
X470

Things to Consider when Buying a Gaming CPU

The first thing to consider when choosing your gaming CPU is what you intend to use it for. Just because a CPU is “the best” in one category, doesn’t mean it’s the best CPU for you.

But what are you looking for in a CPU? How do you know it’s the one for you? Should it have more cores or faster speeds? Let’s look at a few key factors that may help you decide:

  • Casual / hardcore gaming
  • Streaming
  • Content Creation
  • Overclocking

Hardcore Gaming Builds

Sometimes, you just want to build a powerful gaming rig. You don’t care about streaming, or content creation. Your bottom line is getting those high FPS numbers.

When it comes to a pure gaming build, speed is your friend. Games aren’t as dependant on CPU cores and threads as much other programs and tasks are. Anything quad-core and higher is sufficient for gaming.

Most games will run on a dual-core processor, but more and more games are starting to require a quad-core or higher to install and run.

For a hardcore gaming build, I would suggest looking for processors that have at least the following speeds:

Pure Gaming Builds
 High-end buildMid-range buildBudget build
Clock Speed4.0 Ghz or higher3.5 Ghz or higher3.0 Ghz or higher
Core/Thread Count6C/12T4C/8T2C/4T

Pairing a fast processor with a good SSD, powerful graphics card, and some quality RAM will really up your FPS count.

Casual Gaming

Maybe you don’t care about pushing frames, and saving your content for the world to see. Perhaps you’re more the casual type. You just like to game now and then on your free time, or you’re just not into AAA games, and don’t need all the processing power.

If all you need is just something to say play your Steam games and maybe Minecraft, then a casual gamer setup might be for you. Typically the casual gamer build doesn’t need the latest and greatest.

Although that’s not to say the casual gamer can’t own a high-end system that allows them to play the newest games at a modest 60 FPS.

When looking for a casual gaming CPU, you should look for one that is at least a quad-core if your budget allows. It also doesn’t need to be extremely fast.

Let’s see what you should be looking for:

Casual Gaming
 High-end buildMid-range buildBudget build
Clock Speed3.5 Ghz or higher3.0 Ghz or higher2.5 Ghz or higher
Core/Thread Count6C/12T4C/8T4C/4T

Streaming

If you’re like a lot of gamers now, you probably stream your games somewhere, or you record your games and upload them later for public (or private) viewing. This can be somewhat taxing on your processor if you don’t have one with cores and threads.

This means you’re going to need a processor with more cores and threads than your typical hardcore gaming build. Here’s what you should look for if you’re thinking about building a computer for gaming and streaming:

Streaming
 High-end buildMid-range buildBudget build
Clock Speed4.0 Ghz or higher3.5 Ghz or higher3.0 Ghz or higher
Core/Thread8C/16T6C/12T5C/8T

Having a higher core and thread count will help your computer multitask, allowing it to record your game, as well as process everything that is going on without the lag!

Content Creation

Let’s say you’ve already got a following on your Youtube channel, you’ve got your followers on your stream, and you’re ready to kick production up to the next level so that you can start creating better videos.

You’ve decided to build an all-in-one system. It needs to be capable of gaming, streaming and pumping out good quality videos. This is going to require more computing power.

You’re going to need a high core and thread count, paired along with fast speeds so you can render your content as quickly as possible. Here’s what to look for if you want your gaming computer to be an all-round beast:

Content Creation
 High-end buildMid-range buildBudget build
Clock Speed4.0 Ghz or higher3.5 Ghz or higher3.0 Ghz or higher
Core/Thread Count8C/16T6C/12T4C/8T

Overclocking

Perhaps you’ve had a gaming machine for a while and you’re looking to upgrade with some overclockability in mind. Maybe you want to get into overclocking and push your system to its limits?

If you’re looking to overclock an Intel CPU you’ll have to buy a model that ends in a “K”, such as the Intel i9-9900k.

If you’re looking to overclock an AMD CPU, all Ryzen models (which is AMD’s current gaming line) are unlocked for overclocking.

 

The 6 Best gaming CPUs

ProductDetails
Intel i9-9900K

Intel i9-9900K

  • speed: 3.6GHz up to 5GHz
  • core threads: 8-16
  • socket: LGA1151
  • tdp: 95W
Check Current Price
Intel Core i7-9700K

Intel Core i7-9700K

  • speed: 3.6GHz up to 4.9GHz
  • core threads: 8-8
  • socket: LGA1151
  • tdp: 95W
Check Current Price
Intel i5-9600K

Intel i5-9600K

  • speed: 3.7GHz up to 4.6GHz
  • core threads: 6-6
  • socket: LGA1151
  • tdp: 95W
Check Current Price
Intel Core i7-8700K

Intel Core i7-8700K

  • speed: 3.7GHz up to 4.7GHz
  • core threads: 6-12
  • socket: LGA1151
  • tdp: 95W
Check Current Price
AMD Ryzen 7 2700X

AMD Ryzen 7 2700X

  • speed: 3.7GHz up to 4.3GHz
  • core threads: 8-16
  • socket: AM4
  • tdp: 105
Check Current Price
AMD Ryzen 5 2400G

AMD Ryzen 5 2400G

  • speed: 3.6GHz up to 3.9GHz
  • core threads: 4-8
  • socket: AM4
  • tdp: 65W
Check Current Price
#1

Intel i9-9900K

When it comes down to pure gaming performance Intel rarely seem to let its consumers down for processing power. The Core i9-9900K can be considered the king of performance and despite its large price tag its actually not bad value. This may seem like overkill if you are just building a PC for gaming alone as it is more suited to PC users who are building an extreme rig and are going down the streaming route.

Despite the i9-9900K having fewer cores than the likes of the AMD Threadrippers and Intel's ‘X’ series this mainstream chip from Intel boasts one of the highest clock speeds available and is certainly the fastest for the LGA1151 chipset.

Being part of the ‘K’ series this chip is unlocked and ready to be overclocked if you wished it so. This CPU draws a lot of power and will run hotter than the previous generation of CPU’s due to its extra cores. Even if you do not plan on overclocking this CPU you need to make sure you have adequate cooling to support it, a premium large air cooler or a hydro solution is best and it's worth getting the latter if you are deadset on overclocking!

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rocket League

Rocket League

Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto V
#2

Intel Core i7-9700K

While Intel's i7-9700K may not offer the same in terms of the performance to the i9-9900K it offers the same in terms of the number of cores and the clock speeds are not that far away either. Without hyperthreading, this CPU won't reach the same temperatures as the i9 but with the right motherboard, the turbo-core speeds will run roughly the same as the i9 yet the price difference is around $100 making the i7-9700K an absolute bargain!

We consider this CPU to be the best value for money at the moment largely down to its mentioned performance and great lower price. This chip is definitely worth getting your hands on for your next build. As mentioned this chip won't reach the temps that an i9 would so a semi-decent air cooler is more than enough for this chip.

Core i7 8700k banner
Grand thef auto v
Overwatch
PUBG
#3

Intel Core i7-8700K

When looking for a powerful gaming CPU even older generation i7's can see you gain some great performance boosts.

This CPU supports hyper-threading making it a great for streaming and content creation for those who can't stretch to a newer generation of CPU. So if you want a gaming processor that will allow you to multitask without tainting your gaming experience this is the processor for you.

The 8700K beats the Ryzen 2700X in benchmarks and when it comes to gaming dominates most of the other competition in its price category, even for 4K gaming.

The 8700k has a TDP of 95W, so it’s going to draw more power and generate more heat the higher it clocks up. Despite this heat, the turbo boost ensures excellent performance with lighter workloads while also destroying more demanding tasks. A great CPU and a slightly cheaper option than the newer generation while still being a step up in performance compared to the previous gen.

 

core i5 8600k
GTA V
Shadows of Mordor
Rise of tomb raider
#4

Intel i5-9600K

For mid-range CPU’s the value in this i5-9600K is virtually unbeatable. Its the latest Gen CPU from Intel and could be a significant budget upgrade for some due to its higher core count! This chip performs similarly to the last generation of i7s, the 8700K. Despite it being unable to compete with the Ryzen’s in terms of multitasking its single core performance is brilliant.

This chip is arguably one of the best mid-range chips available and will not let you down when it comes to gaming performance but it can be considered slightly on the pricey side for what it is however definitely worth considering!

#5

AMD Ryzen 7 2700X

If you’re after a mix of great multi-threaded performance, decent gaming performance, and great value then look no further than the 2700X. It’s a well-priced Ryzen CPU that’s considered to be a contender with some of Intel's previous gen chips, and yet costs considerably less.

This chips gaming performance is comparable with Intel’s i7 -8700K when you’re gaming at 1440p or 4K. It may not match up to the newer generation of Intel chips for gaming but in terms of productivity it's a solid processing unit and it won't let you down.

GTA V gamernexus
Assassin creed from gamernexus
Cinebench 1T CPU
#6

AMD Ryzen 5 2400G

You might have noticed that this is a G model Ryzen unit. This denotes that it’s an APU (accelerated processing unit), which combines an AMD CPU and an AMD Radeon gaming GPU (graphics card) into one.

While it has built-in graphics, it’s not as powerful as a dedicated card. But when paired with a dedicated graphics card, the integrated GPU is disabled, and you’re left with a 4 core, 8 thread 3.9GHz processor for under $200.

The price point and speed are why I chose this processor as a top budget pick. When it comes to gaming, the 2400G benchmarks well and even better when paired with a dedicated graphics card. This chip handles 1080p gaming with ease when paired with a GPU. The integrated graphics card is no slouch though, Vega 11, is more capable of handling most AAA games on low to medium settings.

 

Ryzen 3 2200G

With integrated graphics

Let’s take a look at the benchmarks using the integrated graphics.

GTA V normal quality
Dota 2

Dedicated Graphics

Let’s look at this CPU when it’s paired with a dedicated graphics card.

Tomb Raider 2016

Integrated Graphics Test

Deus Ex

Which gaming CPU is best for you?

Deciding which gaming CPU you’re going to get will come down to what your personal needs are going to be. Using this list should be able to help you decide which one is best for you.

  • If you’re just looking for the fastest processor for gaming, then you’re going to want to be looking at the Intel Core i9-9900K
  • Maybe your needs lie elsewhere and you just want an all-round balanced processor. In this case, you may want to consider the Ryzen 7 2700X or the Intel Core i5-9600K for mid-high end builds.
  • Perhaps you have a tight budget and just want a product fit for purpose then consider choosing the Ryzen 5 2400G.

Conclusion

Choosing your CPU can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it can also be a challenge. Now that you’re familiar with the best gaming CPUs of 2019, I hope you feel more educated on both what processors are and can make an informed decision when it comes to buying. Don't forget to pick the right cooling solution next to keep that brand new CPU at your desired temperature!

So what do you think, Did we leave out a CPU that should’ve made the list? Let us know what you think and we’ll get back to you!

Sources

2 Comments

  1. JamiegaL says:

    Hey. I sent a screenshot. Did you get it?

  2. champted says:

    Nice job on a very good guide.
    However, may I suggest one correction: In the section “Terms to Know”, subsection “Clock Speed”, sentence “So 4MHz would be 4 billion cycles per second.”, the word “billion” should be “million”.

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