The Best Gaming CPUs of 2019 – Our Top 6 Picks

Best CPU for Gaming

The CPU, or central processing unit, is one of the most important hardware components in your gaming rig. Most people prioritize it as the second most essential hardware consideration, with only the GPU having more of an impact on your overall gaming experience. This makes sense as the GPU manages the quality, resolution, and frame rates of your PC games. However, contrary to many people's beliefs, the CPU plays an intricate role in how well your PC runs games.

Having said that, picking the best gaming CPU for your needs can be a little strenuous, especially if you aren't up-to-speed with the latest offerings. Annoyingly, the CPU market is forever changing with new, more powerful options altering prices all too often. How are you meant to know which CPU is best?

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Well, that's where we come into the picture. Our team of PC enthusiasts spends countless hours researching and benchmarking hardware to make sure you guys are up-to-date with what's best. Whether it's the latest Intel i9-9900K or one of Ryzen's hugely popular APUs, the team makes sure no stone is left unturned when putting every processor through its paces.

So, with that in mind, let's take a look at what we've chosen for the best gaming CPUs currently available. Furthermore, let's finally answer that age-old question of; who's better, AMD or Intel?

Editor’s Intel Pick
Intel i9-9900KS

Intel i9-9900KS

Best high-end gaming CPU

Intel's 9th Gen processor is an absolute beast thanks to its high core and thread count paired with rapid clock speeds and unrivaled performance.

When it comes to choosing the best overall processor, the Intel i9-9900K is a huge contender. It has such great gaming performance we decided to feature it in our flagship $2,000 build. From a gaming point of view, it surpasses the AMD counterpart (Ryzen 9 3900x) and handles 4k gaming and VR with the minimum of fuss. 

Editor’s AMD Pick
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X

AMD Ryzen 9 3900X

A solid gaming CPU

While the 3900X narrowly loses out to the i9-9900K in terms of gaming performance, it's hard to ignore the higher base clock speed, cores, and threads.

It's hard to find fault with AMD's Ryzen 9 3900X CPU as it's currently one of the best they've ever produced. Despite narrowly missing out as the best gaming CPU, this chip still has plenty to offer in other areas.

Best Intel Mid-Range CPU for Gaming
Intel Core i7-9700F

Intel Core i7-9700F

A powerful gaming processor

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

The i7-9700K isn't just the best intel mid-range chip for gaming; it's the best mid-range chip, period. In fact, the i7-9700F is such a powerful processor that it isn't too far from i9-9900K when you consider its value.

Packing quite a punch, the i7-9700F has a range of 3.0GHz - 4.7GHz. This means the chip can reduce its power during mundane tasks and ramp it up to almost 5GHz while gaming.

Best AMD Mid-Range Gaming CPU
AMD Ryzen 7 3800X

AMD Ryzen 7 3800X

Best mid-range runner up

The AMD Ryzen 7 3800X processor boasts fast clock speeds, great overclocking ability, AM4 motherboard compatibility, and competitive pricing. A truly great mid-range CPU pick.

The 3800X showcases superb value for money and lands just outside the lower-end price spectrum. Don't let that price tag fool you, though; this thing still showcases real gaming performance. There is a noticeable difference between Intel's top chips and this mid-range pick, but that's to be expected. For the price, it competes with Intel's i7 CPUs to the highest level. 

For those looking for something a little more affordable, the Ryzen 2700X suits a lot of consumer needs while still coming under $300, great value.

Best Budget gaming CPU
Intel i5-9600KF

Intel i5-9600KF

The best gaming CPU on a budget.

The Intel Core i5-9600KF is a great choice for a mid-range gaming build. 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.

You might be asking yourself why there isn't something more affordable on this list? Don't worry; we're getting to that.

The Intel Core i5-9600K is one of the best value-for-money gaming CPUs Intel has made. It may seem pricey for a budget pick, but the high performance this card provides is matched by its value making it a solid new-gen pick that won't break the bank. 

The Best Gaming APU
AMD Ryzen 5 3400G

AMD Ryzen 5 3400G

The best integrated graphics gaming CPU

If you’re looking for a processor that’s cheap and efficient, then look no further than the Ryzen 5 3400G. With speeds that can clock up to 4.2GHz, this Quad-core CPU is unmatched for value.

The $100-$200 range is where we start mixing with CPUs geared towards lower-end builds. Even though this an APU with integrated graphics, it can still provide a decent gaming experience in esports titles. 

The Ryzen 3400G fits that description perfectly and is an excellent CPU for gamers on a tight purse string.

How We Choose

When choosing our recommendations, whether it's an ultrawide monitor or a budget gaming mice, we do extensive research first. Being gamers, we only want to bring the best products to your attention, accompanied by accurate information based on real-world testings. This involves several steps to ensure the highest performance standards are met.

Even though the team is already well versed in the latest hardware offerings, the first thing the team does is make sure nothing new is due for release. We want to keep you up-to-date with the latest hardware offerings, especially when it comes to high-end products. 

Next, comes benchmarking. We usually do all of our benchmarking in-house; however, if we can't get our hands on a particular processor, we'll 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 are rated highly in the gaming category.

After we make sure the processors perform highly in their intended category; we make sure they have received good reviews from both consumers and critics alike. It is important to note that we have purchased all the recommended CPUs (plus a few others) for benchmarking, testing, and a bit of gaming, which enables us to create a clearer picture of what truly is the best CPU for gaming.

Terms To Know

Choosing a CPU can be daunting for first-time buyers, and there are a few things you should consider before buying one. You wouldn’t want to buy one of AMD's latest Ryzen chips and find out it isn't compatible with the rest of your system!

There are a lot of terms that get thrown around in regards to CPUs, so let’s go over some of the most common phrases before breaking down what the best gaming CPU is.

Cores And Threads

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

The computer treats threads as virtual CPUs. The amount of threads is the number of tasks each core can handle. Threads can only do one thing at a time, but they can switch extremely fast. As such, threads serve as an 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 second. This is measured in megahertz. So 4MHz would be four million cycles per second.

Processors that are "unlocked" can be overclocked to reach a higher clock speed than their stock speed. However, overclocking has to be done right. If done incorrectly, you might find yourself with a costly paperweight at the end of the day. 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.

Cores And Clock Speed Combined

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, specific tasks utilize fewer cores, like gaming, which means you’ll want strong single-core performance (it’s still good to have at least four cores for gaming, though). On the other hand, tasks such as video rendering utilize a lot of resources, meaning you’ll want extra cores (at least eight +) for a smooth experience. 

Ultimately, this is why we always benchmark the CPUs 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 your processor (or vice versa!).

Each brand and (sometimes) line of processors have their own socket type and won’t fit in an alternative one. For example, an AMD Ryzen 7 uses the AM4 socket type and won’t fit into Intel’s LGA 1151 socket.

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 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. Unlike highly taxing programs and tasks, games aren’t as dependant on CPU cores and threads. Anything quad-core or 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. That being said, most modern-day CPUs come equipped with at least 4-cores.

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, a powerful graphics card, and some quality RAM will really increase your FPS overall.

Casual Gaming

Maybe you don’t care about high FPS figures or saving your content for the world to see. Perhaps you’re more the casual type, the type who just likes to game now and then in your free time. AAA games titles aren't really your thing, and you don't require all that processing power.

If all you're looking for is a gaming build that will run some low-intensive steam games and esports titles, then a casual gamer setup might be more suited to your needs. Typically, a casual gaming build doesn’t need the latest hardware offerings. It's also much more affordable than a hardcore gaming build.

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

A growing trend over the last five years has been to stream and share gaming content. Platforms like YouTube and Twitch are hugely popular amongst the gaming community at the moment, and more people seem to be jumping on the stream build bandwagon. This, however, can be somewhat taxing on your processor if you don’t have a sufficient amount of power.

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 and everything else that's going on in the background without the lag!

Content Creation

Let’s say you’ve already got a following on your YouTube channel/ Steam account, and you’re ready to kick production up to the next level and start creating better videos.

You’ve decided to build a PC that can do it all. 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 with fast speeds so that 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 overclocking in mind. Maybe you want to get into overclocking and push your current 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, that currently resides in our $2,000 build.

You have less to worry about with an AMD CPU, all Ryzen models (which is AMD’s current gaming line) are unlocked for overclocking.

That being said, there isn't a great amount of overclocking headspace to be gained from Ryzen chips because they are so well optimized out-the-box.

The 6 Best Gaming CPUs

Product Details
Intel i9-9900KS

Intel i9-9900KS

  • speed: 4GHz/ 5GHz
  • core threads: 8/16
  • socket: LGA1151
  • tdp: 127W
Check Current Price
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X

AMD Ryzen 9 3900X

  • speed: 3.8GHz/4.6GHz
  • core threads: 12/24
  • socket: AM4
  • tdp: 105W
Check Current Price
Intel Core i7-9700F

Intel Core i7-9700F

  • speed: 3GHz up to 4.7GHz
  • core threads: 8-8
  • socket: LGA1151
  • tdp: 65W
Check Current Price
AMD Ryzen 7 3800X

AMD Ryzen 7 3800X

  • speed: 3.9GHz/4.5GHz
  • core threads: 8/16
  • socket: AM4
  • tdp: 105W
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Intel i5-9600KF

Intel i5-9600KF

  • speed: 3.7GHz up to 4.6GHz
  • core threads: 6-6
  • socket: LGA1151
  • tdp: 95W
Check Current Price
AMD Ryzen 5 3400G

AMD Ryzen 5 3400G

  • speed: 3.7GHz - 4.2GHz
  • core threads: 4/8
  • socket: AM4
  • tdp: 65W
Check Current Price

The Best Gaming CPUs Breakdown

#1

Intel i9-9900KS

When we consider pure gaming performance, Intel's Core i9-9900KS is widely viewed as the king of gaming CPUs, and despite its large price tag, it displays pretty good value.  Despite the i9-9900KS having fewer cores than the likes of AMD's new Ryzen chips and Intel's ‘X’ series, this mainstream chip from Intel boasts one of the highest clock speeds from the manufacturers and is undoubtedly the fastest for the LGA1151 socket. It comes to shelves boasting an impressive 4GHz (across all cores) clock speed but can be boosted to 5GHz for increased performance. As far as single-core performance goes, the i9-9900KS is one most prolific making it extremely good for gaming. 

The i9-9900KS is part of the K series, which, as we touched upon earlier, is Intel's line of unlocked/overclockable CPUs. Unlike many of Ryzen's chips, you can squeeze quite a lot of additional performance out of this CPU if you have the correct setup to do so. This CPU runs pretty hot right-out-the-box, meaning you'd need a pretty beefy CPU cooler to keep temps stable.

Overall, Intel's i9-9900KS is a superb CPU that should be able to handle pretty much everything you have to throw at it. While it might not be as good as the latest Ryzen chip (the 3900X) for multi-tasking, it will still be more than capable of handling most multi-tasking scenarios.

#2

AMD Ryzen 9 3900X

AMD's Ryzen 9 3900x falls just short of Intel's i9-9900k when it comes to gaming performance, something I didn't expect to be saying 12 months ago. Historically, Intel has always been the major players when it comes to gaming CPUs, but thanks to recent advancements in AMD's CPU lineup, the gap between the two powerhouses has been closed exponentially.

The 3900x is the current flagship Ryzen CPU (until the 3950x is released later this month), and it comes to the table boasting some seriously impressive performance stats. For a start, it has an impressive 60% performance increase over the i9 across non-gaming related tasks. We crowned the 3900X as the best all-round CPU as it outshines its competition in multi-tasking scenarios such as encoding, rendering, and streaming.

The 3900X achieves this high level of performance thanks to a 12core/24 thread design, which runs at a steady 3.8GHz straight-out-the-box. It can be further boosted to 4.6GHz with AMD's PBO for additional performance.

Ultimately, the 3900X is a massively impressive CPU and one that boasts impressive performance across the board. If you're looking for the best all-round CPU, then look no further.

#3

Intel Core i7-9700F

While Intel's i7-9700F may not offer the same levels of performance as their i9-9900K,  it still provides the same number of cores and impressive clock speeds right-out-the-box. It's also much cooler than the i9 because it doesn't come with the same hyperthreaded design. Having said that, when paired with the correct motherboard, the turbo-core speeds of the i7 should be roughly the same as the i9, making it extremely effective for gaming.

This chip is known for its single-core performance and how effectively it handles games. If it wasn't for the high-end CPUs we see topping the list, I'm sure this would feature in most people's computers. The cores run at a base clock speed of 3.0GHz, which can be boosted to 4.7GHz.

We consider this CPU to offer some of the best value for money, and that's largely down to its performance, as mentioned above, and affordable price tag. 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.

#4

AMD Ryzen 7 3800X

From an in-game performance point-of-view, AMD's Ryzen 7 3800X is pretty much on par with Intel's i7-9700k. And like other Ryzen/Intel comparisons, that is where the similarities end. The Ryzen CPU outperforms its Intel counterpart in every other way. This mid-range CPU is undoubtedly closer to the higher-end of the spectrum and ticks all the boxes you'd need for gaming and multitasking purposes.

The 3800X is part of AMD's new flagship range and is highly regarded with consumers. The CPU owes its performance stats to the incredible eight cores that run at 3.9GHz with an option to boost up to 4.5GHz. The unlocked power of this chip is superb, but make sure you have an adequate cooling solution if you plan on running this at max clock speed. While it features the same amount of cores, threads, and a faster base clock than the i9-900k, it's still just not as good for gaming, but not by much!

Whether you're looking to play AAA games in ultra or need a powerful CPU for your new workstation, the Ryzen 3800X is going to be the perfect start to your high-end build.

#5

Intel i5-9600KF

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

Clock speeds start at a tasty 3.7GHz but can be boosted to an impressive 4.6GHz on all cores. Single-core boost can go as high as 4.9GHz, which is fantastic for gaming purposes. It comes with six cores and is part of the K range, making it unlocked for overclocking as well. It does have an above-average TDP, so overclocking should be approached with adequate cooling in mind.

All-in-all, this chip is arguably one of the best mid-range chips available and won't let you down when it comes to gaming performance.

#6

AMD Ryzen 5 3400G

The Ryzen 5 3400G is AMD's leading APU and features the impressive Vega 11 graphics. This CPU offers an almost unbeatable price to performance and is a great addition for anyone on a tight budget.

This chip is the successor to the highly-rated 2400G and comes with a boosted clock performance of 3.7GHz, which can go up to 4.2GHz. The new line of CPUs comes with the Wraith spire cooler, which is an excellent stock cooler for thermal performance.

These chips run best with fast RAM, so be sure to get at least 3000MHz RAM as this is regarded as a sweet spot for maximum APU performance.

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 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 want an all-round balanced processor. In this case, you may want to consider the Ryzen 9 3900X as no other processor on this list will beat its multitasking capabilities
  • For a solid, mid-range, gaming-only PC, the reasonably priced Intel Core i5-9600K will give you great bang for your buck
  • Perhaps you're on a tight budget and need a CPU that is going to handle low-intensive esports titles. If that's the case, we recommend the Ryzen 5 3400G

Conclusion

Choosing the best CPU for gaming 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, it should hopefully make an informed decision when it comes to buying a lot easier. Don't forget to pick the right cooling solution for your CPU to ensure it runs at optimal levels at all times!

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!