The Best Gaming CPUs of 2019 – Our Top 6 Picks

Best CPU for Gaming

When some gamers ponder what's required to take their new high-end system to the next level, finding the best processor often comes after the graphics card. This makes sense as the GPU is in charge of the quality and resolution of your games. Despite what some may believe, though, the CPU is incredibly important and manages how the rest of your new gaming rig runs.

Picking the best gaming CPU isn't always easy. With older models always getting a price cut, it can be difficult to know if there is a better deal waiting around the corner. While a new graphics card may only last a couple of years until the game requirements surpass its power, a CPU can power a PC for much longer.

The age-old question in the PC community has always been AMD or Intel, although it feels less polarized now with AMD upping its game. If you are still unsure about the AMD or Intel route then don't worry, we are going to go into detail and truly find out what the best CPU for gaming is!

Editor’s Intel Pick
Intel i9-9900K

Intel i9-9900K

Best high-end 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. While it's not strictly as good as the 3900X, it is still a mighty chip and performs better for gaming.

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 is hard to ignore the higher base clock speed, cores, and threads.

It is hard to find fault with AMD's Ryzen 9 3900X CPU as it is one of the best they have ever made. 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 i7-9700K

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.

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

Packing quite a punch, the i7-9700K 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 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.

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 while 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 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 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 3400G 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 an out of date product or stale information when building your system, as that is a waste of hard-earned cash and time!

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 efficiently for gaming.

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. 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 things you should consider before 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 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, 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. 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 single second. This is measured in megahertz. So 4MHz would be four million cycles per second.

Processors that are "unlocked" can be overclocked to attain higher clock speeds than their 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 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). While other tasks, like video rendering, utilize a lot of resources, meaning you’ll want extra cores (at least eight +).

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, 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 match 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 a casual gaming 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

A growing trend over the last five years has been to stream and share gaming content. If you 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 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.

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

Product Details
Intel i9-9900K

Intel i9-9900K

  • speed: 3.6GHz/ 5GHz
  • core threads: 8/16
  • socket: LGA1151
  • tdp: 95W
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 i7-9700K

Intel Core i7-9700K

  • speed: 3.6GHz up to 4.9GHz
  • core threads: 8-8
  • socket: LGA1151
  • tdp: 95W
Check Current Price
AMD Ryzen 7 3800X

AMD Ryzen 7 3800X

  • speed: 3.9GHz/4.5GHz
  • core threads: 8/16
  • socket: AM4
  • tdp: 105W
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
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 i9-9900K

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 gaming 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 new AMD Ryzen chips and Intel's ‘X’ series, this mainstream chip from Intel boasts one of the highest clock speeds from the manufacturers and is certainly the fastest for the LGA1151 socket.

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 CPUs 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!

#2

AMD Ryzen 9 3900X

While the Ryzen 9 3900X just misses out in terms of gaming performance, it isn't by much! Similarly priced to the i9-9900K this CPU offers you much more than a solid bit of gaming performance.

The 3900X has a 60% performance increase over the i9 across all other tasks and is widely considered the best CPU currently available. This unprecedented next-gen CPU excels, especially for encoding, rendering, and streaming.

The 3900X achieves this high level of performance with 12 cores running at 3.8GHz which can actually be overclocked to an impressive 4.6GHz! Backing up the cores are 24 threads making this multithreaded beast capable of handling any task with pace.

 

#3

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!

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 im sure this would feature in most peoples computers. The cores run at a base clock speed of 3.6GHz which can be boosted to 4.9GHz.

We consider this CPU to offer some of the best value for money at the moment largely down to its mentioned performance and improved 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.

#4

AMD Ryzen 7 3800X

AMD's Ryzen 7 3800X is regarded as performing similarily to the i7-9700K in games. That is where the similarities end, as you can imagine this CPU outperforms its Intel counterpart in every other way. This mid-range CPU is certainly closer to the higher end of the scale and certainly ticks all the boxes you could need.

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 8 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 is still just not as good for gaming, but not by much!

Whether you're looking for a gaming rig that's going to smash games or one which can handle any multitasking situation, the 3800x is the perfect brain for the job.

#5

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!

#6

AMD Ryzen 5 3400G

The Ryzen 5 3400G is AMDs 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 come 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 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 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 a great bang for your buck.
  • Perhaps you have a tight budget and just want a product fit for purpose then consider choosing 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 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!

7 Comments

  1. JamiegaL says:

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

    1. Charlie Noon says:

      Not sure we did friend. What was it regarding?

  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”.

    1. Charlie Noon says:

      Thanks for the correction champted

  3. Irakleitos says:

    May I suggest the AMD ​Ryzen 5 2600X for the best budget gaming CPU? More threads than the Intel Core i5-9600K and the price is waaay better. Great guide nevertheless

    1. Charlie Noon says:

      Hi Irakleitos,
      We have updated the builds since your comment, take a look and let us know what you think!

  4. ToxicTaZ says:

    The fastest 6&8 cores CPUs for 2019 are the 8086K and 9900KS

    Both are Intel fastest factory Coffeelake and Coffeelake Refresh CPUs.

    Both Intel 8086K and 9900KS are faster than the AMD 3600X and 3800X

    9900KS is the last upgrade for the 300 series boards.

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