Often affectionately known as the brain of your PC, choosing the right processor is a balancing act that can really affect your frames-per-second and the price to performance of your machine. With dozens of options available from the two CPU giants, Intel and AMD, it can be challenging for new PC builders to select the right processor for their system.
Don’t fret; the tech experts are here! We’ve compiled this list of the best CPUs for your gaming PC available on Amazon. We’ll talk about which is better: AMD or Intel, what are the best options at a variety of different price points, and ultimately which CPU is the best for you. So strap in, we’re going full techie whilst we delve into the interesting world of gaming CPUs.
Best Processors for a Gaming PC in 2021
- 10th Gen Intel Processor
- Optane Memory Support
- Unlocked Clock Speed
- 6-Core Processor with 12 Threads
- High power consumption
- No PCIe 3.0
First up – we have the mid-range straight man from Intel. This is the closest Intel can get to a mainstream champion, and boy, do they own it. This is perfect for gamers looking for a strong, reliable performance with a high core and thread count. The “K” unlocked clock speed multiplier makes this perfect for anyone looking to overclock their processor to juice out even more performance.
Fans of Team Blue can benefit from some excellent multi-core performance here, with the i5-10600K offering a significant upgrade to both single and multi-core performance. In benchmarks like Cinebench R20, the single-core performance score climbs from 469 with the 9th gen unlocked i5 to 479, but with the inclusion of hyper-threading, it’s the multi-core score that gets the generational leap of 30%, going from 2508 to 3548. Wow!
In gaming, this allows the i5 to edge out the AMD Ryzen 5 3600X, making it a perfect last-gen mid-range CPU. Even in the CPU-intensive games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, the i5-10600K keeps up with the i9-10900K.
With six cores and 12 threads — running at 4.5GHz on all cores and up to 4.8GHz on a single core — the Core i5 10600K unlocks great potential in the productivity workspace that AMD previously locked down with the Ryzen 3000 series.
At a rated 125W TDP, power consumption is on the high side. However, thermals show a different story. The 10th Gen Intel chips are still using the 14nm process, and no matter how many +’s Intel tack onto the end of that, it’s still an older manufacturing architecture. The lack of advancements in efficiency is where we’re seeing a high power draw. However, Intel has learned from baking their 9th Gen CPUs by keeping temps down, and miraculously, it works!
Priced at $214.90, this unlocked Intel Core i5 10600K is a great mid-range CPU bringing the power of hyper-threading to the massive and we’re surprised it holds its own in gaming even when compared to the massively expensive Core i9-10900K.
- PCIe Gen 4.0 Ready
- Great performance in gaming and productivity
- Good bundled cooler
- Low power consumption
- No integrated graphics
- Limited room for overclocking
Whilst the Ryzen 5 3600X (this processor’s X-rated big brother) was the mid-range darling of the CPU world last generation. It’s this: the Ryzen 5 3600, which in my opinion, takes the value crown.
Featuring the same six-core design with 12 beautiful threads as the 3600X, the Ryzen 5 3600 also has the same 32MB of L3 cache and the same access to 24 lanes of PCIe 4.0. The 65W bundled Wraith cooler isn’t as beefy as the 3600X’s 95W mega-cooler, but it’s still decent enough to cool your processor in a gaming machine.
With a 65W TDP envelope, AMD has really nailed the efficiency here. The Zen 2 architecture featuring TMSC’s 7nm manufacturing process means we’re seeing greater efficiency than the 14nm offerings from Intel, delivering impressively low power consumption levels.
Ryzen 3000 chips officially support dual-channel DDR4-3200, a step up from the previous gen’s support for DDR4-2966 – and we all know AMD chips absolutely adore fast memory!
In gaming, we’re seeing similar results across the board to the more expensive Ryzen 5 3600X and even the Ryzen 9 3900X.
In Cinebench R20, single-thread performance hovers around 462, lagging a bit behind the i5 10600K, whilst multi-threaded performance delivers a score of 3575: absolutely destroying the Intel 9th Gen competition and delivering around about the same performance as the 10600K with almost half the power consumption. Neat!
Priced at $199.99, the Ryzen 5 3600 is an affordable alternative to the i5-10600K – and if you’ve got a GPU lined up to use it with, you’ll enjoy the great performance and efficiency.
- Good performance
- Excellent in-built graphics processing chip
- Great value at the MSRP
- Currently, the overinflated price makes it not worth it
Next up is our budget-orientated pick of the list; the AMD Ryzen 3 3200G is a great choice for anyone looking for an inexpensive (in MSRP) CPU for their budget gaming build. If you’re strapped for cash and are considering dropping how much you spend on the CPU to get a better graphics card, the Ryzen 3 3200G is a great choice, and its integrated graphics will serve you well for casual titles at 720p until you’re able to get your hands on a beefy dedicated GPU.
With a target price of $99, the Ryzen 3 3200G packs in four well-performing cores but misses out on hyper-threading. This results in respectable single-core performance but not great multi-core performance.
In the Cinebench R20 benchmark, we’re looking at a single-core score of 390, placing this around the level of the 7th Gen i7-7770K. Bumping up to the multi-core performance shows how the 3200G can lag behind its higher-priced counterparts in productivity applications with a score of 1481.
Whilst most wouldn’t expect much from an integrated GPU, the Vega 8 graphics in this chip seriously impresses. With 2GB of VRAM, the integrated graphics packs enough punch to handle some high-end games like GTA V or Crysis 3 at 720p low settings. For e-sports and casual games like PUBG, Fortnite, and Fall Guys, you can expect to see some decent performance hovering around 60fps at 1080p.
This CPU is great for pairing with a decent GPU, and if you’re looking for a strictly gaming machine, you’ll love the price savings with the 3200G. But, if you’re looking to do any actual work on your system, like photo editing, video editing, or graphics work, you may want to spend the extra $50 on a Ryzen 5 3600.
With an MSRP of $99, this processor is a great deal. However, the great computer component shortage has seriously affected the Ryzen 3 3200G. Currently going for $182.99, the price is incredibly overinflated. But, if this product returns to its sub $100 price range, we can wholeheartedly recommend it.
- Great overclocking headroom
- Great gaming performance
- No bundled cooler
- PCIe 3.0
- Loses out to AMD in productivity
Next up is the step-up from the i5-10600K. The i7 has long since been a staple of high performance from Team Intel. Nowadays, the top-dog crown for enthusiast performance has been the Core i9 series. But, we reckon your gaming experience isn’t going to be too much different if you opt for the cheaper core i7, and you can use the money you saved to get a better GPU.
Overall, the Core i7-10700K gives you nearly the same gaming performance as the Core i9-10900K but for significantly less, and the overclocking headroom allows you to tune this processor to your liking. Boasting 8 powerful cores clocking up to 5.1GHz and with up to 16-threads, the i7 is a multi-threaded powerhouse – matching the oomph of the i9-10900K in a lot of games.
Tom’s Hardware observes similar performance to the i9, as expected, with the i7-10700K destroying the AMD 3000 series competition.
The story changes, however, when we look at Cinebench scores. Single-core performance is still strong here with a score of 524 (but the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X hitting 531). In the multi-threaded test, Intel clocks in at 5292, which lags significantly behind the Ryzen 9 3900X at a whopping 7128 but beats out the 8 core Ryzen 7 3800X at 4960.
In Geekbench, the 10700KF lags slightly behind the Ryzen 7 3800X at 9034 compared to 9065 – showing similar performance here. Geekbench 5 is a benchmark that heavily uses the system’s memory, and we all know AMD CPUs love fast memory.
Priced at $307.66, the Intel Core i7 10700KF is a great companion to an RTX 3070 or 3080 in a value-orientated build. The extra multi-threaded power is great for content creators and Twitch streamers, and for gaming, this processor is virtually indistinguishable from the more expensive i9-10900K.
- Great performance
- Stellar single-core performance
- PCIe 4.0 Support
- Price hike from 3000 series
- Currently overinflated prices due to stock shortages
Now that we’ve covered the last-gen CPUs, it’s time to take a look at what the next-gen has to offer. A common issue you’re going to find across the board with these CPUs, however, is the limited availability. Disruptions in computer component manufacturing lines have resulted in shortages in the CPU market. This means that most – if not all – current-generation CPUs are likely to have a somewhat overinflated price.
This is true for the latest generation Ryzen 7 5800X, but even with the price inflation over its MSRP, we still think the Ryzen 5000 series CPUs are a banging deal.
Featuring eight-strong cores and delivering 16 threads, this processor packs a punch to rival the best from Intel’s range. Putting this processor to the test in Cinebench R20, the truly fantastic single-core performance absolutely smokes anything Team Blue has put to us so far, with a score of 624 in the single-core test.
Turning to the multi-threaded test, we’re looking at around a 19% improvement over the Intel i7 10700K, giving AMD a score of 6112 – just coming in around 40 points shy of the behemoth i9-10900K in the multi-core test. Not impressive for an upper-mid range chip.
In gaming, AMD delivers similar performance to the Intel Core i9-10900K – if your workload is mainly playing games on your PC, this processor will enable the strongest performance with a good GPU pairing.
With an MSRP of $449, AMD has put its faith in the processor’s performance and placed this at a higher price point than its 3000 Series counterpart, which released at $399. If you’re looking for excellent performance in creative workloads like video editing, 3D work, etc., this is absolutely warranted. However, for a pure gaming PC, we don’t think the extra money is all that worth it over a 3000 series Ryzen 7.
Where the story gets trickier, however, is where this CPU is currently priced. On Amazon, you find this chip for $464.99, and we don’t think this is a worthy upgrade over the last-gen CPUs at this time, and if you’re already rocking a 3000 series chip, you’re probably best poised to stay with it. When this processor goes back down to its MSRP, only then do we think you should buy it.
- Great productivity performance
- Solid gaming performance
- Low power consumption
- Price hike from Ryzen 5 3600X
- No integrated graphics
- Low supply means overinflated price currently
Next up is the next-gen upgrade for the Ryzen 5 3600 we saw earlier on in this list. With six cores and twelve threads, this is one of the best gaming CPUs in the mid-range market. Compared to Intel’s 10th gen i5-10600K, it finally gives AMD the raw performance gains to beat out the mid-range offering from Intel to become the best “5” level CPU available.
As with the rest of the 2020 Zen 3 line-up from AMD, the Ryzen 5 5600X comes in at a $50 price increase in MSRP as compared to what the 3600X clocked in at when it was first launched: now coming in at $299.
This, for the first time, places AMD’s CPU at a higher price point than Intel’s offering when compared to the suggested retail price of the i5-10600K at $262. Luckily for Team Red fans, AMD has packed this processor with the necessary performance gains to warrant the extra few bucks.
Turning to our trusty Cinebench R20 benchmark, AMD’s super-strong single-core performance places the Ryzen 5 5600X at the top of the pack when it comes to single-threaded workloads – even beating out the best-of-the-best from Intel in the i9 10800K.
Turning to multi-threaded performance, the same Cinebench R20 benchmark places the Ryzen 5 5600X firmly ahead of the i5-10600K, but this is also where the higher thread count allows the 10th gen i9 to break away.
In gaming, the 5600X delivers either similar or marginally better performance than the i5-10600K, as observed by Tom’s Hardware. Overclocked, the Ryzen 5 5600X can really break away for some serious performance gains. However, where the 5000 series Ryzen 5 changes its tune is now it will have to rely on its improved performance to sell itself and not on the price advantage previous generations Ryzen processors had on their Intel rivals.
Source: Tom’s Hardware
Where AMD also has a significant win is with their power efficiency, with the 5600X having a rated TDP of 65W. Under heavy loads like a HandBrake power stress test, this CPU can draw up to 75W, which is a mere sip compared to the Intel i5-10600K’s 103W power consumption in the same test.
Overclocking, however, is where the power draw becomes even more impressive. With AMD’s Precision Boost Overdrive overclocking mode, the same test pushes the Ryzen to draw 93W – whilst Intel’s i5 chip clocked to 5GHz chugs a whopping 170W! This could be down to Intel choosing to stay on the 14nm manufacturing process whilst AMD’s Zen 3 7nm architecture pushing out some great efficiency gains.
Of course – as with most new PC components in our world still reeling from the impacts of the pandemic – the prices of new 5000 series CPUs are still quite a bit over the MSRP. Right now on Amazon, we’re looking at this CPU costing $299.00. As for whether this is worth it, you’ll need to compare the price to the i5-10600k and make that decision yourself. But, as soon as the price recovers back down to its $299 MSRP, the Ryzen 5 5600X is a really compelling gaming CPU.
- The new single-core performance king
- Great productivity performance
- Best gaming performance around
- Good power consumption
- Price rise over previous generation CPU
- No included cooler
The i9-10900K acts as an imposing shadow over the entire CPU industry: it’s supposedly the best Intel has to offer. The reason I have not included it in this list is simply: Intel; your best is not good enough.
Here comes the Ryzen 9 5900X, the best consumer CPU in the world right now, finally disqualifying Intel from the crown of “best processor for gaming.” Whilst AMD has for a few generation cycles still held the top spot with the Ryzen 9 for creative applications; Intel had in the best still held the processor you’d want if you wanted the best performance in PC games. Not anymore. AMD with this Ryzen 9 5900X have absolutely destroyed anything Intel has been able to throw at them thus far – and if you want the absolute best, there’s absolutely no reason to buy Team Blue.
Going back to our trusty Cinebench R20 benchmark introduces us to the strong command AMD currently has with this CPU over Intel. For the most part, we’re going to ignore the Ryzen 9 5950X and the Intel Core i9 10980XE as these CPUs exist more to top the benchmark charts as over $1000 CPUs than they are as chips you’d actually want to buy. Focus on the difference between the Ryzen 9 5900X and the Core i9 10900K.
Not even close! The single-core horsepower shows an absolute knockout here, with the i9 trailing behind.
Switch over to multi-threaded performance, and still, AMD comes out significantly on top here with a score of 8635 for the Ryzen 9 5900X compared to the Core i9-10900K.
In gaming, the Ryzen 9 beats out the Core i9 quite significantly here. According to Future’s tests, in Total War: Three Kingdoms, we’re seeing a 9% lead over Intel. Here at the top of the table, nothing can touch the Ryzen 9.
The 7nm Zen 3 architecture (and its efficiency gains over the bloated 14nm process Intel are still dragging along with their 10th gen CPUs) brings some good news for anyone worried about power consumption performance.
When Tom’s Hardware assessed how well this CPU performed in an AIDA Stress Test as compared to Intel’s offering. At stock clock speeds, we’re looking at the Ryzen 9 5900X, drawing a respectable 133W on average, significantly beating out Intel’s draw at 170W stock with the i9 10900K. With an overclock pushing Intel to 5GHz, the i9 draws 212W, whereas using AMD’s overclocking PBO tool maxes out the Ryzen 9 at 158W. Impressive!
At MSRP, the Ryzen 9 is a great deal compared to the Intel i9-10900K. But, as expected, CPU shortages have not been kind to the AMD 5000 series processors. If you’re able to find this processor in stock, you may find it significantly over its suggested retail price. If so, you may choose to look at the Ryzen 7 5800X or even wait until the CPU market recovers before making the purchase. But, as soon as you see this chip as MSRP, this is hands down the best consumer CPU on the market. Sorry, Intel. Looks like you’ve dropped your crown.
If you want a CPU for your mid-range gaming PC, both the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X and the Intel Core i5-10600K deliver cracking performance for a reasonable price. The Intel offerings do seem less affected by the CPU shortages than AMD are, so if you’re unable to find a new Ryzen 5, you may have better luck going Team Blue.
It is worth noting that all 5000 series CPUs are compatible with previous Zen 1 and Zen 2 compatible motherboards, with AMD opting (much to its fans’ content) to allow current Zen 2 (2000 series and 3000 series Ryzen CPUs) customers to keep their motherboards. This makes upgrading from Ryzen 5 2600 super easy, and it also means you might get a better deal on a used motherboard from a few years ago that will stick to work with AMD’s latest processor.
If you’re looking for the best-in-class gaming CPU, it’s hard not to be amazed by what AMD has been able to pull off here with their Ryzen 9 5900X. Absolutely destroying the Intel i9-10900K, it’s hard to recommend anything else to those PC builders whose wallets are packed to the brim.
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