Computing

The Best CPUs for Gaming in 2021

best cpu for gaming


When building a perfect gaming rig, the focus usually goes to the graphics card, since the positive gaming experience depends largely on its performance and quality. CPU is secondary hardware in this puzzle, but should it really be like that?

Most people don’t use their gaming PCs strictly for gaming, but also for many other tasks, which is where the significance of CPU comes into the picture. This is the main reason why choosing the best CPU for gaming shouldn’t involve just a gaming component, but be observed from a broader perspective.

Maybe your gaming demands only for a Pentium processor, but what if you are also into casual rendering, or content creation, not to mention 4k video streaming or similar? Your CPU will simply be unable to complete all that.

Also, you must take into consideration the fact that the games’ system requirements are constantly rising. Therefore, when purchasing a new CPU, you should always be at least one step ahead and always get yourself something that will allow for decent gaming at least for a couple of years to come, without a need for hardware improvements.

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How to Choose the Best CPU for Gaming

If you are not familiar with the important aspects of a CPU, or just need a quick refresher, here are the most important characteristics of processors you should pay your attention to.

Clock Speed/Operating Frequency

Clock speed is probably the most important CPU characteristic. The higher it is, the quicker your tasks will be finished. Therefore, always go for higher numbers, which includes both high base and boost clock speeds.

Cores

Cores are necessary for multitasking, but more cores don’t guarantee for fast performance. If you have a dual core with a speed of 3.6 GHz and a quad-core processor with a speed of 2 GHz, the dual core will be faster, and it will completely outperform the quad-core.

Don’t be fooled and drawn by the high number of cores, six or eight cores are the maximum you will need, while the majority of the users are perfectly good with just four. Only the heavy users will demand 16 or so cores. For that reason, first of all, look at the processor’s speed and only after that check number of cores that should, as mentioned, be at least four.

Socket

If you are building a brand new rig, you should purchase a CPU with the same socket as your motherboard. Keep that in mind whenever you are building your own PC: all the components need to be compatible and the same socket of your motherboard and the CPU is a necessity.

CPU Cache

More CPU cache means that the CPU will have more space to store the copies of the most frequently used data. In other words, the more CPU cache MBs, the quicker the data access and overall faster computing. Because of that, just as in the case of a clock speed, always go for higher values.

9 Best Gaming CPUs

Intel Core i9 10900K

A Perfect Gaming Tool

intel core i9 10900k
Intel Core i9 10900K presents the sheer top of the Comet Lake lineup and, due to its superb gaming and single-core performance, is undoubtedly among the best CPUs available.

This processor comes with 3.7GHz base speed and 5.3GHz maximum turbo speed, as well as 10 cores and 20 threads. In other words, when paired with some of the best gaming motherboards out there, the premium performance is guaranteed.

Its single-core performance is a bit better than the AMD’s flagship, Ryzen 9 5950X that offers better framerates only when paired with the PCIe 4.0 compatible GPUs (Intel Core i9 10900K supports only PCIe 3.0), such as GeForce RTX 3090, that turn the results into Ryzen’s favor. However, have in mind that this processor costs significantly more; therefore, if you are after top-shelf gaming performance, Intel Core i9 10900K is a better option.

On the other hand, what isn’t that great is its multi-thread performance, which isn’t bad, but it is worse than that of Ryzen 3000 and especially the new Ryzen 5000 processors, which leaves it far behind in the productivity area.

When talking about other aspects of this CPU, you should know that it comes with improved temperature values when compared to its predecessor and that its TDP is 125W; however, that is only the base power consumption and in reality, these values can rise even above the 300W mark, which is certainly a lot, even for a high-end processor.

Also, this CPU is fitted with a well-established Intel UHD Graphics 630; it supports two-channel DDR4 2933 MHz memories and comes with 20 MB of L3 cache. Moreover, it has 40 PCIe lanes, as well as a whole bunch of features such as Thermal Velocity Boost, Intel InTru 3D Technology, Intel Clear Video Technology, and many more that certainly add to its overall value.

Simply, Intel Core i9 10900K has a lot to offer, especially to enthusiasts and high-demanding gamers. However, the dominant times, in which many of the previous generation Intel CPUs have indulged and had supremacy over the AMD rivals, are behind us. Nevertheless, for now, the number one spot among the gaming processors, is still in Intel’s hands and their Intel Core i9 10900K.

Pros:
  • It is excellent in single and multi-thread operations
  • Great gaming performance
  • Unlocked multiplier
  • Improved temperatures
Cons:
  • High power consumption
  • Only PCIe 3.0 interface
  • Not that great overclocking capability

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AMD Ryzen 9 5950X

The New King Has Come

amd ryzen 9 5950x
A battle between AMD and Intel is like a Neverending Story and both sides turn in the lead. For a long time, the top spot was reserved for the Intel babies; however, with the arrival of the AMD’s new Zen 3 architecture, things are changing and the new generation of AMD CPUs, with their flagship Ryzen 9 5950X on top, is here to take the throne.

Simply, Ryzen 9 5950X, with its 16 cores and 32 processing threads, along with 3.4 GHz base clock, 4.9 GHz boost clock, and especially L3 cache that is impressive at 72MB, is more than capable of delivering an amazing gaming performance that is neck and neck with the Intel’s leading Core i9 10900K and even surpasses it when it is paired with the PCIe 4.0 compatible GPU that isn’t supported by Intel processors.

Considering the number of cores and threads, it is no wonder that AMD Ryzen 9 5950X’s multi-thread performance and overall multitasking are without real competition. At the same time, its excellent 105W TDP, along with the very good overclocking capabilities, makes this CPU the best AM4 processor available and one of the best gaming processors out there, although a bit costly.

Pros:
  • Good power efficiency
  • Excellent overall performance
  • Impressive L3 cache
  • Easy to overclock
  • PCIe 4.0 support
Cons:
  • It comes without a cooler
  • Pricey

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Intel Core i7 10700K

A CPU for a Premium Gaming Performance

intel core i7 10700k
If you are a fan of high-end gaming and are looking for a CPU that will bring you the optimal performance and offer plenty of headroom for overclocking at the best price, Intel Core i7 10700K is the thing for you.

To be exact, overclocked Intel Core i7 10700K will give you the performance of the Core i9-10900K, at a considerably lower price, which makes it one of the better gaming CPU options in Intel’s portfolio. Simply, its eight cores and 16 threads, along with the Turbo Boost Max 3.0 and 5.1GHz boost clock speed (base clock speed is 3.8GHz), will be a perfect choice for high-end gaming machines.

When compared with the competition from AMD, especially AMD Ryzen 7 5800X, this CPU shows slightly better results in single-core performance with PCIe 3.0 GPU, while tables turn with the PCIe 4.0 GPUs. When it comes to productivity and multithreaded work, AMD alternative is simply a dominant factor, but a more expensive one, in Intel Core i7 10700K’s defense.

Considering other qualities of this CPU, have in mind that this device comes with 16MB of L3 cache; it supports two-channel DDR4 2933MHz memory and has a 125W TDP, while at its full load, its temperature may go above the 229W mark, which is certainly a lot, and requires for a high-quality CPU cooler.

All in all, Intel Core i7 10700K is one of the best gaming CPUs available and certainly one of the options that will give you the most for your buck.

Pros:
  • Amazing gaming performance
  • Excellent overclocking capability
  • Turbo Boost Max 3.0
  • Unlocked multiplier
  • Better value for the money than i9-10900K
Cons:
  • PCIe 3.0 interface
  • Thermal Velocity Boost isn’t supported

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Intel Core i5-10600K

A Budget-Friendly Gaming Master

intel core i5-10600k
Intel Core i5-10600K processor is an affordable, yet highly efficient CPU that maybe doesn’t offer the fancy features, as its more expensive i7 and i9 CPU brothers from the Comet Lake series; however, it can make some serious punches in gaming sessions that place it neck and neck with its faster siblings.

In other words, this CPU, with its six cores and 12 threads, along with a boost clock of 4.8GHz (the base clock is 4.1GHz), is doing more than a fine job, especially considering its affordable price.

Intel Core i5-10600K, has a 125W TDP and integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630, as well as Hyperthreading and Intel Optane Memory Support, just as already mentioned CPU models from the Comet Lake series. Also, it comes with 12MB of L3 cache, two channels DDR4 2666MHz memory support, and only PCIe 3.0 interface. Moreover, there is also a Turbo Boost 2.0 that, although a bit older, still has a lot to offer and doesn’t affect the Intel Core i5-10600K’s overall performance.

To make a long story short, if the best value for the money in a CPU is what you are seeking in the first place, you may be sure that this fellow will give you everything you need and much more.

Pros:
  • Affordable
  • Unlocked multiplier
  • Excellent gaming performance
  • Exceptional single and multithread performance
  • Good temperature values
Cons:
  • PCIe 3.0

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AMD Ryzen 7 5800X

An Outstanding CPU

amd ryzen 7 5800x
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X is a high-performing CPU that offers excellent performance in both single and multi-thread work, which makes it a great overall option for workstations, as well as high-end gaming machines.

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X comes with eight cores and 16 threads, as well as a base clock of 3.8 GHz that can boost to a very respectable 4.7 GHz. More importantly, it is fitted with 36 MB of L3 cache; it offers support for DDR-3200 and comes with a very good power efficiency and TDP of 105W, which makes it a pretty good deal.

What, on the other hand, isn’t that great, is its price, since Intel Core i7 10700K, which is neck and neck with the Ryzen 7 5800X in gaming performance, costs significantly less, which ultimately makes it a better gaming choice. However, if you are multitasking and are looking for productivity as well, Ryzen 7 5800X makes much more sense.

In other words, Ryzen 7 5800X is an excellent processor that offers quite a lot; however, it is a more all-in-one processor that delivers excellent gaming capability, among other things. Therefore, if you are after a processor that will give you a whole package and instead of only a strong gaming performance, AMD Ryzen 7 5800X is an excellent choice.

Pros:
  • PCIe 4.0 support
  • Excellent overall performance
  • Unlocked multiplier
  • Good power efficiency
Cons:
  • It comes without a cooler
  • Pricey

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AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

A Perfect Budget-Friendly Gaming CPU

amd ryzen 5 5600x
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X is an affordable, yet very efficient gaming processor that is neck and neck even with the flagship processors such as Ryzen 9 5950X and Intel Core i9-10900K according to its performance. This processor offers excellent value for the money and presents a great choice for gamers that want to get top-class performance at more than a reasonable price.

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X is fitted with six cores and 12 processing threads and offers a respectable boost clock of 4.6 GHz that gives this processor enough firepower to fight the big guys. Moreover, there is also 35MB of L3 cache, support for DDR4-3200 high-performing gaming memory, as well as excellent power efficiency and TDP of 65W.

Also, this processor comes with a quiet and capable Wraith Stealth cooler, an unlocked multiplier that will allow for additional tweaking and even better overall performance.

To make a long story short, if the best budget-friendly gaming CPU is your main target, AMD Ryzen 5 5600X is without a doubt an excellent choice.

Pros:
  • Comes with a cooler
  • Excellent gaming performance
  • PCIe 4.0 support
  • Good value for the money
  • Solid overclocking capabilities
  • Good power efficiency
Cons:
  • No integrated graphics

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Intel Core i3-10100

The Optimal Budget-Friendly Gaming Solution

intel core i3-10100
Intel Core i3-10100 is an affordable, yet very good gaming CPU that won’t blast you with its performance, but it will do more than a fine job. Its four cores and eight threads, along with the maximum boost clock speed of 4.3GHz and Hyper-Threading support, are doing some serious work and if you are after the best cheap gaming processors, this one is a great choice.

There are numerous reasons for such a claim, such as Intel Optane Memory Support, included cooler, as well as integrated graphics that maybe aren’t the decisive factor for gamers, but they still present a decent bonus. Also, there is excellent power efficiency when compared to the more expensive Intel CPUs from the Comet Lake series, Turbo Boost Max 2.0, and Quick Sync video engine, as well as 6MB of L3 cache – not too much, but good enough for a fine gaming performance.

Moreover, Intel Core i3-10100 has a 65W TDP; it supports DDR4-2666 memory and provides up to 40 PCIe lanes. When talking about the competition, the biggest one is the Ryzen 3 3300X that offers slightly more for the price. Nevertheless, if you are in the Intel corner and are looking for an affordable gaming option, Intel Core i3-10100 should certainly be among your top picks.

Pros:
  • It supports Hyper-Threading
  • It comes with a heatsink
  • Fair price
  • Huge performance boost over the Intel Core i3-9100
  • Decent gaming performance
  • Good power efficiency
Cons:
  • No unlocked multiplier
  • No Turbo Boost Max 3.0

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AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X (Socket TR4)

A Heavy Multitasker that Isn’t that Great When Gaming is on Table

amd ryzen threadripper 1950x
If you want something that will amaze you, you should consider buying the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X. Its staggering 16 cores and 32 threads, 40MB of cache and 64 PCIe Gen3 lanes will do any job with ease. Content creation, 4K streaming, video editing, you name it – it can do it all without breaking a sweat.

This is simply a CPU that is made for extreme loads and multitasking and every other use is just a waste of its resources. Although it can also be used for gaming and its base clock of 4.0 GHz is above i9-9900K’s and i7-9700K’s 3.6 GHz, its boost clock of only 4.2 GHz is significantly below 9900K’s 5.0 GHz or 9700K’s 4.9 GHz, which results in a worse gaming performance.

In other words, if you are into gaming, AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X isn’t that great option. Tests show that this CPU is outperformed by many older and much cheaper processors in GTA V, Civilization 6, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and many other mainstream games.

Therefore, if you are into heavy multitasking, this CPU can be a great option; if, on the other hand, gaming is your priority, better go for some other solution. At the same time, you will get better performance and save money.

Pros:
  • great multithread performance
  • excellent PCIe connectivity
  • good price per core
Cons:
  • complicated settings
  • low-resolution gaming
  • power hungry

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Intel Core i9-10850K

The King, with a Slightly Lower Price Tag

intel core i9-10850k
If you seek top-notch gaming performance and are looking for a processor that will give you that at the best possible price, Intel Core i9-10850K CPU is the device for you.

This processor offers almost the same performance and specification as the flagship Intel Core i9-10900K, at a lower price, as well as better energy efficiency and thermal performance that. Ultimately, these features are delivering a better overall value for the customer.

When talking about the specs themselves, have in mind that Intel Core i9-10850K comes with 10 cores and 20 threads and that it offers a 5.2GHz boost and 3.6GHz base clock speed. Moreover, it provides support for Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0, two-channel DDR4 2933MHz memory, and up to 40 PCIe lanes that are only PCIe 3.0 ones, unfortunately.

Intel Core i9-10850K CPU provides 125W TDP, 20MB of L3 cache, and allows for the Hyper-threading technology. In other words, it supports everything as its bigger brother; nevertheless, it costs significantly less. For that reason, if you are looking for one of the best gaming CPUs, with the optimal performance for the price, Intel Core i9-10850K is a sure thing.

Pros:
  • Excellent single and multithread performance
  • Amazing gaming performance
  • Similar performance, but lower cost than the flagship i9-10900K
  • Unlocked multiplier
  • Thermal Velocity Boost
Cons:
  • PCIe 3.0 interface
  • Too little space for overclocking
  • High power consumption

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Conclusion

If this guide has helped you with your CPU purchase, its goal has been fulfilled. On the other hand, if it didn’t, we hope it was at least beneficial enough to equip you with some knowledge and give you a slightly better perspective of what exactly it is that do you need. Good luck with your CPU shopping!

About author

Miodrag Matović is a tech geek who loves writing about everything related to computers. He’s a graduate graphic designer, but found his passion elsewhere. In his free time, he likes to spend time with his family, dance with his wife, and put together new computers.
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