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Best Gaming CPU: The best Intel and AMD gaming processors

Looking to upgrade your gaming PC or build an entire new system from scratch? Then you’ll need the best gaming CPU possible to maximise your performance and see those frame rates soar for the most demanding AAA games.

We’ve assembled a list of the very best gaming CPU options currently available, with both Intel Rocket Lake and AMD Ryzen 5000-series chips recently entering the fold. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to review the likes of the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X and Ryzen 5 5600X processors at the time of writing, but we’ll be looking to update this list with new entries as soon as possible.

In the meantime, check out our favourite gaming CPUs that we’ve reviewed so far, including the great value Intel Core i5-11600K and the impressively versatile AMD Ryzen 7 5800X.

Best-value gaming CPU

Intel Core i5-11600K

Pros:

  • Excellent gaming performance
  • Support for PCIe 4.0
  • Good value for money
  • Runs at comparatively low temperatures

Cons:

  • Poor multi-threaded performance
  • Marginal performance gains from 10th generation

Why we liked the Intel Core i5-11600K

The Intel Core i5-11600K is the best gaming processor that you can currently buy. It isn’t the most powerful chip available, but it offers similar performance to the juggernaut i9 chip, despite costing a few hundred quid less. 

Intel’s 11th-Generation processors (aka Rocket Lake) also feature PCIe 4.0 support, which means you’ll be able to maximise the performance of modern-day SSDs when fitting the i5-11600K into your gaming PC. This ensures your build will be future-proofed for years to come, so you won’t be forced to upgrade again in the near-future.

The Intel chip also ran pretty cool during testing, which means you don’t need to worry about buying an extravagant cooling solution to ensure an optimal performance. You may need to double-check your PSU specs, though, since the i5-11600K consumes a fair bit of power.

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Most affordable gaming processor

Intel Core i5-10600K 01

Pros:

  • Impressive single-threaded performance
  • Consistently fast in games
  • Now includes Hyper-Threading
  • Chipset has upgraded networking

Cons:

  • AMD remains faster in multi-threaded workloads
  • Relatively expensive ecosystem
  • No native PCIe 4.0 support

Why we liked the Intel Core i5-10600K

The Intel Core i5-10600K may be based on older architecture than the i5-11600K, but it still offers similar gaming performance after excelling in our benchmark tests. And since this chip is more affordable than the newer i5 chip, it’s a great option for those looking to cut costs.

The biggest drawback to this Intel chip is the lack of PCIe 4.0 support, which means you’ll be limiting the performance power of any modern-day SSD installed into your motherboard. That’s not a major issue for the time being, but it could become problematic in the future when next-gen SSD prices start to plummet.

If you’re not bothered about maximising the performance of your SSD, however, the Intel Core i5-10600K is a fantastic value buy with a top-notch gaming performance, impressively low thermals and very efficient power consumption.

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Most versatile gaming CPU

Best Gaming CPU - AMD Ryzen 7 5800X

Pros:

  • Fantastic all-round performance
  • Better multi-threaded performance than Intel
  • Low power consumption
  • Supports PCIe 4.0

Cons:

  • Fairly expensive
  • Intel still has the edge for gaming

Why we liked the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X

If you want a computer that can do more than run video games at blistering speeds, then it may be a good idea to side with Team Red. The AMD Ryzen 7 5800X not only offers a superb gaming performance (with PCIe 4.0 support to boot), it also flaunts better multi-threaded performance than what any Intel processor currently offers.

Such great performance means this processor is a superb choice for those looking to animate, edit video or engage in any other demanding workload. However, such a versatile performance does mean AMD is charging a pretty penny for this CPU – and the omission of a bundled cooler means you’ll have to purchase your own if you don’t already own one.

And since this Ryzen chip isn’t quite as powerful as the best Intel processors on this list when it comes to gaming workloads, the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X is only a worthwhile buy if you’re going to push it in areas beyond gaming.

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Most powerful gaming CPU

Best Gaming CPU - Intel Core i9-11900K

Pros:

  • The absolute best CPU gaming performance
  • Support for PCIe 4.0

Cons:

  • Very high price
  • Only marginally more powerful than cheaper alternatives
  • Multi-threaded performance can’t compete with AMD

Why we liked the Intel Core i9-11900K

The Intel Core i9-11900K consistently saw the best gaming results during our benchmark tests, making it the most powerful gaming CPU on this list. However, it’s also the most expensive processor in this ranking by a significant margin, and doesn’t offer a big enough performance jump over the Intel Core i5-11600K to justify the added cost.

The low number of cores and threads also limits this processor’s versatility. It only really excels at gaming, with a poor multi-threaded performance making it an inferior option for content creators and the like.

We’d only recommend this gaming CPU if money is no concern. If you’re happy to spend big on the ultimate processor for gaming, then look no further. Although we advise checking out the Intel Core i5-11600K before hitting the checkout.

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Most versatile Intel gaming CPU

Best Gaming CPU - Intel Core i9-10900K 01

Pros:

  • Impressive single-threaded performance
  • Decent gaming pace
  • Good performance in day-to-day work
  • Chipset with upgraded networking

Cons:

  • Unable to beat AMD rivals in multi-threaded tests
  • Pricier than the competition
  • Expensive ecosystem
  • No native PCI-E 4.0 support

Why we liked the Intel Core i9-10900K

The Intel Core i9-10900K has found itself in an awkward place after the launch of Rocket Lake processors; it’s no longer the most powerful Intel gaming chip available and it can’t compete with AMD’s incredible multi-threaded performance.

The one thing is still has going for itself is that it has more cores and threads (10 and 20) than any of the new Rocket Lake Intel chips. This makes it the most versatile chip in Team Blue, while still offering a competitive gaming performance, albeit with the omission of PCIe 4.0 support.

That said, we’d still recommend an AMD Ryzen processor over this Intel CPU if you’re looking for a jack-of-all-trades performance. The Intel Core i9-10900K is only worth serious consideration if it sees a significant price drop – or you’re so committed to Team Blue that a switch to Ryzen isn’t an option.

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  1. Best-value gaming CPU: Intel Core i5-11600K
  2. Most affordable gaming CPU: Intel Core i5-10600K
  3. Most versatile gaming CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 5800X
  4. Most powerful gaming CPU: Intel Core i9-11900K
  5. Most versatile Intel CPU: Intel Core i9-10900K

 

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