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Best Gaming CPU 2022: The top processor options for gaming

Introduction

Looking for a CPU specifically for gaming? Then you’re in the right place, as we’ve rounded up the best gaming CPU options currently available in 2022.

Our team of experts have reviewed all of the latest desktop processors that they can get their hands off, and benchmarked them in order to get comparable performance data.

We’ve used both synthetic benchmarks and in-game benchmarks to determine each chip’s speeds, while also factoring in the likes of component support, power efficiency and peak temperatures when reaching a final score and verdict.

With such thorough testing, we’re confident to say that these are the absolute best gaming CPU options that we’ve tested so far. But do bear in mind that the Intel Raptor Lake Series will launch in October 2022 with even more options, so it may be worth waiting until then before making a purchase.

And if you’re looking for a CPU that offers an all-round performance rather than just excelling at gaming, then we suggest checking out our Best CPU roundup too.

How we test

Learn more about how we test CPUs

We always review multiple CPUs at once to compare data, using consistent components for fair testing where possible.

We use a mix of both synthetic and in-game benchmarks to gauge performance, while also considering additional features and pricing.

We also measure the likes of power consumption and peak temperature under stress to get an idea of performance efficiency.

AMD Ryzen 5 7600X

Best value gaming CPU
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Pros

  • Outstanding gaming performance
  • Support for DDR5 and PCIE 5.0
  • Great power efficiency
  • Affordable price

Cons

  • Subpar multi-core performance
  • Requires a high-end cooler
  • Worth waiting for Intel Raptor Lake

The AMD Ryzen 5 7600X is, in our opinion, the best gaming CPU in terms of value right now.

In testing, we found that the Zen 4 chip offers a fantastic gaming performance, similar to the much more powerful (and expensive) flagship chip in the new Ryzen 9 7900X.

Our results showed there to only be a handful of frames different in AAA titles such as Horizon Zero Dawn and older games such as Dirt Rally. Intriguingly, the 7600X also managed to best the 7900X in Borderlands 3, even if it was only by a single frame per second. The point stands that for the price, the 7600X is an incredible gaming CPU.

As well as offering an excellent performance, the 7600X is also futureproofed for the foreseeable future, with support for PCIe 5.0 and DDR5, enabling compatibility with cutting-edge RAM and SSDs. Sadly, there’s no support for DDR4 here, so you will be forced to upgrade your RAM when switching up to the Ryzen 7000 Series.

The only cause for concern here is that the Ryzen 5 isn’t great for multi-core performance. If you fancy editing video or creating animations when taking a break from gaming, we recommend opting for the similarly priced Intel Core i5-12600K instead. The Intel isn’t quite as good at gaming, but it offers a more rounded performance.

Reviewer: Ryan Jones
Full review:
AMD Ryzen 5 7600X review

AMD Ryzen 9 7900X

Most powerful gaming CPU
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Pros

  • Fantastic multi-core performance
  • Top class gaming speeds
  • Future-proofed with PCIe 5.0 and DDR5
  • Great power efficiency

Cons

  • Requires a powerful cooling system
  • Can find better value gaming CPUs elsewhere
  • Worth waiting for Intel Raptor Lake before buying

AMD chips have previously lagged behind their Intel counterparts when it comes to gaming performance, but the Ryzen 7000 series has leapfrogged Intel’s Alder Lake family. The powerful AMD Ryzen 9 7900X takes things up a gear and is currently the most powerful AMD processor we’ve tested, although we’re yet to review the Ryzen 7950X.

When playing AAA games such as Horizon Zero Dawn, the 7900X highest frame rates across the board in our group test, be it at 4K, QHD, or at 1080p. Intriguingly, it’s actually at an FHD resolution where AMD’s flagship experienced its largest gains over the Intel Core i9-12900K.

The same was also true in older games such as the original Dirt Rally, which launched in 2015. Again, the largest gains were found at an FHD resolution – the Intel 12900K’s result was 30fps less. This essentially means that if you wanted to hike up the frame rate as much as possible in less intense games, the 7900X should be a fantastic option.

It’s also worth highlighting that the 7900X offers support for both DDR5 RAM and PCIe 5.0 SSDs, which will also help to improve your gaming experience to no end with much faster components.

The biggest issue with the 7900X is that it’s expensive. The Ryzen 5 7600X is noticeably more affordable, yet offers a similar gaming performance. This means the 7900X is only really worthwhile if you want the absolute fastest gaming performance, and want to also benefit from a blazing fast multi-core performance for workloads such as 4K video editing and 3D animation.

Reviewer: Ryan Jones
Full review:
AMD Ryzen 9 7900X review

Intel Core i5-12600K

Best value gaming CPU with DDR4 support
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Pros

  • Excellent gaming performance
  • Huge improvements to multi-core performance
  • Future-proofed with PCIe 5.0 and DDR5
  • Great power efficiency

Cons

  • Teething issues for game compatibility
  • Requirement of Z690 motherboard drives up cost

The Intel Core i5-12600K was previously our top recommended gaming processor in terms of value, but has since been pushed down the pecking order by the AMD Ryzen 5 7600X.

It’s still a worthwhile option for some though. Unlike the Ryzen, it supports DDR4 RAM so you can gradually upgrade components rather than all at once for an even more expensive outlay. And when you’re ready to make the leap to more expensive components, you can make use of cutting-edge DDR5 RAM and PCIe 5.0 SSDs.

The Intel i5 also has a better multi-core performance than the Ryzen, making it a more versatile option for those who like to edit video. And while not quite as speedy as the Ryzen, the Intel i5 still offers one of the best gaming performances available.

However, it’s worth remembering that Intel has just announced the new Raptor Lake series, with the next generation of Intel chips arriving as soon as October 2022. As a result, we recommend waiting to check out the new Intel chips, or even for the possibility of discounts to the current crop.

Reviewer: Ryan Jones
Full review: Intel Core i5-12600K review

Intel Core i5-11600K

Best gaming CPU for those on a budget
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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

The Intel Core i5-11600K offers a similar (albeit marginally slower) gaming performance compared to its newer 12th Gen sibling, but is also available at a cheaper price.

Aside from the mediocre multi-threaded performance that will turn off creators, the biggest issue with the i5-11600K is its lack of futureproofing. It features support for PCIe 4.0, but 12th Gen Intel chips offer a far higher performance ceiling with PCIe 5.0 and DDR5.

But if you’re currently not bothered about future-proofing your system for cutting-edge SSDs and RAM, then the Intel Core i5-11600K remains a fantastic chip that offers a stellar gaming performance.

Reviewer: Ryan Jones
Full review: Intel Core i5-11600K review

Intel Core i9-12900K

The most powerful Intel gaming CPU
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Pros

  • Huge gains in multi-core performance
  • Most powerful gaming CPU performance
  • Very good for streaming games
  • Future-proofed with PCIe 5.0 and DDR5

Cons

  • Expensive
  • High peak temperature
  • Only slightly better than i5 for gaming

The Intel Core i9-12900K is the most powerful gaming processor made by Intel that we’ve tested yet, but we’re not convinced its performance advantage over the i5-12600k is significant enough to justify that steep price for gaming alone.

Instead, the Intel Core i9-12900K is best considered if you want a processor for both content creation and gaming. Its multi-threaded muscle is hugely impressive, while the clever ‘hybrid architecture’ is particularly skilled at juggling multiple tasks simultaneously such as playing a game while recording/streaming video.

This chip isn’t cheap, but since it’s packing support for PCIe 5.0 and DDR5, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to upgrade your processor and motherboard again for a very long time.

Reviewer: Ryan Jones
Full review: Intel Core i9-12900K review

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FAQs

What is PCIe?

PCIe (peripheral component interconnect express) is an interface standard used for connecting high-speed components such as GPUs and SSDs. The PCIe generation will determine the performance handicap for connected components. The latest standard, PCIe 5.0, currently doesn’t have a big impact on GPU performance, but can enable far faster SSD speeds with compatible hardware.

What is the best CPU type for gaming?

The best thing to look out for when buying a gaming CPU is single-core performance. However, it’s also worth considering other aspects such as supported features, power consumption and temperature.

Specs compared

UK RRP
USA RRP
EU RRP
AUD RRP
Manufacturer
Release Date
First Reviewed Date
Power Consumption
Boosted Clock Speed
Architecture
Base Clock Speed
Number of Cores
Number of Threads
Motherboard Chipset
Manufactoring Process
Graphics

Trusted Reviews test data

PCMark 10
Geekbench 5 single core
Geekbench 5 multi core
Cinebench R23
Dirt Rally (4K)
Dirt Rally (Quad HD)
Dirt Rally (Full HD)
Horizon Zero Dawn frame rate (4K)
Horizon Zero Dawn frame rate (Quad HD)
Horizon Zero Dawn frame rate (Full HD)

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