We take another look at the CPU offerings, but this time we focus exclusively on gaming. Therefore, we choose each CPU based on almost nothing other than gaming performance. We'll take the platform into account in the highly competitive battles, but for the most part, it's all about those wonderful frames per second.
While our "Best CPUs" feature looks at the big picture based on use case and budget, our various choices essentially take into account the profile of different gaming builds and how much you should spend. The price range goes from $ 100 to $ 360 with a few good options in between. Let's get started without wasting any more time …
Best budget gaming CPU
The best budget CPU is not only relatively inexpensive, but also offers great value. For less than $ 100, the Ryzen 3 2200G is a true quad-core CPU with an integrated Vega 8 GPU that is far more powerful than the usual built-in Intel graphics for those who are reluctant to buy a discrete graphics card.
The Ryzen 5 2400G is a close runner-up and costs only $ 135. At this price, it's a bargain. If we tempt you, you'll get a more powerful product for $ 40 more than the 2200G. SMT support means that the 2400G has twice as many threads. If you want to use the integrated graphics, the Vega 11 GPU offers a little more power.
On the other side of the fence is the Intel Core i3-8100, which currently costs $ 130. For this price, he simply cannot hold a candle in front of the Ryzen 5 2400G. Compared to the 2200G, the Core i3-8100 is evenly tuned for productivity utilization and general usage, although the 2200G is generally ahead of the game after overclocking. The Intel chip is smoked without a discrete graphics card.
We kept the Ryzen 3 2200G as our top budget recommendation at $ 95. It is an unlocked part that can be overclocked on affordable motherboards, can take advantage of the higher clocked memory, and contains a powerful built-in GPU.
With the release of the Ryzen 3 2200G for just $ 100, this quad-core processor offers a lot of performance for not much money. As a bonus, you also get discrete GPU performance for beginners with the integrated Vega 8 GPU. The Pentium G4560 used to claim the best budget gaming CPU category for less than $ 100, but the Ryzen is far superior.
Other alternatives in this price range are the Ryzen 3 1200 (which is inferior to the 2200G in every respect) and the Core i3-8100. The Intel i3 processor is very similar in terms of gaming performance and can take the lead depending on the conditions. That said, it also costs $ 20 more and since the AM4 platform has many years to go, we think the 2200G is a much better investment for price-conscious gamers.
Best affordable gaming CPU
We said goodbye to Quad-Cores last year because they are now considered entry-level products. The Ryzen 3 1200 was our best affordable quad-core gaming CPU for 2017 and at that time was sold for $ 110. This time we're increasing the budget to $ 180 to include the much more powerful Core i5-8400.
Before AMD fans smash their keyboards on their FreeSync monitors, take a deep breath, everything will be fine. I recently called the Ryzen 5 2600 and 2600X the cheapest all-rounder desktop CPUs. If you are running both core applications and games, the Ryzen 5 series is the better choice. You can even overclock these Ryzen processors for superior performance in most games.
To really beat the Core i5-8400, however, you need expensive Samsung B-Die memory. Then you have to manually set this memory and invest at least $ 20 in a better cooler to support overclocking. This applies in particular to the non-X model.
The Core i5-8400, on the other hand, smashes it with the absolutely cheapest motherboard from the Intel 300 series and the standard DDR4-2666 memory from the park. So it's an extremely inexpensive and hassle-free option that works well for games.
Best Value CPU for games
For those of you who mostly feel bound to the GPU while gaming (e.g., if you don't use a high-end GPU), the Core i5-8400 or the Ryzen 5 2600 is just the ticket.
However, if you want to increase GPU firepower or play titles like CS: GO, Overwatch or Fortnite on monitors with extremely high refresh rates and competitive settings and want every last frame without breaking the bank, the Core i5-8600K is our CPU choice.
Often found for around $ 240, it has no direct competition at this price, especially for those who want nothing more than gaming. Overclocked to 5 GHz, the 8600K can easily extract every last frame from the GTX 1080 Ti or even two for the few titles that still support SLI.
Best uncompromising gaming CPU
A clear win for Intel comes in the gaming category, but which Intel CPU should we choose? Technically, the Core i9-9900K offers the highest level of gaming performance, but frankly, it doesn't make sense at $ 530. The Core i7-8700K, on the other hand, brings you $ 380, offers incredible performance, remarkable overclockability, and power consumption that's impressive for a CPU over 4 GHz by default.
For gamers, the 9900K has nothing new or extra, it's a few percent faster than the 8700K in today's titles at best, and yet it costs at least 40% more, requires a high-quality motherboard, and if you want to get maximum performance, out of the box, without being technical to overclock, you need an expensive cooler.
If money is not an issue and $ 500 is a drop in the bucket, you can simply buy the 9900K and get a lightning-fast gaming rig. Also keep in mind that this only applies to games with the best performance. If you're looking for a high-end all-rounder, something like the Ryzen 7 2700X is the better choice. However, if you want to ensure maximum FPS in all conditions, the 8700K or if you need 9900K is the best option.
If you have a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti or better and are looking for the best gaming CPU the market has to offer, then the Core i7-8700K you are looking for. At ~ $ 350, however, the 8700K isn't even that expensive write down that an update to Intel’s top mainstream line will be available soon.
Intel's low-latency ringbus architecture has proven to be the best solution for gaming. If you combine this with a CPU that can comfortably run all cores at 4.7 GHz and at least 5 GHz once they have been manually overclocked, you have a winner.
There's just nothing at the moment that could touch the 8700K. The next competitor when it comes to pure gaming performance is the Intel Core i5-8600K. This choice should come as no surprise as we have had the same opinion since the 8700K was released and the 2nd generation Ryzen series has not changed anything. Perhaps AMD Intel can take the gaming crown away next year, many believe they will, but Intel is holding the lead for now.
Best second-hand deal
Last year we advised second-hand customers to look for an inexpensive Core i5-2500K processor. This time I recommend something a lot newer, AMD's Ryzen 5 1600.
Currently retailing for ~ $ 190, there are good deals on this chip in new condition, but not all regions. If you look at places like eBay, you can find used versions for just $ 120. At this price, the Ryzen 5 1600 is a real bargain.
Hit that on an affordable B350 motherboard – I've seen decent boards that sold second-hand for just $ 40 – but you can also buy quality versions for about $ 70 if you can get one in a few years Upgrade with a Zen 2 CPU.