The CPU (central processing unit) is your computer’s most vital component. Simply put, it’s the brains of the operation – the piece that controls executive function and ensures that everything on your computer works together.
Since modern-day gaming requires so much processing power, a huge market for high-power CPUs – made specifically for gaming – has opened up. Modern games are complex, with their huge open world maps and incredible graphics. Your CPU needs to be able to handle the workload.
But never fear – we’re here to tell you what’s good – and what’s not. We’ve scoured low and high, finding the top CPUs for gaming in 2019 and creating a comprehensive list. Read on to find which CPU is best for your gaming rig.
Let’s get this out of the way: the Intel Core i9-9900k is quite possibly the single best gaming CPU. Ever. In fact, some may consider this ultra high-performance CPU overkill for gaming alone.
The i9-9900k has the highest overclocking speed of any currently available processor: almost 5.0 GHz when coupled with a solid motherboard. More than 8 cores means there is no shortage of processing power, and a 16MB L3 cache ensures that tasks handled rapidly. Intel also included 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes, so it’s compatible with almost all newer motherboards. And provided you have a suitable GPU to work with, the processor can handle full 4k UHD screen resolutions with ease.
Due to its rapid speeds, the processor does tend to run hot, so you’ll need a good cooling system to get max efficiency. Air cooling is lacking, so it’s recommended to run a liquid cooling system. It is a bit pricey, but if you have the money to burn, you simply won’t find a more powerful gaming CPU. Period.
While not quite at i9-9900k power, the i7-9700k is the most powerful Intel i7 CPU and a perfect choice for gamers. Like the i9, the i7 has 8 separate cores operating in parallel workloads for increased performance and super overclocking speeds. With a 12MB smartcache and an 8GT/s bus speed, this thing can run virtually any game with buttery-smooth speeds.
The i7-9700k can easily handle 4k resolutions (with a suitable GPU) and high refresh rates. It works with virtually all LGA1151 motherboards, has 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes, and compared to the previous i7-8700k, has 33% more cores and higher multi-thread performance.
In other words, the i7-9700k pulls off the delicate balancing act between performance and affordability. If you livestream or do serious video editing, the “overkill” i9-9900k may be a more worthwhile purchase, with its extra processing power. But if you focus solely on gaming, you simply can’t go wrong with the i7-9700k.
After Intel, AMD is still one of the biggest names in the CPU world. Their new Ryzen 5 3600 is a solid mid-range option could tickle the fancy of any PC gamer. It may be “mid-range,” but isn’t lacking in power or performance; with 6 separate physical cores, 12 thread channels and an overclock max of 4.2 GHz, its performances holds a candle to many higher-end models.
The best part? It’s still very affordable. This makes it an excellent choice for gamers who want to run all the latest games on a budget.
The Ryzen 5 actually comes in two models: the 3600 and 3600 X. The only major difference between the two is the 3600 X’s slight 200MHz overclocking boost and newer Wraith Spire cooler.
In short, the Ryzen 5 3600 is a fantastic choice who need the best gaming CPU they can buy but can’t burn a huge hole in their wallets. It’s a great entry level option for people who want to take their gaming to the next level.
If you’re looking for Cores, look no further than the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX. This new addition to AMD’s line features a whopping 32 cores – 4 times as many as the i9-9900k and i7-9700k. It also has a huge 64MB L3 cache and a monstrous 64 PCIe 3.0 lanes.
To put it plainly – this thing is powerful.
To be frank, everyday gaming never requires 32 cores of processing. In fact, the most demanding games shouldn’t need more than 8 cores if properly setup. Where the Threadripper really shines is for applications other than gaming; the 32 cores are a beast at scientific calculations or 3D modeling, which both require massive processing power. All in all, the Threadripper is the ultimate general-purpose CPU – a great choice for professionals who need something with a lot of juice.
Of course, with top performance comes a high price tag: The Threadripper isn’t cheap. But if you need a fantastic CPU that can handle virtually anything, it’s a solid option.
This is for the gamers with thin wallets. It may only be a quad-core processor with 4 thread channels, but the Ryzen 3 2200G is actually more powerful than the comparable Intel i3-8100. It’s also one of the few AMD chips with an onboard graphics processor; there’s no need to install a separate discrete GPU, and it’s thus an excellent choice for budget gaming PC’s.
Integrated graphics usually can’t hold a candle to dedicated GPUs, but the Ryzen 3 2200G still gives a good showing – decent performer for most everyday tasks and games alike. Most modern games should run well at at least 720p, even if a bit of graphical fidelity needs to be sacrificed. It can’t be overclocked, but the base 3.6 GHz clock frequency should be fine for general use.
Where the Ryzen 3 2200G really shines is price. It’s an older generation model, and you can pick one up for dirt cheap. And the integrated Vega 8 GPU makes it a better choice than most competitors for graphics-intensive games.
Before buying, take some time to think about the following features.
As a general rule of thumb, clock speeds are more important than number of cores when it comes to gaming applications. The higher a CPU’s clock speed, the more calculations it can do per second, so a high clock speed is ideal for gaming applications that require a lot of small computations per second. While more cores generally translates into better performance, a CPU with fewer cores and a higher clock speed can fare better for gaming than a high-core CPU with a lower clock speed.
That being said, the number of cores is also important w.r.t. performance. In the initial days of computing, all processors were single-core, but now this is the exception, not the rule. The more cores a CPU has, the more a processor can split up the tasks for more efficient computing. In general, this results in faster performance. To be clear, the number of cores you can use is limited by the particular software application. Some games, for example, may only use 4 cores which means for an 8 core processor, 4 of them will be left unused. So you need to be sure to match core availability with system requirements.
The cache of a CPU is similar to the memory of a computer and is a small amount of memory that gets used for temporary storage. The computer can save important information in the cache so it does not have to reach out to memory the next time it needs that info. In general, the larger the cache, the more data the processor can store in temporary memory.
The number of sockets on a CPU determines whether it can interface with a given motherboard. In the past socket compatibility was something that prevented the use of certain CPUs with certain motherboards. However, nowadays, most commercially available CPUs use LGA 1155 sockets, which are compatible with most available motherboards, meaning that socket compatibility is not as big of an issue as it was in the past. That being said, you still need to make sure that the number of sockets on the CPU matches the number on your motherboard, or else you will not be able to use the CPU.
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