What CPU to Choose for a Gaming PC

Processor CPU
Image: iStock/golubovy

The CPU is the cornerstone of how well your computer can perform. While graphics processing units (GPUs) or graphics card will do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to gaming, it’s important that you have a CPU that can keep up.

Maybe you’re looking to upgrade your gaming rig, or maybe you’ve decided to dive into the world of PC gaming but aren’t sure how to get the best bang for your buck.

We’ve put together a handy guide that should work for any budget — from big spenders after something that’s top of the line to those looking for a cheaper, but still reliable, option.


Budget CPUs ($200-300)

Intel Core i5-9400F

If you’ve put together a mid-range gaming rig and want a CPU that will give you some consistently great performance, consider the i5-9400F. With 6 cores and 6 threads, it has a pretty widespread for clock speeds, starting at 2.9GHz and hitting a maximum 4.1GHz. A good option if you’re on a budget but willing to spend a little extra on a CPU.

AMD Ryzen 5 3600

The best all-rounder that won’t overshoot the budget, AMD’s third-generation Ryzen 5 3600 gives you a good balance between gaming performance and productivity. The six cores, 12 threads are a great start for a first gaming PC, and the 3600 gets just about the same frame rate in video games as the more expensive, beefier AMD CPUs. 

Mid-Range CPUs ($300-500)

Intel Core i5-8400

Intel’s i5-8400 is a decent choice for a mid-range gaming PC. It’s an older processor, sure, but it manages to hold its own while under heavy stress. The i5-8400 has 6-cores with 6 threads. It will give you solid performance when gaming and isn’t too shabby when it comes to running other heavy tasks, like video editing.

AMD Ryzen 7 3700X

These are both fantastic options for a mid-range PC, especially if you’re after something that can handle some high-end performances. The powerful 8-core, 16 thread 3700X is great if you want something for more than just gaming.

Despite being a mid-range CPU, it does a great job of holding its own against some of the more higher-end processors currently on the market.

If Your Really Want To Go Hard ($500+)

Intel Core i7-10700

If you want the best gaming performance, and you’re happy to pay a bit of a premium, it’s hard to go past Intel’s 10th-gen CPUs.

The i7-10700 gives you 8 cores and 16 threads, plenty for high-end gaming with support for streaming and productivity applications, although gaming is the 10700’s real forte.

If you want a more all-rounded PC or one with better support for productivity applications as well as gaming, then you’ll want to consider the AMD chip below.

AMD Ryzen 9 3900X

The Ryzen 9 3900X is AMD’s best all-around processor and the best option if you’re looking for high-end performance. You’ll have to pay a bit to get it, but the overall quality makes it a more than worthwhile purchase. The 12-core, 24 thread 3900X’s is great not just for gaming but also if you want something that can handle video editing, streaming and 3D modelling.


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