How to Pick the Right CPU for Your Gaming PC

How to Pick the Right CPU for Your Gaming PC
Image: iStock/Ryzen
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If you’re new to the world of PC gaming and are building your own rig, knowing what parts are worth your money and time can be tricky. While graphics processing units (GPUs) or graphics card will do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to gaming, CPUs are the cornerstone of how well your computer can perform.

It’s important that you have a CPU that can keep up with the games you’re throwing at it.

If you’re currently in the market for a CPU, be it for your new rig or because your current processor just isn’t cutting it anymore, we’ve put together a handy guide that should work for any budget.

Whether you’re a big spender looking for something that’s top of the line, or someone on a budget who’s after a cheap but reliable option, these are the processor you should be checking out.


Budget CPUs ($150-300)

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.

Buy the Intel Core i5-9400F here.

AMD Ryzen 5 3600

Just because you’re upgrading or building your gaming PC on a budget, that doesn’t mean you can’t get some quality parts. AMD’s Ryzen 5 3600 gives you a good balance between gaming performance and productivity, and it won’t overshoot your budget. The six cores, 12 threads are a great start for a first time gaming PC.

Buy the Ryzen 5 3600 here.

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.

Buy the Intel Core i5-8400 here.

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 Ryzen 7 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.

Buy the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X here.

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 (although the upcoming 11th-gen range has us excited).

The Intel 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.

Buy the Intel Core i7-10700 here.

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 – especially when it comes to performing while streaming. 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.

Buy the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X here.

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X

Released as part of AMD’s Zen 3 range of CPUs in November last year, the Ryzen 7 5800X is a solid improvement on a decently speedy range.

While the Ryzen 7 5800X has less cores and threads when compared to the 9 3900X – 8-cores and 16 threads – the newer architecture of this CPU makes it the better performer of the two. With a max boost of 4.7GHz, you can really push the Ryzen 7 5800X to get some high performance.

If you can find a good deal, the price difference between the Ryzen 7 5800X and the 9 3900X isn’t that large, and either processor is a good choice. But with the Ryzen 7 5800X being a newer release, it might be a better long term investment.

Buy the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X here.