Upgrading your PC with a new gaming CPU can be one of the biggest and most costly parts of building a new PC, as buying one of today’s best gaming CPUs often means buying a whole new motherboard at the same time. Still, while we mostly focus on buying a good graphics card to increase our PC’s gaming performance, having one of our best gaming CPU recommendations can also give your games a surprising boost, especially if you play games at 1920×1080.
To help you buy the best gaming CPU for you and your budget, we’ve put together this list of all the best Intel and AMD CPUs for gaming across a variety of different price points. Whether you’re building a budget-friendly 1080p machine or a high-powered mega rig, here are my best gaming CPU recommendations for 2020.
Best CPU for gaming in 2020
Generally speaking, picking the best gaming CPU boils down to one simple truth: Intel CPUs are generally better for overall gaming performance, but AMD CPUs are cheaper and come with their own (and generally superior) coolers, making them better picks for those of you who are more budget-focused and energy conscious. Having tested as many CPUs as I’ve been able to get my hands on, my best gaming CPU recommendation is currently the Intel Core i5-10600K.
This six-core CPU is phenomenally powerful for a Core i5 processor, and my performance benchmarks show it offers just as much performance as Intel’s older and more expensive Core i7-9700K. You simply don’t need anything more than this right now. You’ll need to factor in a beefy cooling solution, a decent power supply and one of Intel’s new 400 series LGA 1200 motherboards into the equation to take full advantage of it, but there’s really nothing that comes close to matching its brute strength for the money.
If, however, you’re looking for something a bit cheaper and less power hungry, then the next best gaming CPU is undoubtedly the AMD Ryzen 3 3300X. This quad-core CPU runs circles around Intel’s cheaper gaming CPUs, and it also offers nigh-on identical gaming performance to both of AMD’s more expensive Ryzen 5 3600 and Ryzen 5 3600X CPUs as well, making it a much better buy.
It also comes with its own cooler in the box, meaning you don’t have to make extra room in your budget for a decent cooler. Pair it with one of AMD’s B550 motherboards and you’ll also ensure your motherboard has future compatibility with AMD’s next-gen CPUs as well.
Those are my top two best gaming CPU recommendations at a glance, but you can read more about each of them by clicking the links below (or just carry on scrolling). You can also keep up to date with all the latest CPU prices by reading our regularly updated CPU deals page as well, where we find the lowest prices for all of today’s best gaming CPUs every week. You’ll also find everything you need to know about how to build a PC in our dedicated guide, including how to install your CPU if you need a bit of a refresher, and we can also tell you what motherboard you need for Intel and AMD CPUs as well.
Intel Core i5-10600K
The best CPU for gaming
Intel’s new 10th Gen Comet Lake CPUs have finally arrived and the Core i5-10600K is definitely the pick of the bunch. Yes, the Core i9-10900K is technically the best Intel gaming CPU you can buy right now, but it’s phenomenally expensive at the moment and is massive overkill for anyone building a regular gaming PC. If you’re an avid streamer, there may be a case for opting for the Core i9-10900K or the Core i7-10700K, but if you’re just playing games for your own enjoyment, then there’s really no need to go for anything more powerful or expensive.
Indeed, my benchmark results show the Core i5-10600K is actually just as powerful as Intel’s older Core i7-9700K, which is pretty spectacular for what’s traditionally always been a mid-tier gaming CPU, and as it result it comfortably sees off competition from all of AMD’s high-end Ryzen CPUs as well. Yes, the main reason behind all that raw power is because it’s massively power hungry, but if all you care about is frames, frames and more frames, the numbers speak for themselves. You will need to pair it with a decent cooler and power supply as a result, though, which can add quite an extra chunk of money to your budget.
If you want an AMD alternative to the Core i5-10600K…
If cost, power efficiency and ease of use is important to you, though, then I’d strongly recommend going with the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X instead of the Core i5-10600K. Its gaming performance isn’t quite as good as Intel’s Core i5 monster chip, but it’s the closest CPU that AMD have in terms of price and overall value for money. Again, there are technically more powerful Ryzen processors out there such as the Ryzen 7 3800X and Ryzen 9 3900X, but their high costs and only marginal performance gains simply aren’t worth the extra money in my eyes. Instead, it’s the Ryzen 7 3700X that offers the best balance between top notch gaming speeds and value for money out of AMD’s top gaming CPUs – and it also comes with a free copy of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla at the moment, too.
Priced at £278 / $282 at time of writing, the eight-core Ryzen 7 3700X offers a substantial step-up in performance over the Ryzen 3 3300X, both for gaming and general desktop tasks, and its energy efficient TDP of just 65W means it doesn’t need such hefty cooling measures (it comes with its own cooler in the box anyway) or a souped up power supply.
Read our AMD Ryzen 7 3700X review for more information.
If you’re really mindful of your budget, though, then the Ryzen 3 3300X listed below is definitely the best budget CPU for gaming around right now.
AMD Ryzen 3 3300X
The best value CPU
If you’re after the best value CPU available today, then the AMD Ryzen 3 3300X is hands down the CPU for you. It’s significantly cheaper than all of its Intel rivals, and offers a surprising amount of power for its modest price.
Admittedly, the Ryzen 3 3300X can’t quite match the Core i5-10600K in terms of overall gaming speed, but its general desktop performance is still superb. In fact, its single core performance actually outranks the Core i5-10600K in my benchmark tests, so this is still an excellent choice for both gaming and daily desktop tasks alike. Plus, it comes unlocked for overclocking and its own, very good cooler in the box, making it much better value for money overall.
It’s fantastic all-rounder for mid-range PC builds, which is why it’s my current CPU of choice for our RPS Rig build, which covers everything you need to build a gaming PC for less than £1000. If you’re building a new PC from scratch, this is the CPU to buy.
Read our AMD Ryzen 3 3300X review for more information.