5 Best PC Gaming CPUs You Can Buy Right Now

For a while there, Intel was running a near monopoly on CPUs. Thankfully, AMD has stepped up to the plate in recent years with the advent of Ryzen. Now, the CPU market is the most vibrant its been in many a year, with exciting new processors released last weekend from AMD. We will incorporate those into this page very shortly.

If you’re on the hunt for a new CPU though, it can be tough to know where to start. The good news is that the performance of most mid-range and high-end processors massively outstrip the demands of today’s games. Once you start hitting about the best value threshold, you’re really paying for stronger performance in threaded workloads outside of gaming.

It means that, unlike the Best Graphics Cards, your CPU shouldn’t have a massive impact on frame rates. As long as it’s enough, you’re golden. Which then means that in today’s market, you don’t need to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on a gaming CPU – there’s plenty of processors out there with great gaming performance for sub $200. Obviously we all still eye the top end processors and want that power for ourselves, but its not essential to regular gaming.

Here we’ve outlined five of the best CPUs to buy right now, ranging from the best CPU on a tight budget all the way up to the best that money can buy. We will continually update this article as better options at these price points become available, including this week’s AMD Ryzen 3000 series once we get a handle on their performance.

Best on a Budget

Pentium Gold G5620 – 2C/4T @ 4.0 GHz

BUY

The Pentium Gold G5620 is the fastest Pentium processor Intel has ever devised, clocked at 4.0 GHz right out of the box. These days, having fewer than four threads is suicide in terms of gaming performance, yet the G5620 provides just enough to see you over the line. This CPU can be found for well under $100 and yet can still run games at a decent clip. Performance-wise, the Pentium G5620 isn’t all that far off of a modern Core i3 and shouldn’t actually prove much of a bottleneck in most games. 

Best Low-End

Ryzen 3 2200G – 4C/4T @ 3.5 GHz / 3.7 GHz

BUY UK £76.23 | BUY US $84.99

AMD really upset the market lately with its top-notch CPUs at fantastic prices. At $99, the Ryzen 3 2200G is a bargain, and not the sort you’d find thrown in a bargain bin. To our eyes, the Ryzen 3 2200G is the ultimate budget CPU in the world today, offering up quad-core/eight-thread performance and discrete Vega graphics which has a damn good stab at playing games at 1080p. It’s the ultimate all-in-one part for those who want to put together a dirt cheap gaming built quickly. 

Best Mid-Range

AMD Ryzen 5 2600X – 6C/12T @ 3.6 GHz / 4.3 GHz

BUY UK £154.07 | BUY US $158.35

After a few years of struggling, AMD came back with the intent of stealing the price-to-performance crown. The arrival of Ryzen was enough to force Intel to have a shuffle and rethink its pricing structure. The AMD Ryzen 5 2600X is still the current champion at the mid-range though, offering up performance roughly equivalent to Intel’s Core i5-8600. For your money you get hexa-core performance with multi-threading though, making the Ryzen 5 2600X an affordable CPU which copes well with threaded workloads. This is a versatile CPU for general PC users and gamers that won’t break the bank at around $185.  

Best Value Gaming

Intel Core i5-9600K – 6C/6T @ 3.7 GHz / 4.6 GHz

BUY UK £226.97 | BUY US $249.99

Whilst certainly not the best value for those who prioritise content creation and workstation usage, the Intel Core i5-9600K is nevertheless hitting that sweet spot for gamers between price and performance. Any more power than this hexa-core CPU from Intel isn’t particularly necessary at all, while the 9600K’s immensely strong single-threaded performance makes it a formidable gaming processor. Those looking for a CPU better capable of multi-threaded workloads would do well to look towards Ryzen but for pure gaming needs, the Core i5-9600K is the don in terms of value and performance.

Ultimate High-End CPU

Intel Core i9-9980XE – 18C/36T @ 3.0 GHz / 4.4 GHz

BUY UK £1,954.99 | BUY US $1,999

The Intel Core i9-9980XE is utter insanity for those who want the absolute best of the best. If your core use of a CPU is intended to be gaming, this is a ludicrously unnecessary (and expensive) purchase. Multi-core performance on the i9-9980XE is through the roof, propped up by 18 cores and 36 threads courtesy of HyperThreading. Generational improvements to frequency and efficiency help the 9980XE to the top of the heap. This will just absolutely blitz through multi-threaded applications such as rendering, encoding, and compiling, although gaming applications will enjoy precious few benefits from the eye-watering price tag.

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