Best gaming CPU 2024

We'll help you find the best gaming CPU for your system, with AMD Ryzen and Intel Core processors both offering unique performance advantages.

Best gaming CPU - Intel and AMD CPUs on a gradient background

The best gaming CPU plays a large part in determining the capabilities of your system. This bit of silicon can make all the difference in hitting your target average frame rates, particularly if you play on a high refresh rate display or enjoy gaming with ray tracing enabled. 

The two main players are AMD and Intel, and competition has never been more fierce, with the 14th Gen Core and Ryzen 7000 series each offering high levels of performance. You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to picking the perfect processor for your PC, which is why we’re here to make your search easier.

The AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D rules the roost according to our testing. However, the Intel Core i9 14900K can pull ahead in some benchmarks, providing you have a strong enough cooler and power supply to tame that particular beast.

When looking for a new CPU, we’d generally suggest looking at options with at least six cores. Hexacore chips are now the standard among gamers, and a growing number of AAA PC games expect as much. There are great current generation options that fit this bill, like the AMD Ryzen 5 7600X, but don’t feel sheepish about opting for a 12th Gen Core or Ryzen 5000 series model, as they’ll be fine for years to come too.

Why you can trust our advice ✔ At PCGamesN, our experts spend hours testing hardware, games, and VPNs. We share honest, unbiased opinions to help you buy the best. Find out how we test.

AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D

Best gaming CPU overall

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AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D specifications:
Socket AM5
Cores (P+E) 8
Threads 16
Base clock 4.20GHz
Boost clock Up to 5.00GHz
L3 cache 96MB
TDP 120W
Reasons to buy
  • Flagship performance under $500/£500
  • Extremely efficient
  • AM5 platform is feature-rich and has longevity
Reasons to avoid
  • Relatively slow clock speeds
  • No stock cooler
  • L3 cache doesn’t guarantee higher frame rates

The gaming CPU crown firmly sits with the AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D thanks to its 3D V-Cache technology. This perky processor punches well above its weight, costing just $449 / £439, and handily competes with more expensive flagship options.

The 96MB of L3 cache inside the 7800X3D does wonders to boost the floor and ceiling of frame rates, ensuring that you’re getting all the pixel-pushing juice out of your graphics card. Its effects are most keenly felt at resolutions like 1080p, making it an ideal choice for competitive gamers.

It will concede ground where clock speeds are king, but these instances are few and far between in our experience. Plus, the AM5 motherboard you pick up to seat the 7800X3D will serve you well for a drop-in upgrade, futureproofing your build.

Read our AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D review.

Intel Core i3 13100

Best cheap gaming CPU

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Intel Core i3 13100 specifications:
Socket LGA 1700
Cores (P+E) 4
Threads 8
Base clock 3.40GHz
Boost clock Up to 4.50GHz
L3 cache 12MB
TDP 60W
Reasons to buy
  • Solid gaming performance for today’s games
  • Stock cooler included
Reasons to avoid
  • Only four cores and eight threads
  • Weak integrated graphics

Hexa-core processors may now dominate the Steam Hardware & Software Survey, but there’s still plenty of life left in quad-core chips. If you’re looking to save some cash on your next build or are looking to put together your first PC, then the Intel Core i3 13100 is a great choice.

Don’t let its budget price point fool you, as this CPU is more than capable of playing games at high refresh rates. Regardless of whether you’re someone who primarily plays demanding cinematic single-player experiences or regularly sweats it out in competitive esports, your frames per second will be well looked after.

Unlike many of the more expensive options on the list, you won’t have to fork out for one of the best CPU coolers, as Team Blue kindly includes one in the box. You shouldn’t need a costly power supply, either, as it only requires 60W to power up.

Intel Core i5 13400

Best value gaming CPU

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Intel Core i5 13400 specifications:
Socket LGA 1700
Cores (P+E) 10 (6+4)
Threads 16
Base clock 2.50GHz / 1.80GHz
Boost clock Up to 4.60GHz / 3.30GHz
L3 cache 18MB
TDP 65W
Reasons to buy
  • Lion’s share of 13th Gen power
  • Stock cooler included
Reasons to avoid
  • No overclocking capabilities
  • Multi-core performance falls behind the competition

If you want to maximize your spending power with minimal fuss, look no further than the Intel Core i5 13400. Featuring six Raptor Lake cores, it’s an extremely capable processor that should help your graphics card pump out plenty of frames per second to make the most use of the best gaming monitors.

Forgoing overclocking means that you can save even more cash by opting for a less expensive chipset. You’ll also have a suitably capable stock cooler included with your purchase.

The 13400 is no slouch in creative and production applications like Photoshop and Blender either, making it an ideal choice for anyone who does more than just game with their system.

AMD Ryzen 5 7600X

Best AMD gaming CPU

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AMD Ryzen 5 7600X specifications:
Socket AM5
Cores (P+E) 6
Threads 12
Base clock 4.70GHz
Boost clock Up to 5.30GHz
L3 cache 32MB
TDP 105W
Reasons to buy
  • Lion’s share of Zen 4 performance
  • Outperforms last-generation flagship processors
Reasons to avoid
  • No included cooler
  • Runs hotter than non-X version

When we tested the AMD Ryzen 5 7600X, we found that the Zen 4 processor packs a potent performance punch that’s strong enough to run with the most powerful GPUs of today. This makes it a prime candidate for just about any build you could think of, regardless of size or power.

Despite sitting at the lower end of the Ryzen 7000 series stack, the 7600X handily outperforms previous generation flagships when it comes to gaming. Better still, you’re not missing out on many frames at all by opting for it versus its more expensive siblings.

It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that you’ll want to pair the 7600X with suitably strong cooling as it doesn’t come with a stock cooler. Don’t forget that you’ll need a new motherboard too, as well as some sticks of DDR5 RAM.

Read our AMD Ryzen 5 7600X review.

AMD Ryzen 5 5600G

Best gaming CPU with integrated graphics

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AMD Ryzen 5 5600G specifications:
Socket AM4
Cores (P+E) 6
Threads 12
Base clock 4.40GHz
Boost clock Up to 3.90GHz
L3 cache 16MB
TDP 65W
Reasons to buy
  • Most powerful integrated graphics on a desktop CPU
  • Performance isn’t far behind the 5600X
Reasons to avoid
  • Only compatible with AM4 motherboards
  • Can struggle with some games at 1080p

Grabbing a CPU with integrated graphics can be an effective stopgap while you save up for a dedicated pixel pusher, or they can be a great choice for small form factor builds. Whatever your intentions, the AMD Ryzen 5 5600G is your best bet when it comes to netting an iGPU.

Its Vega graphics cores are plenty powerful for light gaming, providing playable frame rates at 720p and 1080p resolutions at medium to low settings. Better still, the 5600G is AMD FSR compatible, which means you can easily boost fps in supported titles.

It’s no slouch of a CPU either, with most of the performance of a Ryzen 5 5600X and more with higher clock speeds. You can often find it available much lower than MSRP, but you’ll want to grab one while stocks last.

Intel Core i7 13700K

Best CPU for streaming

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Intel Core i7 13700K specifications:
Socket LGA 1700
Cores (P+E) 16 (8+8)
Threads 24
Base clock 3.40GHz / 2.50GHz
Boost clock Up to 5.30GHz / 4.20GHz
L3 cache 30MB
TDP 125W
Reasons to buy
  • Easily handles 120fps ‘x264 Slower’ encoding in real time
  • Great gaming and creative application performance
Reasons to avoid
  • Can be beaten by AMD Ryzen 7000 processors
  • Runs a touch hot

The 13700K is something of a champion for streamers and creatives alike, offering an all-in-one solution that doesn’t carry an overly premium price tag. Featuring 16 cores and 24 threads, the chip is more than capable of handling real-time 120fps encoding using the ‘x264 Slower’ preset.

This is especially useful if you have a Radeon graphics card but it can act as a great replacement for ‘NVENC’ on GeForce GPUs, should the need arise. The chip can keep up with top-tier pixel pushers too, maintaining solid maximum, average, and minimum frames per second.

It’s plenty useful for exporting and editing VODs too, boasting fast export times and rendering capabilities in Adobe suite applications such as Premiere Pro and After Effects.

Intel Core i9 14900K

Most powerful Intel gaming CPU

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Intel Core i9 14900K specifications:
Socket LGA 1700
Cores (P+E) 24 (8+16)
Threads 32
Base clock 3.20GHz / 2.40GHz
Boost clock Up to 5.60GHz / 4.40GHz
L3 cache 36MB
TDP 125W
Reasons to buy
  • Great frame rate consistency
  • 6.00GHz maximum turbo frequency
  • Unrivalled multi-threaded capabilities
Reasons to avoid
  • Extraordinarily power hungry
  • Requires a high-end cooling solution
  • Often falls behind cheaper AMD X3D CPUs in games

Sitting at the top of Intel’s gaming CPU stack is the Core i9 14900K, one of the few chips out there capable of hitting 6.00GHz clock speeds.

It packs the usual makeup of 24 cores and 32 threads that have defined every Core i9 for the past three generations. The only other LGA 1700 processor capable of competing is the Core i9 13900KS, but the 14900K is essentially identical to the more expensive CPU.

The Core i9 14900K is best suited for systems that serve both as a gaming rig and workstation, as its strengths are best realized in multi-core workloads. Just make sure you have a capable power supply and cooler to hand, as it’ll guzzle electricity like nobody’s business.

Read our Intel Core i9 14900K review.

AMD Ryzen 9 7950X

Most powerful AMD gaming CPU

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AMD Ryzen 9 7950X specifications:
Socket AM5
Cores (P+E) 16
Threads 32
Base clock 4.50GHz
Boost clock Up to 5.70GHz
L3 cache 64MB
TDP 170W
Reasons to buy
  • So much multi-core power
  • Can trade blows with top-tier processors at just 65W
Reasons to avoid
  • Specs benefit production workloads more than gaming
  • Expensive and best suited to costly X670E motherboards

You’ll find the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X at the top of Team Red’s latest processor series. In this chip lies the very best that Zen 4 has to offer, with the flagship hiding some surprising tricks up its sleeve.

While this chip doesn’t boast a higher core or thread count compared to previous generation offerings, they are clocked much higher. This not only translates into higher frames per second but also greatly improves performance in just about every application that can make use of multiple CPU cores.

Its greatest trick, however, is its ‘Eco Mode’, which can force the processor to draw a maximum of 65W. Even with such low power consumption, it can still trade blows with top-tier processors. Naturally, you’ll get the most out of the chip while running at its standard 170W TDP, but it makes the prospect of a small form factor build featuring the 7950X more possibility than a dream.

Best CPU for gaming FAQ

How we tested the best gaming CPUs

There are a lot of gaming CPUs on the market, and it can be hard to know which processors are genuinely worth your money. To help you decide which CPU is right for your system and budget, we evaluate each chip’s gaming capabilities paired with the most powerful graphics cards, including the AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX and Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090.

When we test gaming CPUs, our benchmarks include our usual suite of PC games with a few extra additions, including 3DMark, Civilization VI, and Cinebench 2024. We also observe what temperatures the processor hits under load, noting how long it’s able to maintain its advertised boost clock speeds.

How do I choose a CPU for gaming?

Once you’ve figured out your budget, choosing the right CPU for your system comes down to what you plan to use it for. Are you someone who primarily plays games at 60fps, 120fps, or higher? Do you predominantly play competitive shooters and RTS games or lean more to action-adventure games or RPGs? All of these variables should impact your purchase decision.

Core i5 and Ryzen 5 chips pack plenty of processing power that should sate the needs of most people. However, those looking for more CPU performance should opt for Core i7 and Ryzen 7 options. While Ryzen 9 and Core i9 options offer more power still, they’re best suited for production workloads. Ryzen 3 and Core i3 are still solid options for budget builders, but opting for a more expensive chip is ideal.

Can I upgrade my CPU?

To upgrade the CPU in your gaming PC, you’ll need to physically swap it out for one of the more powerful processors in this list. It’s more straightforward than you’d think, provided you have a compatible chip, an adequate cooling solution, and the right tools.

You need to check that a new CPU is compatible with your motherboard before upgrading. Intel’s compatibility tool lets you look up any Intel processor and view all compatible motherboards, while AMD’s search tool does a similar thing.

When you’re ready, our 7-step CPU upgrade guide has plenty of advice on how to install a new processor.

When to upgrade CPU for gaming

There isn’t a set amount of time that a CPU will last you, but there are several ways to determine when the best time to replace your CPU is. Either you’ll find that your current system has slowed and is no longer meeting your needs, you have a fast processing speed and want to keep it that way, or you want to futureproof yourself with the latest processor.

If you’re not sure whether the CPU is the weak link in your gaming machine, there are tools to help you figure it out. CapFrameX and Rivatuner Statistics Server can be used to display CPU and GPU loads when you boot a game with it running in the background. If your GPU hovers around 90-100% then upgrading to the best graphics card you can is in order rather than a CPU upgrade.

What should CPU usage be when gaming?

In a balanced system (i.e. a PC with a CPU and GPU of similar caliber, think RX 7700 XT and Ryzen 5 7600 or RTX 4090 and Core i9 14900K) your CPU usage will largely depend on the types of games you’re playing.

Certain genres, such as RTS games, will lean more heavily on the CPU as more computational performance is required to manage things like artificial intelligence. That said, more often than not, your GPU usage will be at 100% long before your processor is but higher frame rates (120+) will put more strain on it.