What is the best gaming CPU? Competition between AMD and Intel has never been more fierce, with the 13th Gen Core and Ryzen 7000 series each offering high levels of performance. You’re effectively spoiled for choice at the moment when it comes to picking the perfect processor for your PC, but we’re here to make your search much simpler.
While it’s easy to underestimate the value of your CPU, it 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.
Right now, the AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D rules the roost according to our testing. However, the Intel Core i9 13900K can pull ahead in some benchmarks, providing you have a strong enough cooler and power supply to tame that particular beast.
As a general rule of thumb when looking for a new processor, we’d suggest looking at options with at least six cores. Hexacore chips are now the standard among gamers, and a growing number of AAA releases 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.
Here are the best gaming CPUs in 2023:
- AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D – best processor for gaming
- Intel Core i3 13100 – budget chip for gamers
- Intel Core i5 13400 – fantastic bang for buck CPU
- AMD Ryzen 5 7600X – best AMD CPU for gamers
- AMD Ryzen 5 5600G – a CPU for those without a GPU
- Intel Core i7 13700K – perfect for streaming games
- Intel Core i9 13900KS – Intel’s champion CPU
- AMD Ryzen 9 7950X – most powerful AMD CPU
1. AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D
The best gaming CPU is the AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D.
AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D specs:
|Boost clock||Up to 5.00GHz|
- Flagship performance for $449 / £439
- Extremely efficient
- AM5 platform is feature-rich and has longevity
- Relatively slow clock speeds
- L3 cache doesn’t always guarantee higher frame rates
- No stock cooler
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 lower resolutions, 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 at some point in the future, futureproofing your build.
Read our AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D review.
2. Intel Core i3 13100
The best cheap gaming CPU is the Intel Core i3 13100.
Intel Core i3 13100 specs:
|Base clock frequency||3.40GHz|
|Max clock frequency||Up to 4.50GHz|
- Solid gaming performance for today’s games
- Stock cooler included
- 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.
3. Intel Core i5 13400
The best-value CPU is the Intel Core i5 13400.
Intel Core i5 13400 specs:
|Cores (P+E)||10 (6+4)|
|Base clock frequency (P/E)||2.50GHz / 1.80GHz|
|Max clock frequency (P/E)||Up to 4.60GHz / 3.30GHz|
- Lion’s share of 13th Gen power
- Stock cooler included
- 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, such as H670 or B660. You’ll also have a suitably capable stock cooler included with your purchase too.
4. AMD Ryzen 5 7600X
The best AMD gaming CPU is the AMD Ryzen 5 7600X.
AMD Ryzen 5 7600X specs:
|Base clock frequency||4.70GHz|
|Max clock frequency||Up to 5.30GHz|
- Lion’s share of Zen 4 performance
- Outperforms last-generation flagship processors
- No included cooler
- Upgrading to AM5 can be expensive
When we tested the AMD Ryzen 5 7600X, we found that the Zen 4 processor packs a potent performance punch that’s plenty 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 bottom 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.
Once everything falls into place, however, you could find yourself among the first people to use PCIe 5.0 SSDs as the 7600X is one of the only processors to support speedy storage at its full potential.
Read our AMD Ryzen 5 7600X review.
5. AMD Ryzen 5 5600G
The best CPU with integrated graphics is the AMD Ryzen 5 5600G.
AMD Ryzen 5 5600G specs:
|Base clock frequency||4.40GHz|
|Max clock frequency||Up to 3.90GHz|
- Most powerful integrated graphics on a desktop CPU
- Performance isn’t far behind the 5600X
- 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.
6. Intel Core i7 13700K
The best CPU for streaming is the Intel Core i7 13700K.
Intel Core i7 13700K specs:
|Cores (P+E)||16 (8+8)|
|Base clock frequency (P/E)||3.40GHz / 2.50GHz|
|Max clock frequency (P/E)||Up to 5.30GHz / 4.20GHz|
- Easily handles 120fps ‘x264 Slower’ encoding in real time
- Great gaming and creative application performance
- Can be beaten by AMD Ryzen 7000 processors
- Runs a touch hot
The Intel Core i7 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 can act as a great replacement for ‘NVENC’ on GeForce GPUs, should the need arise. The chip is able to keep up with top-tier pixel pushers too, maintaining solid maximum, average, and minimum frames per second.
7. Intel Core i9 13900KS
The most powerful Intel gaming CPU is the Intel Core i9 13900KS.
Intel Core i9 13900KS specs:
|Cores (P+E)||24 (8+16)|
|Base clock frequency (P/E)||3.20GHz / 2.40GHz|
|Max clock frequency (P/E)||Up to 6.00GHz / 4.30GHz|
- The first 6.00GHz processor
- Performs about the same with DDR4 and DDR5 RAM
- Incredibly power hungry
- Hard to efficiently cool
If money is no object, and you demand the best that team blue can offer, then there is only one processor for you: the Intel Core i9 13900KS.
With 24 cores, 32 threads, and a maximum clock frequency of 6.00GHz, the 13900KS is an absolute monster in every sense of the word. There’s no LGA 1700 chip that can match its single-core performance, which greatly benefits games and many other applications.
Just make sure you invest in one of the best AIO coolers on the market and have a beefy power supply to hand too, as this Raptor Lake chip gobbles electricity and runs quite hot. Should you be able to tame it, though, there’s simply nothing else like it in the 13th Gen Core series.
8. AMD Ryzen 9 7950X
The most powerful AMD gaming CPU is the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X.
AMD Ryzen 9 7950X specs:
|Base clock frequency||4.50GHz|
|Max clock frequency||Up to 5.70GHz|
- Unparalleled multi-core power
- Can trade blows with top-tier processors at just 65W
- Specs benefit production workloads more than gaming
- Expensive and best suited to costly X670E motherboards
Sitting at the top of team red’s latest processor series, you’ll find the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X. 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.
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 R23. We also observe what temperatures the processor hits under load, noting how long it’s able to maintain its advertised boost clock speeds. Find out more about how we test hardware at PCGamesN.
AMD or Intel, which is better?
A long-standing question within the PC gaming community is whether AMD or Intel products are better. In truth, when it comes to CPUs, the right option for you is whichever one can meet your power and price needs at the same time. You’ll find that various people will follow a brand based on any number of reasons, including blind loyalty, but their experiences will differ to yours, so try not to factor it into your decision.
Can CPUs be upgraded?
Yes, a CPU is easy to upgrade over time provided you’re aware of any other changes that might need to also be made. First off, each socket within a motherboard can only accept certain chips, so make sure you know what your motherboard can take. Second, you’ll need to ensure you have enough power for the CPU, so double-check your PSU and CPU compatibility.