The 8 Best Processors for Gaming of 2019

Get the most out of your gaming experience with these processors

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The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Intel Core i9-9900K

Intel Core i9-9900K

 Intel

For those who want the best of the best, the Intel Core i9-9900K is the processor for you. The i9-9900K is the fastest mainstream CPU available today. With base clock speeds of 3.6GHz and turbo unlocked speeds coming in at a staggering 5.0GHz, you will never have to worry about speed with the i9-9900K. The 8-core, 16-thread design sets you up for multitasking to the extreme and then some.

For most gamers, the i9-9900K probably isn’t the smartest buy, simply because you do not need this much power to run even the most intensive triple-A games. But if you stream regularly and use intensive software such as video editing or animation programs, the i9-9900K is a more appealing option. 

The i9-9900K should be viewed as an enthusiast CPU, for gamers who regularly upgrade their rigs to the latest and greatest graphics cards. You cannot buy a better gaming CPU today, which is why the i9-9900K costs so much. Seeing as it’s overkill for most modern triple-A games at the moment, the i9-9900K is a future-proof investment you'll need an Intel 300 series motherboard to use.

Best Overall, Runner-up: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X

AMD Ryzen

AMD 

AMD’s most advanced processor, the Ryzen 9 3900X is probably an unnecessary purchase for most gamers. It has a base clock speed of 3.8GHz and can boost to 4.6GHz. Like all Ryzen processors, the Ryzen 9 3900X is unlocked. While it can’t boost to the same speed as the Intel i9-9900K, the 3900X makes up for it with its otherworldly cache. When you combine L3 and L2 cache, the Ryzen 9 3900X has an absurd 70MB total game cache. A large cache substantially helps performance when playing intensive triple-A games.

Perhaps as impressive as the cache is the number of cores packed into the 3900X. The 12-core, 24-thread design is far more than you will need for a long, long time when gaming. The treasure trove of CPU cores, each of which supports multithreading, should interest serious streamers, virtual reality enthusiasts, and video editors. The 3900X comes with the Wraith Prism, AMD’s best cooling fan. Featuring invisible blades and RGB LED lighting, the premium fan also looks pretty awesome and is compatible with Razer Chroma.

We’re tempted to call the Ryzen 9 3900X a bargain. Even at its high price, it’s certainly AMD’s best effort yet. However, as a new release, it’s a challenge to find one in stock at the moment.

Best Purely Gaming Intel: Intel Core i7-9700K

Intel Core i7-9700K

 

Intel

While the Core i9-9900K is our top pick, the i7-9700K offers near-identical performance for gaming, simply because it also outpaces what you actually need for modern games. It has a base clock speed of 3.6GHz and turbo unlocked speeds up to 4.9GHz. Its smaller cache — 12MB compared to the 9900K’s 16MB — makes it just a touch slower, but it’s unlikely you’ll notice a huge difference.

The main difference between the 9900K and the 9700K is hyper-threading. The 9700K, unlike most Core processors, doesn’t feature hyper-threading. The 8-core, 8-thread 9700K doesn’t perform as well as a result, but we’re still talking about a premium processor here. When it comes down to it, if you’re buying the card primarily for gaming, the 9700K is more than enough to run your games for the foreseeable future. Like the 9900K, a high-end graphics card, such as that of the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 20 series variety, is what you would ideally pair up with the 9700K.

Overall, the i7-9700K is a better value than the i9-9900K if you solely look at gaming performance. The i9700K is a superb processor that will cover all of your gaming needs. Pair it with the best graphics card today.

Best Purely Gaming AMD: AMD Ryzen 7 2700X

Coming in at about half the price of the Ryzen 9 3900X, the Ryzen 7 2700X is a monster CPU in its own right. With a base clock speed of 3.7GHz and boost speeds of up to 4.3GHz, the 2700X is quite fast. The 20MB combined game cache bests Intel’s best processor, which significantly helps with performance while playing, especially in competitive games where framerate can make a big difference.

The Ryzen 7 2700X has an 8-core, 16-thread architecture. While multithreading isn’t a feature that’s really used often in games just yet, the 2700X is future-proof as GPUs continue to get more sophisticated. Alternatively, you can save a little bit of money and get the base 2700, which is only a tad slower than the 2700X. The 2700X comes with AMD’s Wraith Prism LED Cooler. As the fan spins, the RGB lights create a rainbow effect. Ideal for hardcore gamers who want top performance, the 2700X is a worthwhile investment.

Best Entry-Level: AMD Ryzen 3 2200G

The AMD Ryzen 3 2200G is the cheapest, genuinely good processor available today. This 4-core, 4-thread CPU has a clock speed of 3.5GHz. It can overclock, but only to 3.7GHz. If you want to multitask, stream, and get the best performance in your games, the Ryzen 3 2200G isn’t for you. But if you are a casual gamer just getting into the PC scene, the Ryzen 3 2200G is an excellent jumping-off point. You won’t get the same speeds or general performance as other processors on this list, especially when you consider its small 6MB combined cache. However, it has enough power to run some beautiful games if you tinker with the in-game settings.

The Ryzen 3 2200G also has onboard graphics. Radeon Vega 8 graphics aren’t a substitute for a premium GPU by any means, but if you like playing retro and indie games, it will usually be a sufficient source of graphical power. The Ryzen 3 2200G is the best entry-level processor, and it’s readily available for a bargain price.

Best AMD Value: AMD Ryzen 5 2600

Offering the best performance to value ratio amongst AMD processors, the Ryzen 5 2600 is a stellar mid-tier CPU that will satisfy even everyday gamers. The base clock speed of 3.4GHz is respectable and can boost up to 3.9GHz when performing rigorous tasks such as gaming. For a midrange part, the Ryzen 5 2600 has an ample number of cores. 

The 6-core, 12-thread architecture is complemented by 19MB of combined L3 and L2 cache. Like other Ryzen processors, the high total cache helps shrink the gap between its Intel counterparts in terms of single-core speed. The Ryzen 5 comes with a Wraith Stealth cooler to help with heat dissipation. The Ryzen 5 2600 has ridiculous value when you consider its upper mid-tier performance. You can spend a small amount more for the 2600X and get faster base clock speeds. The 2600 is better at overclocking, though.

Best Intel Value: Intel Core i5-9400F

While we’re partial to the unlocked Intel Core processors for overclocking, a number of great Intel processors for gaming fly under the radar. Among them is the Core i5-9400. Though not technically marketed for gaming, the i5-9400F hits the minimum requirements and then some for most triple-A games. It has a modest 2.9GHz clock speed but each of its six cores can boost up to 4.1GHz.

Game streaming at resolutions above 720p may prove to be a challenge, depending on the intensity of the game. But if you compliment the i5-9400F with a mid-tier GPU, you’ll have no problem getting quality performance out of your games. The i5-9400F is an efficient CPU at an affordable price. 

The 9400F doesn’t come with onboard graphics, so you'll have to buy a graphics card to use it. For a little more money, you can grab the i5-9400 with onboard graphics, if you so choose. That said, it's more practical to go with the 9400F since you’ll likely want a dedicated GPU regardless.

Best Mid-Range: Intel Core i5-9600K

First introduced in 2009, Intel Core i5 processors have consistently offered wonderful midrange performance. The Core i5-9600K, thanks to its unlocked speeds, is one of the best mid-range processors Intel has ever released. The base clock speed of 3.7GHz is great, but with Turbo Boost the i5-9600K can reach 4.6GHz with a 9MB cache.

The i5-9600K has a 6-core, 6-thread design, so you won’t get the performance boost that comes with hyper-threading. Still, this means it won’t run as hot, meaning you can get away with having an air cooler rather than a more expensive liquid cooling system. The i5-9600K is still powerful enough to support robust multitasking.

In terms of gaming, the 9600K will handle all of your needs with ease. If you’re into game streaming, you may want to step up to an i7 or i9.

Interested in reading more reviews? Check out our roundup of the best PCs for gaming.

Our Process 

Our writers spent 5 hours researching the most popular processors on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 15 different processors overall, screened options from 2 different brands and manufacturers, read over 50 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 1 of the processors themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.