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Best CPU 2023: the 5 best processors for gaming
Pick the best processor for your gaming PC
The best gaming PCs aren’t all about the best graphics cards — no matter what anyone says. You’re going to need one of the best processors to power your machine, as PC games are featuring huge open worlds more often than ever these days.
At the end of the day, the best CPUs are what is going to be feeding your graphics card all the data it needs to make your favorite games do their thing. So, the better your CPU, the better and, more importantly, smoother your PC gaming experience is going to be.
These days, most processors are going to be loaded with a ton of cores. For instance, the Intel Core i9-13900KS is packed with 24 cores and 32 threads, making it easy to do multiple things at once without running into slowdowns. Intel’s processor has an uneven amount of cores and threads because it’s using a hybrid chip architecture.
This approach was popularized by ARM and Apple and the gist of it is there are two types of cores in the processor: performance cores and efficiency cores. Performance cores are the heavy hitters, each with two threads that can absolutely chew through heavy workloads. The efficiency cores, meanwhile, keep background tasks out of the way.
On the other hand, AMD processors use a monolithic chip design, with the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X having 16 cores and 32 threads. This means every core in the processor is generally capable of the same amount of throughput, and is a no-brainer for heavily-threaded workloads like video editing.
Either way, when you’re sitting down to decide which of the best processors is right for your machine, you’re going to have to figure out what your priorities are. For gaming, Intel typically has better single-core performance, thanks to those meaty performance cores. However creative pros will love the heavy work that an AMD processor can do.
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How to buy the Best Processor
🤔 Make sure you pair it with a compatible motherboard
🤔 I mean, like, double check
⚡ Make sure your power supply meets the CPU’s power requirements
1️⃣ Prioritize single-core performance for gaming
📏 Prioritize multi-core performance for creative work like video editing
1. Intel Core i9-13900KS
The best CPU on the market
Great for gaming and overclocking
Will get very hot under full load
Intel Core i9-13900KS processor specs:
Cores: 24 | Threads: 32 | Base clock: 3.2GHz (P-Core), 2.4GHz (E-Core) | Boost clock: 6.0 GHz (P-Core), 4.3GHz (E-core) | Cache: 36MB | TDP: 253W
Usually when I recommend someone the best CPU for their needs, I try to avoid talking about something like the Intel Core i9-13900KS. Obviously the most expensive CPU on the mainstream processor is going to be good, but the Core i9-13900KS is so good it’s almost ridiculous.
This processor will clock up to 6.0 GHz on up to 2 cores under heavy workloads, and in the most heavily threaded tasks like 4K video editing and 3D asset rendering, it’ll sit at a pretty 5.4 GHz across all of its Performance cores, while the Efficient cores handle everything that might try to interrupt.
But the 6.0 GHz max turbo speed plus its 36MB of cache makes it especially appealing to gamers who want the most frames per second and don’t want to hold back the best GPUs.
This CPU will get extremely hot under load and you’ll need a beefy cooler for it. But if you’re springing for a processor of this caliber, you’re probably going to be getting a fancy cooler either way.
2. AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D
AMD’s PC gaming masterpiece
3D V-Cache allows for super low latency
Great for gaming
Lags behind other chips in creative workloads
AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D processor specs:
Cores: 16 | Threads: 32 | Base clock: 4.2GHz | Boost clock: 5.7 GHz | Cache: 128MB | TDP: 120W
The AMD Ryzen 9 7950X was already an incredibly powerful processor for gaming, packing 16 cores and 32 threads. But with the Ryzen 9 7950X3D, AMD included its incredible 3D V-Cache technology, which essentially allows the company to load the processor with double the L3 Cache found on the 7950X.
This is a huge win for gaming performance, with the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D easily able to outpace most of the best processors on the market thanks to the low latency and abundant cache. But, there is a bit of a downside to this, too.
Creative professionals that care more about high boost clocks and heavy CPU throughput are going to want to go with AMD’s non-3D variant. Multi threaded performance drops like a brick with the Ryzen 9 7950X3D compared to the 7950X. But again, that’s why the 7950X3D is meant for PC gamers. If all you want is the best possible gaming performance, and you don’t really care about how fast it can render a 4K video in Adobe Premiere, you’re going to find a lot to love about the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D.
That is, if you can afford the $699 price tag.
Read my full review: AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D
3. Intel Core i5-13600K
The best processor for gaming
Extremely fast in gaming
Sucks a lot of power for a mid-range CPU
Intel Core i5-13600K Processor specs:
Cores: 14 | Threads: 20 | Base clock: 3.5GHz (P-Core), 2.6GHz (E-Core) | Boost clock: 5.1 GHz (P-Core), 3.9GHz (E-core) | Cache: 24MB | TDP: 181W
Ever since Intel made a comeback with its 12th-generation Alder Lake processors, it’s had AMD on the run. And, the company can once again say it makes the best processor for gaming. With a whopping 14 cores and 20 threads on a mid-range CPU, gamers will be able to get both fast gaming performance and fast multi-threaded performance. This means you don’t have to compromise on getting work done just to have a faster gaming chip.
I haven’t benchmarked this processor, but looking around at reviews on PC Gamer and Tom’s Hardware, this CPU seriously punches above its weight class. It outperforms the latest AMD Ryzen 9 in a lot of games, and that’s a processor that costs around $200 more.
If your main focus is playing PC games, then the Intel Core i5-13600K is a no-brainer.
4. AMD Ryzen 9 7900X
A high-end CPU that kicks butt
⚡Blistering multi-core speed
📏 AMD embraces an LGA socket
🌡️ Will constantly be very hot
AMD Ryzen 9 7900X Processor specs:
Cores: 12 | Threads: 24 | Base clock: 4.7GHz | Boost clock: 5.6 GHz | Cache: 12MB | TDP: 170W
The AMD Ryzen 9 7900X is the processor I’m currently running in my personal gaming PC, and it is incredibly fast. Not only does this thing have 24 threads that can each individually boost up to 5.6GHz, the AMD algorithm makes sure it’s running at full speed more often. This does mean that temperatures will regularly spike up near 95°C range, but the processor is designed to handle that kind of heat. Still, I totally understand if you’re not comfy with running a chip that hot in your rig.
No matter what I’m doing with this processor, it doesn’t seem to break a sweat. I’ve opened up dozens of images in photoshop without it even stopping to think. And, even in the most CPU heavy PC games, frame rates are buttery smooth. Now, this is an expensive CPU, but if you want a top-end experience, it’s worth the price of admission. Especially now that prices have been slashed for Black Friday.
5. AMD Ryzen 5 7600X
The other mid-range gaming CPU
💪 Solid gaming performance
😴 Lags behind Core i5-13600K
AMD Ryzen 5 7600K Processor specs:
Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Base clock: 4.7GHz | Boost clock: 5.3 GHz | Cache: 6MB | TDP: 105W
If you’re looking for a mid-range CPU but you don’t want to go with an Intel processor, the AMD Ryzen 5 7600X will realistically provide a very similar gaming experience as the Intel chip. And the plus side: its a bit cheaper. This CPU might be limited to “just” 6 cores – remember when top-end processors were hexa-core – the individual cores are strong enough to muscle in some impressive single-core performance.
It actually provides a great gaming experience for the money, especially if you’re not planning on pairing your CPU with a ridiculous graphics card like the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080. This is the mid-range processor for anyone that’s looking to create a super-balanced PC build with a reasonable graphics card like the AMD Radeon RX 6700.
Why trust my processor recommendations?
I’ve been testing and building gaming PCs for almost as long as I can remember. And in that time, I’ve learned exactly what to look out for when it comes to gamers’ needs. I test and re-test processors multiple times throughout their lifespans to make sure that over time, every single processor on this list will maintain its high performance. Any issues that come up, I’ll be sure to let you know.
Let me help you pick the best processor
There are so many things that go into picking out the best processor for your PC build that it can be overwhelming. If you have any questions, or just want a bit of personalized advice before you pull the trigger on your CPU purchase, please leave a comment or DM us on Twitter and we’ll do our best to get back to you as soon as possible.