5 Best PC Gaming CPUs You Can Buy Right Now

Written by Jon Sutton on Thu, Oct 17, 2019 2:02 PM

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 in 2019 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  to buy in 2019 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 aiming above 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 it's not essential outside of those who crave ultra-high refresh rates on 144Hz monitors and their ilk.

Here we've outlined five of the best CPUs to buy in 2019, ranging from the best CPU on a tight budget all the way up to the best gaming processor that money can buy. We will continually update this article as better options at these price points become available, such as the newly launched AMD Ryzen 3000 processors.

Best on a Budget

Ryzen 3 3200G - 4C/4T @ 3.4 GHz / 4.0 GHz - Check Price

AMD really upset the market lately with its top-notch CPUs at fantastic prices. At $99, the Ryzen 3 3200G is, like the 2200G before it, a bargain, and not the sort you’d find thrown in a bin. To our eyes, the Ryzen 3 3200G is now the ultimate budget CPU in the world today, offering up quad-core 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 Low-End

Intel Core i3-9100 4-Core 3.6GHz - 4C/4T @ 3.6 GHz / 4.2 GHz - Check Price

With a price that doesn't exactly break the bank, the Intel Core i3-9100 offers solid quad-core performance albeit minus hyper-threading support. Dual-core just won't cut it for gaming these days, so quad-core should be viewed as the minimum for a satisfactory gaming experience in modern titles. The Core i3-9100 is modest yet capable, offering a 3.6GHz base clock and 4.2 GHz boost right out of the box. It's not one for performance gamers but if you've got a low to mid-range graphics card then the i3-9100 is a great pairing.

Best Mid-Range

AMD Ryzen 5 3600X 6-Core 3.8GHz - 6C/12T @ 3.8 GHz / 4.4 GHz - Check Price

Unfortunately for Intel, AMD is in danger of becoming dominant across the entire spectrum of processors right now. Case in point the all-important mid-range, where the Ryzen 5 3600X now comfortably sits as the strongest pairing of price and performance at $220-250 range. 

Performance-wise, the Ryzen 5 3600X is a smidgen faster than the Intel Core i5-9600K, with recent price drops from Intel putting these two on a comparatively level playing field. While enthusiasts can probably eke out more performance from a typical 9600K, the Ryzen 5 3600X offers great all-round CPU performance for both gaming productivity uses.

If you want to make some even bigger savings, you could also opt for a previous-gen Ryzen 5 2600X which is available for knock-down prices right now.

Best High-End Gaming

AMD Ryzen 7 3700X 8-Core 3.6GHz - 8C / 16T @ 3.6 GHz / 4.4 GHz - Check Price

AMD has gone on upset the apple cart with this one. The Ryzen 7 3700X is an octa-core monster that can tackle whatever you're going to throw at it both in terms of gaming and productivity. There are faster processors out there in terms of single-core performance but this is double the threads of an Intel Core i7-9700K for a comparatively cheaper price. Top-tier performance from a CPU has seldom come as affordable as the Ryzen 7 3700X.

Ultimate High-End CPU

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

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.

Which CPU bracket do you shop in?

Our favourite comments:

Best price-performance value... Cos that's what matters. And that's where R5 3600 perfectly fits in.

Komodo

I think for gaming the i5 is the clear winner for value for "gaming" especially at 5Ghz and beyond it easily keeps up with the i7 and i9 while the Ryzen 5 falls behind at stock let alone OCed perf. For versatility the r5 is the clear winner

IlluminatiEyes

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18:38 Jul-19-2019

Glad everyone is buying rationally. Game on bruddas

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18:34 Jul-19-2019

In place where I live I only had one choice... ryzen r3 1200. it costed me 55 dollars while 2200g was almost 2x more expensive.

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03:29 Jul-15-2019

I think for gaming the i5 is the clear winner for value for "gaming" especially at 5Ghz and beyond it easily keeps up with the i7 and i9 while the Ryzen 5 falls behind at stock let alone OCed perf. For versatility the r5 is the clear winner

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23:46 Jul-14-2019

Why is extremely limited budget option of 93USD Pentium chip considered as more budget than 85USD 2200G? Because no one in their right mind should get that Pentium over 2200G at that price and it is not like they can, since it still isn't out. Second for midrange option in my opinion should be between cheaper R5 2600 or superior R5 3600. And R5 3600 definitely deserves best value in my opinion,...

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23:47 Jul-14-2019

because 6c6t are already bare bones, 9600k is high FPS chip if you are fine at being almost capped 80%+ utilization. No one should buiy 9600k when 3600 exists, not untill 9600k is not sub 200USD part. But if you really want ulitmate value, it won't get better than 140USD 2600, that is bloody insane value for midrange PC or if you need for work 2700 for 200USD is pretty much insane too.

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23:48 Jul-14-2019

If you are high FPS enthusiast and care most about getting highest possible FPS, it is 9700k or bust. And third ultimate should be between 9900k for high FPS gaming and 3900X for productivity. There are very few exceptions that should ever put 2000USD in their CPU without it being called insane, especially for gaming where you won't see more than 8c getting used anyway and if you need for work,...

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23:48 Jul-14-2019

... that CPU is not worth it while Threadripper is a thing that exists. Sorry, but this list is kind of terrible. No offense ment to author. And Intel needs price drop before they can even touch word value.

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03:31 Jul-15-2019

I've never seen my cpu go beyond 50% usage in the most demanding games while it sits in 20-40% usage in most games. And no the i7 isn't even faster once you OC only the i9 is by less than 10FPS on average. Not sure where you got 80% from.

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21:54 Jul-15-2019

From tests with proper high FPS card, aka RTX2080Ti at 1080p. Of course with RX580, which is 60FPS card, you could easily use even low end CPU and still not see too high utilization. And with RX580, this CPU is waste of money, since you would see no difference if you went with i5 9400/8400 or R5 1600. And all of them would be a lot cheaper. But I believe Hardware Unboxed said tested or said that.

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04:22 Jul-16-2019

I've tested it with a friends 1080 to see whichway i want to upgrade and again saw no utilization issues but i've seen plenty of youtube videos that show high usage. I'm not sure what else they are running in the background the rx is temp

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04:26 Jul-16-2019

for now until i upgrade in a few months but very few people run an rtx 2080ti if the i5 would have those utilization issues than the 4 cores would be completely dead yet many people still play on them all i can say is my experience with it

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04:30 Jul-16-2019

But then again i dont play games like BFV or AC oddyssey that have those high CPU utilizations although i guess i could try a bit of them and see how high it gets but they would be out liars for sure idunno ill try them and see maybeimwrong

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22:59 Jul-16-2019

Well, look at the bright side, regardless of what people on internet say, including me, you got CPU you are happy with and it works for you. So if it can run all games you play really well, does it really matter if it can't run something you don't play as well? Probably not. In the end, if you get good millage out of it, you win. Just saying, since everything is getting bit heavy on Intel vs AMD.

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18:41 Jul-19-2019

Yes, so true. I'm completely happy with my entry CPU. So far found only 1 game where CPU bottlenecked a bit (Shadow of the Tomb Raider). Still only few spots and fps wasn't bad at all.

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17:22 Jul-17-2019

You are right i'm sorry if i came off a bit insulting if im happy with it and each consumer is with their own purchase at the end of the day that's the only thing that matters. And the whole Intel vs AMD has started to get out of hand and

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17:32 Jul-17-2019

i think i just wont participate in it anymore since there is no mileage in it. Regardless i'll have to see what happens with my usage when i get a more powerful GPU in a few months since it's clearly the bottleneck.

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18:41 Jul-17-2019

Also at the time 8 months ago when i made the purchase it was a clear choice since i look for the most value and OC potential from a chip. the i5 at 5ghz was within 5% of an i9 which was double the price and it still is. good deal imo

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00:53 Jul-18-2019

No worries, I feel like we all kind of fall in one way or the other of whole AMD vs Intel thing. To be honest, I never was big fan of 8600k, I was always of opinion to be better off going one step down or up. But to be fair, it really depends on pricing and it never was bad, I mean performance is fine and I don't think anyone should feel bad about buying it, it is capable chip.

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00:56 Jul-18-2019

I just kind of have mixed feelings about it. And to be fair, even with Ryzen being out, as Intel adjusts pricing, their CPUs could still make sense, they aren't bad, just in some cases too pricey. Maybe that is why I have bit of AMD bias now, since they offer good bang for the buck. But still, I guess internet kind of amplified everything quite a bit too far.

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09:57 Jul-18-2019

Nah AMD is the value king no doubt about that you do sacrifice the extra threads with the i5 but i've always seen them as the best value for gaming since they can easily shoot up past their class with an OC. 150€ for HT ain't worth it. An

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09:58 Jul-18-2019

And Intel looks particularly bad on the i7 and i9 pricing especially for gamers its not worth it unless you don't want to OC and want the best out of the box performance which imo Ryzen is better at since AMD squeezes everything out of them

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23:07 Jul-14-2019

Ehh... I dont know brother, there alot of chips out there i would choose instead of that list. If the idea is high end chips I would rather go with a coffee lake series meant for gaming instead of a 9980xe.

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19:41 Jul-14-2019

It highly depends on the rest of your specs.

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15:15 Jul-14-2019

That's a crappy list if I ever saw one, no offense.
The pentium is good.


The R3 2200G? I'd get a R5 1400 both are Zen1, NOT Zen+ and both cost about the same, but you get SMT with the R5 1400.


Then I'd get the R5 1600 or 2600 instead of the R5 2600x, that "X" is not worth the extra money, like the R5 1600 goes as low as 90-110 euro and the R5 2600 goes as low as 120-130 euro... -_-


I5 9600k? I'd get a R5 3600 for 220 euro instead of it and get the same or slightly better or worse perofrmance and I won't have to buy a 30-40euro+ cooler just to keep the damn thing from melting...


The R9 3900x or R7 3700x or i9 9900k is what I'd get instead of the i9 9980XE, it has worse gaming performance than the i9 9900k, so IDK what you are on about mate, did you just pick the most expensive

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15:16 Jul-14-2019

...most expensive one... ran out of characters.

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19:36 Jul-14-2019

I faithfully agree with this comment.

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20:59 Jul-14-2019

I agree

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15:02 Jul-14-2019

No-one in the right mind would buy a 2 core Pentium ''for gaming'' now with all the Ryzens out.

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03:22 Jul-15-2019

i didnt know they still make dual core cpu's thats even rare in mainstream smartphones

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14:50 Jul-14-2019

Good list! I have been happily gaming on my i5 4690K@4Ghz for the last 3 or so years and to be honest I haven't felt the need to upgrade my CPU since then...

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11:20 Jul-16-2019

I use my i5-3570 since 2013. As long it runs everything i dont see why i should waste 3-4 hundred Euros for a decent Upgrade.

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13:50 Jul-14-2019

"Ryzen 3 2200G ..... offering up quad-core/eight-thread performance"



Is this a typo since Ryzen 3 2200G is 4C/4T ?

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13:31 Jul-14-2019

I would say, because the Ryzen 7 1800x is also still buyable, that thus, the 1800x and also the 2700x should be on this list too :)

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12:06 Jul-14-2019

Im pressing X for this list... I know there can be many choices but i disagree with quite few of listed processors. My list:
Best on the budget - [used market] for example, ryzen 1600 + b350/450 motherboard or intel xeon platform if you can find motherboard cheap enough in your area;
Best low end - ryzen 5 1400, its around 100 euros mark and with its 8 threads it gives nice breathing room for more demanding games;
Best mid range - 9400f/ryzen 2600(x)
Best value gam

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12:09 Jul-14-2019

Best value gaming - ryzen 3600;
Best gaming performance - 9900k;
ultimate high end - currently its probably indeed 9980XE we will see how 3950x will perform though.

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11:54 Jul-14-2019

Here, Ryzen 5 1600 is best value processor.

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12:06 Jul-14-2019

same here

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13:17 Jul-14-2019

Up

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13:32 Jul-14-2019

or maybe even 1700x or 1800x

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11:46 Jul-14-2019

The ryzen 5 2600 is better value than the x version, if you OC it it is basically the same

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13:08 Jul-14-2019

This. And in neither case the stock cooler coming with the CPU in question is enough for overclocking, so an aftermarket cooler is a must for OCing. Only reason to get 2600X would be a case where user is surely not going to OC and just wants better out of the box performance.

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11:10 Jul-14-2019

I have to disagree about Pentium Gold because in US you can buy Ryzen 5 1600 for $100. That alone beats Pentium Gold very easily!

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10:52 Jul-14-2019

I belive new ryzen 3950x is better then that ****ty Intel Core i9-9980XE and its cheaper, 750$

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10:57 Jul-14-2019

It is haha

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10:42 Jul-14-2019

You skipped a huge segment by going from 250$ to 2000$. The should definitely have been a category for a 350$ - 400$ for the 3700x / 3800x / 8700x / 9700k.

5

Can They Run... |

| 60FPS, Low, 720p
Core i5-4440 3.1GHz GeForce GTX 960 Gigabyte G1 Gaming 4GB Edition 8GB
| 30FPS, Low, 720p
Core i5-4200H 2.8GHz GeForce GTX 860M 2GB 16GB
Core i7-5500U 2-Core 2.4GHz GeForce 940M 2GB 8GB
0% No [1 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Ryzen 5 2600X 6-Core 3.6GHz GeForce RTX 2060 6GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Ryzen 5 2600X 6-Core 3.6GHz GeForce RTX 2060 6GB 16GB
50% Yes [2 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 5 3600XT 6-Core 3.8GHz GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Gigabyte AORUS Xtreme Edition 11GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| Low,
Core i5-8300H 4-Core 2.3GHz GeForce GTX 1050 8GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 5 5600X 6-Core 3.7GHz GeForce RTX 3070 Gigabyte Eagle OC 8GB 32GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Core 2 Duo E7500 2.93GHz Radeon HD 5450 1024MB 4GB
0% No [1 votes]
| 60FPS, Medium, 1080p
Core i5-9400F 6-Core 2.9GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Ti MSI OC 4GB 16GB
100% Yes [2 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 4k
Core i7-11700K 8-Core 3.6GHz GeForce RTX 3090 32GB
100% Yes [2 votes]
935
| 60FPS, Ultra, 4k
Core i7-11700K 8-Core 3.6GHz GeForce RTX 3090 32GB
100% Yes [4 votes]
935
Core i5-11600K 6-Core 3.9GHz GeForce RTX 3070 Zotac Gaming Twin Edge OC 8GB 32GB
Core i7-4790 4-Core 3.6GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Palit StormX 4GB 16GB
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen R5 1600 Radeon RX 570 4GB 16GB
| 60FPS, High, 720p
Core i5-4590 3.3GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Asus Pheonix 4GB 10GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i5-9400F 6-Core 2.9GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Ti MSI OC 4GB 16GB
100% Yes [3 votes]