Updated at: 30-03-2023 - By: Leo Hall
Athlon or Intel? Getting a new central processing unit doesn’t have to be difficult. You came here because you want to get the most out of your money, and this manual will show you how to do that.

Assuming you’ve never built a computer before and are in the process of putting together your first, the sheer volume of data available to consider when deciding on even a single component may seem overwhelming.

The reality, though, is much less complicated.

Here, we’ll zero in on the central processing unit (CPU) and go over everything you need to know to get your hands on the most efficient and cost-effective CPU for gaming.

What is a CPU?

Simply put, a CPU is the brains of a computer. Whether it’s a computer or a thermostat, it acts as the device’s brain and is responsible for ensuring everything runs smoothly.

The Most Important CPU Specs

Let’s start with the part that most novice PC builders struggle with: reading the spec sheet.

How to choose a processor/CPU - YouTube

There are a lot of numbers and acronyms in the list of features for any given CPU. In the context of video games, however, the following are the most crucial requirements to keep in mind:

  • Physical Cores Count – The total number of individual processing units (cores) in a computer’s central processing unit. If the software is written to take advantage of multiple CPU cores, multitasking and processing speed can be improved.
  • Count of Threads = Number of CPU Logic Cores. By allowing a single physical core to handle two tasks at once, technologies like AMD’s Simultaneous Multithreading and Intel’s Hyper-Threading further smooth out overall system performance and boost performance in games and programs designed to take advantage of multiple threads.
  • In this case, we’re talking about the base clock speed (in GHz) at which a single CPU core operates. If you want your CPU to be able to process more data in less time, you need to get it up to a faster clock speed.
  • Maximum clock speed that a CPU can reach when enabled with technologies like AMD’s Precision Boost and Intel’s Turbo Boost.
  • Indicating whether the CPU can be overclocked indicates that the manufacturer intended for the stock clock speed to be increased beyond the default factory settings.
  • The socket is the component on the motherboard that the CPU can fit into.
  • A CPU’s cache is a fast memory area on the CPU itself that is used to temporarily store frequently accessed data. That’s why it makes sense that increasing the cache size can improve both performance and reliability.
  • Memory Type – The form factor of the system RAM that the CPU officially supports, along with its maximum supported RAM capacity, maximum supported number of memory channels, and native RAM speed.
  • The Thermal Design Power (TDP) of a processor, measured in watts, is a measure of its power consumption and thermal output at standard operating conditions and clock speeds.

The number of cores and threads, as well as the processor’s clock speed, are typically the most important technical specifications to gamers. Games typically favor single-core performance, so many gamers prioritize a high clock speed over a high thread count. However, having more cores and threads allows for better multitasking and can lead to better performance when it comes to tasks like video editing.

The exact performance will naturally vary from game to game and program to program, however, so paper specifications are typically a terrible way to estimate how the CPU will fare in practice.

However, we’ll discuss a simpler method for the average person to select the best CPU in the following section.

CPU Price and Performance Brackets

You can narrow down your search for the ideal central processing unit (CPU) by sticking to the price range (or “bracket”) that your finances permit.

The most common kinds of desktop central processing units are:

  • On a tighter budget? Look no further than the Ryzen 3 and Core i3 models that consistently retail for under $200.
  • Mid-range — Central Processing Units (CPUs) in this price range (Ryzen 5 and Core i5) are typically the best option for most gaming PCs, and they typically cost between $200 and $250.
  • Premium: These Ryzen 7 and Core i7 CPUs can be found in high-end gaming PCs and even some workstations, and they typically cost between $300 and $400.
  • Hobbyists, rejoice: the Ryzen 9 and Core i9 are currently the most potent mainstream desktop CPUs available. One of these would set you back at least $500, and they don’t exactly provide good value for gaming.

Now, keep in mind that the graphics processing unit (GPU) is responsible for the majority of the work in a gaming system, but that other components are also crucial.

The most crucial aspect of the aforementioned “balancing” is making sure your CPU isn’t going to slow down your GPU.

In particular, if the CPU isn’t fast enough for the GPU you plan to get, then the GPU won’t be able to use all of its processing power, and you won’t be getting as good of performance as you could if the CPU were faster.

If we had to generalize, we’d say that a Ryzen 3 or Core i3 is fine if you’re getting a budget GPU like the GTX 1650 Super or the Radeon RX 5500 XT, but a Ryzen 5 or Core i5 is required if you’re getting a powerful mid-range GPU like the RTX 2060 Super or the RX 5600 XT.

Similarly, enthusiast-grade Ryzen 9 and i9 processors are typically overkill unless you also need to use some CPU-heavy software, as both the Ryzen 7 and Core i7 solutions are more than capable of handling even the most powerful gaming GPUs like the RTX 2080 Ti.

If you’re curious about other AMD and Intel CPU brands, we’ll let you know that they’re not great for gaming because they’re either too underpowered or too powerful and expensive.

CPUs like Intel’s Pentium and Celeron, or AMD’s Athlon and A-series APUs, are far too underpowered to support modern GPUs. This is understandable, given that bottlenecks were already mentioned above.

There are also competing brands, such as the Intel Core X and Xeon and the AMD Ryzen Threadripper EPYC. The opposite is true of these CPUs, as they provide more power than is necessary for a gaming PC due to their intended use in high-end workstations and servers. Spending more money on those components is unnecessary if you plan to use the computer solely for gaming.

While that’s the meat of the issue, there are a few other considerations to make when shopping for a CPU that aren’t directly related to performance or cost that we’ll go over below.

Is Overclocking Worth It?

When talking about computer processors and graphics processing units used for gaming, the topic of overclocking inevitably comes up. Overclocking is the process of increasing the processor’s clock speed past its factory setting to gain additional performance.

How much weight should the average gamer place in overclocking, given that we’ve established that higher clock speeds are more beneficial to games than higher thread counts?

Since you need a high-end CPU and a relatively pricey cooler (possibly a liquid cooling setup) to get a palpable boost in gaming performance from an overclocked CPU, overclocking is really only for enthusiasts.

But since the gains in performance are usually only a few frames, overclocking shouldn’t be a top priority for most gamers.cc

The Motherboard Socket And Chipset

When choosing a CPU, it’s not just the CPU itself that matters; the socket and the chipset are also crucial components of the motherboard.

The socket, as we’ve already discussed, is the slot on the motherboard through which the processor connects to the rest of the system and exchanges data.

Currently, all of AMD’s mainstream Ryzen CPUs use the AM4 socket, but that will be replaced by the AM5 socket in 2021. Intel, meanwhile, has swapped out the LGA 1151 socket for the newer LGA 1200 version.

However, if you’re in the market for a new CPU, the main consideration should be forward compatibility; going with a more recent socket could give you more options for upgrades in the future.

However, the chipset is also an essential component. Whether or not a particular CPU will work with a given motherboard depends on the chipset, not the socket it fits into.

Overclocking, multi-GPU configuration support, and technologies like AMD StoreMI and Intel Optane are just some of the features mentioned above. The chipset also controls other aspects of the motherboard, such as the number of PCIe lanes, SATA ports, USB ports, and more.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, in 2022, which socket should you use?

Now that Ryzen CPU compatibility is limited by the chipsets, it may be best to wait for the next generation of Ryzen processors and the AM5 socket, which will replace AMD’s AM4 socket next year.

However, Intel’s LGA 1200 socket is brand new, so getting a 10th generation Comet Lake Intel CPU could be a good idea if you want to upgrade the CPU in the future without replacing the motherboard.

However, it’s worth noting that, in recent years, forward/backward compatibility has been hit or miss.

Despite AMD’s relatively stable product lineup over the past few years, the upcoming Zen 3-based Ryzen 4000 CPUs will not be compatible with certain 2017 and 2018-era chipsets. Since the Zen 4-based Ryzen 5000 models scheduled for release in 2021 will be utilizing a completely different socket, this naturally makes them less appealing.

Meanwhile, Intel’s support has been subpar, as the updated LGA 1151 socket prevents the use of Coffee Lake processors with 100-series and 200-series Skylake and Kaby Lake chipsets. However, it’s impossible to say with any degree of certainty how long you’d be able to use the LGA 1200 socket before a newer version of the socket or a different chipset would require you to upgrade your motherboard in order to use a new CPU.

Check out the AM4 chipsets list and the LGA 1151 chipsets list if you’re curious about the supported feature set and hardware architecture. In addition, you can check out the available LGA 1200 chipsets here.

If you want a Ryzen but can put off an upgrade until next year, you may want to hold off until then. However, if you’re part of Team Blue, you might want to consider a purchase soon.

Should You Buy Older CPU Models?

The question of whether you can save some money by getting an older CPU model is one that will inevitably cross your mind if you’re on a tight budget and trying to make the most of the money you can spend on a new PC.

Every year, both AMD and Intel release brand-new central processing units (CPUs) with improved architectures and, in some cases, additional features. The annual updates may seem appealing if you’re looking for a bargain, but they only add up to small improvements in performance that don’t make a huge difference in games.

But the issue with using an older CPU is that it is usually more expensive than a newer one. Why? To put it simply, the lack of supply and continued demand means that the cost of older processors tends to rise rather than fall.

In contrast, you can still save money by going with an older CPU by purchasing a used one, though there are risks associated with doing so. Although central processing units (CPUs) are among the safer components to purchase if you’re going the used parts route, you can never be sure of their condition or whether or not they’ve been overclocked.

The Letter Designations

If you’ve been perusing the market for a new central processing unit (CPU), you might have noticed that some models end in a letter.

What do all of those initials mean, and which ones are the most crucial to remember?

Intel’s desktop CPUs in 2022 will have the following letter designations:

  • K – Activates overclocking capabilities and indicates that the CPU is unlocked.
  • False — This means the CPU requires a separate graphics card to function properly.

As for AMD, in 2022, the two most common names for mainstream desktop CPUs are:

  • X – Denotes the CPU’s ability to reach slightly higher clock speeds at a slightly higher price.
  • G – Represents an accelerated processing unit (APU) with built-in graphics.

There are a few other designations out there, but they don’t matter much when looking at desktop gaming CPUs.

AMD vs Intel

Finally, there’s one question that won’t be going out of fashion any time soon when it comes to CPUs: should you go with AMD or Intel? We’ve already touched on the subject multiple times throughout the article, so which is ultimately better in 2022?

The answer would have been very different in 2016 if you had asked this question, as AMD had been the underdog throughout most of the 2010s, with their FX series CPUs competing solely on the strength of their high core counts and clock speeds, while Intel gained the lead with more advanced technology and dominated the high-end segment of the market.

Since Ryzen’s introduction in 2017, AMD has been on a tear. It was a huge turning point for AMD, as they were finally able to offer CPUs that could hold their own against Intel across the board in terms of price and performance.

Yet, with a high core count and multithreading built into nearly every consumer model, Ryzen CPUs provide exceptional performance. While their single-core performance may not be on par with Intel’s competing models, they more than make up for it in price, value, and ease of upgrade thanks to their use of the same AM4 socket (though, as mentioned above, the new chipsets do complicate the situation somewhat).

Intel’s CPUs, on the other hand, have only recently caught up to AMD’s in core and thread count with the release of the latest Comet Lake offerings. Their newest Intel Core processors are still made with a 14nm lithography process, while AMD switched to a 7nm process in 2019.

While AMD is gaining ground, Intel is still holding its own because, as we’ve discussed before, single-core performance is more important for gaming. Unlocked Intel CPUs, as we discussed in the overclocking section, are capable of reaching high clock speeds, which is a selling point for extreme gaming rigs.

In any case, the price and performance gaps between AMD and Intel CPUs in 2022 are relatively small, so you can’t go wrong with either.

Intel’s 10th generation Core models appear to be ahead at the moment, providing slightly better performance than AMD’s 3rd generation Ryzen offerings. The release of AMD’s fourth generation of Ryzen processors in September, though, should once again level the playing field.

Intel has recently introduced the LGA 1200 socket, which should make it easier for consumers to upgrade without having to buy a new motherboard every year or two, so that’s good news if you’re worried about compatibility and future upgrades.

However, AMD is in a bit of a tight spot in terms of compatibility, as the 4th generation models won’t be compatible with some of the older chipsets despite using the AM4 socket, and the 5th generation models that will be released next year will use a new AM5 socket.

The best way to figure out which model is the best for your needs is to narrow down your options to the ones that are within your price range and then compare those models to some industry standards.

The 5 best gaming CPUs: Top Intel and AMD processors compared

Intel Core i5-12600K

Best gaming CPU overall

Key specs

  • The Year 2021 of Its Introduction
  • Model Year: 12th Generation Product Line
  • Processor Type: Desktop
  • Overall, there are 10 cores.
  • 16 threads in total.
  • Maximum turbo speed for the performance core: 4.90 GHz
  • Highest possible turbo speed for an efficient core is 3.60 GHz.
  • Core bass performance frequency is 3.70 GHz.
  • CPU’s efficient 2.80 GHz base frequency
  • Memory Cache: Intel Smart Cache 20 MB
  • Extent of L2 Memory Cache: 9.5 MB
  • The minimum power requirement for the processor is 125 W.
  • Up to 150 watts of turbo power.
  • Infinite storage space up to 128 GB
  • Intel UHD Graphics 770 is the graphics processor.
  • The Core i5-12600K comes with Intel’s three-year limited warranty.

The Intel Core i5-12600K, from Intel’s 12th generation of processors, is a superb midrange choice. At around 3.70 GHz, it is the slowest CPU on our list, but at around $300, it is a good option for budget shoppers. The 10-core processor’s six performance cores and four efficiency cores work together to provide rock-solid speeds and lightning-fast processing. It employs a LGA 1700 socket and operates at three different speeds. Because of its hyper-threading architecture, it can keep up with even the most resource-intensive programs without slowing down. The updated Intel UHD graphics are another distinguishing feature. With exclusive Intel 7 Architecture and integrated microarchitecture for power efficiency, the L3 cache can store up to 16 MB of data, boosting performance.

Intel Core i5-12600K, analysis: The mid-range has a new king


  • Adequate renown
  • Legitimately low costs
  • Superb overclocking potential


  • Replacement CPU cooler not included.
  • To slow down
  • Contrary to popular belief, not every game is incompatible.

Intel Core i9-12900K

Best high-end CPU

Key specs

  • The Year 2021 of Its Introduction
  • The Twelfth Generation of Products
  • Desktop Central Processing Unit
  • As a whole, there are 16 cores.
  • We have 24 threads in total.
  • The highest possible frequency in turbo mode is 5.20 GHz.
  • Maximum Turbo Speed for Energy-Efficient Cores: 3.90 GHz
  • To get the most out of your subwoofer, 5.10 GHz is where it’s at.
  • Base performance-core frequency is 3.90 GHz.
  • Minimum operating frequency for efficient cores is 3.90 GHz.
  • Storing in Cache: 30 Megabytes With Intel Smart Cache,
  • L2 Cache Size: 14 MB
  • Base power consumption for the processor: 125 W
  • Booster power up to 241 W
  • Maximum storage capacity is 128 GB.
  • Intel UHD Graphics 770 is the graphics processor.

The Intel Core i9-12900K can be installed on a printed circuit board thanks to its LGA 1700 socket. The L3 cache has 30 MG of memory, which is about par for the course among the models we considered for this roundup of the best gaming CPUs of 2022. This model is powered by a 5.2 GHz(1) Intel Core i9-12900K desktop processor, making it the most powerful desktop processor Intel has ever produced. Gain greater power efficiency and better performance at 10 nm with integrated micro-architecture. Because of the Intel Thread Director, your computer won’t bog down in the weeds of its own internal workings, but rather in the grand scheme of things. A whopping 24 threads can be accessed across the processor’s 16 performance cores and 8 efficiency cores. To top it all off, a 600 series(3) motherboard with a 1700 socket and Intel Smart Cache can store 30 MB of data. It’s overclockable and can be used right out of the box.


  • High-performing
  • Commonly, Threads
  • High-quality cache


  • Uses up a lot of juice
  • Windows 10 can be a pain.
  • Expensive

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

Best budget CPU

Key specs

  • DDR4 Memory for the Computer System
  • Release Date: 2021
  • The Twelfth Generation of Products
  • Processor Type: Desktop
  • A total of ten cores have been counted.
  • 16 threads in total.
  • The highest possible turbo speed for a performance core is 4.90 GHz.
  • The highest turbo frequency of an efficient core is 3.60 GHz.
  • Frequency of the heart of the bass performance: 3.70 GHz
  • Base frequency of efficient cores is 2.80 GHz.
  • 20 megabytes of cache space The Intel Smart Cache
  • Cache Size for Level 2: 9.5 MB
  • The minimum power requirement for the processor is 125 W.
  • Up to 150 watts of turbo power.
  • 128 GB is the utmost that can be used for storage.
  • Intel UHD Graphics 770 is the integrated graphics processor.
  • The AMD Ryzen 5 5600X comes with a three-year limited warranty that covers both parts and labor.

The AMD Ryzen 5 5600X, with its 6 core processor but lower price than its competitors, is AMD’s fastest offering. In terms of graphics performance, the 12 processing threads are below par, but the Max Boost 4.6 GHz clock speeds more than make up for it. With a maximum clock speed of 4.6 GHz and a large cache size of 35 MB, this processor is faster than the Intel Core i5-12600K. This setup is compatible with all of your preferred games, delivering frame rates of 100 or more, and it saves you money by including an AMD Wraith Stealth cooler in addition to the CPU. The system is ready for overclocking and supports DDR-3200 memory modules out of the box. This processor features the powerful Socket AM4 platform, which allows for PCIe 4.0 support on X570 and B550 motherboards.


  • Posh reputability
  • Superb ability to juggle multiple tasks at once
  • Power-efficient


  • Costs more than its predecessors.
  • Discreetly limited to a mere six cores
  • Minimal stitching

AMD Ryzen 5 5600G

Best value CPU

Key specs

  • To Be Released in 2020
  • Featured Products: AMD Ryzen Processors
  • The Desktop Computer Processor
  • Socket for CPUs: AM4
  • In total, there are six cores.
  • The total number of threads is 12.
  • The highest possible frequency increase is 4.6 GHz.
  • Three and a half gigahertz as the starting point
  • Normal Typical Power Dissipation (TDP): 65 W
  • CPU Technology: TSMC 7nm FinFET Processor
  • L2 Cache Size: 3 MB
  • As a whole, L3 cache size is 32 MB.
  • The AMD Ryzen 5 5600G comes with a 3-year parts warranty.

We recommend the AMD Ryzen 5 5600G as the best budget CPU for gaming. The cheaper price comes at the expense of speed, however, as the 4.4 GHz, 6-core, 7nm ‘Zen 3’ processor is significantly slower than the competition. Socket AM4 CPUs have 12 threads for 1080P graphics and 19 MB of cache memory. As with the Ryzen 5 5600X, it has its clock speed and power limits unlocked so that they can be increased by using Precious Boost Overdrive. It’s good to know that DDR4-3200 is compatible. Though the AMD Ryzen Master’s ability to fine-tune CPU performance for a unique experience is nifty, the CPU itself falls short in terms of raw processing muscle, speed, and memory compared to competing models. Still, it’s a good choice if you don’t have a lot of cash lying around.


  • Among the cheapest options we’ve considered
  • Awesome visuals
  • Radeon-compatible


  • Having a cap on how fast you can go
  • Miniature Hoard
  • low connection speed

AMD Ryzen 9 5950X

Best performance

Key specs

  • Release Date: 2020
  • Gathering of AMD Ryzen Processors
  • Central Processing Unit (CPU) Type: Desktop
  • Socket for CPUs: AM4
  • Count of cores: 16
  • Thread count: 32
  • In terms of boost frequency, the highest possible is 4.9 GHz.
  • Starting at 3.4 GHz
  • TDP (at idle): 105 watts.
  • Core-Intel-Processor (CPU) Technology by TSMC (7nm) FinFET
  • Cache Size for Level 2: 8 MB
  • We’re talking about a 64 MB L3 cache in total.
  • The AMD Ryzen 9 5950X comes with a three-year warranty.

The most expensive option on our list is the AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, which features a blazing-fast 16-core processor. Maximum clock speed for the CPU is 4.9 GHz on a Socket AM4 platform. This means that X570 and B550 motherboards can utilize PCIe 4.0 with no issues. It has the most processing threads of any of our recommendations, at 32, and is able to support 16 cores to deliver AMD’s top-tier 100 FPS performance in today’s top games. With 72 MB of cache and DDR-3200 support, the processor is ready for overclocking. The cooler, however, is not included and must be purchased separately. Since this CPU already costs a lot, this is an extremely costly inconvenience.


  • High-powered computer
  • Staggering hoard
  • Enhanced velocity


  • Our priciest option
  • Not included: stock cooler
  • Uses up a lot of juice

What is the best gaming CPU?

If you’re looking for the best gaming CPU, go with the Intel Core i5-12600K; if you want something more powerful, go with the Intel Core i9-12900K.

Intel Core i9-12900KS Up To 15% Faster Than Core i9-12900K In 3DMark CPU Benchmarks

CPU Speed Processor Threads Cache
Technology: Intel Core i5-12600K 3.70 GHz 10 core 16 30 MB
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5600X 4.6 GHz 6 core 12 35 MB
APU AMD Ryzen 5 5600G 4.4 GHz 6 core 12 19 MB
Technology: Intel Core i9-12900K 5.2 GHz 16 core 24 30 MB
Processor by AMD: Ryzen 9 5950X 4.9 GHz 16 core 32 72 MB

Which is the right CPU for you?

A gaming central processing unit (CPU) can take many forms in the modern era.

Take our advice into account when shopping for a CPU to meet your gaming requirements.

Pick this processor; In case you require;
Core i5-12600K by Intel A robust and versatile central processing unit.
Computer processor with a Core i9-12900K architecture from Intel An elite processor for the most taxing games
System Requirements for an AMD Ryzen 5 5600X Affordable Central Processing Unit Upgrade
An AMD Ryzen 5 5600G An efficient central processing unit
Processor by AMD: Ryzen 9 5950X The CPU that puts efficiency first

What temp should my CPU be while gaming?

The ideal temperature for a CPU while gaming is between 61 and 73 degrees Celsius (142-162 Fahrenheit). Depending on the graphical workload and the surrounding temperature, your CPU may occasionally run hotter, but this should not be a cause for concern. A better cooling fan, thermal paste to help draw excess heat to the dissipation fins, or even a liquid cooling system may be in order if your CPU is running significantly hotter than usual. I highly recommend using one of the many available programs to keep tabs on your CPU temperature so that you can spot problems before they destroy your gaming rig.

What is the best budget CPU for gaming?

The AMD Ryzen 5 5600X was our pick for best low-cost gaming central processing unit. It has enough processing power to run any game you throw at it, thanks to its 10 cores, 16 threads, and 4.90GHz maximum frequency. All of this functionality is yours for under a grand, saving you hundreds of dollars on a new gaming rig.


Consequently, your search for the perfect central processing unit (CPU) can end here. If you’re in the market for a new processor for your gaming rig, we recommend checking out our recommendations for the top 10 gaming CPUs of 2022. This article will be updated to reflect the newest 10th generation Intel processors as soon as they become available.

We have put together a variety of configurations to cover most price points, so if you’re building a PC from the ground up, you might want to take a look at some of our builds.