Best Intel Gaming CPU
- Intel Core i9-12900K
Best Gaming CPU
- AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D
Best AMD CPU For Gaming And Other Tasks
- AMD Ryzen 9 5900X
In PC gaming, the GPU is often regarded as the single all-important part of game performance. Of course, it is undoubtedly the single most significant factor, but it isn’t the only one. The rest of your computer is also essential; no part is more than your CPU. The CPU handles a lot of gaming processing, which is necessary. If you splash out on a fancy GPU and then cheap out on a budget CPU, you’ll find that your GPU ends up being bottlenecked and not reaching its peak potential.
Of course, with CPUs, there are two manufacturers of note: Intel and AMD. Intel is the big guy. It’s been around for ages and has a tremendous budget, thanks to its long-standing considerable market share advantage. AMD is much smaller and has historically struggled to reach the same performance levels. However, Intel’s recent difficulties have been capitalized upon, making huge strides into the lucrative server market share.
In recent years, though, Intel encountered severe difficulties in improving its CPUs in meaningful ways. In this timeframe, AMD released a brand new architecture and made significant steps towards matching or exceeding Intel’s performance.
Intel is generally the manufacturer to go to if your use case values single-threaded performance over multithreaded performance. AMD offers higher core count CPUs at lower price points that are better at multithreaded tasks. However, despite a lower core count, the 12th Gen CPUs shook this up by meeting or even beating the 5950X in multithreaded tasks.
The old assumption that AMD CPUs are cheaper no longer holds. Before Intel’s performant 12th generation was released, between AMD’s CPU generations, AMD’s prices were higher than Intel’s because its CPUs were the best on offer. However, Intel’s 12th Gen CPUs shook things up a lot, offering the first significant performance boost in years, and did so at an aggressive price point. AMD hit back with an exciting addition of 3D stacked cache to general success, at least in gaming. AMD’s CPUs do still, however, typically consume less power than Intel’s, even when hitting similar performance benchmarks.
Of course, AMD and Intel are scheduled to release a new generation of CPUs this fall. So if you’re looking for the best performance available and are willing to wait a few more months, it’s probably worth waiting for those. If you want to buy now, the next generation of Intel CPUs will be compatible with current motherboards.
However, the next generation of AMD’s CPUs will use an entirely new motherboard and support new RAM, so you’d need to upgrade the CPU, motherboard, and RAM. The exact performance figures and price points aren’t available yet, but we expect to see improved performance.
That said, if you want to build a gaming computer now, there are plenty of good choices. Availability is generally good, and prices are strong thanks to a level of competition not seen in the high-end CPU market for a long time. We’ve drawn up our list of the best gaming CPUs to help you find the best CPU for your gaming rig in 2022.
- 3D stacked CPU cache
- 96MB of L3 cache
- Zen 3 architecture
- 8 Cores, 16 Threads
- 4Ghz Base
- 5GHz Boost
The AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D is the last hurrah of the Zen3 architecture and the AM4 CPU socket. It is basically the same as a Ryzen 7 5800X, but the silicon has been shaved down and had an extra layer of CPU cache stacked directly on top of it. This cache offers 96MB capacity up from the 36MB of the standard 3800X. This may not sound like much, but the cache is critical to CPU performance, especially in gaming workloads. Adding the extra layer and the extra heat it generates necessitated a reduction in core speeds from a boost of 4.6 to 4.5GHz. The additional cache, however, made up for this and made this the fastest gaming CPU in most games.
Of course, it’s important to note the word “most” in that sentence. Not all games do actually benefit from the extra cache, so your mileage may vary. That said, the performance of a slightly slower 5800X isn’t that bad. Unfortunately, the cache doesn’t really benefit most other workloads, making this truly a gaming-focused CPU.
As it uses the same AM4 socket and is the same height, thanks to the step of shaving the silicon, it’s a drop-in replacement for any other AM4 CPUs. That’s great if you already have a high-end AMD motherboard and want to save some costs on this upgrade. It’s not great if you’re looking to upgrade when the next generation comes out, as that will use a new socket AM5.
- Entirely new hybrid architecture
- 8 performance cores
- 8 efficiency cores
- 16 Cores, 24 Threads
- 2Ghz Base
- 2GHz Boost
The Intel Core i9-12900K was the king of gaming CPUs until the 5800X 3D dethroned it. However, it is still a highly performant CPU and offers that same high performance in other workloads. The 12th generation CPU introduces an entirely new hybrid architecture. There are 8 performance cores and 8 efficiency cores. The performance cores are hyperthreaded and designed to run fast. The efficiency cores are single-threaded and designed to be more power-efficient and handle background tasks. They both operate at different core clock speeds, but the peak number is 5.2 GHz for the performance core boost clock.
The new architecture also brings in new connectivity. There are 16 PCIe Gen 5 lanes and an extra 4 Gen 4 lanes for an M.2 SSD. DDR5 RAM is also supported. For these latest connectivity options, you’ll need a new high-end motherboard. You can go for a lower-end motherboard, but this will only lock you into DDR4 and PCIe Gen 4. Either way, you will need a new motherboard as this CPU uses a new socket.
As for performance difference, there is a slight boost for DDR5 in some applications, but the connectivity is mostly future-proofing. Additionally, DDR5 is extremely expensive as it’s suffering from a hardware shortage on top of being a cutting-edge technology. Suppose you’re looking to upgrade shortly to the next generation. In that case, it will be easier than with an AMD CPU, as 13th Gen CPUs will use the same socket allowing for a drop-in upgrade.
- Entirely new hybrid architecture
- 8 performance cores
- 4 efficiency cores
- 8 Cores, 20 Threads
- 6Ghz Base
- 0GHz Boost
The Intel Core i7-12700K is similar to the 12900K, having lost just 4 efficiency cores. This also comes with a slight frequency reduction, as the chips are from a slightly lower bin. With overclocking being supported on all Intel K chips, the lack of a few efficiency cores can help reduce the thermal load. Assuming you don’t have any background tasks. Reducing the thermal load leave more overclocking headroom, though your exact luck will be down to the old silicon lottery, as some chips perform better than others.
With the same connectivity as the 12900K, the 12700K has much power at its fingertips. It’s worth correctly noting, however, that the connectivity is future-proofing primarily and is not ideal for the current technologies. For example, there are 16 PCIe Gen 5 lanes for a GPU. However, current GPUs don’t saturate the previous 16x Gen 4 connection.
There are also 4 Gen 4 lanes intended for an M.2 SSD. However, a handful of PCIe Gen 5 SSDs are available, for which you’d need an adaptor to make use of the speeds. The next generation of GPUs may change this, and AMD upgrading to PCIe 5 will also help. However, it feels like a bit of a marketing stunt.
- Zen3 architecture
- High core count
- Best original Zen3 CPU for gaming
- 12 Cores, 24 Threads
- 7Ghz Base
- 8GHz Boost
The AMD Ryzen 9 5900X was the best gaming CPU before Intel’s 12th Gen CPUs dethroned it before being defeated by the 5800X 3D. It features 12 Zen3 cores and 24 threads and can boost up to 4.8Ghz. While technically overclockable, there is very little headroom as this is as much performance as the power limits of the AM4 socket allow. The high core count is suitable for highly multithreaded games and other applications. Unfortunately, the most game logic is not highly multithreaded.
When it was released, it was more expensive because it was basically the king, with just the 5950X to compete with. The release of Intel’s 12th generation and the 5800X 3D, however, have pushed the price down to remain competitive, making this a decent deal if you want a high-performance AMD CPU but need a performance in and out of games. With the upcoming generation using a new socket, however, now isn’t a great time to upgrade to an AM4 system if you don’t already have a good one to drop this into.
That was our roundup of the best gaming CPUs in 2022. Have you recently bought a gaming CPU? What sold you on it, and what has your experience been with it so far? Let us know down below.