What Is A Really Good CPU for Gaming?

What Is A Really Good CPU for Gaming?

So this is a really fun question to answer, and the answer has not changed much over time. But before I answer it, we need some technical background first!

Games typically use a small number of CPU threads (generally 4 at the most), and some are more CPU-reliant than others (Counter Strike: Global Offensive vs Assassins Creed 2).

Additionally, as the resolution increases, more of the rendering and computation shifts from the CPU to the GPU.

That being said, we don’t advise gaming with an i3 at 4K resolution.

Keeping A Few Things Constant

We’re going to assume a few constants before we delve further.

Anything played with stock visual settings (no mods!) at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K, is generally perfectly fine with a high-speed CPU like an i5-8600K.

Intel Core i5-8600K 3.6GHz 6-Core Processor

This chip has 6 cores and 6 overall threads, and has a very high clock speed (which is very important for gaming situations).

AMD Ryzen

If you’re on a budget of sorts, the Ryzen 3 1300X is a very competitive option, with a nearly 45% reduction in price.

The Ryzen 3 1300X is no slouch though, with 4cores/4 threads, and a respectable 3.7Ghz stock boost from 3.5Ghz.

AMD Ryzen 3 1300X 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor

It’s also fully unlocked as well, and can hit 3.9Ghz on the stock cooler with XFR enabled (more boost can be attained with some manual overclocking and an aftermarket air cooler).


There are a wide array of CPUs that do well in gaming environments, such as the Ryzen 3 1200, Ryzen 5 2600X, i5-7600K, i7-7700K, and i7-8700K, though I’ve tried to also put a price-to-performance filter on as well.

More Powerful Gaming CPUs

For example, the i7-8700K is widely known as the best CPU for gaming overall, but it comes at the cost of $330+, and requires a hefty CPU cooler, as well as an expensive motherboard to hit the high boost speeds it’s known for.

The Ryzen 5 2600X by comparison, has the same number of overall threads, and while it has a slower clock speed by a moderate amount, it costs about $140 less (you’ll still need a nice aftermarket CPU cooler, as this CPU still has a TDP of 95W).

Our Recommendation

We confidently recommend the i5-8600K for most gaming workloads, and the Ryzen 3 1300X for when you have a lower budget.

There are a large number of CPUs below, between, and above those two models, and we’d be happy to help you figure out which CPU is best for your specific application.

About Top Flight Computers

Top Flight Computers designs high-performance custom-built computers. We specialize in workstations, gaming computers, water cooling, and network storage solutions.

We are based in Cary, North Carolina, and we ship across the USA. Check out our previous builds and our page on Facebook.