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The best processors for gaming: AMD and Intel face off

You don't need to spend a lot to get the best processor for gaming. AMD's Ryzen 7 5800X3D is the current winner based on our testing, offering up the highest performance out of any CPU we've tested while maintaining a reasonable price.

It's not the best choice for everyone, though. We have options from AMD and Intel regardless of your budget. With them, you can get around CPU bottlenecks and find the best processor for your next gaming PC.

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D

The best processor for gaming
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Intel Core i5-12600K

Intel Core i5-12600K

The best Intel processor for gaming
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AMD - Ryzen 5 5600X

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

The best AMD processor for gaming
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Intel Core i9-12900K

Intel Core i9-12900K

The best enthusiast processor for gaming
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Intel Core i3-12100F

Intel Core i3-12100F

The best processor for gaming under $100
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AMD Ryzen 7 5700G

AMD Ryzen 7 5700G

The best processor for gaming with integrated graphics
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amd cache reckoning is upon us ryzen 7 5800x3d review 1
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D

The best processor for gaming

Pros
  • The fastest gaming CPU on the market
  • Solid thermal performance
  • Works with AM4 motherboards
  • Inexpensive
  • Low power requirements
Cons
  • No overclocking
  • Lackluster general CPU performance

AMD ended its Ryzen 5000 generation with a bang. The Ryzen 7 5800X3D is the fastest gaming processor you can buy right now, outclassing chips that cost twice as much in many cases. If you're a gamer, this is the processor to buy.

It comes with the same eight Zen 3 cores as the Ryzen 7 5800X, but with an additional 64MB of L3 cache stacked on top of the chip. That extra cache is put to good use in games. Across a suite of seven titles, we found it was 6.4% faster than the 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X.

Some titles were even faster. In Halo Infinite, we found a 12.4% increase over even Intel's Core i9-12900K (a CPU that costs around $200 more). Across the board while gaming, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D either matches or beats even the most expensive CPUs you can buy.

Outside of gaming is where the processor struggles, with its lower clock speed and lack of overclocking. But those issues are easy to forgive for frame-chasers.

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D

The best processor for gaming
An Intel Alder Lake Core i5-12600K CPU and its packaging.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Intel Core i5-12600K

The best Intel processor for gaming

Pros
  • 10 cores for under $300
  • Optional DDR5 support
  • Unlocked for overclocking
Cons
  • Runs a little hot
  • A bit more expensive than AMD's competitor

You don't need to spend a lot of money on a processor for gaming, and Intel's Core i5-12600K is proof of that. It's the best Intel CPU you can buy right now, sporting 10 cores and a boost clock of up to 4.9GHz.

It's not the fastest Intel processor you can buy, but that doesn't matter for gaming. Like the Core i9-12900K, this i5 comes with Alder Lake's hybrid architecture. You get six high-performance cores and four efficient cores, which is the perfect pairing for games.

Not only is the Core i5-12600K faster than AMD's competing Ryzen 5 5600X, but it also manages to beat the Ryzen 7 5800X in many titles. Spending more may net you a few frames, but for around $300 (and even above), the Core i5-12600K is awfully hard to beat.

Intel Core i5-12600K

Intel Core i5-12600K

The best Intel processor for gaming
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X processor.

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

The best AMD processor for gaming

Pros
  • Six powerful Zen 3 cores
  • Overclocking support
  • Around $200
Cons
  • Not quite as fast as the Intel competitor

The Ryzen 5 5600X is the best AMD processor for gaming due to its low price and top-shelf gaming performance. AMD's Ryzen 5000 processors all offer similar gaming performance, so even the cheapest option is a great buy.

And the Ryzen 5 5600X is cheap. It launched for around $300, but you'll find it for as low as $200 now. Intel's competing Core i5-12600K is a better performer overall, but the margin is slim, and it's tough to justify when $100 is on the table.

For specs, the Ryzen 5 5600X comes with six cores and 12 threads, 32MB of L3 cache, and a max boost clock of 4.6GHz. It also supports overclocking if you want to squeeze out a few extra frames.

AMD - Ryzen 5 5600X

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

The best AMD processor for gaming
intel core i9 12900k review 2
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Intel Core i9-12900K

The best enthusiast processor for gaming

Pros
  • Outpaces the Ryzen 9 5950X in most workloads
  • Significantly cheaper than the Ryzen 9 5950X
  • DDR5 support
  • Solid overclocking headroom
  • PCIe 5.0 on supported motherboards
Cons
  • High power demands
  • Runs a little hot

You don't need more than the Core i5-12600K for gaming, but the Core i9-12900K is a true enthusiast-class processor. It comes with 16 cores, split evenly across performance and efficient cores, and it can hit a staggering 5.2GHz.

It was the previous gaming champ before the Ryzen 7 5800X3D came in and dethroned it. That doesn't mean you should discount the Core i9-12900K. If you're doing video editing or intense CPU work alongside gaming, Intel's part is a much better option overall.

Even better, the Core i9-12900K supports DDR5 memory, and you can overclock it without a supported motherboard. Don't push it too far, though, or you'll end up with a toasty processor like the Core i9-12900KS.

Intel Core i9-12900K

Intel Core i9-12900K

The best enthusiast processor for gaming
Intel Core i3-12100F box sitting in front of a gaming computer.
Intel

Intel Core i3-12100F

The best processor for gaming under $100

Pros
  • Super inexpensive
  • Highly efficient
  • Offers great performance in most older games
Cons
  • Requires discrete graphics
  • Newer games may call for more than four cores

The Core i3-12100F is an unassuming quad-core processor, but it's hard to expect more under $100. It's not as powerful as the Ryzen 5 and Core i5 options, but it's not far behind — especially considering how much less it costs.

Unlike Intel's other 12th-generation offerings, it ditches the efficient cores for a straight four performance cores. Overall, it's about 10% slower than the Core i5-12600K, but it depends on the game. In some titles, it's just as fast.

Many games don't need more than four cores, especially when those cores can hit 4.3GHz. Because of that, many older games run great on the Core i3-12100F. Newer titles, like Horizon Zero Dawn and Red Dead Redemption 2, may not have as high of performance, however.

Intel Core i3-12100F

Intel Core i3-12100F

The best processor for gaming under $100
Retail box of the AMD Ryzen 7 5700G APU on a white background.

AMD Ryzen 7 5700G

The best processor for gaming with integrated graphics

Pros
  • Solid onboard graphics
  • CPU cooler included
  • Eight powerful Zen 3 cores
Cons
  • Not as powerful as the Ryzen 7 5800X

The Ryzen 7 5700G is for the gamer who doesn't need one of the best graphics cards. It includes Radeon graphics on the chip itself, which is powerful enough for light esports gaming.

If you're a fan of games like Rainbow Six Siege and Rocket League, the Ryzen 7 5700G is for you. It can run most lightweight games at 1080p with decent results, especially if you bump down a few settings.

What's great about the Ryzen 7 5700G is that you can still use a discrete graphics card. Although we recommend one of the processors above if you already have a graphics card, the Ryzen 7 5700G is a great stopgap product that allows you to game while you save up.

AMD Ryzen 7 5700G

AMD Ryzen 7 5700G

The best processor for gaming with integrated graphics

Although you don't need a top-shelf processor for gaming, your CPU still plays a significant role in how well your games run. AMD's Ryzen 7 5800X3D remains the gaming champion, but that will likely change as 2022 rolls on.

For now, we're eagerly waiting on Intel Raptor Lake and AMD Ryzen 7000 to see where the future of gaming CPUs is headed.

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