Processors

The Best CPUs for Gaming in 2021: The Top 10 Processors

11 Mins read

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. For more information, see our disclosures here.

Processor is one of the basic components of a computer. It is the heart of your computer, and it is a very important component to look after when buying a new PC. If you are planning to build a good gaming computer, you’ll need a high-quality CPU. Although most PC games nowadays heavily depend on the processing power of your graphics card, some games, like most MMORPGs or online first-person shooters require of you to have a capable CPU in order to process numerous calculations in real time.

Read more: The Best Motherboards for Gaming in 2021: 10 Options for AMD & Intel CPUs

Choosing the right CPU for your new PC is an important decision. It is easy to get confused about which processor should you buy, because there are plenty of different models available on the market. If you are going to build a powerful gaming PC, you’ll need a processor that features high clock speed and as many processing cores as possible.

In this roundup we will show you the best processors you can buy today. Our recommendations may not be the most budget-friendly, but you certainly shouldn’t regret getting any of the processors listed here, as we’ve chosen the models that are able to deliver the best performance possible for every kind of purpose.


Best Overall:

AMD Ryzen 9 3900X

Best for High-End Gaming:

Intel Core i7-10700K

Best Value:

AMD Ryzen 5 3600

Best for Mainstream Gaming:

Intel Core i5-10600K

Best Integrated Graphics:

AMD Ryzen 5 3400G

Best Extreme CPU:

AMD Ryzen 9 5900X

Best Multi-Thread Performance:

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X

Best Budget Intel Gaming CPU:

Intel Core i5-9400F

Best Budget AMD Gaming CPU:

AMD Ryzen 5 1600 AF

Best for eSports:

Intel Core i9-10900K


Best Overall: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X

Cores/Threads: 12C/24T | Base Clock: 3.8 GHz | Boost Clock: 4.6 GHz | TDP: 105W | PassMark Score: 32.897


  • Godlike performance in gaming and content creation
  • Huge amount of cache
  • Supports PCIe 4.0 bus interface and overclocking
  • Beats newer Intel and AMD CPUs for less price
  • Included cooler may not be enough to keep it chill

Although the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X was launched back in 2019, it is still the best all-around CPU currently available on the market. Featuring 12 physical cores and 24 threads, as well as boost clocks that go up to 4.6 GHz across all cores, this CPU is a true monster.

In GeekBench 4 Multi-Core benchmark, the Ryzen 9 3900X is able to score 44.000 points, and in PassMark single threaded test it is able to score around 2.750 points. For a price of around $500, the Ryzen 9 3900X is able to deliver overkill performance in 1080P gaming, and is able to beat both Intel Core i7-10700K and AMD Ryzen 7 5800X in multi-threaded applications.

Coupled with enthusiast graphics cards, such as GeForce RTX 3080 or Radeon RX 5700 XT, this CPU will push your frame rates way above 60 FPS mark with all the graphics settings set to ultra. The only flaw of this CPU is that it likes to run hot, so we recommend buying a good CPU cooler. Overall the Ryzen 9 3900X is an amazing piece of silicon, and it’s a true bargain if you don’t plan to upgrade your PC for the next five years.

Best for High-End Gaming: Intel Core i7-10700K

Cores/Threads: 8C/16T | Base Clock: 3.8 GHz | Boost Clock: 5.1 GHz | TDP: 125W | PassMark Score: 19.616


  • Superb gaming performance
  • Great overclocking potential
  • High boost clock speed
  • Reasonably priced
  • Requires aftermarket cooler
  • Doesn’t support PCIe 4.0 interface

The base formula of the Core i7-10700K does not differ from the Intel’s previous-gen flagship, the Core i9-9900K. Like its predecessor, this CPU features 8 cores and 16 threads. However, the Core i7-10700K comes with some significant improvements. The new CPU features an updated microarchitecture, an increased turbo boost clock, and most importantly, a noticeably reduced heat dissipation.

Despite the fact that it runs cooler than the Core i9-9900K, we still recommend buying a Noctua NH-D15 CPU cooler or NZXT Kraken X53 AIO liquid cooler, to keep this mean boy as cool as possible. For gaming, this CPU is a blast. It is able to deliver unprecedented single-threaded performance, and regularly beats all AMD Ryzen CPUs in most gaming benchmarks.

For multi-threaded applications, the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X is a better choice. However, if you only plan to buy a new CPU to play video games at 1440p or 4K resolutions, then Intel Core i7-10700K is the right processor for you.

Best Value: AMD Ryzen 5 3600

Cores/Threads: 6C/12T | Base Clock: 3.6 GHz | Boost Clock: 4.2 GHz | TDP: 65W | PassMark Score: 17.864


  • Outstanding price-to-performance ratio
  • Supports overclocking
  • Backward compatibility with older motherboards
  • Supports PCIe 4.0 interface
  • Limited overclocking potential
  • No integrated graphics

If AMD Ryzen 9 3900X is the king of all mainstream gaming CPUs, then Ryzen 5 3600 is their prince. Without a doubt, this is one of the best desktop PC processors we have seen in years. Featuring six cores and 12 threads, as well as boost clock speed of 4.2 GHz, the Ryzen 5 3600 is able to easily beat its Intel counterparts, such as the i5-9400F, or i5-10400, and is as good as AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1900X or Intel Core i7-8700K.

Paired with a high-end graphics card, such as GeForce RTX 3060 Ti, or Radeon RX 5700 XT, the Ryzen 5 3600 can deliver more than 100 FPS on average in latest PC games at 1080p and 1440p resolutions. Being built upon a 7nm FinFET manufacturing process, the Ryzen 5 3600 is also a very energy efficient CPU, as it has a TDP of only 65 watts. The processor comes with its own cooler, however, it doesn’t have an integrated graphics, so buying a dedicated GPU is a must. Overall, it is an amazing sub-$200 processor that is able to offer great price-to-performance ratio that still hasn’t been surpassed.

Best for Mainstream Gaming: Intel Core i5-10600K

Cores/Threads: 6C/12T | Base Clock: 4.1 GHz | Boost Clock: 4.8 GHz | TDP: 125W | PassMark Score: 14.661


  • Outstanding gaming performance
  • Strong single-core performance
  • Great overclocking potential
  • Good thermal design
  • Requires a newer motherboard
  • Doesn’t support PCIe 4.0 interface

The Intel Core i5-10600K is an odd processor. Why, you may ask? Well, its cheaper than Core i7-10700K, yet sometimes it even outperforms it in gaming. You see, the Intel Core i5-10600K is a CPU that was specifically designed for gaming. It features 6 cores, 12 threads, very high boost core clocks, and although its multi-threaded performance pales in comparison to AMD Ryzen 5 3600, its single-threaded performance is simply outstanding.

The Core i5-10600K is a perfect mainstream gaming processor, as it features fully unlocked multiplier and can be easily overclocked. The CPU regularly beats its direct competitors, such as Ryzen 5 3600, and Ryzen 7 3700X in games like Red Dead Redemption 2, and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, thanks to its strong single-core performance and ultra-fast L3 cache. Unfortunately, this CPU isn’t backward compatible with older motherboards, so you’ll need to buy a newer board featuring Intel Z490 chipset.

Best Integrated Graphics: AMD Ryzen 5 3400G

Cores/Threads: 4C/8T | Base Clock: 3.7 GHz | Boost Clock: 4.2 GHz | TDP: 65W | PassMark Score: 9.393


  • Great performance for low price
  • Supports SMT
  • Powerful integrated graphics
  • Very energy efficient
  • Single-threaded performance could be better
  • Some motherboards require BIOS update in order to support this CPU

The AMD Ryzen 5 3400G is a perfect processor for building a budget computer without a discrete graphics card. Thanks to its powerful integrated Radeon RX Vega graphics solution, the Ryzen 5 3400G isn’t just a very good CPU, but also a very capable APU. Featuring 4 cores and 8 threads that can run at frequencies of up to 4.2 GHz, the Ryzen 5 3400G is able to deliver splendid performance for less than $150.

Its integrated Vega graphics solution features 11 computational cores that work at frequency of 1,400 MHz. The Vega 11 is able to deliver over 90 FPS in Fortnite, and up to 50 FPS in Apex Legends and Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds at minimum settings. For most causal gamers, this is more than enough to achieve satisfactory gaming experience. Overall, the Ryzen 5 3400G is a fantastic CPU for entry-level gaming, as well as for building a small and energy efficient HTPC on a tight budget.

Best Extreme CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900X

Cores/Threads: 12C/24T | Base Clock: 3.7 GHz | Boost Clock: 4.8 GHz | TDP: 105W | PassMark Score: 39.533


  • Extraterrestrial performance
  • Incredible IPC gains
  • Very energy efficient
  • Supports PCIe 4.0 interface
  • Works on older motherboards
  • Hard to obtain
  • Requires aftermarket cooler

Featuring 12 physical cores and 24 threads, as well as a boost clock of 4.8 GHz across all cores, the newest generation AMD Ryzen 9 5900X is an absolute monster of a CPU. With an overall PassMark score of 39.500 points, and a single-threaded rating of 3.500 points, this CPU absolutely obliterates all of its competitors like the Intel Core i9-10900K or Intel Core i9-10980XE.

The Ryzen 9 5900X is without a doubt the best CPU for gaming, but also one of the best processors for creative and professional applications. Its single-threaded performance is truly astonishing, as this CPU is able to score 637 points in Cinebench R20 single-core test, and 1.564 points in Geekbench 5 single-core test. This is roughly around 15% better performance than the Intel Core i9-10900K is able to deliver. With a full support for PCIe 4.0 interface, AMD Smart Access Memory technology, 64 MB of L3 cache, and TDP of only 105 W, this CPU has no real competitors currently on the market.

Best Multi-Thread Performance: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X

Cores/Threads: 24C/48T | Base Clock: 3.8 GHz | Boost Clock: 4.5 GHz | TDP: 280W | PassMark Score: 55.569


  • Features 24 cores and 48 threads
  • Incredible multi-threaded performance
  • 128 MB of L3 cache
  • Supports quad channel DDR4 with ECC
  • Difficult to overclock
  • Requires special type of motherboard
  • High TDP

If AMD Ryzen 9 5900X wasn’t powerful enough for you, then AMD Threadripper 3960X might satisfy your appetites. To be honest, this CPU sucks for gaming, however, if you are looking for something to speed up your rendering or video encoding times, than this bad boy will certainly get the job done.

The Threadripper 3960X is primarily designed for professionals and content creators who need a powerful CPU for their workstation PC. The 3960X is equipped with a whooping 24 cores and 48 threads that can run at clock speed of 4.5 GHz. This CPU also features a stupendously large 128 MB L3 cache, and it fully supports PCIe 4.0 interface, as well as ECC memory, and up to 256 GB of DDR4 memory that can work in quad channel configuration.

In short, if you do a ton of 3D rendering or video encoding then Threadripper 3960X is the right CPU for you. For gaming, well, it’s not a very good CPU, as it was built for a completely different purpose in mind.

Best Budget Intel Gaming CPU: Intel Core i5-9400F

Cores/Threads: 6C/6T | Base Clock: 2.9 GHz | Boost Clock: 4.1 GHz | TDP: 65W | PassMark Score: 9.589


  • Good gaming performance
  • Very good heat dissipation
  • Cheap price
  • Can’t be overclocked
  • Doesn’t support hyper-threading
  • Disabled integrated graphics

The Intel Core i5-9400F is one of the most popular gaming CPUs for building relatively inexpensive, yet powerful gaming systems. Despite the fact that this six-core processor has rather low core clocks, and no hyper-threading support, it can easily be paired with some high-end graphics cards in order to deliver very good gaming performance.

When it comes to professional applications, the Ryzen CPUs easily outmatch the i5-9400F thanks to their strong multi-threaded performance. It is also worth to note that this CPU doesn’t support overclocking, since it has a locked multiplier, so if you want to conduct any overclocking operations, then this is not a CPU for you.

The main advantage of Core i5-9400F is its very low price, since it’s able to offer six physical cores for less than $150. The power consumption and heat dissipation of this CPU are also very admirable, so you won’t be needing to buy an aftermarket CPU cooler, since the boxed one performs quite well.

Best Budget AMD Gaming CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 1600 AF

Cores/Threads: 6C/12T | Base Clock: 3.2 GHz | Boost Clock: 3.6 GHz | TDP: 65W | PassMark Score: 12.382


  • On par with Ryzen 5 2600
  • Incredible value
  • Supports SMT
  • Low TDP
  • Poor overclocking capabilities
  • Idle power consumption could be better

The Ryzen 5 1600 AF is simply an incredible sub-$150 CPU. It is a refreshed version of the original Ryzen 5 1600 CPU launched in April 2017, but is built upon newer 12 nm manufacturing node. The Ryzen 5 1600 AF is the world’s lowest power 6-core, 12-thread desktop processor, that can also boast with great single-thread performance and high boost clocks. With a TDP of only 65 W, it is a very energy-efficient CPU, and in most gaming benchmarks beats its direct competitor – the Intel Core i5-9400F.

Paired with a GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER or Radeon RX 5500 XT, this CPU can deliver from 60 to 90 FPS on average in most PC games at 1080p resolution on ultra high settings. Although it comes with its own CPU cooler, we recommend buying a budget CPU heatsink for more efficient cooling. Overall, the Ryzen 5 1600 AF is a fantastic budget CPU if you are building a gaming PC on a tight budget.

Best for eSports: Intel Core i9-10900K

Cores/Threads: 10C/20T | Base Clock: 3.7 GHz | Boost Clock: 5.3 GHz | TDP: 125W | PassMark Score: 24.101


  • Plenty of cores
  • Outstanding gaming performance
  • Great for streaming and content creation
  • High power consumption
  • High thermal output
  • Doesn’t support PCIe 4.0 interface

Although Intel Core i9-10900K might seem like an overkill for playing eSports titles, in reality it’s actually not. The Core i9-10900K is without a doubt one of the most powerful CPUs currently available on the market. As such, it is a perfect CPU for playing competitive eSports titles, since it’s able to push your framerates to maximum heights. Every professional eSports athlete knows that achieving high FPS in competitive multiplayer games is everything. Pairing a GeForce RTX 3080 with a mid-range CPU will most certainly produce good FPS results, but to reach high enough FPS to efficiently game at 144 Hz, or even at 240 Hz at 4K or 1440p resolution, you’ll need something like the Core i9-10900K.

Equipped with 10 cores and 20 threads, the Core i9-10900K is a very powerful CPU. Besides for gaming, it is also a great CPU for streaming, as well as for video editing, 3D modelling, and content creation in general. Its single-threaded performance is unprecedented, and is only surpassed by the most expensive workstation CPUs, such as the Ryzen Threadripper. Provided that you have enough financial resources to get one, the Core i9-10900K will most certainly satisfy all of your needs.

Conclusion

Choosing the right processor for your next PC build will largely depend on your preferences, budget, and games you would like to play. For most mainstream gamers, the AMD Ryzen 5 3600 will be more than enough to satisfy all of their needs, however, if you plan to use your PC for purposes other than gaming, then you might consider getting a more powerful CPU. If, on the other hand, you’re a budget gamer, a CPU with a good integrated graphics should satisfy your needs. We hope our buying guide helped you in search of the information you were looking for. If you still feel confused, and need advice about buying, feel free to post comment below. We will try to help you.

Read more

27 posts

About author
Before he joined ViCadia, Nicholas worked as a journalist for several tech magazines. Over the years he gained a lot of knowledge about computers. His main area of interest are processors, motherboards, and operating systems.
Articles
Related posts
MiningProcessors

The Best CPUs for Mining Monero in 2021

10 Mins read
It is possible to mine cryptocurrencies, such as Monero, with a CPU. In this roundup we will show you the best CPUs for mining crypto coins in 2021.
Processors

The Best Intel Processors of 2021

7 Mins read
From gaming to content creation, Intel CPUs are able to offer incredible performance for reasonable amount of money. Here are the best Intel CPUs in 2021.
Processors

AMD Ryzen 7 3700X vs AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT: Which One Should You Buy?

4 Mins read
Both Ryzen 7 3700X and Ryzen 7 3800XT are great high-end CPUs, however, one is better for gaming, and the other for content creation.
Subscribe to ViCadia Newsletter!

Sign up now and receive curated buying guides and special offers directly to your inbox!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *