For building the best gaming pc, you do not have to select the best graphics card only but processor is more important than that. If you think I am wrong, then I have my logic. A good graphics card cannot unlock it’s full potential if not used on a decent cpu.
If you think you can use a gtx 980 on a Amd X4 860K which costs around $75 only, then you will see how your cpu is bottlenecking your graphics card. Instead of getting 60+fps, you will get 40 or 50. And that’s all because of the cpu you are using.
If you use a good cpu first then you can use any graphics card according to your budget and the capability your cpu has. So, I am going to mention the best processors for gaming for every budget both from Intel and Amd.
But before proceeding I want to clear some concept. You may be wondering how many cores do you need? So read the explanation below.
For particularly gaming, 2 or 4 cores is all you need. Forget about 6 cores or 8 cores. They are not used in any game right now. But people still buy them to future proof their pc’s. Now suppose you buy a dual core CPU, then you must acknowledge that you are also limiting your pc for better performance. A processor like Intel Pentium G3258 has dual cores and perform better than a quad core Amd X4 860K in many games but when you try to play games like Watch dogs, far Cry 4 or Battlefield 4 multi-player you will definitely observe bottlenecking.
Therefore choosing the most suitable gaming processor is not so simple. On the other hand there are Intel core i3’s which also have 2 cores but with hyperthreading which means each core will work as two dividing the overall power to the four virtual cores. It will definitely play all the latest games without bottleneck but some games may run slower because they recognize the real cores better. So, in this case an AMD Fx 6300 may be a better choice which costs less than an Intel core i3 but at the same time have two more cores.
Now the fastest processors for gaming are Intel Core i5 having 4 cores and 4 threads. They use full power of their cores and have much better single core performance than the Amd Fx series processors. If you have a good budget for your gaming pc, instead of getting amd processors i5’s are more worth the price.
Best Intel Gaming Processors
Intel processors no doubt have the best single core performance when compared to Amd processors. A huge community of gamers use intel processors even for basic works due to some very good advantages. Intel processors consume less power and they provide more performance per core i.e., almost 1.5 times more than the Amd processors.
They can even handle some of the most intensive applications and games without any problems. The other factor for choosing an Intel processor is that their generation is evolving continuously. Now we have sixth generation processors that support ddr4 memory which is not available with Amd processors. Other factor is the low power consumption. Processors like Fx 9590 consume almost 2-3 times the power as compared to the i3’s and i5’s.
1. Intel Pentium G3258 Anniversary edition
This processor is the cheapest gaming processor from Intel. Best suited for a budget build of $300 to $400. With this processor you can expect a huge performance out of the box. Even if it is just pentium processor which only costs $70, it outperforms every Amd processor that comes under $100. I have included it in my Best budget gaming processors list also and without it that list is incomplete.
It is totally unlocked and you can overclock it massively. The core clock of this cpu is 3.2Ghz and with a custom Cooler Like Cooler Master hyper 212 EVO or better you can overclock it upto 4.7Ghz with stabillity. In many games it give a tough competition to higher end core i5’s and i7’s like Tomb Raider 2013 as it based on the same Haswell architecture as Core i5’s and core i7’s.
But it only gives that much performance when you overclock it. Without any overclocking you will be observing that it gets beaten my amd processors like X4 750K etc. But when overclocked more than 4.5Ghz, it gives almost equal performance to i7’s in games like Crysis 3.
3. Intel Core i3 6100
Perhaps the best bang for buck for all games. For above $100 this processor is a badass and overwhelms some of the well known budget processors from amd like fx 6300. The comparison will show you real difference. The i3 6100 performs almost 20-30% faster with high end graphics cards. And with mid end cards you can get 20% performance more over fx 6300 and 10-15% as compared to i3 4130, the last generation i3 processor. This is a huge gap. The price of i3 4130 and i3 6100 is same yet the latter is more powerful.
With i3 6100 you will also get a chance of using the latest skylake platform with ddr4 memories. DDR4 memories are clocked higher and the more higher clocked memories you will use the more performance you will get with higher end graphics cards as illustrated by DigitalFoundry youtube channel. I3 6100 gives equal performance to i5’s when compared in Gpu intensive games and perform very close in CPU intensive games too. With 2 cores and 4 threads you will not have any problem in running any game unlike the pentium processors which only have 2 cores.
This chip is clocked at 3.7Ghz which is a huge jump from the previous generations and with 14 nm architecture it’s even more power efficient. For entry level rigs or mid end rigs, this cpu with a gtx 960 or R9 380 will do very good. With RX 470, it will perform even better and there will be very less issue of bottlenecking in most of the games. I have used this processor in my $500 gaming build which you can check out right now.
2. Intel Core i5 6400
I didn’t included the intel core i3 2nd/3rd/4th gen processors because they aren’t worth the money now a days. Go for either i3 skylake processors or amd fx processors for the same amount of money. Intel core i5 now creates a new tier for gaming. Even though they are considered as mid end processors when compared to the i7’s but when it comes to gaming the performance difference between i5’s and i7’s are minimal.
Intel core i5 6400 is the lowest end i5 in skylake series which is clocked at 2.7Ghz and has a boost clock of 3.2Ghz. This 500Mhz turbo boost definitely boosts performance. Even though it’s competitor i5 4460 has more core clock, i5 6400 performs much better in games like GTA V and other cpu intensive games. It has better single core performance, more multi-core performance and better performance in rendering applications like Cinebench and video editing softwares.
If you are on a budget of i3 6100 or i3 6300, go for either fx series processors or just get this one by saving some money because you will get upto 40% increase in fps in some games like GTA V and witcher 3. Believe me, it’s definitely worth the money. I have even used it in my 600 dollar gaming build.
3. Intel Core i5 6600k
This is the latest Skylake based sixth generation Intel core i5 processor which is considered as the best power efficient processor. It uses LGA socket 1151 motherboards and supports ddr4 memories too. When compared to the i5 4690k it beats it in overall performance. The per watt performance, single-core/mulit-core performance and the power efficiency is higher than the previous generation i5’s.
In applications like Cinebench and Compubench, it completely destroys the i5 4690K giving upto more than double performance in Compubench 1.5 (Bitcoin mining) and upto 40% more fps in CompuBench 1.5 (Video composition).
This processor is a very good choice for future proofing your system as not only it will support any high end graphics card but it also opens doors for ddr4 builds which are faster and more power efficient. This processor used to cost a lot in past few months but now it’s affordable and costs just as same as i5 4690K. So if you are building a completely new PC, I won’t recommend the Haswell processors but at the same time upgrading from i5 4690K to i5 6600K is just a waste of money if you only want some increase in gaming performance.
4. Intel Core i7 6700K
This is the very new intel sixth generation processor that is based upon 14nm architecture. It is more powerful than the i7 4790K and has better per watt performance. It used to be very expensive but now it costs same as i7 4790K. If you want to future proof your pc, then this processor is the best option right now and ddr4 memories.
The processor uses LGA 1151 socket motherboards and the best for this processor will be with Z170 chipset motherboards that are unlocked for overclocking processors and memory. Similar to the i7 4790k it also has 4 cores and 8 threads which make it work like a octa core processor. When the gaming performance is considered benchmarks have shown that with a high end graphics card like Gtx 980 ti or Titan X it beats the i7 4790k by more than 10% and more than 20% when compared to the i7 2nd and 3rd generation processors.
But still it’s hard to compare this processor to the i7 4790k for the price you pay for both the CPU’s. Both are good when it comes to gaming and you won’t be regretting buying either. But if you are building a completely new gaming pc from scratch, I will definitely be recommending this cpu over i7 4690K.
NOTE: Now as far as i7 6800K or i7 5820k are concerned, I don’t think they should be on the list. Many websites use those processors for just marketing purpose and astray the people for some revenue in the name of gaming. I have even seen people including i7 6950X in gaming processors list. I mean “Seriously”, that $1700 processor for gaming where you can buy a whole high end rig for that price?
They will have almost zero to none increase in performance in gaming. In case of rendering applications of course they will perform better as they have two more cores but buying them just for gaming is wasting money as you will have to buy a X99 chipset motherboard too which costs way more than a simple Z170 motherboard. Overall your price will increase upto more than $200.
Best AMD Gaming Processors
When it comes to budget and multi-tasking at the same time, you cannot say that Intel are better choice. But instead Amd processors are the only one which can do multi-tasking as they have more cores in a particular price range.
If you can buy a quad core processor or even a hex core processor in the same price as a dual core processor, why shouldn’t you go with it? I know Intel processors are better in single core performance, but when you want to run multiple applications at the same time when you are gaming, you cannot do it on a pentium processor.
Therefore at some point Amd processors have an advantage. Following are the best amd processors that I recommend when you have a budget of $70 to $170 for your processor. Above it I only recommend going with Intel processors.
1. AMD Athlon X4 860K
This is a budget gaming cpu which has 4 cores and 4mb of cache which is a good deal at this price. It’s a Fm2 socket processor which is older than the latest Am3 processors. Still this processor is used in many budget gaming pc’s because it provides four cores and a good core clock of 3.7Ghz which can be overclocked more than 4.0Ghz easily.
At the same price you can also get a pentium g3258 but the disadvantage is that you will only have two cores and lower base clock. It can serve as a good multi-tasking processor if you want to do multiple tasks simultaneously.
As stated by amd.com, the x4860K combined with R7 260x graphics card provides better performance in 3DMark and Battlefield 4 than Pentium g3258. Therefore it’s still a tough choice to choose between the pentium and this processor. But it all depends on your needs. If you want more cores, go for this processor. If you want more future proofing and higher performance per core, go for pentium.
2. AMD Fx 6300
Perhaps the best processor for money is the AMD Fm3+ Fx 6300 processor which is hex core as well as totally unlocked. For this price this is a total bargain and you cannot get a better cpu than this at 100 bucks. With 6 cores you can do heavy multi-tasking and gaming easily. Even the core i3 which is a dual core processor costs more than 100 dollars. So why waste money on that if instead you are getting a hex core processor which is unlocked too.
This processor is best for a gaming pc for $400-$500 combined with a gtx 950 or gtx 960, it can deliver rock solid performance especially if you overclock it. It’s base clock is 3.5Ghz and boost clock is 4.1Ghz but you can overclock it even more with a custom cooler. The cache memory of this cpu is also good which is 6/8mb (L2/L3) which helps it to store more memory for faster operations.
3. AMD Fx 8350
Going above $100 you have two choices either buy a fx 8320 or 8350. Fx 8320 has lower clock and therefore is slower. For a little more price, fx 8350 is a good choice. It features 8 cores and 8mb of L2 and L3 cache which is huge. With 8 cores you can do probably run any intensive application and games and your computer will still be able to run more applications.
It has a core clock of 4.0Ghz which can be overclocked to more than 4.5Ghz with a custom cooler. This processor although consumes more power but it’s worth the money. Instead of buying a core i5 4440 by adding more money you can get this one for a little less and have four cores more.
Processors that come after fx 8350 like fx 8370 or 9590, I don’t recommend them as for the same price you can go for Intel core i5 processors which provide better value for money and especially if you want to make your pc more upgradable.
Best Gaming Processors with Integrated Graphics
1. Amd A6 5400K APU
Many gamers who are on a really tight budget can’t afford a graphics card. For this AMD has the solution. There are several Fm2 processors which are equipped with integrated graphics. The cheapest processor for gaming you can find on the market it the A6 5400K processor that costs less than $40 which is really low and a good choice for a potato pc that can really run casual games.
You won’t be able to play on high settings and on 1080p but 720p medium settings are best suited for this CPU. Games like Battlefield 3, Skyrim, CSGO can be played at 720p medium settings with more than 20fps. On the other hand you have intel hd graphics which will cost you more as the Intel processors are expensive but at the same time they are easily beaten by the other high end AMD APU’s that cost lesser than the Intel Processors.
This processor is really worth the money and you can use it with a gtx 750 ti or similar to play games on 1080p mediums settings just as I have used this configuration in my $250 Gaming pc.
2. Amd A10 7860K APU
This is a high end Kaveri Cpu from Amd’s side having 4 cores for main processing and 8 cores for graphics. That’s really insane. This CPU is clocked at 3.6Ghz and has a turbo boost of 4.0Ghz. Surely it is overclockable just like the A6 5400K and overclocking this processor increases the performance in games and applications. With 4 cores you can run any game and with R7 graphics, this Cpu can crush any generation Intel hd graphics, be it Intel hd 530 or Iris pro.
At just $100 you are getting double the performance of integrated graphics when compared to the i7 6700K which is 3.5 times expensive than this one. Gamers who don’t want to spend $100+ on a dedicated graphics card can play latest games and casual games on medium settings at 1080p. You will easily get around 20-30 fps or if you lower down the settings, then the frame rates will much better and the gameplay will be smoother.
3. Amd A10 7890K APU
This one is the successor of the A10 7860K but has more core clock and more turbo clock. As compared to the A10 7860K, it has a faster clock of 4.1Ghz and a boost clock of 4.3Ghz. Even the Graphics clock is higher. The graphics clock of A10 7860K is 757Mhz and that of A10 7890K is 866Mhz. These factors combine to make it faster in games. Or if you want more then use a custom cooler to overclock it upto 4.5Ghz. That will extract some more awesome performance.
Just like the previous one you will be able to play games at 1080p medium settings and if you use a higher clocked memory then you will get a significant boost in performance. If you use a 1600Mhz ddr3 8gb ram, my recommendation is to use a 2400Mhz 8gb ram. This will boost the performance upto 25% which is really good as price to performance is considered.
If you want to upgrade in future, you are most welcome. It won’t bottleneck any entry level graphics card and even graphics cards like gtx 960 will perform at it’s very best. So it’s very good investment for future too. But of course you shouldn’t be expecting performance equal to an i5 or i7 or even equal to fx series processors like fx 8320/8350.