For building the best gaming PC, you do not have to select the best graphics card only but the processor is more important than that. If you think I am wrong, then I have my logic. A good graphics card cannot unlock its full potential if not used on a decent CPU.
If you think you can use a GTX 1080 on an Intel Pentium G4400 which costs around $50 only, then you will see how your CPU is bottlenecking your graphics card. Instead of getting 60+fps, you will get 30 or 40. 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 gaming, 2 or 4 cores is all you need. Only a few games utilize 6 cores at max but the difference is not that spectacular. 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.
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 recognise the real cores better. So, in this case, an AMD Ryzen 3 processor may be a better choice which costs equivalent to that of Intel core i3 but at the same time have two more cores.
Now the fastest processors for gaming are Intel Core i5 and Ryzen 5 processors having 4 cores and 4 threads and 6 cores/12 threads respectively. They use the 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 FX or Intel Core i3 processors, i5’s and Ryzen 5 processors 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 uses 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 seventh-generation processors that support ddr4 memory which is not available with AMD AM3 processors. Another 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.
The following recommendations from Intel are only for those who want to build an Intel-based system.
1. Intel Pentium G4560
The newest generation of Intel processors is based upon Kabylake architecture. These processors are a little faster than the SKYLAKE and Haswell. The difference is not large though but the latest technology makes these processors power efficient and provides a little boost in applications.
The Intel Pentium G4560 is among the entry-level CPUs in the KABYLAKE family. The G4560 has something special that is never seen in Pentium processors and that is 2 cores with 4 threads, just like an i3. The other two processors G4600 and G4620 share the same thing but the clock speeds are different. The cache memory is 3mb as always, the core clock is 3.5Ghz and the TDP is 35Watts only as compared to 51 watts of G4600 and G4620 which makes it powerful at the same time with lower power consumption.
The integrated GPU it comes with is Intel HD 610 whereas the other two come with HD 630. But it really doesn’t matter what GPU it has because no one can play games on it. This processor will cost around $80 and is right now available for purchase. Check out my $300 gaming build in which I used this processor previously.
But what can I say from its specs is that people who waste more than $100 on i3’s can have almost the same performance at half the cost and when you go above the $100 mark, it is better to go with Ryzen 3 processors.
2. Intel Core i3 7100
I previously listed the i3 6100 but as the newer i3 7100 is a little faster in applications and costs the same but with the latest technology of Kabylake, it is fair enough to replace that with the new one. Although as I said earlier, if you want a 2 core hyperthreaded CPU, then go for the Pentium G4560, but if you have more cash, then i3 will be just ok for you which has more cache and performs better in applications.
For above $100 this processor is a worth buying chip and overwhelms some of the well-known budget processors from AMD like fx 6300. The comparison will show you real difference. The i3 7100 performs almost 20-30% faster with high-end graphics cards. And with mid-end cards you can get 20% performance moreover fx 6300 and 10-15% as compared to i3 4130, the last generation i3 processor. This is a huge gap. The prices of i3 4130/i3 6100 and i3 7100 are same yet the latter is more powerful.
With i3 7100 you will also get a chance of using the latest KABYLAKE platform with ddr4 memories. DDR4 memories are clocked higher and the higher clocked memories you will use the more performance you will get with higher-end graphics cards as illustrated by DigitalFoundry youtube channel. I3 7100 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 3.9Ghz 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 1050 Ti or RX 470 will do very good and there will be very less issue of bottlenecking in most of the games. I used this processor previously in my $500 gaming build which you can check out right now.
3. Intel Core i5 7400
I didn’t include the Intel core i3 2nd/3rd/4th gen processors because they aren’t worth the money nowadays. Go for either i3 SKYLAKE/KABYLAKE processors 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 7400 is the lowest end i5 in KABYLAKE series which is clocked at 3.0Ghz and has a boost clock of 3.5Ghz. This 500Mhz turbo boost will definitely give you boost in performance. It has better single core performance, more multi-core performance and better performance in rendering applications like Cinebench and video editing software than the i5 4460 and i5 6400.
I previously listed the i5 6400 but now the i5 7400 is at the same cost and has more frequency clock. i5 6400 was clocked at 2.7Ghz as base and 3.2Ghz as the boost. So you are getting a 300Mhz boost for the same price and even better single core performance.
If you have around $150 or more, then either go for the AMD Ryzen 3 series processors or just get this one by saving some more money because you will get up to 10% increase in fps in some games like GTA V and Witcher 3. Believe me, it’s definitely worth the money.
See:- 600 dollar gaming build.
4. Intel Core i5 7600k
This is one of the best KABYLAKE based seventh generation Intel Core i5 processor which is considered as the best power efficient processor as well. It uses LGA socket 1151 motherboards and supports ddr4 memories too. When compared to the i5 6600K it beats it in overall performance. The per watt performance, single-core/multi-core performance and the power efficiency is higher than the previous generation i5’s. But still, the gap between the i5 6600K and 7600K is very minimal. The only thing is better performance in rendering applications and video editing software. Although gaming experience won’t be getting any benefit.
The only reason to choose this over 6600K is the same cost and better technology. Otherwise, the lithography, socket, cache and cores are same. Except for the core clocks in which the i5 7600K exceeds with 300mhz at base clock and boost clock respectively.
In applications like Cinebench and Computech, it completely destroys the i5 4690K up to more than double performance in Compubench 1.5 (Bitcoin mining) and up to 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. Now there is no reason you should be using the i5 Haswell processors as the cost is equivalent. 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 7600K or from i5 6600K to i5 7600K is just a waste of money if you only want a little increase in gaming performance.
5. Intel Core i7 7700K
This is the very new intel 7th generation processor that is based on 14nm architecture as the i7 6700K was based on. It is more powerful than the i7 4790K/i7 6700K and has better per watt performance. If you want to future-proof your PC, then this processor is the best option right now and you will be able to use Z170 or Z270 motherboards as well.
The processor uses LGA 1151 socket motherboards and the best for this processor will be with Z170 chipset motherboards or Z270 motherboards that are unlocked for overclocking processors and memory. Similar to the i7 4790k/6700K it also has 4 cores and 8 threads which make it work like an 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.
However, when compared to the i7 6700K, it does beat it in applications which are CPU intensive like Cinebench and Rendering operations, Gaming wise it’s completely identical. The only benefit you will be gaining is more clock speed. Intel didn’t jump that higher than it should be and if you already have an i7 6700K or even an i7 4790K, there is no reason why you should upgrade to the KABY lake processor.
But if you are building a completely new gaming PC from scratch, I will definitely be recommending this CPU over i7 4690K or i7 6700K.
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 the 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 an X99 chipset motherboard too which costs way more than a simple Z170 motherboard. Overall your price will increase up to more than $200.
Best AMD Gaming Processors
When it comes to budget and multitasking at the same time, you cannot say that Intel is a better choice. But instead, AMD processors are the only one which can do multitasking as they have more cores in a particular price range.
If you can buy a quad-core processor or even a hex core processor for 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.
The following recommendations from Intel are only for those who want to build an AMD based system.
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 multitasking 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 either G3258 or G4560.
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 can get it for under 100 bucks. With 6 cores you can do heavy multitasking and gaming easily. Even the core i3 which is a dual-core processor costs more than 100 dollars. But this processor is unlocked and you can get some boost in performance if you buy a 970 or 990FX chipset motherboard. The CON however in this chip is that it’s too old and has lower single core performance. As games like powerful cores, this will get beaten by Intel core i3’s and even by Pentium G4560. The pro is that it is good for multitasking plus gaming.
This processor is ideal for a gaming PC for $400-$500 combined with a GTX 1050 or GTX 1050 Ti, it can deliver fine performance especially if you overclock it. Its 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. But as Ryzen processors are out, consider the following processors if you have a little more cash to spend on.
3. AMD Ryzen 3 & 5 Processors
Based upon the latest architecture, AMD Ryzen 5 processors are the way to go if you are on a budget and want to build a decent gaming PC that can last you for at least a few years without any problem. The Ryzen 3 and 5 series processors consist of 6 processors which are:-
- Ryzen 3 1200: Check price on Amazon
- Ryzen 3 1300X: Check price on Amazon
- Ryzen 5 1400: Check price on Amazon
- Ryzen 5 1500X: Check price on Amazon
- Ryzen 5 1600: Check price on Amazon
- Ryzen 5 1600X: Check price on Amazon
Ryzen 3 processors are Intel core i3 killers and there is no way to buy Core i3 unless you are an Intel Fanboy. They beat them overall in performance. Yes, in gaming Ryzen 3 processors lag behind by a few fps but the overall performance like multitasking, streaming, rendering etc. are far superior with Ryzen 3 processors. They cost almost the same as Intel core i3 7th Gen processors but feature 4 cores and 4 threads which are similar to the Intel Core i5 processors. The only disadvantage will be the cost of the motherboard. A simple B350 chipset motherboard will cost you around $90 but that will be unlocked to overclock your Ryzen processors as these are overclockable unlike the Core i3’s which are locked. Also, the clocks are high and the cache memory in each chip is 8mb which is double of that of Core i3’s.
Ryzen 5 1400 and 1500 have 4 cores and 8 threads each whereas the 1600 and 1600X have 6 cores and 12 threads each. AMD always used to put more cores and more threads on budget CPU’s but they didn’t offer that much performance and were much behind than the Intel counterparts. But this time, AMD has optimised these chip much better than before so that they will give competition to the Intel processors.
These 4 processors are direct competitors of Intel Core i5’s but they have cores and threads equal to Intel core high-end i7s. Ranging from $169.99 to $249.99, many gamers are confused about which processor should they buy, the Intel core i5s or AMD Ryzen 5. The Intel core i5’s have a little better performance in gaming right now but the difference is not that much. But the productivity of Ryzen processors is far above them.
These processors perform exactly like Intel core i7s with half the cost. In short, if you are a gamer who streams to youtube, twitch and do some video editing, then I don’t recommend i5’s. These chips also support ddr4 memories and I find no con in them if one wants to buy any of the four.
The Ryzen is not confined to only these 4 processors but it has 3 more processors which can be categorised in the high end. These are:-
- Ryzen 7 1700: Check price on Amazon
- Ryzen 7 1700X: Check price on Amazon
- Ryzen 7 1800X: Check price on Amazon
Each of these processors has 8 cores and 16 threads with clocks ranging from 3.0Ghz to 4.0Ghz. These are exactly the same chip but with the difference of clock speeds. Ryzen 1700 is $320 whereas the 1700X is <$399 and 1800X is <$499. The best option is 1700 because when you overclock it, you will find no difference between a 1700 or 1800X. It’s simply the best workstation processor and you should not take too much concern about fewer fps as compared to i5’s or i7’s if you have a beast GPU. With mid-end budget graphics cards, these processors will have almost identical performance in gaming but when you stream, the real power of Ryzen will come into work. I myself have a 1700X and my PC is blazing fast.
Check Out: – Best AMD AM4 motherboards for Ryzen Processors.
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 GT 1030 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 up to 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 up to 25% which is really good as the 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 its 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.