Finding the right processor for your gaming PC can be difficult, especially with all of the options available to you.
Below, we will list five CPUs, fitting any possible budget. The tiers will be ranked as extreme budget, low budget, medium budget, high budget, and maximum performance budget.
Each chip will be thoroughly described, as will the platform that each processor functions on. Each synopsis will enumerate factors such as clock speed, number of cores, number of threads, TDP, and most importantly, price.
Best Gaming Processors (CPUs)
|Intel Pentium G4560||
|AMD Ryzen 3 1200||
|Intel Core i5-7500||
|Intel Core i5-8600k||
|Intel Core i7-8700k||
The Best Gaming CPUs to Consider
An essential part of any PC build is the Central Processing Unit (CPU). AMD and Intel produce the majority of desktop PC chips.
Both companies produce high-quality components that will power your build, ensuring both quick speed and dependable reliability. CPUs tend to range from $50-$250, depending on the computational power of the chip.
This Easy PC CPU guide will help you navigate the complex marketplace so that you can be sure that your build will run well within any given budget.
Tier 1: Extreme Budget - Intel Pentium G4560
Coming in at about $75.00 the Intel Pentium G4560 is an excellent choice for budget computers. Besides being viable for everyday usage, this budget beast is a workhorse, capable of keeping up with gaming and resource-intensive multimedia functions.
This CPU is a dual-core chip on Intel’s Kaby Lake microarchitecture, launched in 2016. In addition to the two cores, there is a total of four threads, which ensure that multitasking is smooth and seamless.
This model does not come with Intel’s flagship Hyper-Threading, but it functions solidly and has extreme multitasking capability. The base frequency of the Pentium G4560 is a quick 3.50 GHz, while the thermal design power (TDP) amounts to a minuscule 54W.
The quick speed and low TDP help reduce the power load required for the system, while still performing to an impressive degree. As do many Intel processors, the Pentium G4560 comes with onboard graphics, which are sufficient for daily usage, though they are not optimized for any demanding graphical task.
The onboard graphics chip is capable of outputting 4K resolution at 60 Hz. Although this CPU is cheap, it is an excellent performer for most tasks. There is no need to worry about this chip bottlenecking your build. The price-to-performance ratio is optimal and the Pentium G4560 should be the immediate and clear choice for any budget builder.
Tier 2: Low Budget - Ryzen 3 1200
In the next tier, the AMD Ryzen 3 1200 is a fantastic CPU capable of powering a more powerful system. The price consistently hovers around the $110.00 mark, making it a low-price, high-performance processor.
This chip runs a quad-core design aboard the AMD Zen platform, an improvement on the notably less expensive Intel Pentium G4560. There are a total of four threads to supplement the four cores.
The base frequency of the Ryzen 3 1200 is 3.1 GHz, yet it can boost up to an impressive 3.4 GHz. One of the drawing factors for this chip is that it is unlocked, meaning that it is overclockable and can be pushed to higher performance levels at the expense of expelling more heat and demanding more power.
A stable overclock can result in speeds of almost 4.0 GHz. Since the Ryzen 3 1200 is more powerful than the Pentium G4560, it has a higher TDP of 65W at the base frequency. This processor is often accompanied by a supplemental graphics chip, so it does not feature onboard graphics; therefore, it is important to leave room in your budget for a graphics card.
In terms of processing capability, featuring the Ryzen 3 1200 in a build will annihilate gaming consoles, making them obsolete. This CPU is an excellent choice for the budget gamer who wants to play the newest games smoothly at 1080p.
Tier 3: Medium Budget - Intel Core i5-7500
Priced at $200.00, the Intel Core i5-7500 is an excellent option for gaming builds under the $1000.00 mark. Like the Pentium G4560, this CPU runs of the Kaby Lake infrastructure.
Powered by a quad-core, four thread platform, the Core i5-7500 is an excellent chip for almost any intensive task and is sufficient for any game. Despite its power, it has a minuscule TDP of 65W, akin to that of the Ryzen 3 1200.
The base frequency is 3.40 GHz, boosting up to a maximum of 3.80 GHz. Sadly, though, the CPU is not overclockable, thus the maximum remains at 3.80 GHz. Similar to the Pentium G4560, the Core i5-7500 features onboard Intel graphics, but this upper-tier chip features a more powerful graphics core - the Intel HD Graphics 630.
The processor is capable of outputting 4K video at 60 Hz via DisplayPort. Though some say that the Ryzen 5 1400 is a better option at this price point, the Core i5-7500 proves to be a clear winner in terms of performance and efficiency. As it is a powerful CPU, the Core i5-7500 leaves room for future upgrades in other areas without fear of a noticeable bottleneck on performance.
Tier 4: High Budget - Intel Core i5-8600k
Sticking with Intel CPUs in the next price tier, the Core i5-8600k is an extremely powerful processor that will last many years and will never bottleneck a system.
Priced around $260.00, it is one of the flagship chips of the 8th generation of Intel Core processors. This chip was released in late 2017 and will be a viable option for quite a while. Based at 3.60 GHz clock speed, this powerhouse is capable of turbo-boosting up to an impressive 4.30 GHz, and that is before overclocking.
With proper cooling, the Core i5-8600k runs stable at clock speeds up to 4.90 GHz. This processor features six cores and six threads, but like all other Core i5 processors, it lacks Hyper-Threading. Since the CPU is powerful, it is power-hungry, demanding a notably-high 95W TDP.
One important thing to note is that only DDR4-2666 RAM is compatible with the Core i5-8600k. Like the Intel Core i5-7500, this 8th generation processor features the onboard Intel HD Graphics 630, capable of displaying 4K video at 60 Hz through DisplayPort.
As an absolute powerhouse, this CPU allows for smooth, efficient performance for any task and any game. Video editing, live streaming, multitasking, and other intense processes are easily handled by the Intel Core i5-8600k, making it the ultimate high-budget CPU.
Tier 5: Maximum Performance Budget - Intel Core i7-8700k
If you have an almost unlimited budget and are looking for maximum performance and extreme capabilities, the expensive Intel Core i7-8700k is a viable option. This processor can handle any task thrown at it with ease.
Despite its monstrous performance, it comes with a hefty price tag, coming in around $375.00. At a base frequency of 3.7 GHz, the i7-8700k can turbo-boost up to 4.7 GHz. Since the processor is unlocked, it can safely be overclocked to almost 5.0 GHz given proper cooling.
The processor holds six cores and supports Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology, hosting 12 total threads. Given its immense power, its TDP of 95W is surprisingly low. Like the other Intel processors, this CPU comes with onboard graphics and can output 4K video at 60 Hz. This chip is expensive, yet it is future-proof and can handle gaming easily, as well as intense workstation applications.
What A Processor Does and Why Expensive Ones Aren’t Crucial for Gaming
In the simplest terms possible, the Central Processing Unit or CPU functions as the brain of a computer. Hooked into the motherboard, the CPU performs intricate calculations and sends instructions to various parts of the computer.
Each processor has cores and threads, which are assigned various simultaneous tasks to ensure the proper operation of the system. The processor, though, is not the essential component for successful gaming.
It is clear that there must be sufficient computing power from the CPU to enact smooth gaming, but the Graphics Processing Unit or GPU plays a more crucial role. Therefore, as long as your processor does not bottleneck, meaning hinder the system’s performance, the processor is not the most important component of your build.
As a general rule of thumb, you should spend more on your graphics card than you do on your processor if you intend to game.