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The Best CPU for Gaming | Essential Factors

It might seem that the easiest approach to choosing the best CPU for gaming is to open catalogs of two main manufacturers and choose the latest and most expensive model in this segment. Well, there are a couple of difficulties here.

First, both Intel and AMD make all sorts of CPUs, and the most expensive ones are not necessarily the ones which most gamers will need. And then, it might not be wise to spend a huge part of your budget on CPU alone when other PC components could also require those funds (even if you sell CS:GO skins on DMarket and have enough money). Therefore, the best processors for gaming are rather those that keep a balance between being a piece of top-notch technology and something that is affordable for actual users.

In this article, we explain the main features of the best gaming CPU — including what to check out when you are selecting one for your PC. And we list specific units, which can be considered the best CPU 3.


A central processing unit is obviously a pretty important thing for a computer. It’s the core of a PC that allows the whole magic to work.

In the gaming community, graphics processing units get significantly more attention. Yes, they render the visuals and therefore they handle the huge chunk of work. Without delving into too many technical aspects, let’s say that the CPU coordinates all the processes inside the PC, including those of the GPU. With the obvious focus on graphics, you still need a good enough process to support that power. The system memory and the speed of your SSD may also need that processing might. Of course, the CPU does a lot of important calculations as well and thus directly participates in gaming.

cpu vs gpu

The CPU and GPU should be of a similar level. Or you could buy a better CPU to then update your GPU. It’s inadvisable to do otherwise as replacing the GPU is a more “casual” step.

Also, don’t forget about many other components, especially those that help you perform miracles in competitive gaming. Why not check out our articles on the best keyboards and the best mouse for CS:GO to get perfect gaming peripherals.

Characteristics of a Gaming CPU

What specific characteristics make up the best gaming processor?

How Many Cores?

In general, there should be at least six cores for gaming purposes. Having four might be ok for just a good CPU. Having eight and more will not be excessive if you plan on gaming at the highest level.

What about Memory Support?

Two memory channels is the standard for most gaming processors. They allow:

  • up to four DIMMs;
  • up to 24 PCI Express lanes to support all the other PC components (SSD, GPU, etc). High-end CPUs support four channels, which might be great but unnecessary.

What’s the Optimal Clock Speed?

This is a pretty important factor. A good CPU for gaming should have around 3+ GHz. Still, some good budget variants might have less.

How Much Heat?

Thermal Design Power determines how much heat a CPU produces. It’s important to know as the cooling system of your PC should handle this. 65W is a common number here, with more powerful units having even 125W.

To Overclock or Not?

The CPU characteristics contain information on the overclock possibilities. It is not advisable to do so as the basic mode of good CPUs are enough for gaming. Also, your GPU will most likely limit the actual performance, making overclocking pointless. Let’s not forget about potential heat issues.

The Best Gaming CPU

So, it’s time to name specific products.

1. Intel Core i5 12600K

Intel Core i5 12600K
  • Cores: 10 (6P & 4E)
  • Base Clock: 3.7 GHz for P-core, 2.8 GHz for E-core
  • Boost Clock: 4.9 GHz for P-core, 3.6 GHz for E-core
  • Thermal Design Power: 125 W
  • L3 Cache: 20 MB
  • Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 770
  • Threads: 16
  • Price: Around $350-400

This CPU is exactly an incarnation of that harmony of efficiency and a reasonable cost we talked about earlier. In fact, it’s pretty surprising to see such a great unit for this mid-range price.

Intel Core i5 12600K combines two types of cores: power and efficiency, having 10 in total. Its base clock is excellent for gaming and for most other tasks. You will have no issues playing and streaming at the same time. So don’t limit yourself to just the status of gamer — what about becoming a content creator?

The internal graphics are weak for the normal big games, but it might be convenient to have that on board. 125 W is more than in some other models, so be prepared to take care of cooling.

It’s the best Intel CPU for gaming, perfect for all sorts of games. Yes, you can get better performance but for a significantly higher price.

2. AMD Ryzen 7 5700G

AMD Ryzen 7 5700G
  • Cores: 8
  • Base Clock: 3.6 GHz
  • Boost Clock: 4.6 GHz
  • Thermal Design Power: 65 W
  • L3 Cache: 16 MB
  • Graphics: Radeon Vega 8 Graphics
  • Threads: 16
  • Price: Around $350-400

It’s an Accelerated Processing Unit, so it combines CPU and GPU. This is a great answer to the Intel Core i5 12600K, as this processor has the same nice balance of performance and a reasonable price.

AMD Ryzen 7 5700G has 8 cores and 3.6 GHz of Base Clock. These are solid characteristics for a gaming CPU, so you are covered for AAA titles.

8 graphic cores with 2 GHz might be a good substitute for a discrete GPU. Still, many people in the gaming community would prefer the traditional scheme, and that sounds like a safer road if you want to load the computer with streaming and video editing.

It’s great to see such a powerhouse having only 65 W of TMD. We are brave enough to call Ryzen 7 5700G the best AMD processor for gaming. Still, some aspects are not perfect here, such as the lack of PCIe 4.0 for fast SSDs.

3. Intel Core i9-12900K

Intel Core i9-12900K
  • Cores: 16 (8P & 8E)
  • Base Clock: 3.2 GHz for P-core, 2.4 GHz for E-core
  • Boost Clock: 5.2 GHz for P-core, 3.9 GHz for E-core
  • Thermal Design Power: 125 W
  • L3 Cache: 30 MB
  • Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 770
  • Threads: 24
  • Price: Around $1.000

Ok, let’s forget that idea of saving something from your budget for other PC components. What about those most expensive variants? (Everyone loves such raw power!) It’s arguably the best Intel processor with such motivation. 16 cores with 8 power and 6 efficient ones. 3.2 GHz of Basic Clock with the possibility to boost up to an impressive 5.2 GHz. Intel Core i9-12900K is awesome in its specifications!

The processor is of the latest core architecture (12th generation). It supports DDR5 and even PCIe 5.0. Of course, the corresponding components are also expensive, so be prepared to pay a lot. Maybe you will even need to sell stuff from your digital collection — probably something from the best selling CS:GO skins in 2021.

But then, after the expenses, you’ll get a CPU able to handle all sorts of tasks. 4K gaming with streaming? Easy! You need to add 3D rendering and heavy video editing to justify such a purchase, though. The real performance of Intel Core i9-12900K in games is actually not much different from i5 12600K and other cheaper variants.

4. AMD Ryzen 9 5950X

AMD Ryzen 9 5950X
  • Cores: 16
  • Base Clock: 3.4 GHz
  • Boost Clock: 4.9 GHz
  • Thermal Design Power: 105 W
  • L3 Cache: 64 MB
  • Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 770
  • Threads: 32
  • Price: Around $800

This processor is an analog of the expensive power of Intel Core i9-12900K — but from the competing manufacturer.

AMD Ryzen 9 5950X is excellent with its specifications. Having 16 cores and 3.4 GHz is jaw dropping. That’s possible thanks to the Zen architecture. The cache is 64 (!) Mb, and the number of threads is also impressive — 32.

Technically, it’s the best Ryzen CPU, but again, you should ask yourself whether you need it or not. It’s a processor for enthusiasts, and other PC components should be of the same level to let Ryzen 9 5950X unleash its potential.

Some specialists think that Intel’s Alder Lake architecture is better for this top-level niche.

5. Intel Core i5-12400

Intel Core i5-12400
  • Cores: 6
  • Base Clock: 2.5 GHz
  • Boost Clock: 4.4 GHz
  • Thermal Design Power: 65 W
  • L3 Cache: 18 MB
  • Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 730
  • Threads: 12
  • Price: Around $250

Let’s take a look at the other end of the bench — what’s the best budget CPU? The Intel Core i5-12400 is good enough for most gamers. If you plan to just enjoy games and aren’t up to streaming or editing, this might offer a very good variant.

6 cores and 2.5 GHz make a very solid CPU. It’s also from the latest 12th generation of Intel’s processors. You will not find hybrid cores here, though. 4.4 GHz of overclocking is impressive indeed as for such a cheap CPU (even if you reasonably decide not to do so).

This is a decent thing for competitive gaming as well. Considering that such titles as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 are not too demanding, it’s easy to call the Intel Core i5-12400 the best CPU for CS:GO. Just delve into the matches and let no technical aspect distract you.

It’s up to you to decide what CPU to buy, and hopefully, our article helps you to make this choice. If you are selecting between Intel and AMD, just take a brand that you like more in general. At the end of the day, products from both companies work well — so get something you will be happy with. It’s similar to purchasing pro players skins for your CS:GO collection and monitors for CS:GO.

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