With so many powerful processors in both AMD and Intel's hardware ranges, choosing the right CPU for your next gaming system upgrade can be a little difficult. Do you spend thousands of dollars on a top of the like extreme or Threadripper CPU, or do you go for something more mid-range, knowing that your graphics card will need to do the heavy lifting anyway?
To help you wade through the piles and get the best bang for your buck, we've put together our list of the best gaming CPUs you can buy right now.
Best gaming CPU
AMD Ryzen 2600
With six cores, 12 threads, a boosted frequency over its first-generation Ryzen predecessor and a similar price tag to Intel's Core i5-8400, the Ryzen 2600 is arguably the best bang-for-buck gaming CPU you can buy today. Yes the 2600X is a little faster, yes the i5-8400 is a little quicker too, but for the price, you can't beat the standard 2600, especially if you plan to overclock.
Owners have regularly pushed it up to 4.3GHz with adequate cooling, making it faster than the 2600X at stock and more than a match for the Intel competition. With 12 threads it's an amazing multithreading chip too, which should be taken more advantage of in the next few years as Vulkan and DX12 APIs see more usage among developers.
You can find it for as little as $170 at some outlets too. If you have deeper pockets and don't plan to overclock the 2600X is a viable alternative.
Intel Core i5-8400
When Intel debuted its eighth-generation CPUs, the Core i5-8400 was the darling of the lot. A fantastic gaming chip with strong single and multi-core performance, it was part of the first-generation of Intel chips to sport six cores on the mid-range, although it does lack hyperthreading, which means its thread count is half that of the 2600.
Still, with a turbo frequency of 4GHz, it's plenty capable and is even a little faster in certain games. It's not possible to overclock it since this isn't an Intel K-series chip, but it should last you a good few years and will pair well with a decent mid to high-range graphics card.
Current pricing has it around $200.
If you need more power than the above two options and have extra cash to spare, there's nothing out there right now quite like the Intel Core i7-8700K. It sports six cores and 12 threads, with a turbo frequency that reaches the dizzying height of 4.7GHz. As we saw with the specially binned 8086-Anniversary Edition version of this CPU too, it can hit 5GHz on multiple cores if you get lucky and provide it with adequate cooling, which is ludicrously powerful.
This CPU will set you back $350, so it's not for those on a strict budget, but there's few chips out there now that can rival this in single and multithreaded settings.
Big multi-core option
AMD Threadripper 1900x
With Threadripper 2000 series CPUs now available, the first-generation options have come down in price significantly. They aren't designed with gaming in mind, but the entry-level Threadripper 1900x is a very capable gaming chip and it's pretty affordable too.
At $320 (sometimes much less if you catch it in a sale), it offers eight cores and 12 threads, which will give you huge multithreaded power and mean it's future proofed against games that start to draw on more threads and cores. It also hits 3.8GHz out of the box and can easily break 4GHz with a little overclocking.
Although you will need to migrate to the specific TR4 socket to take advantage of this chip, it's forwards compatible with new-generation Threadripper CPUs and will be supported through 2020, so you will have upgrade options without requiring new motherboards in the future.
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