Ever since AMD made its big comeback with Ryzen in 2017, the company has begun selling some of the best CPUs for gaming that offered not only great performance but also great value for your money.
In 2021, this still holds true, as the Ryzen 5000 series processors are nothing to scoff at. Intel may have caught up in terms of core and thread count but AMD has also closed the gap when it comes to single-core performance, so the playing field is more even now than it has been in years.
Now, though the newest models might seem like they don’t offer value as good as their predecessors did, they are still more appealing than Intel is at the moment.
So, if you are looking to buy a new CPU right now, read on, as we’ll be listing the best AMD processors available right now.
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Best Budget AMD CPU
Over the years, AMD came to be known primarily for its cost-effective budget solutions, both in the CPU and the GPU markets. And while competition is tighter now, with Intel also offering some highly viable budget solutions, AMD is more than holding its ground.
In the first section, we’ll be bringing you some of the best budget CPUs for gaming, so if you’re pinching pennies and trying to put together a gaming PC with a relatively small budget, one of these is certain to pique your interest!
- Features multithreading
- Highly affordable
- Cooler included
- Not very future-proof
- Can bottleneck more powerful GPUs
Starting off, we have the most affordable CPU in AMD’s Zen 2 lineup: the Ryzen 3 3100. And while it may seem pretty unimpressive in comparison to some of the other processors that Team Red has on offer, it is a remarkably good budget pick for those who can’t afford to spend too much on a CPU.
Now, as cheap as it may seem, it’s worth noting that this CPU still features multithreading and comes with a total of four cores and eight threads. The overall performance, while obviously not on the level of some of the pricier alternatives that you can get today, is more than adequate for a CPU in this price range, so you’d definitely be getting good value for your money.
However, this doesn’t change the fact that the Ryzen 3 3100 just isn’t that powerful a CPU overall, meaning that it’s not likely to stand the test of time all that well and that it can very easily bottleneck a more powerful GPU.
That said, while there’s no doubt that this is a solid CPU overall and also the best budget gaming CPU in AMD’s corner at the moment, we’d definitely advise going with something a bit more powerful if you want to plan for the long run and if you can afford it. If not, then the Ryzen 3 3100 will definitely fit the bill.
Best Mid-Range AMD CPUs
In the second category, we have some mid-range solutions that are bound to be the ideal pick for most gaming builds.
These CPUs pack more than enough power for gaming, they offer great value for your money, and they strike a great overall balance between performance and affordability.
- Solid performance for gaming
- Good value for the money
- Cooler included
- Not as powerful as Zen 3
- Limited overclocking performance
The first entry in this category is 2019’s excellent Ryzen 5 3600, a highly affordable mid-range CPU that will definitely catch the attention of those who are leaning more towards affordability than overall performance.
Like all mainstream Ryzen 5 models, the 3600 comes with six cores and twelve threads, and at only $200 (if not less), it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular pick for many gamers. Granted, it did have a lot of time to build said popularity, and its age is probably also its main drawback.
Namely, the Ryzen 5 3600 really fades in comparison to the latest Ryzen 5 5600X (that we’ll take a look at below) in terms of performance, both when it comes to in-game performance and general desktop tasks.
In addition to that, it’s really not a CPU meant for overclocking, which is also the only reason why we don’t mind the fact that it comes with a Wraith Stealth cooler instead of the Wraith Spire that most Ryzen 5 models used to ship with.
In any case, the Ryzen 5 3600 is definitely a step up in performance compared to the more affordable Ryzen 3 models and, as we’ve mentioned above, it offers great value for the money. As such, it will prove to be a very appealing processor for those who can’t afford to spend too much even in 2021.
- Improved single-core performance
- Excellent overall gaming performance
- Overclocks well
- Not the best cooler
- Price increase
For our next pick, we have what is probably the best new Ryzen CPU so far: the Ryzen 5 5600X. It is a part of AMD’s latest Zen 3 lineup that fixes one of the Ryzen series’ main shortcomings when it comes to gaming, but it also somewhat undermines one of their key strengths.
We’ve mentioned that, since the first Ryzen models rolled out, Intel still had the lead as far as single-core performance was concerned. However, with Zen 3, AMD finally closed that gap. That is to say, the Ryzen 5 5600X can easily go toe to toe with the likes of the Intel Core i5-10600K in this department all the while outperforming it in others, making it the best mid-range gaming CPU available right now.
One area where Intel still has the advantage, though, is overclocking. The Ryzen 5 5600X fares reasonably well in that respect, although you definitely won’t hit any high clock speeds with the bundled Wraith Stealth cooler, as it is a gross mismatch for this kind of CPU.
This brings us back to the aforementioned key strengths – not only were Ryzen CPUs cheaper than the competition, but they also came with great stock coolers. This meant that users did not have to buy an aftermarket cooler separately, thus saving even more money in the process. Most Ryzen 5 models shipped with Wraith Spire coolers, but that’s not the case with the latest Ryzen 5000 models.
Add to that the fact that AMD has bumped up the pricing of the new Zen 3-based CPUs, and it becomes apparent that they just don’t fare as well as last-gen models did when it comes to value. However, considering the boost to single-core performance and the fact that AMD CPUs are just more future-proof than Intel’s are at the moment, Ryzen manages to make up for these shortcomings.
So, for those who are after a more future-proof CPU that ostensibly offers better overall value for your money, there isn’t a better pick than the Ryzen 5 5600X at the moment.
Best High-End AMD CPUs
Finally, in the third category, we have some high-end solutions. These CPUs are more expensive, but they are also more powerful and even more future-proof than the more modestly-priced mid-range processors.
Moreover, these CPUs are great for those who also intend on using their PCs to run certain CPU-intensive professional software instead of just games.
- High core and thread count
- Improved single-core performance
- Good power-efficiency
- No cooler
- Price increase compared to its predecessor
- Pricey overall
If you’re looking to get a high-end CPU but money is still an issue, then you might want to take a look at the Ryzen 7 5800X. As you can probably guess, it is based on the same Zen 3 architecture as the Ryzen 5 5600X and the rest of the Ryzen 5000 lineup, meaning that it shares a lot of the same pros and cons.
First and foremost, it should be noted that the Ryzen 7 5800X packs a serious punch. With the previously mentioned improvements to single-core performance and a total of sixteen threads, this is a CPU that is more than powerful enough to run the latest games when paired up even with the most powerful GPUs currently on the market, not to mention that it will be right at home in most workstations.
Sadly, though, it is more expensive than its predecessor and AMD has excluded the cooler entirely this time around. The Ryzen 7 3800X shipped with the excellent Wraith Prism cooler that not only offered great cooling efficiency but also had you covered in the aesthetics department, as it came complete with programmable RGB lighting.
This is where we come to the aforementioned issues with perceived value where the Ryzen 5000 models are lacking compared to those that preceded them. Considering that it is more expensive than the Ryzen 7 3800X and that it doesn’t come with an overclocking-ready cooler included, the 5800X definitely doesn’t seem as appealing at first glance.
In spite of this, though, the Ryzen 7 5800X still offers good value for the money and holds its ground against the competition, both in terms of performance and power-efficiency, so it’s still a good pick for those whose performance requirements aren’t met by any of the mid-range options and who can’t afford to go with anything more powerful.
AMD Ryzen 9 5900X
Best High-Performance Ryzen CPU For The Money
Bundled Cooler: No
- Very high core and thread count
- Amazing multi-threaded performance
- No bundled cooler
- Dubious value for gaming
The next CPU on the list is the Ryzen 9 5900X, and it is easily the best value pick in the high-end. It constitutes a clear step up in terms of multi-threaded performance with a whopping twenty-four threads, making it all the more appealing for those who are building a workstation PC.
However, the single-core performance is pretty much on the same level as the Ryzen 7 5800X, which makes this CPU a dubious investment if you’re primarily after a gaming CPU. That is to say, there isn’t really a noticeable difference in in-game performance, but the 5900X performs significantly better when it comes to CPU-intensive software that utilizes a high number of threads.
As before, the Ryzen 9 5900X is also more expensive than the CPU that preceded it and it also comes without a cooler in the box, but this shouldn’t be as big of an issue for those who need this kind of performance and can afford it.
So, while we definitely don’t recommend the Ryzen 9 5900X to anyone who’s building a gaming PC, it is a great pick for workstations or PCs that will serve as workstations first and as gaming PCs second.
- Unmatched core and thread count
- Top-notch multithreaded performance
- Great power efficiency
- Extremely expensive
- Poor value for gaming
Last but definitely not least, we have the most powerful mainstream desktop Ryzen CPU released to date: the Ryzen 9 5950X.
Equipped with a staggering thirty-two threads, this Ryzen 9 model is second only to the Ryzen Threadripper models in terms of thread count and multi-threaded performance, although it’s nowhere near as expensive. Although, it is quite a bit pricier than even the Ryzen 9 5900X, as it costs a whopping $800. With that in mind, it’s obvious that this CPU is definitely not meant for your everyday consumer or gamer.
We’ve touched upon value a number of times throughout the article, and the Ryzen 9 5950X is undoubtedly the model that fares the worst in that respect, at least when it comes to gaming. Since its strength lies mainly in multi-threaded performance, it really packs more overall processing power than is necessary for running the latest games, even if you pair it up with the most powerful high-end GPU.
As such, much like the 5900X, the Ryzen 9 5950X will only be appealing for those who need a workstation CPU first and a gaming CPU second.
Conclusion – The Best AMD CPU For Gaming
So, when all is said and done, which of these CPUs is the best one when it comes to gaming?
Well, as usual, preferences and budget constraints differ from person to person, and so we have highlighted several picks.
If you’re on a budget and are looking for the absolute cheapest gaming CPU that you can find, then the Ryzen 3 3100 is the clear winner. It is remarkably affordable and it will be able to handle budget GPUs, although keep in mind that you will likely need to upgrade relatively quickly, especially if you intend on getting a more powerful GPU further down the line.
NOTE: If you’re on a very tight budget, you might consider getting an AMD APU instead. These are AMD processors that come with remarkably powerful integrated graphics (at least relative to what Intel has to offer), and while they can’t really compete with dedicated graphics cards, they can help you save a good amount of money if they satisfy your graphics performance requirements.
As far as value is concerned, the Ryzen 5 5600X wins in that respect, despite the price increase relative to the Ryzen 3000 series. The improvements to single-core performance alone make it worth the extra cash, especially if you’re going for a CPU that would last you a long time.
Finally, for those with deeper pockets who actually need the kind of performance that it offers, the Ryzen 9 5950X is the obvious pick. Of course, as mentioned above, it is most definitely not a gaming CPU and is only worth getting for those who regularly use professional software that can fully take advantage of the massive thread count.
And so, those would be the best AMD processors as far as we’re concerned! Keep in mind that we’ll be updating the article as new CPUs are released, so if you don’t get your new processor now, be sure to check back later in case there are some new additions to Team Red’s roster!