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Best CPU For Gaming 2019 – The Ultimate Gaming Processor Buying Guide

The central processing unit, or CPU, is the very core of every computer, be it a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, a phone, or any other type of device.

But just how important is a CPU in a gaming PC?

In this article, we’ll be presenting you with a selection of the very best CPUs for gaming that you can get in 2019, as well as a short guide that will answer some common questions and help you choose the CPU best-suited to your needs.

The 8 Best Gaming Processors For 2019

Budget Processors

You’re still able to get a decent CPU these days if you’re low on budget. Here are the most affordable processors for gaming right now.

AMD Ryzen 3 3200G

Best Gaming Processor 2020

About the CPU

The first CPU on our list isn’t even technically a CPU. Rather, it is an APU – an accelerated processing unit, a type of processor made by AMD which features both CPU and GPU cores, making it a rather balanced “jack-of-all-trades” type of processor.

The Ryzen 3 3200G is a quad-core solution that comes with a total of 8 Vega graphics cores, which makes it a solid pick for gamers who are on a very tight budget and who might not be able to afford a dedicated GPU.

Specifications:

ModelAMD Ryzen 3 3200G
SocketAM4
Core Count4
Thread Count4
Base Clock3.6 GHz
Boost Clock4 GHz
Lithography12nm
Integrated GraphicsVega 8
TDP65W

Our Thoughts

Best Gaming CPU 2020

The Ryzen 3 3200G is based on the 12nm Zen+ architecture that the 2nd generation Ryzen CPUs used, so it’s not quite on the same level as the latest 7nm Zen 2 CPUs. Still, for such an affordable APU, it has a lot of bases covered.

It has only four cores and no multithreading, which is a bit of a downside in a 2019 processor, but it makes up for this with the aforementioned Vega graphics cores which easily blow all of Intel’s integrated graphics solutions out of the water. Still, it cannot come close to the performance of a dedicated GPU, so it’s only really an option for eSports or other less demanding games.

Furthermore, like all other Ryzen CPUs and APUs, it is unlocked, and a stock cooler ships with the processor. In this case, it’s the Wraith Stealth, a compact and quiet cooler which should be able to meet your performance requirements.

Now, a jack of all trades is a master of none, and that is especially true when it comes to budget processors. The four cores will inevitably get strained with modern games and the now-outdated architecture makes it a bit of a dubious long-term investment.

Nonetheless, the Ryzen 3 3200G is the go-to solution for gamers who are pinching pennies and who aren’t overly ambitious when it comes to performance. If you fall into this group, then this APU and its excellent integrated graphics may just prove to be well worth the investment.

The Pros

  • Decent performance
  • Great integrated graphics
  • Budget-friendly

The Cons

  • Last-gen architecture
  • Only four cores
  • No multithreading

Intel Core i3-9100F

Best Gaming CPU

About the CPU

Moving on, we have a budget entry coming from Intel, and it’s the i3-9100F. The F-series of Intel Core CPUs first launched in 2019, and the main distinguishing feature – or rather, the lack of a feature – is the absence of integrated graphics. On the bright side, this also means that you should be able to find it at a lower price more easily, despite the official MSRP being identical to the regular i3-9100.

Overall, the i3-9100F is a decent quad-core Coffee Lake CPU but the lack of any standout features makes it something of a dubious investment compared to what AMD is offering at the moment.

Specifications:

Model

Intel Core i3-9100F

Socket

LGA 1151

Core Count

4

Thread Count

4

Base Clock

3.6 GHz

Boost Clock

4.2 GHz

Lithography

14nm

Integrated Graphics

N/A

TDP

65W

 

Our Thoughts

Best CPU

The Intel Core i3-9100F is based on the Coffee Lake architecture which was introduced all the way back in 2017, though some optimizations were implemented along the way. Still, a 14nm architecture doesn’t look very appealing in 2019, especially when you take a look at the competition.

The i3-9100F performs quite well and it has an edge over the Ryzen 3 3200G when it comes to raw performance. It also outperforms the previous-generation i3-8100, so it’s a very viable budget option if you want to go with Intel.

However, this CPU has several major shortcomings that ultimately make it less appealing than the Ryzen 3 3200G when it comes to budget picks. First and foremost, the i3-9100F lacks integrated graphics which, while not a crucial option for gaming PCs, is still a convenient feature to have. Moreover, it should be noted that Intel has set the same MSRP for the i3-9100F and the regular i3-9100, though as we have mentioned above, the former can be found at a lower price.

Most importantly, you’ll notice that the i3-9100F isn’t the most future-proof solution, and for several reasons: it has only four cores, uses a dated architecture, and Intel doesn’t exactly have a good track record when it comes to forward/backward compatibility.

With all that said, we’d say that Ryzen is definitely the superior budget choice at the moment, though this might change once Intel unveils their 10th generation lineup.

The Pros

  • Solid performance
  • Available at decent prices

The Cons

  • No integrated graphics
  • Dated architecture
  • Relatively high MSRP

Mid-Range

If you want your PC to be more powerful, you need to save up a bit more money and get a mid-range CPU at least. Here are the best mid-range CPUs out there today, including the latest Ryzen 3000 series processors.

AMD Ryzen 5 3600

Best CPU For Gaming

About the CPU

Kicking off the second category, we have another Ryzen CPU – the Ryzen 5 3600, which could very well be the best mid-range gaming CPU available at the moment.

It has 6 cores and a total of 12 threads, and more importantly, it uses the latest 7nm Zen 2 architecture, all of which adds up to make one excellent processor that handles both single and multi-threaded tasks well, all the while remaining power efficient and cost-efficient.

Specifications:

ModelRyzen 5 3600
SocketAM4
Core Count6
Thread Count12
Base Clock3.6 GHz
Boost Clock4.2 GHz
Lithography7nm
Integrated GraphicsN/A
TDP65W

Our Thoughts

Best CPU 2020

As stated in the introduction, the Ryzen 5 3600 is part of the latest lineup of Ryzen processors based on the brand-new Zen 2 7nm architecture. Not only that, but these new CPUs still use the AM4 socket, so upgrading from an older Ryzen or upgrading to a newer one further down the line won’t be an issue.

In the performance department, this 6-core 12-thread CPU can handle virtually anything that you can throw at it, at least as far as gaming is concerned. Add to that the power-efficient architecture, the fact that the CPU is unlocked, and that it comes at a fairly approachable price, and it’s not difficult to see why it’s one of the best (if not the best) mid-range gaming CPU that you can get right now.

The only real drawback to the Ryzen 5 3600 is the area where Intel CPUs still have the lead, and it’s overclocking. Namely, while this CPU is unlocked and can be overclocked for some extra performance, there isn’t as much overclocking headroom available as with some of Intel’s offerings.

The CPU also ships with a Wraith Stealth cooler, which isn’t exactly the greatest option when it comes to heavy workloads. Nonetheless, it’s convenient to have if you don’t intend on getting a more advanced cooler anyway.

The Pros

  • High number of threads
  • New 7nm architecture
  • Great value

The Cons

  • Limited overclocking performance

Intel Core i5-9600K

Best CPU For Gaming 2020

About the CPU

And now, in the Intel corner, we have the i5-9600K, another 9th generation Coffee Lake-based CPU which is a solid mid-range offering from Intel, though it doesn’t quite shine compared to the above Ryzen model.

The i5-9600K is a hexa-core CPU, and sadly, it doesn’t feature hyperthreading. However, it is unlocked and can reach some considerable clock speeds when paired with a proper cooler. This ultimately makes it a viable mid-range option, despite the fact that AMD seems to have the upper hand on paper.

Specifications:

ModelIntel Core i5-9600K
SocketLGA1151
Core Count6
Thread Count6
Base Clock3.7 GHz
Boost Clock4.6 GHz
Lithography14nm
Integrated GraphicsIntel UHD 630
TDP95W

Our Thoughts

Gaming CPU

As mentioned above, the i5-9600K doesn’t seem like much competition for the Ryzen 5 which has twice as many threads and is based on a newer architecture, but its single-core performance and overclocking potential help make up for it.

Naturally, a hexa-core Intel CPU without hyperthreading cannot quite compete with a 12-thread AMD CPU when it comes to multi-tasking, but the i5-9600K already has somewhat better single-core performance out of the box, something that can be further amplified by pairing it up with a good cooler.

Still, even with overclocking taken into account, the i5-9600K has some drawbacks, mainly the multi-core performance, the somewhat higher power consumption, and the fact that it is more expensive than the competition which delivers better value on almost all fronts.

All in all, what we said about the i3-9100F largely holds true for the i5-9600K as well – it uses an outdated 14nm architecture which is about to be superseded by a superior one, so getting this CPU now may not be a good idea.

The Pros

  • Great single-core performance
  • Solid overclocking potential

The Cons

  • Dubious value in 2019
  • No hyperthreading

High-End

And finally, we have the best of the best – the high-end processors. If you have the budget, go with one of these to get the best possible gaming performance for your money.

AMD Ryzen 7 3700X

Best AMD Processor For Gaming

About the CPU

Now, we move on to the more serious CPUs, starting with the excellent Ryzen 7 3700X.

This CPU is a solid step up from the more affordable mid-range solutions, featuring a total of 8 cores and 16 threads, thus opening the door to even better multi-core performance. And like the other third-generation Ryzen CPUs, it is based on the 7nm Zen 2 architecture.

Specifications:

ModelRyzen 7 3700X
SocketAM4
Core Count8
Thread Count16
Base Clock3.6 GHz
Boost Clock4.4 GHz
Lithography7nm
Integrated GraphicsN/A
TDP65W

Our Thoughts

Best Processor

What we have said about the Ryzen 5 3600 also applies to the Ryzen 7 3700X. The Zen 2 architecture enables it to be very power efficient while the massive thread count also makes it viable as a workstation CPU.

Furthermore, while the overclocking performance still can’t quite match Intel, an excellent Wraith Prism RGB cooler is bundled with the CPU, so there will be no need to spend extra on a third-party cooler.

All in all, the Ryzen 7 3700X is a very appealing high-end solution for those who want to have a more powerful and potentially more future-proof gaming CPU. It offers a considerable number of threads and excellent multi-threaded performance, though it still lags behind Intel when it comes to single-threaded tasks.

Nonetheless, we feel that all the other merits of a Ryzen CPU more than make up for the relatively small gap in single-threaded performance.

The Pros

  • Massive thread count
  • Good value
  • Bundled RGB cooler

The Cons

  • Lacking single-core performance compared to Intel
  • Somewhat limited overclocking performance

Intel Core i7-9700K

Best High End CPU

About the CPU

Next, we have the closest competitor of the Ryzen 7 3700X – the Intel Core i7-9700K.

And just like the Ryzen 7 3700X is a step up from the Ryzen 5 3600, so the i7-9700K is a step up from the i5-9600K. It features a total of 8 cores but, sadly, still doesn’t feature hyperthreading. And just like its mid-range counterpart, this CPU boasts some considerable overclocking potential.

Specifications:

ModelIntel Core i5-9600K
SocketLGA1151
Core Count8
Thread Count8
Base Clock3.6 GHz
Boost Clock4.9 GHz
Lithography14nm
Integrated GraphicsIntel UHD 630
TDP95W

Our Thoughts

Best Processor 2020

There’s no denying it, the Intel Core i7-9700K is a serious and powerful CPU, but again, what we have said about the i5-9600K also largely applies here.

With 8 physical cores, the i7-9700K offers great multi-core performance while maintaining the lead that it has over AMD’s lineup when it comes to single-core tasks, so it’s nothing to scoff at. More importantly, the overclocking potential is what really makes this processor worthwhile, though this means that you will also have to invest in some quality cooling, too.

Overall, this CPU is probably one of the better purchases that you can make when it comes to Intel’s current lineup. Granted, the Ryzen 7 3700X may seem more appealing due to the fact that its slightly cheaper and comes with a good stock cooler, but the performance potential of this i7 model is something worth taking into account, especially if you truly need a high-performance CPU.

The Pros

  • Excellent single-core performance
  • Impressive overclocking potential
  • Good price

The Cons

  • Dubious overall value
  • No hyperthreading

AMD Ryzen 9 3900X

Best Ryzen For Gaming

About the CPU

With the penultimate entry, we get to the really good stuff, starting with the awesome Ryzen 9 3900X!

This model represents AMD’s first real attempt in years to truly take on Intel in the high-end enthusiast territory when it comes to regular desktop PCs, and is it a good one! This Zen 2 CPU boasts a massive thread count, with 12 physical cores and 24 threads, offering near-unmatched multicore performance – as far as mainstream desktop processors are concerned.

Specifications:

Model

Ryzen 7 3900X

Socket

AM4

Core Count

12

Thread Count

24

Base Clock

3.8 GHz

Boost Clock

4.6 GHz

Lithography

7nm

Integrated Graphics

N/A

TDP

105W

 

Our Thoughts

Good Cpu For Gaming

The Ryzen 9 3900X is hands-down the epitome of why AMD has been doing so well these past few years. We’re looking at a CPU which comes at a competitive price but offers better value for your money on most fronts.

As we have already established with the more affordable models, what AMD does well is remarkable multi-threaded performance and great overall value for your money. And if you’re looking for a CPU that would also be used for some demanding professional software and not just gaming, then the 3900X just might be the thing for you. Furthermore, just like the Ryzen 7 3700X, the 3900X ships with the Wraith Prism RGB cooler which means you won’t necessarily have to spend extra on a third-party cooler.

But of course, the same general shortcomings that apply to Ryzen CPUs at the moment also apply to this one i.e. its single-core performance lags behind the competition, there isn’t as much overclocking headroom as with Intel. More importantly, the 3900X is currently in high demand, so it might be difficult to find one at a reasonable price.

The Pros

  • Superb multicore performance
  • Good RGB stock cooler
  • Great overall value for the money

The Cons

  • Limited overclocking
  • High prices due to demand

Intel Core i9-9900K

Best CPUs For Gaming

About the CPU

And finally, we get to the top of the food chain when it comes to Intel’s mainstream lineup – the Intel Core i9-9900K.

This Coffee Lake CPU presents some serious competition in the high-end enthusiast range, as it keeps up and overshadows Ryzen in some respects. Notably, it is the only CPU in the current 9th gen lineup that features hyperthreading, allowing it to perform much better when it comes to multi-threaded tasks.

Specifications:

Model

Intel Core i9-9900K

Socket

LGA1151

Core Count

8

Thread Count

16

Base Clock

3.6 GHz

Boost Clock

5 GHz

Lithography

14nm

Integrated Graphics

Intel UHD 630

TDP

95W

 

Our Thoughts

Gaming Processor

With its massive thread count and remarkable overclocking performance, it’s not difficult to see why the i9-9900K is one of the most appealing high-end solutions at the moment and why it’s capable of going toe-to-toe with the Ryzen 9 3900X.

It offers superb performance, both when it comes to single-threaded and multi-threaded tasks, and on top of that, it is an absolute monster when it comes to overclocking – it can hit clock speeds as high as 5 GHz, although it will require a high-quality cooler capable of keeping the temperatures in check at such high clock speeds.

Overall, the i9-9900K isn’t quite as good as the Ryzen 9 3900X, but it is still an extremely powerful CPU. More importantly, it would be a good pick if you can’t find the 3900X at a reasonable price.

The Pros

  • Hyperthreading
  • Excellent performance all-around
  • Superb overclocking potential
  • More readily available than Ryzen 9 3900X

The Cons

  • Relatively pricey

How To Pick The Best CPU For Your Needs

Here’s the ultimate buying guide on how  you choose the best processor for your needs and budget.

AMD vs Intel

intel vs amd

First, let’s address what is probably the most common question when it comes to the matters of CPUs and gaming – should you go with AMD or Intel?

For a long time, Intel was the only real choice, but this changed with the release of the original Ryzen CPUs in 2017. And though they had been lagging behind for years prior, AMD was finally presenting viable solutions across the entire price spectrum, so answering this question is a bit trickier than before.

Generally speaking, most people agree that AMD is the better choice for gaming at the moment, and for a couple of reasons. They offer better value for your money, come with a much higher thread count than their Intel counterparts, they use a newer, more efficient architecture, and they use a forward/backward compatible socket. Plus, many of them ship with solid stock coolers.

Meanwhile, the biggest problem with Intel at the moment are the inflated prices and the fact that the new 10th generation desktop CPUs will launch in the near future. These will not only be significantly better than the 9th generation Coffee Lake models, but they will also potentially be using an entirely new socket, so upgrading from 9th to 10th gen could be a hassle.

That said, Ryzen is ostensibly the better choice for gaming at the moment, as the Ryzen CPUs offer better overall value for your money.

Core/Thread Count

Multi Core Processor

We have already established that Ryzen CPUs have higher core and thread counts than the competing 9th gen Intel models, but what does a higher core/thread count get you and how important is it for gaming?

To put it simply, if a CPU has more cores, it means that it can handle multiple tasks simultaneously. A single core cannot really multitask, it can merely emulate multitasking by switching between different tasks on the fly, which does not reflect very well on real-time performance.

However, a single core can function as two logical cores if the CPU features multithreading (AMD) or hyperthreading (Intel). Naturally, this can help greatly when it comes to multitasking or multi-threaded tasks.

However, single-core performance is usually more important for gaming. As stated throughout the article, Intel still has the upper hand when it comes to single-core performance while AMD handles multitasking better. But at the end of the day, does this difference really matter?

Well, as you can tell from the video above, when it comes to actual in-game performance, the differences are marginal at best, and whether Intel or AMD has the lead varies from game to game. As such, core counts and benchmark performance should be of little concern if you only intend to use the CPU for gaming.

It also goes without saying that a GPU is more important for gaming than a CPU is.

Overclocking

Best Processor 2019

Naturally, we cannot discuss gaming CPUs without touching upon the subject of overclocking, so is overclocking worth it for gaming? And which “team” does it better?

Well, first of all, we should note that all Ryzen CPUs are unlocked, whereas only those Intel Core CPUs that have a “K” at the end of their model number are unlocked. And, as we have already established, unlocked Intel CPUs can generally be pushed further, allowing you to squeeze more performance out of them via overclocking than you could with a Ryzen CPU.

But is overclocking even worth it?

Well, honestly, not really. In regard to gaming, the benefits of overclocking are usually not very noticeable, though a CPU that can be overclocked is more future-proof. Also, stock coolers rarely cut it when it comes to any serious overclocking, so if you really want to push a CPU, you will need a better cooler.

Integrated Graphics

Best I5 For Gaming

Integrated graphics aren’t a high-priority feature for gaming, as the vast majority of gamers will get a dedicated GPU. Still, those who are on a tight budget might find integrated graphics to be a good way to save money, so how do Intel and AMD fare in this regard?

The majority of Intel Core CPUs come with integrated graphics, with the exception of the new “F” models which lack this feature. Intel’s UHD integrated graphics chips are highly basic though, and they are mainly intended for casual desktop use. As such, they don’t perform well in most games and can usually only achieve a playable framerate in lower resolutions.

Meanwhile, the only Ryzen processors that have integrated graphics are the APUs such as the Ryzen 3 3200G which feature integrated Vega graphics cores. They offer noticeably better performance than Intel’s UHD graphics, so if you’re pinching pennies and want to build a gaming PC without a dedicated graphics card, then a Ryzen APU would be the way to go.

Bottlenecking

Best Cpu For Gaming 2019

Finally, we have the question of bottlenecking, which is often the main thing to keep in mind when building a gaming PC. So, what is it?

Essentially, when a CPU cannot “keep the pace” with a more powerful GPU, the GPU’s processing power won’t be utilized to its full potential because of the CPU’s inability to issue instructions quickly enough. As such, pairing a weak CPU with a powerful GPU is usually a bad idea.

Now, how big of an issue is bottlenecking, and how do you ensure that you make a good CPU/GPU pair?

Well, generally speaking, a mid-range CPU such as the Ryzen 5 3600 or the Intel Core i5-9600K would be a good enough match even for some high-end GPUs such as the RTX 2070, though the more powerful Ryzen 7, Ryzen 9, i7, and i9 models would be better picks for more powerful GPUs or for multi-GPU setups.

In any case, bottlenecking is hard to estimate, but a simple bottleneck calculator such as this one could give you a decent idea of how well a certain GPU and CPU would go together.

Conclusion – The Best CPU for Gaming in 2019

Best Amd CPU For Gaming

And now, to address the main question – which of these CPUs is the best gaming CPU for 2019?

Naturally, there can be no single best CPU for everyone, so we have picked three:

We consider the Ryzen 3 3200G to be the best budget CPU available at the moment. While it cannot quite match the i3-9100F when it comes to sheer processing power, this difference is rather marginal, all the while the Ryzen offers significantly better integrated graphics.

As for value, we think that the Ryzen 5 3600 would be the ideal choice for most people, as it simply has it all: performance, high thread count, upgradeability, efficiency, and good pricing.

And finally, for the premium pick, we’d have to go with the i9-9900K. It’s on fairly even odds with the Ryzen 9 3900X and AMD’s offering is better in some respects, but availability was the deciding factor here. As we have previously mentioned, the i9-9900K can be found at more approachable prices at the moment, so it’s a good pick if you can’t find the 3900X near MSRP.

Ultimately, those are only our picks. In truth, any of the CPUs listed here would be a good choice, provided that you keep their capabilities and your requirements in mind.

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