Finding the right parts for your gaming PC can be a pleasant but also excruciating process.
While many hardware enthusiasts enjoy comparing benchmarks and scouring different professional reviews before settling on a final pick, others will have a hard time making sense of all the information if they’re not familiar with the subject.
Fortunately, finding the right CPU doesn’t necessarily have to include tedious Googling and cross-comparing of different specs, benchmarks and reviews.
Below you’ll find our gaming CPU hierarchy, with all of the current and last-gen CPUs ranked according to their gaming performance.
|CPU Model||Core/Thread Count||Base Clock (GHz)||Overclocking Supported||Socket|
|Intel Core i9-10900K||10 (20)||3.7||Yes||LGA1200|
|AMD Ryzen 9 5950X||16 (32)||3.4||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 9 5900X||12 (24)||3.7||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 7 5800X||8 (16)||3.8||Yes||AM4|
|Intel Core i7-10700K||8 (16)||3.8||Yes||LGA1200|
|Intel Core i9-9900K||8 (16)||3.6||Yes||LGA1151|
|Intel Core i9-10900||10 (20)||2.8||No||LGA1200|
|Intel Core i7-9700K||8 (8)||3.6||Yes||LGA1151|
|AMD Ryzen 5 5600X||6 (12)||3.7||Yes||AM4|
|Intel Core i5-10600K||6 (12)||4.1||Yes||LGA1200|
|Intel Core i7-10700||8 (16)||2.9||No||LGA1200|
|Intel Core i5-9600K||6 (6)||3.7||Yes||LGA1151|
|Intel Core i5-10600||6 (12)||3.3||No||LGA1200|
|AMD Ryzen 9 3950X||16 (32)||3.5||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 9 3900XT||12 (24)||3.8||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 9 3900X||12 (24)||3.8||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT||8 (16)||3.9||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 7 3800X||8 (16)||3.9||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 7 3700X||8 (16)||3.6||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3600XT||6 (12)||3.8||Yes||AM4|
|Intel Core i5-10500||6 (12)||3.1||No||LGA1200|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3600X||6 (12)||3.8||Yes||AM4|
|Intel Core i5-10400||6 (12)||2.9||No||LGA1200|
|Intel Core i3-10320||4 (8)||3.8||No||LGA1200|
|Intel Core i3-10300||4 (8)||3.7||No||LGA1200|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3600||6 (12)||3.6||Yes||AM4|
|Intel Core i5-9500||6 (6)||3||No||LGA1151|
|Intel Core i3-10100||4 (8)||3.6||No||LGA1200|
|Intel Core i5-9400||6 (6)||2.9||No||LGA1151|
|AMD Ryzen 3 3300X||4 (8)||3.8||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 7 2700X||8 (16)||3.7||Yes||AM4|
|Intel Core i3-9100||4 (4)||3.6||No||LGA1151|
|AMD Ryzen 7 2700||8 (16)||3.2||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 5 2600X||6 (12)||3.6||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 3 3100||4 (8)||3.6||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 5 2600||6 (12)||3.4||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3400G||4 (8)||3.7||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 3 3200G||4 (4)||3.6||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 5 2400G||4 (8)||3.6||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 3 2200G||4 (4)||3.5||Yes||AM4|
Table of ContentsShow
Tier 1 – Enthusiast
These first-tier CPUs are the most powerful CPUs currently on the market. They have the highest core and thread counts and they can hit high clock speeds when overclocked, although they tend to be more power-hungry, too, not to mention pricey.
Truth be told, these CPUs aren’t really ideal for gaming, and they are usually a best fit for those who intend to use their PCs not only for gaming but also for some CPU-intensive professional software.
|AMD CPUs||Intel CPUs|
|AMD Ryzen 9 5950X||Intel Core i9-10900K|
|AMD Ryzen 9 5900X||Intel Core i9-10900
|AMD Ryzen 9 3950X||Intel Core i9-9900K|
|AMD Ryzen 9 3900XT|
|AMD Ryzen 9 3900X|
|AMD Ryzen 9 3800X|
Tier 2 – High-End
The processors found in this tier are usually the best pick for those who also intend to get a powerful high-end GPU to go with the CPU.
Their performance isn’t quite on the level of the more expensive Ryzen 9 and Core i9 models listed above, but they’re still very powerful. They can make the most of the beefiest GPUs currently available and handle professional software well, too.
|AMD CPUs||Intel CPUs|
|AMD Ryzen 7 5800X||Intel Core i7-10700K|
|AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT||Intel Core i7-10700|
|AMD Ryzen 7 3800X||Intel Core i7-9700K|
|AMD Ryzen 7 3700X|
|AMD Ryzen 7 2700X|
|AMD Ryzen 7 2700|
Tier 3 – Mid-Range
Now, we get to the mid-range, and the CPUs found here are often the most popular picks for gaming PCs, and for a good reason — they tend to offer the best value for your money.
In 2021, mid-range CPUs have higher core and thread counts than ever before, they can handle even the more powerful GPUs without any significant bottleneck, and they usually come with a very approachable price tag attached.
|AMD CPUs||Intel CPUs|
|AMD Ryzen 5 5600X||Intel Core i5-10600K|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3600XT||Intel Core i5-10600|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3600X||Intel Core i5-10500|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3600||Intel Core i5-10400|
|AMD Ryzen 5 2600X||Intel Core i5-9600K|
|AMD Ryzen 5 2600||Intel Core i5-9500|
|Intel Core i5-9400|
Tier 4 – Budget
Finally, for those who are pinching pennies and can’t quite afford to spend a lot of money on a CPU or the PC as a whole, both Intel and AMD have very viable budget-oriented solutions on offer.
These CPUs don’t offer the high core and thread counts nor the impressive clock speeds and overclocking potential that you’ll find in the more expensive models. Still, they’re quite affordable and would be the best, most cost-efficient pick for many budget or even mid-range gaming PCs. Sadly, though, they’re not very future-proof.
Moreover, it’s worth mentioning that AMD’s APUs (the processors marked with a “G” at the end of their model number) come with Vega integrated graphics that are actually perfectly viable for gaming in 2021.
Of course, they still can’t compete with dedicated GPUs, and you’ll have to drop the resolution and some graphics settings when it comes to the more demanding games. But still, if you’re on a very tight budget, don’t care much about graphics, and/or mainly intend on playing less demanding titles, getting one of these APUs and foregoing the graphics card can save you a good chunk of cash.
|AMD CPUs||Intel CPUs|
|AMD Ryzen 3 3300X||Intel Core i3-10320|
|AMD Ryzen 3 3100||Intel Core i3-10300|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3400G||Intel Core i3-10100|
|AMD Ryzen 3 3200G||Intel Core i3-9100|
|AMD Ryzen 5 2400G|
|AMD Ryzen 3 2200G|
The Final Word
And so, that would be it for our gaming CPU hierarchy!
You’ll notice that we didn’t include any of the more expensive AMD Threadripper or Intel Core X models, and that’s because they don’t really make good picks for gaming. They pack way more processing power than what a gaming PC needs, plus they are significantly more expensive than their mainstream counterparts.
Just the same, we didn’t include any of the cheaper entry-level solutions such as AMD’s Athlon APUs or Intel’s Pentium and Celeron lineups, and for a similar reason — they also make bad picks for gaming because they are simply too weak and would inevitably bottleneck the latest GPUs to a significant degree.
Now, something else that we should mention is that, while Intel Core CPUs seem to be the definite choice for gaming, the CPUs were ranked based on gaming performance, without taking into account another important factor: value.
When we talk about value in this context, we are referring to a CPU’s price-to-performance ratio, and since the prices can vary based on a number of unpredictable factors, it can be difficult to ascertain accurately.
However, it’s worth noting that, while they lag behind Intel in terms of raw performance, the Ryzen CPUs commonly offer much better value for your money. This is because many of them are not only cheaper than the competing Intel models to begin with, but most of them also come with AMD’s excellent Wraith coolers included in the box, thus saving you money in that respect as well.
Moreover, the Ryzen CPUs tend to offer noticeably better multi-threaded performance, too, and the differences in in-game performance between many of the CPUs listed here are quite minimal. You wouldn’t even notice some of them when actually using the CPU in question.
So, for some more accurate recommendations, we suggest checking out our narrowed-down selection of what we feel are the best CPUs for gaming in 2021, where we take more factors into account than just gaming performance.
Finally, if you find that we have failed to include any of the current-gen or last-gen CPUs on the list, feel free to let us know in the comments and we’ll see about fixing the error as soon as possible!