With Intel’s Raptor Lake and AMD’s Ryzen 7000 out in the market, the fight for the best CPU for gaming in 2023 has only intensified. So, if you want the best CPU for your gaming rig, you’re at the right place.
Looking for a new gaming CPU is one of those things that is pretty boring. Performance cores? What are those? Threads? Who cares. But really, a CPU is one of the most essential components in your PC setup, and you will need to carefully consider exactly what you need from it before you buy.
The tech we recommend will be based on a platform that we think still has some legs, instead of one that might be approaching the end of its life.
Ryzen 7000 and Intel 13th-gen CPUs have now both launched, but which one should you put in your system? We’re going over every point that we think you will need to know before splurging. Intel VS AMD is its whole own topic, so be sure to get reading before making a decision. But just make sure to note that Ryzen 7000 3D CPUs are also on their way, should you want to wait before making a decision.
We’re looking at the best desktop gaming CPUs, which will naturally favor faster chips with a good price-to-performance ratio for most people. On the laptop front, you should take a look at our list of the best gaming laptops.
Why you should choose Intel over AMD
As of right now, we can’t recommend Ryzen’s current lineup. The performance of the new chips is certainly excellent, but when compared to what’s on offer over with Team Blue, Ryzen 7000 doesn’t stand a chance. Though, with the introduction of the 3D variants of this CPU, AMD looks to close the gap, at least on the performance side.
Currently, Intel’s 13th-generation CPUs are cheaper, with all of their associated motherboards also coming in DDR4 flavors, as well as just being plain cheaper. Meanwhile, AMD’s AM5 platform has yet to mature fully, and as a result, it is much more expensive than Intel’s LGA 1700.
Even though the newly introduced Ryzen 7000X3D is a powerful CPU and it has been able to outdo its counterparts in various benchmark tests, it is a tough recommendation primarily due to the costs involved.
The best CPU for gaming in 2023: Intel Core i5-13600K
Buy the Intel Core i5-13600K here: Amazon, B&H, Best Buy
- Cores: 6 performance cores, 8 efficiency cores
- Threads: 20
- Base clock: 3.5GHz (P-cores) / 2.6 GHz (E-cores)
- Boost clock: 5.1GHz (P-cores) / 3.9GHz (E-cores)
- Cache: 24MB Intel Smart Cache
- TDP: 125W
- Price: $319-$329
- Incredible value for money
- Great gaming performance
- 125W TDP makes it very power-hungry
The i5-12600K was incredible for its money. While it ran hot and needed a lot of juice for such a low-end chip, the performance it put out, made this understandable. In comes the 13600K, and much like its predecessor, the new i5 CPU now seems to be the best, pound for pound.
While on paper, the specs might have been reduced compared to the previous entry, but it boasts an additional four threads and a much higher boost clock. Essentially, it’s got more to work with this time around, so doesn’t need as high numbers at the base.
In doing so, the new 13600K is now comparable to the previous generation’s flagship 12900K. In some tests, like PCMark, the new i5 is actually besting the Ryzen 9 7950X. While in real-world situations, like encoding or playing games, it won’t beat the top end CPUs, it still holds its own.
Far Cry 6, at 1080p and high settings runs at a cool minimum of 147FPS when paired with the right GPUs.
You also get some measure of future-proofing with it, as the platform that it runs on will also support things like DDR5 memory, though it’s not quite worth investing in some kits of your own quite yet, so you will still be able to pick up a motherboard that also supports DDR4, for now.
This mid-range chip can outperform high-end CPUs in some cases, and it’s really impressive to see Intel come out swinging against the looming threat of AMD. You can get faster, or cheaper chips in Intel’s stack of CPUs, however, this is the ideal sweet spot that will be perfect for most people.
The best budget CPU for gaming in 2023: Intel Core i5-12400
You can buy the Intel Core i5-12400 here: (Best Buy), (Amazon US)
- Cores: 6 performance cores
- Threads: 12
- Base clock: 2.5GHz
- Boost clock: 4.4GHz
- Cache: 18MB Intel Smart Cache
- TDP: 65W
- Price: $209.99
- Can often be found on sale
- Excellent price-to-performance
- Low TDP
- Cannot overclock without significant fiddling
Intel’s 12th-generation lineup is really remarkable, and this is showcased by the fact that the Core i5-12400. It’s a relatively understated CPU, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of its bigger brothers, you can’t overclock it out of the box without going ahead and buying a motherboard specifically for that purpose, and it’s outshined by the 12600k in many aspects.
But, this humble CPU can often be found under the $200 mark, and for that price, its performance in gaming is incredibly respectable, so you can expect to run just about anything really well. It’s not going to outperform an 8-core CPU with more threads, but for what you are paying for, this is the ideal CPU for those looking to game on a budget.
The best premium CPU for gaming in 2023: Intel Core i9-13900K
Buy the Intel Core i9-13900K here: Amazon, B&H, Best Buy
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- Cores: 8 performance cores, 16 efficiency cores
- Threads: 32
- Base clock: 3GHz (P-cores) / 2.2GHz (E-cores)
- Boost clock: 5.8GHz (P-cores) / 4.3GHz (E-cores)
- Cache: 36MB Intel Smart Cache
- TDP: 125W
- Price: $589.99
- Incredible multithreaded performance
- Quite expensive
- Gets very hot
When purchasing a high-end CPU, you need to know what you are getting into when it comes to the caveats. Yes, you will be able to get better performance than most other CPUs on the market.
A CPU like this will be ideal for those who are not only gaming, in titles like Fortnite, but who are also streaming or running other resource-heavy tasks at the same time. Even if you’re not, this is going to be the best CPU and push the most frames. You won’t be bottlenecking anything with this CPU, that’s for certain.
However, it does come at a steep price point, in addition to requiring a really good cooler, with its fast clock speeds and high thermal demands, you’re going to want to ensure that you are able to dissipate all of the heat that the CPU will be generating.
The best AMD gaming CPU in 2023: Ryzen 9 7950X3D
Buy the Ryzen 9 7950X3D: (Best Buy), (Amazon US)
- Cores: 16
- Threads: 32
- Base clock: 4.2GHz
- Boost clock: 5.7GHz
- Cache: AMD 3D V-Cache
- TDP: 120W
- Price: $699
- One of the best AM5 CPUs
- 3D V-Cache is great in games
- Steep price
The new Ryzen 9 7950X3D is one of the fastest gaming CPUs on the market. Its AM5 platform takes the baton from the legendary AM4 platform, one of the most-adopted CPU platforms of recent years. This CPU is aimed at gamers who play games that can use the extra L3 cache to boost frame rates.
At a peak frequency of 5.7 GHz, this monstrous CPU offers massive improvements over its predecessors in performance, thanks to its unique 3D V-cache. That being said, it does have a fair share of issues to deal with. The asymmetrical design of this CPU could prove to be a double-edged sword when it comes to cooling, and you can’t help but wince at the price.
How to choose a gaming CPU
- Set out a budget (budget, mid-range, or premium)
- Look for the brand that offers the best price to performance in that segment.
- See if the motherboard chipset is recent and in line with the rest of your PC build.
- Choose a motherboard with all of the features you want.
- Pick a CPU that ticks all of those boxes.
It can be a daunting task, with loads of graphs and numbers populating your decision-making. However, it really is a relatively simple task to pick the best gaming CPU for you. There may be outliers here who want to upgrade, but you should really pick something quite recent if you want to ensure that you are getting the best performance for your money.
Then, you should look at the platform that the CPU runs on, something like AMD’s AM4 is due to be retired quite soon, while Intel has just released a new socket, and new CPUs to go with them. In general, a newer socket and motherboard chipset is going to allow you to access new features like PCI 5.0 or DDR5 RAM support, which can be essential for some CPUs, so choose wisely.
AMD vs Intel: Which brand is better?
Right now, Intel is the go-to CPU manufacturer, offering the best support for new features moving forward, in addition to having a relatively fresh socket and chipset. By comparison, AM4 is looking like a bit of a relic at the moment, with the socket due to be replaced later this year. The age-old question of Intel vs AMD is answered differently depending on when you ask it, so you should expect this to change as time moves on.
Once the new Intel and AMD CPUs are released, we’ll be sure to keep you abreast on the latest in the heated battle for market share between Intel and AMD.
Is now a good time to buy a CPU?
2023 is the perfect time to buy a new CPU, with Zen 4 and Intel 13th-gen finally having been released.
You can expect newer features, and new motherboards alongside them. So, if you are planning a new build, you might want to consider some of these brand-new parts. You can of course expect faster speeds in gaming and other tasks, in addition to finding other things like Directstorage becoming standard amongst these CPUs.
DDR5 RAM has also become a little bit cheaper, so you can get higher clock speeds, and an all-round better system as a whole, compared to the previous generation of parts, which is looking a little bit long in the tooth, especially if you were planning on making an AMD Ryzen-based system.
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