The best CPU for gaming in 2022

Best Gaming CPU 2022 with several Intel and AMD boxes.Dexerto

If you are after the best CPU for gaming in 2022 we’ve got you covered with a range of options for all budgets, no matter which brand you choose to side with.

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.

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With the latest Ryzen and Intel chips on the way, it’s probably time to consider upgrading. The current budget option for the newest Ryzen 7000 CPUs puts the Ryzen 5 in a pretty close race in some applications with the top dog from Intel, the i9-12900K. However, upon further inspection with the 13th generation of Intel chips, it appears you might want to hold on before jumping over to AMD.

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.

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Why 13th generation Intel and not Ryzen 7000:

As of right now, we can’t recommend Ryzen’s current lineup. The performances of the new chips are certainly excellent, but in all other testing by ourselves and others around the internet, we’ve found that Intel is the way forward this time round.

We’re expecting to upend this list once AMD’s 3D variations on their chipset comes out, but right now, Team Blue have pulled way ahead.

However, right now, we can’t actually recommend either unless you’re building an entirely new PC. AM5, which Ryzen 7000 is built on, requires a whole new motherboard and DDR5 RAM. Even Intel would require you to lock yourself out in some capacity by building on or buying into DDR4 models of motherboards, to save some cash.

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Both these components are wildly too expensive. While these CPUs are some of, if not the best iterations that these companies have put out, building for them is just still too expensive to recommend.

Though it must be said, Raptor Lake and Ryzen 7000 are both looking mighty fine choices for the future.

The best CPU for gaming in 2022: Intel Core i5-13600K

The intel 12600k and 12400 have identical box art, unfortunately.Dexerto

Buy the Intel Core i5-13600K here: Amazon, B&H, Best Buy

Key Specs

  • 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

Pluses

  • Incredible value for money
  • Great gaming performance
  • Overclockable

Minuses

  • 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 lowend 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.

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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 best the top ends, it still holds its own.

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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 2022: Intel Core i5-12400

The intel 12600k and 12400 have identical box art, unfortunately.Dexerto
Though it comes in the same box as the 12600k, it’s slightly less powerful.

You can buy the Intel Core i5-12400 here: (Best Buy), (Amazon US)

Key specs

  • Cores: 6 performance cores
  • Threads: 12
  • Base clock: 2.5GHz
  • Boost clock: 4.4GHz
  • Cache: 18MB Intel Smart Cache
  • TDP: 65W
  • Price: $209.99

Pluses

  • Can often be found on sale
  • Excellent price-to-performance
  • Low TDP

Minuses

  • 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 at 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 2022: Intel Core i9-13900K

The 12900k box artDexerto

Buy the Intel Core i9-13900K here: Amazon, B&H, Best Buy

Key Specs

  • 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

Pluses

  • Incredible multithreaded performance

Minuses

  • 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 2022: Ryzen 7 5800X3D

The AMD 5800X boxDexerto

Buy the Ryzen 7 5800X3D: (Best Buy), (Amazon US)

Key Specs

  • Cores: 8
  • Threads: 16
  • Base clock: 3.4GHz
  • Boost clock: 4.5GHz
  • Cache: AMD 3D V-Cache
  • TDP: 105W
  • Price: $449.99

Pluses

  • One of the best AM4 CPUs
  • 3D V-Cache is great in games

Minuses

  • AM4 is about to become a dead platform

The Ryzen 5800X3D is a victory lap for AMD, their AM4 platform is one of the most successful CPU sockets in recent memory, and the way that AMD rose up from their ill-fated Bulldozer CPUs and into Ryzen was nothing short of remarkable.

The 5800X3D is the last gasp for AM4, and it dishes out oodles of performance in gaming and multithreaded workloads thanks to its 3D V-Cache. So, if you are looking for a CPU to upgrade to and you still want to hold on tight to your AM4 motherboard, you could do much worse than grab the Ryzen 7 5800X3D. It is pricey, however, but that is the cost for top-shelf performance.

How to choose a gaming CPU

  1. Set out a budget (budget, mid-range, or premium)
  2. Look for the brand that offers the best price to performance in that segment.
  3. See if the motherboard chipset is recent and in line with the rest of your PC build.
  4. Choose a motherboard with all of the features you want.
  5. 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?

As of right now, it’s a bad time to buy a CPU. This is due to numerous factors, but the main one is that both brands are about to refresh their lineups. AMD is planning on introducing Zen 4 in September, with Intel following suit on their 13th-generation CPUs, too.

You can expect newer features, and new motherboard chipsets to launch alongside them. So, if you are planning a new build, you might want to hold off for a few months to see if a new contender catches your eye. 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. After they launch, it’ll be a solid green light from us, but for now, it’s best to hold your horses and wait for a new generation of parts to come along to sweep us off of our feet.

With any luck, DDR5 RAM will 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 current 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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