In our series of Best CPU guides, here’s the latest update to our recommended Gaming CPUs list. All numbers in the text are updated to reflect pricing at the time of writing. Numbers in graphs reflect MSRP.
For our May/June, we recently had the launch of both Intel’s Comet Lake-S desktop processors, bringing the latest 14nm generation to the market, and AMD’s new Ryzen 3 low-cost processors. There’s a small problem – despite being launched, both of them are a bit hard to find at retail right now.
Currently Amazon’s best sellers are AMD Ryzen processors, with the Ryzen 5 3600 taking the top spot again. Intel has moved up in position, from sixth to third, with the Core i7-9700K. The new Core i7-10700K is a debutant at #17. The AMD Ryzen 3 3300X is #29.
[#] is Amazon Best-Seller Position
|||Ryzen 9 3950X||$710||$650+||$691||Core i7-8086K|||
|||Ryzen 9 3900X||$420||$400-$450||$410||Core i7-10700K|||
|||Ryzen 9 3800X||$329||$300-$350||$330||Core i7-9700F||–|
|||Ryzen 7 3700X||$274||$250-$300||$278||Core i5-10600KF||–|
|||Ryzen 5 3600X||$230||$200-$250||–||–||–|
|||Ryzen 5 3600||$167||$195||Core i5-10400|||
|||Ryzen 5 3400G||$160||$169||Core i5-9400F|||
|||Ryzen 5 2600||$156||$165||Core i5-9400|||
|||Ryzen 5 1600 AF||$105||$100-$150||$120||Core i5-9100|||
|||Ryzen 3 3200G||$90||$50-$100||–||–||–|
|||Ryzen 3 1200 AF||$79||$75||Core i3-9100F|||
|Prices are the at the time of writing the best from Amazon or Newegg|
The Ryzen 5 1600 AF continues to be a small anomaly – it’s a very popular chip, at the $85 price point, however it still remains elusive at that price. The main US retailers have it for $105, which isn’t as bad as the $160 from last month. One of the big changes is the Ryzen 7 3700X, moving down to $274, which is quite attractive pricing. On the Intel side, as so few of the 10th gen are actually available today, there are still very popular offerings from the 9th Gen and 8th Gen too.
Sometimes choosing a CPU is hard. So we’ve got you covered. In our CPU Guides, we give you our pick of some of the best processors available, supplying data from our reviews. Our Best CPUs for Gaming guide targets most of the common system-build price points that typically pair a beefy graphics card with a capable processor, with the best models being suitable for streaming and encoding on the fly. We consider many factors in our recommendations, focusing mainly on gaming, put also including such considerations as power, future-proofing, and other features like PCIe and motherboard pricing.
|AnandTech Gaming CPU Recommendations
(Prices correct at time of writing)
|The $1500 Gaming PC||Ryzen 7 3700X||$274||Core i5-10600KF||$278|
|The $1000 Gaming PC||Ryzen 5 3600||$167||–||–|
|The $700 Gaming PC||Ryzen 5 1600||$105||Core i3-9100F||$75|
|The $500 Gaming PC||Ryzen 3 3200G||$90||–||–|
|The $300 Gaming Potato||Athlon 3000G||$49||–||–|
|Ones to Watch||AMD Zen 2 Refresh?
AMD Zen 2 APUs?
AMD Zen 3
Intel Rocket Lake
|To see our Best CPUs for Workstations Guide, follow this link:
The majority of our recommendations aim to hit the performance/price curve just right, with a side nod to power consumption as well.
For anyone looking at a strong 4K gaming build, we have to look at the mid-to-premium end of the consumer market in order to help drive those high-end graphics cards. Based on our testing at this resolution, the CPU starts to make little difference in frame rates, although as we look at higher refresh rates/lower frequency, getting a high frequency and high IPC does help. Both AMD and Intel have produced literature stating how their CPUs perform the best when it comes to gaming, but our pick here will be the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X. For our guide this month, this CPU is actually $26 cheaper than last month, making our previous choice seem a bit too expensive.
At a price of $274 where available, and bundled with the Wraith Prism cooler, users will be looking at one of NVIDIA’s Super cards for graphics, and then hopefully put together the rest of the system with a decent enough motherboard, storage, and DRAM. If we started looking at the $400+ CPUs, then it would cut into that graphics card budget. Plus, at $274 we get the benefits of PCIe 4.0 with AMD as well as a strong memory option.
If users absolutely want Intel, then the Core i5-10600KF with a good memory overclock is an option here. It retails for around the same, and is part of Intel’s latest 10th Generation Comet Lake processors, so users will have to be on the lookout for one of the new Z490 LGA1200 motherboards to pair it with. Here at AnandTech we managed to review the K version of this processor, and it performed really well in our testing.
Comparing the two, the AMD processor has two more cores and an IPC advantage, which should help for users looking to do additional tasks such as streaming of video playback during their games, however the Intel processor comes with a much higher frequency, eating into that IPC lead. In gaming, something like Grand Theft Auto 5 at 1080p, we saw the Core i5-10600K(F) and the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X on par with average frame rates, and the 3700X slightly ahead by a low single digit percentage on 95th percentiles.
AMD Ryzen 5 3600 ($167)
As we move down into more casual PC gaming territory, it has historically been difficult to recommend a good CPU at this price: naturally a lot of money will end up on graphics here, meaning that CPU+GPU could easily account for 60% of the total build cost. In that case, we have to make sure that the CPU can still take a good graphics card at high refresh rates or larger resolutions.
For this, we’ve chosen the most popular AMD processor which fits nicely into this bracket: the Ryzen 5 3600 may be at the low-end of AMD’s mainstream Zen 2 offerings, but it performs really well for having six cores for under $175. We recently reviewed why this is Amazon’s best-selling CPU in our Ryzen 5 3600 review, and even since then it seems to be cheaper than ever, improving its appeal. With six cores, twelve threads, Zen 2, and good frequencies, its main competitor from Intel at the time was nowhere to be seen.
On the Intel side of things, the only potential option for sale on shelves today is the processor we compared the AMD against – the Core i5-9400F. For this month, this CPU is now more expensive, going up from $150 to $169, making it a much less attractive deal.
The six-core Ryzen 5 3600 processor, with simultaneous multi-threading, still has high frequencies, support for fast memory, and PCIe 4.0 for future upgrades, as well as a bundled stock cooler that’s pretty good. At this point, at this system price, it’s nice to be a little future proofed at any rate. Because of the microarchitecture, we still get real nice performance for day-to-day non-gaming workloads, and gaming still works out great for the price point. If we pair it with 8 GB of DDR4, a 512GB NVMe drive, and an RTX 2060, we’re at around $750, leaving $250 for a motherboard, case, and power supply.
The Core i5-9400F is also a six-core processor, but without hyperthreading, and benefits from a cheap ecosystem of motherboards for support. At the time of writing, the 9400F sits 18th in Amazon’s best sellers list (down from 11th), while the Ryzen 5 3600 still sits in at number 1.
The market for the $700 PC should be blown wide open. In May, AMD launched Ryzen 3 into the market – these are new Matisse based Zen 2 processors, featuring four cores and eight threads, and a turbo up to 4.3 GHz. With the better increased single threaded frequency and performance, the Ryzen 3 3300X would appear to be a really nice gaming chip on paper, and in our review, it was very competitive. The only problem with it is that we can’t find it on shelves for the RRP. AMD lists the 3300X as a $120 processor; however it’s only available for $200, making it less than a viable option. We might have to wait until the stock levels come back up before recommend this one.
For users who want a system today, another option is the Ryzen 5 1600 – the AF variant. The AF means it was made on the optimized 12+ manufacturing process, rather than the normal 14nm process. This would effectively make it a Ryzen 2000 chip, and recently these processors have been getting a lot of praise for the six cores and an amazing $85 price point. However, at the time of writing, the Ryzen 5 1600 AF is neither at Newegg or Amazon for that price. We’re looking at $105, and I’m not sure if it’s because of the lockdown situation that the price is going up because they’re selling a lot, but it seems to be a very popular chip, 7th on Amazon’s top seller list (down from 3rd). If you can find one for $85, that’s great.
Read our review of the Ryzen 5 1600 here.
As for Intel, last time around, we sort of recommended the Core i3-9100F, which is a quad-core part that currently sits at $75 at Amazon. This is a quad-core without hyperthreading, has a 3.6 GHz base frequency and a 4.2 GHz turbo frequency, and will provide some nice grunt for anyone who has a compatible motherboard already in hand. It doesn’t have the latest trimmings, such as DDR4-3200 or PCIe 4.0 support, which makes it less futureproof. It is a bit cheaper too, which also makes it attractive.
AMD Ryzen 3 3200G ($90)
Crossing down into the $500 system market and we really have gone into APU territory. At this price, NVMe might not even be a valid option either, depending on how much needs to be spent where, and we’re on the verge of moving from integrated graphics to discrete graphics. For our recommendation, we stay on integrated graphics, which puts AMD’s APUs in line for consideration. At $95, the AMD Ryzen 3 3200G offers AMD’s latest APU with Vega 8 graphics, which is certainly sufficient for a large number of popular games. Normally in this price bracket we’d suggest something like the Ryzen 5 3400G around $130, however it seems that this CPU can’t be had for this price, with the closest being $169+, which is way out of budget for this sort of build. Nonetheless, the Ryzen 3 3200G will certainly be capable should someone want to add in a mid-range discrete graphics card at a later point.
We are waiting for AMD to launch its new 4000 series APUs in this market segment, however we’re not entirely sure when this will be. The new Renoir APUs are built for laptops first, and are currently being shipped to laptop OEMs which offer better margin for AMD right now. We had suspected AMD to launch desktop versions at Computex, which would be next month, but given the current global situation (as well as the success of Renoir laptops so far), we might have to wait a little bit longer.
AMD Athlon 3000G ($49)
There’s no way around it here – in order to afford the bare minimum on motherboard, case, DRAM, and storage, it doesn’t leave much options for a CPU, with probably $70 left at most. In this category we either have a range of Intel dual core Pentiums to choose from, or dual-core Athlons for better graphics.
In our last proper recommendation, we suggested users shouldn’t bother. AMD’s unlocked 45 W Athlon 3000G, being bundled with a 65 W cooler, was $69, making it very unappealing. However this time around we can find it for $49, and it offers a nice set of Zen+ cores and APU performance.
We’re hoping that when AMD gets around to offering its Zen 2 APUs for desktop, we can get an Athlon 4000G equivalent; however it isn’t clear when that will be, what the exact specifications are, or how it would perform.
Intel offers the Pentium G4930 at $42, although this is a dual core CPU without hyperthreading and very low end graphics. It doesn’t have AVX2, and it runs at a lower frequency to the 3000G.
On The Horizon: Zen 2 based APUs(?), Zen 2 CPU Refresh(?), Zen 3, Rocket Lake
In the last couple of quarters, we’ve had launches like Intel’s Comet Lake desktop processors, AMD’s Ryzen 3, and range of Z490 and B550 motherboards. There’s a mixture of markets that are getting an influx of components, however in all cases the main limitation seems to be getting them on shelves. Despite Intel’s big launch, only a few select CPUs are available in the US. AMD’s new Ryzen 3 processors are very rare. Intel’s Z490 isn’t really getting any attention because of the lack of CPUs. AMD’s B550, while announced, still has some time to go before retail.
When looking to what will come out in the horizon, the waters are a little murky with no real exact confirmed details from either AMD or Intel. At the time of writing, we would expect to be in Taipei at Computex, looking at multiple launches, but due to the lockdown and event cancellation, it might appear that vendors aren’t able to execute on their roadmap with the alacrity they originally planned for.
On the AMD side, we are still waiting for the Renoir Zen 2-based desktop APUs to come to market. With the launch of Renoir for notebooks back in early Q1, and the first devices coming out in early April, normally we expect a short delay before the silicon comes to the desktop. While some unconfirmed leaks about what sort of CPUs will be coming, AMD hasn’t spoken on the matter and isn’t answering questions about it. The Renoir APUs for notebooks have been doing really good business for AMD, and the notebook market offers higher margins than low-cost desktop APUs, so we might have to wait a while longer before we see new sub-$200 APUs on the market. AMD seems to have filled the gap here with the new Ryzen 3 series, but again we’re still waiting on those to be shipped in volume.
There has also been talk about AMD offering new Ryzen 3000-series Matisse Zen 2 processors, with some small frequency bumps, called the Ryzen XT series. This is entirely based on a variety of un-substantiated news, and nothing that we can confirm, and AMD hasn’t commented on the matter. This is a question mark that could turn into nothing or something.
The other element to AMD’s future announcements is Zen 3 based desktop processors. AMD has continually said since the start of the year that we will see Zen 3 hardware by the end of the year, but the company has not committed to what form that might take – desktop, HEDT, server, or something else. With the global situation, there is always the opportunity for this to be delayed in some form.
On Intel’s side, having very recently launched Comet Lake for desktops, we don’t see much recourse for anything new on the horizon. We’re still waiting to see Intel’s 10nm in any form other than notebooks, either in the form of server parts (Ice Lake Xeon, a presentation which will be happening in August) or small form factor PCs. One thing we did learn from the launch of Comet Lake and the new Z490 motherboards is that some of the new motherboards have sufficient circuitry to support PCIe 4.0. Some vendors went ahead and said this was for Intel’s Rocket Lake processors, which would appear to be the next generation. This means we’re looking at Intel’s 11th Gen desktop hardware offering PCIe 4.0 and being called Rocket Lake. The timeline is not clear when this will happen, but we do expect a mass confusion over Intel Z490 motherboards about what is supported and what isn’t – motherboard vendors have told us that they can only design PCIe 4.0 to specifications, as they do not have any Rocket Lake silicon internally to confirm support.
Our big CPU reviews for the last 12 months have covered all the launches so far, and are well worth a read.
|AnandTech Recent CPU Coverage|
|April||Ryzen 9 4900HS
|May||Ryzen 3 3100
Ryzen 3 3300X
Ryzen 5 3600
|All of our processor benchmarks can be found in Bench, our database.
|Upcoming Testing||Zhaoxin KiaXian KX-U6780A|
|EPYC 7F32/7F72||Xeon 6226R/6250
Xeon E-2200 Series