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.
Compared to a very tame June, July saw some more interesting launches and additions within the CPU market. Chief among these was the release of AMD’s mid-generation refresh parts for the Ryzen 3000 family, the Ryzen 3000XT processors. These new processors offer slightly higher performance than their similarly named 3000X counterparts for the same price, with AMD claiming to be taking advantage of a minor update in process node technology in order to achieve slightly better clock frequencies.
The net impact of these new Ryzen parts, however, has proven to be quite small. While on paper the new XT parts launched at the same price points as the previous X parts, in practice the older Ryzen parts have been selling below their MSRPs – sometimes significantly so. As a result the newer XT parts have been a hard sell with the price premium they’ve been carrying, especially as the performance advantage is only a few percent at best. The existing Ryzen 3000X processors, in hindsight, are just that damned good, making them tough to dislodge in the current CPU market.
Meanwhile on the Intel front, higher-end Comet Lake-S processors remain in short supply. As a result the chips can be hard to get, and in the case of flagship Core i9-10900K are pretty much impossible to find anywhere near their intended MSRPs.
As a potential remedy to the situation, Intel this week launched an additional Core i9 SKU, the i9-10850K. This is a 10900K clocked 100MHz lower across the board, and priced a bit cheaper as well. The lower clockspeeds should be easier for Intel to hit – 10900K is clearly on the very far edge of their frequency rage – however this one chip alone won’t fix all of the ongoing shortages. Unfortunately, its real impact won’t be felt quite yet; despite this week’s retail launch, the chip has yet to show up at the likes of Amazon or Newegg.
[#] is Amazon Best-Seller Position
|||Ryzen 9 3950X||$689||$650+||||Core i9-10900K||$770|
|||Ryzen 9 3900XT||$479||$450-$500||||Core i9-10900||$499|
|||Ryzen 9 3900X||$429||$400-$450||||Core i9-9900K||$443|
|||Ryzen 9 3800XT||$399||$350-$400||||Core i5-10600K||$369|
|||Ryzen 9 3800X||$329||$300-$350||–||–||–|
|||Ryzen 7 3700X||$279||$250-$300||–||Core i7-9700F||$299|
|||Ryzen 5 3600X||$209||$200-$250||–||–||–|
|||Ryzen 5 3600||$155||–||–||–|
|||Ryzen 5 3400G||$149||$100-$150||||Core i5-9400||$149|
|||Ryzen 3 3200G||$99||$40-$100||–||–||–|
|–||Athlon 3000G||$49||–||Celeron G4930||$41|
|Prices are the at the time of writing the best from Amazon|
As a result, a quick look at Amazon’s best-selling CPU list looks a lot like June’s list, despite the recent processor launches. AMD’s hex-core Ryzen 5 3600 still holds the top-selling spot, with the octa-core 3700X behind that. The first Intel chip on this list is now at #7, and is once again the last-generation Core i7-9700K. In fact the only Comet Lake-S chip in the top 20 is the Core i7-10700K at #19.
Overall, this month is better for AMD buyers than it is Intel buyers. The more plentiful supply of Ryzen 3000 chips means that AMD is functionally the only game in town for building a new high-end gaming rig. The only downside here is that street prices for AMD’s chips have been drifting up a bit, so July buyers are going to pay a bit more. On the other hand, things are more competitive at the lower-end of the market, where both AMD and Intel have ample chips.
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||$279||Core i7-9700F||$299|
|The $1000 Gaming PC||Ryzen 5 3600||$155||–||–|
|The $700 Gaming PC||Ryzen 3 3200G||$99||Core i3-9100F||$72|
|The $500 Gaming PC||Ryzen 3 3200G||$99||–||–|
|The $300 Gaming Potato||Athlon 3000G||$49||–||–|
|Ones to Watch||AMD Zen 2 Retail APUs|
|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 remains the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X. The price of the chip has drifted up by $6 since last month, but it remains the best option for a CPU below $300, which is the sweet spot for our high-end gaming PC.
At a price of $279 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 $279 we get the benefits of PCIe 4.0 with AMD as well as a strong memory option.
Otherwise for users who absolutely want Intel, they’re going to be in a bit of a predicament. Normally we’d recommended the Core i5-10600K with a good memory overclock as an option at around $300, however neither Amazon nor Newegg have it in stock as a first-party item. All of the KF processors are also curiously missing, and even the i5-10500 is mostly mythical right now. The only viable options right now are either to pay inflated reseller prices for the i5-10600K ($370), or go in a slightly different direction with the i7-9700F, an 8-core processor with a slightly lower TDP and clockspeeds than Intel’s usual high-end affairs. Suffice it to say, it’s simply not a good time right now to be buying a higher-end Intel processor.
At any rate, as 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 processor, and it performed really well in our testing.
Comparing the 3700X to the i5-10600K, 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 ($155)
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 $155. 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.
These days the best competition for the Ryzen 5 3600 is likely to be Intel’s Core i5-10400 ($182), which unlike its higher-end siblings, is readily available. We have not had this chip in yet for testing, however at six cores and a maximum turbo frequency of 4.3GHz, it warrants some attention. However it’s also carrying a $27 price premium right now, and it lacks the clockspeed advantage of Intel’s higher-end parts.
Overall, 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 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 as unavailable as any high-end Intel CPU right now, so getting your hands on it at any price is a challenge. We will continue to have to wait for the stock levels come back up before recommend this one.
In fact, finding a half-decent CPU under $120 that’s in-stock is outright a bit of a challenge right now. In short there aren’t any current-generation (Zen 2 or Comet Lake) chips at this spot. So instead we have to look at last-generation parts.
On the AMD side of matters, we have the Ryzen 3 3200G ($99). This is a quad-core Zen+ part with integrated graphics and a maximum clockspeed of 4.0 GHz. We won’t need the integrated graphics here, but the CPU should be sufficient. The Ryzen 5 2600, another Zen+ part with 6 cores, is available for around $140, though the extra $40 is hard to sell given the $700 system price target.
As for Intel, last time around, we sort of recommended the Core i3-9100F, which is a quad-core part that currently sits at $72 at Newegg. 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 ($99)
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 $99, 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. Ideally in this price bracket we’d suggest something like the Ryzen 5 3400G, but at its current $150 price it’s just too far 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 the retail versions of its new 4000G series APUs in this market segment, however we’re still not sure when this will be. AMD has launched the OEM versions of these Ryzen 4000G chips, however these aren’t readily available to individual system builders or enthusiasts. Once they do launch, however, we expect they’ll quickly replace the Ryzen 3200G as our chip of choice for a $500 build.
AMD Athlon 3000G ($49) – But Only if you REALLY Need It
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 cores to choose from, or dual-core Athlons for better graphics.
For this month’s guide, we’re flipping back to AMD’s 45 W Athlon 3000G. The $49 chip is bundled with a 65 W cooler making it a complete and very appealing package.
On The Horizon: Zen 2-Based APUs, And Not Much Else
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. We’re seeing an odd situation where some CPUs seem to be plentiful, while others are fluctuating wildly in price before disappearing from the biggest retailers altogether.
When looking to what will come out in the horizon, there’s really only one thing on our immediate radar, and that’s the retail launch of AMD’s Renoir Zen 2-based desktop APUs. These parts have already launched for the OEMs, so it’s only a matter of time until retail parts come down the pipe. However we’re not entirely sure how motivated AMD is feeling here; if they can sell out their Renoir stocks to OEMs for laptops and desktops – which is the bulk of their market to begin with – then a retail launch isn’t likely to be a priority.
Meanwhile AMD has once again reiterated that their Zen 3-based desktop processors are in the works for a “late 2020” launch. Given that we’re barely a month into the back-half of 2020, we’re apt to take AMD’s guidance literally, which is to say we’re not expecting Zen 3 desktop chips any time in the next couple of months. Though if AMD wants to surprise us, we’d be just fine with that.
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
|July||Ryzen 3000XT Series||–|
|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