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The Best CPUs for Gaming in 2018

The Best CPUs for Gaming in 2018

Jolene Dobbin
When it comes to the cast of a gaming PC, the graphics processing unit (GPU) is often and rightfully the central character. However, a key part of the production behind the scenes is the central processing unit (CPU) or processor for short, which can be characterized as the director or “brain” of a laptop or desktop PC.
In fact, it’s often one of the most critical components of a PC, especially when it comes to gaming. So what is the best CPU for gaming? Well the simple answer is that there are more than a few choices. Here are just a few of the best gaming CPUs in 2018.

AMD and Intel processors

Any lists featuring the best CPUs for PC gaming would be remiss to leave out AMD® and Intel®. Both AMD and Intel are leaders in the CPU market, and are constantly innovating with new and improved products targeting a number of industries.
They both offer an array of CPUs that happen to work really well for PC gamers, even if some weren’t necessarily built with only gaming in mind. As these two front-runners continue to compete, the end results are faster, more improved, higher performing, and lower-cost CPUs. And gamers can continue to reap the benefits.
There are far too many models to cover in this short overview, so consider what we’re presenting here to be a sampling of some of the best of their products. We’ve separated the products by each manufacturer and their leading offerings for best CPUs for gaming and streaming, as well as both the best budget gaming computer CPUs and high-end picks.

Best AMD CPU for gaming: AMD Ryzen 5 2600X

  • Number of cores: 6
  • Threads: 12
  • Base/Turbo clock speed: 3.6 GHz/4.2 GHz
  • Overclocking capabilities: Yes
  • Average price: $220
Kicking off the AMD processor list, the AMD Ryzen 5 2600X is one of best gaming CPUs with 6 cores and 12 threads for outstanding performance at a decent price. This second-generation Ryzen model is a solid processor for gaming performance in particular.
This gaming CPU offers nearly the same stats as some of the slightly more expensive models that are next in line (e.g., the 2700X). And that’s probably because it can get up to 4.2 GHz of boosted speeds.
It also ships with a Wraith Spire Cooler, featuring a circular design and fan with a top-down airflow design for excellent thermal performance. The AMD Ryzen 5 2600X will also let you stream and perform other non-gaming related applications.

Best AMD CPU for gaming and streaming: AMD Ryzen 7 2700X

  • Number of cores: 8
  • Threads: 16
  • Base/Turbo clock speed: 3.7 GHz/4.3 GHz
  • Overclocking capabilities: Yes
  • Average price: $320
Live game streaming is enormously popular today. And Twitch is probably the most popular platform on which to showcase your skills, build your audience, and ply your trade. If you’re streaming games, you’ll want to use a processor that has a high number of cores in addition to other important measurements such as frames per second (FPS).
The AMD Ryzen 7 2700X is one of the best CPUs for gaming and streaming with 8 cores and 16 threads, making it ideal for streaming some of the more power and resource demanding triple-A (AAA) rated and multithreaded games. It’s capable of speeds boosted up 4.3 GHz.
It’s also bundled with AMD’s premium Wraith Prism Cooler cooling solution for air-cooled processors, with RGB color-configurable LED illumination, offering transparent fan blades, quiet acoustics, and high-performing thermal capabilities.

Best Intel CPU for gaming: Intel Core i5-8600K

  • Number of cores: 6
  • Threads: 6
  • Base/Turbo clock speed: 3.6 GHz/4.3 GHz
  • Overclocking capabilities: Yes
  • Average price: $250
First on the Intel side of the best CPU for gaming, is the Intel Core i5-8600K, which is a solid processor with 6 cores and 6 threads and, like the Intel Core i7-8700K featured below, is based on Intel's Skylake architecture.
While it lacks the i7-8700K’s Intel Hyper-Threading Technology (which delivers two processing threads per physical core), it makes up for it with its outstanding overclocking capabilities, which let you adjust your PC’s core, power, memory, and more for enhanced performance and gameplay.
It’s capable of delivering similar levels of multi-threaded CPU performance as the competing 12 thread Ryzen 5 (see AMD Ryzen 5 2600X above).

Best Intel CPU for gaming and streaming: Intel Core i7-8700K

  • Number of cores: 6
  • Threads: 12
  • Base/Turbo clock speed: 3.7 GHz/4.7 GHz
  • Overclocking capabilities: Yes
  • Average price: $340
Part of the 8th Generation Intel Core i7 processors (and one of Intel’s fastest family of processors) the Intel Core i7-8700K is also one of the fastest processors for gaming and streaming.
It’s a 6-core CPU with 12 threads from hyper-threading, delivering 2 processing threads per physical core, allowing more work to be accomplished in parallel, completing tasks sooner, with performance benefits for gaming.
The Intel Core i7-8700K provides some of the highest clock speeds (boost speed at 4.7 GHz) that Intel offers. It’s especially useful for streaming, as most games don’t use more than 4 cores, so you’ve got two more for streaming in addition to other applications.
One of the best CPUs for PC gaming, the Intel Core i7-8700K is also perfect if you’re looking to build your own gaming PC. If you’re looking for one that’s already built, you’ll find the non-K SKU of 8700, which runs cooler but has a lower base clock speed than the 8700K, in the top-performing HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop 790.

Best budget AMD CPU: AMD Ryzen 3 2200G

  • Number of cores: 4
  • Threads: 4
  • Base/Turbo clock speed: 3.5 GHz/3.7 GHz
  • Overclocking capabilities: Yes
  • Average price: $99
The AMD Ryzen 3 2200G is a leader in the best budget gaming CPU category. It was one of the first AMD processors to ship with integrated Radeon Vega graphics, delivering smooth and fast performance for gaming applications.
While it may be a bit slower than a dedicated GPU, the integrated graphics also means you can inexpensively play games without a dedicated GPU. When building your own system, not needing to buy a graphics card may make all the difference with being able to budget appropriately and save substantially.
The 4-core, 4-thread Ryzen 3 2200G also delivers a solid turbo clock speed of up to 3.7 GHz. It’s unlocked, which means its clock multiplier is not permanently set, so with the appropriate amount of cooling you can tune it to meet your needs.

Best high-end AMD CPU for gaming: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1920X

  • Number of cores: 12
  • Threads: 24
  • Base/Turbo clock speed: 3.5 GHz/4.0 GHz
  • Overclocking capabilities: Yes
  • Average price: $535
The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1920X is 12-core, 24-thread CPU that’s built on AMD's Zen architecture, which is designed to better use available resources by enabling higher throughput and performance over previous architecture configurations. The base clock speed is 3.5 GHz and it can get up to 4.0 GHz boosted speeds while overclocking.
The Ryzen Threadripper 1920X is a powerful CPU at a decent price, especially considering the number of cores and threads that it offers (although that price may be somewhat steep depending on your application/s).
Keep in mind that AMD does offer other Ryzen Threadripper CPUs with 18, 24, and now 32 cores, but that kind of power might not be necessary for all gaming applications.

Best budget Intel CPU for gaming: Intel Core i5-8400

  • Number of cores: 6
  • Threads: 6
  • Base/Turbo clock speed: 2.8 GHz/4.0 GHz
  • Overclocking capabilities: No
  • Average price: $180
The Intel Core i5-8400 is one of the best budget CPUs for PC gaming as it features 6 powerful cores with 6 threads, offering leading PC gaming performance in a more cost-effective choice.
While it doesn’t feature Intel Hyper-Threading Technology (two processing threads per physical core), it does come bundled with thermal monitoring technologies and it boasts higher clock speeds than the previous generation’s models as well as matching performance levels.
You can get the most of out of this processor without having to worry about overclocking: the 2.8 GHz base speed can reach 4.0 GHz on a single core. It’s speedy, affordable, and ideal for most gaming applications as well as other tasks.

Best high-end Intel CPU for gaming: Intel Core i9-7900X

  • Number of cores: 10
  • Threads: 20
  • Base/Turbo clock speed: 3.3 GHz/4.5 GHz
  • Overclocking capabilities: Yes
  • Average price: $960
The Intel Core i9-7900X is one of the leaders of the high-end pack for the best gaming CPU for the PC. It features a whopping 10 cores and 20 threads for exciting multi-threaded performance capabilities, though it’s a rather expensive model that also needs a lot of cooling, preferably liquid cooling.
Part of the newer Intel Core X-Series processor family, the i9-7900X can scale to your gaming needs by offering more cores for extreme performance. This CPU offers Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 to identify the two best performing cores on a processor and provide increased performance on those cores through increasing frequency as needed by taking advantage of power and thermal headroom.
In addition, the turbo speed clocks in at a high 4.5 GHz on the Intel Core i9-7900X.


You may not need all of this power for certain gaming applications, but you’ll be primed for future extreme gaming needs as well as having a premier platform for other gaming and non-gaming needs like live streaming, content creation, desktop video editing or graphic design on your laptop.
About the Author: Jolene Dobbin is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Jolene is an East Coast-based writer with experience creating strategic messaging, marketing, and sales content for companies in the high-tech industry.

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