Best gaming CPU 2023 | PCGamesN
Choosing the best gaming CPU in 2023 can be a difficult task, as there are plenty of great options to choose from. Both AMD Ryzen and Intel Core processors pack compelling levels of performance across their respective ranges, with each manufacturer offering unique advantages.
To help you figure out whether an AMD Ryzen processor or Intel Core chip is right for you, we’ve put together a collection of our picks for the best gaming CPU. Just don’t forget that you might need to pick up the best gaming motherboard for the brains of your new system too.
Here are your options for the best gaming CPU:
1. Best gaming CPU
The best gaming CPU is the Intel Core i5 13600K.
Expect to pay $319.99 USD / £319.99 GBP.
- Great balance of performance and efficient cores
- Overclocking can push frame rates higher
- No stock cooler
- More expensive Z790 motherboard is required for overclocking
|Intel Core i5 13600K specs|
|Cores (P+E)||14 (6+8)|
|Base clock frequency (P/E)||3.50GHz / 2.60GHz|
|Max clock frequency (P/E)||Up to 5.10GHz / 3.90GHz|
Team blue is back on top when it comes to gaming, and we reckon the Intel Core i5 13600K is the perfect processor for your next rig. It has everything that makes the company’s 13th Gen Core series fantastic, at an extremely competitive price point to boot.
Its 14 cores, 20 threads, and high clock speeds pack plenty of power, so you don’t have to worry about it bottlenecking your shiny new graphics card. All the same, you can potentially unlock even higher frame rates from this processor thanks to its support for overclocking.
While the six performance cores will ultimately benefit your gaming experience the most, the remaining six efficient cores will make sure your frame rate isn’t suffering by handling any background tasks.
2. Best cheap gaming CPU
The best cheap gaming CPU is the Intel Core i3 13100.
Expect to pay $149.99 USD / £149.99 GBP.
- Solid gaming performance for today’s games
- Stock cooler included
- Only four cores and eight threads
- Weak integrated graphics
|Intel Core i3 13100 specs|
|Base clock frequency||3.40GHz|
|Max clock frequency||Up to 4.50GHz|
Hexa-core processors may now dominate the Steam Hardware & Software Survey, but there’s still plenty of life left in quad-core chips. If you’re looking to save some cash on your next build or are looking to put together your first PC, then the Intel Core i3 13100 is a great choice.
Don’t let its budget price point fool you, as this CPU is more than capable of playing games at high refresh rates. Regardless of whether you’re someone who primarily plays demanding cinematic single-player experiences or regularly sweats it out in competitive esports, your frames per second will be well looked after.
Unlike many of the more expensive options on the list, you won’t have to fork out for one of the best CPU coolers, as team blue kindly includes one in the box. You shouldn’t need a costly power supply, either, as it only requires 60W to power up.
3. Best value CPU
The best value CPU is the Intel Core i5 13400.
Expect to pay $239.99 USD / £239.99 GBP.
- Lion’s share of 13th Gen power
- Stock cooler included
- No overclocking capabilities
- Multi-core performance falls behind the competition
|Intel Core i5 13400 specs|
|Cores (P+E)||10 (6+4)|
|Base clock frequency (P/E)||2.50GHz / 1.80GHz|
|Max clock frequency (P/E)||Up to 4.60GHz / 3.30GHz|
If you’re looking to maximise your spending power with minimal fuss, look no further than the Intel Core i5 13400. Featuring six Raptor Lake cores, it’s an extremely capable processor that should help your graphics card pump out plenty of frames per second to make the most use out of the best gaming monitors.
Forgoing overclocking means that you can save even more cash by opting for a less expensive chipset, such as H670 or B660. You’ll also have a suitably capable stock cooler included with your purchase too.
4. Best AMD gaming CPU
The best AMD gaming CPU is the AMD Ryzen 5 7600X.
Expect to pay $299.99 USD / £299.99 GBP.
- Lion’s shared of Zen 4 performance
- Outperforms last generation flagship processors
- No included cooler
- Upgrading to AM5 can be expensive
|AMD Ryzen 5 7600X specs|
|Base clock frequency||4.70GHz|
|Max clock frequency||Up to 5.30GHz|
In our AMD Ryzen 5 7600X review, we found that the Zen 4 processor packs a potent performance punch that’s plenty strong enough to run with the most powerful GPUs of today. This makes it a prime candidate for just about any build you could think of, regardless of size or power.
Despite sitting at the bottom of the Ryzen 7000 series stack, the 7600X handily outperforms previous generation flagships when it comes to gaming. Better still, you’re not missing out on many frames at all by opting for it versus its more expensive siblings.
It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that you’ll want to pair the 7600X with suitably strong cooling as it doesn’t come with a stock cooler. Don’t forget that you’ll need a new motherboard too, as well as some sticks of DDR5 RAM.
Once everything falls into place however, you could find yourself among the first people to use PCIe 5.0 SSDs as the 7600X is one of the only processors to support the speedy storage at its full potential.
5. Best CPU with integrated graphics
The best CPU with integrated graphics is the AMD Ryzen 5 5600G.
Expect to pay $139.99 USD / £139.99 GBP.
- Most powerful integrated graphics on a desktop CPU
- Performance isn’t far behind the 5600X
- Only compatible with AM4 motherboards
- Can struggle with some games at 1080p
|AMD Ryzen 5 5600G specs|
|Base clock frequency||4.40GHz|
|Max clock frequency||Up to 3.90GHz|
Grabbing a CPU with integrated graphics can be an effective stop gap while you save up for a dedicated pixel pusher, or they can be a great choice for small form factor builds. Whatever your intentions, the AMD Ryzen 5 5600G is your best bet when it comes to netting an iGPU.
Its Vega graphics cores are plenty powerful for light gaming, providing playable frame rates at 720p and 1080p resolutions at medium to low settings. Better still, the 5600G is AMD FSR compatible, which means you can easily boost fps in supported titles.
It’s no slouch of a CPU either, with most of the performance of a Ryzen 5 5600X and more with higher clock speeds. You can often find it available much lower than MSRP, but you’ll want to grab one while stocks last.
6. Best CPU for streaming
The best CPU for streaming is the Intel Core i7 13700K.
Expect to pay $419.99 USD / £419.99 GBP.
- Easily handles 120fps ‘x264 Slower’ encoding in real time
- Great gaming and creative application performance
- Can be beaten by AMD Ryzen 7000 processors
- Runs a touch hot
|Intel Core i7 13700K specs|
|Cores (P+E)||16 (8+8)|
|Base clock frequency (P/E)||3.40GHz / 2.50GHz|
|Max clock frequency (P/E)||Up to 5.30GHz / 4.20GHz|
The Intel Core i7 13700K is something of a champion for streamers and creatives alike, offering an all-in-one solution that doesn’t carry an overly premium price tag. Feautring 16 cores and 24 threads, the chip is more than capable of handling real-time 120fps encoding using the ‘x264 Slower’ preset.
This is especially useful if you have a Radeon graphics card but can act as a great replacement for ‘NVENC’ on GeForce GPUs, should the need arise. The chip is able to keep up with top tier pixel pushers too, maintaing solid maximum, average, and minimum frames per second.
7. Most powerful Intel gaming CPU
The most powerful Intel gaming CPU is the Intel Core i9 13900KS.
Expect to pay $689.99 USD / £689.99 GBP.
- The first 6.00GHz processor
- Performs about the same with DDR4 and DDR5 RAM
- Incredibly power hungry
- Hard to efficiently cool
|Intel Core i9 13900KS specs|
|Cores (P+E)||24 (8+16)|
|Base clock frequency (P/E)||3.20GHz / 2.40GHz|
|Max clock frequency (P/E)||Up to 6.00GHz / 4.30GHz|
If money is no object, and you demand the best that team blue can offer, then there is only one processor for you: the Intel Core i9 13900KS.
With 24 cores, 32 threads, and a maximum clock frequency of 6.00GHz, the 13900KS is an absolute monster in every sense of the word. There’s no LGA 1700 chip that can match its single core performance, which greatly benefits games and many other applications.
Just make sure you invest in one of the best AIO coolers on the market, and have a beefy power supply to hand too, as this Raptor Lake chip gobbles electricity and runs quite hot. Should you be able to tame it, though, there’s simply nothing else like it in the 13th Gen Core series.
8. Most powerful AMD gaming CPU
The most powerful AMD gaming CPU is the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X.
Expect to pay $699.99 USD / £739.99 GBP.
- Unparalleled multi core power
- Can trade blows with top tier processors at just 65W
- Specs benefit production workloads more than gaming
- Expensive and best suited to costly X670E motherboards
|AMD Ryzen 9 7950X specs|
|Base clock frequency||4.50GHz|
|Max clock frequency||Up to 5.70GHz|
Sitting at the top of the team red’s latest processor series, you’ll find the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X. In this chip lies the very best that Zen 4 has to offer, with the flagship hiding some surprising tricks up its sleeve.
While this chip doesn’t boast a higher core or thread count compared to previous generation offerings, they are clocked much higher. This not only translates into higher frames per second, but also greatly improves performance in just about every application that can make use of multiple CPU cores.
Its greatest trick, however, is its ‘Eco Mode’, which can force the processor to draw a maximum of 65W. Even with such low power consumption, it can still trade blows with top tier processors. Naturally, you’ll get the most out of the chip while running at its standard 170W TDP, but it makes the prospect of a small form factor build featuring the 7950X more possibility than dream.