The Best Processors for PC Gaming 2020 | Top CPUs

Updated: September 24th, 2020By: BrantonReviewsLeave a Comment

Updated: May 6th, 2020

What is the single best processor for PC gaming? Well, there is definitely one that stands above the rest, but you should definitely consider what else you might need your CPU for. Do you need the multitasking power of an i7, or are you building a gaming PC that only needs an FX 6300 instead?

One thing is for sure, that your processor is the hardest working part of your computer and it’s constantly putting out the performance required to run everything from complex programs like Adobe After Effects to booting up Paint to put together a new meme.

By the end of this article, you’re going to have a good idea of what the best processors for gaming are, in their respective class. From the budget level AMD FX 6300 to the high-end Intel i7 4790K and back the all-around king, the Intel i5 4690K. Let’s get down to it!

The Best Budget Processors for Gaming

Under $200

Intel i5 4460


$0.99
At Amazon

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If you need a budget gaming processor you can’t spend more than $200 on it, and you’re a fan of Intel, then the i5 4460 is the CPU you need.

Putting out a reasonable 3.2GHz across 4 cores running 4 threads, the 4460 is a great budget level processor for PC gaming. It’s compatible with Z87 and Z97 LGA 1150 socket motherboards and running it means that you will be able to to upgrade to something like the i5 4690K in the future.

There is really nothing that can compete with the i5 4460 in this price range, and AMD’s comparable FX 8350 gets completely destroyed by the 4460 in all benchmark comparisons and real world tests.

For an Intel processor under $200, the i5 4460 is a great choice that won’t let you down. Just keep in mind that for roughly $60 more, you could upgrade to the considerably more powerful i5 4690K instead.

Pros

  • Good Price vs. Performance
  • Easy to Upgrade
  • Keeps Cool Well
  • Easily Handles Modern Games

Cons

  • Not Unlocked

Specs

  • Cores: 4
  • Threads: 4
  • Socket: LGA 1150
  • Base Clock: 3.2 GHz
  • Turbo Clock: 3.4 GHz
  • L2 Cache: 6MB
  • L3 Cache: 6MB
  • Power Usage: 84W
  • PCI-Express lanes: 16
  • Integrated Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4600

Under $100

AMD FX 6300

best amd processor for gaming fx 6300
$0.99
At Amazon

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For about $100, the AMD FX 6300 stands alone and is easily one of the best AMD processors for gaming. It really has no competition until you get into the level of an Intel i5.

If you’re building a budget gaming PC for less than $800, your best option to balance your power vs price is usually an AMD FX6300. It runs 6 cores (which are comparable to 3 Intel cores) at 3.5GHz and can be overclocked well over 4GHz.

The one major downside to the FX 6300 is the dead-end upgrade path. Because the 6300 is an AM3+ socket type, the motherboard you will need to accommodate it won’t typically be the best for Intel chips, and you ultimately want an Intel CPU

All-in-all, the AMD FX 6300 processor is a great choice for budget-level gaming desktops for the economy minded gamer and it is definitely one of the best AMD processors for gaming

Pros

  • Cheap!
  • Solid Price vs. Performance
  • Capable of Handling All Games

Cons

  • Single Core Performance is Low Compared to i5 4460
  • Dead-end Upgrade Path
  • No Integrated Graphics

Specs

  • Cores: 6
  • Threads: 6
  • Socket: AM3+
  • Base Clock: 3.5 GHz
  • Turbo Clock: 4.1 GHz
  • L2 Cache: 8MB
  • L3 Cache: 8MB
  • Power Usage: 95W
  • PCI-Express lanes: 16
  • Integrated Graphics: None

The Best High-End Processor for Gaming

Intel i7 4790K


$0.99
At Amazon

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The i7 4790K is the processor that I run in my day-to-day computer, and I have to admit that when compared to our all-around best processor for gaming, it doesn’t make much of a difference to 90% of games. The difference is negligible at best, and you’ll really only notice it in your wallet – unless you’re using that PC for more than gaming, then an i7 is a good idea.

A 4790K is going to deliver a potent 4GHz core clock speed to 4 cores running 8 threads (2/core), and can be overclocked up to/over 5GHz with an aftermarket cooling system. The i7 4790K takes advantage of hyperthreading tech which boosts the performance of CPU-intensive programs, and a few games, but this is mostly unnoticeable unless you’re always multi-tasking.

Tasks like 3D design, audio editing, video editing and anything else that is heavily CPU-intensive is going to benefit from having an i7 4790K over an i5.

All in all, if you’ve got the money to burn and you want the most expensive & best CPU you can get, the i7 4790K will do the job. But, keep in mind that you’ll only be getting a difference of a few FPS when compared to the same setup running our all-around best processor for gaming.

Pros

  • Great Multitasking Potential
  • Blazing-Fast Base Clock Speed
  • Amazing Overclock Potential
  • Keeps Cool Easy
  • Decent Integrated Graphics

Cons

  • Almost unnoticeable difference in gaming when compared to an i5 4690K
  • Expensive

Specs

  • Cores: 4
  • Threads: 8 (hyperthreading)
  • Socket: LGA 1150
  • Base Clock: 4 GHz
  • Turbo Clock: 4.4 GHz
  • L2 Cache: 8MB
  • L3 Cache: 8MB
  • Power Usage: 88W
  • PCI-Express lanes: 16
  • Integrated Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4600

The All-Around Best Processor for Gaming

Intel i5 4690K


$0.99
At Amazon

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The all-around best processor for gaming when considering price vs performance is without a doubt the Intel i5 4690K. Although, with the release of the new line of Skylake processors, the i5 4690K might have some competition within the extremely similar i5 6600K.

The i5 4690K is a powerful 3.5GHz 4 core 4 thread processor that is easily capable of handling even the most demanding of games, and when compared to the significantly more expensive i7 4790K there is little to no difference when gaming.

When comparing the i5 4690K to the newer 6600K, the first thing to note is the different socket types, the 4690K uses LGA 1150, and the 6600K uses LGA 1151. This means that a motherboard that supports LGA 1150 sockets won’t support an i5 6600K, and vice versa. This is something to take into consideration if you’re thinking of upgrading your CPU; will your motherboard support it?

All-in-all, when you’re considering price vs performance, there is no better card than the i5 4690K. Soon enough the i5 6600K will overtake it, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Pros

  • Great Price vs. Performance
  • Overclock Potential
  • Capable of Handling Any Game With Ease
  • Decent Integrated Graphics
  • Lower TDP (power use) Than AMD FX 6300

Cons

  • i7 4790K Multitasks Better

Specs

  • Cores: 4
  • Threads: 4
  • Socket: LGA 1150
  • Base Clock: 3.5 GHz
  • Turbo Clock: 3.9 GHz
  • L2 Cache: 6MB
  • L3 Cache: 6MB
  • Power Usage: 88W
  • PCI-Express lanes: 16
  • Integrated Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4600

Honorable Mentions

There are only a couple of honorable mentions to go along with the best processors for PC gaming, and they didn’t quite make the list due to a few reasons. One because it’s more of a media center processor, but still works for gaming, and the other because it’s still too new.

Under $100 Budget Processor for gaming runner up: Intel Pentium K G3258
All-Around Best Processor for gaming runner up: Intel i5 6600K

Conclusion

You should now have a pretty solid idea of the processors you want to be looking at within your price range. Whether you need a multitasking beast able to tackle the most modern games in 1 monitor while running photoshop and after effects in another, the i7 4790K is for you. If you need just something that is going to get good performance in games, and you want to keep your budget down, then consider the AMD FX 6300.

At the end of the day, the best all-around processor for gaming is the Intel i5 4690K due to it’s amazing price vs performance and overall amazing benchmarks and real-world performance in games. But, the new Intel i5 6600K shows very similar benchmarks and is returning very similar real-world results, and for the same price. The only downside with the 6600K is the fact that it comes with a new socket type (LGA 1151), and if you’re currently running an LGA 1150 mobo, it won’t be compatible with the 6600k, hence the 4690K still holding onto the crown as the all-around best processor for gaming.

Which processor are you currently running? Is it working like you expected it to? Let us know in the comment section! 

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Branton

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Hey there! I'm Branton, the founder and lead editor here at PC Game Haven. Since our launch in 2015, we've helped thousands upon thousands of gamers build their dream desktops, find the perfect peripherals, and more. Thanks for stopping by and feel free to get in tough!

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