The most essential element of a custom PC build is buying the best gaming computer processor on the market today. You know, the little piece of hardware that drives every application you’ll run, every game you’ll play, and everything else you can do on your PC.
Moreover, building your own gaming PC is always the best route to go when you’re looking to get the best bang for your buck. Sure, you could go to some big box retailer, pick something off of the shelf, go home and play most games. But, the problem with doing that is that you’re spending a great deal more compared to if you were to build your own rig.
So with that in mind, don’t spare too little expense on a best gaming computer processor. With computer hardware, it’s typically true that you get what you pay for. Here are Gadget Review’s top picks for the best gaming computer processors currently available.
- 1 Best Gaming Computer Processor 2016
- 2 #1 Pick Intel Core i7-6700K
- 3 #2 Pick AMD Octa-core FX 9590
- 4 #3 Pick Intel Core i5-6500
- 5 #4 Pick AMD FX-8320 Black Edition
- 6 #5 Pick Intel Core i7-4790
- 7 Key Factors and Features to a Good Gaming Computer Processor
- 8 Mistakes to Avoid
- 9 Which Gaming Processor is Right For You
Best Gaming Computer Processor 2016
#1 Pick Intel Core i7-6700K
Price: $344.99 | Speed: 4 GHz
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Instant on technology, highest performing Intel i7 processor
Intel’s 6th Generation Intel Core processors have finally arrived, and the Intel Core i7-6700K is the top-notch option for those who want to spare no expense. It offers blazing fast speeds and comes packed with useful features that will take your PC gaming to the next level.
Not only will it play any high-end game you throw at it, it’ll also run any 3D game in the highest resolution available, offering better details and faster frame rates. In fact, Intel claims it’s 30X better 3D graphics than a five year old PC. What’s more, the card features Instant On technology that allows your PC to resume full functionality in under 0.5 seconds.
It has 4 cores, and it supports up to 64GB of memory. The processor also has 8MB Intel Smart Cache.
It runs quietly and it’s easily cooled, so you don’t have to worry about having a loud PC or frame rate drops.
I’ll note that this processor can be overclocked easily to 4.5 GHz if you’ve got the proper power supply to do so, although Intel recommends going no higher than 4.2GHz. Still, it’s the best gaming Intel processor available, which is why three out of our five best gaming PCs 2019 use the i7-6700K.
#2 Pick AMD Octa-core FX 9590
Price: $228.76 | Speed: 4.7GHz
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: AMD’s most powerful card can be overclocked to a whopping 5.0GHz.
The AMD Octa-core FX-9590 is AMD’s best option, so if you plan on building an AMD build — which I personally have, myself — you won’t find a better option than this. In fact, when I’m looking for the best gaming computer parts, I typically start with AMD because of their significant savings.
Without any overclocking or tweaks, the FX-9590 pushes out an impressive 4.7 GHz, and it comes in at under $250 ($228 at the time of writing this). If there were an official measurement of cost/speed, the 9590 would be the best option. Most notably, you can push this card to 5.0GHz using AMD’s own tools, and you can likely take it a step further if you’re feeling risky (although, I have not personally tried). Unfortunately, AMD gets a bad wrap in the gaming computer, and is often looked down upon by elitists, so great AMD options often get overlooked.
But, the FX-9590 is getting rave reviews, with many praising the speed you’re getting for the cost. It offers a full eight cores to deliver impressive performance by the most demanding games, allowing for those who seek ultra-high resolutions to achieve their goal with ease (and without breaking the bank).
Note: AMD has a compatible list of motherboards that will work with this powerful gaming processor, and for now, it’s relatively short when compared to a high-end Intel card. Before purchasing, make sure you can get a motherboard that works with it (as you should always do when building your own rig).
#3 Pick Intel Core i5-6500
Price: $199.99 | Speed: 3.20GHz
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Best gaming CPU under $200.
If you are planning to go the budget route, the Intel Core i5-6500 is the best gaming computer processor under $200 on the market.
It runs cooler than the previous generation of i5 processors, and it consumes less power. Admittedly, you’re not gaining a major performance boost if you already own a previous generation i5 processor, but you don’t really need one (and there is a slight boost in power).
It has a 3.2GHz processing speed out of the box, and it can be boosted to up to 3.6GHz safely, without worrying about damaging your PC. It has four cores, and it automatically allocates processor power to the applications that need it the most, making it incredibly efficient in its use of those four cores. It has a 6MB Intel Smart Cache.
#4 Pick AMD FX-8320 Black Edition
Price: $131 | Speed: 3.5GHz
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Best processor under $150. Can be overclocked to 4.0GHz, and you can buy it with a 256GB SSD for just $75 more.
Need power and not too much cost? The AMD FX-8320 Black Edition is a great choice if you’re building an AMD-based build. It uses 125W of power, but it uses that power well.
What makes it so appealing is its price. At under $150, it’s a price that any PC builder on a budget can swallow. It can handle running numerous apps at one time, and your multitasking could certainly use a powerful processor like this one. With a full eight cores (that’s right, eight cores for under $150), you can reach up to 4.0GHz safely (although, I’ve read reports of those overclocking to 4.2GHz without any issues).
I will note that the stock cooling “solutions” that come with it aren’t really up to par, and you should probably pick up a better CPU cooler if you want this thing to run as best as possible.
#5 Pick Intel Core i7-4790
Price: $305 | Speed: 3.6GHz
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: A great i7 option that comes in at $40 cheaper than its successors.
If you’re looking to save a buck or two on an Intel i7 CPU, your best option is the Intel Core i7-4790. Sure, you’re not getting all of the bells and whistles that the 6700K has, but you’re still getting a high-end gaming computer processor that can stand up to most everything you throw at it.
You can’t overclock it, at least there aren’t any tools offered by Intel, themselves, to overclock it. So if you’re looking to really push your PC to the limits, you might want to consider the 6700K above. But if price is more important to you than squeezing out every last ounce of speed, the i7-4790 is a good choice.
It’s compatible with Z87 and Z97 motherboards.
Key Factors and Features to a Good Gaming Computer Processor
Price: One of the most important factors to consider when buying a gaming computer processor are its price. For price, you’re going to want to consider what is included versus what isn’t included, whether you’re going to need a different cooling option or if the stock one works well enough. To that end, if a processor has exceeded its typical refresh cycle, you might be best to wait as pricing will go down for that model or a new one will appear.
Games You Plan to Play: If you plan to play games like Hearthstone or CS:Go or League of Legends, you’re definitely not going to need to purchase the top-notch, best-of-the-best gaming processor. Instead, you’re going to want to go for the budget option that might not be as fast, but it’ll still run those games at full speed. Conversely, if you plan to play Battlefield 1 on ultra settings when it comes out, or The Witcher 3 without sacrificing graphical fidelity, you’re going to want to purchase the absolute best.
Motherboard Cost: When you buy a CPU, you also need to buy a motherboard that will allow you to use that specific CPU (and the newer the CPU, the harder the time you’ll have finding a motherboard to match it). More importantly, if you don’t already have a motherboard that will allow you to use the CPU you want, you’ll have to buy a motherboard with it. So even if the CPU you want is a great price, how much is a motherboard to go along with it?
Mistakes to Avoid
Avoiding AMD: Avoiding AMD would be a grave mistake. PC gamers tend to shy away from AMD based on its initial run of high-end processors, but they’ve come a long way over the past five years, and they’re now a much more formidable foe for Intel.
Cheaping Out: Paying more now might save you in the long run. CPUs are a fast-evolving technology, and new processors are introduced every couple of years, at least. So if you buy a top-notch CPU right now, you won’t need to upgrade again for a few years. However, if you buy a middling CPU, you’re going to have to pay again to upgrade sooner.
Which Gaming Processor is Right For You
This list includes a fairly wide spectrum of prices. For some, it’ll come down to price per power. It all depends on what you have in your PC already, or if you’re building a fresh new build and will need to purchase other things to go along with it (like a better cooler, a completely new motherboard, etc). There are other factors to consider when looking to speed up your PC so that it will run the latest games, but you should always start with the processor and motherboard combination that best fits your budget and the types of games you intend to play.