Our picks below will show you the best CPU for gaming. Of course, when shopping for the best CPU for gaming, you'll want to balance performance and features with your PC budget. You can also see how all of these processors stack up in our CPU benchmarks hierarchy, but for detailed help on picking the best processor for your gaming rig, you can check out our 2023 CPU Buying Guide. And if you're on the fence about which CPU maker to go with, our AMD vs. Intel article dives deep into the topic and comes up with a winner.
AMD's Ryzen 7 7800X3D sets the new high bar for gaming. The Ryzen 7 7800X3D is now both the best AMD CPU for gaming and the fastest gaming CPU in the world, and its $449 price point is far more accessible than AMD's other 3D V-Cache models. The innovative 3D-stacked V-Cache design is an engineering feat that boosts gaming performance to new heights but results in reduced performance in some productivity apps and doesn’t accelerate all games, so you'll need to ensure that it fits your needs. If you need more threaded heft, look to the Ryzen 7 and 9 versions of the chip listed below.
It's been a long time since the chip market has been so favorable to buyers — we've gone from a massive chip shortage to a massive glut, so now you can find stellar deals on the best CPUs for gaming. That's exemplified by the $199 Core i5-13400, and you can also buy this chip as the graphics-less Core i5-13400F for $196 and receive the same performance (provided you have a discrete GPU). This chip delivers solid gaming performance, and the option to use DDR4 memory reduces cost, thus taking the crown of the overall best CPU for gaming. The $219 Ryzen 5 7600 can't compete with a DDR4-equipped 13400 system on the pricing front, but it is faster than the 13400. That makes it a solid alternative if you're planning a DDR5 build, but you'll pay higher upfront pricing for the platform than you would for a DDR5 Core i5-13400 system.
AMD's pricey $699 16-core 32-thread Ryzen 9 7950X3D brings incredible 3D V-Cache-powered gaming performance to a workstation-class processor for the highest-end systems. AMD's 12-core 24-thread Ryzen 7 7900X3D also delivers on the gaming front, but its price-to-performance ratio is lacking, so most are better stepping up to the 7950X3D.
We've benchmarked numerous Raptor Lake chips, including the Core i9-13900KS, Core i9-13900K, Core i7-13700K, and Core i5-13600K. These chips upset AMD's product stack and offer a better value at every price point and deliver more performance than AMD's fastest standard models. We've also tested the Core i3-13100 and Core i3-13100F and found that it delivers the best performance in the ~$100 price class.
AMD's Ryzen 7000 Ryzen 9 7950X, Ryzen 9 7900X, and Ryzen 5 7600X CPUs delivered impressive performance in our tests, but come with comparatively high price tags for motherboards and memory, making them hard to recommend over Intel for most gaming rigs. We also tested the Ryzen 9 7900, Ryzen 7 7700, and Ryzen 5 7600, but while the newer value-focused 'non-X' models do improve pricing, they still can't match Intel's Raptor Lake.
If you're looking for the best AMD CPU for gaming at a lower price point, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D is still among the fastest AMD gaming CPU on the market, but it does use the previous-gen Zen 3 architecture. This 3D V-Cache chip isn't as fast as comparable chips in other types of work beyond gaming, though, so you'll need to be aware of the pros and cons. This chip is an absolute hands-down winner if you're upgrading an existing gaming-only AM4 system.
The list below is for the best CPUs for gaming, while our list of best CPUs for workstations is for those who frequently tackle high-end content creation or professional work. Processors benefit from the best thermal paste, so check out our guide if you're shopping for a new processor. But if you're after the best CPU for gaming, you're in the right place.
|CPU||Best CPU for Gaming||Alternate|
|Overall Best CPU for Gaming:||Intel Core i5-13400||AMD Ryzen 5 7600|
|High Performance Value Best CPU for Gaming:||AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D||Intel Core i7-13700K | AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D|
|Highest Performance Best CPU for Gaming:||AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D||Intel Core i9-13900K|
|Mid-Range Best CPU for Gaming:||Intel Core i5-13600K||AMD Ryzen 5 7600X|
|Budget Best CPU for Gaming:||Intel Core i3-12100F||AMD Ryzen 5 5600|
|Entry-Level Best CPU for Gaming:||AMD Ryzen 5 5600G||N/A|
Best CPU for Gaming Benchmarks
Why you can trust Tom's Hardware Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
We rank all the Intel and AMD processors based on our in-depth CPU benchmarks hierarchy. You can see some of those numbers in the charts above, including CPU overclock performance results (marked as PBO for AMD processors) and results in Windows 10 and Windows 11.
This group of results comprises only the chips that have passed through our newest test suite. Additionally, the tables in our CPU benchmark hierarchy include rankings based on past CPU benchmarks and also include breakdowns of single- and multi-threaded performance in productivity applications across a broad spate of processors. Finally, be aware that the pricing in the charts above can fluctuate.
Quick Shopping Tips
When choosing the best CPU for gaming in 2023, consider the following:
- You can't lose with AMD or Intel: As noted in our recent AMD vs. Intel feature, Intel tends to make the best CPU for gaming for mainstream PCs lately.
- For gaming, clock speed is more important than the number of cores: Higher CPU clock speeds translate to snappier performance in simple tasks like gaming, while more cores will help you get through heavy workloads faster.
- Budget for a full system: Don't pair a strong CPU with weak storage, RAM, and graphics.
- Overclocking isn’t for everyone, but if you follow our How to Overclock a CPU guide, you can scrape out extra performance gains.
Best CPU for Gaming 2023
The 10-core 16-thread $221 Raptor Lake Core i5-13400 and the graphics-less $196 Core i5-13400F build on the gaming performance of the previous-gen model that has long been the go-to mid-range gaming chip, but the addition of four e-cores improves performance in threaded productivity workloads. The 13400's support for DDR4 memory gives it an unmatched value proposition in the $200 price range, making it the go-to chip for mid-range gaming PCs.
The chip has six P-cores that support hyper-threading and operate at a 2.5 GHz base and 4.6 GHz boost clock. The four e-cores for threaded tasks run up to 3.3 GHz. The 13400 supports leading-edge connectivity with support for DDR4-3200 or up to DDR5-4800 memory, along with 16 lanes of PCIe 5.0 and an additional four lanes of PCIe 4.0 from the chip for M.2 SSDs.
The 13400F's main competitor comes in the form of the $229 Ryzen 5 7600, which is 7% faster than the Core i5-13400 at stock and overclocked settings in our 1080p tests. But the pricing between these two chips isn't as close as it appears, primarily because of Ryzen's requirement for DDR5 and high pricing for AMD's B-series motherboards, both of which increase the cost of your build significantly.
The Core i5-13400/F's DDR4 option and the generally lower Intel motherboard pricing can save ~$135 in total system costs compared to the Ryzen 5 7600. Naturally, this leads to a much better overall value — you'll pay 35% more for the Ryzen system and ~25% more per frame to get the ~7% increase in 1080p gaming performance.
The Ryzen 5 7600 isn't price-competitive with a DDR4 Core i5-13400 system, but it is more attractive if you already plan to shell out the extra cash for DDR5. However, there's a higher pricing bar for entry than with an Intel Core i5-13400 DDR5 system. The Ryzen system costs ~$50 (10%) more than the DDR5-powered Core i5-13400F system, or ~4% more per frame when we factor in performance. That's close enough to make the Ryzen 5 7600 a solid choice for a DDR5 gaming system, provided you have the extra $50 in the build budget. As such, the Ryzen 5 7600 is listed as our alternate pick below.
The Core i5-13400 comes with a capable cooler that can handle its 65W/148W base/peak power rating, and you can use a newer 700-series motherboard or an older 600-series model if the BIOS supports the chip. Most gamers will enjoy the lower price and comparable performance of DDR4, but you can step up to the more expensive DDR5 if you need access to more memory throughput. Intel's partners have B- and H-series motherboards available, and a B660/B760 motherboard plus Core i5-13400 CPU makes a killer gaming combo.
Read More: Intel Core i5-13400 Review
AMD's six-core 12-thread $229 Ryzen 5 7600 is very similar to the X-series Ryzen 5 7600X, but it is $20 less and delivers close to the same amount of performance, trailing its X-series counterpart by 5% in gaming. The Ryzen 5 7600 contends with the $196 Core i5-13400F, a potent foe on the pricing front, but it is a worthy alternative if you plan to go with DDR5 memory.
Although the Ryzen 5 7600 is 7% faster in gaming than the Core i5-13400F at stock and overclocked settings, the pricing between these two chips isn't as close as it appears. That's primarily because of Ryzen's strict requirement for pricey DDR5 memory and the generally higher pricing for AMD's B-series motherboards, both of which increase the cost of your build significantly. As such, the Ryzen 5 7600 can't compete with the value of a DDR4-powered Core i5-13400F rig — you'll pay 35% more for the Ryzen system and ~25% more per frame to get the ~7% increase in 1080p gaming performance.
The Ryzen 5 7600 is more attractive if you already plan to shell out the extra cash for DDR5, but there's a higher pricing bar for entry. A Ryzen 5 7600 system costs ~$50 (10%) more than a DDR5-powered Core i5-13400F system, or ~4% more per frame when we factor in performance. That's close enough to make the Ryzen 5 7600 a solid choice for a DDR5 gaming system, provided you have the extra $50 in the build budget. The competing Intel platform has only one more generation of chips that you'll be able to upgrade to, while the AMD AM5 platform will support chips until 2025+.
The 7600 pairs the Zen 4 architecture with the 5nm TSMC process to deliver a big gain in performance over the prior gen. However, the big attraction with this non-X model is the ability to overclock, thus providing a jump in performance over a stock 7600X. In contrast, the Core i5-13400/F isn't overclockable.
The Ryzen 5 7600's six cores run at a 3.8 GHz base and 5.1 GHz boost and are fed by 32MB of L3 cache. The chip supports all the standards we expect from a modern processor, including DDR5, PCIe 5.0, and the latest USB connectivity standards. AMD has also added integrated graphics for a basic display out, which is a plus if you need to troubleshoot.
Like the Core i5-13400/F, the Ryzen 5 7600 comes with a capable cooler. You'll need a new AM5 motherboard, as the latest Zen 4 processors are not backward compatible.
Read: Ryzen 5 7600 Review
The Ryzen 7 7800X3D is the fastest gaming chip available and easily beats more expensive competitors from both Intel and AMD's own lineup. At an affordable $449 price point that will surely be reduced in the future, the Ryzen 7 7800X3D is both the fastest gaming CPU on the market and a solid value in the high-performance category.
The Ryzen 7 7800X3D comes with eight cores and 16 threads that operate at a 4.2 GHz base and 5.0 GHz boost clock rate. The chip employs AMD's Second-Gen 3D V-Cache tech that uses a 3D-stacked SRAM chiplet to deliver an incredible 96MB of L3 cache, and to great effect: The end result is a comparatively low-power chip that delivers incredible gaming performance.
You do have to be aware of the tradeoffs with this highly-specialized chip — our gaming benchmarks show that the 3D V-Cache doesn't boost performance in all games, though we found that it impacted nearly every title we tested. Additionally, the Ryzen 7 7800X3D is optimized specifically for gaming, but it can't keep pace with similarly-priced chips in productivity applications. If you're looking for a more balanced chip that does well at both gaming and applications, our tests show that the $409 Core i7-13700K is a better choice.
The previous-gen Ryzen 7 5800X3D uses the aging AM4 platform with less advanced interfaces, like PCIe 4.0 and DDR4 memory, while the Ryzen 7 7800X3D snaps into AM5 motherboards that support the latest connectivity tech, like DDR5 and PCIe 5.0. AMD now allows both the auto-overclocking Precision Boost Overdrive (PBO) and Curve Optimizer with the 7800X3D but still doesn’t allow direct frequency overclocking.
The Ryzen 7 7800X3D has much lower power consumption than the Intel competition, making it a far cooler processor that won't require as expensive accommodations, like a beefy cooler, motherboard, and power supply. That means the 7800X3D delivers top-notch gaming performance along with a cooler, quieter, and less expensive system than you'll get with a Core i9.
At $409, the Core i7-13700K thoroughly beats the $399 Ryzen 7 7700X and even unseats the pricey $590 Ryzen 9 7950X, all while delivering essentially the same gaming performance as Intel's own $589 flagship Core i9-13900K — but for significantly less. You can also discard the intergated graphics engine and get the Core i7-13700KF for $395.
As always, if you aren't after top performance in heavy productivity tasks, the Core i7 model takes the shine off the Core i9. The Core i7-13700K is a great high-performance gaming chip at its price point, offering 95% of the flagship Core i9-13900K's performance for $190 less. Better yet, you can overclock the chip and get basically identical performance to the Core i9-13900K. The 13700K is also 18.8% faster than the previous-gen 12700K and basically ties the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, but beats it after overclocking.
Our benchmarks show the Core i7-13700K is also a much better all-rounder than Ryzen if you're looking for performance in productivity work. The Core i7-13700K has eight P-cores (high-performance) and eight E-cores (Efficiency), for a total of 24 threads. The P-cores run at a 3.4 / 5.4 GHz base/boost, while the E-cores weigh in at 2.5 / 4.2 GHz. In addition, the execution engine is fed by 30MB of L3 cache and 24MB of L2.
The 13700K also supports leading-edge connectivity with support DDR4-3200 or up to DDR5-5600 memory, along with 16 lanes of PCIe 5.0 and an additional four lanes of PCIe 4.0 from the chip for M.2 SSDs. The 13700K has a 125W PBP (base) and 253W MTP (peak) power rating. Still, we recorded considerably lower power consumption than its prior-gen counterpart, and you get ultra-competitive performance in exchange.
You'll need to buy a capable cooler for the chip, and you'll also need a new 700-series or previous-gen 600-series motherboard. You can find a wide selection of high-end motherboards that support DDR5 memory, and although you'll only find lower-end and mid-range DDR4 motherboards, there's still plenty of selection available. Most gamers will enjoy the lower price and comparable performance of DDR4, but you can step up to the more expensive DDR5 if you need access to more memory throughput.
Read: Core i7-13700K Review
AMD's newer Zen 4-powered Ryzen 7 7800X3D is the new chip to beat, but the $330 Ryzen 7 5800X3D is still a worthy contender if you're looking for a more value-focused chip with incredible gaming performance. The 3D V-Cache tech represents an innovative engineering effort that conquered the technical challenges associated with bringing the first desktop PC chip with 3D-stacked SRAM to market, yielding a chip with an incredible 96MB of L3 cache, and to great effect: The end result is a comparatively low-power chip that delivers incredible gaming performance.
You do have to be aware of the tradeoffs with this highly-specialized chip — our gaming benchmarks show that the 3D V-Cache doesn't boost performance in all games, though we found that it impacted nearly every title we tested. Additionally, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D is optimized specifically for gaming, but it can't keep pace with similarly-priced chips in productivity applications. If you're looking for a more balanced chip that does well at both gaming and applications, our tests show that the $409 Core i7-13700K is a better choice.
The 5800X3D drops into existing socket AM4 motherboards dating all the way back to the 300-series that debuted in 2017, so it will make a great high-performance drop-in upgrade for Ryzen owners on the AM4 platform. Be aware that AM4 is on the way out to make room for the 5nm Ryzen 7000 ‘Raphael’ Zen 4 CPUs in the AM5 socket. Also, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D also doesn't support Raptor Lake's leading-edge connectivity options, like DDR5 and PCIe 5.0.
The Ryzen 7 5800X3D has much lower power consumption than the Intel competition, making it a far cooler processor that won't require as expensive accommodations, like a beefy cooler, motherboard, and power supply. That means the 5800X3D delivers top-notch gaming performance along with a cooler, quieter, and less expensive system than you'll get with a Core i9.
If you're willing to accept the lower but still competent performance in desktop PC applications, and also do your homework to make sure the Ryzen 7 5800X3D accelerates the types of games you play frequently, it's hard to go wrong with this chip — especially for upgraders with AMD systems. If you have a taste for higher-end fare and a good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D is an impressive chip that delivers the best AMD gaming CPU performance and leaves room for future GPU upgrades.
Read: Ryzen 7 5800X3D Review
AMD’s $699 Ryzen 9 7950X3D is geared specifically for gamers looking to blast through CPU-limited games while still having the threaded heft of 16 cores that can handle the heaviest of productivity workloads. The new chip comes packing sixteen Zen 4 cores and the company’s second-gen 3D V-Cache tech that unlocks 128MB of L3 cache, a combo that delivers the fastest gaming performance available on the market. In our tests, the 7950X3D beats Intel’s fastest chip, the 6 GHz Core i9-13900KS, by 13% on average and up to 40%+ in some games.
The 7950X3D uses AMD’s cutting-edge 3D chip-stacking technology, called 3D V-Cache, to enable an incredible 128MB of L3 cache. Like AMD’s inaugural X3D chip, the Zen 3 Ryzen 7 5800X3D, the extra L3 cache comes courtesy of a 3D-stacked SRAM chiplet fused atop the processor with hybrid bonding, which accelerates gaming to new heights in many titles. AMD also has a new thread-targeting technique designed to help apply the gains more evenly across a broad range of games.
However, the Ryzen 9 7950X3D does lag its direct competition in some productivity apps due to the tradeoffs associated with the 3D chip-stacking tech, and it doesn't accelerate all games equally. As such, you'll need to study the pros and cons of the chip before pulling the trigger. However, one thing is certain — it's the fastest gaming chip on the planet.
The Ryzen 9 7950X3D brings all of the amenities we would expect from a modern processor, including support for DDR5, PCIe 5.0, and the latest USB connectivity standards. AMD has also added integrated graphics for a basic display out for the first time, which is a plus if you need to troubleshoot.
AMD's new Ryzen 7000 series chips do require a bulky cooler, so plan for a 240mm-280mm or better AIO for the best performance. You'll also need a new AM5 motherboard, as the latest Zen processors are not backward compatible and DDR5 memory is the only option. Unfortunately, the pricey DDR5 memory continues to be much more expensive than DDR4 memory, a factor you'll have to price into your build budget. However, that isn't as much of a consideration at the high end — if you're looking to build the absolutely fastest gaming system, regardless of cost, the Ryzen 9 7950X3D is undoubtedly the fastest gaming chip currently available.
The Core i9-13900K is Intel's fastest gaming processor, and while it isn't quite as fast as AMD's Ryzen 9 5900X3D, it has a more balanced performance profile and is faster than the other chips in the Ryzen 7000 family. At $569, it even outperforms AMD's Ryzen 9 7950X in our gaming testing and most heavily-threaded content creation tasks, making it an exceptional value for high-end game streaming, too. It's also the uncontested leader in x86 single-threaded performance. Intel’s generous sprinkling of more cores also gives it the lead in core counts for the first time since AMD’s Ryzen debuted back in 2017.
The 13900K also supports leading-edge connectivity with support DDR4-3200 or up to DDR5-5600 memory, along with 16 lanes of PCIe 5.0 and an additional four lanes of PCIe 4.0 from the chip for M.2 SSDs.
The chip comes with eight P-cores that support hyper-threading, and 16 single-threaded E-cores for a total of 24 threads. The P-cores have a 3.0 GHz base, and peak frequencies reach an amazing 5.8 GHz with Turbo Boost Max 3.0 (this feature is only active on P-cores). Meanwhile, the E-cores have a 2.2 GHz base and stretch up to 4.3 GHz via the standard Turbo Boost 2.0 algorithms. The chip is also equipped with 36MB of L3 cache and 32MB of L2.
This 13900K has a 125W PBP (base) and 253W MTP (peak) power rating, but we recorded considerably lower power consumption than its prior-gen counterpart. You get industry-leading performance in exchange.
You'll need to buy a capable cooler for the chip, and you'll also need either a new 700-series or a previous-gen 600-series motherboard. You can find a wide selection of high-end motherboards that support DDR5 memory, and although you'll only find lower-end and mid-range DDR4 motherboards, there's still plenty of selection available. Most gamers will enjoy the lower price and comparable performance of DDR4, but you can step up to the more expensive DDR5 if you need access to more memory throughput.
Our in-depth testing shows that the $319 Core i5-13600K is a stellar gaming chip — Intel raised the price by $30 over the prior-gen model, but the stock 13600K beats AMD's entire Ryzen 7000 lineup at 1080p, even the $589 model. You can even sarficice the integrated graphics engine — you won't need it if you have a discrete GPU — and go with the $296 Core i5-13600KF and get the same level of performance.
And the 13600K/F delivers plenty of performance — overclocking even propels it to the same level as the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, an impressive feat, and it also lands within ~5% of the $589 Core i9-13900K.
The Core i5-13600K comes with six threaded P-cores that operate at 3.5 / 5.1 GHz and four E-cores that run at 2.6 / 3.9 GHz, for a total of 20 threads. That's paired with 20MB of L3 and 24MB of L2 cache.
The chip supports 16 lanes of the leading-edge PCIe 5.0 interface and an additional four PCIe 4.0 lanes for a speedy M.2 SSD port. The leading-edge connectivity doesn't stop there, though: The Core i5-13600K also supports either DDR4 or DDR5 memory. Most gamers will enjoy the lower price and comparable performance of DDR4, but you can step up to the more expensive DDR5 if you need access to more memory throughput. Just be aware that DDR5 is more expensive, and DDR5 motherboards add a bit more to the cost equation, too.
The 13600K comes with a maximum power rating of 181W, but the chip sucks significantly less power than its prior-gen counterpart while delivering much more performance in gaming. The lowered power consumption allows the chip to work well with a wide variety of standard air and water coolers, but you'll need to make sure your model supports the LGA 1700 socket.
Speaking of which, you'll also need a new 700-series or previous-gen 600-series motherboard for the processor (with 600-series, make sure the BIOS supports the chip). You can find a wide selection of high-end models that support DDR5 memory, and although you'll find fewer lower-end and mid-range DDR4 motherboards, there's still plenty of selection available.
Read: Core i5-13600K Review
AMD's six-core 12-thread Ryzen 5 7600X delivers solid performance at the $250 price point. However, the lack of a DDR4 memory option — you have to use pricey DDR5 — and AMD's higher motherboard costs means this chip competes with the $300 Core i5-13600KF, so the Ryzen 5 7600X trails the Intel competition.
The 7600X pairs the Zen 4 architecture with the 5nm TSMC process to deliver a big gain in performance over the prior gen, making it an exceptional AMD gaming CPU at the $250 price point. However, the competing Core i5-13600KF is 8% faster at 1080p gaming and has far higher overclocking ceilings. The Intel chip is also 3% and 39% faster in single- and multi-threaded productivity apps, respectively. AMD does have a lower-cost option, the Ryzen 5 7600, which is our alternate pick for the overall best CPU for gaming, but the 7600 is about 5% slower in gaming, even after overclocking.
The Ryzen 5 7600X supports all the standards we expect from a modern processor, including DDR5, PCIe 5.0, and the latest USB connectivity standards. AMD has also added integrated graphics for a basic display out for the first time, which is a plus if you need to troubleshoot.
AMD's new Ryzen 7000 series chips require a capable cooler, so plan for a mid-frame tower cooler (or equivalent) for the best performance. You'll also need a new AM5 motherboard, as the latest Zen processors are not backward compatible, and DDR5 memory is the only option. AMD’s 600-series motherboards offer modern connectivity options, like DDR5 and PCIe 5.0, and also bring other additives, like USB4, to bear.
Read: Ryzen 5 7600X Review
The Core i3-13100F comes to market using the same winning formula that propelled the previous-gen Core i3-12100F to the top of our recommendations for budget systems, making it a shoo-in for the best budget CPU in its price class. This chip delivers exceptional gaming performance along with good-enough performance in productivity applications given its price point. Notably, you can often find the previous-gen Core i3-12100F at similar or lower pricing, and given that the two chips offer essentially the same level of performance, we recommend that you simply select whichever model costs less at the time.
The Core i3-13100 comes with six p-cores and 12 threads that operate at a 3.4 GHz base and 4.5 GHz boost clock rate, but it doesn't come with e-cores for background tasks as the Core i5 models do. It also comes with 12 MB of L3 cache.
The 13100 has 16 PCIe 5.0 lanes and four PCIe 4.0 lanes and supports up to DDR4-3200 and DDR5-4800 MT/s (caveats apply to DDR5 support). Intel's non-K models don't allow overclocking of the CPU cores, but they do support memory overclocking.
The Core i3-13100F also comes with Intel's new improved cooler, saving you some cash. Like the non-F model, the Core i3-13100F comes with a 60W PBP (base) and 89W MTP (peak) power rating, so it's easy to cool with the included cooler.
Intel's Raptor Lake drops into Socket 1700 motherboards from the 600-series or 700-series, including the Z-, H- and, B-series boards. The Core i3-12100 is a locked chip, meaning it isn't overclockable. However, Intel supports memory overclocking on Z-, B-, and H-series motherboards (Z-Series doesn't make sense for this class of chip, though).
We tend to define our budget range as $100 to $120, but the $140 AMD Ryzen 5 5600 deserves special consideration. This chip takes the top spot as the overall best budget AMD CPU for gaming with a solid blend of performance in both gaming and application workloads, bringing a new level of value to the Zen 3 lineup. It does come with a higher cost of entry than the $106 Core i3-12100F, but is more than worthy given its higher level of performance — the Ryzen 5 5600 is 10% faster than the 12100F.
If you're fine sticking with the previous-gen AM4 motherboard, the Ryzen 5 5600 makes a great budget build. The primary trade-off for the AM4 platform is that you're limited to DDR4 (a good thing given DDR5 pricing) and you don't have access to PCIe 5.0 (very few SSDs are even available at this speed, and GPUs don't need it), but this isn't a problem at this price point. The Ryzen 5 5600 also makes an absolutely unbeatable deal if you're updating an AM4 first-gen Ryzen system.
The 5600 unseats the Ryzen 5 5600X, a long-time favorite. The 5600X is only ~1% faster in gaming and multi-threaded PC work than the Ryzen 5 5600 but maintains a 4% advantage in single-threaded work. That said, the practical differences between the two chips will be almost imperceptible to the overwhelming majority of users, but the Ryzen 5 5600X costs $30 more. As such, consider the Ryzen 5 5600 the 5600X-killer.
You can find the six-core 12-thread Ryzen 5 5600 at $140, a deep discount brought on by competitive pressure from Intel. In fact, our testing shows that the Ryzen 5 5600 generally matches the gaming performance of its more expensive sibling, the ~$240 Ryzen 7 5800X. That makes the 5600 an incredibly well-rounded chip that can handle any type of gaming, from competitive-class performance with high refresh rate monitors to streaming, while also serving up more than enough performance for day-to-day application workloads. As with all AMD CPUs for gaming, you can fully overclock the CPU.
The Ryzen 5 5600 has a 3.7 GHz base and 4.6 GHz boost clock, but with the right cooling and motherboard, you can expect higher short-term boosts. The chip also has a 65W TDP rating, meaning it runs exceptionally cool and quiet given its capabilities. Existing AMD owners with a 500-series motherboard will breathe a sigh of relief as the 5600X drops right into existing 500-, 400-, and 300-series motherboards. If you need a new motherboard to support the chip, AMD's AM4 motherboards are plentiful and relatively affordable, with the B-series lineup offering the best overall value for this class of chip.
Read: AMD Ryzen 5 5600 Review
The Ryzen 5 5600G steps into the arena as the new value champ for APUs, which are chips that come with strong enough integrated graphics that they don't require a discrete GPU for light gaming, albeit if you're willing to accept lowered quality settings.
At $135, the Ryzen 5 5600G gives you 96% of the gaming performance on integrated graphics than its more expensive sibling, the $180 Ryzen 7 5700G, but for 25% less cash. Our testing shows that its level of performance makes it the best value APU on the market. As long as you're willing to sacrifice fidelity and resolution and keep your expectations in check, the Ryzen 5 5600G's Vega graphics have surprisingly good performance in gaming.
The 5600G's Vega graphics served up comparatively great 1280x720 gaming across numerous titles in our tests, but options become more restricted at 1080p. Of course, you can get away with 1080p gaming, but you'll need to severely limit the fidelity settings with most titles.
With eight cores and 16 threads that operate at a 3.9 GHz base and boost up to 4.4 GHz, the Ryzen 5 5600G also offers solid performance for its price point in standard desktop PC applications. The chip also comes with a bundled Wraith Stealth cooler, sweetening the value prop, and drops into existing 500-series and some 400-series motherboards, though support on the latter will vary by vendor.
Read: AMD Ryzen 5 5600G Review
If your budget is tight and you're looking to build a system for modest gaming, you should check out our Best Cheap CPU feature. Some of those chips can deliver passable gaming performance without a graphics card, and their prices start at just $55 (£40).