And if you're on the fence about which CPU company to go with, our AMD vs. Intel feature dives deep and comes up with a clear winner. The company has been unable to satisfy demand on its older and newer processors alike, and we've seen egregious price scalping for the Ry zen 5000 models over the holidays.
That means that many of the AMD processors listed below are currently unavailable, but we expect supply to improve as we exit the holiday season. For now, if ordering a CPU is paramount, Intel's CPUs may be the only option for modern processors.
The company has slashed pricing over the holidays, though, which is a slight consolation for the impatient that need to build a new gaming rig right away. We also maintain a list of the best CPUs for productivity, for those who frequently tackle high-end content creation, or other tasks that benefit from high core counts.
But so long as you’re considering current-generation parts, the performance debate is basically a wash, particularly when it comes to gaming. Some most-expensive mainstream Intel processors do slightly better on gaming, and AMD handles tasks like video editing quicker (thanks largely to extra cores and threads).
For gaming, clock speed is more important than core number: Higher CPU clock speeds translate to snappier performance in simple, common tasks such as gaming, while more cores will help you get through time-consuming workloads faster. In the end, the fastest CPUs of any family of processors have the highest clock speeds.
Budget for a full system: Don't pair a strong CPU with weak storage, RAM and graphics. The six-core 12-thread chip lands at $299, a $50 price hike over its previous-gen counterpart, but brings more than enough extra gaming and application performance to justify the premium.
The Ry zen 5 5600X even beats the Intel Core i9-10900K at gaming, which is an incredible feat given its price point. AMD's Zen3 microarchitecture results in a stunning 19% increase in IPC, which floats all boats in terms of performance in gaming, single-threaded, and multi-threaded applications.
In fact, the chip generally matches the gaming performance of its more-expensive sibling, the $449 Ry zen 7 5800X. The chip also has a 65W TDP rating, meaning it runs exceptionally cool and quiet given its capabilities (the previous-gen model was 95W).
Reasons to Avoid For gamers looking for the edge of performance, enthusiasts who like to tune their processors without expensive supporting components, or those who simply prefer Intel chips, the Core i5-10600K is a solid chip with a good price point. The 10600K isn't as fast as the Ry zen 5 5600X but has integrated graphics and is competitive on a pricing basis, so it's a solid value alternative.
That makes this chip a great deal for gamers who prize high refresh rates, particularly if they plan to move forward to the new AMD or Nvidia graphics cards. The Core i5-10600K's twelve threads also reduce the gap between it and competing AMD processors in heavily-threaded workloads.
Aside from high MSRPs, the chips also require expensive accommodations, like beefy motherboards and the added cost of fully populating quad-channel memory controllers. Add in the inevitable trade-offs, like reduced performance in lightly-threaded applications and games, and any cost-conscious users who could benefit from the threaded horsepower of a HEAT chip just settle for mainstream offerings.
AMD's Ry zen 9 5950X, with 16 cores and 32 threads, expands on its predecessors' mission of bringing HEDT-class performance to mainstream motherboards, lowering the bar for entry. The 5950X carries a $799 price tag, but that’s downright affordable compared to competing HEAT processors that don't offer the same class of performance.
However, if you're after a chip and platform that can do serious work seriously fast, but still be nimble enough to deliver high-refresh gameplay at the end of the day, the Ry zen 9 5950X fits the bill like no other CPU before it. If all you care about is gaming, and you prefer Intel chips, the Core i7-10700K is a speedy chip with plenty of overclocking headroom that nearly matches the gaming performance of Intel's flagship Core i9-10900K.
Out of the box, the Ry zen 5 3600X is the best processor in its price range for gaming and productivity, marking a massive shift in the mid-range. At stock settings, the Ry zen 5 3600X regularly beat the more expensive Core i5-9600K in both categories, albeit by slim margins in gaming, reversing the long-held trend of Ry zen being best for productivity while Intel ruled the gaming roost.
The majority of enthusiasts looking for a fast set-it-and-forget-it processor that can handle common computing tasks with relative ease will find incredible value in the Ry zen 5 3600X. Reasons to Reasons to Avoid The Ry zen 3 3300X unlocks a new level of performance for budget gamers with four cores and eight threads that can push low- to mid-range graphics cards to their fullest.
3 GHz, providing snappy performance in lightly threaded applications, like games. Unlike AMD's other current-gen Ry zen 3 processors, you'll need to pair this processor with a discrete GPU, but the low price point leaves extra room in the budget for a more capable graphics card.
You can stick with the value theme and drop this capable chip into existing X470 of B450 motherboards, but you'll lose access to the PCIe 4.0 interface in exchange for a lower price point. These new motherboards support the PCIe 4.0 interface but provide lower entry-level pricing that's a better fit for this class of processor.
The Ry zen 5 3400G is a great processor for budget buyers because it comes with an integrated Radon RX Vega 11 graphics engine that enables playable frame rates in many new game titles, provided that you tweak your game to lower fidelity settings. That eliminates the need for a discrete graphics card in your new system, which equates to more money for other high-performance additives, like an SSD.
AMD’s move to the 12 nm manufacturing process, along with an optimized Zen+ design, yields solid performance improvements that include a nice bump to the CPU and GPU clocks. The more mature process paired with unlocked multipliers also facilitates higher overclocking ceilings for the CPU, GPU and memory.
That combination, along with a beefier bundled cooler and Solder TIM, makes the Ry zen 5 3400G the processor to beat for systems built around integrated graphics for low-resolution budget gaming rigs. If your budget is tight, and you're looking to build a system for modest gaming, you should check out our Best Cheap CPUs feature.
Some of those chips can deliver passable gaming performance without a graphics card, and their prices start at just $55 (£40). We’ve had a few days with our Zen3 Ry zen 5800X and the bulk of that time has been spent investigating the impact of RAM speed on this new architecture.
In short, the CPU cores are connected to the rest of the PC via an interconnect chip known as ‘infinity fabric’. Luckily, AMD has an open attitude towards allowing users to tweak settings to their heart’s content, so all of this is adjustable in BIOS.
The optimum settings involve ensuring that the RAM speed matches the Infinity fabric frequency 1:1. With these two clock speeds in sync, memory access latency is reduced, and you enjoy a performance boost.
Firstly, does Zen 3 improve our ability to lift Infinity Fabric speeds to match faster RAM? Using our Patriot Viper 4400Mhz memory kit, which comprises Samsung B-Die Ram with CL19 timings, we were quickly able to establish that our Ry zen 5800X was stable at 4000MHz with Infinity Fabric (Folk) at 2000MHz.
Note that the scale starts at 5000 Points: The difference between these results is small enough not to cause concern, and it’s not possible to consider this a ‘trend’ in performance owing to the marginally lower scores at higher speeds. Cine bench R20 appears almost oblivious to the RAM speed of the System with even 2133MHz not causing a significant performance deficit.
Moving onto key gaming benchmarks, we looked at Rainbow 6 Siege and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Both of these titles demonstrated the benefits of faster RAM on Zen2 and again showed the negative impact once the 1:1 infinity fabric to memory clock ratio was broken.
Rainbow 6 Siege Here we again see the same performance scaling to 3800MHz, followed by a slight tailing off as RAM speed climbs higher. Despite maintaining a 1:1 infinity fabric ratio throughout, we’re seeing a similar but less pronounced softening of performance past 3800Mhz just as we did on Zen 2.
All tests were conducted at 1080p medium on a GTX 1080 Ti but even that induced a GPU limitation due to the prodigious speed of the Ry zen 5800X. Note that none of these will impact gaming at normal settings: You will be GPU limited at FPS below these numbers in this detailed AAA title.
To obtain RAM significantly faster than 3600MHZ prices jump from around $80/16 GB for 3600MHz CL16, to $100 or more for 4000MHZ CL18 which as our investigation above shows will be marginally slower on Zen3. Finally, investigations by Gamers Nexus indicate that dual-rank Dimes may be slightly faster, making a 32 GB kit in 2×16GB Configuration at 3600MHz likely to be ideal for most people.
Using 2 dual-rank 16Gb Sticks with 3600MHz frequency and tight 16-19-19-39 timings mean you’ll be as close to optimized as one click can get you just by enabling the A-XMP profile. 32 GB RAM provides ample for productivity, the most demanding games and light creative work such as video editing.
This is the RAM kit we’re confident meets the needs of almost everyone looking to take advantage of the prodigious power of the Zen3 CPUs for gaming and general use. The 3600MHz speed enjoys widespread compatibility with Zen3 CPUs, whilst the quality of the E-Die chips lend themselves to tweaking and overclocking for even more performance if the mood takes you.
The kit ships with discreet black anodized heat spreaders that integrates well with most builds, but it is also available in white or red if that better suits your preferences. We’ve got a soft spot for a set of four RAM sticks with synchronized RGB here at Premium builds and the G. Skill Trident Z Neo DDR4-3600 CL18 kit certainly scratches that itch.
The core specifications are solid with 3600MHz and CAS latency of 18 so your CPU will operate with a near optimum 1800MHz infinity Fabric Clock. The RGB elements are beautifully detailed and this kit will lend some real visual flair to your build.
If you need to pack as much RAM as possible as sacrificing a little speed for cost and capacity makes sense which is why this kit is a great buy.