If you are after the best CPU for gaming in 2022 we’ve got you covered with a range of options for all budgets, no matter which brand you choose to side with.
Looking for a new gaming CPU is one of those things that is pretty boring. Performance cores? What are those? Threads? Who cares. But really, a CPU is one of the most essential components in your PC setup, and you will need to carefully consider exactly what you need from it before you buy.
We’re looking at the best desktop gaming CPUs, which will naturally favor faster chips with a good price-to-performance ratio for most people. On the laptops front, you should take a look at our list of the best gaming laptops.
The tech we recommend will be based on a platform that we think still has some legs, instead of one that might be approaching the end of its life.
Right now, Intel’s 12th-generation Alder Lake CPUs rule the roost. They are the fastest (and hottest) CPUs that you can buy. They’re also excellent value for the performance that you are getting, in stark contrast to AMD’s Ryzen 5000-series, which saw prices jump across the board, in the old AM4 socket which is due to be retired very soon.
The best CPU for gaming in 2022: Intel Core i5-12600K
- Cores: 6 performance cores, 4 efficiency cores
- Threads: 16
- Base clock: 3.7GHz (P-cores) / 2.8 GHz (E-cores)
- Boost clock: 4.9GHz (P-cores) / 3.6GHz (E-cores)
- Cache: 20MB Intel Smart Cache
- TDP: 125W
- Price: $289.99
- Incredible value for money
- Great gaming performance
- It gets very hot
- 125W TDP makes it very power-hungry
Intel’s Core i5-12600K boasts some eye-watering features, with a performance core that can boost up to 4.9GHz, this CPU is blisteringly fast and will tear through multithreaded workloads and gaming with ease. Its current closest rival, AMD’s 5600X just can’t measure up to the speed and performance that the Intel Core i5-12600K offers at this price range, coming in at an incredibly reasonable MSRP of $289.99.
You also get some measure of future-proofing with it, as the platform that it runs on will also support things like DDR5 memory, though it’s not quite worth investing in some kits of your own quite yet, so you will still be able to pick up a motherboard that also supports DDR4, for now.
This mid-range chip can outperform high-end CPUs in some cases, and it’s really impressive to see Intel come out swinging against the looming threat of AMD. You can get faster, or cheaper chips in Intel’s stack of CPUs, however, this is the ideal sweet spot that will be perfect for most people.
The best budget CPU for gaming in 2022: Intel Core i5-12400
- Cores: 6 performance cores
- Threads: 12
- Base clock: 2.5GHz
- Boost clock: 4.4GHz
- Cache: 18MB Intel Smart Cache
- TDP: 65W
- Price: $209.99
- Can often be found on sale
- Excellent price-to-performance
- Low TDP
- Cannot overclock without significant fiddling
Intel’s 12th-generation lineup is really remarkable, and this is showcased by the fact that the Core i5-12400. It’s a relatively understated CPU, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of its bigger brothers, you can’t overclock it out of the box without going ahead and buying a motherboard specifically for that purpose, and it’s outshined by the 12600k in many aspects.
But, this humble CPU can often be found at under the $200 mark, and for that price, its performance in gaming is incredibly respectable, so you can expect to run just about anything really well. It’s not going to outperform an 8-core CPU with more threads, but for what you are paying for, this is the ideal CPU for those looking to game on a budget.
The best premium CPU for gaming in 2022: Intel Core i9-12900K
- Cores: 8 performance cores, 8 efficiency cores
- Threads: 24
- Base clock: 3.2GHz (P-cores) / 2.4GHz (E-cores)
- Boost clock: 5.1GHz (P-cores) / 3.9GHz (E-cores)
- Cache: 30MB Intel Smart Cache
- TDP: 125W
- Price: $589.99
- Incredible multithreaded performance
- Quite expensive
- Gets very hot
When purchasing a high-end CPU, you need to know what you are getting into when it comes to the caveats. Yes, you will be able to get better performance than most other CPUs on the market.
A CPU like this will be ideal for those who are not only gaming, in titles like Fortnite, but who are also streaming or running other resource-heavy tasks at the same time. Even if you’re not, this is going to be the best CPU and push the most frames. You won’t be bottlenecking anything with this CPU, that’s for certain.
However, it does come at a steep price point, in addition to requiring a really good cooler, with its fast clock speeds and high thermal demands, you’re going to want to ensure that you are able to dissipate all of the heat that the CPU will be generating.
The best AMD gaming CPU in 2022: Ryzen 7 5800X3D
- Cores: 8
- Threads: 16
- Base clock: 3.4GHz
- Boost clock: 4.5GHz
- Cache: AMD 3D V-Cache
- TDP: 105W
- Price: $449.99
- One of the best AM4 CPUs
- 3D V-Cache is great in games
- AM4 is about to become a dead platform
The Ryzen 5800X3D is a victory lap for AMD, their AM4 platform is one of the most successful CPU sockets in recent memory, and the way that AMD rose up from their ill-fated Bulldozer CPUs and into Ryzen was nothing short of remarkable.
The 5800X3D is the last gasp for AM4, and it dishes out oodles of performance in gaming and multithreaded workloads thanks to its 3D V-Cache. So, if you are looking for a CPU to upgrade to and you still want to hold on tight to your AM4 motherboard, you could do much worse than grab the Ryzen 7 5800X3D. It is pricey, however, but that is the cost for top-shelf performance.
How to choose a gaming CPU
- Set out a budget (budget, mid-range, or premium)
- Look for the brand that offers the best price to performance in that segment.
- See if the motherboard chipset is recent and in line with the rest of your PC build.
- Choose a motherboard with all of the features you want.
- Pick a CPU that ticks all of those boxes.
It can be a daunting task, with loads of graphs and numbers populating your decision-making. However, it really is a relatively simple task to pick the best gaming CPU for you. There may be outliers here who want to upgrade, but you should really pick something quite recent if you want to ensure that you are getting the best performance for your money.
Then, you should look at the platform that the CPU runs on, something like AMD’s AM4 is due to be retired quite soon, while Intel has just released a new socket, and new CPUs to go with them. In general, a newer socket and motherboard chipset is going to allow you to access new features like PCI 5.0 or DDR5 RAM support, which can be essential for some CPUs, so choose wisely.
AMD vs Intel: Which brand is better?
Right now, Intel is the go-to CPU manufacturer, offering the best support for new features moving forward, in addition to having a relatively fresh socket and chipset. By comparison, AM4 is looking like a bit of a relic at the moment, with the socket due to be replaced later this year. The age-old question of Intel vs AMD is answered differently depending on when you ask it, so you should expect this to change as time moves on.
Once the new Intel and AMD CPUs are released, we’ll be sure to keep you abreast on the latest in the heated battle for market share between Intel and AMD.
Is now a good time to buy a CPU?
As of right now, it’s a bad time to buy a CPU. This is due to numerous factors, but the main one is that both brands are about to refresh their lineups. AMD is planning on introducing Zen 4 in September, with Intel following suit on their 13th-generation CPUs, too.
You can expect newer features, and new motherboard chipsets to launch alongside them. So, if you are planning a new build, you might want to hold off for a few months to see if a new contender catches your eye. You can of course expect faster speeds in gaming and other tasks, in addition to finding other things like Directstorage becoming standard amongst these CPUs. After they launch, it’ll be a solid green light from us, but for now, it’s best to hold your horses and wait for a new generation of parts to come along to sweep us off of our feet.
With any luck, DDR5 RAM will also become a little bit cheaper, so you can get higher clock speeds, and an all-round better system as a whole, compared to the current generation of parts, which is looking a little bit long in the tooth, especially if you were planning on making an AMD Ryzen-based system.
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