May 30, 2022

Best CPU for Gaming in 2022

By Paul Alcorn published 23 days ago

Here are the best gaming CPUs for the money.

 Comments (22)Included in this guide:1

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Best CPUs for Gaming

Best CPUs for Gaming (Image credit: Shutterstock)

When shopping for the best gaming CPU, you’ll want to balance performance and features with your PC budget. Our tips and picks below will help you choose the best CPU for gaming. 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 2022 CPU Buying Guide. And if you’re on the fence about which CPU company to go with, our AMD vs. Intel article dives deep into the topic and comes up with a winner.

Intel recently launched the Core i9-12900KS, but its price-and-power-be-damned approach to attempting to stay at the top of our gaming performance charts isn’t worth the premium. Instead, AMD’s new Ryzen 7 5800X3D joins our list of Best CPUs for gaming, taking the title as the fastest gaming CPU on the market in addition to being the best AMD CPU for gaming.

As you can see in the gaming performance album below, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D lives up to AMD’s claim that 3D V-Cache delivers an increase in gaming performance equivalent to what we would normally only see from a new microarchitecture. However, the 58000X3D isn’t as fast as comparable chips in other types of single- and multi-threaded work beyond gaming. So you’ll need to be aware of the pros and cons before buying this specific chip. Also, its $449 price point is a bit higher than we typically recommend for most gaming-centric builds. 

If you’re looking for the hands-down best CPU for gaming with a more accessible price point, the Alder Lake six-core 12-thread Core i5-12400 is your chip. Recent price cuts have made this chip an even greater deal for a mere $160, catapulting it to the top of our list of recommendations. With the right tuning, it’s even faster at gaming than the previous-gen $549 Core i9-11900K flagship, so it should go without saying that it’s also faster than competing AMD chips in its price range. The latest price cuts are just the cherry on top.

If you’re looking for the fastest blend of gaming and application performance on the market, you need to look at our review of the Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K. The $589 Intel Core i9-12900K delivers incredible levels of threaded performance, often rivaling or beating the $599 Ryzen 9 5950X. However, the $380 Core i7-12700K offers essentially the same gaming performance as the $589 flagship Core i9-12900K — but for ~$200 less. The 12900K serves up extra cores and extra boost speed for those looking for the utmost in productivity performance, but the Core i7-12700K is a well-rounded chip that provides impressive pricing and performance in both gaming and applications.  

The $280 Intel Core i5-12600K is easily the best CPU for gaming in its $260 to $300 price bracket. The 12600K delivers up to 38% more threaded performance than the Ryzen 5 5600X and 7% more than the Ryzen 7 5800X. Meanwhile, the Core i3-12100 serves as the best budget gaming CPU on the market with a superb blend of price and performance.

AMD’s Ryzen 7 5700G and Ryzen 5 5600G APUs have the fastest integrated GPUs on the market, offering nearly twice the performance of Intel’s iGPUs. The $259 Ryzen 5 5600G’s is the best value, with performance that lands within 4% of the $359 Ryzen 7 5700G, but for 30% less cash, making it the best AMD APU processor for gaming. 

If you’re looking for the quick blow-by-blow, you can see all of these chips in dedicated head-to-head comparisons in our recent faceoffs:

Our AMD Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 article has all the details on AMD’s latest CPUs, but you can check our full lineup of detailed reviews of each model, like the Ryzen 9 5950X and Ryzen 9 5900XRyzen 7 5800X, and Ryzen 5 5600X, for the detailed rundown that will help you suss out which is the best AMD CPU for gaming.

Best CPUs for Gaming at a glance (more info below):

Overall Best CPU for Gaming:
Intel Core i5-12400(opens in new tab)
Alternate: AMD Ryzen 5 5600X(opens in new tab)

High Performance Value Best CPU for Gaming:
Intel Core i9-12900K(opens in new tab)
Alternate: AMD Ryzen 9 5950X(opens in new tab)

Overall Value Best CPU for Gaming:
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D(opens in new tab)
Alternate: Intel Core i7-12700K(opens in new tab)

Mid-Range Best CPU for Gaming:

Intel Core i5-12600K(opens in new tab)

Budget Best CPU for Gaming:
Core i3-12100(opens in new tab)

Entry-Level Best CPU for Gaming:

AMD Ryzen 5 5600G(opens in new tab)

Choosing the Best Gaming CPU for You

For a list of all processors by performance, check out our CPU Benchmarks Hierarchy for CPU comparisons backed by processor benchmarks. We also maintain a list of best CPUs for workstations, for those who frequently tackle high-end content creation, or other tasks that benefit from high core counts. Higher-end chips benefit the most 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 gaming CPU, you’re in the right place.

If your main goal is gaming, you of course can’t forget about the graphics card. Getting the best possible gaming CPU won’t help you much if your GPU is under-powered and/or out of date. So be sure to check out Best Graphics Cards page, as well as our GPU Benchmarks Hierarchy to make sure you have the right card for the level of gaming you’re looking to achieve.      

CPU Gaming Benchmarks

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Ryzen 7 5800X3D
(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

We rank all the Intel and AMD processors based on our in-depth CPU benchmarks. You can see some of those numbers in the charts above, including overclocked performance results (marked as PBO for AMD processors) and benchmark results in Windows 10 and Windows 11.  

This group of results comprises only the chips that have passed through our newest test suite, while the tables in our CPU benchmark hierarchy include rankings based on past CPU benchmarks, and also include breakdowns of single- and multi-threaded performance 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 gaming CPU in 2022, 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 CPUs 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, 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.
  • Overclocking isn’t for everyone: If you want to just get to gaming, it might make more sense to spend $20-$60 more and buy a higher-end chip, rather than spending money on a higher-end cooler.

Best CPUs for Gaming 2022

Intel Core i5-12400
(Image credit: Amazon, Shutterstock)

1. Intel Core i5-12400

Overall Best CPU for Gaming

SPECIFICATIONS

Architecture: Alder LakeSocket: LGA 1700Cores/Threads: 6 (6P + 0E) / 12Base Frequency: 4.4Top Boost Frequency: 2.5TDP: 65WTODAY’S BEST DEALS

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REASONS TO BUY

+Excellent gaming performance+Strong single- and multi-thread+Ultra competitive pricing+PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 memory+Supports memory overclocking

REASONS TO AVOID

-Requires LGA1700 motherboard-2-3

If you’re looking for the hands-down best CPU for gaming, the mid-range Alder Lake six-core 12-thread Core i5-12400 is your chip, especially after recent price reductions that bring it down to an incredible $160. With the right tuning, it’s even faster at gaming than the previous-gen $549 Core i9-11900K flagship, so it should go without saying that it’s also faster than the $230 Ryzen 5 5600X in gaming.

The chip comes with six P-cores that support hyper-threading that operate at a 2.5 GHz base and 4.4 GHz boost speed. The 12400 supports leading-edge connectivity with support 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 Core i5-12400 serves up solid performance in all manner of threaded productivity applications, and its snappy single-threaded performance beats even the fastest Ryzen 5000 processors. Additionally, the Core i5-12400 delivers incredible levels of gaming performance but at a much lower price point than any comparable AMD processor, setting a new bar for budget gaming chips.

The Core i5-12400 comes with a capable cooler that can handle its 65W/117W base/peak power rating, but you’ll also need a new 600-series motherboard. 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. Luckily, Intel’s partners now have B- and H-series motherboards available, and a B660 motherboard plus Core i5-12400 CPU will make a killer gaming combo.

Read More: Intel Core i5-12400 Review

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X
(Image credit: AMD)

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

Overall Best CPU for Gaming – Alternate Pick

SPECIFICATIONS

Architecture: Zen 3Socket: AM4Cores/Threads: 6 / 12Base Frequency: 4.1GHzTop Boost Frequency: 4.8GHzTDP: 65WTODAY’S BEST DEALS

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REASONS TO BUY

+Strong gaming performance+Strong in single- and multi-threaded workloads+Relatively easy to cool+PCIe 4.0+Bundled cooler+Power efficiency+Works with existing 500-series motherboards

REASONS TO AVOID

-Higher gen-on-gen pricing

The AMD Ryzen 5 5600X takes the top spot as the best AMD CPU for gaming with a solid blend of Intel-beating performance in both gaming and application workloads. You can often find this six-core 12-thread chip at $230, a deep discount brought on by competitive pressure from Intel. The Ryzen 5 5600X even beats the Intel Core i9-10900K at gaming, which is an incredible feat given its price point. Not to mention that it’s among the most power-efficient desktop PC processors we’ve ever tested. 

AMD’s Zen 3 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 $330 Ryzen 7 5800X. That makes the 5600X 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.    

The Ryzen 5 5600X 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 (the previous-gen model was 95W). Existing AMD owners with a 500-series motherboard will breathe a sigh of relief as the 5600X drops right into existing 500-series motherboards. You can also drop the chips right into 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 5600X Review

Intel Core i9-12900K
Intel Core i9-12900K (Image credit: Intel)

2. Intel Core i9-12900K

High Performance Value Best CPU for Gaming

SPECIFICATIONS

Architecture: Alder LakeSocket: LGA 1700Cores/Threads: 16 (8P+8E) / 24Base Frequency: 3.2Top Boost Frequency: 5.2TDP: 125WTODAY’S BEST DEALS

Prime

VIEW AT AMAZONView at Adorama WW

REASONS TO BUY

+Fastest gaming processor you can buy+Competitive pricing+DDR5 and PCIe 5.0+Leading single-threaded performance+Multi-threaded performance+Overclockable

REASONS TO AVOID

-No bundled cooler-Requires LGA1700 motherboard-Platform pricing

The Intel Core i9-12900K once held the title of the fastest gaming processor on the planet. At $589, it even outperforms AMD’s Ryzen 9 5950X in gaming and even 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. 

The 12900K also supports leading-edge connectivity with support 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 chip comes with eight P-cores that support hyper-threading, and eight single-threaded E-cores for a total of 24 threads. The P-cores have a 3.2 GHz base, and peak frequencies reach 5.2 GHz with Turbo Boost Max 3.0 (this feature is only active on P-cores). Meanwhile, the E-cores have a 2.4 GHz base and stretch up to 3.9 GHz via the standard Turbo Boost 2.0 algorithms. The chip is also equipped with 30MB of L3 cache and 14MB of L2.

This 12900K has a 125W PBP (base) and 241W 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 a new 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 i9-12900K Review

AMD Ryzen 9 3950X
AMD Ryzen 9 3950X (Image credit: Future/Shutterstock)

AMD Ryzen 9 5950X

High Performance Value Best CPU for Gaming – Alternate Pick

SPECIFICATIONS

Architecture: Zen 3Socket: AM4Cores/Threads: 16/32Base Frequency: 3.4GHzTop Boost Frequency: 4.9GHzTDP: 105WTODAY’S BEST DEALS

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VIEW AT AMAZON

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View at Amazon

REASONS TO BUY

+Class-leading 16 cores & 32 threads+Overclockable+Higher boost frequencies+Reasonable price-per-core+Power efficiency+PCIe Gen 4.0

REASONS TO AVOID

-Requires beefy cooling-No bundled cooler-Higher gen-on-gen pricing-No integrated graphics

High end desktop processors have long offered the ultimate in performance, as long as you were willing to pay the price. 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 most cost-conscious users who could benefit from the threaded horsepower of a HEDT chip just settle for mainstream offerings.

AMD’s Ryzen 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 $550 price tag, but that’s downright affordable compared to competing HEDT processors that don’t offer the same class of performance.

We generally don’t recommend HEDT processors for enthusiasts that are only interested in gaming. Gamers are best served by mainstream processors (with fewer cores and higher clocks) that are often faster in games; the Ryzen 9 5950X also falls into the same category – AMD’s lesser 5000-series models are a better value for gamers. 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 Ryzen 9 5950X fits the bill like no other CPU before it.

Read: AMD Ryzen 9 5950X Review

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D
(Image credit: AMD)

3. AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D

Overall Value Best CPU for Gaming

SPECIFICATIONS

Architecture: Zen 3Socket: AM4Cores/Threads: 8/16Base Frequency: 3.4GHzTop Boost Frequency: 4.5GHzTDP: 105WTODAY’S BEST DEALSCHECK AMAZONView at Newegg

REASONS TO BUY

+The fastest gaming CPU money can buy+Competitive price+Support for PCIe 4.0+Compatible with AM4 motherboards+Passable single- and multi-threaded performance+Low power consumption

REASONS TO AVOID

-No overclocking support-No bundled cooler-No integrated graphics-Not as strong as competing chips in desktop PC applications 

The $449 Ryzen 7 5800X3D‘s 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, dethroning Intel’s $589 Alder Lake Core i9-12900K and $739 Core i9-12900KS from the top of our gaming charts.

On average at 1080p, the $449 Ryzen 7 5800X3D is ~9% faster than the  $589 Core i9-12900K, which costs 30% more, and ~7% faster than the $739 Core i9-12900KS, which costs a whopping 64% more. That means the Ryzen 7 58000X3D is both the fastest AMD gaming chip in our test suite and faster for gaming than any Intel model.

However, you have to be aware of the tradeoffs with this highly-specialized chip – the 3D V-Cache doesn’t boost performance in all games, though we found that it impacted nearly every single game 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. The Core i9-12900K is 29% faster in single-threaded work and 62% faster in threaded applications, and the 12900KS is even faster still.

If you’re looking for a more balanced chip that does well at both gaming and applications, the $385 Core i7-12700K listed below is a solid choice. The Core i7-12700K is 28.8% faster in single-threaded work and 40% faster in multi-threaded work than the 5800X3D, showing that it is the best all-rounder in this price range.

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. 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 Alder Lake’s leading-edge connectivity options, like DDR5 and PCIe 5.0.

The Ryzen 7 5800X3D has much lower power consumption than the Core i9-12900KS and 12900K, 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 leading-edge gaming performance and leaves room for future GPU upgrades.

ReadRyzen 7 5800X3D Review

Intel Core i7-12700K
(Image credit: Intel, Shutterstock)

Intel Core i7-12700K

Overall Value Best CPU for Gaming- Alternate Pick

SPECIFICATIONS

Architecture: Alder LakeSocket: LGA 1700Cores/Threads: 12 (8P+4E) / 20Base Frequency: 3.6 GHzTop Boost Frequency: 4.9 GHzTDP: 125 / 190WTODAY’S BEST DEALS

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REASONS TO BUY

+Price+Matches 12900K gaming performance+Single- and Multi-threaded performance+Class-leading gaming performance+PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 memory+Overclockable+Power efficiency improved

REASONS TO AVOID

-No bundled cooler-Platform pricing-Draws more power than Ryzen

At $385, the 12700K thoroughly beats the $330 Ryzen 7 5800X and even unseats the pricey $550 Ryzen 9 5900X, all while delivering essentially the same gaming performance as Intel’s own $589 flagship Core i9-12900K — but for significantly less.

In 1080p gaming, the Core i7-12700K is an impressive 12% faster than the Ryzen 7 5800X in gaming. However, the $449 Ryzen 7 5800X3D is 13% faster at 1080p than the stock Core i7-12700K, but only 3.6% faster than an overclocked 12700K config. However, the Core i7-12700K is a much better all-rounder if you’re looking for performance in productivity work, so you should select the 5800X3D if you’re only interested in gaming performance in the $400 to $475 price bracket, and the 12700K if you’re more interested in a balanced blend of price and performance.

The 12700K has serious chops in productivity work: In lightly-threaded apps, the 12700K is ~17% faster than the 5800X and 5900X. In threaded work, the Core i7-12700K is 2.5% faster than the Ryzen 9 5900X, though the 5900X does carve out a few wins in heavily-threaded apps. The competition isn’t even close with the Ryzen 7 5800X3D —The Core i7-12700K is 28.8% faster in single-threaded work and 40% faster in multi-threaded work, showing that it is the best all-rounder in this price range.

The Core i7-12700K has eight P-cores (high-performance) and four E-cores (Efficiency), for a total of 20 threads. The P-cores run at a 3.6 / 5.0 GHz base/boost while the E-cores weigh in at 2.7 / 3.8 GHz. In addition, the chip is fed by 25MB of L3 cache and 12MB of L2.

The 12900K also supports leading-edge connectivity with support 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 12700K has a 125W PBP (base) and 190W 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 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 i7-12700K Review

AMD Ryzen 9 5900X

Overall Value Best CPU for Gaming – Alternate Pick

SPECIFICATIONS

Architecture: Zen 3Socket: AM4Cores/Threads: 12/24Base Frequency: 3.7GHzTop Boost Frequency: 4.8GHzTDP: 65WTODAY’S BEST DEALS

Prime

VIEW AT AMAZON

REASONS TO BUY

+Support for PCIe 4.0+Unlocked multiplier+Compatible with 500-series motherboards+Excellent gaming performance +Excellent single- and multi-threaded performance

REASONS TO AVOID

-No bundled cooler-Higher gen-on-gen pricing-No integrated graphics

Intel Core i5-12600K
Intel Core i5-12600K (Image credit: Intel)

4. Intel Core i5-12600K

Best Mid-Range CPU for Gaming

SPECIFICATIONS

Architecture: Alder LakeSocket: LGA 1700Cores/Threads: 10 (6P + 4E) / 16Base Frequency: 3.7Top Boost Frequency: 4.9TDP: 125WTODAY’S BEST DEALS

Prime

VIEW AT AMAZONView at Adorama WWView at OverclockersSee all prices (4 found)

REASONS TO BUY

+Exceptional gaming performance+Competitive pricing+PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 memory+Overclockable+Outgames the Ryzen competition

REASONS TO AVOID

-No bundled cooler-Requires LGA1700 motherboard-Platform pricing

The $280 Core i5-12600K provides leading gaming performance at its price point, outshining the $230 Ryzen 5 5600X. The 12600K offers up to 38% more threaded performance than the Ryzen 5 5600X, too, and even 7% more performance than the $330 Ryzen 7 5800X. Coupled with the snappy single-threaded performance, this is one of the best gaming CPUs on the market.

The 12600K comes with six threaded P-cores that operate at 3.7 / 4.9 GHz and four E-cores that run at 2.8 / 3.6 GHz, for a total of 16 threads. That’s paired with 20MB of L3 and 9.5MB 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 i5-12600K 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. 

The 12600K comes with a maximum power rating of 150W, 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 600-series motherboard for the processor, and Z690 models are currently your only option. You can find a wide selection of high-end models that support DDR5 memory, and although you’ll only find lower-end and mid-range DDR4 motherboards, there’s still plenty of selection available.

Read: Core i5-12600K Review 

Intel Core i3-12100
(Image credit: Intel, Shutterstock)

5. Intel Core i3-12100

Budget Best CPU for Gaming

SPECIFICATIONS

Architecture: Alder LakeSocket: LGA 1700Cores/Threads: 4 (4P + 0E) / 8Base Frequency: 3.3Top Boost Frequency: 4.3TDP: 60WTODAY’S BEST DEALS

Prime

VIEW AT AMAZON

REASONS TO BUY

+Superb price/performance+Leading gaming and single-thread performance+Capable bundled cooler+Supports DDR4 and DDR5+PCIe 5.0+Low power consumption+Supports memory overclocking 

REASONS TO AVOID

-No Turbo Boost 3.0 (only 2.0)-Core frequency not overclockable

Like the rest of the Alder Lake family, the $130 Core i3-12100 comes to market with disruptive pricing. The chip also comes as a $104 F-series Core i3-12100F that Intel ships with deactivated integrated graphics for $25 less than the full-featured model. In fact, with no clear current-gen competitor from AMD and stellar performance for its price point, the Core i3-12100 easily leads our CPU benchmark hierarchy in the $105 to $130 bracket. Overall, the quad-core i3-12100’s potent combination of price, performance, and improved stock cooler dominates the $100 to $130 price range while punching up against more expensive competitors.

The Core i3-12100 now reigns as the fastest budget gaming CPU on the market and it’s plenty impressive in lightly-threaded apps, too: None of AMD’s chips match the 12100 in single-threaded work, so you’ll have to look to other Alder Lake chips to find faster performance. The Core i3-12100 is also impressive in threaded productivity workloads for its price point.

The Core i3-12100 comes with a 60W PBP (base) and 89W MTP (peak) power rating. The chip clocks in with a 3.3 GHz base and boosts up to 4.3 GHz. It also comes with 12 MB of L3 cache. Intel’s Alder Lake drops into Socket 1700 motherboards from the 600-series, including Z690, H670, B660, and H610. The Core i3-12100 is a locked chip, meaning it isn’t overclockable. However, Intel supports memory overclocking on Z690, B660 and H670 motherboards (Z690 doesn’t make sense for this class of chip, though).

The Core i3-12100 doesn’t have a similarly-priced competitor from AMD. However, despite a total lack of competition, it still brings impressive generational performance gains to the table. In fact, in 1080p gaming, the $129 Core i3-12100 delivers 88% of the $299 Core i5-12400’s performance, but for 56% less cash. That’s a winning blend of price and performance.

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