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Best CPUs for gaming 2020

Buying a processor for a gaming rig isn’t as hard as it used to be. Now that AMD’s Ryzen and Intel’s 9th-gen Core CPUs come with more performance and cores than ever before, it’s hard to buy a stinker these days—especially because most games favor graphics firepower over CPU oomph. All that said, there are specific chips that stand out from the horde as the best gaming CPUs due to their price, performance, or nifty extras.

Whether you’re on a budget or willing to pay for sheer face-melting speed, these are the best CPUs for gaming PCs that you can buy.

Editor’s note: We last updated this article with news about the fierce battle in gaming laptops, and to mention the supply constraints for Intel’s 8-core chips in our “High-end gaming CPU” section.

Latest gaming CPU news

This guide focuses on desktop processors, but things are heating up in gaming laptops, too. Both AMD and Intel revealed new enthusiast-class notebook chips in the same week, and they impress in different ways.

AMD’s Ryzen 4000-series are the first mobile processors built using the cutting-edge 7nm technology, relying on the same “Zen 2” cores powering the Ryzen 3000-series desktop chips discussed below. Bottom line: They kick ass. “AMD’s Ryzen 9 4900HS deals a crushing blow to Intel’s most powerful laptop CPUs,” we said in our Ryzen 4000 review, outrunning everything except monstrous notebooks equipped with a desktop Core i9-9900K. Even more impressive? It does so in an unprecedented form factor. The spectacular Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 we used to test AMD’s latest chip weighs a mere 3.5 pounds and even manages to cram a GeForce RTX 2060 into its tiny frame. Wowza.

Mere days later, Intel unveiled its own “Comet Lake H” 10th-gen Core processors for gaming laptops. These blisteringly fast chips still use the company’s long-lasting 14nm technology, but crank clock speeds to ludicrous levels. The fastest CPU, the uber-premium Core i9-10980HK, ramps all the way up to 5.3GHz in the proper conditions. 10th-gen Core gaming laptops haven’t been reviewed yet, but you can read about the lineup and their new capabilities here.

The best gaming CPU for most people

AMD Ryzen 5 3600X ($235 on Amazon)

Intel’s ruled the gaming roost for seemingly time eternal, but in 2019, AMD seized the mainstream crown. Pound for pound, the Ryzen 5 3600X is the best gaming CPU for most people, and the best mid-range CPU period.

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