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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: Our latest update refreshed the news section.

Latest gaming CPU news

After a fierce battle for laptop supremacy, the attention’s turning back to desktops. In late April, AMD finally announced Ryzen 3 processors and the cheaper B550 motherboard chipset, nine long months after 3rd-gen Ryzen chips hit the streets. The $99 Ryzen 3 3100 and $120 Ryzen 3 3300X are both 65W quad-core, eight-thread chips built using the same 7nm “Zen 2” cores as their more potent brethren. Look for them in May. The long-awaited B550 motherboards, on the other hand, will bring PCIe 4.0 to the masses in mid-June. Until now, the technology’s been limited to pricey X570 boards alone.

Is it a preemptive strike against Chipzilla? Several rumors suggest that Intel’s 10th-gen Core desktop processors will be announced at the end of April before a proper launch at the end of May. Intel hasn’t confirmed it, though. Always take rumors with a punch of salt.

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.

ryzen 9 3900x 3 Gordon Mah Ung/IDG

While Intel removed Hyper-Threading from most of its mainstream Core lineup, leaving most of its Core i5 lineup with six cores and six threads, AMD bestows its Ryzen parts with simultaneous multi-threading, giving the six-core Ryzen 5 3600X a full twelve threads. That gives it a serious advantage in productivity workloads. But for the first time in recent memory, AMD’s mainstream chip outpunches its direct Intel rivals too. AMD infused its third-gen Ryzen chips with massive instructions-per-clock (IPC) improvements and faster clock speeds, with the 3.8GHz Ryzen 5 3600X capable of boosting up to 4.4GHz.

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