The best CPU for gaming doesn't have to be those processors that can boast the highest core counts and clock speeds, however, it certainly helps. Simply put, if you're after the bleeding edge from either Intel or AMD then the flagship models will have more than enough under the hood to see you through this generation of gaming. Both the Intel Core 12th gen and the Ryzen 5000 series are incredibly powerful chipsets, with the former holding the advantage of PCIe 5.0 / DDR5 support. However, it's not all about the high-end, as there are many mid-tier options worth your attention in 2022.
For the vast majority of PC gamers, you're going to be in perfectly good hands with the likes of a current-generation Intel Core i5 CPU or AMD Ryzen 7, with either offering more-than-enough processing power to keep up with today's games. With that said, should you want to branch out into the likes of multimedia production and other hardware intensive-tasks, then you're going to want to aim a little higher. Value for money is of course paramount, so it all depends on what you intend to do with your gaming PC at the end of the day as far as the best CPU for gaming is concerned.
Being able to save on your next processor will give you the option to spend that little bit extra on a faster SSD or more powerful graphics card, which are components that will provide a more noticeable difference to your machine. You're unlikely to bottleneck your rig with a CPU that's a generation behind, the same cannot be said for having a Turing video card in your computer instead of the RTX 30 series, which offers far superior performance across the board. With that said, these are our top picks for the best processors available right now to suit most budgets and preferences.
Best CPU for gaming 2022
The recently released 12th generation Intel i5 Alder Lake processor does what people were expecting from Rocket Lake earlier this year - and actually dethrones AMD Ryzen 5000 series for a competitive price-to-performance ratio that's hard to argue against.
Comparing the Intel Core i5-12600K on the less-than-well-received Intel Core i9-11900K, and the 12600K actually outperforms it for a fraction of the cost. Indeed, its documented performance means it more than deserves a high spot in our roundup but misses out on that top slot for one simple reason: it doesn't run every game - yet. It comes down to DRM (digital rights management) issues that certain newer games such as Assassin's Creed: Valhalla and Immortals Fenyx Rising (PC Gamer has the full list available) that means that some titles won't boot at all and others could face compatibility issues on Windows 10.
Now, there is a workaround, and these problems could be ironed out sooner rather than later, but it's something to keep in mind if you are willing to become an early adopter to the newest range of aggressively priced Intel Core CPUs this year. If you can see past that and want one of the latest processors going from Intel, then this is the one to aim for; a top CPU for gaming.
The AMD Ryzen 5600X may not blow anyone away with its sheer power, but as far as AM4 current-generation chipsets from the company go, it's very hard to beat at its current price point. What's more, the 5600X is frequently on sale, down from its already competitive $260 MSRP.
The AMD Ryzen 5600X is a solid all-around performer with both its single-core and multi-core capabilities in-game, too. That's due in part to this CPU's higher-than-average clock speed combined with its quiet-yet-cool operation over extended periods of time. If you're after a processor to keep your rig ticking over at its best, then the 5600X continues to impress across the board.
The Intel Core i9-12900K finally delivers on the chipset's flagship status with some of the fastest single-core performance on the market, even beating that of AMD's Ryzen 9 5950X in many instances (according to our colleagues at Tom's Hardware (opens in new tab)). For those in the know, that's the fastest AM4 Ryzen chipset you can currently buy, and a CPU that will cost you significantly more than the i9-12900K's still hefty
What that means in practical terms is that the Intel Core i9-12900K is not only one of the best CPUs for gaming but also one of the fastest chipsets currently available. The one downside at the time of writing, however, is that you'll need a DDR5 compliant motherboard like the Z690, for native PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 support. If you've got the money for it, though, you're going to witness blisteringly fast speeds that chew through even the most processor-intensive programs and latest games alike.
The Intel Core i7-12700K offers impressive real-world processing prowess for both general computing tasks and in the latest titles alike, making it easily one of the best CPUs for gaming. If you just need a chipset that's capable of keeping up with the newest games first and foremost then the Intel Core i5-12600K is more-than-enough for that purpose. However, if you're planning on using your rig as an all-purpose machine, then the i7-12700K is the way to go.
We've contrasted the current generation of Intel CPUs against themselves, though, how does the $409 Intel Core i7-12700K stack up against the $549 AMD Ryzen 9 5900x? Remarkably well, as it goes. Though the 5900x may have more threads and a higher clock speed, we've seen that the i7-12700K either matches or surpasses it when the chips are down.
Then there's also the consideration of PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 RAM support. The Intel Core i7-12700K will support DDR4 memory, but we advise going all-in with a future-proofed system to keep up with the ever-growing demands of modern games. If you're after an all-rounder of a chipset that's ready for the latest technological leaps in performance, then there's very little you can fault this processor on.
With its staggering 12-core (24 threads) architecture, it's no surprise that this Ryzen processor is an absolute beast for just about any task put in front of it - especially high-end gaming in 4K at exceedingly high frame rates (when paired with a capable graphics card, of course).
With that said, if you're only interested in a processor from a raw gaming perspective, then the 5900x is absolute overkill. Indeed, how this chipset handles everything else - such as video rendering/encoding in high resolutions - tips it over the edge. If you're in the creative field and need a real workhorse that can effortlessly game as well (and you've got the money), there's no doubt that this is the one to get. In terms of speed, it's the best CPU for gaming.
Gaming in Quad HD (1440p) in high refresh rates or 4K60 on PC doesn't need to be crazily expensive, and you can sure save a few bucks by opting for a just-as-capable 11th-gen i5 as opposed to an i7. Or an i9 monster, for that matter. The higher clock speed on the i5-11600K means it can hold its own effectively against Ryzen alternatives and some of the 11th generation i7 on CPUs (on a base level) from a purely gaming perspective as well.
That's to say nothing of the overclocking potential afforded by said-higher clock speed, with the potential of being able to be dialed up all the way to 4.90GHz. If you're after a faster-than-light setup for gaming at a competitive price, there isn't much better from Rocket Lake's revisions for the money.