The Best Gaming CPUs for 2014

Best Gaming CPUs

Everyone has heard of the processor. But how important is it towards your gaming experience really? The answer to that is: Very. In this article we’ll go over the best gaming CPUs on the market, so that you can make an informed decision when it comes time to buy your components.

The processor is at the center of everything in your computer. It is the “brains” of the operation.

And, in order to build a solid gaming computer in 2014, you’re going to need a quality CPU.

While some games (like first person shooters) are heavily dependent on your video card, other games (like RTS’ and MMORPGs) have many more calculations that need to be carried out and therefore utilize your processor more.

This should factor into your decision when looking for the best gaming CPU for your build.

Another thing you’ll need to take into account is the total budget you’ve set for your build. You obviously don’t want to spend $300 on a CPU when your total budget is $550, because you wouldn’t have very much money left over for other parts.

In this post, we will take a look at the best gaming CPUs in 2014. I’ve broken down the categories into four different tiers based on performance. While Tier 1 CPUs offer the most all-around performance, that doesn’t necessarily make them the best options if you are working with a budget. Even Tier 4 processors are good options if you are playing non-demanding games and you have a low budget.

For each Tier there are multiple CPUs listed and a few of those processors have a brief overview below.

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TIER 1GAMING PROCESSORS

These Tier 1 CPUs are comprised completely on Intel processors. It’s not that AMD doesn’t make capable gaming processors, it’s just that Intel offers the best all-around CPU performance.

However, the CPU you choose will not have nearly as big of an impact on your in-game performance as will your video card. Rather, when choosing a processor for your gaming computer, you want to choose one that will not hinder the performance of your video card.

It’s important to note that all of the Tier 2 CPUs will handle any game just fine and will not hinder even the most powerful of video cards. Even the Tier 3 CPUs are very viable options and will not create a bottleneck in the majority of situations.

So, then why choose a Tier 1 CPU if you can save money and go with a Tier 2 or Tier 3 CPU?

Well, Tier 1 CPUs offer better overall processor performance. While they may not offer more in-game performance, they will provide better performance outside of gaming. So, if you’re looking to do more than just game and high processing power is important to you, then these Tier 1 CPUs are a good choice.

*Intel’s extreme processor are not currently included on this list, but they will likely be added in the future. While Intel’s extreme processors don’t bring any significant benefits to gaming setups, if you have an unlimited budget and you want to push your system to the max, they may be worth your consideration.

Tier 1 CPU Comparison Chart

Picture CPU Clock  Cores OC? TDP Price
Intel Core i7-4790K 4.0/4.4 GHz 4 Yes 88W Hover
Intel Core i7-4790 3.6/4.0 GHz 4 No 84W Hover
Intel Core i5-4690K 3.5/3.9 GHz 4 Yes 88W Hover
Intel Core i5-4690 3.5/3.9GHz 4 No 84W Hover
Intel Core i7-4820K 3.7/3.9GHz 4 Yes 130W Hover

Intel Core i5-4690k ($200-$230)
(Prices fluctuate–check here for current pricing)

With the recent Haswell refresh, for new builds I recommend going with the updated i5-4690K over the original i5-4670K.

In all honesty, though, either of these processors are going to get the job done just fine. And, if you can find the i5-4670K for significantly cheaper, then by all means jump on it.

And, it’s still true that the i5-4670K offers more than enough performance for any game on the market. However, seeing that the i5-4690K is the newer and “faster” chip, and that the two are fairly similar in price, you might as well jump on the newer model if you’re building a new system.

Ultimately, the difference between the two CPUs is so slim that in real world performance it doesn’t really matter. Overall, though, the i5-4690K is going to offer a slight performance over the i5-4670K for about the same price.

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i5-4690k Benefits

  • Higher clock speed than original Haswell CPUs
  • Four cores makes it a very capable multi-tasker
  • One of the best price-to-performance CPUs on the market
  • Excellent single-core performance
  • 6MB L3 Cache
  • 88w Thermal Design Power (energy-efficient)
  • Dual Channel memory support for DDR3-1333 or DDR3-1600 memory

Customer Reviews

From ASL on Amazon:

In games like bf4 im able to play at around 60-90 fps and sometimes dips to the 50’s fps on ultra with a gtx 660. DayZ is also signifigantly better because it plays much smoother. This processor gets in the 40’s and 50’s degrees C while gaming so it stays pretty cool even overclocked.

From Chris Scharf on Amazon:

This is a fantastic CPU for gaming. I upgraded from a Phenom II x2, unlocked to an x4, and the difference even at stock clocks is extremely noticeable. The i5 with my 7950 has handled very high settings on all the games I’ve thrown at it. On top of all that, I was able to get a stable overclock of 4.4 GHz with a better air cooler.


Intel Core i7-4790k ($300-$330)
(Prices fluctuate–check here for current pricing)

Now that the i7-4790K is sitting at about the same price as the i7-4770K on Amazon, it’s a no-brainer for system builders to choose it for their new builds. However, if you’re looking for an upgrade over the i7-4770K, save your money because the performance increase isn’t significant enough to justify the upgrade cost.

Ultimately, though, you should only be looking at the i7-4790K if you’ll also be using your system as a workstation (graphics/video editing, CAD, rendering, etc.). If you’re looking to build a system solely for gaming, then the i5-4690K is the better option.

And, if you’re not planning on overclocking, your best bet is the i7-4790 or i5-4690.

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i7-4790k Specs

  • Clocks at 4.0 GHz (4.4 GHz Turbo)
  • Four cores and eight threads give the i7-4790K incredible performance in multi-threaded applications
  • Decent overclocker
  • Multiple threads and the ability to hit high clock rates when overclocked make the i7-4790K one of the most future-proof CPUs on the market
  • 8MB L3 Cache
  • 88w Thermal Design Power (energy-efficient)
  • Dual Channel memory support for DDR3-1333 or DDR3-1600 memory

Customer Reviews

From Steve on Amazon:

I am very happy that I made the decision to get the 4790k to replace my A10 because now paired with my R9 290x I can play Battlefield 4 at over 100FPS at 1920×1080 with the default settings making me play on Ultra everything. If you are wanting to upgrade to a nice top of the line CPU and have the cash to spare, I recommend this 100%!

From Jose L. Maysonet on Amazon:

Going back on track, this CPU will fulfill the expectations of anyone seeking a good upgrade while keeping the same Z87 motherboard to the ones willing to have a better OC experience compared to 4770K. Now I feel and see my GTX 780 being pleased by my shinny i7-4790k. I don’t wan’t to arbitrary say that I got a golden one but this one does not break a sweat when it is OC’d to 4.8GHz @ 1.3v / 86C Max!!!


TIER 2GAMING PROCESSORS

Tier 2 is comprised of a set of excellent gaming processor options. While these CPUs don’t bring quite as much to the table as the Tier 1 CPUs, they are definitely powerful enough to deliver a more than ideal gaming experience.

And, at $200 or less, these processors are a little more affordable than the Tier 1 CPUs, which makes them perfect options for anyone who has a moderate budget.

If you want to overclock your CPU for more performance or you’re using your computer to run applications and games that utilize more than 8 cores/threads , the FX-8320 and FX-8350 are your best bet. If it’s single-core performance and power efficiency that you’re looking for, then the i5-4590 and i5-4460 are better options.

Tier 2 CPU Comparison Chart

Picture CPU Clock  Cores OC? TDP Price
Intel Core i5-4590 3.3/3.7GHz 4 No 84W Hover
Intel Core i5-4460 3.2/3.4GHz 4 No 84W Hover
AMD FX-9590 4.7GHz 8 Yes 220W Hover
AMD FX-9370 4.4GHz 8 Yes 220W Hover
AMD FX-8350 4.0/4.2GHz 8 Yes 125W Hover
AMD FX-8320 3.5/4.0GHz 8 Yes 125W Hover

Intel Core i5-4590 ($190-$210)
(Prices fluctuate–check here for current pricing)

In the technology world, newer is almost always better.

However, Intel’s newest line of Haswell processors have some enthusiasts confused.

With only a small increase in stock performance over the initial Haswel CPUs, the refresh chips may not be the best option for hardware enthusiasts who are looking to upgrade.

Although, for anyone looking to build a brand new system, the Haswell refresh is a great option. For about $190-$210 you can grab the Intel Core i5-4590 quad-core processor.

While the processor can’t be overclocked, it is the fastest CPU in single-threaded performance between $150-$200 and with four-cores it is definitely capable of running multi-threaded applications very well. Ultimately, the i5-4590 is the perfect option for gamers who are content with sticking to the stock speeds and don’t want to spend over $200.

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i5-4590 Benefits

  • New Haswell refresh has faster clock speeds than initial Haswell chips
  • Incredible single-core performance
  • Can’t be overclocked but features Intel’s Turbo Boost Technology
  • Four cores allows the i5-4590 to perform well in multi-threaded applications

Customer Reviews

From Emilio Vargas on Amazon:

Intel’s Core i5 processors are well known for their high-end gaming potential at reasonable prices, the 4590 it’s not the exception. Offers great balance between price/performance at $200. This CPU’s multiplier is locked but you don’t need any overclocking to achieve good frame rates with it.

From S. Bissen on Amazon:

Of course, Intel has produced another fast processor that is dependable. If you are looking for a mid-priced processor that is dependable and fast – this is the one.


AMD FX-8350 ($140-$180)
(Prices fluctuate–check here for current pricing)

If you’re on a budget and you’re looking for a steal of a deal, then the FX-8350 is an interesting option right now. Currently, you can get the FX-8350 for about $150. That’s an amazing deal for a very capable CPU.

While the FX-8350 does lack the single-threaded performance of an Intel Core i5-4570, 4670, and 4670K, it does perform well in multi-threaded applications. And, unlike the i5-4570/4670 it can be overclocked as well.

The FX-8350 is not as efficient as its Intel counterparts, but it will definitely not bottleneck your GPU while gaming and that’s what matters most. So, if you have a preference towards AMD products, you want to overclock, and you’re looking for perhaps the best deal on a high-end CPU, then the FX-8350 is definitely worth your consideration.

And, if you want to save even more money, you can always get the FX-8320–which is usually about $30 less than the FX-8350–and overclock it to FX-8350 levels.

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FX-8350 Benefits

  • Eight cores help it perform well in multi-threaded applications
  • Can be overclocked to very high levels
  • Cost-effective CPU that will handle any game you throw at it
  • Great streaming/recording CPU

Customer Reviews

From Sak on Amazon:

Was worried about performance by all the reviews, decided to take the plunge. Upgraded from an AMD 965BE witch to me was a very good processor, setup with hd6950 crossfire. Installed the fx-8350, difference was night and day. Frame rate increased no more choppiness smooth as butter. All programs open and close as fast or even faster with the fx-8350. Couldn’t be happier. Thanks AMD.

From SR “Sir” on Amazon:

Thank you Intel fan boys for bad mouthing the FX chips. You guys made it possible for this ultra beast of a chip to be so cheap. Bench marks, smench marks. real world is where it counts and this thing’s chinese name is “hung-lo.”


AMD FX-9590 ($300-$320)
(Prices fluctuate–check here for current pricing)

AMD has significantly dropped the prices on their extreme 9000 series CPUs over the past month.

It wasn’t too long ago when their FX-9590 was prices at $900. Now, you can grab it for $310.

However, before you head out to grab the FX-9590 it’s important that you take a couple of things into consideration…

First, the FX-9590 has an astounding 220W TDP. That means if you’re putting it in your system you need to make sure you have a beefy motherboard, power supply, and CPU cooler. A stock cooler will not be ideal with this CPU.

Secondly, in my opinion, if you’re willing to spend ~$310 on a CPU, you might as well go with the more efficient Intel Core i7-4790K. Of course, if you prefer to support AMD, then the FX-9590 is still a viable option. Just remember that you’re going to need to more expensive hardware to accommodate it.

Ultimately, though, I’d prefer an Fx-8350 or 8320 for over $150 less as they can be overclocked to approach FX-9590 speeds.

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FX-9390 Benefits

  • Eight cores help it perform well in multi-threaded applications
  • Can be overclocked
  • High clock speeds give it added performance
  • Great streaming/recording CPU

Customer Reviews

From Iulian on Amazon:

I’m not going to talk about performance here, there are plenty of reviews on the net. At 900$ (or even 700$) this was a joke. But it’s now around 300 so it’s worth the upgrade if you’re coming from something less than an 8350.

From magis123 on Amazon:

If you want an ass kicking, supercharged monster from Monster Island who makes Godzilla curl up into a fetal position and cry little lightning tears, BUY THIS PROCESSOR!


TIER 3GAMING PROCESSORS

For gamers who have a lower budget, these Tier 3 CPUs are excellent options. In fact, in most gaming scenarios, they offer enough power to not be a hindrance to your video card.

Therefore, if you have less to spend on your gaming computer, you can choose one of these CPUs to help you allocate more to your video card–which will ultimately give you better in-game performance.

The FX-6300 is probably the best option in this group as it’s very affordable, overclockable, and will not hinder even the top video cards in most situation.

All-in-all, these CPUs aren’t the best processors are the market, but they are affordable and will get the job done.

Tier 3 CPU Comparison Chart

Picture CPU Clock  Cores OC? TDP Price
AMD FX-6300 3.5/4.1GHz 6 Yes 95W Hover
Intel Core i3-4150 3.5GHz 2 No 54W Hover
AMD FX-6350 3.9GHz 6 Yes 125W Hover
Intel Core i3-4350 3.6GHz 2 No 54W Hover

AMD FX-6300 ($110-$150)
(Prices fluctuate–check here for current pricing)

AMD FX-6300 Six Core ProcessorThe $100-$150 price range has long been the most controversial range for choosing a processor…

…there’s no doubt that under $100, AMD is the way to go, and above $150 there’s so many solid Intel options that it’s hard not to choose one of their processors.

However, for the $100-$150 range I have to go with the AMD FX-6300. For under $150 you get a six core processor that can be overclocked. And, that’s better than any Intel processor in the same price range.

It’s true that the i3-3220 outperforms the FX-6300 in single-core performance. However, with more games starting to utilize more cores, the FX-6300 definitely seems like the better future-proofed processor. And, with the ability to overclock, the FX-6300 has the most potential out of the processors in this range.

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FX-6300 Benefits

  • Clocks at 3.5 GHz (4.1 GHz Turbo)
  • Multi-cores make the FX-6300 one of the most affordable future-proofed CPUs on the market
  • Can be overclocked to hit extreme speeds
  • Perhaps one of the best all around performance/cost ratio on the market
  • Excellent multi-tasking processor

Customer Reviews

From c5wagner on Amazon:

This FX 6300 exceeded what I expected. It handles single threaded applications much better and does everything much better. All my games had a framerate increase of 10-15fps over my old Phenom II. I am very happy with this chip and how easily it overclocks.

From David Morris on Amazon:

I haven’t had any issues with this processor, it works great and the price is excellent. I haven’t overclocked it yet because there is no need to as of now. I am running this with a Radeon 7870 and it works great for my mid range build.


TIER 4GAMING PROCESSORS

If you have an extremely tight budget, then you will want to consider take a look at these Tier 4 CPUs. They won’t offer the best performance, but if you’re just looking to build a system that will at least play most games on lower settings, then they will easily accomplish that.

As mentioned above, the video card you choose will play a bigger role in determining your in-game performance. So, by choosing one of these more affordable CPUs you can allocate more money towards a better video card and you’ll

If your budget is so tight that you can’t afford a video card, then the two APUs listed will allow you to build an entry-level system that relies on integrated graphics. This won’t be the best solution, but it will allow you to get your feet in the door.

Tier 4 CPU Comparison Chart

Picture CPU Clock  Cores OC? TDP Price
AMD FX-4300 3.8/4.0GHz 4 Yes 95W Hover
AMD FX -4130 3.8GHz 4 Yes 125W Hover
AMD A10-5800K 3.8/4.2GHz 4 Yes 100W Hover
AMD A10-5800K 3.8/4.2GHz 4 Yes 100W Hover
AMD Athlon X4 760K 3.8 4 Yes 100W Hover
AMD Athlon X4 750K 3.4GHz 4 Yes 100W Hover

AMD FX-4300 ($95-$105)
(Prices fluctuate–check here for current pricing)

AMD FX-4130 Quad-Core ProcessorIn the past, I have recommended the AMD Phenom II X4 965 in the under $100 range for processors.

However, due its limited supply, the Phenom II X4 965’s are becoming harder and harder to find, which has resulted in a price hike.

And, since the only reason why I recommended the Phenom II X4 965 over the quad core FX series CPUs is that it frequently went on sale for around $85, it doesn’t make much sense to keep the Phenom II X4 965 as the number one CPU choice under $100.

Fortunately, in the same time that the Phenom II X4 965 has become hard to find, the AMD FX-4300 has dropped in price and now costs right around $100. And, since the FX-4300 offers you a little more performance, it’s a better choice all around.

Although, if you can save up $10-$15 more, the FX-6300 is definitely worth upgrading to…

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FX-4300 Benefits

  • Clocks at 3.8GHz
  • True quad-core processor can handle any game
  • Good for overclocking on a budget
  • Works with socket AM3+
  • Good price-to-performance ratio

Customer Reviews

From Kelly on Amazon:

For those who don’t overclock, this processor is fast. And for those who do, I easely oc’d to 4.7 ghz on air with temps at 27c idle and 48c under 100% load for 8hrs. AMD may not hit the benchmarks that Intel does, but in real world the average user will not see the difference…

From Alltezza on Amazon:

Seriously for 110 bucks at 3.8 Ghz this thing is seriously worth it, especially for gaming. I bought this for my younger cousin to build his new computer and this thing runs everything that Intel i5 and i7 can run gaming wise at least. If youre looking for a cheaper CPU option I would strongly suggest buying this…


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Comments

  1. Shane says

    I’m looking for a budget gaming laptop under $700 for my son who plays SWOTR, Skyrim, Rift style games…
    Here are the few I found:

    *Acer Aspire ($599.95): Intel® CoreTM i5-4210U processor (1.7GHz/2.7GHz w/ Turbo Boost) – 8GB DDR3L memory – 1TB hard drive / 15.6″ HD widescreen CineCrystalTM display (1366 x 768) – NVIDIA® GeForce® 840M w/ 2GB DDR3 VRAM

    *Acer Aspire 2 ($649.99): Intel Core i5-4210U 1.70GHz Dual-Core processor / 8GB DDR3L RAM / 15.6″ Active Matrix TFT Color LCD Display 1920 x 1080 / 1TB HDD / NVIDIA GeForce 840M w/2GB DDR3

    *Asus ($699.99): Intel Core i5-4210U 1.7GHz-Max Turbo Frequency 2.7GHz / 8GB DDR3L / 750GB / NVIDIA GeForce GT 840M-Dedicated 2GB GDDR3 (1920 x 1080)

    They all look fairly close as far as CPU and Graphics Card…Is having 1080HD that important? I like the cheaper one as it has 1TB Hard Drive but not 1080

  2. says

    The AMD FX 9590 should be the top CPU, it tops all the Intel chips!!!
    Works very stable, I use in my PRO rig!!!
    Also, I only use the AMD top four chips in my customer;s custom rigs!!!
    Works great, no problems at all!!!
    Heat from the top chip has no issues at all like how many on Intel’s bandwagon ($$$) says…
    It is top dog and the company is top old school class act!!!

    • Akhilesh says

      You are 100% right as I own a 9590 which is overclocked to 5.2 GHz. But the problem is, 9590 is sold only for individuals and not to companies. Hence,it is underestimated.

  3. Dustin says

    So now that the Intel Core i7-4790K Processor is out would you re-post this as top pick or still stick with Intel Core i5-4670k?

    Also how much better,IYO, is it to the AMD-8350?

  4. Kelby says

    Hey Brent!

    So I was looking at some cooling options for my cpu. My motherboard has an AM3+ socket, and i was thinking about liquid cooling my setup w/ the H100i. It says it’s compatible with AM3 sockets, so does that also mean it would be compatible with mine, or do I have to look elsewhere?

    BTW my motherboard is a Gigabyte GA-970A-DS3

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