The Best Gaming CPUs for 2014

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.

Intel Core i7-4770kThe 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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THE BEST GAMING CPUs – TIER 1

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 JD on Amazon:

Overall I think Haswell has performed great for me, although results will undoubtedly vary. I bought my CPU not knowing much about overclocking and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was and my results. It did take me a good amount of time tweaking settings and then testing over and over but it produced a reliable and high performance overclock.

From Skeptic on Amazon:

This went into my buddy’s Z87 build. Runs very cool and crunches through any FPS or RTS he throws at it. Didn’t bother installing custom heat sink as the stock is plenty. I could have overclocked it easily but it has plenty of power out of the box.


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

While the i7-4790K is still priced $20 more than the i7-4770K on Amazon, it does come with a higher clock speed over the original Haswell CPU. And, while that performance gain might not be significant in real world situations, if you’re putting a lot of money into your rig, you might as well squeeze out as much speed as possible.

In any case, whether you choose to get the i7-4770K or the i7-4790K, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference while gaming. However, if you’re going with a brand new build, you might as well go with the newer architecture.

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

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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 A buyer on Amazon:

I installed this on a new computer build. With the stock heatsink and fan the temperature was about 40c on idle with 21c ambient temperature. I replaced it with a CM T4 and the temperature lowered by about 10c. I have this with a GTX 770, 8gb DDR3, TJ08 case and a 2560×1440 monitor and it works great. Intel makes great CPUs and I am satisfied with this product.

From Kasper on Amazon:

I’m going to make this short and sweet. This is a great cpu and I gotta say I have no regrets with this purchase. Yes it’s hit or miss on how high you’ll be able to OC but even @ 4.4 – 4.5 it’ll out perform a 4.7- 4.8 ivy. The only thing I can complain about is that it does run alot hotter than I’m normaly used to even on water.


THE BEST GAMING CPUs – TIER 2

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 an ideal gaming experience.

And, at $200 or less, these processors are a little more affordable than the Tier 1 CPUs, which makes them ideal 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-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 refreshl 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 David on Newegg:

Upgrade from a AMD FX 4100 and wow what a difference, the games I play now default to higher settings and game play in general is much smoother. This thing plough’s through everything else I have thrown at it so far.

From OJ on Newegg:

At first I was skeptical about transitioning from AMD due to costs but I can honestly say I am glad I made the transition. The installation was easy and so far this has been the smoothest running processor that I have ever owned.


AMD FX-8350 ($180-$200)
(Prices fluctuate–check here for current pricing)

The FX-8350 is an interesting option at a little under $200. While it lacks 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 in the $200 range, 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 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 Julio on Amazon:

Overall, I’m extremely satisfied with this product, as I always have been when it comes to AMD. If you’re looking for enthusiast-level performance at an affordable price, this CPU is what you’re looking for!

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.”


THE BEST GAMING CPUs – TIER 3

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.


THE BEST GAMING CPUs – TIER 4

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. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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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