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 currently on the market.
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 2016, you’re going to need a quality CPU. While some games (like first person shooters) are heavily dependent on your graphics 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 processor if you’re building a $400 budget gaming PC, because you wouldn’t have very much money left over for other parts.
And, likewise, putting a $100 processor in a high-end $1,000 gaming PC probably isn’t a good use of your budget as well.
In this post, we will take a look at the best CPUs for gaming in 2016. 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 gaming 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.
There really aren’t a whole lot of practical uses for Intel’s Extreme processors. And, they’re so expensive—despite not providing a significant performance gain—in comparison to the mainstream Intel processors that they are hard to justify.
Still, though, if you have thousands of dollars to burn and you love riding on the cutting edge of technology, then I suppose I won’t fault you for putting an Intel Extreme processor in your system.
And, while the i7-6950X and i7-6900K are extremely overpriced, the i7-6800K and i7-5820K are actually fairly reasonable and won’t break the bank.
Just remember, though, that if you want to go with an Intel Extreme processor, that you also need to pair it with an LGA 2011 motherboard.
Extreme CPU Comparison ChartThese Tier 1 CPUs are comprised completely of Intel processors. It’s not that AMD processors aren’t capable gaming CPUs, it’s just that the best Intel processors offer the most all-around 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.
Tier 1 CPU Comparison Chart
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 i5-6500 and i5-6400 are better options.
Ultimately, though, since modern games are now mostly GPU dependent, any of the processors in this tier will deliver a similar experience to the Tier 1 processors listed above. So, if you are working with a budget and you want to save some money to allocate to your video card, you can definitely get by with these more budget-friendly CPUs.
Tier 2 CPU Comparison ChartFor 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. But the Intel Core i3 CPUs are also phenomenal budget-oriented options that will hold up in most cases as well. And, the best part about the Intel core i3 CPUs is that they will allow you to upgrade to a high-end Intel Core i5 or i7 CPU later down the road without having you to change out other hardware to accommodate the upgrade.
All-in-all, these CPUs aren’t the best processors are the market, but they are affordable and will get the job done for anyone looking to build an entry-level gaming computer.
Tier 3 CPU Comparison ChartIf 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 be able to build a solid entry-level gaming PC.
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
NEED HELP CHOOSING A GAMING CPU?
While list covers my opinions on what the best CPUs for gaming are, it’s inevitable that others will disagree with me. And, that’s fine! I based this list off of price-to-performance and not necessarily on what CPUs were the best overall performing CPUs. And, because I mainly looked at price-to-performance, some CPUs (like a few Intel Extreme CPUs as well as some AMD APUs) were left off the list entirely.
Ultimately, though, if you’re in the market for a new gaming computer and you are planning on buying a new system, or if you are just looking for an upgrade for your current system, and you have questions, please post them below.