In our series of Best CPU guides, here’s the latest update to our recommended Gaming CPUs list. All numbers in the text are updated to reflect pricing at the time of writing. Numbers in graphs reflect MSRP.

Market Overview

Compared to a very tame June, July saw some more interesting launches and additions within the CPU market. Chief among these was the release of AMD’s mid-generation refresh parts for the Ryzen 3000 family, the Ryzen 3000XT processors. These new processors offer slightly higher performance than their similarly named 3000X counterparts for the same price, with AMD claiming to be taking advantage of a minor update in process node technology in order to achieve slightly better clock frequencies.

The net impact of these new Ryzen parts, however, has proven to be quite small. While on paper the new XT parts launched at the same price points as the previous X parts, in practice the older Ryzen parts have been selling below their MSRPs – sometimes significantly so. As a result the newer XT parts have been a hard sell with the price premium they’ve been carrying, especially as the performance advantage is only a few percent at best. The existing Ryzen 3000X processors, in hindsight, are just that damned good, making them tough to dislodge in the current CPU market.

Meanwhile on the Intel front, higher-end Comet Lake-S processors remain in short supply. As a result the chips can be hard to get, and in the case of flagship Core i9-10900K are pretty much impossible to find anywhere near their intended MSRPs.

As a potential remedy to the situation, Intel this week launched an additional Core i9 SKU, the i9-10850K. This is a 10900K clocked 100MHz lower across the board, and priced a bit cheaper as well. The lower clockspeeds should be easier for Intel to hit – 10900K is clearly on the very far edge of their frequency rage – however this one chip alone won’t fix all of the ongoing shortages. Unfortunately, its real impact won’t be felt quite yet; despite this week’s retail launch, the chip has yet to show up at the likes of Amazon or Newegg.

Price Options
[#] is Amazon Best-Seller Position
# AMD Price AnandTech # Intel Price
[15] Ryzen 9 3950X $689 $650+ [29] Core i9-10900K $770
- - - $500-$650 - -  
[17] Ryzen 9 3900XT $479 $450-$500 [48] Core i9-10900 $499
[4] Ryzen 9 3900X $429 $400-$450 [10] Core i9-9900K $443
[19] Core i7-10700K $409
[40] Ryzen 7 3800XT $399 $350-$400 [27] Core i5-10600K $369
- - - [7] Core i7-9700K $355
[9] Ryzen 7 3800X $329 $300-$350 - - -
[2] Ryzen 7 3700X $279 $250-$300 - Core i7-9700F $299
[23] Core i5-10500 $260
[6] Ryzen 5 3600X $209 $200-$250 - - -
- - - $150-$200 [8] Core i5-9600K $195
[16] - - [21] Core i5-10400 $182
[1] Ryzen 5 3600 $155 - - -
[13] Ryzen 5 3400G $149 $100-$150 [11] Core i5-9400 $149
- - - [44] Core i3-10100 $129
[5] Ryzen 3 3200G $99 $40-$100 - - -
- - - [12] Core i3-9100F $72
- Athlon 3000G $49 - Celeron G4930 $41
Prices are the at the time of writing the best from Amazon

As a result, a quick look at Amazon’s best-selling CPU list looks a lot like June’s list, despite the recent processor launches. AMD’s hex-core Ryzen 5 3600 still holds the top-selling spot, with the octa-core 3700X behind that. The first Intel chip on this list is now at #7, and is once again the last-generation Core i7-9700K. In fact the only Comet Lake-S chip in the top 20 is the Core i7-10700K at #19.

Overall, this month is better for AMD buyers than it is Intel buyers. The more plentiful supply of Ryzen 3000 chips means that AMD is functionally the only game in town for building a new high-end gaming rig. The only downside here is that street prices for AMD’s chips have been drifting up a bit, so July buyers are going to pay a bit more. On the other hand, things are more competitive at the lower-end of the market, where both AMD and Intel have ample chips.

Best CPUs for Gaming July 2020

Sometimes choosing a CPU is hard. So we've got you covered. In our CPU Guides, we give you our pick of some of the best processors available, supplying data from our reviews. Our Best CPUs for Gaming guide targets most of the common system-build price points that typically pair a beefy graphics card with a capable processor, with the best models being suitable for streaming and encoding on the fly. We consider many factors in our recommendations, focusing mainly on gaming, put also including such considerations as power, future-proofing, and other features like PCIe and motherboard pricing.

AnandTech Gaming CPU Recommendations
July 2020
(Prices correct at time of writing)
Segment Recommendation
  AMD Intel
The $1500 Gaming PC Ryzen 7 3700X $279 Core i7-9700F $299
The $1000 Gaming PC Ryzen 5 3600 $155 - -
The $700 Gaming PC Ryzen 3 3200G $99 Core i3-9100F $72
The $500 Gaming PC Ryzen 3 3200G $99 - -
The $300 Gaming Potato Athlon 3000G $49 - -
Ones to Watch AMD Zen 2 Retail APUs
To see our Best CPUs for Workstations Guide, follow this link:
https://www.anandtech.com/show/11891/best-cpus-for-workstations

The majority of our recommendations aim to hit the performance/price curve just right, with a side nod to power consumption as well.

The $1500-$2000 Gaming PC

AMD Ryzen 7 3700X ($279)
Intel Core i7-9700F ($299)

For anyone looking at a strong 4K gaming build, we have to look at the mid-to-premium end of the consumer market in order to help drive those high-end graphics cards. Based on our testing at this resolution, the CPU starts to make little difference in frame rates, although as we look at higher refresh rates/lower frequency, getting a high frequency and high IPC does help. Both AMD and Intel have produced literature stating how their CPUs perform the best when it comes to gaming, but our pick here remains the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X. The price of the chip has drifted up by $6 since last month, but it remains the best option for a CPU below $300, which is the sweet spot for our high-end gaming PC.

At a price of $279 where available, and bundled with the Wraith Prism cooler, users will be looking at one of NVIDIA’s Super cards for graphics, and then hopefully put together the rest of the system with a decent enough motherboard, storage, and DRAM. If we started looking at the $400+ CPUs, then it would cut into that graphics card budget. Plus, at $279 we get the benefits of PCIe 4.0 with AMD as well as a strong memory option.

 

Otherwise for users who absolutely want Intel, they’re going to be in a bit of a predicament. Normally we’d recommended the Core i5-10600K with a good memory overclock as an option at around $300, however neither Amazon nor Newegg have it in stock as a first-party item. All of the KF processors are also curiously missing, and even the i5-10500 is mostly mythical right now. The only viable options right now are either to pay inflated reseller prices for the i5-10600K ($370), or go in a slightly different direction with the i7-9700F, an 8-core processor with a slightly lower TDP and clockspeeds than Intel's usual high-end affairs. Suffice it to say, it’s simply not a good time right now to be buying a higher-end Intel processor.

At any rate, as part of Intel’s latest 10th Generation Comet Lake processors, so users will have to be on the lookout for one of the new Z490 LGA1200 motherboards to pair it with. Here at AnandTech we managed to review the processor, and it performed really well in our testing.

Comparing the 3700X to the i5-10600K, the AMD processor has two more cores and an IPC advantage, which should help for users looking to do additional tasks such as streaming of video playback during their games, however the Intel processor comes with a much higher frequency, eating into that IPC lead. In gaming, something like Grand Theft Auto 5 at 1080p, we saw the Core i5-10600K(F) and the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X on par with average frame rates, and the 3700X slightly ahead by a low single digit percentage on 95th percentiles.

Read our review of the Ryzen 7 3700X here.

The $1000 Gaming PC

AMD Ryzen 5 3600 ($155)

As we move down into more casual PC gaming territory, it has historically been difficult to recommend a good CPU at this price: naturally a lot of money will end up on graphics here, meaning that CPU+GPU could easily account for 60% of the total build cost. In that case, we have to make sure that the CPU can still take a good graphics card at high refresh rates or larger resolutions.

For this, we’ve chosen the most popular AMD processor which fits nicely into this bracket: the Ryzen 5 3600 may be at the low-end of AMD’s mainstream Zen 2 offerings, but it performs really well for having six cores for $155. We recently reviewed why this is Amazon’s best-selling CPU in our Ryzen 5 3600 review, and even since then it seems to be cheaper than ever, improving its appeal. With six cores, twelve threads, Zen 2, and good frequencies, its main competitor from Intel at the time was nowhere to be seen.

These days the best competition for the Ryzen 5 3600 is likely to be Intel’s Core i5-10400 ($182), which unlike its higher-end siblings, is readily available. We have not had this chip in yet for testing, however at six cores and a maximum turbo frequency of 4.3GHz, it warrants some attention. However it’s also carrying a $27 price premium right now, and it lacks the clockspeed advantage of Intel’s higher-end parts.

 

Overall, the six-core Ryzen 5 3600 processor, with simultaneous multi-threading, still has high frequencies, support for fast memory, and PCIe 4.0 for future upgrades, as well as a bundled stock cooler that’s pretty good. At this point, at this system price, it’s nice to be a little future proofed at any rate. Because of the microarchitecture, we still get real nice performance for day-to-day non-gaming workloads, and gaming still works out great for the price point. If we pair it with 8 GB of DDR4, a 512GB NVMe drive, and an RTX 2060, we’re at around $750, leaving $250 for a motherboard, case, and power supply.

The $700 Gaming PC:

AMD Ryzen 3 3200G ($99)
Intel Core i3-9100F ($72)

The market for the $700 PC should be blown wide open. In May, AMD launched Ryzen 3 into the market – these are new Matisse based Zen 2 processors, featuring four cores and eight threads, and a turbo up to 4.3 GHz. With the better increased single threaded frequency and performance, the Ryzen 3 3300X would appear to be a really nice gaming chip on paper, and in our review, it was very competitive. The only problem with it is that we can’t find it on shelves for the RRP. AMD lists the 3300X as a $120 processor; however it’s as unavailable as any high-end Intel CPU right now, so getting your hands on it at any price is a challenge. We will continue to have to wait for the stock levels come back up before recommend this one.

In fact, finding a half-decent CPU under $120 that’s in-stock is outright a bit of a challenge right now. In short there aren’t any current-generation (Zen 2 or Comet Lake) chips at this spot. So instead we have to look at last-generation parts.

On the AMD side of matters, we have the Ryzen 3 3200G ($99). This is a quad-core Zen+ part with integrated graphics and a maximum clockspeed of 4.0 GHz. We won’t need the integrated graphics here, but the CPU should be sufficient. The Ryzen 5 2600, another Zen+ part with 6 cores, is available for around $140, though the extra $40 is hard to sell given the $700 system price target.

As for Intel, last time around, we sort of recommended the Core i3-9100F, which is a quad-core part that currently sits at $72 at Newegg. This is a quad-core without hyperthreading, has a 3.6 GHz base frequency and a 4.2 GHz turbo frequency, and will provide some nice grunt for anyone who has a compatible motherboard already in hand. It doesn’t have the latest trimmings, such as DDR4-3200 or PCIe 4.0 support, which makes it less futureproof. It is a bit cheaper too, which also makes it attractive.

 

 

The $500 Gaming PC

AMD Ryzen 3 3200G ($99)

Crossing down into the $500 system market and we really have gone into APU territory. At this price, NVMe might not even be a valid option either, depending on how much needs to be spent where, and we’re on the verge of moving from integrated graphics to discrete graphics. For our recommendation, we stay on integrated graphics, which puts AMD’s APUs in line for consideration. At $99, the AMD Ryzen 3 3200G offers AMD’s latest APU with Vega 8 graphics, which is certainly sufficient for a large number of popular games. Ideally in this price bracket we’d suggest something like the Ryzen 5 3400G, but at its current $150 price it’s just too far out of budget for this sort of build. Nonetheless, the Ryzen 3 3200G will certainly be capable should someone want to add in a mid-range discrete graphics card at a later point.

We are waiting for AMD to launch the retail versions of its new 4000G series APUs in this market segment, however we’re still not sure when this will be. AMD has launched the OEM versions of these Ryzen 4000G chips, however these aren’t readily available to individual system builders or enthusiasts. Once they do launch, however, we expect they’ll quickly replace the Ryzen 3200G as our chip of choice for a $500 build.

 

The $300 Minimum Spec

AMD Athlon 3000G ($49) - But Only if you REALLY Need It
 

There’s no way around it here – in order to afford the bare minimum on motherboard, case, DRAM, and storage, it doesn’t leave much options for a CPU, with probably $70 left at most. In this category we either have a range of Intel dual cores to choose from, or dual-core Athlons for better graphics.

For this month’s guide, we’re flipping back to AMD’s 45 W Athlon 3000G. The $49 chip is bundled with a 65 W cooler making it a complete and very appealing package.

On The Horizon: Zen 2-Based APUs, And Not Much Else

In the last couple of quarters, we’ve had launches like Intel’s Comet Lake desktop processors, AMD’s Ryzen 3, and range of Z490 and B550 motherboards. There’s a mixture of markets that are getting an influx of components, however in all cases the main limitation seems to be getting them on shelves. We’re seeing an odd situation where some CPUs seem to be plentiful, while others are fluctuating wildly in price before disappearing from the biggest retailers altogether.

When looking to what will come out in the horizon, there’s really only one thing on our immediate radar, and that’s the retail launch of AMD’s Renoir Zen 2-based desktop APUs. These parts have already launched for the OEMs, so it’s only a matter of time until retail parts come down the pipe. However we’re not entirely sure how motivated AMD is feeling here; if they can sell out their Renoir stocks to OEMs for laptops and desktops – which is the bulk of their market to begin with – then a retail launch isn’t likely to be a priority.

Meanwhile AMD has once again reiterated that their Zen 3-based desktop processors are in the works for a “late 2020” launch. Given that we’re barely a month into the back-half of 2020, we’re apt to take AMD’s guidance literally, which is to say we’re not expecting Zen 3 desktop chips any time in the next couple of months. Though if AMD wants to surprise us, we’d be just fine with that.

On Intel’s side, having very recently launched Comet Lake for desktops, we don’t see much recourse for anything new on the horizon. We’re still waiting to see Intel’s 10nm in any form other than notebooks, either in the form of server parts (Ice Lake Xeon, a presentation which will be happening in August) or small form factor PCs. One thing we did learn from the launch of Comet Lake and the new Z490 motherboards is that some of the new motherboards have sufficient circuitry to support PCIe 4.0. Some vendors went ahead and said this was for Intel’s Rocket Lake processors, which would appear to be the next generation. This means we’re looking at Intel’s 11th Gen desktop hardware offering PCIe 4.0 and being called Rocket Lake. The timeline is not clear when this will happen, but we do expect a mass confusion over Intel Z490 motherboards about what is supported and what isn’t – motherboard vendors have told us that they can only design PCIe 4.0 to specifications, as they do not have any Rocket Lake silicon internally to confirm support.

The AnandTech CPU Coverage

Our big CPU reviews for the last 12 months have covered all the launches so far, and are well worth a read.

AnandTech Recent CPU Coverage
Segment AMD Intel
2020
January - -
February Threadripper 3990X
Hygon Dhyana
-
March - -
April Ryzen 9 4900HS
EPYC 7F52
-
May Ryzen 3 3100
Ryzen 3 3300X

Ryzen 5 3600
Core i9-10900K
Core i7-10700K
Core i5-10600K
June - -
July Ryzen 3000XT Series -
All of our processor benchmarks can be found in Bench, our database.
http://anandtech.com/Bench
Upcoming Testing Zhaoxin KiaXian KX-U6780A
EPYC 7F32/7F72 Xeon 6226R/6250
Xeon E-2200 Series
Celeron G5900
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  • PeachNCream - Thursday, July 30, 2020 - link

    People will flip out about resolution, draw distance, and FPS (and possibly interface devices) for mentioning that idea even if it is arguable that you're correct. In fact, I'd go out on a limb and say that has already been the case for the PS4/XBO generation as well. But why not do both? It isn't like gaming on one hardware platform prevents you from using another except in terms of buying multiple systems that have overlapping roles. Reply
  • boozed - Thursday, July 30, 2020 - link

    Are you saying the days of consoles over-promising and under-delivering are over? Reply
  • nandnandnand - Thursday, July 30, 2020 - link

    Depends on what promises you listen to. 8-core Zen 2 CPU, roughly RTX 2080 performance but with better ray tracing, and 825 GB to 1 TB fast SSD is going to be a decent value at $400-$500. Although that level of GPU performance will become cheaper when Big Navi and Ampere are released, the consoles can't do as much as a PC can, there may be subscription fees that make it more expensive, etc.

    Add in the claims about dedicated I/O and decompression capabilities used with the SSD making them have the equivalent theoretical performance of around 13-17 cores, and then you might be disappointed.
    Reply
  • drothgery - Thursday, July 30, 2020 - link

    If you mean the PS4/Xbox One era where consoles were barely at midrange PC levels at launch, then yes? The XSX and PS5 should offer quite a bit for the price (and back when I gamed occasionally, i preferred consoles and still prefer a laptop as my regular PC).

    If either Microsoft or Sony is promising equivalent performance to a high-end PC that will cost at least 3X as much at launch, I'm unaware of it (the XSX and PS5 GPUs are much better than anything AMD's putting in an APU, but they're clocked a lot lower than even the U-series Ryzen 4xxx chips, and while they have a lot of CUs compared to AMD's APUs, comparing to high-end discrete GPUs is another matter).
    Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Friday, July 31, 2020 - link

    They weren't midrange PCs. The Jaguar CPU was weaker than Bulldozer! Reply
  • PeachNCream - Friday, July 31, 2020 - link

    You're probably too young to know this, but consoles have not had a history of offering the fastest possible hardware available. Comparing console specs to PC specs is pretty pointless. It seems like the biggest appeal those that seem to swear by desktop PC hardware in particular over consoles is that they find self-gratification in the ability to wave their hardware penis around at others. That is impossible with a console since one box is the same as the next box in the same generation and that component of male-insecurity-bigger-numbers-and-better-this-or-that is simply missing from the equation. That immaturity and ball bashing is one of the biggest reasons why PC gaming still has so many die hard proponents. They need to compare their toys to other peoples' toys to satisfy an undeniable part of the male mind. Its no fun to compare a PS4 to another PS4 after all, but it IS fun to compare my big epeen 32 cores to your tiny epeen 4 cores just like how boys used to compare cars or houses or (shudder) spouses. Reply
  • drothgery - Friday, July 31, 2020 - link

    Ummm... the first console I played games on was an Atari 2600 (though we didn't own one until the NES era; the Atari belonged to a friend).

    My point was that the Xbox One and PS4 were a lot weaker relative to PCs at launch than their immediate predecessors (or especially than the original Xbox was), and XSX and PS5 should be better.
    Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Saturday, August 1, 2020 - link

    Sony and MS have no choice but to reduce the scamminess of their "consoles" because of the rise of Vulkan + OpenGL and Linux.

    Those things have made the MS Windows/DirectX tax irrelevant and made the console walled garden nothing more than a sad drain that relies on the Bell Curve to exist.
    Reply
  • PeachNCream - Saturday, August 1, 2020 - link

    My apologies, it was just the sort of though I've heard commonly among 30 and 40 somethings when they get into an office debate between cubes about their little boy toys. At any rate the hardware in the box is ultimately meaningless. The console abstracts the underlying hardware from the person playing the game so in the end, it could be powered by anything from a dead squirrel to an alien quantum compute device and it wouldn't matter much. If it plays a game and someone has fun playing it, then the objective of the hardware has been met. It's different for the PC side of the universe where people get half their gratification from upgrades (including blinky lights since it boils down to just buying an expensive enough graphics card once every few years nowadays making other, less functional additions a necessity to fill the same human void) and talking about components with people that are just trying to use the microwave in the break room to heat up coffee. Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Saturday, August 1, 2020 - link

    "consoles have not had a history of offering the fastest possible hardware available"

    • When the Fairchild VES was made, the decision was made to use the company's flagship CPU instead of the cheaper ones it had. The VES also had a significant quantity of expensive SRAM. The FCC's demand that it use a Faraday cage also was costly.

    • The Vectrex shipped with a 6809, which was a very high-performance 8-bit CPU.

    • The NES blew the doors off of the much more expensive Apple II, until the IIGS came out later. The only thing the Apple had in its favor was floppy disk drives, provided you could afford them (and the overpriced computer to go with it).

    • The Intellivision shipped with a 16-bit CPU in 1979.

    • The special hardware in the PS2 was considered high performance for its day (Emotion Engine). That is what I recall. If it was less performant than the PC platform then at the very least, it was custom and thus justified the existence of the console as a separate entity from the PC gaming platform.

    • The Cell processor was designed to provide better graphics capability than what was on the PC platform of the time, as I recall. It had weaker CPU processing (as opposed to streaming) but most gamers care about graphics first and everything else second. Cell, unfortunately, had very serious yield problems so two of the cores had to be disabled.

    • Many consoles had much better controllers than what were available on home computers. Compare even the mediocre Atari 2600 joystick with the abominable Color Computer non-centering joystick. Much better were the digital gamepads of the Famicom. Radio Shack was still selling those terrible CoCo joysticks at that time. The Vectrex controller looks pretty good, especially considering the time. The Famicom ushered in the dichotomy of high-precision efficient digital gamepad versus clunky computer joystick. Gamepads may not have been high technology but they are critical for playing games.

    • The Genesis shipped with the same 68000 CPU that was used in expensive 1980s home computers.

    "Comparing console specs to PC specs is pretty pointless."

    No, it's extremely relevant since consoles have vanished and PCs with lousy walled gardens have replaced them.

    "It seems like the biggest appeal those that seem to swear by desktop PC hardware in particular over consoles"

    No such thing. The hardware is the same.

    "is that they find self-gratification in the ability to wave their hardware penis around at others."

    Like Ms. Schlesslinger, you don't have a degree in that, so don't try it.

    "That is impossible with a console since one box is the same as the next box in the same generation and that component of male-insecurity-bigger-numbers-and-better-this-or-that is simply missing from the equation. That immaturity and ball bashing is one of the biggest reasons why PC gaming still has so many die hard proponents. They need to compare their toys to other peoples' toys to satisfy an undeniable part of the male mind. Its no fun to compare a PS4 to another PS4 after all, but it IS fun to compare my big epeen 32 cores to your tiny epeen 4 cores just like how boys used to compare cars or houses or (shudder) spouses."

    This is perhaps the worst attempt to justify the console scam ever penned.
    Reply

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