Gaming CPUs 2020
Together with the graphics card, the processor, or “CPU” for short, essentially determines the performance of a game PC. Both the offer from Intel and that of the direct competitor AMD are becoming more and more diverse. How much power do you really need and which processor is the right one? CGH has selected the currently best CPUs in various price ranges and explains to you what you should definitely know before buying.
There is no general answer to the question of which processor is the best. Benchmark results are just one of the numerous aspects that must be considered before buying a CPU. In most cases, it’s more about getting the most out of your budget. The specific area of application is just as important since not every processor is equally suitable for certain purposes. We are therefore introducing you to several CPUs from AMD and Intel, which are suitable for budget-friendly builds as well as for absolute high-end computers.
The best gaming CPUs 2020: all CGH recommendations at a glance
|CGH Price tip||Beginners||Advanced||Enthusiasts|
|Model||AMD Ryzen 3 3100||AMD Ryzen 5 3600||Intel Core i7-10700K||Intel Core i9-10900K|
|Pros||Top Price||Price-performance tip||High single-core performance||Best overall performance|
|Cons||Only 4 cores||No integrated|
|High price||High price|
CGH price tip: Ryzen 3 3100
- Top price
- Cooler included
- Ideal for gaming in Full HD with at least 60 FPS
- No integrated graphics chip
- Low future security due to 4 cores
If you are looking for a cheap CPU that does not save on performance, you can hardly ignore the Ryzen 3 3100. The processor manufactured in 7 nm represents the entry into the Ryzen CPUs of the current generation. It has 4 cores with 3.6 GHz each and a maximum turbo clock of 3.9 GHz. It is practical that a usable cooler is included, which saves you from buying a separate CPU cooler.
A 4-core CPU is the minimum in 2020 in order to play demanding games in high detail. But this is not necessarily future-proof: processors with six and eight cores will be necessary for more and more titles in the coming years. For popular “timeless” titles such as CS: GO, Fortnite, or LoL, it is definitely enough. Important to know: This model does not have an integrated graphics chip, as is the case with most of the more expensive models. It doesn’t matter to gamers, a separate graphics card is recommended for gaming anyway.
Entry-level: Ryzen 5 3600
- Price-performance winner
- Cooler included
- Sufficient for current games
- No integrated graphics chip
No processor will be as popular as the Ryzen 5 3600 in 2020 – the CPU has sold over 84,000 times at the retailer Mind factory alone! There are good reasons for this because for well under 200 euros you get a true all-rounder with 6 cores of 3.6 GHz each. The turbo clock is a whopping 4.2 GHz – making the processor a price-performance king for gamers. If necessary, the CPU can be overclocked even further. Then at the latest, you should replace the supplied cooler with a more potent version like the beQuiet! Dark Rock 4 will be exchanging.
The processor shines especially when you run other compute-intensive applications in addition to gaming: video editing, streaming and the like. If you want a comparable CPU from Intel, you can courageously use the Intel Core i5-10400F in this case. The 6-core clock is a little lower at 2.9 GHz, but the turbo clock at 4.3 GHz is more generous. Overall, however, both models perform on a fairly similar level.
Advanced: Intel Core i7-10700K
- High single-core performance
- Integrated graphics chip
- Best suited for gaming with 144 FPS and more
- High price
When it comes to getting the maximum FPS out of your games, the Core i7-10700K is definitely a good choice. The CPU from Intel has 8 cores and clocks with 3.8 GHz – or 4.7 GHz in turbo clock. The K suffix at the end of the model name also signals an open multiplier, which, among other things, enables the processor to be overclocked. This time there is also no cooler included, which is bearable, however. Due to the enormous performance, you should invest in a powerful air or water cooling system anyway.
If you should also use other compute-intensive applications in addition to gaming, the Ryzen 9 3900X for almost the same price – this time even including a cooler – would be another alternative. Here you even get 12 cores with the same base rate as the Intel version and an only slightly lower turbo rate of 4.6 GHz.
Enthusiasts: Intel Core i9-10900K
- Best overall performance
- High overclocking potential
- In addition to gaming with high FPS, it is also suitable for professional applications
- High price
Money does not matter? How about the Core i9-10900K with a total of 10 cores and 20 threads? The base clock for this model is 3.7 GHz, the turbo clock is 4.8 GHz. However, this processor alone costs you as much as a complete gaming PC. There is currently hardly any other mainstream CPU that delivers so much performance, especially in games.
Only in computationally intensive applications such as video coding or rendering does the processor lose out in contrast to the competition from AMD. With the Ryzen 9 3950X, you have a similarly priced alternative with 16 cores and 32 threads that shines in this area. So if you want to keep the option open to edit or stream videos in the future, the Ryzen CPU would be an excellent choice. If you are only interested in the maximum FPS in games, you will use the Intel counterpart.
The best CPUs: This is how we chose
During the last few years, the processor market has been shaken up by strong competition from AMD. CPUs with more than 4 cores finally arrived in the affordable mainstream and, especially in the lower price segment, there has since been a wide range of different models, both from Intel and AMD. So it’s not surprising that with so many choices it’s easy to lose track.
No matter whether you want to get the absolute maximum out of your games or are looking for the best all-rounder CPU: We have selected suitable models from both major manufacturers from different price ranges for you. In order to be able to give you the best possible overview, we have based our own assessments on external user ratings and benchmark tests from other sites.
Buying a gaming processor: you should know that beforehand
Formulate claims clearly
The first and most important question to be answered before buying a processor: What exactly are your requirements?
- Do you want to play exclusively and get the maximum performance out of it?
- Do you play demanding games to the same extent and use other compute-intensive applications in parallel?
- In what quality would you like to play?
Depending on the application, you will therefore need the appropriate computing power. However, the processor alone is not a complete gaming PC, which is why the remaining components must also be coordinated with one another.
Is a game CPU also good for applications?
Yes. Modern games are among the applications that place the highest demands on the performance of a computer. A decent current game PC with a current CPU can handle office applications, browsing and the like without any problems. For more demanding tasks such as video editing, 3D modeling, image processing, software development or CAD, however, you need a lot of power – here, too, powerful components that are otherwise also found in game PCs are beneficial. Ideally, both use cases complement each other and you put together a PC that “packs” both games and professional applications.
One of the biggest problems when configuring a gaming PC is the appearance of so-called bottlenecks. This is an effect that occurs, among other things, when there is too great a difference in performance between the processor and graphics card and the respective components therefore do not deliver their optimal performance. In short: It is not advisable to combine a high-end CPU with a significantly weaker GPU and vice versa.
In addition, all other components should also match A mainboard with the correct socket, adequate RAM, and a power supply unit that provides sufficient power. Incidentally, some mainboards first need a BIOS update so that the respective CPU runs properly with it. In the following video, we explain what it is all about:
Finally, a sufficient cooler should not be missing. Whereas the included cooler is easily sufficient for entry-level CPUs, a much more powerful cooler is required for a Core i9 CPU or a Ryzen 9 processor. Especially if you want to increase the performance of your processor even further by subsequent overclocking. Overall, the bigger the better, although you still have to take into account the dimensions of your PC case. You should avoid this and other mistakes as much as possible:
Basically you have the choice between air or water cooling for CPU coolers. The former is usually much cheaper and is characterized above all by its easy handling and reliability. Water cooling is in turn associated with considerably more effort, but is usually much more effective. In the meantime, there are also so-called AIO water coolers (“All in One”) – installation is very easy and their performance is still comparable.
A few words about the RAM: 16 GB of RAM are a must for a sensible and reasonably future-proof gaming PC. While the RAM clock had less influence in the past, it is more important today: You should at least use PC3200 DDR4 RAM, ideally in dual-channel mode (e.g. two RAM modules with 8 GB each instead of one with 16 GB) , because especially AMD’s Ryzen processors are slowed down by slow RAM.
AMD vs. Intel explains
The biggest difference between the two manufacturers lies in the corresponding mainboard socket into which the processor is “inserted” and the respective platform: Intel and AMD use different standards that are being developed further in parallel with the new processor generations and are not mechanically compatible with each other . AMD currently uses the AM4 socket, which was already used for the first Ryzen processors. AMD will continue to use the socket with the upcoming Zen 3 generation, although some older chipsets no longer work with the latest CPUs. Intel, on the other hand, updates its sockets far more frequently than AMD and uses the new LGA 1200 socket with the 10th generation of their chips.
This in turn has an effect on the respective selection of mainboards: At Intel, these would currently be boards with the Z490, H470 or B460 chipsets. 3rd generation Ryzen processors, on the other hand, are compatible with significantly more boards – B450, B550, X470 or X570 should all work without any problems. In some cases, boards with the B350 and X370 chipset can also be used after a BIOS update. But if you want to use the latest features such as PCIe 4.0, you should still use one of the current models. The bottom line is that the AMD platforms are a bit more user-friendly if you plan to upgrade individual components from time to time.
Buy a CPU: new, old or used?
We have limited our selection to the latest generation of processor models. Since the technical development of main processors is by far not as fast as in the area of graphics cards, it may well be that the previous generations, if still available, sometimes produce good offers, not to mention the used market. Roughly speaking, even a high-end CPU from 5 years ago can still deliver enough performance to play, especially if you overclock it. You can find out how much performance an older CPU brings compared to a newer one, for example on the CPUbenchmark website – there you can compare the performance data of different CPUs.
What is the turbo cycle?
More clock = more performance, so far, so clear. CPUs clock up and down dynamically, depending on how much power the running application, for example a game, is currently demanding. This is used for energy efficiency and ensures lower temperatures in moments with lower performance requirements. However, processors can also provide performance beyond the standard maximum clock rate if an application requires a particularly high level of performance. The turbo clock is the maximum here, but this can usually only be achieved for a short time, sometimes only on some or one of the processor cores. The CPU measures its own temperature several times a second and as soon as a critical heat level is reached, it regulates the power down again.
How does overclocking/overclocking work?
Overclocking works according to a similar principle to the turbo clock – a possibility with which professionals tease more power out of the CPU. The temperature limits of the CPU can be adjusted in the BIOS or via software so that the processor runs outside the specifications defined by the manufacturer and sometimes has significantly higher clock rates.
Good cooling provides more leeway here – however, when overclocking you have to accept that the life of the processor can be shortened and the system can become unstable. Professionals therefore often associate overclocking with lowering the core voltage (undervolting), which generates less heat and creates more room for higher clock rates. How well a processor can be overclocked depends on both the processor type and the individual processor – some CPUs can be teased out much more than others of the same type.
Beginners in the area of overclocking should read up on the topic in detail on the Internet, then gradually approach the optimal clock frequencies of their individual processor, check the stability of their system with load tests over a longer period of time and allow for margins when setting the final overclocking level, e.g. for higher ones Room temperatures in the summer months. As a rule, all overclocking parameters can be set via the system BIOS or UEFI menu. AMD processor users can also use the convenient Windows tool AMD Ryzen Master.
What is hyperthreading?
Intel uses the name Hyperthreading (HT), AMD calls it Simultaneous Multithreading (SMT) – both mean the same thing: A processor core is “shared” for the system and does the same thing as two logical CPU cores with half the clock. In other words: 1 core can process 2 threads (processor tasks) at the same time. Sometimes you will find information such as “4C / 8T” (4 cores, 8 threads) if the CPU supports hyperthreading, or “4C / 4T” for a CPU without HT / SMT.
Hyperthreading is particularly advantageous for applications that run more efficiently if they are parallelized, i.e. optimized for the use of more cores, or if several applications run simultaneously. Depending on the game, hyperthreading sometimes brings a small bonus, sometimes a small penalty in performance. In recent years, however, more and more games have come onto the market that benefit significantly from HT / SMT.
All of the processors we recommend support HT / SMT. The function can be deactivated via the BIOS. However, we recommend leaving the function active in case of doubt.