Best CPU for Gaming in 2021

When looking for the best CPU for gaming, you want to get the maximum performance and the best features to help boost your gaming experience, and of course, one that best matches your budget. Whether you’re building or upgrading a PC, the processor is of critical importance as it’s essentially the “brain” of a computer. 

Read below for our recommendations for the best CPU for gaming, as compiled in the Tom’s Hardware CPU Benchmarks & Hierarchy 2021.

The Contenders

AMD’s Ryzen 5000G series is now the undisputed choice for the normal APU target audience, particularly for extreme budget gaming, small form factor, and HTPC rigs. In our opinion, the Ryzen 5 5600G is the best option for mainstream gamers who are looking for a fast integrated GPU.

At launch, AMD’s new Zen 3 CPUs are the fastest on the market, largely due to their 19% increase in I/O bandwidth and unified L3 cache. AMD has also announced that its 3D V-Cache will be present in its Zen 3 processor. You can also check the full lineup of AMD’s new CPU models like the Ryzen 9 5950X and Ryzen 9 5900XRyzen 7 5800X, and Ryzen 5 5600X.

However, Intel’s new Rocket Lake CPUs have come to the scene, armed with a wide range of configurations. The Core i9-11900K and Core i5-11600KCore i5-11400 and Core i7-11700K are Intel’s newest arrival. Rocket Lake is Intel’s first CPU incorporated with new architecture in six years, and its processor packs eight whole cores while offering a low-power design.

The 11900K managed to match the performance of the Ryzen 9 5900X in terms of gaming. Its price tag though is hard to swallow. The six-core i5-11600K is a better buy than most of the competing chips. It has a price point that’s more competitive than mainstream CPUs. Its combination of performance and price makes it a solid purchase.

The Intel Core i5-11400 is the new standard for the budget gaming market, setting a new standard for the industry. Its impeccable performance and low price make it the clear winner over AMD’s Ryzen 5 3600. Intel has plenty of new CPUs coming out later this year, including the Sandy Lake family ¾ these will bring about even better performance than the previous generation of CPUs.

For more detail, do check out the earlier CPU Benchmarks list. It also contains a list of the best CPUs for workstation users, as well as a list of the best CPUs for high-end content creation.

Tips before you buy

  • If your main goal is gaming, you should also consider the graphics card. Getting the best possible gaming CPU won’t help you much if your GPU is under-powered and/or out of date. Keep up to date with the best graphics cards here.
  • Higher clock speeds are more important than core number for gaming. They translate to better performance in simple tasks and lower overall costs.
  • Budget for a full system: Don’t pair a strong CPU with weak storage, RAM or graphics.
  • For many, overclocking isn’t the solution for them. Instead, they should spend more on a high-end chip — and spend less on a lower-end cooler.

We hope this information’s been of use to you. To sum up, here are the CPUs we most recommend for gaming:

1. Intel Core i5-11600K

2. AMD Ryzen 9 5950X

3. AMD Ryzen 9 5900X

4. Intel Core i5-11400

5. AMD Ryzen 3 3300X

6. AMD Ryzen 5 3400G