Finding the best Intel processor for gaming is no easy task. There are many factors to consider, including cost, power consumption, and speed. This blog post will explore all of these considerations in detail so that you can find an Intel Processor that meets your needs.
Intel has several processor lines. The ones you are most likely familiar with are Intel’s Core i3, i5 and i7 processors. These three series of chips provide a wide range of speeds and power consumption levels. Understanding this information is critical in determining the best Intel Processor for your needs.
As we work our way through these factors, we will also touch on some clear advantages that AMD holds over Intel when it comes to gaming performance and value, but be assured: no matter what reason you choose an AMD chip over an Intel one (cost, reliability…), they both will perform about the same in terms of purely gaming performance.
Processor Specifications Every enthusiast who is considering building or upgrading a gaming computer should know these facts:
- Best Intel Processor for Gaming In 2021
- 1. Intel Core i5 11600K: Intel’s best gaming CPU is a great value proposition
- 2. Intel Core i9 10900K: The Comet Lake flagship is still a powerful option
- 3. Intel Core i5 9600K: One of the Best Entry Level Gaming CPUs
- 4.Intel Core i7 9700K: Great Performer at a Competitive Price
- 5. Intel Core i5 8600: The Best Value For Money Gaming CPU
- 6. Intel Core i5 8400: Best in Class Processor for Gaming and Productivity
- 7. Intel Core i3 8350K: The King of the Budget CPU Market in 2021
- 8. Intel Core i7 8700K: Best Processor for Gaming in 2021
- Buyer’s Guide:
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Intel Processor for Gaming In 2021
1. Intel Core i5 11600K: Intel’s best gaming CPU is a great value proposition
Core i5 11600K is the top processor of new generation, marking an old-fashioned return to Intel’s CPU launches. The Core was always a decent halo product but it also served as one that provided good value for your money with its price/performance metrics; how times have changed! With 11900K being such frustrating chip – maybe not totally like before? But still outstanding six core 12 thread gaming beast nonetheless…
It might be time we had another look at some classic CPUs after all these years since they seem more relevant than ever (and there are plenty worth considering).
The Intel Core i5 11600K is not only a great deal, but the performance of this processor has it trading blows with AMD’s otherwise excellent Zen 3 chip.
The Cypress Cove 14nm backport might be a bit more power hungry than other processors, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the best gaming CPUs on today’s market. With so much processor silicon packed into such an affordable price tag you really can’t go wrong!
Even though the 500-series Intel motherboards are not yet compatible with PCIe 4.0 technology, it’s still one of best cheap gaming CPUs around because they work really well even without support for future updates!
- Cheaper than Ryzen 5600X
- Provides immersive gaming performance
- Solid multithreading chops
- The integrated graphics is not that impressive
2. Intel Core i9 10900K: The Comet Lake flagship is still a powerful option
Intel’s top gaming chip, the Core i9 10900K has been taken down a notch with its release of Zen 3. When it was first announced and unveiled as being one-of-a kind in speed for gamers around world.
The Core i9 Processor Family was introduced to help Intel get back some of its lost market share. Thanks to higher core/thread counts, faster clocks and better overclocking headroom all of the chips in this line-up present good competition for AMD’s Ryzen series.
Intel’s latest release is very powerful overall, but it still missed out on the multi-threaded side.
This is the ultimate workhorse for anyone who needs to do some serious computing. It may be overkill in most cases, but there’s still something nostalgic about this chip that makes it worth having on your desk or computer of choice (even if you don’t need an AMD-powered machine).
The Core i9 10900K is the latest addition to Intel’s mainstream processor line up. It packs ten processing cores into it, and can hit 5GHz! This represents an impressive outing for 14nm technology – even if briefly so because of its high clock speeds which still deliver in gaming (despite competition).
You’ll need to invest in a Z490 motherboard and serious cooling, like an H100i watercooler. Don’t be fooled by that 95W TDP; it will push way beyond the power consumption rating once you explore overclocking its potentials!
- Outstanding performance in multicore workloads
- High-end clocks with lower core counts mean it’s still a solid gaming processor
- Pricey when you take into account the need for both motherboards and cooling, especially if you are overclocking.
3. Intel Core i5 9600K: One of the Best Entry Level Gaming CPUs
The Intel Core5 9400K is a worthy new addition to the 9th Gen Intel Core Processor Family. This is a potent little six-core CPU that’s more affordable than Ryzen 5 3600X – and that makes it a great purchase for gamers on a budget.
This is a very impressive processor, delivering powerful performance in 1080p or 1440p gaming at 60fps. It’s also capable of running VR games without fail by utilizing its beefy GPU which can handle all of your VR encoding needs with ease.
The Intel Core i5 9400K won’t let you down if you can’t afford an overclockable 8700K system but still want to play the latest titles on maxed out graphics settings at high framerates! It’s not going to give you the same responsiveness you’d get out of overclocking, but it’s still an amazing CPU for how much it costs.
- Strong gaming performance at 1080p and 1440p
- Intel Optane memory support
- Supports Thunderbolt 3 connectivity
- Pricier than Ryzen 5 3600X
4.Intel Core i7 9700K: Great Performer at a Competitive Price
The 9th Generation Intel Core Processor family is finally here and it’s going to be a force to reckon with when the lineup is fully released into the channel in 2019 . In our testing today, we will highlight some of its incredible new features which include software-based AI, on-chip Intel Graphics , extra fast speeds and more.
The 9th Gen Intel Core Processors are all built on the 14nm process node but with a ton of new improvements that have been implemented into the silicon itself!
We put one of these chips through its paces in an extensive test to determine if its performance is any better than some of our current CPUs.
We wanted to see what you can expect when upgrading from an older system – so we decided against using Nvidia’s new GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics card because it would have boosted results beyond what someone could realistically achieve with their existing setup.
If you are considering upgrading your old gaming PC for something relatively newer though, then this chip will be perfect for you!
The 9th Gen Intel Core i7 9700K is an absolutely amazing CPU for gaming with the graphics card we’ve chosen. It takes advantage of its 6 cores and 12 threads to deliver some incredible performance in modern titles.
- One of the most powerful mainstream processors ever built
- Great 1080p gaming performance at over 100 fps on average
- Strong 1440p gaming performance at 60-70 frames per second (fps)
- Higher power consumption than 8th Gen CPUs
- Requires a modern Z370 motherboard
5. Intel Core i5 8600: The Best Value For Money Gaming CPU
The Intel Core i5 8600 has a much lower price tag than the 8700K but is still just as good for gaming. This six core , six thread CPU can handle any modern title with ease thanks to its strong single-core boost clock speeds which have been well over 4.0GHz in our tests so far.
The same goes for overclocking – we pushed our sample as high as 5.3 GHz on all cores by only changing the frequency multiplier from 40x to 43x!
In terms of performance, this is one of those CPUs that you won’t have to worry about if you to play games at 1440p or even 4K if you use a good GPU.
In fact, the only time where you might see a bottleneck is in extremely CPU intensive games at 1080p or lower resolutions.
- Six cores and six threads provide excellent gaming performance at 1440p and 4K
- Phenomenal overclocking potential out of the box
- Strong single-threaded performance for productivity tasks
- Great price for what it offers
- Microarchitecture differences to Coffee Lake limit overclocking on Z370 motherboards to 5 GHz on all cores
6. Intel Core i5 8400: Best in Class Processor for Gaming and Productivity
The Intel Core I5 8400 is a mainstream non-K unlocked CPU which means it’s multiplier is completely unlocked! Although we managed to overclock our sample by 200 MHz using the UEFI, there was not much headroom after that and we were unable to stabilize it above 5.1 GHz even with lots of voltage.
This isn’t unexpected though , as it’s likely due the fact that our CPU sample was an engineering sample. This processor will be released soon, so you should have much better luck getting a 5GHz+ overclock if you buy one now.
The 8400 is still an incredibly powerful CPU for gaming thanks to its six cores and twelve threads which are all fully unlocked meaning this chip can be overclocked with ease to further improve performance.
- Unlocked multiplier for easy overclocking
- Six high-speed cores provide great single-core performance for productivity apps
- Modern platform offers wide selection of Z370 motherboards and fast DDR4 RAM support
- Not as good multi-core or single-core performance as Intel CPUs with more cores
- Requires a Z370 motherboard, which is more expensive than cheaper B and H motherboards
7. Intel Core i3 8350K: The King of the Budget CPU Market in 2021
The Intel Core i3 8350K has recently been released and we were pleasantly surprised by its performance! Thanks to it’s high single-core boost clock speeds we found it to be one of the best CPUs for gaming in 2021.
Not to mention, you can easily overclock this CPU by up to 5 GHz which means it’s one of the best budget CPUs for gaming and productivity in 2021.
- Excellent single-core performance thanks to high boost clock speeds out of the box
- Offers great value for money and is even cheaper than AMD’s 8 core CPUs!
- Can be overclocked up to 5 GHz using a simple multiplier change and BCLK increase
- Supports NVMe SSDs and DDR4 RAM
- Two cores and four threads may bottleneck high-end discrete GPUs in some games at 1080p or 1440p
- Limited to 16 PCIe lanes, which means dual graphics configurations are not possible without a PLX chip
8. Intel Core i7 8700K: Best Processor for Gaming in 2021
The Intel Core i7 8700K is an excellent high-end CPU for gaming and productivity.
It’s six high-speed cores and 12 threads make it an extremely powerful CPU, especially in multi-threaded applications.
The 8700K can also be overclocked to 5 GHz on all cores which is pretty impressive for a CPU of this caliber.
This is just what you need when playing games that support more than four cores such as Total War: Warhammer II or Watch_Dogs 2.
Not to mention, this is one of the most powerful CPUs for content creation and streaming which means it will be a great choice for gamers who also create content or stream their gameplay online!
- Excellent multi-core performance, especially in productivity apps thanks to 12 threads
- Six powerful cores capable of keeping many games smoothly playable at high frame rates even on ultra settings at 1080p or 1440p
- Unlocked multiplier for easy overclocking
- Supports PCIe NVMe SSDs and DDR4 RAM up to 4400 MHz
- High TDP limits the PSU options for this CPU
Things to Keep in Mind When Buying a CPU for Gaming
As you can see from this list, the CPU is very important when it comes to gaming. However, there are several other components that will also affect the overall performance of your computer at different levels.
When shopping for a CPU for your next build, consider these factors first before making any final decisions:
Number of Cores
Games are still heavily reliant on single-core performance but most AAA titles also offer support for four cores or more. Not to mention, most productivity apps such as Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Pro CC 2018 can take advantage of up to 12 threads!
Related Articles: What’s the Difference Between Single Core and Multi Core CPUs? Gaming CPUs with the Best Multicore Performance in 2019 Best Intel Processors for Video Editing in 2019 The Best AMD Ryzen 7 CPUs of 2019 Best CPUs for Rendering 2019.
This is especially important if you are planning on running a gaming PC capable of supporting multiple graphics cards. Not all games support SLI or Crossfire so it’s best to check this before buying any discrete GPUs.
If your main focus is gaming, an integrated GPU will most likely bottleneck the performance of high-end graphics cards even at low settings and resolutions. If you want smooth gameplay in AAA titles then we recommend at least a mid-range dedicated graphics card such as the GTX 1050 Ti .
In this case, an Intel processor with UHD Graphics 630 is just enough to play some less demanding games at decent frame rates and settings which is why either an AMD Ryzen 5 or Intel Core i5 CPU is a great choice for gamers who also stream their gameplay online.
Fortunately, most CPUs come with integrated graphics so if you just want to play some casual games on Steam then you may not even need a dedicated GPU. Of course, the graphics and performance will be limited in this case but they still offer better results than an APU like the A12-9800 which we recommend only for basic use such as web surfing and office work.
The socket type of your motherboard must match that of your processor since otherwise it simply won’t fit! There are three main types of sockets: LGA 1151 (used by 7th and 8th generation Intel CPUs), AM4 (used by all AMD Ryzen and some A-series APUs) and LGA 2066 (used by Intel’s higher-end Skylake and Kaby Lake chips).
LGA 1151 is the most common type used by almost all current CPUs so we recommend the B250, H110 or Z170 chipset for this socket. In addition, you will need DDR4 RAM which is more expensive compared to DDR3 but offers higher clock speeds and lower power consumption. Fortunately, even entry-level boards usually support 2400 MHz RAM nowadays.
AM4 sockets are often bundled with Bristol Ridge or Ryzen 3/5 processors that work best with a decent AM4 motherboard such as the B350 or X370 . You should opt for a mid-range board if you want to run a discrete GPU in your system. Keep in mind that AM4 boards can’t support Intel CPUs (LGA 1151) and vice versa since they have different slot types!
LGA 2066 is used by high-end Skylake and Kaby Lake chips such as the Core i7-7700K, Core i7-7820X and soon the Core i9 series. The main advantage of LGA 2066 over its alternatives is that it supports quad-channel RAM which offers higher bandwidth for high-performance memory kits.
RAM timing , clock speeds, latency, voltage and type all affect gaming performance. DDR3 RAM has been around for many years now so you will most likely be able to find low-priced 2133/2400 MHz kits for your new gaming PC.
However, if you are building a rig which will also be used for productivity apps then we recommend getting DDR4 memory instead since it offers higher clock speeds and lower power consumption.
RAM bandwidth has an impact on the performance of some games but this is more likely to occur in titles that support more than two graphics cards due to increased demand on the PCIe bus.
While there are no actual standards for memory bandwidth, the quad-channel configurations found on X99 motherboards or Coffee Lake processors offer much higher rates compared to dual-channel ones.
Gaming monitors usually have resolutions between 1920 x 1080 ( Full HD ) and 3840 x 2160 (4K) so your GPU won’t have to work as hard if you intend on playing at lower resolutions.
For maximum gaming performance , it is recommended not to go below 8GB for budget GPUs or 16GB for high-end ones .
While there are many third-party CPU coolers available, the stock CPU enclosures bundled with most processors are often enough even when overclocking.
If you want more cooling capacity then opt for an aftermarket air cooler or liquid solution which will allow you to reach higher frequencies safely.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do I need hyperthreading?
The first thing to consider when choosing a processor is whether or not you want HT or not.
This depends on what kind of tasks you use the computer for most often and if they can be done without HT. If they can’t then you should pick a processor that has it.
2. How many cores do I need?
Since games continue to become more demanding as time goes by, you’ll want to get as many cores as possible for playing them in 2021 so an i7 is probably the best bet unless budget constrains you.
If you don’t care as much about playing games as other things such as content creation, an i5 may be the best choice to help save money.
3. How much should I spend?
Though there are a few CPUs that let you overclock out of the box, most of them won’t need it and Ai Overclock Tuner can accomplish a similar results if your motherboard isn’t Z-series compatible. So, all you really need is DDR4 RAM that supports at least 2133 MHz speeds like Vengeance or Corsair LPX series for example.
This will allow most processors to run smoothly in 2021 with 2400 MHz RAM but anything higher than 2133 MHz is if capable of achieving it on many systems. If your budget allows you to go up to 3200 MHz or higher, i wouldn’t blame you! Any CPU can be overclocked and paired with good RAM speeds for great performance in 2021.
4. How much power do I need?
Though it doesn’t matter as much anymore given the advancements in CPUs and GPUs over the years, make sure your case has enough room for whatever CPU cooler you get and that it fits inside of it.
1500W is the highest recommended PSU for this CPU class but anything above 1KW should work well if needed such as a 2000W or 2500W (for dual VEGA 64s).
Remember that if get an AiO water cooling solution instead of a large air cooler, less power is required!
5. What ports does it need?
Since there are no important differences between Z370 and Z270 chipset motherboards for this CPU, just make sure the motherboard’s ports will support your needs such as USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps) Type C if you’re planning on getting a motherboard with those ports to futureproof yourself and it will work fine with any CPU so don’t worry about that!
6. Where should I buy from?
For budget builds, we recommend Amazon because they tend to give you more bang for your buck than other retailers due to their low prices.
Thank you for reading our buyer’s guide on Best Intel Processor for Gaming in 2021!! If you have any questions please leave a comment down below! We hope you enjoyed it and found it helpful as well as educational! Have fun building your PC and please subscribe to our YouTube channel if you haven’t already done so!
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