Best Intel CPU for Gaming

Intel’s long-standing dominance in the processor market has persisted even in the face of AMD’s resurgence, primarily driven by AMD’s Ryzen series. The battleground for this supremacy often revolves around gaming, an arena where Intel has historically excelled. However, as of Q4 2020, AMD’s 3rd generation processors, particularly the Ryzen series, have successfully seized the throne.

Intel CPU

When assembling a gaming PC, the significance of the CPU is second only to the GPU. While recommendations for graphics cards are also crucial, this guide is tailored to aid in selecting the optimal Intel CPU for gaming, providing a balance that ensures an impeccable gaming experience.

Best Choice: Intel Core i7-9700K

This powerhouse boasts:

  • Excellent single-threaded performance
  • Nearly 5GHz clock speed
  • Mitigated traditional overheating concerns
  • Lack of Hyper-threading
  • A relatively high price point

Key Features:

  • Eight cores and eight threads
  • 12 MB of cache memory
  • 4.9GHz Max Turbo frequency
  • No Hyper-threading
  • DDR4 memory support


  • Dimensions: 4.57 x 3.98 x 2.76 inches
  • Wattage: 95
  • Socket Model: LGA_1151

The i7-9700K represents a notable advancement in core count, elevating it to eight cores compared to its predecessor’s six. Despite the absence of hyperthreading, the enhanced core count and a 12MB L3 cache shared among eight cores contribute to improved overall performance. The clock speeds soar to a remarkable 4.9GHz, outclassing competitors in its price range.

Intel Core i9-9900K: Premium Pick

This top-tier option features:

  • Impressive hyper-threading performance
  • Exceptional gaming capabilities
  • Clock speed reaching up to 5GHz
  • Versatility in both single and multi-threaded scenarios
  • Not shipped with a cooler
  • High power consumption

Key Features:

  • Sixteen threads and eight cores
  • Clock Speed: 3.6GHz to (overclocked) 5GHz
  • 16 MB cache
  • LGA_1151 socket model


  • Dimensions: 2.9 x 4.4 x 4.6 inches
  • Weight: 0.74 lb
  • Wattage: 95

The i9-9900K introduces an 8-core, 16-thread configuration, designed to compete with AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper series. Boasting unprecedented clock speeds, reaching up to 5GHz, it stands as the fastest mainstream CPU. However, its power consumption and heat generation necessitate meticulous cooling solutions, making it ideal for enthusiasts and those with specific performance requirements.

Best Value: Intel Core i5-8400

This cost-effective option offers:

  • No need for an aftermarket cooler
  • Suitable for single GPU setups
  • 9 MB cache
  • Affordability
  • No overclocking
  • Absence of Hyper-threading

Key Features:

  • Six threads and six cores
  • 2.8GHz -> 4 GHz clock speed
  • Non-overclockable


  • Dimensions: 4.7 x 4.2 x 4.7 inches
  • Required Power: 65 W
  • Socket Model: LGA_1151

The i5-8400 signifies Intel’s response to AMD’s influence, particularly in the budget segment. With six cores and a clock speed reaching 4GHz, it excels in providing a well-rounded performance for users engaging in everyday tasks and casual gaming. While not tailored for heavy video editing or 3D rendering, it represents a solid choice for a balanced gaming experience.

Best Overall Runner-Up: Intel Core i7-8700K

This model is highlighted by:

  • Gaming-focused design
  • Respectable core and thread count
  • High out-of-the-box clock speeds
  • Elevated power consumption
  • Availability of newer models

Key Features:

  • Twelve threads and six cores
  • Maximum clock speed of 4.7 GHz
  • 12 MB cache


  • Dimensions: 4 x 2 x 4.6 inches
  • Required Power: 95 W
  • Socket Model: LGA_1151

The i7-8700K stands out for its emphasis on gaming performance, offering a robust combination of twelve threads and six cores. With a maximum clock speed of 4.7GHz, it competes admirably in gaming scenarios. While newer models are available, the 8700K remains a worthy contender, especially considering its more accessible price compared to the i7-9700K.

Best Budget: Intel Core i3-8100

The budget-friendly choice features:

  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Adequate cores for most games
  • Strong single-threaded performance
  • Four physical cores
  • Absence of turbo boost and hyper-threading

Key Features:

  • Four cores and four threads
  • 3.6GHz clock speed
  • 6 MB cache


  • Dimensions: 1 x 1.5 x 2.75 inches
  • Weight: 4.32 ounces
  • Wattage: 65
  • CPU Model Socket: LGA_1151

The i3-8100 is a budget-conscious option suitable for users upgrading existing systems or those planning to install a separate GPU. With four cores and a clock speed of 3.6GHz, it provides ample performance for everyday tasks and gaming at an entry level. While it lacks overclocking capabilities, it offers a straightforward plug-and-play solution.

Best Intel Processors: Buying Guide

When selecting the right processor, balancing performance with your budget is crucial. Focus on key aspects:

  1. Clock Speed: Higher clock speed generally translates to better performance, especially in gaming. Pay attention to both base and boost clock speeds, with boost clock being a better indicator of real-life performance.
  2. Threads and Cores: More threads and cores are generally beneficial. However, note that excessive cores, particularly in AMD processors beyond 12, might not yield significant gains for gaming.
  3. Practicality: Consider your PC usage. High-end processors might be overkill if gaming is your primary concern. Check if a cooler is included, especially for high-end CPUs, and assess your need for overclocking.
  4. Budget x GPU: Prioritize spending on the graphics card if you have spare cash after selecting components. A better GPU often yields a more noticeable improvement in gaming experience.

Intel CPUs: FAQ

  1. Are Intel Processors Better Than AMD for Gaming?
    • Generally, yes. Intel processors are more adapted to gaming, particularly at lower resolutions. However, AMD has made significant strides, and the performance difference is narrowing, especially at higher resolutions.
  2. Which Is the Best Budget Intel CPU for Gaming?
    • The Intel i3-8100 is a solid budget CPU for gaming. However, if building a new system, the AMD Ryzen 3 2200g, with integrated graphics at a lower cost, is a competitive alternative.
  3. What Is Bottlenecking?
    • Bottlenecking occurs when the GPU sends instructions faster than the CPU can process. Ensure your CPU and GPU are hierarchically matched to prevent bottlenecking, although this concern is less prevalent in modern CPUs.
  4. What Cooler Do I Need for an Intel Processor?
    • Cooler requirements vary. Mid-range processors often come with coolers. High-end processors, especially for overclocking, may require advanced cooling solutions like liquid coolers.
  5. Why Are Intel Processors More Expensive Than AMD Counterparts?
    • Older manufacturing processes and brand reputation contribute to Intel’s higher prices. AMD, seeking market share, often prices its CPUs lower. The Ryzen series has introduced competitive options, making pricing a key aspect of the market dynamics.

Final Words

As Intel and AMD push the boundaries of processor technology, users can anticipate remarkable advancements in the coming years. Increasing core counts, improved performance, and higher clock speeds are on the horizon. The competition between Intel’s 14nm and 12nm architectures and AMD’s 7nm architecture promises exciting developments.

Choosing the best Intel processor is a wise decision, particularly for gaming or streaming. The evolving landscape of CPUs ensures a dynamic and competitive market, making it an exciting era for users. Whether gaming or engaging in multi-threaded tasks, users can look forward to the next wave of innovative CPUs. In summary, the future holds promise for an extraordinary gaming experience.