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.
CPU Market Overview, March 2023
Moving into the warmer and more picturesque spring season, the weather isn’t the only thing hotting up. The CPU market towards the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023 has been topsy-turvy, to say the least, with many viable options available for users to build a new system. Depending on the task at hand, Intel and AMD have strong line-ups with multiple generations of its processors, with both the latest 13th Gen core series (Raptor Lake) and the Ryzen 7000 series (Zen 4/Rapael) leading the charge at the top of the performance charts.
Since our previous guide, both Intel and AMD have launched two top-tier processors with exceptional gaming performance to the market, the Intel Core i9-13900KS and, more recently, AMD’s gaming-centric Ryzen 9 7950X3D with its 3D V-Cache packaging technology. The latter is directly targeted at gamers, with an edge in titles that can utilize large pools of L3 cache. Intel undoubtedly brings its Raptor Lake architecture to the forefront with its first-ever 6 GHz processor, the Core i9-13900KS, which caters to gamers and the enthusiast market too, with binned silicon designed to offer ultimate levels of compute performance from a desktop platform.
One potential choice for users looking to buy a new CPU is that Intel and AMD’s previous generations (12th Gen Core series and Ryzen 5000) offer more value than ever before. Some of its biggest performers from their previous generations can be paired up with cheaper DDR4 memory, which is at its lowest price in a long time. This, coupled with price drops with Intel and AMD focusing on pushing its latest technologies and architectures, means users can grab a bargain with prices dropping (and fluctuating) all of the time. Notable chips include AMD’s original 3D V-Cache laden chip, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, which has 8 cores with 16 threads, with 96 MB of L3 cache available for specific games/titles that are optimized for it.
A short overview of the best sellers updates:
Since our last guide, Amazon’s top 10 best sellers (at the time of writing) have changed drastically over the last few months, with some interesting things to note and some new inclusions to the list. AMD’s previous Ryzen 5000 series takes center stage, starting with the current best-seller, the Ryzen 5 5600X (6C/12T), based on AMD’s Zen 3 microarchitecture, which has moved up from #4. While not technically the best for gaming, the Ryzen 5 5600X offers exceptional value at its current selling price of $157 at Amazon.
In fact, the Ryzen 5000 series takes six of the top ten best-selling CPUs at Amazon, seemingly a market signal that more users are building more affordable systems on the cheaper AM4/DDR4 platform. It’s no secret that times are tough, and with prices on AM4 motherboards at an all-time low, coupled with DDR4 and Zen 3 chips also being low, it’s a perfect time to capitalize on the value offered from AMD.
Digesting the Amazon best-selling processors, the top 10 look like this:
Previously, Intel’s latest Raptor Lake-based Core i9-13900K (8P+16E/32T) sat at #11 in our last gaming CPU guide, but it has risen to take the number two spot. Despite the same $570 price tag as in the previous guide, Intel’s 13th Gen Core series offers support for both DDR5 and DDR4 memory, allowing users to either go for the latest and greatest Z790 and DDR5 for a top-tier desktop system or opt for a cheaper route and go for the previous generations Intel 600 series chipsets and more affordable DDR4 memory. As we’ve highlighted and confirmed through Intel, both Z790 and Z690 have no performance benefits associated with them, just more I/O available.
Before Black Friday last year (November 2022), all of the top ten consisted entirely of AMD’s Ryzen processors, but Intel has made the top ten on four occasions on the current list. While we’ve already touched on the Core i9-13900K, the next Intel chip down the list at #7 is the slightly lower spec Core i7-13700K with 8P+8E/24T at $418. Still, it’s very capable in our gaming suite and isn’t far behind the flagships, with the same applying to the Core i5-13600K (6P+8E/24T) at $320, which occupies the number #9 spot. The Core i7-12700K at #10 still represents good value for money but doesn’t perform as well as the newer 13th Gen chips in gaming. With a price of $304 and paired up with a Z690/B670 motherboard and a kit of DDR4 memory, users can use this as a viable foundation for a solid mid-range gaming PC.
Remarkably, it isn’t until we get to the #21 spot that we see anything from AMD’s Ryzen 7000 series, with the Ryzen 9 7900X, a 12C/24T processor using AMD’s latest Zen 4 cores built upon TSMC 5nm process node. While AM5 motherboards aren’t cheap, adding DDR5 to that list has decreased in price over the last couple of months. ASRock recently announced its $125 micro-ATX B650M-HDV/M.2 motherboard to the market, which marks a considerable drop in price compared to what’s available on AM5. We expect more vendors to release cheaper boards in the coming months or price drops on existing boards to follow suit.
Finding that all-important balance between value and performance looks much better going into Q2 of 2023, with many options from both AMD and Intel currently available to buy. Outside of the main processors, AMD’s Ryzen 7 5700G ($178) and Ryzen 5 5600G ($129) APUs also make the top ten at Amazon, showing that the combination of AMD’s Zen 3 core and their Radeon integrated graphics cores still has something to offer users looking to game on a budget.
Best CPUs for Gaming March 2023
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.
|AnandTech Gaming CPU Recommendations
(Prices correct at time of writing)
|The High-Performance Pick||AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D (16C/32T): If in Stock
Intel Core i9-13900K (8P+16E/32T)
|The Smart Money Pick (Price versus Performance)||Intel Core i5-13600K (6P+8E/20T)||$319|
|Gaming on a Budget||AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D (8C/16T)||$320|
|On The Horizon||AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D|
The majority of our recommendations aim to hit the performance/price curve just right, with a side nod to power consumption as well.
The High-Performance Pick
AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D (16-core, $699) – Low Stock Levels Globally
Intel Core i9-13900K (8+16-core, $570) – Readily Available and 2nd Pick
We reviewed the Ryzen 9 7950X3D last month, and in our testing, it really did provide AMD with that all-important title of ‘fastest gaming processor.’ Many might find it slightly odd that we haven’t wholly selected it in our recommendations below. There are two reasons for this. The first reason comes down to stock levels, it’s a hard processor to get a hold of currently, and it doesn’t matter how great at gaming something is if users can’t get their hands on it.
That being said, we’ve made two selections to cover both Intel and AMD at the higher end of things for gaming. The Ryzen 9 7950X3D is #1 for gaming, but the Intel Core i9-13900K is a good alternative. It’s as powerful in compute heavy tasks, and it’s cheaper at $570. This is the best option for gamers if the budget (and stock) allows is AMD’s Ryzen 9 7950X3D, AM5, and DDR5.
At the very top end of the desktop processor market, there are four key options to consider, two from AMD and two from Intel, all four worthy of consideration based on their own merits. This includes our current pick, the Intel Core i9-13900K, with the other Intel chip being the 6 GHz Core i9-13900KS which is a higher bin 13900K and has faster clock speeds; everything else is identical.
For team AMD, there’s the Ryzen 9 7950X and the Ryzen 9 7950X3D, which like the Intel pairing, are very similar in specification barring the clock speeds and in L3 cache; the Ryzen 9 7950X3D has 96 MB of 3D V-Cache on the CCD used for gaming, which makes it an 8C/16T chip with 96 MB of L3 cache when gaming with Microsoft Game Mode enabled and the relevant AMD drivers are installed.
As we can see in our POV-Ray benchmark results, the Intel Core i9-13900K is top of the pile, and while the Core i9-13900KS did suffer from thermal throttling, the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D was around 19% behind, which isn’t too bad considering. In tasks such as our V-Ray render, the Ryzen 9 7950X3D was marginally ahead of the Core i9-13900K by around 2%, and when rendering in Blender 3.3 in the long Barbershop test, the 7950X3D was ahead by around 23 seconds. Of course, both processors are more than capable of rendering and encoding, and overall in our suite, the Core i9-13900K beats the Ryzen 7950X3D across the majority of our CPU test suite, while the Ryzen 9 7950X was more competitive with the 13900K in more compute-heavy scenarios.
Regarding gaming performance, the AMD Ryzen 7950X3D has the advantage in titles that can leverage that additional L3 cache due to their implementation and execution of 3D V-Cache packaging. In other games that don’t benefit from the large levels of L3 cache, things are much closer throughout most of the games. It’s a very specific use case that AMD is capitalizing on. Still, as we’ve mentioned throughout much of our Ryzen X3D series coverage, if the games you play don’t utilize the L3 cache, then there’s not much of a real-world benefit over the competition.
Outside of the aforementioned benefits of the 3D V-Cache, things are so competitive that it really boils down to the use case, the type of workload, and what programs and applications are being used. Neither AMD nor Intel’s flagship offerings do much wrong in compute-heavy tasks and gaming. Still, if power draw is a concern, then AMD’s highly efficient Zen 4 cores really take things to another level, or, should I say, a lower level as far as total power draw goes. AMD’s Ryzen 7000 series chips at full-load generate much lower wattage levels than Intel’s 13th Gen Core series; the Ryzen 9 7950X3D with 16-cores draws much less power than Intel’s Core i5-13600K, which is a 14-core part.
Overall, when it comes primarily to gaming, there’s much more benefit to be had from upgrading the graphics card than focusing purely on the processor, especially at higher resolutions such as 1440p and 4K. Although there’s a lot of furor surrounding current GPU pricing (still), NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 4090 is nothing short of a beast. Even AMD’s Radeon RX 7900 XTX/XT caters to high resolution and those with high refresh rate monitors such as 144 Hz at a slightly lower price point, and it’s unlikely that anyone will endure lower than 144 Hz frame rates with any of the mentioned options at sub 4K resolutions.
Another question to really consider is, what are you upgrading from? If the answer is Ryzen 5000 or Intel’s 12th Gen Core, then you’re more likely to notice a much bigger jump in performance by upgrading your graphics card. Of course, any of the latest and greatest chips will do the job. Even a CPU such as the Core i5-13600K ($320) will provide enough compute grunt in practically every title outside of those insane CPU-heavy games such as Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. Even here, upgrading to a more powerful graphics card will increase frame rates more than any processor will.
Despite this, we are opting for the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D ($699) as the best gaming CPU of the current generation (so far), and with 128 MB of 3D V-Cache, it really does the job in titles that can benefit from it. Even on the compute front, the 7950X3D has enough oomph, whereas the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, when it first launched, didn’t do so well in comparison. The Intel Core i9-13900K ($570) is the next best, which is based on its current price of $570. It’s cheaper and faster in more scenarios than not, but AMD has a clear advantage on the power consumption and performance per watt. That being said, the Core i9-13900K can reduce the overall cost of the system by allowing use with the previous generation’s Intel 600 series chipsets, as well as be paired up with cheaper DDR4 memory and still deliver high levels of multithreaded performance.
The question of future-proofing is also answered with both of these options, as PCIe 5.0 SSDs have now started to hit shelves unlocking some of the outlier performance benefits of the current generation.
The Smart Money Pick (Price versus Performance)
Intel Core i5-13600K (6+8-Core/20T, $320)
As opposed to our money-is-no-object recommendations, for most PC builders money is an object, and a system still needs to perform well without breaking the bank. That’s exactly what this pick is about, and representing Intel’s bridging between the entry-level Core i3 series and the higher-end Core i9 and i7 series is Intel’s Core i5-13600K ($320). We’ve decided to keep our previous pre-Black Friday guide selection for today’s pick because it’s still the best all-around pick below $350 in our opinion.
So why is Intel’s Core i5-13600K so good for the price? Because let’s face it, even at $320, it’s still pretty expensive, especially compared to the CPU pricing of say 10 years ago. Reeling it back in slightly, and when it comes to making a purchase based on how much something can offer with the least amount of cost, the Core i5-13600K looks to represent incredible value for money for gamers looking to save some $$$, but while still being able to deliver adequate and decent performance in computation workloads. A slight nod has to go to Intel’s hybrid core architecture, with a mixture of performance (P) and efficiency (E) cores, and Intel’s Thread Director in conjunction with Microsoft that allocates the right cores to the right tasks; users will need at least Windows 11 21H2 to utilize this.
The Core i5-13600K has a total of 14-cores (6P+8E), with 12 threads, and 24 MB of L3 cache, and on the surface, this doesn’t sound like much. The reality is, the Core i5-13600K has everything under the hood that it could need to make it a viable option for users looking to game at resolutions of 1080p up to 4K in combination with a good discrete graphics card. Looking at the finer specifications, the Core i5-13600K can boost up to 5.4 GHz on the Performance (P) cores, while the Efficiency (E) cores can hit frequencies of up to 4.2 GHz.
What makes the Intel Core i5-13600K such a good buy for $320 is that it’s highly versatile, and can be used as a very well-rounded option for both compute-related tasks and gaming. It benefits from all of the single-threaded IPC performance uplifts over Alder Lake as the Core i9-13900K does, but outside of highly multi-thread applications where the flagship comes out the clear winner, there’s not that much difference in gaming. As we can see above in Grand Theft Auto V at 1080p Maximum settings, there’s around a 2 frames-per-second difference between both Intel processors, but the point here is, one is more than double the price of the other.
Even when the resolution is ramped up to 1440p, the differences between the Core i5-13600K and Core i9-13900K in gaming don’t really differ all that much. Suppose that’s not enough to persuade you that the Core i5-13600K represents great value for money. In that case, the fact that you could pair this processor with an already decently priced B660 motherboard and a set of DDR4 memory for less than the cost of a Core i9-13900K ($570) itself, then the rest is history.
The Best Overall Value Pick For Gaming
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D (8C/16T, $319)
Now it comes to our final pick, which focuses all of the attention on gaming while still offering a good balance between performance per watt and pricing. There are many options from AMD’s Ryzen 7000 and 5000 series that could potentially fit the bill here, including the Ryzen 7 5700X 6C/12T at $188, which is superb value for under $200. With other Ryzen 5000 series SKUs from AMD being subjected to a wave of price drops recently due to the launch of its Ryzen 7000 series, perhaps the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, which is now at $319, is the best value gaming processor on the market.
The 8 core AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D offers some unique performance benefits in select games that not even the flagship i9-13900K or Ryzen 9 7950X can completely match. Although the latest Ryzen 9 7950X3D has all of the benefits from AMD’s 3D V-Cache packaging technology, the very high price of $699 puts it strictly out of budget for a lot of people. The benefits of the additional cache are not especially consistent from game to game – among other things, you need to be CPU limited to begin with to really enjoy them. Still, coupled with a cheap AM4 board and DDR4 memory, it warrants a look for buyers who truly aren’t focused on anything but gaming performance.
Normally we’d pick one of AMD’s Ryzen 5000 APUs, but with the Ryzen 7 5800X3D CPU down to $319 from its MSRP of $449, it’s hard to ignore one of AMD’s most potent CPUs for PC gaming. In fact, it jumped from #9 on Amazon’s top 10 best selling CPUs all the way up to #4, which shows consumers are taking advantage of these price drops. With eight cores (sixteen threads) and the 96 MB of L3 V-Cache that comes with AMD’s cache stacking technology with TSMC, it punches with more weight in games than some of the flagships, but without hitting the wallet too hard.
As we can see in a title from our CPU 2023 test suite that DOES benefit from the 96 MB of L3 cache, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D not only outperforms both the Intel 13th Gen flagships in Borderlands 3 with maximum settings at 1080p, but it also outperforms the Ryzen 9 7950X ($570) and isn’t far behind the Ryzen 9 7950X3D ($699). These options are much more expensive than the Ryzen 7 5800X3D ($320). Although there are limitations when comparing this chip in compute tasks such as rendering and encoding, the 5800X3D still does enough to warrant consideration here.
Even in games that favor faster cores, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D is still competitive, and the onus is more on the graphics card than the processor, essentially meaning that the money saved on the 5800X3D over the AMD/Intel flagships can be spent on a better graphics card that will push framerates even higher.
The Ryzen 7 5800X3D works with the AM4 platform and can be combined with a good set of DDR4 memory for optimal performance. Paired up with a relatively cheap B550 motherboard, this leaves some extra spending money to pick up a discrete video card, which, although cheaper than they used to be (thankfully), they are still not especially cheap. There’s also the benefit of having eight Zen 3 cores to consider, as it means multi-platform games coming from the consoles (which use eight-core Zen 2 CPUs) won’t find themselves for want of a CPU core.
And showing just how much things can change in a year, in practice, this is a significantly better processor than our 2021 budget picks. At that point in time a 6-core 5600X was $299, and even the more budget-focused 5600G APU was $240. Getting an 8-core with the added benefits of the 3D V-Cache for $20 more than that really does show how far processors have come in specifications driven by the competitiveness of AMD and Intel going toe to toe in price to performance. Notably, this does mean that our recommendation requires a discrete GPU. Still, with component prices falling right now compared to last year, it’s hard to recommend gaming on an integrated GPU if you can avoid it – especially as discrete GPU performance has moved forward.
Otherwise, for true budget options, it’s still hard for PCs to compete with the game consoles. Although it’s taken 2 years(!), the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X are now reasonably easy to find, with a base price of $500. And of course, the Xbox Series S continues to lurk at $259, and even less when on offer. True, they’re consoles, so they don’t come with the flexibility that we tend to appreciate as PC gamers; but it’s hard to beat the power of bulk buying that Microsoft and Sony enjoy – especially as the two of them are willing to sell these consoles at cost (if not at a loss).
On The Horizon: AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D with 3D V-Cache at $449
At the beginning of the year, AMD announced its Ryzen 7000X3D series processors at CES 2023 in Las Vegas, with three SKUs designed to occupy various price points in the market. Unlike the Ryzen 5000 series, which had one SKU with their 3D V-Cache packaging, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, AMD decided to unveil three 3D V-cache SKUs for the Ryzen 7000 series. Although we have the flagship Ryzen 9 7950X3D ($699) and the Ryzen 9 7900X3D ($549) already on the market, perhaps one of the most anticipated of all the three is the impending Ryzen 7 7800X3D, which is set to hit retail shelves on the 6th of April.
AMD Ryzen 7800X3D performance slide from AMD Keynote at CES 2023
Despite us not putting much weight behind in-house testing, several outlets have run simulations on the Ryzen 9 7950X3D as to how the Ryzen 7 7800X3D might perform, as it’s essentially one CCD with 8C/16T and 96 MB of L3 cache. We know that AMD’s latest Zen 4 core offers an IPC bump and overall performance increase over Zen 3 whilst remaining highly efficient. This, coupled with its 3D V-Cache packaging technology in cooperation with TSMC that we know hits the mark via our Ryzen 9 7950X3D CPU review, offers high performance in games optimized for more L3 cache and doing so while keeping power consumption down, at least compared to the previous generation (Ryzen 5000) and certainly more economical than Intel’s 13th Gen Core series.
Given the MSRP pricing of the Ryzen 7 7800X3D, which is set at $449, and how well AMD’s 3D V-Cache chips perform in these games and titles that can leverage the large pool of L3 cache, it could well be the best sub $500 gaming processor we’ve seen since the launch of the Ryzen 7 5800X3D last year. It’s similar in specifications, including the 96 MB of L3 cache and an 8-core part with a maximum turbo frequency of 5.0 GHz. The advantage, however, comes from improvements to the cores through TSMC’s 5 nm process node.
The big choice will really come down to pricing, as AMD’s Ryzen 7 5800X3D can be paired with a cheaper AM4 motherboard and DDR4 memory and still delivers good performance in gaming. Our assessment is to wait for the reviews, which should come sometime in April prior to the launch on the 6th
For the foreseeable future, although things can change quite drastically in a short time, the Ryzen 7 7800X3D is likely the last desktop SKU we’ll see released from both Intel and AMD for their desktop platforms for at least the next couple of months. Outside of graphics card pricing, which has come down from last year but not to what users have seen before the big mining craze. This made the market highly volatile, but with so many options in terms of platforms from both Intel and AMD and drops in storage and memory pricing, it’s now a better time than most to capitalize on this and build a new system or upgrade an existing one.