Do you need a CPU hierarchy to compare all the relevant processors in the world and see how they stack up? You have come to the right place.
It can be a rewarding but also a somewhat frustrating experience to find the right parts for your gaming PC.
Hardware enthusiasts may enjoy comparing benchmarks and reading professional reviews before settling on a final pick, but those unfamiliar with the subject may struggle to understand all the information.
Fortunately, finding the right CPU doesn’t have to be a time-consuming task that involves Googling different models and cross-comparing different specs, benchmarks, and reviews.
Our gaming CPU hierarchy below shows the current and last-gen CPUs ranked based on their gaming performance.
|CPU Model||Core/Thread Count||Base Clock (GHz)||Overclocking Supported||Socket|
|Intel Core i9-10900K||10 (20)||3.7||Yes||LGA1200|
|AMD Ryzen 9 5950X||16 (32)||3.4||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 9 5900X||12 (24)||3.7||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 7 5800X||8 (16)||3.8||Yes||AM4|
|Intel Core i7-10700K||8 (16)||3.8||Yes||LGA1200|
|Intel Core i9-9900K||8 (16)||3.6||Yes||LGA1151|
|Intel Core i9-10900||10 (20)||2.8||No||LGA1200|
|Intel Core i7-9700K||8 (8)||3.6||Yes||LGA1151|
|AMD Ryzen 5 5600X||6 (12)||3.7||Yes||AM4|
|Intel Core i5-10600K||6 (12)||4.1||Yes||LGA1200|
|Intel Core i7-10700||8 (16)||2.9||No||LGA1200|
|Intel Core i5-9600K||6 (6)||3.7||Yes||LGA1151|
|Intel Core i5-10600||6 (12)||3.3||No||LGA1200|
|AMD Ryzen 9 3950X||16 (32)||3.5||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 9 3900XT||12 (24)||3.8||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 9 3900X||12 (24)||3.8||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT||8 (16)||3.9||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 7 3800X||8 (16)||3.9||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 7 3700X||8 (16)||3.6||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3600XT||6 (12)||3.8||Yes||AM4|
|Intel Core i5-10500||6 (12)||3.1||No||LGA1200|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3600X||6 (12)||3.8||Yes||AM4|
|Intel Core i5-10400||6 (12)||2.9||No||LGA1200|
|Intel Core i3-10320||4 (8)||3.8||No||LGA1200|
|Intel Core i3-10300||4 (8)||3.7||No||LGA1200|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3600||6 (12)||3.6||Yes||AM4|
|Intel Core i5-9500||6 (6)||3||No||LGA1151|
|Intel Core i3-10100||4 (8)||3.6||No||LGA1200|
|Intel Core i5-9400||6 (6)||2.9||No||LGA1151|
|AMD Ryzen 3 3300X||4 (8)||3.8||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 7 2700X||8 (16)||3.7||Yes||AM4|
|Intel Core i3-9100||4 (4)||3.6||No||LGA1151|
|AMD Ryzen 7 2700||8 (16)||3.2||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 5 2600X||6 (12)||3.6||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 3 3100||4 (8)||3.6||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 5 2600||6 (12)||3.4||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3400G||4 (8)||3.7||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 3 3200G||4 (4)||3.6||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 5 2400G||4 (8)||3.6||Yes||AM4|
|AMD Ryzen 3 2200G||4 (4)||3.5||Yes||AM4|
Tier 1 – Enthusiast
First-tier CPUs are currently the most powerful on the market. They have the highest core and thread counts, and they often have excellent overclocking potential, although they tend to be more power-hungry as well, not to mention expensive.
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As these CPUs aren’t really designed for gaming, they are usually a better choice for those who intend to use their PCs both for gaming and CPU-intensive software.
|AMD CPUs||Intel CPUs|
|AMD Ryzen 9 5950X||Intel Core i9-10900K|
|AMD Ryzen 9 5900X||Intel Core i9-10900|
|AMD Ryzen 9 3950X||Intel Core i9-9900K|
|AMD Ryzen 9 3900XT|
|AMD Ryzen 9 3900X|
|AMD Ryzen 9 3800X|
Tier 2 – High-End
This tier of processors is usually the right choice for those who plan on getting a powerful high-end GPU to go with their CPU.
The performance isn’t quite as high as that of the more expensive Ryzen 9 and Core i9 models, but they’re still very powerful. Their GPUs are capable of taking advantage of the beefiest GPUs currently available, and they can handle professional software well as well.
|AMD CPUs||Intel CPUs|
|AMD Ryzen 7 5800X||Intel Core i7-10700K|
|AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT||Intel Core i7-10700|
|AMD Ryzen 7 3800X||Intel Core i7-9700K|
|AMD Ryzen 7 3700X|
|AMD Ryzen 7 2700X|
|AMD Ryzen 7 2700|
Tier 3 – Mid-Range
Here we’re getting to the mid-range, and the CPUs found here are often the most popular choices for gaming PCs, and for a good reason – they often offer the best value.
Mid-range CPUs have more cores and threads than ever before in 2021, they can handle even more powerful GPUs without much bottlenecking, and their prices are usually very reasonable.
|AMD CPUs||Intel CPUs|
|AMD Ryzen 5 5600X||Intel Core i5-10600K|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3600XT||Intel Core i5-10600|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3600X||Intel Core i5-10500|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3600||Intel Core i5-10400|
|AMD Ryzen 5 2600X||Intel Core i5-9600K|
|AMD Ryzen 5 2600||Intel Core i5-9500|
|Intel Core i5-9400|
Tier 4 – Budget
As a final note, for those who are pinching pennies and can’t quite afford to spend a lot of money on a CPU or a PC, AMD and Intel have very viable budget-oriented options.
You won’t find high core counts or thread counts, nor impressive clock speeds nor overclocking potential in these CPUs. However, they’re quite affordable and would be the most cost-effective choice for many budget or even mid-range gaming PCs. Sadly, they aren’t very future-proof.
Additionally, AMD’s APUs (the ones marked with a “G” at the end of their model numbers) have Vega integrated graphics that are already excellent for gaming in 2021.
They still can’t compete with dedicated GPUs, so you will have to lower the resolution and some graphics settings when playing more demanding games. On the other hand, if you’re on a tight budget, don’t care much about graphics, and/or primarily intend to play less demanding titles, one of these APUs may save you a few hundred dollars.
|AMD CPUs||Intel CPUs|
|AMD Ryzen 3 3300X||Intel Core i3-10320|
|AMD Ryzen 3 3100||Intel Core i3-10300|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3400G||Intel Core i3-10100|
|AMD Ryzen 3 3200G||Intel Core i3-9100|
|AMD Ryzen 5 2400G|
|AMD Ryzen 3 2200G|
And so, that would be it for our gaming CPU hierarchy!
You’ll notice that we didn’t include any of the more expensive AMD Threadripper or Intel Core X models, which is because they don’t make for good gaming laptops. Their processing power is significantly higher than that of a gaming PC, plus they are much more expensive than their mainstream counterparts.
For the same reason, we didn’t include AMD’s Athlon APUs or Intel’s Pentium and Celeron lineups because they are simply too weak and would inevitably bottleneck the latest GPUs.
We should also note that, while Intel Core CPUs seem to be the definite choice for gaming, they were ranked based on gaming performance without taking into account another important factor: price.
Value in this context refers to a CPU’s price-performance ratio, which is difficult to ascertain since the prices can vary based on a number of unpredictable factors.
The Ryzen CPUs typically offer better value for money than Intel processors, even though they lag behind Intel in terms of raw performance. Because many of them are not only cheaper than competing Intel models to begin with, but also come with AMD’s excellent Wraith coolers included in the box, saving you money as well.
Moreover, Ryzen CPUs tend to offer noticeably better multi-threaded performance, too, and the differences in in-game performance between several of the CPUs listed here are quite small. When using the CPU in question, you wouldn’t even notice some of them.
If you’re looking for some more accurate recommendations, check out our selection of what we consider to be the best CPUs for gaming in 2021, where we take into account more aspects than just gaming performance.
If we have missed any current-generation or last-generation CPUs on the list, please let us know in the comments and we’ll get it fixed as soon as possible!