Picking the best CPU for gaming means that, while itíll still be heavily reliant on single-threaded processor power in terms of raw performance, you canít just get a couple of speedy cores and hope theyíll keep your graphics card fully fed.

Despite the dominance of quad-core CPUs Ė or above Ė in todayís gaming rigs, the difficulty in coding for multi-core processors has meant weíre still not seeing many modern game engines taking full advantage of the powerful CPUs many of us have in our machines. In fact, now that AMD has decided to take the fight to Intel in terms of core-count, even six cores is becoming more and more common.

But games are slow to catch up. But that could be set to change with an increased number of dedicated DirectX 12 (and, to a similar extent, Vulkan) games offering a more streamlined method for delivering all that processing power into the hands of gamers. Itís been a long, slow march, but processor power may soon become a vital component of gaming performance once more. Though I have been saying that for the last ten yearsÖ

AMD has usurped the top spot for the best gaming CPU with its Ryzen 2 processors, but it still has fierce competition from Intelís Coffee Lake chips. Take a look below to find the processor that fits you best.

Also, if you need a refresher course on techie-phrases, hereís our processor glossary of terms.

THE BEST CPUS FOR GAMING ARE:

AMD Ryzen 5 2600
AMD Ryzen 5 2600X
Intel Core i5 8400
AMD Ryzen 5 1600X
Intel Core i5 8600K
AMD Ryzen 7 2700X
Intel Core i7 8700K
AMD Ryzen 7 1700X
AMD Ryzen 7 1700
AMD Ryzen 3 2200G
AMD Ryzen 3 1300X
Intel Pentium G4560

WINNER: BEST CPU FOR GAMING

AMD RYZEN 5 2600
Approx. Ė $165 | £142

VITAL STATS

A fantastic combination of gaming power, genuine processing chops, and serious value.

Cores6
Threads12
Base clock3.4 GHz
Turbo3.9 GHz
SocketAM4

The AMD Ryzen 5 2600 isnít just a great gaming CPU with serious multi-threading chops, itís also an incredibly good-value chip, too. We had originally pegged the 2600X as the go-to gaming chip due to its high-end performance, but struggled a little with how much more expensive it was compared with the Core i5 8400.

The 8400 still retains a slight gaming performance lead, but the fact the Ryzen 5 2600 costs almost the same as the rival Intel chip means that thereís only going to be one winner in this battle. With a little judicious overclocking, at a level which isnít going to put any undue strain on your silicon, you can get the same level of performance as the 2600X, and only a few fps lower than the Core i5. But with a huge amount more multi-threading capabilities for the same price.

In the end, AMDís non-X 2600 has more power inside it than youíre likely to use, and is still able to offer all that for a mighty tempting price. You might need to get your hands dirty to get the most out of it, but itís well worth the minimal effort.

RUNNER-UP: BEST CPU FOR GAMING

AMD RYZEN 5 2600X
Approx. Ė $220 | £210

VITAL STATS
For a little more than the price of the straight 2600 the 'X' chip delivers a slightly higher Turbo clock.

Cores6
Threads12
Base clock3.6 GHz
Turbo4.2 GHz
SocketAM4

The 2600X has double the thread count of its closest Intel rival, the Core i5 8400, which makes it a genuinely impressive computational chip Ė as fast as the far more expensive i7 8700K. And though we are talking about the 8400 being quicker in gaming frame rates itís only ever by a few frames per second on average. And thatís at 1080p. Push the resolution up to a more GPU-intensive 1440p or 4K and the difference becomes essentially zero.

But itís the straight 2600 CPU from AMD that pushes the X-series variant down into second place. Thatís a cheaper chip that just needs a very small amount of overclocking effort to get running at the same speed. If you know youíll never bother, and have the spare cash, go for the 2600X, but everyone else would be better off with the non-X Ryzen 5 2600.

RUNNER-UP: BEST CPU FOR GAMING

INTEL CORE I5 8400
Approx. Ė $200 | £155

VITAL STATS
Our favourite Coffee Lake CPU offers six Intel cores and an impressively low price tag.

Cores6
Threads6
Base clock2.8GHz
Turbo4GHz
SocketLGA 1151 v2

Iíve been struggling with which chip to pick from the i5 8400 and the new Ryzen 5 processors as to the best CPU for gaming. While the cheaper 8400 does have marginally better gaming performance Iíd struggle to really recommend it as an overall package. The new mainstream chipsets, the H370 and B360, mean that the non K-series Coffee Lake SKUs have a more affordable platform, but how long theyíre going to last is anyoneís guess.

Intel has a habit of nixing backwards compatibility for its new Core CPUs, while AMD has confirmed that your AM4 motherboard of today will be compatible with all its Zen-based mainstream processors up to 2020.

But the 8400 is a lot cheaper right now, given the fact the 2600X has launched more recently, though, itís only slightly less than the standard Ryzen 5 2600. And that only makes it a tempting prospect if youíre seriously limited on price. Price is really the only reason youíd pick the 8400 over the 2600 Ė the future-proofing, multi-threaded performance, and near-as-dammit gaming performance, means the Ryzen 2 CPU is the better overall CPU.

RUNNER-UP: BEST CPU FOR GAMING

AMD RYZEN 5 1600X
Approx. Ė $200 | £146

VITAL STATS
The first Ryzen 5 chip was stunning at launch, and is still a great option thanks to its low price since the 2nd Gen chips launched.

Cores6
Threads12
Base clock3.6GHz
Turbo4GHz
SocketAM4

The 1600X was a fantastic processor when it first launched. It was a symbol that AMD could actually make genuinely competitive gaming CPUs, and not just from a straight cost perspective.

But the 2600 is here now and is making it tough to recommend picking this first-gen Ryzen over the new Ryzen 2 CPU. Well, it would be if the 1600X wasnít available for a great price right now. In the US itís still $200. But in the UK itís a snip at around £150. That makes it cheaper than the 8400 with almost the same level of gaming prowess.

If you do anything else with your PC alongside gaming Ė the sort of productivity shizzle that demands multi-threaded CPU performance Ė then the old-school Ryzen, with twice as many active threads as even the K-series Intel competition, is the better bet and more affordable than the Coffee Lake options.

Best CPU for gaming runner-up - Intel Core i5 8600K

RUNNER-UP: BEST CPU FOR GAMING

INTEL CORE I5 8600K
Approx. Ė $250 | £233

VITAL STATS
The 8600K is still a good chip, but the quality of the 8400 almost entirely offsets the benefit of the K-series' overclocking performance.

Cores6
Threads6
Base clock3.6GHz
Turbo4.3GHz
SocketLGA 1151 v2

This is a bit of a surprise if Iím honest. I genuinely thought that, after what happened with previous Intel generations, the K-series Core i5 would be the go-to gaming CPU. But because the Ryzen 5 2600 has the multithreaded chops, and the Core i5 8400 is just so damned good when it comes to pure gaming performance, thereís almost no need to spend the extra on the 8600K.

Where the 8600K does have relevance is its overclocking skills. Running at a comfortable, stable, 5.1 GHz the Coffee Lake chip is capable of delivering the same level of multi-threaded CPU performance as the competing 12-thread Ryzen 5. To be honest, that seems to have been this processorís raison díÍtre Ė beating Ryzen at all costs.

But itís more expensive than the 1600X, and youíre stuck with having to go for the pricey Z370 platform to get that overclocking speed.

WINNER: BEST HIGH-END CPU FOR GAMING

AMD RYZEN 7 2700X
Approx. Ė $320 / £330

VITAL STATS
16 threads of processing power, a gaming performance boost, and a stellar price point. Top chip, indeed.

Cores8
Threads16
Base clock3.7GHz
Turbo4.3GHz
SocketAM4

If youíre after a mix of great multi-threaded computational chops and decent gaming performance then look no further than the new 2700X. Itís a great-value Ryzen 2 CPU thatís the top-chip in the latest range, and yet costs way less than the 1800X did when it first launched. Itís even cheaper than the 1700X itís nominally replacing.

But it can outperform them both thanks to higher clockspeeds and a processing management engine thatís better at giving you that power when you need it. No longer are you limited to the base frequency as soon as you start using more than a single core, now itíll top 4 GHz even when all eight cores are at 100% load.

That makes it a great chip in productivity terms and a CPU with gaming performance that is practically indistinguishable from the Intel competition.

These second-gen Ryzen chips prove that AMD has been listening, and the fact that the manufacturer has managed to whisk out the lumps in the Ryzen batter (mmm, pancakesÖ) and get it to market in a little over a year is mighty impressive. Itís not just the 12 nm chips that are lithe Ė the whole CPU side of the business seems to be, too. AMD has been smart to hold back the inevitable Ryzen 7 2800X to combat whatever Intel can muster in response.

Best high-end CPU for gaming runner-up - Intel Core i7 8700K

RUNNER-UP: BEST HIGH-END CPU FOR GAMING

INTEL CORE I7 8700K
Approx. Ė $360 | £380

VITAL STATS
The full-fat Coffee Lake CPU is a bit of a beast, but with it lacking the thread count of the top Ryzen it falls just behind.

Cores6
Threads12
Base clock3.7GHz
Turbo4.7GHz
SocketLGA 1151 v2

The Coffee Lake K-series i7 is a cannibal. Not only has it eaten the Kaby Lake i7 whole, itís also gone to town on both the hexcore i7 7800X and the unashamedly irrelevant Kaby Lake-X parts. And those last three were only around for a matter of months before they were swallowed whole. Brutal. But thatís what had to happen for Intel to get Coffee Lake out early and in the sort of shape that would give it a chance against AMDís Ryzen.

But with the second generation of the Ryzen CPUs having now launched the 12-threaded 8700K doesnít have the same gloss it once did. The 2700X has arrived with essentially the same level of gaming performance and way more computational power. And itís turned up a good chunk cheaper too. Factor in the need to purchase a separate cooler with the 8700K and youíre looking at the 2700X being around $70 less expensive.

It does have the slightest of leads in gaming frame rates, but only by a couple of frames per second on average. In short, an invisible lead.

Best high-end CPU for gaming runner-up - AMD Ryzen 7 1700X

RUNNER-UP: BEST HIGH-END CPU FOR GAMING

AMD RYZEN 7 1700X
Approx. Ė $247 | £170

VITAL STATS
It doesn't have the improved gaming support of the 2nd Gen Ryzen chips, but if you do a little productivity on the side it's a great option.

Cores8
Threads16
Base clock3.4GHz
Turbo3.8GHz
SocketAM4

If youíre not comfortable running your brand new processor overclocked out of the box then the Ryzen 7 1700X is possibly a better option for you than the cheaper Ryzen 7 1700. And chances are youíre looking at the Ryzen processors because youíre after their high core and thread counts for productivity tasks over and above gaming performance.

For general rendering and encoding youíre going to want your chip to be as stable as possible and still run at a high clockspeed. The R7 1700 is a great choice if youíre willing to overclock, but the safer option is this ĎXí suffixed version of AMDís octa-core range.

In terms of gaming performance, youíre leaving some of your GPUís potential frame rate in the box when pairing it with a first-gen Ryzen processor. But with the multi-threaded performance on offer, at this price, if youíre interested in using your PC for anything outside gaming this OG Ryzen is a great option.

Best high-end CPU for gaming runner-up - AMD Ryzen 7 1700

RUNNER-UP: BEST HIGH-END CPU FOR GAMING

AMD RYZEN 7 1700
Approx. Ė $227 | £186

VITAL STATS
With a little judicious overclocking you can get eight cores and 16 threads running at serious speeds.

Cores8
Threads16
Base clock3GHz
Turbo3.7GHz
SocketAM4

If youíre happy with carrying out a little light overclocking on your new processor then the Ryzen 7 1700 is a great choice with a heady mix of fantastic eight-core pricing and impressive number-crunching chops. At roughly the same price as Intelís quad-core i7 7700K, the 1700 will be a rather tantalising prospect for anyone that isnít primarily going to be gaming on their PC.

By manually pushing the somewhat miserly stock clocks up to the same levels as the other Ryzen 7 chips you can get pretty much the same overall performance out of the 1700 for a lot less cash. Itís still not a dedicated gaming chip, but itís got the multi-threaded performance that might make those lower frame rates more palatable .

Best cheap CPU for gaming - AMD Ryzen 3 2200G

WINNER: BEST CHEAP CPU FOR GAMING

AMD RYZEN 3 2200G
Approx. Ė $100 | £90

VITAL STATS
With the Vega graphics power inside it, you could create a tiny 720p gaming rig around this CPU alone.

Cores4
Threads4
Base clock3.5GHz
Turbo3.7GHz
SocketAM4

AMD began retiring the Ryzen 1000-series processors even before the April release of the Ryzen 2 CPUs. The new AMD Raven Ridge APUs are replacing both the Ryzen 5 1400 and the Ryzen 3 1200 in the red teamís processor stack. But this bargain 2200G APU pretty much puts the Ryzen 3 1300X out of a job.

That olí Ryzen 3 used to be our favourite budget gaming chip, but the mix of serious quad-core CPU performance with the addition of surprisingly effective Vega GPU silicon make the this APU a winner whether youíre plumbing a graphics card into your rig or not.

As the basis for a budget gaming rig the 2200G can deliver decent 720p gaming performance. Well, if youíre not too ambitious about the game settings, that is. The Ryzen 5 2400G does have more about it on that front, but itís a good chunk more expensive and the performance difference can largely be made up by overclocking the internal GPU.

Because AMD has also managed to jam in a full quad-core Ryzen CPU into the package it performs admirably when you plumb in a discrete GPU. It loses a little against the 1300X on straight CPU performance, potentially because itís got half the L3 cache, but in gaming terms itís close enough that it doesnít really make a difference. And the low-end Raven Ridge is a little cheaper too. Bargain.

RUNNER-UP: BEST CHEAP CPU FOR GAMING

AMD RYZEN 3 1300X
Approx. Ė $138 | £116

VITAL STATS
Four overclockable CPU cores for the price of an Intel dual-core. It's a bit of a bargain.

Cores4
Threads4
Base clock3.5GHz
Turbo3.7GHz
Socket AM4

I love budget kit. No, scratch that, I love budget kit that turns up offering the same sort of performance you would normally have to pay through the nose for. Loving your work, AMD. The Ryzen 3 1300X was the best budget gaming chip around when it first launched, packing four overclockable Zen cores into a dual-core price tag. And itís only just been overtaken by the slightly cheaper Ryzen 3 2200G.

The Ryzen 3 platform is excellent too. When you can pick up the overclockable 1300X and a powerful B350 motherboard Ė for the same price as a multiplier-locked Core i5 on its own Ė it becomes mighty hard to make a case for Intel. That pricing means you can build yourself a Ryzen 3 gaming rig powered by the GTX 1060 for the same price as youíd pay for a locked down Core i5 rig with just a GTX 1050 Ti. And you know which oneís going to be winning the benchmarking battle there, right?

Best cheap CPU for gaming runner-up - Intel Pentium G4560

RUNNER-UP: BEST CHEAP CPU FOR GAMING

INTEL PENTIUM G4560
Approx. Ė $78 | £68

VITAL STATS
Intel's Kaby Lake architecture at a sub-$60 price point - but it struggles against AMD's budget chips.

Cores2
Threads4
Base clock3.5GHz
TurboN/A
SocketLGA 1151

The Pentium G4560 is a decent budget CPU, offering Intelís 14nm Kaby Lake architecture for a sub-$60 price point, and all without too much of a performance difference between it and the still too-expensive Core i3 7350K.

It doesnít have any overclocking potential and no Turbo clockspeed to boost that miserly 3.5GHz stock frequency, but it has Intelís Core architecture, which will help get the most out of your GPU. The issue is that itís a dual-core CPU. It does have HyperThreading enabled, which is a definite bonus in this budget arena, but itís still at the bottom end of acceptable for most gamesí minimum system specs. In fact, with the Ryzen 3 CPU and APUs being only a little more expensive, buying a new dual-core CPU is arguably not acceptable if you hope to be able to keep using that chip a year or two down the line.

What it does have is an upgrade path for your platform. It uses the LGA 1151 socket, so with a suitable motherboard, such as an H270, youíll be able to drop a speedier i5, or even i7, processor into your board later on down the line.

So these are interesting times, then. Where for most of our PC gaming lives weíve been recommending whichever Intel processor suited your budget itís no longer that simple. And thatís down to the engineering efforts that AMD has put into creating its latest Ryzen lineup of CPUs.

AMD has made it very difficult to recommend an Intel processor given the fact that you get so much more for your money with an AMD chip right now, and the gaming performance delta between them is now so small as to be completely inconsequential.

At the mainstream end itís the six-core, 12-thread Ryzen 5 2600 for the win. Itís a great-value, processing monster that still has a fair amount of overclocking potential inside it Ė enough that the 2600X is almost irrelevant if youíre happy to overclock.

The Intel i5 8400 comes close, but thanks to Intelís 14nm production woes, itís pricing continues to fluctuate. And, if youíre doing serious PC work alongside your gaming hobby, itís six-core, six-thread design sits behind the AMD chips in pure multithreaded computational terms.

At the high-end the eight-core, 16-thread Ryzen 7 2700X is the daddy. Intel has no answer for its multithreaded prowess, not until the Intel i9 chips arrive later this year. And even then theyíre going to be at least $100 more expensiveÖ probably more.

And for budget chips, the Ryzen 3 2200G will deliver a decent level of CPU performance and has a Vega GPU baked into it which will allow for 720p gaming without the need for a graphics card.

How is Intel going to come back from this? Only time will tellÖ