Let’s face it, we all know the processor is an important part of a gaming machine. But where is the sweet spot? And what tier CPU should you be looking at for the optimal value vs performance for dollar spent. The last thing any of us want is a bottle necking so join us below as we dive right in and explain the CPU hierarchy from the two processor giants AMD and Intel.
CPU Hierarchy In a Nutshell
|Tier||AMD||Intel||Good For Gaming?|
|Tier 1||Ryzen Threadripper||Intel Core i9||Typically, Overkill|
|Tier 2||Ryzen 7||Intel Core i7||Excellent for Gamers|
|Tier 3||Ryzen 5||Intel Core i5 / i3||Sweet spot for value|
|Tier 4||Ryzen 3||Intel Core i3||An OK, cheap option|
|Tier 5||–||Intel G Series||Not recommended|
The CPU hierarchy below has been broken down into easy to understand, Step-by-Step sections, called tiers. Here is a list of these tiers and a description of each.
Tier 1 – High End PCs: The Most Powerful Gaming Processors
The first tier CPUs can be described as the most powerful processors that are on the market today. They have been designed for those users who are looking to increase their speeds above the norms as well as in core count. However, before anyone runs out and purchases a tier 1 processor, it is important to note that these powerful processors are not really meant for gaming but for servers and workstations. In most gaming situations processors of this class are wasted, the additional power, especially additional cores are wasted in current PC games. However, it should be a consideration if you’re planning on running multiple GPU’s. Bellow are the high end power packed processors and the names of the manufacturers that make them.
Related: Check out our review of the best thermal paste for CPU’s.
- Ryzen Threadripper 1950X
- Ryzen Threadripper 1920X
- Ryzen Threadripper 1900X
- Intel Core i9-7900X
- Intel Core i9-7920X
- Intel Core i9-7940X
- Intel Core i9-7960X
Tier 2 – Performance: Best Bang for Buck Gaming CPU’s
At a much more affordable pricing than Tier 1, Tier 2 processors are well known for superior performance. Users can also expect high core counts along with mainstream sockets if they make this purchase. We feel these are the best CPU’s for gaming, typically fast enough for 2 GPU’s and enough cores to utlilize modern PC games. It should be pointed out that while tier 2 processors are our top choice for a powerful gaming machine, while it’s true they do not offer the sweet spot in terms of value when it comes to gaming. Here are some examples of these high performance accessible powerhouses CPU’s and their respective manufacturers.
- Ryzen 7 2700X
- Ryzen 7 2700
- Intel Core i7-8700K
- Intel Core i7-8700
Tier 3: Mid Range, The Sweet Spot for Average Gaming PC’s
Typically, the most popular CPU’s used by the gaming community today are the tier 3 chip. These processors are the choice for the average gamer since they provide users with superior mid range performance. Due to sufficient performance and number of cores, gamers and the average PC users often feel they are the sweet spot in terms of performance for dollar spent. A mid range CPU such as an i5 coupled with a higher end GPU would be a better choice if you’re on a budget than a tier 1 or 2 chip with a mid range GPU. The take away here is, if you can’t afford an i7 grab an i5 and spend the rest of your budget on the GPU.
Related: If you are investing in a new processor for gaming, make sure you have a decent cooler, see our review of the best AIO water coolers for CPU’s.
- Ryzen 5 2600X
- Ryzen 5 2600
- Intel Core i3-8350K
- Intel Core i5-8400
Tier 4: Cheap Gaming Solution for Casual Gamers
Tier 4 is aimed at budget gamers, it’s still fast enough not to cause a bottle neck when used with a mid range graphics card, and is fast enough to play the latest games if you’re not looking to push high FPS to drive a 4k 144Hz monitor. By using this combination of mid range GPU and CPU, you’ll have enough performance to drive the latest AAA games at cost effective price. Bellow are some examples of these budget friendly CPUs and their respective manufacturers.
- Ryzen 5 2400G
- Ryzen 3 2200G
- Intel Core i3-8100
Tier 5: Not Recommended for Gaming
We don’t recommend tier 5 CPU’s for gaming, unless you’re playing old games and are using an old or low end GPU. With a tier 5 CPU, such an Intel G series, you’re going to end up with a CPU bottleneck, and you’re better off grabbing a higher tier CPU.
- Intel Pentium G4620
- Intel Pentium G4600
- Intel Pentium G4560
The sweet spot in the CPU hierarchy for value is tier 3, if you can afford it grab a tier 2 and if you’re doing other CPU intensive tasks out of game you “might” want to consider at tier 1. However, for gaming alone we recommend tier 2 and 3 processors and if you’re on a budget go for tier 4.