In our series of top CPU guides, here’s the latest update to our list of recommended game CPUs. All numbers in the text have been updated to reflect prices at the time of writing. The numbers in the charts reflect IFRS.
CPU Market Overview, October 2021
As we approach the holidays, we continue to be in the period between CPU launches. Still, there are two main lines of processors to talk about.
Stocks of both AMD’s Ryzen 5000 and Intel’s 11th Rocket Lake processor generators seem to be healthy, as almost all models are now on sale around MSRP. Find the right processor at the right time and you may notice a good price or discount, however as stocks come and go, there are cases where a $ 50 premium can be on the cards for the best processors.
The best game processors in October 2021
Sometimes choosing a CPU is difficult. So, we covered you. In our CPU Guides, we give you a selection of some of the best available processors, providing data from our reviews.
|Recommendations for AnandTech Gaming CPU
(Prices are correct at the time of writing)
|Proof of the future||AMD Ryzen 7 5800X (8C)||$ 400|
|A smart option for today||Intel Core i5-11600KF (6C)||$ 250|
|Budget without facilities||Ryzen 9 5950X (16C)||$ 800|
|For everything else||Get a console|
|On The Horizon||Intel Alder Lake
|To see our Best Workstation Processor Guide, follow this link:
Most of our recommendations aim to hit the performance / price curve in the right way, with a secondary slope towards energy consumption.
You can find the reference results of all our tested CPUs in our reference database:
Smart money is proof of the future
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X (8 cores, 400 USD)
Regardless of the current graphics situation, an important question for all system manufacturers is whether what they buy will last in the future, whether it is games at 1080p or even up to 4K with high refresh rate. The best thing about the gaming market is that as you push higher and higher resolutions, the CPU is less and less important, but in the end it is still important enough to achieve minimum performance.
It’s often discussed how many cores make sense for games — depending on who you’re talking to, whether it’s 4-core, 6-core, or 8-core, or even more, but as always the answer isn’t always the same clearly. Is the proposed processor only for this or next year? Both what you are playing now and predicting the demands of future games are difficult.
Most modern games can easily chew four cores and take advantage of six benefits. When we get to that level, single-core performance is also important, so it’s obviously important to try to build a little space for what you can buy today. That’s why we recommend the Ryzen 7 5800X.
It has eight Zen 3 high-performance cores, with a peak of around 4.7 GHz and all cores around 4.3 GHz, depending on your cooling and settings. It has more than enough cores for today’s games, some room for the future, and single-core performance is extremely fast. Users looking for something more to load without games that can chew cores can spend an extra $ 160 and get an extra four cores, especially if they want to combine streaming games on the same system, however for most the Ryzen 7 5800X is a good place for a future-proof system. There is also room for less overclocking, if the lifespan needs a little more.
After this, you’ll be watching the DDR5 version anyway, and in 2024 you should see all the wrinkles smoothed out of that market.
Smart options for today
Intel Core i5-11600KF (6c / 12t 250 USD Newegg)
If the budget doesn’t stretch as much as the $ 400 processor suggested, a return to something more comfortable for today’s loads brings us to the Core i5-11600KF, which is currently available for $ 250. The cooler will need to be spent extra because these chips can run warm, but with six high-performance Rocket Lake cores they will go through every game available today, at high settings, like most next year.
The Core i5 could also be used for streaming, if you’re willing to knock down some quality pegs, but that also depends on the title. Almost every player would be happy for the Core i5-11600KF to sit in their version, with a possible upgrade to the Core i9 with better performance later, depending on how the market turns with the launch of Intel’s next-generation processors later this year. In terms of price and performance, the Core i5-11600K is a smart choice for today.
Gaming CPU without budget
Ryzen 9 5950X (16c, $ 800)
Regardless of your personal budget, there will always be another user with $ 6,000 who will burn a hole in his pocket and be ready to spray the best system available. At this price, a large GPU purchase is already coming, so the rest of the system has to match and has to be the best. Some users may be inclined to go the cutting-edge path for desktops, like the Threadripper, which is great if you need PCIe tapes. However, we’re still waiting for the Zen-based Threadripper to appear, and we don’t have an release date — so for that purpose, we recommend the Ryzen 9 5950X as a CPU for games without a budget.
With 16 cores running at peak over 5 GHz (technically rated at 4.9 GHz, but our review sample worked at 5050 MHz), and a core frequency of around 4.3 GHz for just 142 watts, the Ryzen 9 will chew any load that it works for him, whether it’s games or something else. A CPU of this caliber should be enough to build games for the next three years, if not more, and the only limitation you may come across is the cost of the GPU you have to buy for it.
Currently, looking at the many journalists who follow prices much more closely than us, I anecdotally see a significant number of R9 5950X + RTX 3090 from people who can afford the best and want the best of their gaming settings. At the end of the day, running at 4K and 144 Hz, the Ryzen 9 may not be any better than a good Core i7 in terms of frames per second, but it gives users space to do whatever they want while playing those games.
For everything else
Upgrade what you have or get a console if you can
Unfortunately, the market is still stumbled when it comes to graphics. Combine production issues with the latest shipping issues, so it’s hard to say how many graphics cards are currently sitting in container ships off the coast of California. Users either stick to their graphics cards and upgrade everything around them, or look for pre-built machines that offer reasonable value, and this guide would be useless anyway.
But if you already have a machine, which is in a reasonable condition, it might be cheaper to stick to what you have, for now. For those with an older Haswell or Skylake system, perhaps a better choice of processor and selling your old one is a small enough upgrade to make the system feel better, and if that has extra performance, it could spill over into your gaming. It won’t be shocking for the country, but it doesn’t make sense to introduce a new LGA1200 or AM4 system right now with only a mid-range CPU / GPU combination, especially for anyone looking to build a brand new one for less than $ 1,000. A good $ 1,000 system is likely to end up with an 8-core Ryzen APU and no discrete graphics, while another $ 1,000 is waiting for that graphics card.
For everyone else, the days of buying a $ 600 gaming system are pretty long gone. In this case, if you can find a console, that is our recommendation. Until this global situation with semiconductor shortages, raw material prices, and shipping issues is resolved, we may never go back to $ 600 gaming systems, especially since developers want to put more and more features in their titles.
On the Horizon: Alder Lake and AMD V-Cache
Given that Intel launched Rocket Lake earlier this year, and AMD shares returned with the launch of 5000G APUs, we are still a month away from both companies launching something significant.
On Intel’s side, earlier in the year, Intel teased its new generation Alder Lake platform, which uses 8 high-performance cores and 8 efficient cores. Intel said it would launch later in 2021, but did not say which date. Intel said it works on laptops and desktops, and given its recent presentation to OEM partners, we suspect that the desktop actually comes first. Intel demonstrated a desktop system like Alder Lake at demonstrations at CES, but Intel often uses desktop demonstration units to showcase processors for laptops. There’s also the issue around DDR4 over DDR5, and whether Intel should wait and make Alder Lake a desktop-only DDR5 platform, or we’ll have mish-mash motherboards that support DDR4 and DDR5.
Intel’s Alder Lake Demo system from CES
AMD was teased by the new V-Cache technology at Computex in June. This stacked silicone technique allows AMD to add 64 MB of L3 cache per chip, allowing a total of 192 MB on the equivalent of the Ryzen 9 5950X. AMD has confirmed that it will run V-Cache-enabled processors on Zen 3 silicon, but at the same time said that Zen 4 will be released in 2022. I completely doubt that we will see Zen 3 + VCache in production around the end of 2021, with launch in early 2022 on the current AM4 platform. Then a fully upgraded AM5 platform for Zen 4 late next year.
If we look at time frames:
AMD Ryzen 1000 (Zen): March 2017
AMD Ryzen 2000 (Zen +): October 2018 (+13 months)
AMD Ryzen 3000 (Zen2): July 2019 (+15 months)
AMD Ryzen 5000 (Zen3): November 2020 (+16 months)
AMD Ryzen 5000XT / 6000 (Zen3 + V-Cache): Expected in the first quarter of 2022?
AMD Ryzen 6000/7000 (Zen4): The fourth quarter of 2022 is expected?
These last two entries are subject to speculation – AMD has not yet confirmed any name or brand, and the time frames are our best estimates. On top of all that, we’re waiting for the Zen 3 Threadripper to hit the market, which we thought would happen a few months ago, but we’re still waiting. Although it is not a product for games, it is still desirable for showing and developing games in some market segments.
One newer idea that could call into question AMD’s time frame is the recent leaks of AMD’s V-Cache server processors, which originated as ‘Milan-X’. Today we see a leak about Milan-X, but nothing about Ryzen with V-Cache, which could indicate that AMD is focusing V-Cache technology first on server processors. In this case, the computer version may be delayed. Just something to think about, for those waiting for V-Cache hardware to hit the market.
AnandTech processor coverage
Our great processor reviews over the last 12 months have covered all the launches so far and are worth reading.
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