Which is the best AMD Ryzen gaming CPU?
AMD's third-generation Ryzen CPUs are some of the best processors ever made, offering fantastic single-threaded performance and even more impressive multithreading capabilities. This makes them perfect for productivity tasks like video editing and transcoding, but also excellent at gaming. In-fact, for the first time in more than a decade, AMD's top chips are competitive with Intel's at pumping out high frame rates in modern games.
But that doesn't mean you need to buy the most powerful Ryzen processor. Indeed, if your needs are more modest than what the 12-core 3900X offers, you don't need to spend anywhere near that much. There are some excellent eight, six, and even quad-core CPUs for you to consider.
Best AMD Ryzen gaming CPU on Desktop
If you're building or buying a new desktop PC, the CPU is one of the most important components. Sitting right behind the graphics card, it's the piece of hardware that will have the most impact on how fast your game will load, how pretty it looks, and how high your frame rate will be. Picking a great CPU is a must for any gaming PC.
Thanks to AMD's excellent bang for buck in this and previous generations of Ryzen CPUs, though, you don't have to spend the world to get a great gaming processor.
If you're on an extreme budget and don't plan to add a dedicated graphics card to your system, you'll need to opt for one of AMD's accelerated processing units, or APUs. These include onboard Vega graphics for some impressively capable gaming performance. There are a few to pick from, but the AMD Ryzen 3 3200G offers the most value for money. For under £100, you get a CPU with four cores and four threads and a maximum single-core boost frequency of 4.0GHz.
Combined with its eight Vega graphics cores, there's more than enough graphical and processing power to run games like Fortnite, DotA 2, or CS:GO at excellent frame rates. You can even play older AAA games like GTA V at 60 FPS if you play with the settings a little.
If you just want the cheapest AMD Ryzen processor to go with a decent graphics card, you can find the first-generation Ryzen 3 1200 for as little as £50 in some cases. There's also the second-generation Ryzen 5 2600 to consider, which can be had for not much more than £100 and offers six cores, 12 threads, and overclocking potential to take it north of 4GHz without much difficulty.
If you have a slightly higher budget, however, you can get a lot more for your money. The best bang for buck Ryzen CPU available today is the Ryzen 5 3600. With six cores and 12 threads, it can hit a massive clock speed of 4.2GHz right out of the box and maybe even further with AMD's automated overclocking features.
But there are some games that can benefit from a little more power and a couple more cores. If eight cores and 16 threads sounds more like what you need for your gaming sessions, the Ryzen 3700X is a fantastic option. It can reach clock speeds of 4.4GHz and with the performance and efficiency improvements of this new generation of AMD chips, it can compete with even Intel's most expensive offerings in just about everything.
The 3900X is an option if you don't mind spending close to £500 on a processor. It will give you a little more power than the 3700X, but unless you spend a lot of time working with applications that can take advantage of the 12 cores cores and 24-threads, the 3700X is a better buy.
If you'd like to see the kind of system you can build with a great AMD Ryzen processor, have a look at the Chillblast AMD system configurator.
Best AMD Ryzen gaming CPU for laptops
If you're more of a mobile gamer and are looking at some of the AMD Ryzen gaming laptops out there, you have plenty of options to pick from. While there are currently no Zen 2-based Ryzen laptops, there are still some fantastic Ryzen 3000 processors based on last-generation Zen+ cores to enjoy.
Like AMD desktop APUs, all of AMD's Ryzen mobile processors come with onboard Vega graphics cores for entry-level gaming capabilities. While they don't hold a candle to discrete graphics chips, most of them easily outstrip Intel's onboard graphics solutions.
At the low-end of the spectrum, budget chips like the Athlon 300U and Ryzen 3200U give you two cores and four threads, with boost clocks that reach 3.3GHz and 3.5GHz respectively. They aren't gaming powerhouses and you'll want to restrict yourself to indies and Esport games, but they get you in the game and do so at an affordable price.
Further up the spectrum the Ryzen 5 3500U and 3550H have four cores and eight-threads, for much better multithreading capabilities and greater gaming power. With eight onboard Vega cores, they're much more like AMD's desktop APUs and will give you much better frame rates in Esport titles and even the option to play older AAA games if you tweak the settings.
At the top of the pile, the Ryzen 7 3700U and 3750H have the most performance to offer Ryzen mobile gamers, offering 10 Vega cores and clock speeds that can reach 4.0GHz in the right circumstance. They won't come cheap, but if you want the most powerful AMD mobile processors available, they're your best bet.
If battery life is of major concern to you, look out for Ryzen 3000 U processors, as those are all rated at a thermal design point (TDP) of 15w, meaning they suck way less juice and require far less capable cooling than the more capable and power-hungry H processors. If performance is more your goal, those HD chips should give you a noticeable performance improvement in general and more sustained clock speeds.
Most of AMD's Ryzen mobile range of processors are excellent choices for mobile gaming. That said, the Ryzen 3000 desktop processors are much more capable. If you're serious about your gaming, a gaming PC will give you a lot more power and a lot more bang for your buck.
What about Intel?
If you're still not entirely sold on AMD's Ryzen line-up, Intel chips are still worth considering. At the very top end, they offer slightly better gaming performance, giving you a few extra frames per second for your money. They are a lot weaker at multithreading tasks, though, so if you do anything as well as gaming on your PC, a Ryzen processor may be your best bet.
Still, if you're more of an Intel fan or just like what the blue team offers, then there are some great options out there. The 9400F is a fantastic entry-level gaming CPU – although you'll need a dedicated graphics card to go with it – and the 9600K gives you all the mid-range performance you might need.
The 9700K and 9900K get pretty expensive, but for power gamers who want to go Intel, they're your best bet.
Have a play with our Intel system configurator to see what kind of PC you can put together with an Intel chip as its beating heart.