We were yet to take a look at our favourite picks for this year's best CPUs and GPUs for gaming, largely because we had such a busy start to the year with Intel and AMD's newest offerings on the CPU scene, as well as the brand new Navi GPUs from AMD with their 5000 series of cards. But with a brief reprieve from product releases, we felt now would be a perfect time to do a review, before the next wave hits us in Q4 (provided all goes to plan).
We decided to split the piece into CPUs, then GPUs, and outline our perfect picks for each category, as well as our choices for gaming at 1080p, 1440p and 4K. We'll also throw in a bonus "bang for your buck" category with each resolution too!
We settled on most of the hardware here by taking into account the all-important price-performance ratios, to try and get the best value in each category. For CPUs, we also considered things like TDP and how much cooling they require, whether the stock coolers were ample or if you'd need an aftermarket solution, so as to take total system costs into account too.
So without further ado here's...
2020's best CPUs
Best 4 Core CPU for gaming - Ryzen 3 3300X
Probably the star of the Zen 2 show, all things considered, this quadcore CPU is a fantastic little chip, capable of delivering excellent gaming performance for a delinquently low price. A fantastic choice for entry-level builders and veteran enthusiasts alike, the 3300X boasts clock speeds up to 4.3GHz and has proven a more than proficient candidate for delivering stable gaming at high settings as far as 1440p. There really is no downside we can see to this fantastic and versatile processor.
Best 6 Core CPU for gaming - Ryzen 5 3600
This was a really tough one to call. Intel's 10600KF offers fantastic performance for an unusually below-premium price, with a higher base clock as well as boost. But in the end, we had to give it to AMD's Ryzen 5 3600. Another contestant of the Zen 2 line-up, the 3600 is an all-round, solid 6-core chip, and a perfect pick for anyone looking to move on from an older quadcore. It's got the same TDP as the 3300X (nearly half that of the 10600KF) and almost an equally high clock speed, with up to 4.2GHz. What's more, it comes with that excellent Wraith Stealth cooler as stock, which has no difficulty keeping this processor nice and chill. There's also the 3600X variant too, which will see that clock speed bumped beyond the 3300X to 4.4GHz, for a small additional fee and slightly increased TDP - whether that's worth it though is down to personal preference. But for us, the 3600 offers great performance at a more than reasonable price point, and will have you grinning aplenty at high-refresh 1080p or mid-range 1440p gameplay.
Best 8 Core CPU for gaming - Ryzen 7 3700X
AMD really did pull a number on us this year - that number being the 3700X. Once again, another chip from their Zen 2 family, this 8-core CPU has proven a real competitor in the 1440p gaming space, offering many individuals a fantastic, budget-friendly solution, with benchmarks nipping at the heels of Intel's much pricier 10700KF. Albeit, the 3700X certainly won't be reaching anywhere near those Super Turbo Rocket Boost Modes of the Intel chips, which can theoretically reach up to 5.1GHz on the 10700KF.
That said, the 3700X sits in a remarkably stable 3.6-4.4GHz range, with reliable boosting in-game and a shockingly low TDP that matches the 3300X. A brilliant processor that'll see you gaming at smooth framerates at 1440p high settings, no sweat.
Best 10 Core CPU for gaming - i9 10900KF
Well, it was bound to show up eventually. Even if only because AMD has no 10-core equivalent... in all seriousness, if you're in the market for a 10900KF, then you'll be expecting to pay a premium. The 10900KF is undoubtedly the best gaming chip on the current market, so long as you pair it with sufficient cooling to keep those boost clocks ticking at an astonishing 5.3GHz. There really isn't much to be said here - Intel is still the gaming king, but just be prepared to handle the heat and power hungriness of this tanky processor.
You'll also want to make sure the motherboard you pair it with has a great set of VRMs, to keep that power draw in check and help avoid any unwanted throttling. A great choice for gaming at high and ultra settings on any resolution, it'll keep you more than comfy at 1440p high-refresh, with solid frame rates in the 4K screen space too.
Best 12 Core CPU for gaming - Ryzen 9 3900X
You guessed it folks, AMD really did come back with a vengeance, and this 12-core processor made for another top-tier addition to the Zen 2 storm that shook up the CPU market earlier this year. The 3900X is a stellar chip, delivering a tasty 3.8Ghz base clock, up to a very tasty 4.6GHz boost. With a slightly lower TDP, included stock cooling (which although not perfect, will do the job until you can afford an aftermarket cooler) and 64MB of L3 cache, it's still over £100 cheaper than the 10900KF. It's almost on par in most benchmarks, and even pulls a lead in multi-threaded tasks thanks to it's 7nm lithography. It certainly isn't the gaming king, but it's damn near close, which for such a considerable saving on cost, makes it hard to pass up. A perfect chip for those higher resolutions, the 3900X can maintain stable and high-refresh at 1440p high settings, and is equally as capable as the 10900KF when it comes to 4K gaming too.
So what are our perfect CPU picks?
With all things considered, here's our picks for each resolution, as well as a "bang for your buck" option:
Our pick for 1080p - The Ryzen 5 3600
Best bang for your buck at 1080p - The Ryzen 3 3300X
Our pick for 1440p - The Ryzen 7 3700X
Best bang for your buck at 1440p - The Ryzen 3 3300X
Our pick for 4K - The i9 10900KF
Best bang for your buck at 4K - The Ryzen 9 3900X
Now let's get down to some GPUs...
2020's best GPUs
Best Budget GPU - GeForce GTX 1660
We think the GTX 1660 (or super if you're feeling frivolous), is a great gateway into the dedicated graphics market. Still able to maintain that 60fps mark at 1080p in many modern titles, this card offers great performance at an incredibly affordable price point. We recommend the Gigabyte GTX 1660 OC, which is a fantastic card. It's fast, has 6GB of VRAM and a boost clock up to 1830MHz, making it a great all-round GPU that'll keep a budget system swinging above its weight. The 1660s may still only be GTX, rather than the newer, standard RTX cards, but it's by no means a noteworthy sacrifice for budget conscious builders out there.
Best Lower Mid-Range GPU - Radeon RX 5600XT
The RX 5600XT from AMD is a really solid card for high-refresh 1080p gaming. Think of it like the 1660 on a whole lot of steroids - it's big, beefy and packs one hell of a punch. It had a bit of a rocky start at launch, but many of the original issues have now been resolved. It's capable of breezing through 1080p titles, and is extremely well-optimised for the job. This is the perfect step up from that entry-level GTX 1660 and a great way to start dipping your toes in the 1440p screen space. We would recommend MSI's RX 5600 XT Mech OC; it still has 6GB VRAM, but newer and faster GDDR6 Memory, and a boost clock up to 1600MHz, so the card is well worth the additional cash if you've got it spare. It still doesn't have any ray-tracing, but unless you are super keen to experience it in Minecraft or the new Quake II RTX, you won't be missing out on too much in more mainstream titles - at least not for the near future, where Ray Tracing is only just making its way into big name titles. RTX is definitely a nice to have, but at this price point, it's a sacrifice we're willing to make.
Best Upper Mid-Range GPU - GeForce RTX 2060 Super
The 2060 Supers are definitely the bread-and-butter GPU for the mid-range market. AMD's 5700XT is certainly up there, but at this price point, we feel a lack of Ray Tracing technology is somewhat punitive for the price tag. This makes the 2060 Supers a steal - you'll be getting on par or better performance than the high-end 5600XTs, as well as with the low-end and mid-range 5700XTs. It's a nice sweet spot for NVIDIA, where you'll be able to reap the benefits of high-refresh 1080p or even 60fps (or more, depending on the game) on high settings at 1440p. We're big fans of the Gigabyte RTX 2060 Super Windforce OC. Upping the VRAM to 8GB, boost clock to 1680MHz, and of course, moving from GTX to RTX, this is yet another brilliant card for those mid-range buyers looking to guarantee a smooth and gorgeous gameplay experience.
Best High-End GPU - GeForce RTX 2070 Super
As we start climbing the GPU ladder, the 2070 Supers are arguably one of the best cards when it comes to value for money. They are markedly faster than the 2060 Supers, as well as the 2070 non-supers, whilst also being not all that far from 2080 Super territory - they're also significantly cheaper in most cases. This makes them an ideal option for anyone looking to move out of 1080p, and firmly into the 1440p screen space, as well as offering remarkably stable 4K gaming, even at high settings (though this is again, dependent on the game and your CPU). Getting a foot up from the 2060 Super to the 2070 Super is also very achievable, even for those on tighter budgets, with the likes of Gigabyte's 3X RTX 2070 Super Gaming OC which is only around £100 more than some high-end 2060 Supers. But if you really want one of the best 2070 Supers on the market right now, then we'd recommend going with the Gigabyte Aorus GeForce RTX 2070 Super; it's got 8GB VRAM, 1905MHz on the boost clock, fantastic Ray Tracing performance, and is around £100 cheaper than almost every 2080 Super on the market. It's and absolute beast and incredible value too.
Best in Class GPU - GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
Well, the category says it all. 2080 Ti's are the world's most powerful gaming GPUs on the consumer market. They're lightning fast, have 11GB of VRAM as standard, and will tear through any resolution at the highest settings without so much as flinching. If you're in the market for peak performance and 4K domination, then this is the only way to go... provided your wallet is deep enough of course. As far as we're concerned, the best model we've seen so far is the EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FTW3 ULTRA GAMING. With over 4000 CUDA cores, one of the highest out-of-the-box boost clocks on the market at 1755MHz, and an astonishing amount of memory, it really is the king when it comes to Elite Gaming.
So what are our perfect GPU picks?
Now we've gone through each of these GPUs in detail, here's our picks for each resolution, as well as a "bang for your buck" option:
Our pick for 1080p - Radeon RX 5600XT
Best bang for your buck at 1080p - GeForce GTX 1660
Our pick for 1440p - GeForce RTX 2070 Super
Best bang for your buck at 1440p - GeForce 2060 Super
Our pick for 4K - GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
Best bang for your buck at 4K - GeForce RTX 2070 Super
And that's all for now folks!
Thanks for joining us for a look at 2020's best CPUs and GPUs for gaming! If you're looking to find some more options outside of those we looked at today, you can see our full range of CPUs, as well as our selection of GPUs from AMD, and NVIDIA on the main site. If you're looking for a pre-built with these cards and processors at their heart, then check out our full range of gaming PCs here, or for the best of the best, take a look at our Reign Gaming PCs instead.
Thanks again for reading, and why not let us know your top picks down in the comments.