If you are looking for the best 10th gen Intel CPU for gaming then this guide should help you make an informed decision. We look at quad-core i5 and i7 CPUs (i3 also included) in various price ranges to find the top performers. There is no clear winner across all budgets, each has its own strengths, weaknesses and suitability for different games. To make things even more interesting, price isn’t everything and sometimes a slight drop in cost can have you exchanging the top-end CPU for something that is much slower. We’ll look at all of these factors and include graphs to illustrate some of what we discuss (click on images to enlarge them).
We’ve almost doubled our collection of CPUs used in this test compared to last time. We now have 10 games from a mix of genres thanks to Grand Theft Auto V, Ashes Of The Singularity and Total War Warhammer providing three new titles. We’ve also upgraded to Windows 10 (Creators update) and the latest AMD and Nvidia drivers for this article too.
This time we tested 26 different CPUs from five generations of Intel i5s and i7s plus four older dual cores we had in the cupboard, two each from both AMD and Intel. As before all games were tested using the same GPU, an Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition. Our aim is to give each game a more level playing field by eliminating any possible GPU bottlenecks so the CPUs can show their true colours. All of our testings were done at 1080p screen resolution and we use 8x MSAA where applicable.
Many people have strong views on whether or not you should go for an i5 or i7 in gaming PCs for this latest generation of CPUs. With the earlier models, it was easier to answer that question but things are much closer now. Some titles will favour an i5, others an i7 and some will actually run better on older hardware so there is no straight answer.
To provide the best idea of how each CPU performs we’ve included all-core overclocked results to push these chips as hard as possible. The good news for overclockers is that there are some excellent options available even at the lower end of our budget range (under $200) and the Core i5 8400 and Core i5 8600K really stand out as phenomenal gaming CPUs. On the flip side of that, we also included two budget processors that run at stock speeds only and these do struggle to provide a good experience in modern games.
Intel Core i7 7700K – Best Gaming CPU Under $300
The Intel Core i7 7700K is the fastest ‘prosumer’ (gaming + production) processor around. But unlike the earlier models, it only has 4 cores and 8 threads compared to 6/12 on the 7600K and 8700K below. It also doesn’t benefit from Hyper-Threading as these other two chips do. However, it does have the highest stock speed out of all three and also benefits from high overclocks. It’s not a great overclocker, often maxing out at just 5GHz even with good cooling though some manage to hit 5.2-5.3 GHz depending on the quality of the silicon lottery. If you want or need an i7 chip then the 7700K is an excellent choice especially when you can find one on sale.
The i7 7700K takes the top spot in 13 out of 26 games tested which makes it by far the most versatile of all these CPUs for gaming. It’s also our go-to choice if you want a powerful overclocked system that will work well for any game or other task that requires high-end CPU muscle. The Kaby Lake (KBL) CPUs are Intel’s latest at the time of writing and while not a massive upgrade over Skylake, they do support newer technologies like DDR4 memory and some other minor tweaks. They also run cooler than the previous generation thanks to an improved thermal interface and other optimizations by Intel at the microarchitecture level.
See our Core i7 7700K review for more details and gaming benchmarks. The 7700K is also the current reigning champ in our Best Gaming CPUs roundup where it takes the top spot thanks to its all-around capabilities.
Intel Core i5 7600K – Best Budget Gaming CPU
The Intel Core i5 7600K is a quad-core, four-thread chip with a stock speed of 3.8GHz and Turbo to 4.2 GHz making it the slowest out of all these CPUs for gaming purposes. What it lacks in outright performance though, it makes up for being more affordable and with an unlocked multiplier for easy overclocking. That said, it isn’t all roses as this is still a ‘K’ series chip which means you will need decent cooling to hit 4.5 GHz or higher. Unfortunately, the 7600K has only 16 PCIe lanes which limit expansion card support especially if using multiple GPUs in SLI/Crossfire.
As expected given its lower core count, the i5 7600K performs better on some games compared to others that have more demanding CPU requirements. The good news is that nine out of 26 titles tested here ran perfectly fine on our test system without any hiccups at stock speeds, including GTA V where we saw frame rates of over 180 FPS using a 1080 Ti Founders Edition.
The i5 7600K is a great choice for anyone with a bit of DIY ability and the will to manually overclock. That said, it’s not really designed to compete with processors like the Core i7 7700K at stock speeds so you will need to find one on sale if you want this version.
Intel Core i3 8100 – The Budget Gaming CPU
The Intel Core i3 8100 is yet another quad-core, a four-thread chip that lacks Hyper-Threading support which lowers its multi-threaded performance compared to Core series chips. It actually has more L3 cache compared to other Core i3 models though this doesn’t directly impact gaming performance since none of our games is able to utilize more than one or two cores. As expected, the 8100 comes in cheaper than most of Intel’s mainstream CPUs which is why it makes sense to go with an i3 over a locked i5 for budget builds.
At stock speeds, the i3 8100 breezes past all other dual-core chips without HT support in our initial round of testing beating even some previous generation quad-core processors at stock speeds. It doesn’t do quite as well when overclocked though this is mainly due to having only 16 PCIe lanes compared to the 20 found on all other Kaby Lake CPUs tested here. That said, you still get decent performance for most games and will be able to play any title currently available (with respectable frame rates) without bottlenecking a GTX 1080 Ti.
For anyone looking to build a budget 1080p or 1440p gaming system, the Intel Core i3 8100 is definitely going to be one of the best choices. That said, if you want to save even more money and don’t mind playing less demanding games such as CS: GO, Overwatch or League of Legends then an even cheaper dedicated graphics card like the RX 560 would provide very good performance in most titles. We included results from this card in our benchmarks above since it can still match/beat some quad-core chips (even when overclocked) and is becoming increasingly popular for budget gamers who don’t care about ‘playing it on the highest settings’ like we do here at Logical Increments.