Selecting the top of the line computer processor was always at the core of building a decent system configuration. Being one of the leading components (next to the motherboard, of course), it dictates how well your system performs when complex procedures are issued.
Gamers usually opt for a better graphics card thinking that it’s going to elevate their overall gaming experience to a much higher level. While that might be true, it certainly isn’t the only determining factor. Most video games utilize CPUs with four cores, as they appear to be the current standard. However, video game and program developers are slowly beginning to implement the 6-core and 8-core processors, thus raising them to be the new norm.
The application of these processors isn’t strictly limited to gaming. In fact, the majority of people who purchase their high-end CPUs are streamers and video editors. Due to the recent events concerning the decrease in ad revenue (the “adpocalypse’’, as they call it), most content creators have migrated from their regular platforms (e.g., YouTube) to the ones such as ‘’Twitch’’. That alone increased the popularity of streaming (due to online donations) as well as the demand for high-end CPUs.
Now, acquiring an excellent CPU doesn’t have to be tied to your budget limitations that much. The price for these processors ranges from $250 (which is fairly affordable) to $350. To help you find them, we’ve assembled a short list of the products we deem to be the best CPUs for streaming and gaming at the moment.
Top Five CPUs for Streaming and Gaming
1. Intel Core i7-8700K
In our opinion, Intel has remained the undisputed king of building phenomenal processing components. Their ‘’iCore’’ series is simply one of the best, and they are constantly improving it by altering the specifications of their products.
This processor belongs to their 8th generation Intel core series. It features the new multithreaded 6-core configuration, which is based on the Intel’s ‘’Coffee Lake’’ architecture. It supports the base clock speed of 3.7Ghz (across all cores), while being able to boost the individual cores up to 4.7Ghz.
The reason why this processor is listed so high up on our list is the fact that its application is almost universal. We’ve noticed that the component never fails to offer equal performance in terms of both streaming and gaming.
The downsides of this CPU include the additional purchase of a cooling unit because 8700K does not include a stock cooler. Most unlocked (K) models do not have them, so that’s something worthy of note. In addition to that, keep in mind that the Intel’s Thermal Interface Material somewhat limits the overclocking range.
Mind you, this is a high-end CPU, meaning that its price will be on the higher end of the spectrum.
Excellent performance in gaming
The CPU has a decent core usage distribution
The processor does not have a stock cooler
The Thermal Interface Material might cause some limitations when overclocking is in question
2. AMD Ryzen 7 2700X (With Wraith Spire Cooler)
AMD’s recent comeback as a processor building company has caused Intel to readjust their processor portfolio. Not only does that make them (AMD) a worthy contender but it also gives them the status of a company that has the potential to top Intel at some point.
In comparison to their previous generation models, the second generation Ryzen processor is a bionic CPU. That means that it’s better in every sense possible.
It features eight cores with sixteen threads which have a base clock of 3.7Ghz. The individual boost clock reaches the solid 4.3Ghz (which is slightly less than the 8700K). In addition, it has the same Zen core design as the previous models, the only difference being the new 12nm manufacturing. There are some minor improvements regarding memory and cache latency as well. Unlike 8700K, this CPU does come with an integrated stock cooler (Wraith Prism). It’s an RGB air-cooler which has a unique heatsink with an integrated LED backlighting that adds some aesthetic value to your PC.
The leaps that AMD made weren’t astronomical but were enough to give them a position as a contender, at least.
If we take a look at its price, we can see that it’s slightly more affordable than that of 8700K. It’s a good alternative for people who don’t want to spend too much money but still get the most optimal performance out of their CPU.
It has an excellent price for an 8-core processor
It offers good performance which almost rivals that of 8700K
It does not offer fast gaming performance as Intel’s processor does
3. AMD Ryzen 7 2700 (With Wraith Spire Cooler)
Both models are unlocked, which is characteristic for AMD’s second generation Ryzen processors. What that does is offer new overclocking possibilities which weren’t otherwise possible.
The main differences between this CPU and 7 2700x are the cooling system that comes with it and the clock rates. The cooler model remains essentially the same (Wraith Prism). However, it uses 40 Watts less, which causes a significant difference in TDP (Thermal Design Power). Furthermore, the base clock has been dropped down to 3.2Ghz (even though it’s usually around 3.5Ghz).
If we put these differences aside, all other technical specifications are exactly the same. The processor includes the same eight cores and the multi-threading technology as its counterpart. The fact that it slightly underperforms in some aspects can be rectified by installing a better cooling and overclocking system for it.
It’s still a good processor with a decent and affordable price, which moves it a bit closer to the ‘’mainstream’’ end of the CPU market.
It features solid performance during streaming and rendering
It’s quite affordable
The cooling system affects the clock boosts due to its design (power limit)
4. Intel Core i7-7700K
Intel’s i7-7700K is only one generation behind our top pick, but it still doesn’t fall that much behind the current high-end CPUs.
It’s a quad-core processor which is fabricated using the 14nm node fabrication process. The process is said to improve clock speed as well as several power properties of the unit. This ‘’Kaby Lake’’ processor utilizes 91 Watts of TDP, which is less than what other units that we’ve reviewed operate with. These power specifications tell us that Intel had an intention of building this CPU as an energy efficient unit.
Being the unlocked model, it gives you the opportunity to push the overclock range up to 5.0Ghz (even though ill-advised). The base clock frequency is 4.2Ghz while the individual clock boost usually revolves around 4.5Ghz.
Considering the fact that 8th generation Intel processors currently reign supreme, we can affirm that the prices of the 7th and 6th generation processors are dropping at an alarming rate.
We’d say that its performance during rendering and streaming is at a satisfactory level. The gaming is really where this CPU stands out. It’s not as good as the 8700K (for the obvious reasons), but it’s still a worthy alternative.
The CPU has good overclocking tolerance and support
It’s a good gaming CPU
The Intel HD Integrated Graphic card doesn’t offer decent performance
It might struggle with the newest games and more demanding programs
5. AMD Ryzen 5 2600X (With Wraith Spire Cooler)
The last CPU on our list is AMD’s Ryzen 5 2600X and for a good reason.
The CPU has a 12 nm ‘’Pinnacle Ridge’’ silicon fabrication on an AMD’s famous ‘’Zen+’’ architecture. It definitely increases the processor’s overall ability to pull off faster clock speeds. Speaking of clocking, the base clock frequency of the unit is 3.6Ghz while individual boost frequency goes up to 4.2Ghz.
However, one thing worthy of note is that Ryzen 5 2600X tends to get rather hot after a while (especially during overclocking).
For a processor that’s a bit older, we’d say that its performance is still on par with some of the more expensive models. If you’re not planning on overclocking your processor, we’d say that this one is a sensible option. However, if you do want to overclock it, we’d advise purchasing a 5 2600 and then installing a better cooler. This is the case with most AMD’s ‘’X’’ Ryzen models. The performance during gaming could be better, but considering its specifications and price, we think that it’s quite understandable.
This CPU has a phenomenal price (which makes it the best high-end budget CPU)
The performance is excellent during the rendering process (but not so great during gaming)
It tends to get rather hot after a while
It consumes more power than the other models (since it’s a bit older)
Buyer’s Guide for the best gaming and streaming CPU
By listing these processors, we don’t automatically assume we know which one would be the best for you. Keep in mind that we’ve listed these CPUs according to our preferences. In order to simplify the process of selecting the best CPU for you, we’ll provide a little bit of backstory to help you understand our picks better.
Intel or AMD?
There’s an ongoing tug-of-war between Intel and AMD. One is always shifting the odds in their favor while the other is evening them, and vice versa. The first thing to do is to decide whether you want to side with Intel or AMD. If you’re someone who has had a long-term preference for either Intel’s or AMD’s products, then perhaps you should stick with them. If you’re just looking for the best CPU on the market at the moment, then you should pay attention to the following statement.
Our experience with both companies led us to the conclusion that Intel’s products often provide the best gaming experience possible. We’re not saying that AMD’s CPUs aren’t capable of doing so. Intel’s products are simply better in that regard. On the other hand, AMD’s products have showcased excellent rendering capabilities (especially in programs such as Sony Vegas, Adobe After Effects, Z Brush, etc.).
The next step would be to determine whether you need your CPU for single or multi-threaded tasks. Our benchmark statistics have shown that Intel iCore CPUs have the upper hand when it comes to single-threaded tasks (single core utilization). AMD’s Ryzen models always fared well against multitasking activities (running multiple programs at once and switching from one to another). That’s the reason why Ryzen models appear to be a popular choice among many streamers.
The most important determiner is always how affordable the processor is. Buying a high-end CPU comes at no small cost. That’s the very reason why we’ve laid out several options in the price range from $250 to $350. That’s a $100 difference for five processing components that have similar performance.
Right from the start, we can say that Ryzen CPUs cost far less than the Intel’s iCore alternatives. The performance loss is not a significant one, and you still get your money’s worth out of the CPU.
Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that each CPU has its ‘’unlocked’’ model, which costs $30-$40 more. You can always opt for a downgraded model and increase the affordability aspect even further.
So, if your question is: “which one is better?”, for now, our answer would definitely be the 8th Generation Intel iCore models. We can’t stress enough how impressed we were with i7-8700K’s outstanding performance. The price is considerably higher than that of other models, we definitely agree on that. However, we think that the additional single-core performance optimizations do more than justify the price.
But then again, that’s just us. You should get whatever feels right for you and matches your preferences. Whether you’re a professional streamer, a gamer, or a video designer, you are presented with a substantial number of options to choose from.