AMD processors have always been an excellent choice for budget-minded gamers who don’t mind exchanging some of the bells and whistles that come with Intel CPUs in favor of raw performance combined with unprecedented value.
Best AMD Processor for Gaming
Why Choose AMD for Gaming?
As you know, a powerful processor is just one part of a larger equation that determines how much time you spend below 60 FPS. Only rarely is processor the biggest bottleneck, which is why it makes sense to only spend as much money as it takes to max out your graphics card. Modern AMD processors are particularly great in this regard, allowing you to achieve high framerates and fantastic responsiveness and still have enough money left in your bank account to make the most out of the next Steam sale event.
All processors on this list fit into the AM3+ socket type and feature AMD’s Piledriver microarchitecture, the second-generation successor to Bulldozer. Piledriver brings significant performance increases across the board while retaining similar power characteristics.
Entry-Level: AMD FX-6300
AMD has made it very easy for us to select our entry-level favorite. For less than $100 with a fan included, the FX-6300 is the budget deal of the year. According to data from CPU Benchmark, this six-core processor offers the best value across all price categories, refuting all claims that PC gaming is a costly endeavor.
The FX-6300 runs on 3.5 GHz, and its max turbo core speed is 3.8 GHz. Unlike with Intel CPUs, there’s no need to pay extra just so you can indulge in some overclocking. While your results may vary, there are many people out there who have successfully reached almost 5 GHz with the FX-6300—that’s a lot of computing power for something so affordable. And perhaps best of all, the processor’s TDP is just 95 W.
Mid-Range: AMD FX-8320
With its 8 cores, a boost speed of 4.0 GHz, and price of just $125, the FX-8320 has every right to look at other mid-range processors with a self-assured smirk on its face. Performance-wise this processor is almost on par with the i5-4460 from Intel, which is one of the most popular mid-range Haswell CPUs.
But unlike the blue marble, the red beast is fully unlocked for overclocking and noticeably less expensive. Just keep in mind that you’ll need a capable after-market cooler to prevent it from going full-toaster. Most people who tried overclocking the FX-8320 very able to increase the base clock speed to 4.0 GHz on the stock voltage settings.
High-End: AMD FX-8350
If you’re familiar with the current AMD CPU lineup, you might be wondering where’s the FX-9590, AMD’s most powerful desktop processor. The reason for its omission in favor of the FX-8350 is simple: it’s about as power-hungry as the average smartphone factory in China. At 220 W, the FX-9590 simply doesn’t make sense for most people. Compared to your typical Intel CPU with TDP of around 85 W, the FX-9590 would increase your annual home energy cost by approximately $33. That means you would have to pay extra $100 over the course of 3 years for a marginally better performance.
The much more level-headed FX-8350, which is our high-end favorite, runs on just 125 W. Despite its humbler power requirements, the actual gaming performance of this processor is still excellent. And if you ever need more, clock speeds of over 5.0 GHz are just one beefy cooler away.
Zen Is Coming…
In March of this year, AMD is set to introduce their new Zen architecture, along with first Ryzen CPUs. Everyone’s paying close attention to AMD, because, after a very long time, it finally seems like AMD could be a serious threat to Intel’s current CPU dominance.
If current rumors are to be taken seriously, the top-range Ryzen CPU should have 8 cores and 16 threads. Its performance is expected to match Skylake processors, but for a better price. “Zen is not a destination; it’s a starting point. AMD is back, but we’re also back to stay. We’re going to continue to push high-performance compute going forward in our next generation—we’re totally committed to high performance compute,” said the chief architect for Zen, Mike Clark.
Should you then hold on and wait for Zen to hit the market? That depends on how much money you’re willing to spend on a new processor. Ryzen CPUs will likely cost more than current Piledriver CPUs, and chances are that they won’t be able to compete with the excellent value of the FX-6300 and even the FX-8320.