Spoiled for choice—I think that's a fair statement to make of today's experience buying a new gaming CPU. On the one hand, AMD is pumping out a steady stream of excellent Ryzen CPUs founded on its ever-impressive Zen architecture. On the other, Intel is back with even more cores and an ingenious hybrid architecture in the 13th Gen, making swift work of games and heavy-duty workloads alike.
It's tough to pick a single winner when we've had a year replete with CPUs worth buying. Even on the more budget side of things, which admittedly has been a little ignored with the latest generation of chips, we've seen prices come crashing down on last-gen chips to all-time lows. During Black Friday there was a Ryzen 7 5800X for $234 (it's a little more now (opens in new tab) but still cheap). A Ryzen 7!
It's been a good time for the humble PC builder, spurred on by the ever-important competition between two silicon goliaths: Intel and AMD. With these two at each other's throats, it's us lot that's set to benefit as customers. Higher core counts, faster chips, more frames—we really wouldn't be here if only one of these big companies was in the biz.
But only one can win our gear of the year prize. Below are the three gaming CPUs we here at PC Gamer feel are worth highlighting for some accolade action this year—you might be somewhat surprised by one of them.
Intel Core i9 13900K
The Core i9 13900K is capable of doing pretty much anything you ask of it. Maybe not a kickflip, but the computational equivalent of one in Cinebench R23, for sure. It's the fastest processor for gaming with in 2022, and at least until the Core i9 13900KS shows up next year, and it's a dab hand at multithreaded performance, too.
There are very few times this chip is ever bested by AMD's Ryzen 9 7950X, though it does lag ever-so-slightly behind in Blender benchmarks. Overall, that matters not. It's winning the race nearly everywhere else. The one downside is that this is absolutely overkill for basically every PC gamer out there that's not also a self-made professional.
Read our Intel Core i9 13900K review.
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D
I know, I know. No Zen 4 in this year's nominations. Look, it's not that we don't love Zen 4 for what it delivers, but in our eyes it's Intel's 13th Gen that's won that end-of-year battle. The one CPU that's been super impressive this year, however, is the Ryzen 7 5800X3D. Not only does it compete with Zen 4 in gaming, it brings a potentially awesome new technology to the fore in AMD's 3D V-Cache.
The reason we're ready to pick the Ryzen 7 5800X3D over the Zen 4 Ryzen 7 7700X is that one comes on the cheap and cheerful AM4 platform, and will make a wonderful upgrade for the people still using it, while the other comes on the still too pricey AM5 platform. When prices come down next year for AMD's latest, or the Zen 4 3D V-Cache chip arrives, I'm sure we'll have changed our minds. For now, the 5800X3D is simply the cheaper and more technologically exciting option.
Read our AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D review.
Intel Core i5 13600K
This is the processor that I personally called a shoo-in for the best CPU of 2022, so you could say it's a favourite going into this contest. A healthy stack of cores in this chip, along with high clock speeds, make for a mean gaming processor with tons of multithreaded performance.
We're talking a chip able to match Intel's Core i9 12900K from last year in both multi- and single-threaded performance. That's the best of both worlds, and for less cash than you might expect to pay for that performance. The fact you can also install this chip into the cheaper 600-series motherboards and still extract top performance is icing on the Core i5 cake.
Read our Intel Core i5 13600K review.
Find out the winner of the PC Gamer Hardware Award for the best CPU for gaming in 2022 on New Year's Eve. All three stand a chance, even if there is a bit of favourite going in.