Both Intel and AMD processors will work just fine with the AMD Radeon RX 6800 GPU, but if you wanted the very best at launch, you'll want to go with an AMD CPU for enhanced performance. While the Radeon RX 6800 isn't the best graphics card from AMD, it can still make use of a capable multi-core processor. Here are our recommendations.
Best Overall AMD
This monster of a processor is the range-topping Ryzen 9 with a whopping 16 physical cores and 32 threads. The performance is as mad as those figures, allowing you to plow through even the most demanding of games at 1440p and 4K. The Radeon RX 6800 won't be able to test this CPU but at least you know that it'll gladly be paired with a more powerful GPU once you upgrade.
Best Overall Intel
While you do need a specific Intel x299 series motherboard for the Core i9-10900X because of it being an X-series processor, it's well worth it in the end. This 10 core and 20 thread CPU provides plenty of headroom in both single and multi-core optimized applications and games. It's more than a match for the Radeon RX 6800.
This processor may be a small step-down from the Ryzen 9 5950X and is considered the "entry" point for the Ryzen 9 series, but it has an impressive 12 cores and 24 threads. These numbers are still ridiculous, allowing you to create an impressively powerful gaming PC. The Radeon RX 6800 isn't the most capable GPU, but you'll easily enjoy smooth 1440p gaming.
Moving down the Intel ladder, we have the Core i9-10850K, which is only slightly slower than the Core i9-10900K we reviewed favorably. It still houses 10 cores and 20 threads, but the TDP rating and clock speeds are a little slower. This CPU is unlocked, however, allowing you to bump the clock speeds up and almost match the 10900K.
Best Value AMD
A few years back you'd laugh to call an 8 core and 16 thread CPU "mid-tier," but that's precisely where we are right now. Should you want to save a little, but still enjoy quite the performance, the Ryzen 7 5800X is a good place to start. It supports PCIe 4.0 and comes rocking all the other impressive features from AMD's 5000 series of processors.
Best Value Intel
The Core i7-10700K from Intel is much like the Ryzen 7 5800X in that it packs inside 8 cores and 16 threads, making it one fine mid-tier processor. This CPU does have a slight edge on top of the Ryzen 7 5800X in that it has ever-so-slightly better single-core performance. There's also an integrated GPU, which makes this a better value proposition if you plan on saving a little for the Radeon RX 6800.
Best Budget AMD
We're now entering into AMD's more affordable Ryzen 5000 series range with the Ryzen 5 5600X. The Ryzen 5 series became incredibly popular with PC builders due to its excellent price to performance ratio and the latest processor is no different. It has 6 cores and 12 threads, making this one amazing value-centric CPU.
Best Budget Intel
Intel also matches AMD with the Core i5-10600K, rocking 6 cores and 12 threads at a reasonable price. Should you already own an Intel motherboard or prefer these processors over AMD's offerings, you'll be able to save a little with the 10600K whilst also enjoying a solid gaming experience.
Choosing the best CPU for AMD Radeon RX 6800
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Choosing the right CPU for your gaming PC build comes down to what games you plan on playing. If you'll be playing modern games at 1080p or 1440p, you likely won't require anything above an AMD Ryzen 5 or Intel Core i5. More CPU-intense or demanding games at 4K will need something with a little more punch, which both Intel and AMD can offer. If you want the very best, go with the AMD Ryzen 9 5950X (opens in new tab).
As aforementioned, you likely won't require all that performance, which is where the excellent AMD Ryzen 9 5900X (opens in new tab) comes into play. It's a little cheaper, has fewer cores, but is more reasonable for gaming (and your budget). For an Intel motherboard and PC build, you'll want to go with the exceptionally powerful Intel Core i9-10850K (opens in new tab).
If you're all about value, the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X (opens in new tab) is a great middle-ground that balances performance and price. The same goes for the Intel Core i7-10700K (opens in new tab), which is almost as good as the i9-10900K sibling. There are other value options, too, if you feel comfortable with going for a processor with fewer cores and threads.
Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.