The best CPU for NVIDIA RTX 3060 choices from AMD and Intel won't hold back this GPU. The RTX 3060 is ideal for gaming at 1080p and 1440p without overspending, and a wide range of CPUs will pair up nicely depending on your budget and desired performance. We've rounded up the best for you.
All-out Intel power
A competitor for the Ryzen 9, the i9-12900K runs at a 125W base TDP but can be overclocked. It brings DDR5 memory and PCIe 5.0 support, though you'll need a compatible LGA 1700 socket motherboard. Likely overkill for most, but you won't be disappointed if you have the budget.
All-out AMD power
The AMD Ryzen 9 5950X might be overkill for most people, but if you have the budget, it will crush almost anything you throw its way. It features 16 cores, 32 threads, a 105W base TDP, and overclocking support. Using the AM4 socket, it has DDR4 RAM and PCIe 4.0 support.
Best value Intel
The i7-12700K beats the Ryzen 7 5800X in most benchmarks but costs more. The DDR5 RAM and PCIe 5.0 support set it up nicely for the future, but you'll need a motherboard to accommodate the LGA 1700 socket. It uses 12 total cores and 20 threads and runs at a 125W TDP.
Best value AMD
Less expensive than the i7-12700K and will keep up with the RTX 3060. The Ryzen 7 5800X is overclockable and supports DDR4 RAM, PCIe 4.0, has 8 cores, 16 threads, and a 105W base TDP. Thanks to the AM4 socket, you can use it with older AMD motherboards to help keep costs down.
Best affordable Intel
The Intel Core i5-12600K is an incredible mid-range CPU that beats the Ryzen 5 in most benchmarks. DDR5 RAM and PCIe 5.0 support set you up for the future if you factor in the LGA 1700 socket requirement. On a tighter budget, this will make an excellent pairing with the RTX 3060.
Best affordable AMD
Almost the same price as a Core i5-12600K, but the Ryzen 5 5600X doesn't bring quite as much power with 6 cores and 12 threads. Still, the lower 65W TDP, PCIe 4.0, and overclocking support are appealing. It's an ideal pairing for the RTX 3060 for anyone working with a smaller budget.
AMD or Intel?
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The AMD Ryzen 5 5600X or Intel Core i5-12600K will make the most sensical pairing for anyone looking to keep things within an affordable price range. Though they don't bring as much power as their pricier counterparts, they can still provide an incredible gaming experience. Many people say you don't need more than this level of performance for gaming unless you're an enthusiast or have other tasks in mind for the CPU.
If you're searching for something with more oomph, an AMD Ryzen 7 5800X or Core i7-12700K are great choices. They'll handle other tasks — especially those requiring heavier multitasking performance — better, and they will crush gaming needs. They're still relatively affordable compared to the Ryzen 9 and Core i9 options. The Ryzen 9 5950X and Core i9-12900K are more expensive CPUs that appeal primarily to enthusiasts with more overhead in their budget. These latter chips aren't necessary for most people, but they will deliver the best performance.
Choosing the best CPU for NVIDIA RTX 3060
The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 excels at 1080p, but it can also handle 1440p gaming with relative ease. Building a PC around it suits anyone looking to save money during this age where the best graphics cards are sold way above MSRP. In any case, if you have an RTX 3060, you want to ensure that your CPU can keep up.
For those who opt for Alder Lake CPUs, be sure you have a motherboard that can handle the new LGA 1700 socket. These new motherboards also bring support for PCIe 5.0 and either DDR4 or DDR5 RAM. Our collections of the best motherboards for Core i5-12600K, high-end Core i7-12700K, and enthusiast Core i9-12900K can help you choose the right base for your build.
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Cale Hunt is formerly a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full-time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.
- Ben WilsonChannel Editor