NVIDIA's beastly RTX 3080 brought our lofty dreams of gaming at 4K with smooth framerates to reality for the first time when it launched in late 2020, and ever since then, it's remained one of the best high-end graphics cards that money can buy. Though it's been outperformed by newer NVIDIA and AMD GPUs, it's still a top option, with gradual price drops over time ensuring it's still competitive.
Like any card, however, the RTX 3080 needs a performant CPU to fuel it with processing power. Thankfully, both Intel and AMD have plenty of great chips on the market that'll do the job wonderfully, so you've got tons of options. From them, here's a list of some of the best CPUs for the RTX 3080 I recommend using.
With 16 cores, 24 threads, a max 5.4GHz boost, and some of the best gaming and productivity performance you can get out of a modern CPU, Intel's $380-420 Core i7-13700K is the default chip I'd recommend to 3080 owners. It's slower than AMD's Ryzen 7 7800X3D for gaming, but it's still excellent, and notably crushes it in productivity work benchmarks.
Best value Intel
The Core i5-13600K is arguably the best CPU for gaming right now, offering amazing, balanced performance at $300. Though it falls short of what the i7-13700K is capable of, you'll also save a fair amount of money by choosing it, making it the best option for the 3080 in terms of overall value. You may want to look elsewhere to help power intensive workloads, though.
Best elite Intel
The Core i9-13900K is Intel's absolute best CPU right now in terms of raw power. Though gaming performance gains compared to the i7-13700K are minimal, its higher core and thread count give it a big boost in the productivity department. It actually surpasses AMD's finest there, and even though it falls behind a bit in gaming, it's still stellar.
Best overall AMD
While it's hard to recommend most of AMD's 7000 series CPUs while the i5-13600K exists, the $400-420 Ryzen 9 7900X stands out. It's fiercely competitive with the i7-13700K, offering very similar performance in the majority of cases. Though it's not as strong for gaming, it's a bit better for work tasks.
Best elite AMD
The AMD Ryzen 9 7950X with 3D V-Cache? Yes, it's just as awesome as it sounds. With this monster of a processor, you get the best CPU gaming performance in the world along with very strong productivity horsepower. Though the i9-13900K is a more balanced chip overall, this is definitely the best option if you want the best of the best and have more of a gaming focus.
Best for AM4 holdouts
If you're upgrading to a 3080 with a rig that's currently got an AM4 motherboard and you don't want to buy a newer one, consider picking up the excellent 5800X3D. It, too, has 3D V-Cache, and for gaming, it's nearly just as capable as an 13600K at a very similar price. Go with 13th Gen if you're building from scratch, though.
Intel vs. AMD: Which to choose?
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Team Blue and Team Red have been at war for dominance in the CPU market for years, but I don't think things have ever been as fiercely competitive as they are right now. The best chips from both Intel and AMD deliver excellent performance at competitive prices, and ultimately, you can't go wrong as long as you avoid Intel 14th Gen, which offers mediocre improvements over 13th Gen for too high of a price hike.
Overall, I'd say Intel has the lead right now in terms of raw power and pricing, especially with amazing CPUs like the i5-13600K and i7-13700K available. That being said, though, AMD's newer 7000 series processors are the first generation of chips on the AM5 platform, while Intel's latest 14th Gen CPUs are the last ones for its LGA 1700 socket that's soon to be retired. That means Team Red gives you a better upgrade path in the long run since you won't need to buy a new "AM6" motherboard for a long time, though it's worth noting that you will have to get newer DDR5 RAM to go with AM5. LGA 1700 motherboards, on the other hand, work with both DDR4 and DDR5, allowing you to reuse old memory if you have it.
Choosing the best CPU for NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080
Even though it's over three years old at this point, NVIDIA's RTX 3080 is still a fantastic graphics card for gaming in 4K at a smooth 60 FPS, even with settings turned up. It's also awesome for driving high-performance 1440p gameplay, as well as for use with ultrawide monitors.
All of the processors I listed above are some of the best CPUs you can pair with an RTX 3080, and while I'd say the i7-13700K is the top option overall, there are valid reasons to consider the others, too. The i5-13600K, for example, is pound-for-pound the best if all you care about is gaming, while AMD's incredible Ryzen 9 7950X3D is perfect for gamers that also want top notch productivity performance.
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Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.