After much anticipation and waiting, Nvidia‘s RTX 4080 GPUs have landed, and the performance is certainly impressive. We’ve got our hands on the Founders Edition alongside a few other SKUs from MSI and Gigabyte, and have been busy working around the clock to figure out which components are best placed alongside Nvidia’s new high-end 4080 beast.
With the RTX 4080, Nvidia has yet again demonstrated their dominance in the high end market. But, with such a powerful GPU, picking up a well-matched CPU can be a tricky endeavour, so which should you go for?
In today’s article we’ll be answering this very query by picking out the best CPUs to pair with Nvidia’s brand new RTX 4080. We’ll be taking a look at a range of options from Intel and AMD, with a breakdown as to why each CPU is a good shout.
Suggested Article: MSI GeForce RTX 4080 Suprim X Review – A ‘Suprim’ Design’
How We Picked the Best CPUs for the RTX 4080
We rounded up a range of Intel and AMD CPUs and compared the performance in a range of gaming and workstation benchmarks. The RTX 4080 is more of a top-end GPU, and thus, will need a CPU that pairs well performance wise. Many of Intel’s latest 13th-Gen CPUs offer excellent metrics at 4K, alongside AMD’s Ryzen 7000 range.
Best CPUs for the Nvidia RTX 4080
1. Intel Core i5 13600K
👑The best overall CPU.
Intel’s Core i5 13600K is our first pick as the best budget option to pair with the RTX 4080. While it feels slightly odd to call an i5 the ‘budget’ option, it is extraordinary to be able to pair an i5 chip with an RTX 4080 – demonstrating just how good Intel’s new release is. The reason we’ve picked out this CPU is due to its core and thread counts high clock speeds, specs that are more than enough to handle 4K gaming.
The Core i5 13600K is able to outperform the Core i9 12900K in single threaded benchmarks, and sits in between AMD’s previous 5900X and 5950X when it comes to multithreaded performance. This makes it great as a low-end workstation CPU, too, if you’re also looking at workloads such as video editing. Not to mention, the price of this CPU is excellent. Building a system with the Core i5 13600K is relatively cheap as you have the choice between 12th and 13th gen motherboards, along with support for DDR4 and DDR5 RAM. Overall, this is a great budget CPU for the RTX 4080 for those shopping on a little bit of a budget.
|Spec||Intel Core i5 13600K|
|Base Clock Speed||3.5GHz|
|Boost Clock Speed||5.1GHz|
|Max Turbo Power||181W|
Things We Like
Incredible Price to Performance: The Core i5 13600K is one of the best CPUs that consumers can currently buy. Performance wise, it offers comparative metrics to the Core i9 12900K which is a CPU with twice the amount of cores at double the price point. Its difficult to argue with the price considering how powerful the CPU is.
Supported by Older Motherboards: The biggest benefit of picking up a 13th-Gen CPU, is that can consumers can leverage great performance without having to spend a fortune on a motherboard. The 13th-Gen CPUs are supported on 12th-Gen boards which are fairly cheap in comparison, with a simple BIOS update.
DDR4 and DDR5 Memory Support: Intel’s 13th-Gen platform offers support for both DDR4 and DDR5 RAM, providing consumers plenty of options when it comes to upgradeability, or for those that are price conscious.
Things We Don’t Like
Overclocking requires stronger VRMs: For those that plan on overclocking their 13600K, you’ll need to plan around this by picking a motherboard that has strong VRM power phases. These motherboards can be pricier if you plan on pushing your CPU quite far in terms of clock speed.
Not the Best Option for Workstations: Productivity workstations often require more cores and higher clock speeds so that high-demand tasks and applications can run well. Although the 13600K is ideal for gaming, users with a workstation system may want to purchase a Core i7 or i9 to achieve better metrics.
Intel’s Core i5 13600K is arguably, one of the best CPUs on the market. Consumers get access to a CPU that offers incredible metrics at all resolutions in games, with some reasonable legs in productivity applications. Consumers don’t need to worry about insane thermals, and the overall platform cost is pretty reasonable compared to other market options. For these reasons, we’ve given this CPU the title of the best overall CPU in our roundup.
- Very reasonably priced.
- Excellent single core performance.
- Perfect for a powerful mid-range system.
- May experience bottlenecking in certain titles.
- Multithreaded performance not as strong.
Where to Buy
Buy the Intel Core i5 13600K on:
2. Intel Core i7 13700K
👑The best value CPU.
Intel’s Core i7 13700K is quite possibly one of the best CPUs we’ve ever tested when it comes to value and performance. In terms of power, this CPU sits on par with, and sometimes has better performance than, the Core i9 12900K. In multi and single threaded benchmarks, the Core i7 13700K nearly tops the charts sitting next to AMD’s latest Ryzen 9 7950X.
This makes it perfect for a 4K gaming/workstation PC. Gaming also poses no issue to the 13700K where we saw an average of over 100 frames in most of the titles that we played even when Ray-Tracing was enabled. Combine this with the new Ada Lovelace architecture and your smooth sailing in games.
I’d argue that the 13700K is probably the best CPU to pair with the RTX 4080. You’re getting an excellent mid-range option at a very reasonable price that offers extremely promising performance in both games and productivity applications. If you’re being a bit more price conscious about your build, but want some of the best performance money can buy, the 13700K is a solid bet!
|Spec||Intel Core i7 13700K|
|Base Clock Speed||3.4GHz|
|Boost Clock Speed||5.4GHz|
|Max Turbo Power||253W|
Things We Like
Solid for Gaming or Workstation Systems: The Core i7 13700K is one of the few CPUs that strikes a fine balance when it comes to performance. This particular CPU is ideal for those that plan on building a top-end gaming PC, or for those that have a multi-faceted system in mind that needs the extra cores and threads.
Strong Overclocking Capability: Much like the Core i5 13600K, consumers can enjoy a fully unlocked core multiplier allowing you to push the Core i7 13700K beyond its rated clock speed.
Previous Generation Motherboard Support: One of the major benefits to picking up a 13th-Gen CPU aside from the incredible performance metrics, is the ability to install these CPUs on an older motherboard. This allows consumers to be a little bit more price conscious with their board purchase.
Things We Don’t Like
Stronger Cooling Solution Required: As we start to rise up the ranks of Intel CPUs a better cooling solution becomes a requirement. The Core i7 13700K in particular has a rather high clock speed, so consumers will need to pick up a good air cooler, or AIO in order to minimise thermal throttling.
AMD Options are Very Competitive: Although we haven’t included the new Ryzen 9 CPUs in this roundup, the Core i7 13700K sits at a very similar price point to the aforementioned Ryzen processors. Consumers may find better metrics in workstation systems with a Ryzen 9 dependent on the price point.
Intel’s Core i7 13700K is one of the few CPUs currently available on the market that offers great performance in both games and workstation applications. Paired up with the RTX 4080, consumers will have an unstoppable machine that can cut rendering times down in half, and has no issues at a 4K resolution with Ray-Tracing enabled. This makes it the best value CPU in our roundup.
- Excellent single and multithreaded performance.
- Perfect for 4K gaming or productivity applications.
- Very reasonably priced.
- Not as powerful as the Core i9 13900K.
- High thermal output demands a sufficient cooler.
Where to Buy
Buy the Intel Core i7 13700K on:
3. AMD Ryzen 7 7700X
👑The best AMD CPU.
AMD’s Ryzen 7000 CPUs were an interesting introduction into the market. While Intel seems to have retained performance dominance, AMD‘s new products stack up very well by comparison, and naturally force Intel to be a little more competitive when it comes to pricing and power. The Ryzen 7 7700X offers similar performance to that of a 12600K in productivity applications, and sits nearly on par with the Core i9 12900K in 4K gaming.
Of the Ryzen 7000 line-up, the 7700X is one of the better options when looking at price to performance. You’re not having to spend a fortune to secure a CPU that does well in 4K gaming, whilst opening up options for some productivity applications. As we’ve alluded to above, AMD’s AM5 platform is better positioned for those that don’t want to spend a fortune for new components should they need to upgrade the CPU later on. In terms of longevity, picking up a Ryzen 7 7700X is a better bet, if you’re willing to sacrifice on some of the performance metrics.
|Spec||AMD Ryzen 7 7700X|
|Base Clock Speed||4.5GHz|
|Boost Clock Speed||5.4GHz|
Things We Like
Strong Gaming Metrics: AMD‘s Ryzen 7 7700X offers excellent performance at a 4K resolution, making it an ideal pairing for the RTX 4080.
Future-proofed Platform: One of the major benefits of picking up a Ryzen 7000 CPU, is that the new AM5 platform offers plenty of upgradeability. AMD’s previous AM4 socket stuck around for five years, and we’re expecting Ryzen 7000 CPUs to follow suit providing a plethora of options for those thinking about the future.
Excellent Motherboard Options: AMD’s new Ryzen 7000 motherboards are some of the best we’ve seen, and offer incredible feature sets dependent on the chipset you’ve chosen. If you’re wanting to prioritise USB ports, Ryzen 7000 is definitely the way to go.
Things We Don’t Like
Expensive Platform Cost: Unfortunately, the biggest downside to Ryzen 7000 CPUs is the rather high platform cost. Because this is the first iteration of the new Ryzen 7000 CPUs, consumers can expect to spend a fair bit more on a Ryzen 7000 build, comparative to other options.
High Thermals: Due to the change in thermal design, the new Ryzen 7000 processors tend to run pretty hot. Although this is more for consumers building workstation-oriented systems, you’ll need to pick up a strong cooler to ensure that thermals sit at a reasonable level.
AMD’s Ryzen 7 7700X is an awesome CPU that offers great performance metrics at 4K and below. Although this CPU isn’t ideal for workstation systems, the lower price point makes it ideal for price-conscious consumers that are looking for plenty of upgradeability. This is also the only Ryzen 7000 processor to feature in this roundup, making it the best AMD CPU in this buyers guide.
- Relatively well priced compared to other options.
- Great metrics in 4K gaming.
- AM5 platform will be supported for a long time.
- Isn’t able to outperform most of the 13th-Gen options.
- Forced DDR5 requirement will increase overall build cost.
Where to Buy
Buy the AMD Ryzen 7 7700X on:
4. Best High-Performance Option – Intel Core i9 13900K
👑The best performing CPU.
For our final CPU pick, we’ve chosen Intel’s Core i9 13900K. This CPU is quite literally the best gaming CPU we’ve ever seen, offering exceptional performance in pretty much anything you throw it at. 4K gaming poses no issue to this CPU, and high intensity workloads such as video editing or 3D-rendering won’t make this CPU break a sweat. The 13900K is perfectly positioned to handle big workloads and when you’re not working you can stick on your favourite game and ramp everything up to max.
The RTX 4080 is a very powerful GPU, and thus it needs the cores, threads, and clock speed to be able to keep up with the capability of this GPU. We would primarily recommend sticking to a high-end workstation PC if you’re picking up the 13900K, as all of the other options can handle 4K gaming with minimal issues. The Core i9 13900K’s power and performance will effectively be wasted on anything less than a high-intensity workstation.
|Spec||Intel Core i9 13900K|
|Base Clock Speed||3GHz|
|Boost Clock Speed||5.8GHz|
Things We Like
Extremely Powerful: Intel’s Core i9 13900K is currently one of the most powerful CPUs on the market. Consumers can expect excellent metrics in workstation applications alongside 4K gaming too. Needless to say, if you’re looking for an insanely powerful processor, the 13900K is definitely the answer.
Excellent Overclocking Capability: Much like the rest of Intel‘s current 13th-Gen range, all of the ‘K’ CPUs have a fully unlocked core multiplier providing consumers with the option to push their clock speeds beyond the 6GHz mark!
Ideal for Gaming or Workstation Systems: The 13900K is the go-to CPU for consumers looking to build a workstation or gaming PC. The high core count and excellent clock speed allows consumers to enjoy buttery smooth framerates, with render times being cut in half too.
Things We Don’t Like
Very Expensive: The biggest caveat as you’ve probably guessed, is the attached price tag. Having the ‘best performance’ crown comes with a rather hefty cost, so consumers will need to expect to spend a fair bit to secure this powerful titan.
Rather High TDP: The Core i9 13900K is definitely a powerful CPU to say the least, but consumers will need to pair a strong cooler with this processor due to the higher TDP. When numerous cores are being used, consumers can expect wattage to reach over 300W, with temperatures following suit.
Intel’s Core i9 13900K is the best performing CPU currently available on the market. Nothing comes close to the 13900K when it comes to workstation applications, and 4K gaming poses no issue for this behemoth of a CPU. Due to its incredibly strong performance metrics, we regard it as the best performing CPU in our roundup.
- The most powerful consumer gaming CPU you can buy.
- Perfect for a workstation PC build.
- Can handle 4K gaming with zero issues.
- Quite an expensive CPU.
- Will need a good CPU cooler to offset the high thermal output of this CPU.
Where to Buy
Buy the Intel Core i9 13900K on:
Choosing the Right CPU
Before we jump into our recommended picks there are some factors to consider before choosing your CPU. Choosing the right CPU for your system is a fine balance between use-case, and pricing. You don’t want to buy a CPU that you ultimately won’t need, as this money can be better spent on more RAM, a better looking case or faster storage.
You want to ensure the CPU you choose has enough cores and threads for the games you play, and more importantly fast single-threaded performance for the best single-threaded metrics possible, typically the most important indication when it comes to gaming performance. Chips with more cores will also work better in tasks such as streaming, video editing or rendering, making designs like the i7 and i9 also a good shout for content creators.
AMD vs Intel
One of the biggest debates around any table of tech heads when it comes to building a PC is often Team Blue (Intel) vs Team Red (AMD). Over the past few years both of these manufacturers have been in a constant battle to retain the performance crown, each delivering a plethora of solid CPU options to the market. Both AMD Ryzen 7000 processors and Intel’s 13th Generation are strong choices, with our reviews leaning more towards Intel for the time being.
AMD look to have the better architecture and platform going forward, though, which makes them one to watch again in the very near future. Currently, they are also held back by the platform costs of their processors, with AMD motherboard costing significantly more than their Intel counterparts. As time goes on, these board prices should drop and things will start to level out a bit more.
For quite some time, Intel has been the go-to for gamers due to their per-core performance. With Intel’s most recent 13th generation models offering excellent clock speeds out of the box, alongside a significant improvement to cores. As a general rule, many users tend to opt for an Intel CPU over AMD because of their strong all-round performance. If you’re building a multi-faceted system (a gaming and workstation PC), Intel is definitely the manufacturer we’d recommend at the moment for an RTX 4080 build.
AMD, on the other hand, lag behind a little at present, but do bring an impressive lineup to the market. Their Ryzen 3000 and 5000 CPUs allowed them to hit back at Intel for the first time in nearly 10 years, though some of that progress has seem a little stunted by the launch of Ryzen 7000.
Factors to Consider
Now that we’ve cleared the sensitive argument of Intel vs AMD, we’ll briefly cover some other factors you should consider before buying a CPU to pair with an RTX 4080. We’ve broken down the most important considerations below:
Choosing a compatible motherboard is probably the most important point to consider, as this will determine whether your build actually works. Without hammering on about chipsets and motherboard types, we recommend you check out the table below, along with some further reading on motherboard compatibility. We’ve put together a Motherboard Compatibility guide on the latest CPUs, which covers all of the compatible sockets and chipsets for both Intel and AMD.
|CPU Range||Socket Type||Compatible Motherboards|
|Intel 13th-Gen||LGA1700||Z790, Z690, B660, H670, H610|
|Intel 12th-Gen||LGA 1700||Z790, Z690, B660, H670, H610|
|AMD Ryzen 7000||AM5||X670E, X670, B650E, B650|
|AMD Ryzen 5000||AM4||X570, X470, B550, B450, A520|
As you can see from the table, Intel 13th and 12th generation CPUs work on all of the 600 and 700 series motherboards, giving you a wide range of choice, both in terms of features and budgets. For AMD Ryzen 7000 and 5000, the sockets are entirely different and therefore they are not compatible with each other. If you’re looking at upgrading from Ryzen 5000 to 7000 you’ll need to pick up an entirely new motherboard and DDR5 RAM for the new platform as Ryzen 7000 is DDR5 only.
For this reason you’ll want to pick up a motherboard that has some extra usability features such as PCI-E armour. This will minimise any damage to your PCI-Express pins should the GPU sag, and in worst case, reduce the risk of snapping or breaking the entire slot. Although we can’t imagine this happening on most boards, GPU sag is a real killer for PCI-E Slots, and with the weight of these new cards, you’ll want to cover all of your bases.
The longevity of the CPU platform you’re using is a bit of a complicated factor. This effectively boils down to: Can you upgrade your CPU on the same platform to get better performance? If the answer is no, then you might want to reconsider your options.
The reason why I’ve included this is because the biggest downside to the RTX 4080 and 4090 GPUs is that they’re effectively too good. The CPU to some extent ends up bottlenecking the GPU when it comes to frame output, because the graphics card is simply so quick. This can make a build that keeps CPU agreeability in mind particularly attractive.
DDR4 vs DDR5
Besides Intel vs AMD, DDR4 vs DDR5 is one of the other major arguments in the industry right now. You might see major publications, or manufacturer marketing saying “you need DDR5 for gaming” and frankly, this is total utter rubbish. DDR5 is currently pretty weak in terms of its performance gains, and simply not worth the extra cash.
DDR4 is the go-to for 90% of consumers right now, something which makes Intel’s options (chips that support both memory standards) an attractive option. AMD’s Ryzen 7000 lineup sadly only supports DDR4 memory.
Over time we’ll see the prices for DDR5 memory drop, making it advantageous for those that already have a DDR5 motherboard, as they’ll start to see performance gains with improved memory. But until the prices drop and the performance increases, we’d recommend sticking to a high speed DDR4 kit. For those looking to make their PC stand the test of time, you’ll want to pick up DDR5, but be aware that there aren’t any major benefits as of right now when it comes to performance.
Best Overall CPU: Intel Core i5 13600K
Intel takes the win again with their Core i5 13600K, ranking as our favourite option to pair up with the RTX 4080. This CPU takes the cake when it comes to price to performance metrics. Consumers can expect to pay an awesome price, for a CPU that holds up extremely well in today’s market.
Read our full Intel Core i5 13600K review or Buy the Core i5 13600K on Amazon.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Cores Do You Need for Gaming?
Generally, most games only use one or two cores, so you can get away with having a CPU that has a lower core count. But clock speed does matter, which is why all of these CPUs offer such good framerates in modern titles.
Are 13th-Gen CPUs Compatible with 12th-Gen Boards?
Intel 13th-Gen CPUs use the exact same socket that we saw with older 12th-Gen motherboards such as Z690, B660 and H670. This means you can easily install one of these new CPUs on your older board.
Does AMD Ryzen 7000 work with Ryzen 5000 Motherboards?
Unfortunately you’ll need to pick up one of AMD’s new chipset boards such as X670E or B650E in order to install the new CPUs.
Do these CPUs work with DDR4 and DDR5 RAM?
For Intel users, you can choose between DDR4 and DDR5 RAM dependent on the motherboard that you’ve chosen. However, for AMD Ryzen 7000 users, this new platform only supports DDR5 RAM which will ultimately affect the final cost of your build.