Best CPUs for RTX 3080 builds in 2023

Check out this list of best CPUs that will pair perfectly with the RTX 3080.

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The latest and (almost) greatest GPU from Nvidia (the throne is reserved for the RTX 3090), the RTX 3080, is one of the most popular cards around that’s perfect for 4K gaming. And since this one’s a gaming beast, it asks for a powerful CPU fast enough to not bottleneck it. Luckily, there are plenty of CPUs around that can follow this GPU.

Also, the RTX 3080 demands a powerful PSU, so think about upgrading your current one if you think it’s not up to the task. Today, we’ve created a list featuring the best CPUs for RTX 3080 builds. The guide includes flagship models but also a few relatively budget choices. You can find the best CPUs for RTX 3080 below.

Now, before you continue, you should check our list of the best PSUs for RTX 3070, RTX 3080, & RTX 3090. The card’s quite hungry for power, and it demands a quality power supply. It can also benefit from high in-case airflow, so why you don’t check our best airflow PC cases guide?

1. Intel Core i9-12900K: Best overall gaming CPU for RTX 3080

3.2 GHz
5.2 GHz

The 12900K truly is the best CPU for the RTX 3080 if money isn’t an issue. The flagship Alder Lake CPU offers the best performance in games and multi-threaded workloads. This CPU trumps both the 5900X and 5950X in any workload you can think of, especially the former.

The 5950X can best it in some rendering apps. But overall, the 12900K is a much better option. It’s both faster and cheaper than the flagship CPU from AMD. And while the Alder Lake flagship is considered a power-hungry behemoth, that’s not the case when it comes to gaming. The 12900K is surprisingly efficient when running games, in line with the Ryzen 5000 lineup.

With that said, if you plan on putting the CPU under max load, you’ll need a capable cooling solution. Here’s our guide for the best coolers for i9-12900K. You’ll find the perfect cooler there.

At least you won’t need a super-expensive motherboard. A mid-range Z690 model will suffice, even a quality budget option. And yes, we have the list of the best motherboards for 12900K that includes a number of great models.

2. Intel Core i5-12600K: Best bang-for-the-buck gaming CPU for RTX 3080

3.7 GHz
4.9 GHz

The Core i9-12900K might be a beast, but it’s pretty expensive. Also, if you don’t use your PC for heavy multi-threaded workloads, calling the 12900K overkill for your system would be an understatement. If you just want the best gaming CPU for the RTX 3080 without spending a ton of cash, get the latest i5 part.

The Core i5-12600K is by far the best choice for a pure gaming PC at the moment. It can run games almost as fast as the 12900K while costing just a fraction of the price. In fact, you can get the 12600K along with a cooling solution and a motherboard instead of the 12900K and still have leftover cash to invest in other parts of your build.

Compared to similar Ryzen 5000 CPUs, the 12600K is the clear winner. It is much faster than the 5600X both in games and multi-threaded workloads. Compared to the 5800X, the 12600K beats it in games while the two are trading blows in multi-threaded workloads. At the end of the day, the Core i5-12600K is a better choice than both the 5600X and 5800X, especially for a gaming-only PC build.

The ten-core hybrid architecture (six performance cores and four efficient cores) should also be a pretty solid choice in case you plan to build a PC you’ll use for gaming and streaming. Finally, the 12600K should also be fine for an occasional video editing task.

It isn’t as capable as Core i7 and i9 parts at those workloads, but if you’re doing heavy work infrequently and don’t need the fastest performance, the 12600K will be just fine. At the end of the day, for a gaming PC, the 12600K is hands down the best CPU to pair with the RTX 3080.

3. Intel Core i7-12700K: Best bang-for-the-buck mixed use CPU for RTX 3080

3.6 GHz
5.0 GHz

Now, if you want to pair the RTX 3080 with a capable CPU that can handle both games and multi-threaded workloads, the Core i7-12700K is our pick. This is the best CPU for the RTX 3080 if you need both gaming and multi-threaded performance without spending a ton of cash.

The latest Core i7 is an excellent choice as a base for a gaming and streaming PC. Or a PC that will be used for gaming, video editing, rendering, etc., where you need lots of power but aren’t ready to blow a hole in your pocket by buying the 12900K.

The 12700K is more or less as fast as the 12900K in games if we aren’t talking about 1080p resolution. It also comes mighty close to the Core i9 in stuff like Adobe Premiere or Blender. In fact, it’s impressively close considering just how much cheaper it is than the flagship part.

Compared to the 5900X, the 12700K easily beats it in games. In multi-threaded workloads, the two are very close, with the 12700K being a bit faster in most scenarios. Considering that the Intel part is cheaper, we can easily recommend it over the 5900X no matter what you plan on using it for.

The best thing about the 12700K is that it doesn’t require a 360mm AIO, even if you plan to use it for multi-threaded workloads. A quality 240mm AIO or a high-end air cooler should be more than enough. You can check out our list of the best coolers for i7-12700K if you don’t know which cooler to pick.

4. Intel Core i5-11400F: Best budget gaming CPU for RTX 3080

2.6 GHz
4.4 GHz

It’s understandable that, during the ongoing GPU shortage, you’d want to save up on everything else to be able to buy a faster graphics card. And when it comes to gaming CPUs, you can go as low as the Core i5-11400F and still get almost the same performance as you’d get with Ryzen 5000 and Alder Lake K-series CPUs for a fraction of the price.

Sure, the 11400F is slower than both, but the difference becomes more or less irrelevant when going above 1080p. And considering we’re talking about the best CPUs for the RTX 3080, we’re pretty confident you won’t game in 1080p. The 11400F is by far the best budget gaming CPU for any RTX 3080 model.

Opting for the 11400F will net you lots of savings. Firstly, you’ll pay less for a motherboard since this CPU can fully spread its wings even on a mid-range B560 board. Next, even a budget air cooler can tame the 11400F, even with power limits turned off. At the end of the day, you’ll achieve something like 90 percent plus performance of its younger cousins while spending way less cash.

What about older CPUs?

You can run the RTX 3080 on the 8700K and better CPUs as well as on the Ryzen 7 2700X or better, and you should see only a slight CPU bottleneck. Older Intel and AMD CPUs show surprisingly good results at 1440p and 4K but do note that older CPUs will induce heavy bottleneck in a number of newer games.

That trend will continue, so while four core CPUs and older six-core CPUs are doing fine right now, they will induce heavy CPU bottlenecks in most future AAA games. Also, while older CPUs work fine at 4K models such as the i3 10100 or the Ryzen 3 3300X, or any four-core i7 will most likely induce stuttering.

How much faster is the RTX 3080 compared to the RTX 2080?

According to Nvidia’s promo materials, the RTX 3080 is twice as fast as the RTX 2080. Real numbers tell a different tale. The RTX 3080 is about 50 percent faster than the RTX 2080 at 1440p and about 70 percent faster than the RTX 2080 at 4K. The card is twice as fast as the RTX 2080, but only in certain productivity benchmarks.

Does the RTX 3080 support PCIe 4.0 and will it work on a PCIe 3.0 motherboard?

Yes, the RTX 3080 supports PCIe 4.0 standard. And yes, it will work just fine on a PCIe 3.0 board. Results show that the difference in games is negligible, so don’t worry.

Does the RTX 3080 support HDMI 2.1 and will it work on older HDMI standards?

Yes, the RTX 3080 comes with an HDMI 2.1 port but it will work on older HDMI standards. Check out which HDMI standard your monitor supports to find out which is the max resolution and framerate you can get over the HDMI port.

Note that you can only utilize HDMI 2.1 standard on certain TVs. There are no PC monitors supporting HDMI 2.1 at the moment. There’s just one model open for pre-order but don’t expect it to ship until early 2021.

Which RTX 3080 should I buy?

If you don’t want to pay a price premium, we have some good news. It seems that the Ampere architecture isn’t great for overclocking. This means that even if you buy a premium RTX 3080 card, you might only get a couple of extra frames with OC.

This means that all you have to do is to find a card with a decent cooling set-up, and you’re set. We have the best RTX 3080 graphics cards guide. Feel free to check it out and find the perfect RTX 3080 model for your budget. Combined with any of the best CPUs for RTX 3080 in our list, almost every RTX 3080 card will simply shine running modern games.