The latest and (almost) greatest next-gen 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. 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 to pair with the RTX 3080. It includes flagship models but also a few relatively budget choices. Let’s check which CPUs are included.
Best CPUs For RTX 3080 Builds – Our Picks
|Best Overall Gaming CPU For RTX 3080||AMD Ryzen 9 5900X|
|Best Overall Mixed Use CPU For RTX 3080||AMD Ryzen 9 5950X|
|Best Bang For The Buck Gaming CPU For RTX 3080||AMD Ryzen 5 5600X|
|Best Bang For The Buck Mixed Use CPU For RTX 3080||Intel Core i9-10850KF|
|Best Budget Gaming And Mixed Use CPU For RTX 3080||Intel Core i5-10600KF|
Best Overall Gaming CPU For RTX 3080
AMD Ryzen 9 5900X
|Base Frequency||3.7 GHz|
|Max Turbo Frequency||4.8 GHz|
The 10900K was the best overall gaming CPU until AMD launched its Ryzen 5000 CPUs. Now, that award goes to the 5950X but for those who plan on building a strictly gaming CPU the 5900X is the better choice. In games the 5900X is just behind the 5950X, with the difference being just a couple of percent at 1080p, not worth the price difference between the two.
The 5900X does require a solid motherboard and a capable cooler so you’ll have to pay a bit extra to get the most out of this CPU but not that much. The 10900K still has great gaming performance but considering the difference in price if you plan on going with Intel something like the 10850K or the 10700K is a better choice. When it comes to Ryzen alternatives the 5600X has almost the same performance as the 5900X while costing almost two times less.
Best Overall Mixed Use CPU For RTX 3080
AMD Ryzen 9 5950X
|Base Frequency||3.4 GHz|
|Max Turbo Frequency||4.9 GHz|
If you game and work on your PC the Ryzen 9 5950X is the best choice to pair with the RTX 3080. This CPU is a productivity beast with its 16 cores and 32 threads but this time performance upgrades over Zen 2 are high enough to name the 5950X the best gaming CPU. At 1440p and 4K (resolutions used by practically every owner of the 3080) the differences between the 5950X and other top tier gaming CPUs (10900K or the 5900X) are mostly academic.
That said, in productivity workloads (especially multicore ones) the 5950X squashed every CPU that isn’t a Threadripper. If you’re using your PC for heavy work the Ryzen CPU is clearly the best choice. In other words, the 5950X is the fastest non-HEDT CPU for mixed usage you can get right now.
That’s not to say that something like the 5900X is a bad choice. If you don’t want to spend premium on the flagship Ryzen CPU the 5900X still has amazing gaming and productivity performance and is a better bang for the buck. Older Ryzen CPUs such as the 3900X and the 3950X are also great buys if you need a capable CPU for CPU-intensive work and playing games at 1440p and 4K resolutions.
Best Bang For The Buck Gaming CPU For RTX 3080
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X
|Base Frequency||3.7 GHz|
|Max Turbo Frequency||4.6 GHz|
If you plan on getting the best possible GPU while saving money on a CPU, the 5600X is the best bang for the buck gaming CPU you can buy right now. It closely follows its (much) pricier brethren while trading blows with the Core i9 10900K, which held the throne of the faster gaming CPU for more than a year.
Six core design might worry users wanting to get an upgrade that will work with proper next-gen games but we don’t think you should be worried. First of all, the 5600X is a beast of a CPU that’s as fast as a 10-core 20-thread CPU, the 10900K, and miles ahead of the 8-core Ryzen 7 3700X. The sheer number of cores shouldn’t be the deciding factor when buying a gaming CPU. Some games do scale beyond six cores and 12 threads but these are few and far between and the 5600X has a great performance in these scalable titles.
Also, while both PS5 and Xbox Series X/S consoles come with eight core CPUs, these are based on the Zen 2 architecture, and a six core Zen 3 CPU is clearly faster than an eight core Zen 2 CPU, at least in games. Finally, another reason for labeling the 5600X as the best bang for the buck gaming CPU for the RTX 3080 is the fact that it can work on basically any B550 and X570 board (and it’ll work on basically any B450 and X470 board, once they receive their Ryzen 5000 BIOS updates) and that it doesn’t demand a high-end cooling system. Even the box cooler should be fine, as long as you don’t mind its high noise output.
Best Bang For The Buck Mixed Use CPU For RTX 3080
Intel Core i9-10850KF
|Base Frequency||3.6 GHz|
|Max Turbo Frequency||5.2 GHz|
The Core i9-10850K/KF is basically the 10900K only cheaper. And, at the moment, this 10-core and 20-thread CPU sells for less than the Ryzen 7 5800X. You get great gaming and pretty solid multithreaded performance. The 10850KF is a bit slower than the 5800X at 1080p but we don’t believe many RTX 3080 owners use 1080p resolution. At 1440p and higher, the two CPUs have virtually the same gaming performance (just look at the 10900K results).
Now, you’ll need a quality Z490 or Z590 board to run this CPU overclocked, along with a quality cooling solution. But you also need a serious cooling solution for the 5800X and the saves on the motherboard shouldn’t be that big for the whole package to cost more than what you’d pay for the 5800X and B550 combo. You won’t get PCIe 4.0 support but considering that we’re far from maxing out the PCIe 3.0 x16 slot, even with the RTX 3090, and that games won’t require ultra-fast PCIe 4.0 SSDs for a long time, you’ll be fine.
That said, the Core i7-10700KF looks like a better deal than the 10850KF. It’s much cheaper, has virtually the same gaming performance (unless you’re running your games with low settings at 1080p) and it’s a bit slower in multithreaded scenarios. There’s also the Core i9-10900f, which is another powerful processor that, at the moment, sells at a highly attractive price.
If the price of the 10850KF is too high for you, we recommend getting the 10700K/10700KF or the 10900/10900F instead. These CPUs are about the same as the 5600X in games while having noticeably higher multithreaded performance. Since they all sell at similar prices, the 10700KF or the 10900F are definitely worth getting over the 5600X if gaming isn’t the only thing you’re using your PC for.
Best Budget Gaming And Mixed Use CPU For RTX 3080
Intel Core i5-10600KF
|Base Frequency||4.1 GHz|
|Max Turbo Frequency||4.8 GHz|
If you’re just a gamer who happens to own the RTX 3080, the 10600KF/10600K is a great budget CPU for your gaming needs. At 1440p this CPU is almost on par with the more expensive Ryzen 5000 CPUs and if you’re gaming at 4K, almost every game will be heavily GPU bound and there will be zero difference between this CPU and any other CPU on the market.
Another great thing about the 10600KF is that it doesn’t require top of the line cooling solution and a super expensive motherboard. You can use mid-range air coolers, or a budget 240mm AIO if you plan on overclocking it, while it’ll work fine even on certain budget Z490 boards when overclocked. Yes, you don’t have PCIe 4.0 support with Intel 10th gen CPUs but you won’t need it at the moment. And even when games start requiring SSDs, we’re doubting they’ll ask for blazing-fast PCIe 4.0 NVMe drives.
Now, if you work more than game, the 10600KF isn’t that great of a buy. It’s not useless and will be more than enough for an occasional video or photo editing, or code compiling task. But, if you can, it’s better to get the 10700KF/10700K, or even the 10700F, if you need great gaming and solid multithreaded performance. On the other hand, if you spent a huge chunk of your money on the GPU, you could get something like the 10400F or the 11400F once its price returns to the MSRP level.
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 induce heavy bottleneck in a number of newer games. That trend will continue so while 4 core CPUs and older 6-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 4-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. Do 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. There are multiple AIB models out there that show excellent performance and that sell at MSRP. Further, it seems that the Ampere architecture isn’t great for overclocking so even if you buy a premium RTX 3080 card you might only get a couple of extra frames with OC.