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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.
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.
Intel Core i5-12600K: Best bang-for-the-buck gaming CPU for RTX 3080
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.
Intel Core i7-12700K: Best bang-for-the-buck mixed use CPU for RTX 3080
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.
Intel Core i5-11400F: Best budget gaming CPU for RTX 3080
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.
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