6 Best CPUs For RTX 3090

Nvidia recently announced its Ampere lineup of graphics cards and while the RTX 3080 is labeled as the flagship model, the RTX 3090 is the ultimate Ampere GPU. 24 GB of GDDR6X memory, almost 10500 CUDA cores, working frequency of 1.7 GHz, PCIe 4.0 and HDMI 2.1 support, and the ability to run games at 8K resolution and 60fps crown the RTX 3090 as the ruler of the Ampere architecture. At least when it comes to gaming GPUs. Oh yeah, it also has a total power of 350W. Better get a quality 750W or stronger PSU if you want to feed this beast.

A card this powerful requires an equally fast CPU to follow it. The thing is, only a handful of current CPUs are capable of providing enough headroom without bottlenecking the RTX 3090. Further, with its 24GB memory buffer and more than 10K CUDA cores, this card can be a serious contender as the GPU of choice for many workstations. So, we ended up with a diverse group of CPUs. We have top gaming processors but also productivity beasts. You won’t find any budget CPU here but that’s okay because the RTX 3090 isn’t meant to be paired with budget processors. Anyway, let’s check the best CPUs for the RTX 3090.

Best CPUs For RTX 3090 – Our Picks

Best CPUs For RTX 3090 – Our Picks
AwardModel 
Best Overall Gaming CPU For RTX 3090Intel Core i9-10900K intel core i9 10900k 1
Best Overall Mixed-Use CPU For RTX 3090Ryzen Threadripper 3960X ryzen threadripper
Best Alternative To The Ryzen Threadripper 3960XRyzen 9 3950X amd ryzen 9
Best Bang For The Buck Gaming CPU For RTX 3090Intel Core i5-10600K intel core i5 10600k
Best Bang For The Buck Mixed-Use CPU For RTX 3090Ryzen 9 3900X amd ryzen 9 3900x 1
Best Budget Gaming And Mixed-Use CPU For RTX 3090Ryzen 7 3700X amd ryzen 7 3700x 2

Running the RTX 3090 On Older CPUs

Since the RTX 3090 is the ultimate Ampere flagship card, we wouldn’t recommend running this card on anything less powerful than the Core i9-9900K or Ryzen 9 3900X, maybe Ryzen 7 3700X and Core i7-8700K. You will probably see some bottlenecking taking place when pairing the card with the 8700K or 3700X, even at 1440p. But the number of frames lost due to the CPU shouldn’t affect the overall gaming experience.

Best Overall Gaming CPU For RTX 3090

Intel Core i9-10900K
Cores10
Threads20
Base Frequency3.7 GHz
Max Turbo Frequency5.3 GHz
TDP125 W

The 10900K is the best gaming CPU at the moment and the best choice for those who want to build an ultimate gaming machine. Pair it with a powerful cooler and a high-end Z490 motherboard, then overclock the thing and you might be able to give the RTX 3090 a worthy partner.

Luckily, most (if not all) RTX 3090 owners will use the card for 4K gaming and at that resolution, the 10900K should be enough for the RTX 3090 to fully stretch its legs. Since the 10900K is selling for an unreasonably high price at the moment the best alternative would be the 10700K. This is basically a 9900K with higher boost clocks which translates to enough power to not bottleneck the RTX 3090 at 4K.

If you can wait a month or two, you should definitely consider getting a high-end Ryzen 4000 CPU once they come out. AMD will unveil the next-gen Ryzen CPUs on October 8, with CPUs probably launching before the end of October, 2020. Even if they bring the expected 10-15 performance boost, they will be a great buy. High-end Ryzen 9 parts should compete neck to neck with the 10900K in that case. And if we get higher performance upgrade generation over generation that would make the high-end Ryzen 4000 model the best gaming CPU on the market. Something that’s worth waiting a few months for.

Best Overall Mixed-Use CPU For RTX 3090

Ryzen Threadripper 3960X
Cores24
Threads48
Base Frequency3.8 GHz
Max Turbo Frequency4.5 GHz
TDP280 W

Those who want to use the RTX 3090 for more than just gaming and are planning on building a powerful workstation machine, get a 3rd gen Threadripper. These CPUs will destroy any other processor in productivity loads and are the perfect match for the RTX 3090 when it comes to rendering, machine learning, and other work-related stuff RTX GPUs excel at. You have 10K CUDA cores and 24GB of memory after all, which all sells at a relatively competitive price point compared to RTX Quadro GPUs.

Games will run fine, especially if you’re planning to run them at 4K. Threadrippers are capable gaming CPUs it’s just that they are too expensive to be found in gaming-exclusive machines. And the TRX40 chipset has full PCIe 4.0 support. Overall, pairing a Threadripper with the 3090 should make one hell of a productivity machine that can also run games better than most gaming PCs.

Best Alternative To The Ryzen Threadripper 3960X

Ryzen 9 3950X
Cores16
Threads32
Base Frequency3.5 GHz
Max Turbo Frequency4.7 GHz
TDP105 W

For users who don’t have the cash for a Threadripper (or just don’t want to spend that much money on a CPU) the Ryzen 9 3950X should be an excellent choice for a workload-centric or mixed-use machine. The gaming performance is almost the same as on the 10900K but the productivity performance is miles better than on any Intel 11th gen Core processor.

The 3950X is a bit expensive but it packs 16 cores, 32 threads, excellent boost clocks, and solid OC potential (for a Ryzen CPU). It does require powerful cooling but overall, it’s an all-around powerhouse of a CPU. It cannot match Threadripper CPUs when it comes to productivity performance, but given its price, it doesn’t have to. Certainly, one of the best choices to pair with the RTX 3090.

You can also wait for Ryzen 4000 CPUs. But, given the fact that AMD released the 3950X months after the company released other Ryzen 3000 CPUs, it’s possible we won’t see the 16-core Ryzen 4000 part until 2021. In that case, it’s better just snagging the 3950X.

Best Bang For The Buck Gaming CPU For RTX 3090

Intel Core i5-10600K
Cores6
Threads12
Base Frequency4.1 GHz
Max Turbo Frequency4.8 GHz
TDP125 W

The 10600K can offer 10900K-like performance for much less money. You can save almost a quarter of the amount of money needed to get the 3090 just by opting for the 10600K instead of the 10900K. The 10600K not only costs less but also needs less power. This leads to better thermals, so you don’t need a beast of a cooling system to keep it under control. Further, you don’t need a high-end Z490 board to get excellent OC results since the CPU demands much less power than the 10900K.

The excellent gaming performance should last for at least a couple of more years. While the 6-core and 12-thread design of the 10600K is far from the future-proof 10-core and 20-thread design of the 10900K, multithreading and high clocks should keep the 10600K competitive even once we start getting proper next-gen titles.

Again, you can wait for AMD to unveil the Ryzen 4000 series. Something like a Ryzen 7 4700X could offer the same or better gaming performance than the 10600K at a very similar price point, with productivity performance being miles ahead of the Intel CPU.

Best Bang For The Buck Mixed-Use CPU For RTX 3090

Ryzen 9 3900X
Cores12
Threads24
Base Frequency3.8 GHz
Max Turbo Frequency4.6 GHz
TDP105 W

Okay, calling the 12-core 3900X the best bang for the buck choice might seem strange but in fact, the 3900X price looks pretty affordable when we compare it to the recommended RTX 3090 pricing. And for the money, you get a beast of a CPU for almost any productivity task. You cannot find the same level of productivity performance in any Intel CPU. The AMD part also sells for much less than the 10900K, which is another plus.

Gaming-wise this isn’t the best choice but the 3900X is still pretty competitive and an excellent choice to pair with the 3090 for gaming at 4K resolution. Something like the Ryzen 9 4900X could end up being an even better choice but for that, you have to wait a couple of months. If you can we recommend doing so. If you cannot and need a PC right now well, the 3900X should work great with both current and next-gen games. It’s bottleneck the 3090 when running games below 4K resolution but it should still provide more than playable framerates, even for 1440p high refresh rate gaming.

Best Budget Gaming And Mixed-Use CPU For RTX 3090

Ryzen 7 3700X
Cores8
Threads16
Base Frequency3.6 GHz
Max Turbo Frequency4.4 GHz
TDP65 W

The Ryzen 3700X is the lowest we’d go when looking for a CPU to pair with the 3090. It will most likely end up bottlenecking the card but at 4K that shouldn’t matter much. The CPU is at least great when it comes to productivity but again, if you want to get the best graphics card on the market we would recommend pairing it with something much more potent. Maybe the 4700X will be able to provide enough power to not (noticeably) bottleneck the 3090. But for that, you will have to wait a couple of months.

How much faster is the RTX 3090 compared to the RTX 2080 Ti?

Since the RTX 3090 is the ultimate Ampere flagship card, we wouldn’t recommend running this card on anything less powerful than the Core i9-9900K or Ryzen 9 3900X, maybe Ryzen 7 3700X and Core i7-8700K. You will probably see some bottlenecking taking place when pairing the card with the 8700K or 3700X, even at 1440p. But the number of frames lost due to the CPU shouldn’t affect the overall gaming experience.

Does the RTX 3090 support PCIe 4.0 and will it work on a PCIe 3.0 motherboard?

Yes, the RTX 3090 supports PCIe 4.0. If you plan on getting the card and hooking it up with a PCIe 3.0 slot don’t worry. The 3080 shows almost zero difference between PCIe 3.0 and PCIe 4.0 and you shouldn’t lose more than a couple of frames in games when hooking the card to the PCIe 3.0 x16 slot.

Does the RTX 3090 support HDMI 2.1 and will it work on older HDMI standards?

The RTX 3090 comes with the full HDMI 2.1 support but the card will work fine on older HDMI standards. These older HDMI standards do pose some restrictions (the offer support only for 4K@60Hz, for instance). It would be best to check which HDMI standard your monitor support and then see which resolution and framerate it can deliver in this handy HDMI guide.

Also, only some TVs offer HDMI 2.1 support at the moment. When it comes to the PC monitors with HDMI 2.1, there aren’t any. Expect the first one to launch in early 2021.

When will the RTX 3090 be released?

The RTX 3090 is releasing on September 24, 2020.

Goran Damnjanovic
Goran Damnjanovic
Goran is Levvvel's senior hardware writer. He studied psychology but found that video games and PC hardware were much more interesting. Over the years he's developed expertise in everything gaming tech related.
Goran Damnjanovic
Goran Damnjanovic
Goran is Levvvel's senior hardware writer. He studied psychology but found that video games and PC hardware were much more interesting. Over the years he's developed expertise in everything gaming tech related.

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