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Best CPUs for the RTX 3080 in 2024: Ranked and Reviewed

If you‘re looking to build a gaming PC around NVIDIA‘s powerful GeForce RTX 3080 graphics card, one of the most important decisions is choosing the right CPU. Pairing your GPU with a capable processor is crucial to avoid bottlenecking and ensure you‘re getting the most out of your system.

The RTX 3080 is an absolute 4K and 1440p gaming beast, but its true potential can only be unleashed when accompanied by a strong CPU that can keep up. So whether you‘re aiming for the highest frame rates in competitive shooters or want the best visual fidelity in demanding AAA titles, here are the best CPUs for RTX 3080 builds in 2024.

But first, let‘s quickly go over what makes a processor a good fit for this particular GPU. There are a few key things to prioritize:

High clock speeds and IPC (instructions per clock) for strong single-core performance, as most games are still lightly threaded
PCIe 4.0 support to take full advantage of the 3080‘s capabilities
Sufficient core and thread counts for the latest games that can leverage multi-threaded CPUs
Efficient architecture to mitigate heat output when combined with an already power-hungry GPU
With that in mind, here are the top CPU picks to pair with your shiny new RTX 3080, sorted from highest performing to best value options.

Best Overall: Intel Core i9-13900K
For an uncompromising, top-of-the-line gaming experience, it doesn‘t get much better than Intel‘s current flagship. The Core i9-13900K is an absolute multi-tasking monster:

24 cores (8 performance, 16 efficiency) / 32 threads
Up to 5.8 GHz max turbo frequency
PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 support
Intel‘s 13th generation CPU lineup brought about a huge leap in performance thanks to the new hybrid architecture. You‘ve got 8 blazing fast performance cores for gaming and heavy workloads, along with 16 efficient cores for background tasks.

Single-threaded speed is off the charts with the 13900K, ensuring that your RTX 3080 will never be starved for data. The 5.8 GHz boost clock is simply unmatched by any consumer processor on the market currently.

The 13900K also provides some welcome future-proofing with support for both PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 memory. You likely won‘t saturate the capability of PCIe 5.0 anytime soon, but it‘s a nice bit of forward compatibility. And with AMD ditching DDR4 support on their new AM5 platform, it‘s clear that DDR5 is the way forward.

The only real downside to the 13900K is its steep price tag. It‘s definitely a halo product for Intel. You‘ll also need a beefy cooler to tame the temperatures and a high-end Z790 motherboard to get the most out of it. But if you‘re already going with an RTX 3080, you‘re probably not strapped for cash.

Runner-Up: AMD Ryzen 9 7950X
On the other side of the CPU battle, we have the Ryzen 9 7950X. It‘s AMD‘s best on their newest Zen 4 processors and the AM5 platform. While it trades blows with Intel in productivity, team red still slightly lags behind in pure gaming performance.

That said, the 7950X is no slouch:

16 cores / 32 threads
Up to 5.7 GHz boost clock
PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 support
AMD managed to squeeze out a huge 29% IPC gain with Zen 4, allowing the 7950X to make up a lot of ground. And with a solid 5.7 GHz top boost speed, it‘s more than capable of driving an RTX 3080 without bottlenecks.

The shift to the AM5 socket ushers in a lot of welcome changes too, like PCIe 5.0 support. But perhaps most importantly, you‘ll finally get access to speedier DDR5 memory as well. AMD also promises that AM5 will have a long lifespan through 2025 and beyond, so you have a good upgrade path with the 7950X.

Now for the "cons." Like the 13900K, the 7950X commands quite the premium. It‘s cheaper than Intel‘s offering, but not by a huge margin. There‘s also been some issues with AM5 motherboards being buggy and overpriced, though that should improve over time.

Best Value: Intel Core i5-13600K
Shifting down to more reasonable price tags, we have Intel‘s mid-range king. The Core i5-13600K provides a fantastic bang for your buck while still offering top-tier gaming capabilities:

14 cores (6 performance, 8 efficiency) / 20 threads
Up to 5.1 GHz max turbo frequency
PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 support
Think of the 13600K as a cut-down 13900K. You still get the same architecture, IPC gains, and great single-threaded performance. For gaming purposes, you‘ll hardly notice a difference between the two. The 13600K is just that good.

Really, the only sacrifice you‘re making here is giving up some cores. With 6p and 8e cores, the 13600K does lag behind its bigger brother in heavily multi-threaded workloads. But for gaming? It‘s going to be smooth sailing the vast majority of the time.

The other key advantage of going with a 13600K is that you don‘t need to splurge on a Z790 board to get the most out of it. A more affordable B660 motherboard will still let you enjoy the high clock speeds for gaming.

Cooler requirements are also more reasonable with this mid-range CPU. A quality air cooler will get the job done, though an AIO liquid cooler wouldn‘t hurt for overclocking.

Budget Pick: Ryzen 5 5600
For budget-conscious builders that still want a very competent pairing for the RTX 3080, look no further than the Ryzen 5 5600. AMD‘s last-gen CPUs have become an unbelievable value as they‘ve dropped in price.

6 cores / 12 threads
4.4 GHz boost clock
PCIe 4.0 support, DDR4 memory
AMD‘s Zen 3 architecture and 7nm process allowed a big jump in performance compared to the Ryzen 3000 series. The IPC gains they achieved hold up even today, letting the humble 5600 still churn out great gaming performance.

No, you won‘t be setting benchmark records. But for 1080p and 1440p gaming, the 5600 is a highly capable CPU. Its 6c/12t configuration is still sufficient for most modern titles too.

Perhaps the best part about the 5600 is just how affordable it is. You can routinely find it for around $150, an absolute steal. Pair it with a B550 motherboard and some DDR4 memory and you‘ve got all the supporting componentry for the RTX 3080 for not much dough.

There are sacrifices of course. You don‘t get PCIe 5.0 or DDR5 support. And the 5600‘s limited core count will hold it back in future games. But if you‘re just concerned about gaming right now and don‘t have a fortune to spend, the 5600 is the value champ.

What to Keep in Mind
It‘s important to remember that selecting the right CPU depends a lot on the types of games you play and the resolution you‘re targeting. For 4K gaming, the GPU does the vast majority of the heavy lifting. This is where the RTX 3080 shines and the choice of CPU matters less.

At 1440p and especially 1080p though, the CPU has a much larger impact on your gaming performance. The high framerates at these lower resolutions put a bigger strain on your processor. That‘s where speedy CPUs with great single-core speed, like the 13900K and 13600K, will flex their muscles.

You also need to consider the total system cost. If you‘re choosing a more budget friendly CPU option, that likely means you‘ll have more money to spend on other components. Faster RAM, a bigger SSD, and a higher quality motherboard can all have just as much impact on your gaming experience as the CPU.

Don‘t forget about the CPU cooler either. Powerful processors put out a lot of heat and require capable cooling to maintain high clock speeds. Be sure to factor in the cost of a good air cooler or AIO, especially if you plan on overclocking.

Lastly, think about your upgrade path. The wonderful thing about the RTX 3080 is that it‘s powerful enough to not need replacing for years to come. But if you do end up wanting to upgrade your CPU down the line, consider what socket and platform will give you the most options going forward.

Best Gaming CPUs for RTX 3080 – Final Thoughts
The RTX 3080 is an incredible GPU that deserves to be paired with a CPU that won‘t hold it back. With this guide, you‘re now armed with the best CPU options at every price point to help you get the most out of your graphics card.

To recap, if you want the unequivocally best gaming performance and have the budget to match, the Intel Core i9-13900K is the CPU to beat. It‘s the fastest chip on the market currently.

The AMD Ryzen 9 7950X provides a strong alternative. While not quite as speedy in gaming, it‘s a bit cheaper and provides a good upgrade path on the AM5 platform.

Most gamers will be more than happy with the Core i5-13600K though. It‘s a fantastic value that offers flagship gaming performance at a much more attainable price. Pair it with a B660 motherboard and DDR4 memory and you‘ve got an outstanding gaming rig.

On the lower end, it‘s impossible to ignore the Ryzen 5 5600. For the price, there‘s no better CPU to slot into a budget RTX 3080 build. Yes, you‘ll be missing some bells and whistles. But its gaming chops are still extremely solid for the money.

Just remember that to get the most out of any of these CPUs, you‘ll need a quality cooler, a capable motherboard, and fast memory. Don‘t skimp on the supporting components or you won‘t be taking full advantage of these processor‘s capabilities.

Ultimately, you can‘t go wrong with any of the chips mentioned here. They‘re all stellar performers that will pair beautifully with an RTX 3080 and should provide years of high-fidelity gaming experiences. All that‘s left to do is to slot one into your shiny new build. Happy gaming!