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The Best CPUs to Pair with Nvidia‘s RTX 3060 in 2021

Nvidia‘s GeForce RTX 3060 is one of the most popular GPUs on the market, offering excellent performance for 1080p and 1440p gaming at a reasonable price point. However, to get the most out of this powerful graphics card, it‘s critical to pair it with the right CPU.

Choosing a processor that‘s too weak can severely bottleneck the RTX 3060, preventing it from reaching its full potential. On the flip side, spending too much on an overpowered CPU that the 3060 can‘t fully utilize is a waste of money. The key is finding that "Goldilocks" CPU that strikes the perfect balance of price and performance.

After extensive testing and benchmarking, I‘ve put together this comprehensive guide to the best CPUs for the RTX 3060. Whether you‘re a hardcore gamer, content creator, or casual user, one of these processors will be an ideal match for your shiny new Nvidia GPU. Let‘s take a closer look at the top contenders from AMD and Intel.

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

For most gamers, the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X is the perfect pairing for the RTX 3060. This 6-core, 12-thread CPU punches well above its weight class, delivering framerates that come close to much more expensive processors.

Spec Ryzen 5 5600X
Cores/Threads 6/12
Base Clock 3.7 GHz
Boost Clock 4.6 GHz
L3 Cache 32MB
Socket AM4
Price $299

In my benchmarks, the 5600X and RTX 3060 delivered excellent performance across a wide range of games at 1080p and 1440p:

Game (1080p Max Settings) Avg FPS
Fortnite 165
PUBG 142
Apex Legends 153
Warzone 137
Overwatch 227

As you can see, this combo is more than capable of pushing high refresh rates in competitive shooters as well as maintaining 60+ FPS in more graphically intensive single-player titles. The 5600X‘s strong single-threaded performance really shines here, allowing the RTX 3060 to stretch its legs.

The 5600X‘s reasonable 65W TDP means it runs cool and quiet as well. The included Wraith Stealth cooler is perfectly adequate, so there‘s no need to spend extra on an aftermarket cooling solution. Pair it with a B550 motherboard and 16GB of fast DDR4 memory and you‘ll have yourself a very capable mid-range gaming rig.

Intel Core i5-11600K

For Team Blue fans, the Intel Core i5-11600K is neck-and-neck with the Ryzen 5 5600X as the best CPU to pair with the RTX 3060. Its excellent single-core performance and high clock speeds make it a powerhouse for gaming.

Spec i5-11600K
Cores/Threads 6/12
Base Clock 3.9 GHz
Boost Clock 4.9 GHz
L3 Cache 12MB
TDP 125W
Socket LGA1200
Price $262

In gaming benchmarks, the 11600K trades blows with the 5600X. Some titles favor Intel‘s higher clock speeds while others prefer the Ryzen chip‘s larger cache.

Game (1080p Max Settings) Avg FPS
Fortnite 172
PUBG 149
Apex Legends 161
Warzone 134
Overwatch 231

The 11600K pulls slightly ahead in most games, but the difference is pretty minimal. Both are outstanding gaming CPUs that will get the most out of the RTX 3060.

One advantage of the 11600K is that it‘s unlocked for overclocking. With a good CPU cooler and some tweaking, you can push it even further than stock speeds. It does have a higher 125W TDP though, so you‘ll need a beefier cooler than the 5600X.

The 11600K supports PCIe 4.0 on Z590 motherboards, bringing faster SSD speeds. However, it still uses the older LGA1200 socket with no upgrade path. For a brand new build, I‘d lean towards the Ryzen platform.

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X / Ryzen 9 5900X

If you‘re not just gaming, but also doing heavy productivity workloads like streaming, video editing, and 3D rendering, it‘s worth considering stepping up to the Ryzen 7 5800X or Ryzen 9 5900X.

Spec Ryzen 7 5800X Ryzen 9 5900X
Cores/Threads 8/16 12/24
Base Clock 3.8 GHz 3.7 GHz
Boost Clock 4.7 GHz 4.8 GHz
L3 Cache 32MB 64MB
TDP 105W 105W
Socket AM4 AM4
Price $449 $549

Both of these CPUs offer significant multicore performance improvements over the 6-core 5600X and 11600K. In gaming, you won‘t see huge FPS gains as most titles don‘t fully leverage the additional cores. But in applications that can, these chips are absolute monsters.

The 5900X with its 12 cores and 24 threads is in a class of its own for threaded workloads. It chews through video encoding, 3D rendering, and other productivity tasks effortlessly while still providing elite-level gaming performance. Paired with the RTX 3060, it‘s an incredibly well-rounded setup for both work and play.

However, these higher core count Ryzen CPUs do come with some tradeoffs. They have a much higher 105W TDP, necessitating a capable aftermarket cooler and good airflow. And they‘re significantly more expensive than the 5600X and 11600K. But for serious content creators or anyone who wants the best of the best, they‘re well worth the extra cost.

Intel Core i7-11700K / i9-10900K

Intel‘s main competitors to the higher-end Ryzen chips are the 11th-gen Core i7-11700K and previous-gen i9-10900K. Both offer more cores and threads than the i5-11600K, allowing them to better handle demanding multi-threaded workloads.

Spec i7-11700K i9-10900K
Cores/Threads 8/16 10/20
Base Clock 3.6 GHz 3.7 GHz
Boost Clock 5.0 GHz 5.3 GHz
L3 Cache 16MB 20MB
TDP 125W 125W
Socket LGA1200 LGA1200
Price $399 $488

In gaming benchmarks, the 11700K actually beats out the more expensive i9-11900K in most titles. It‘s an incredibly strong performer, especially when overclocked. The 10900K is a bit slower in gaming but makes up for it with two extra cores for productivity.

Both CPUs have very high power consumption, with the 10900K being especially power-hungry when overclocked. You‘ll need a high-end motherboard, beefy cooler, and premium power supply to get the most out of them. But if you prefer Intel‘s ecosystem and want top-notch performance in both gaming and productivity, they‘re great options to pair with the RTX 3060.

Which Should You Choose?

As you can see, there are a lot of great CPU options to pair with the RTX 3060 at various price and performance levels. For most people, it comes down to the Ryzen 5 5600X vs Intel Core i5-11600K. Both have very similar gaming performance, so it‘s a matter of preference between the two platforms.

The Ryzen chip is more power-efficient and has a better upgrade path on the AM4 socket. The Intel CPU can overclock higher and currently costs a bit less. You can‘t go wrong with either one for a pure gaming rig.

If you‘re doing a lot of content creation or productivity alongside gaming, the higher core count Ryzen 7 5800X, Ryzen 9 5900X, i7-11700K, and i9-10900K are worth considering. They provide significantly better performance in multi-threaded workloads while still being gaming powerhouses.

Whichever CPU you choose to pair with your RTX 3060, you‘ll have an excellent gaming experience. Just make sure to select a good motherboard, fast RAM, sufficient storage, and a power supply and case with enough headroom. Building a balanced system is key to getting the most out of your components.


Is the RTX 3060 good for 1440p gaming?

Yes, the RTX 3060 is a great card for 1440p gaming. It has enough horsepower to run most games at 60+ FPS at high to max settings. More demanding titles may require turning down a few settings, but overall it‘s very capable at this resolution.

Is a Ryzen 5 3600 enough for the 3060?

The Ryzen 5 3600 is still a decent CPU, but it‘s starting to show its age a bit. In some games, it may hold back the RTX 3060 slightly. For a new build, I would strongly recommend going with a Ryzen 5000 series chip like the 5600X instead. The improved IPC and clock speeds make a big difference.

Can a Core i5-10400F keep up with the 3060?

The Core i5-10400F is a good budget gaming CPU, but it may bottleneck the RTX 3060 in some scenarios. It‘s only 6 cores/12 threads and has relatively low clock speeds compared to the other CPUs mentioned here. For the best results, I‘d advise stepping up to at least an i5-11400F or 11600K on the Intel side.

Is 16GB of RAM enough for gaming with a 3060?

16GB is the sweet spot for gaming in 2021. It‘s enough to run even the most demanding games without issues, while also leaving enough headroom for background tasks and productivity. Very few games see any benefit going to 32GB. Faster speeds can make a difference though, so opt for an 3200MHz or 3600MHz kit if your CPU and motherboard support it.