6 Best CPUs for Radeon RX 6900 XT in 2022

Best CPUs for Radeon RX 6900 XT

AMD created the 6900 XT with a single goal– to approach RTX 3090 performance levels while keeping expenses down. It’s a clear success when viewed in that light since the card either keeps up with NVidia’s best or outright beats it in titles like AC Valhalla that were made with Radeon hardware in mind.

You’ll have to decide whether fledgling DLSS and minor improvements over the theoretically cheaper 6800 XT are worth it. Still, the fact remains that the 6900 XT is currently tied for the best GPU in the world when it comes to rasterized game graphics. Here are the finest processors to pair it with and take advantage of the card’s unbridled power.

Best Enthusiast AMD CPU for Radeon RX 6900 XT: AMD Ryzen 9 5950X

Best High-end Intel CPU for Radeon RX 6900 XT: Intel Core i9-10900KF

Best Mid-range AMD CPU for Radeon RX 6900 XT: AMD Ryzen 7 5800X

Best Mid-range Intel CPU for Radeon RX 6900 XT: Intel Core i7-10700K

Best Budget AMD CPU for Radeon RX 6900 XT: AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

Best Budget Intel CPU for Radeon RX 6900 XT: Intel Core i5-11600K

Best Enthusiast AMD CPU for Radeon RX 6900 XT: AMD Ryzen 9 5950X

The stellar Zen 3 series culminates in the R9 5950X. It’s an engineering marvel that currently doesn’t face any opposition from Intel unless you count much costlier and not as capable Core X processors. It approaches high-end desktop levels of performance in multitasking and productivity while efficiently running games on Ultra settings in triple-digit framerates at 1440p.

You should not buy this CPU if you’re solely focused on gaming since the 5600X would do just as well. However, if you’re a content creator or like running several virtual machines as well as newly-released games, then you won’t find a better bang for your buck anywhere else.

One look at the 5950X’s general specs is enough to get an idea of AMD’s engineering prowess. It has 16 cores and double the threads, along with a 64MB L3 cache. All of that with only a 105W TDP! Better yet, the chip is compatible with AM4 motherboards, so you can slot it into an X470 board after updating the BIOS and not have to invest in an expensive platform upgrade.

Astute readers will note that there’s not much change in the basics compared to the 3950X other than a slight adjustment in base and boost core clocks. Improvements run deeper than that and have to do with upgrades to every part of the CPU core architecture. These net a 19% increase in IPC. The lag between two separate CCX modules that was present on the earlier chips is reduced as well. Each core in one of the two islands of eight gets access to 32MB of L3 cache when needed.

Heavily-threaded tasks like video encoding and editing see the processor take a decisive lead not only compared to less expensive AMD models but Intel’s Core X chip that costs $200 more. The difference becomes even more significant if you keep in mind that the 9-10980XE sports two more cores. Gaming results are in line with cheaper, more single-minded processors and not reason enough for the greater investment.

Best High-end Intel CPU for Radeon RX 6900 XT: Intel Core i9-10900KF

Users looking for the best Intel desktop chip find themselves in a peculiar spot. The processor we recommend is supplanted by the 11900K, yet the newer model offers nothing significant other than a noticeable price hike. That being said, it’s a testament to Intel’s engineering that Comet Lake can still duke it out with the finest new AMD chips and win more often than not in the gaming department.

We’ve chosen the KF version since it’s less expensive than the 10900K and performs identically. Your 6900 XT makes its lack of integrated graphics a moot point, but feel free to go for the K version instead if you want a backup option just in case.

Intel’s pre-Rocket Lake chips based on the aging 14nm fabrication process achieve better results through raw power increases, and the 10900KF is no different. Comparing it to the 9900K reveals that it has two more cores, a larger L3 cache, and a boost in clock speeds. The latter is most evident when overclocking since the CPU can now reach 5.2GHz with relative ease.

The architecture hasn’t changed much in principle since Skylake, but steady refinements keep Intel relevant. For example, the CCD die is now thinner and allows for better heat conductivity. Intel has also addressed several security issues and leverages its modular approach to outfit the chip with two extra cores. Also new is the ability to designate which cores will work in single vs. hyperthreaded mode to eke out a few more frames in lightly-threaded games.

The 10900KF is a respectable gaming processor and a good value when pitted against the likes of the 5950X or 5800X for that purpose alone. It is regularly no more than a couple of frames away when gaming at 1080p and beings out the best in your card at that resolution. The odds shift clearly in AMD’s favor when tasks like rendering are concerned, but it puts up a decent show even so.

Best Mid-range AMD CPU for Radeon RX 6900 XT: AMD Ryzen 7 5800X

Whereas that 9590X offered peak value for content creators, users looking for the most balanced AMD processor should go two tiers down. The 5800X is an excellent value since it’s capable both as a workhorse and a gaming CPU, not to mention considerably cheaper than the flagship.

You’d need to step up to the 5900X for a CPU that runs circles around Intel for productivity and matches the 10900K in games. The considerable jump in price makes for a less tempting proposition, though.

You’d be right to wonder about what exactly has changed from the 3800X just by looking at the tech specs. The most apparent stats like core count, clocks, and TDP remain the same. It’s also compatible with many older AM4 motherboards and brings PCIe 4.0 support for cutting-edge SSDs. Like its predecessor, it omits a bundled cooler and integrated graphics since AMD assumes that its target demographic doesn’t need them.

The reason for a claimed 19% IPC improvement lies in AMD’s continued manufacturing refinement. It’s already on the second generation of 7nm chips and streamlined the process to cut unnecessary costs while delivering upgrades to several parts of each core’s layout. For example, any core can now draw fully on the L3 cache.

Versatility is what makes the 5800X an instant recommendation for advanced users who’re as keen on getting work done as they are on racking up kills in twitch shooters. It delivers standout productivity and content creation results for the price, easily exceeding anything Intel can muster. It’s somewhere between the 11600K and 10700K in terms of game performance, which is excellent news considering everything else the chip brings to the table.

Best Mid-range Intel CPU for Radeon RX 6900 XT: Intel Core i7-10700K

Intel’s i7 processors have been the ones to beat in gaming for close to a decade, and while Team Red has caught up, it has yet to score a decisive victory in that area. The 10th-gen intel CPU is in a great spot since you can sometimes get it for less money than the MSRP suggests. It’s the value king for gamers looking to maximize their framerates and don’t care about much else.

We’d also suggest looking into the 11700K. It’s pricier, and there’s no sense going with it over the older CPU if you’re only concerned with gaming since the performance is identical. However, the 11700K fares better when executing multithreaded tasks.

We’ve already mentioned Intel’s brute force approach to performance gains when discussing the 10900KF, and these are even more apparent here. You can look forward to eight hyperthreaded cores that weren’t present on the 9700K. There’s more L3 cache for each core to use, along with better max core clocks. The setup had to give somewhere, though, which is why the newer chip runs at a TDP of 125W.

The 10700K’s core architecture is identical to the 10900K’s, including two dormant cores on the cheaper model. The monolithic CCD is based on a refined version of the sane 14nm fabrication process used during the Skylake days. Intel’s continuing successes in pushing the core clock up while introducing new overclocking features offset the lack of innovation.

Newer gaming benchmarks that include Zen 3 and Rocket Lake demonstrate that the 10700K is far from obsolete. Whether it will take the lead or be a frame or two behind the 5800x depends on how a particular game’s developers approached its optimization. However, there’s no denying the chip’s top-tier status nor the lack of its successor’s advancement in the area.

Best Budget AMD CPU for Radeon RX 6900 XT: AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

Zen 2 made it clear that the powerful but rocky platform AMD unveiled in 2017 had room to grow. Even so, the 3000-series couldn’t quite live up to Intel in the metric that matters to most buyers – games. The more expensive AMD chips we’ve talked about have already demonstrated that this is no longer the case. Still, it’s heartening to see that even a sub-$300 AMD CPU can now take on the likes of the 10700K and even come out on top sometimes.

The 5600X sports more improvements over Zen 2’s equivalent than its more expensive siblings. There’s a 200MHz boost clock increase and the same instructions per core improvement claims. Best of all, the TDP is now just 65W, down from 95W on the 3600X. That means you can get away with using the provided Wraith Stealth if overclocking isn’t your thing or go with affordable aftermarket solutions due to lower thermals if it is.

The key to the chip’s success is twofold. One part of the equation has to do with augmentations made to parts of the core like the branch predictor and load/store unit. The architecture is also refined to increase usage efficiency of the L1 cache and minimize latency. The latter is the main reason why AMD couldn’t quite catch up to Intel in titles that weren’t optimized for multithreaded processors.

So, how does all of this translate into tangible benefits for gamers? The greatest difference between processors is apparent at 1080p as the 6900 XT doesn’t become the bottleneck until you switch to 4K. The CPU’s gaming performance at 1080p is exemplary. You’ll consistently see it near the top of the charts in esteemed Intel company, with an fps difference that’s considerably smaller than the one in price.

Best Budget Intel CPU for Radeon RX 6900 XT: Intel Core i5-11600K

Rocket Lake as a whole didn’t make waves since most processors in the series offer few gains while costing more money and consuming a lot of power. You can find exceptions if you look at mid-tier and budget-minded processors like the one we’re about to discuss or the 11400F, though. They leverage the generation’s architecture improvements the best, serving as great starters for gaming while also sporting improved productivity stats.

The 10600K is still a viable alternative, especially if you can snag it at a discount and don’t care about the newer chip’s advances in multithreading.

We’re witnessing a peculiar reversal where AMD is starting to pull ahead of Intel with its top-of-the-line offerings. In contrast, Team Blue is putting out serious contenders for mainstream users. Such is the i5-11600K, a six-core processor capable of achieving a stable 4.6GHz clock on all of them or 300MHz more on just one. It has the same hefty power requirements as the 10600K, but the underlying architecture has finally undergone some changes.

Intel wasn’t ready to switch to 10nm for desktop CPUs just yet, limiting the advancement to this generation’s range of mobile processors. They did manage to retrofit the Sunny Cove microarchitecture to breathe some life into a platform that’s grown only incrementally for the preceding five years. This allowed for a long-awaited improvement in IPC and the introduction of a two-gear RAM mode that improves system stability at higher memory clocks.

Testing reveals that the 11600K and 5600X come to a draw in most games, thanks to AMD’s substantial generational improvements. Rendering and productivity benchmarks are more impressive in this case since they show that Intel’s processor is catching up in a field AMD has had the upper hand in recently. This is great news for anyone looking to pair their 6900 XT with a reasonably-priced CPU. Both options are finally viable for any task you throw at them.

Frequently Asked Questions

What CPU do I need for 6900 XT?

Which CPU to get for the 6900 XT depends on the types of tasks you’ll use the PC for the most. AMD’s 5000-series chips perform the best when you’re dealing with tasks that require lots of computations or are optimized for multithreaded work. Rocket Lake Intel CPUs are becoming better at such jobs, but most of them aren’t good value picks due to being costlier than still viable Comet Lake alternatives.

Gaming is where things get a bit more complicated. Any CPU on our list is more than fine for gaming with a 6900 XT. The 5600X or 11600K should be your top choices if that’s your main focus. Intel’s models still have a slight edge when it comes to older titles that depend heavily on single-core performance. That makes an even more compelling case for Intel if you’re most interested in achieving ridiculous framerates in competitive titles.

Will a 5600X bottleneck a 6900 XT?

No. The 5600X shows a roughly 10% decrease in top fps when compared to leading CPUs like the 10900K at 1080p, with values evening out further at higher resolutions. It’s worth noting that we’re talking about framerates that go into the 100s or even 200s. You’ll rarely notice a difference if you have a 144Hz monitor, let alone a 60Hz one.

Is RX 6900 XT good for gaming?

Absolutely. It’s hot on the 3090’s heels while costing only two-thirds of the RTX card’s asking price. Whether you’ll be able to find it at such prices is debatable as the global GPU shortage is still in effect. The 6900 XT will be a good value if and when you can get it close to MSRP. Otherwise, go with the 6800 XT if it’s currently cheaper since they aren’t far apart performance-wise.

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