- The RTX 3080 is a top-shelf GPU that benefits from having a powerful CPU and components to accompany it.
- The Intel Core i9-13900K is one of the most powerful CPUs on the market currently, with 24 cores and support for multiple RAM types.
- The AMD Ryzen 9 7950X is a future-proof option with 16 cores, support for DDR5 RAM, and compatibility with future AMD CPUs.
- The AMD Ryzen 9 5900X is a high-performance CPU with 12 cores and 24 threads, making it suitable for demanding games.
- The Intel Core i5-13600K is a great value option with 14 cores and 20 processing threads, offering good performance for its price.
What are the best CPUs for the RTX 3080 that you can purchase right now? While the RTX 3080 is no longer the latest and greatest from NVIDIA, it is still a top-shelf GPU. As such, it truly benefits from having a powerful CPU and components to accompany it.
While the RTX 4090 and 4080 have taken the performance crown from the Ampere line, you could still have a powerful PC with the RTX 3080 as the centerpiece. The CPUs featured in this guide are geared toward performance, modern components, and future-proofing. So, after looking at dozens of options, here are our top picks:
- Best Overall: Intel Core i9-13900K
- Best for Future-Proofing: AMD Ryzen 9 7950X
- Best for Efficiency: AMD Ryzen 9 5900X
- Best Value for Gaming Builds: Intel Core i5-13600K
- Best Budget Intel Choice: Intel Core i5-12600K
- Best Budget AMD Choice: AMD Ryzen 5 5600X
What Is the RTX 3080?
The RTX 3080 is one of the original GPUs that launched the Ampere line. It isn’t the most powerful, as the RTX 3090 holds that distinction. However, it is a fine compromise in overall performance and affordability.
The reference RTX 3080 came bundled with 10 GB of VRAM, running on a GDDR6X chipset. You’ve also got a 320-bit memory bus, which would see a substantial downgrade when the RTX 4080 was released. The RTX 3080 is well-suited for 1080p, 1440p, ultrawide, and 4K gaming.
|NVIDIA RTX 3080|
|Base Clock||1.26 to 1.44 GHz|
|Boost Clock||1.71 GHz|
|VRAM Amount||10 GB|
|PCI-E Support||Version 4.0|
|Maximum Resolution||7680 x 4320|
|Monitors Supported||Four displays at once|
#1 Best Overall: Intel Core i9-13900K
- Compatibility for both DDR4 and DDR5
- Up to 5.8 GHz Max Clock Speed
- Optimized for intense gaming and multitasking
- Features Thunderbolt 4 technology and Intel Killer Wi-Fi 6/6E (Gig+)
- Unlocked and overclockable
The Intel Core i9-13900K is an absolute monster in terms of performance. What makes it one of the best CPUs for the RTX 3080 is just the level of support and performance you’re getting out of it. You’ve got 24 cores distributed across 32 threads.
The CPU itself is a K variant, which means you can overclock to your heart’s desire. However, you likely won’t feel much need as the 5.8 GHz boost speed should handle anything you throw at it. The 13900K comes with support for DDR4-3200 and DDR5 RAM, meaning you’ve got some flexibility in terms of motherboard choices.
|It is one of the most powerful CPUs on the market currently.||The 13900K is very power-hungry.|
|The 13900K has robust support for multiple RAM types.||It has small performance gains when compared to the previous i9-12900K.|
Check out the Intel Core i9-13900K on Amazon.
Best for Future-Proofing: AMD Ryzen 9 7950X
- 16 Cores, 32 processing threads
- 5.7GHz unlocked overclocking
- DDR5-5200 support
- PCIe 5.0 support (select motherboards)
- Uses AMD's Zen 4 architecture
The flagship CPU of the Zen 4 architecture is a great processor. The AMD Ryzen 9 7950X is a massive improvement over the Zen 3 architecture and brings solid performance along with better thermals. AMD opted for a new motherboard socket, so you’ll need an AM5 mainboard to get things really rolling.
However, the Ryzen 9 7950X has a blazing set of 16 cores distributed over 32 processing threads. You’ve also got default support for the latest DDR5 RAM. It does run hot, but that’s to be expected when looking at some of these higher-end processors. However, opting for the 7950X will set you up for future AMD CPUs with the new socket.
|It is priced lower than the previous flagship Ryzen 9.||The Ryzen 9 7950X is relatively power-hungry and runs quite hot.|
|Incredible performance increases across the board for gaming and workloads.||It isn’t compatible with DDR4 RAM modules.|
Check out the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X on Amazon.
Best for Efficiency: AMD Ryzen 9 5900X
- 12 cores and 24 processing threads
- 100 + FPS performance
- Max temperature: 90°C
- 4.8GHz Max Boost
- Unlocked for overclocking
- 70MB of cache, DDR-3200 support
The AMD Ryzen 9 5900X brings stellar performance and is the swan song of the AM4 socket. You’ve got an unlocked multiplier, meaning you can take this high-performance CPU and overclock it. A strong aftermarket cooler is definitely needed, as AMD doesn’t package one with the 5900X itself.
You’ve only got the option of the more affordable DDR4 RAM modules, which don’t truly future-proof this CPU. However, you’ve got 12 cores and 24 threads, which should prove to be more than enough for even the most demanding of games on the market currently. It can be found at affordable prices now, which makes it one of the best CPUs for the RTX 3080 if you’re looking to save a little money.
|The 5900X comes with PCI-E 4.0 support.||It doesn’t come with a CPU cooler.|
|It is a drop-in upgrade for users still on the AM4 socket.||The maximum RAM type supported is DDR4.|
Check out the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X on Amazon.
Best Value for Gaming Builds: Intel Core i5-13600K
- 14 cores (6 P-cores + 8 E-cores) and 20 threads
- Performance hybrid architecture
- Up to 5.1 GHz
- Compatible with Intel 600 series and 700 series chipset-based motherboards
- Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0
Gamers looking to save a little won’t be disappointed with the Intel Core i5-13600K. It isn’t the cheapest choice on this list, but it presents a great midpoint between price and performance. You’ve got 14 cores and 20 processing threads, which is a massive shift forward for the i5 line.
The boost clock of 5.1 GHz and the stellar single-core performance should be more than enough for the likes of the latest games like Starfield. What makes it one of the best CPUs for the RTX 3080 is the great value it presents, especially when compared to more expensive flagship CPUs. You aren’t losing that much performance by opting for the 13600K. You can pass that savings on to other components.
|The 13600K has great performance for its price point.||The overclocking doesn’t really make for extra performance.|
|You can use older DDR4 RAM modules with it.||A CPU cooler isn’t included.|
Check out the Intel Core i5-13600K on Amazon.
Best Budget Intel Choice: Intel Core i5-12600K
- 3.70 GHz processor excels during demanding applications
- The LGA 1700 socket needs no soldering to be placed on the PCB
- Unlocked for easy overclocking
- Boost clock speed: 4.9 GHz
- Intel UHD graphics controller built-in
There is nothing cheap about the performance of the Intel Core i5-12600K. It is one of the most affordable CPUs you can build around, but it is a stellar performer. What makes it one of the best CPUs for the RTX 3080 is that you’re getting performance close to the 13600K for a price slash at retail.
The 12600K has support for DDR4 and DDR5 RAM modules, meaning you’ve got a good amount of flexibility when it comes to motherboard choice. There are 10 cores in total on the processor, with 16 threads present for your multitasking needs. It also comes with support for PCI-E 4.0, meaning that RTX 3080 can reach its full potential.
|It has fantastic single and multi-core performance.||The DDR5 options for motherboards can drive expenses up.|
|Great price-to-performance ratio despite being an older CPU.||It doesn’t come with a CPU cooler.|
Check out the Intel Core i5-12600K on Amazon.
Best Budget AMD Choice: AMD Ryzen 5 5600X
- 6 cores and 12 processing threads, which provide impressive multitasking capabilities
- Reaches 100+ FPS
- The AMD Wraith Stealth cooler is included
- Supports DDR4 memory, with a max boost of 4.6 GHz and 35 MB of cache
- Compatible with PCIe 4.0 on X570 and B550 motherboards
While the price of the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X is low, the performance certainly isn’t. The Ryzen 5 5600X is a fantastic CPU that can be found for pennies on the dollar since it isn’t the newest generation. You’ve got the ability to use the AM4 socket, meaning motherboards are a fair bit cheaper than the latest AM5-compatible mainboards.
The highest RAM standard supported is only DDR4, but you won’t notice any bottlenecks. What makes this one of the best CPUs for the RTX 3080 is the ability to overclock while being readily found for under $200 on sale. It might not be the latest, but it is still a great option for Ryzen fans.
|It has a massive performance increase over the 3000 series Ryzen CPUs.||It doesn’t have an integrated graphics card for backup purposes.|
|The Ryzen 5600X comes with PCI-E 4.0 support.||There isn’t any support for DDR5 RAM.|
Check out the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X on Amazon.
Picking the Best CPUs for the RTX 3080: What to Know
Choosing the right CPU to pair with your RTX 3080 has a few requirements, which is honestly expected with such a high-performance GPU.
Core and Thread Count
The core and thread count of any given CPU is going to have a massive impact on any perceived bottlenecking. You should ideally be aiming for a minimum of 6 cores and 12 threads, but more is always preferred. Depending on your usage, picking something like the 13900K might be an ideal fit if you’re looking to use your PC for gaming and heavier workloads.
While most games still lean on single-core performance, many applications will readily use the extra cores on tap. Having fast cores is also a massive benefit, with the ability to overclock being an overall benefit if you don’t mind tinkering around in your BIOS.
The RTX 3080 is already a relatively power-hungry GPU. Most of the CPUs featured in this guide also lean towards the higher end of power consumption. As such, you’ll want adequate cooling not only for the CPU but for the rest of your case.
Airflow and thermals should be a top priority, as you surely don’t want to throttle while playing the latest games. Some of the CPUs featured in this guide don’t feature any sort of cooler in the package, so you’ll want to budget for a good cooler and efficient case fans to keep the temps inside from reaching their absolute maximum.
Not all CPUs are built equally, and as such you’ll want to plot out the plan for your build ahead of time. If you’re looking to build a future-proof PC, you’ll likely want to aim for a processor that has compatibility with the latest DDR5 RAM. While DDR5 is more expensive, it is still in the early stages of adoption for computing as a whole.
PCI-E 4.0 or higher supported is also heavily recommended. While you could opt for an older motherboard and processor with PCI-E 3.0 support, your RTX 3080 won’t reach its full potential on an older lane that bottlenecks the performance.
Using the Best CPUs for the RTX 3080: What It’s Like
Using a computer with one of the aforementioned CPUs and the RTX 3080 is going to be like using top-shelf equipment. When put together with adequate amounts of RAM and fast storage, there isn’t really anything on the market your computer will struggle to launch.
The RTX 3080 might be an older GPU at this point, but it was a step below the flagship RTX 3090 and still has plenty of power to handle anything modern on the market today. When placed alongside other modern components, you’ll have a high-performance rig ready for anything.
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