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Best CPUs for RTX 3080 – our top picks

Pair your shiny new RTX 3080 with an awesome CPU that works with your GPU to better streamline your workflows
Last Updated on May 1, 2024
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Nvidia has a long-standing reputation for creating some of the most powerful GPUs on the market, and even its older generation models stand the test of time with their impressive performance. Thanks to features, like ray tracing and DLSS technology, GPUs like the RTX 3080 continue to shine, delivering top-notch results for gamers and content creators alike. With prices for older generation components becoming more and more appealing, now is the perfect time to build a system with the RTX 3080 at its core.

To help you find the perfect match, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of the best CPUs for the RTX 3080. In this guide, you’ll discover options that cater to various needs and budgets, ensuring that you can make the most of your RTX 3080 while enjoying the benefits of lower pricing on older-generation hardware.

Products at a glance

How we picked

Picking the best CPU for an RTX 3080 can be quite an adventure, but don’t worry, we’ve got your back. To help you find the perfect match, we followed a pretty thorough process that made sure we considered all the important factors. First, we started by making a list of all the CPUs that could potentially pair well with the RTX 3080. We took into account different brands, performance levels, and price ranges, so we could give you a good variety to choose from. Of course, we’ve also done an RTX 3080 review, so we’re well-versed on where it sits on the performance podium overall, and what makes a good match.

Next up, we dived deep into research mode. We scoured the internet for reviews, benchmarks, and user experiences to see how each CPU performed in real-world situations, but we also made sure to pull on our in-house reviews and benchmarking where possible. We wanted to make sure our picks would truly deliver the goods and not just look good on paper, and back up our claims with real experience: if you’re interested, you can also read in further detail about exactly how we test in the PC Guide testing lab.

To narrow down our list, we then compared the CPUs based on their gaming and content creation performance, power efficiency, and overall compatibility with the RTX 3080. It was important to us that the chosen processors could handle the GPU’s demands and provide a balanced, powerful system. While it may no longer be the latest gen from Nvidia, the 3080 hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down when it comes to gaming in native 4K.

Finally, after lots of research, comparisons, and maybe a little bit of arguing, we settled on our top picks for the best CPUs to pair with your RTX 3080. We’re confident that our choices will help you create a fantastic gaming or content creation rig that’ll keep you smiling for a long time. So, go ahead and check them out!

Best CPU for the RTX 3080

Best CPU for the RTX 3080
  • AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D 8-core processor retail box.
Best in Class
  • Cores: 8
  • Threads: 16
  • Boost speed : Up to 4.5 GHz
  • Base speed: 3.4 GHz
  • L3 Cache: 96 MB
  • TDP: 105W
  • Platform: AMD (AM4)
Reasons to Buy
  • Still a seriously fast gaming CPU, with really competitive pricing
  • Passable single- and multi-threaded performance
  • Low power consumption, so not demanding on your system
Reasons to Avoid
  • Doesn’t have overclocking support
  • No integrated graphics, or integrated cooler either
  • Might not be as strong in desktop applications as in gaming

As our top pick, it would only make sense for us to select the Ryzen 7 5800X3D: with its 3D V-cache technology and 96MB of L3 cache to go alongside, you’ll be set to unlock immense gaming performance from your RTX 3080. Basically, this large cache deposit provides a significant performance boost in your gaming performance by storing frequently accessed data for quicker retrieval. So, you can expect smoother gameplay across the board, especially when there’s a 3080 involved.

What’s more, if you’ve got an AM4 system, you won’t need to worry about upgrading, which can save you some cash too. It may no longer be fully competing with the big dogs from AMD or Intel, such as the Ryzen 9 7950X, but for a mid-range gaming rig, you won’t find a processor that’s got quite as good a price-to-performance ratio.

With its 3D V-cache technology and 96MB of L3 cache to go alongside, you’ll be set to unlock immense gaming performance from your RTX 3080.

PC Guide

However, it’s not without its drawbacks. Beyond gaming, you might find that the 5800X3D isn’t as fast as comparable chips in other types of single- and multi-threaded work. This is mostly due to the fact that other models have a core count and frequency advantage, going beyond the humble 8 cores and 16 threads of the 5800X3D, which prioritizes cache retrieval over single and multi-threaded performance. Overall though, if you’re looking for an AM4 processor to pair with your Ada GPU, the competitive pricing and gaming capabilities of the Ryzen 7 5800X3D make it a really compelling pick.

Best Intel CPU for the RTX 3080

Best Intel CPU for the RTX 3080
  • Close-up of a computer's motherboard featuring a mounted Intel Core i5-13600K processor with visible socket and screws on a detailed circuit background.
  • Close-up of an Intel Core i5-13600K processor in focus, with a blurred blue computer case in the background.
  • An Intel Core i5-13600K processor displayed in front of a blurred computer case.
  • Intel Core i5-13600K CPU against a plain white background.
  • Cores: 14 (6P-8E)
  • Threads: 20
  • Boost speed : P-Core 5.1GHz / E-Core 3.5GHz
  • Base speed: P-Core 3.5GHz / E-Core 2.6GHz
  • L3 Cache: 24MB
  • TDP: 181W
  • Platform: Intel (LGA 1700)
Reasons to Buy
  • Ideal for high-performance gaming at a lower price
  • Editing and productivity performance supported by high mufti-core scores
  • Affordable way to get the newer DDR5 memory
Reasons to Avoid
  • If you have an older motherboard, you’ll need to upgrade to LGA 1700
  • Performance isn’t as good when using DDR4 memory
  • High power consumption to keep in mind

For the best Intel CPU to use in a 3080 rig, it has to be the Intel Core i5-13600K. Not only is this a processor that we approved in our in-house review, but we enjoyed it so much that we rated it 4.5 stars and stamped it with our ‘Excellence’ award. Well, why’s that might you ask? The fact of the matter is, if you’re looking for a way to get a cost-effective upgrade that doesn’t lack in performance, the Intel Core i5-13600K is an excellent gaming CPU with fierce single and multi-core performance for the money. With support for LGA 1700, as well as DDR4 and DDR5, make it a superior choice no matter your rig.

To briefly outline the specs, you’ve got 6 powerful performance cores capable of reaching clock speeds of up to 5.4 GHz, and 8 efficiency cores to bring the total up to 14. This translates to smooth, buttery gameplay that rivals CPUs at far higher price points. Packed with 24MB of L3 Cache, this card doesn’t show any signs of slowing down in terms of performance for gaming and creativity. What’s more, with Intel’s 14th gen being very much just a Raptor Lake refresh, the 13th gen offers even better value over its successor.

This is the little 14-core, 20-thread CPU that could, and has widely become one of the more popular CPUs on the market for those looking to get a great CPU on a reasonable budget.

PC Guide

However, it’s important to consider all aspects of a processor, including the downsides as well as the upsides. In terms of drawbacks, the higher 181W TDP means you’ll need a sufficient PSU, and also means you’ll be getting hotter temperatures too. So, CPU cooling is another element to throw into the mix when considering your upgrade, especially if you’re pushing it to the limits with high-resolution gaming on your 3080.

Best performing CPU for the RTX 3080

Best performing CPU for the RTX 3080
  • AMD Ryzen 9 7900X processor in a transparent case set beside its box on a table with a purple and pink lit background.
Reasons to Buy
  • Top of the non-X3D AM5 class, with only the 7950X beating it in raw performance
  • Huge amounts of L3 cache for smooth gaming
  • Impressive specs means you could pair with cheaper cooler and motherboards
Reasons to Avoid
  • Could be considered overkill for a 3080 rig, but you’d definitely be future-proofed
  • Premium pricing when not at a discount
  • Might run into bottlenecking when heavily multi-tasking

As our best performing option, there’s no surprise that the Ryzen 9 7900X has made its way onto this list. As the top range from Team Red, the performance of the 7900X is only outdone by its 7950X successor – in our 7900X review, we not only awarded it with a solid 4.5 stars, but gave it an ‘Excellence’ award too. For gamers using an RTX 3080, the 7900X provides pure gaming muscle with its 64 MB of L3 cache and boost speeds of 5.6 GHz, which should see you smooth sailing through AAA gaming titles as well as creative tasks and streaming. What’s more, the reliance on L3 cache over clock speeds means you might be able to save some cash by getting a more affordable cooler or motherboard than you might need for other gaming CPUs, and it make it a bit easier to fund the upgrade to AM5.

This CPU can work hard, and play hard too. It is just as comfortable gaming as it is in workstation and productivity scenarios, a real jack of all trades, if you will.

PC Guide

In comparison to some of the other more affordable options we’ve lined up, such as the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, you should find that the 7900X should give you a far more well rounded performance as opposed to being mainly gaming-focused. So, you’ll be able to get the full range of capabilities out of your RTX 3080, with its 8,704 CUDA cores and 10GB GDDR6X on a 320-bit memory bus width at your disposal. Concerning the price, we consider it worth waiting to get the 7900X at a discount price, as otherwise the cost saving on other parts might not quite make up for your investment. Still, there’s no doubt that your 3080 will truly shine when paired with the capabilities of the 7900X, which makes it worth considering either way.

Best budget CPU for the RTX 3080

Best budget CPU for the RTX 3080
  • A close-up photo of an AMD Ryzen 5 5600X processor box on a blurred background.
  • AMD Ryzen 5 5600X gaming CPU on a plain white background.
4.5 /5
Editor’s Rating
How We Review
Reasons to Buy
  • Strong gaming performance for its price, and overclockable too
  • Power efficient processor that’s not demanding on your rig
  • Competitive pricing, and often discounted
Reasons to Avoid
  • No integrated graphics
  • Uses AM4, the last gen AMD platform so might need an upgrade later down the line
  • Performance is not top of the range like other CPUs mentioned above

Finally, coming in as our budget pick and tying this list together is the Ryzen 5 5600X – potentially the cheapest CPU you can pair with an RTX 3080 without concerns about bottlenecking. It stands as proof that in this day and age, 6 cores can still go a long way, and with 12 threads to pair you can expect solid performance even under heavy loads. So, for gaming with a 3080, you should breeze through 1440p and breach 4K with high FPS with a 5600X in your stead. It might no longer be the newest mid-range from AMD, but this CPU still has plenty to offer.

It stands as proof that in this day and age, 6 cores can still go a long way, and with 12 threads to pair you can expect solid performance even under heavy loads.

PC Guide

What’s more, unlike a surprising amount of AMD CPUs, the 5600X actually comes with a sufficient cooler included, which can save you a bit of cash. The AMD Wraith Stealth cooler has become somewhat known for its efficiency cooling and lack of noise, perfectly matched to keep up with the meagre 65W TDP of the 5600X: this is less than have of the power demands of some other high-profile performance processors, so you can save on energy costs while still enjoying smooth gameplay and solid performance in other tasks. It might not be the best CPU for gaming overall, but for getting the best out of your 3080, you should find the 5600X more than sufficient, and it won’t break the bank either.

Features and considerations

When you’re on the hunt for the best CPUs for the RTX 3080, there are a bunch of things you should keep in mind. After all, you want a balanced system that’ll make your gaming and work sessions smooth as butter. So, let’s chat about some of the key factors to consider during your search.

First up, let’s talk compatibility. It’s super important to make sure that the CPU you’re eyeing will play nice with your motherboard’s socket type. The RTX 3080 gets along well with most modern CPUs, but it never hurts to double-check that your processor of choice will fit snugly on your current or future motherboard.

Performance is another biggie. The RTX 3080 is one heck of a powerful GPU, so you’ll want a CPU that can keep up with it and prevent any pesky bottlenecks. When browsing through potential CPUs, take a good look at their core count, clock speeds, and overall performance. You want a processor that can handle your GPU’s demands and be a perfect match for your gaming or content creation needs.

Now, we can’t forget about power consumption and heat. A more powerful CPU usually means more heat and higher energy usage, so keep an eye on the TDP and make sure your cooling solution is up to the task. You don’t want your rig turning into a mini space heater or gobbling up too much electricity.

Last but not least, think about your budget. While we all want the latest and greatest, it’s essential to strike a balance between performance and cost. The good news is that there are plenty of excellent CPUs at various price points, so you’re sure to find one that fits both your RTX 3080 and your wallet.

Camilo is a contributor for PC Guide. He's been into tech since he was a teen, surfing through the web and local stores trying to find the cheapest way to play the latest Half-Life on his old Windows