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Best CPU for RTX 3090 in 2024 – Our top picks

The best accompaniment for a top-notch graphics card from the 30-series

Reviewed By: Kevin Pocock

Last Updated on May 7, 2024
Amd Ryzen 7, the best CPU for RTX 3090, in packaging displayed against a blurred background.
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As the former flagship from Team Green, the NVIDIA RTX 3090 is a powerhouse graphics card that demands the best hardware to maximize its potential. However, with so many CPU options prying for your attention, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one. In this article, we’ll be exploring the top processors guaranteed to deliver a seamless experience when paired with the RTX 3090. They’ll provide you with smooth performance, low latency, and maximum frame rates. Who can complain?

Boasting 10,496 CUDA cores and 24 GB of GDDR6X VRAM connected via a 384-bit memory bus width, the 3090 showcases the very peak of the Ampere architecture. The card is built using Samsung 8N process technology and has a base clock speed of 1395 MHz, with a boost clock speed of 1695 MHz. Featuring a TDP of 350W, the RTX 3090 delivers exceptional performance and is capable of handling demanding games and applications with ease. Additionally, its memory bandwidth of 936.2 GB/s provides fast data transfer and improved overall system performance.

It may not be the very best CPU anymore, but it’s still safe to say that the RTX 3090 is the best Nvidia GPU from the last generation, showing us the best of the 2nd Ray tracing generation and DLSS. Not only is it capable of great 4K gaming, but it’s also a card that will endure the most demanding professional usage.

Products at a glance

How we select the best processors for the 3090

Selecting an optimal CPU for the RTX 3090 entails weighing in on various factors, and it’s not a process we take lightly. Initially, compatibility with your motherboard and other hardware components is crucial. We deliberate on the processor’s brand and architecture; typically, the options narrow down to Intel and AMD, both offering a wide array of motherboard generations to align with their products. Of course, we’ve also had our fair share of hands-on with the 3090 in our RTX 3090 review, so we have a clear sense of where it sits on the performance podium overall, and what pairs well and what doesn’t. We’ve even gone so far as to recommend the best RTX 3090 model if that’s

The next step to start thinking about it is to determine the budget you have to spend. High-end CPUs can be expensive, so it’s important to have a clear budget in mind to narrow down your options. Once you have a budget in mind, you can start considering other factors, for example – specs! Cores, single and multi-thread performance, and clock speed will all improve with a higher price tag, so it’s all about finding a good balance of affordability and performance.

Finally, compatibility is key, and you’ll need to make sure the CPU you choose is compatible with your motherboard and has the appropriate socket type: the RTX 3090 requires a PCI Express 4.0 slot. Additionally, consider the clock speed of the CPU, as it should be high enough to keep up with the 3090’s performance demands, with a minimum of 3.0 GHz being recommended. The more cores a CPU has, the better it will perform with the RTX 3090. A CPU with at least 16 cores is probably the way to go, as despite being a bit older the 3090 still has plenty of power in its arsenal. This leads us on to considering the power consumption of the CPU, as a TDP that matches or is lower than the GPU is recommended to avoid overloading the power supply. Check for overclocking support, as overclocking can improve performance but also increase power consumption and heat output. Finally, look at the brand reputation and choose a well-known brand with a good reputation for quality and support: AMD or Intel are probably your best bet.

Our top picks

Best CPU for the RTX 3090
  • A retail box for an AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D desktop processor, featuring prominent orange and black design elements and AMD branding.
Best in ClassExcellent
  • Cores: 16
  • Thread: 32
  • Base Clock Speed: 100 MHz
  • Boost Clock Speed: 5.7 GHz
  • L3 Cache: 128 MB (shared)
  • TDP: 120 W
  • Platform: AMD Socket AM5
Reasons to Buy
  • Lower TDP than non-3D variant
  • Effortlessly handles intense multi-threaded applications and provides remarkable gaming performance
  • Has seamless integration with the AM4 platform
Reasons to Avoid
  • If not looking for a gaming CPU, the 7950X might be a better option
  • Doesn’t have support for DDR4 RAM
  • Top end of the price spectrum

For those that favor Team Red, and are after truly cutting-edge performance from their PC, we’ve lined up the Ryzen 9 7950X as our prime pick for pairing with the RTX 3090. While it doesn’t come cheap, you’re guaranteed the best that AM5 has to offer, and will be future-proofed for any further GPU upgrade you might have in mind over the foreseeable. It packs the core count, speed, and power necessary to fulfill any task – from gaming to the most demanding 3D rendering to overclocking, this CPU’s got everything covered.

The AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D is far from the cheapest chipset on the market, but with unparalleled performance, it’s also one of the best.

PC Guide

Specs-wise, the 7950X3D comes equipped with a total of 16 cores and 32 threads, a base clock speed of 4.2 GHz and a boost clock speed of up to 5.7 GHz all packaged into its neat 120W TDP. Of course, its ‘X3D’ title means it also benefits from second-generation 3D V-cache technology, and as expected this results in pretty stellar gaming performance ideal for any 3090 user. We certainly found this to be the case in our Ryzen 9 7950X3D review and in-house benchmarking, where the Zen 4 flagship reached impressive figures across the likes of CS2, Cyberpunk 2077, and Days Gone. While it’s gaming performance shines over its synthetic performance, it’s needless to say that the 7950X3D will be a strong companion to the 3090, and you can game or multitask without risk of bottlenecking.

We aim to provide a holistic overview of these CPUs we’re recommending, and it has to be said that there is a downside to this processor – it’s not affordable. As we mentioned above, it’s also not as primed for productivity as its non-3DX counterpart. However, there is somewhat of a bright side to this, and that’s that following being on the market for over a year, it’s possible to find this chip available hovering around the $570 mark on various online retailers. So, as long as you’re equipped with PCIe 5.0 compliant components in your rig, you should be able to max out software with ease thanks to the specs powering the 7950X3D. It’s a premium CPU for the premium performance of the RTX 3090.

Best Intel CPU for the RTX 3090
  • An Intel Core i9-13900K processor installed in a motherboard socket, surrounded by circuits and components.
Highly Recommended
  • Cores: 24 (8P-16E)
  • Threads: 32
  • Boost speed : P-Core 5.7GHz / E-Core 4.3GHz
  • Base speed: P-Core 3.0GHz / E-Core 2.2GHz
  • L3 Cache: 36 MB
  • TDP: 253W
  • Platform: Intel (LGA 1700)
Reasons to Buy
  •  Amazing single-threaded performance, and perfect multi-threading results
  • Resuses the LGA 1700 socket, so you can upgrade gradually
Reasons to Avoid
  • Despite no longer being the flagship, it’s still really pricey
  • Known to run hot, so sufficient cooling is needed

The Intel Core i9-13900K is an excellent choice for those looking to pair their NVIDIA RTX 3090 with a powerful CPU from Intel, as the leader of its 13th gen. With its 24 cores and 32 threads, this CPU provides efficient multi-core performance, making it ideal for content creation, but a versatile piece overall. The hybrid architecture of Intel, combined with the 13900K’s specs, makes it one of the best CPUs of its generation.

The 13900K is capable of handling multiple tasks at once, allowing your PC to deliver a seamless performance even when running demanding applications. Its base clock speed of 3 GHz and boost clock speed of 5.7 GHz make it one of the fastest CPUs in its generation too, ensuring that it can keep up with the high performance of the RTX 3090. We certainly found that to be the case in our i9-13900K review too, where gaming across Cyberpunk 2077 and CS2 was a breeze; synthetic performance was even more impressive, with CPU Z, Cinebench R23, and Geekbench with strong figures for single-core but especially powerful multi-core performance. 

The Intel Core i9-13900K may not be the newest high-end processor made by Team Blue anymore but time hasn’t slowed this chipset down at all.

PC Guide

Additionally, the base power TDP of 125W is relatively low for a high-performance CPU, which means it won’t consume too much power or generate too much heat, although user reviews do testament to this processor having high temperatures. This helps balance out the high TDP of the RTX 3090, resulting in a well-balanced and efficient system.

 In conclusion, the Intel Core i9-13900K is an ideal choice for those who are looking for a powerful and efficient CPU to pair with their NVIDIA RTX 3090. Its high clock speed, efficient multitasking capabilities, and low TDP make it a great option for high-performance systems.

Best gaming CPU for the RTX 3090
  • AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D 8-core processor retail box.
Reasons to Buy
  • One of the best gaming performance CPU, and at a great price
  • The 3D cache makes such a big difference in performance
  • Low power consumption, so it’s not demanding on your system
Reasons to Avoid
  • Unfortunately, you’ve got no overclocking support with this one
  • Again, runs hot so you might be at risk of thermal throttle

Not everybody cares about productivity, or at least doesn’t need a supercomputer to edit videos or content. Sometimes, all you want is a rig that can run 4K at 140+ FPS of 1440p at the sweet and beautiful 240 Hz: who could blame you? For those gaming fanatics, AMD’s got the best gaming CPU in the game.

The Ryzen 7 5800X3D is what we consider to be the best gaming CPU for the RTX 3090. This is due to its advanced 3D V-cache technology, which enhances performance in demanding applications, including gaming, with its impressive memory retrieval. The large, high-speed cache is optimized for 3D rendering and other GPU-intensive tasks, allowing the GPU to access data more quickly and efficiently. Alongside this, you’ve got 93 MB of L3 cache, 8 cores and 16 threads, and a boost speed of up to 4.5 GHz.

The gaming performance of this CPU is superb even compared with the newer generation of CPUs, and it could be said that AMD hit the jackpot with their original cache usage.

PC Guide

This results in improved performance, especially in games with complex 3D models and textures. Additionally, the 3D V-cache can reduce power consumption by reducing the number of times the GPU has to access the main system memory, meaning this neat little processor only has a TDP of 105W. This powerful feature is only available in select AMD GPUs though, so bear that in mind come your next component upgrade.

The gaming performance of this CPU is superb even compared with the newer generation of CPUs, and it could be said that AMD hit the jackpot with their original cache usage. So if you’re looking for the best gaming performance above all else, the Ryzen 5800X3D is what you need.

Best CPU for the RTX 3090 for the money
  • 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
  • Perfect for high-performance gaming on a budget, and it’s editing and productivity performance are excellent too
  • Generous core count for what you pay
  • Can be found on sale for an even more affordable price
Reasons to Avoid
  • Upgrading to an LGA 1700 motherboard can be an additional cost
  • Higher price than the last-gen equivalent
  • A little higher on the power consumption front too

Last up, we’ve got everybody’s favorite budget gaming CPU: the Intel Core i5-13600K. This processor is a bit of a gem for high-performance gaming at a low price, and we enjoyed it so much that in our 13600K review, we awarded it a solid 4.5 stars. It hasn’t lost its shine as one of the best representatives of the Alder Lake lineup, housing 14 cores and 20 threads with a base clock frequency of 3.5 GHz and an outstanding boost up to 5.1 GHz.

For those seeking optimal performance and future-proofing without breaking the bank, the Intel Core i5-13600K presents a compelling choice, particularly when paired with an RTX 3090 graphics card. This combination not only delivers impressive gaming prowess but also facilitates seamless multitasking, content creation, and even light 3D rendering tasks.

An excellent CPU through and through with fierce single and multi-core performance for the money. The LGA 1700 and DDR4 + DDR5 compatibility makes it a fantastic choice no matter what rig you have.

PC Guide

Nevertheless, perfection eludes even the most promising candidates, and the i5-13600K is no exception. Notably, it exhibits a slightly higher power demand, boasting a TDP of 181W, and tends to run hotter compared to its predecessor, the i5-12600K. Consequently, to maintain this CPU within a comfortable temperature range during intensive workloads, a sturdy cooling solution such as a 240mm water cooler may be necessary.

Features and considerations

It’s important to consider that although from a previous generation, the 3090 still is a high-end GPU. This means it is better suited for demanding content creation tasks such as video editing and professional use. A lot of people might use it for 4K gaming. In all these cases, the unit will work great, but it will need a high-end CPU. Of course, if you are looking to go for the current flagship, we’ve also outlined our thoughts on the best CPU for the RTX 4090, so check that out too.

The most important aspect to consider is the CPU core count. The more cores a CPU has, the better it will perform with the RTX 3090. We recommend a CPU with at least 16 cores. With that amount, you’ll ensure that any multithreaded activity can take place. Unless you’re only gaming with this GPU, you shouldn’t go lower than that core count.

After having the core count clear, you must consider the frequency of the CPU. The CPU clock speed should be high enough to keep up with the RTX 3090’s performance demands. A minimum of 3.0 GHz of base clock speed is recommended.

What is the cheapest CPU that won’t bottleneck a 3090?

For our budget pick that will help you steer clear of any bottlenecking, we’ve gone for the Intel Core i5-13600K. It’s become known as a solid option for strong gaming performance at an affordable price point, and with 14 cores and 20 threads and an outstanding boost up to 5.1 GHz, you should have performance that is pretty on par with that of the 3090, and won’t result in a bottleneck. Of course, to run the facts and figures yourself, you can find a reliable bottleneck calculator online, such as this one from pc-builds.com.

As a tech and AI writer for PC Guide, Gloria is interested in what new technology means for the future of consumer electronics and digital and broadcast journalism.