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Best CPU for Starfield in 2024 – our top Intel and AMD picks

Optimize your processing with the best CPU for Starfield.
Last Updated on May 21, 2024
Best CPU for Starfield
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Starfield was one of the most anticipated games, and at launch, one thing became clear: this game is as resource-hungry as they come. While the gameplay and other elements might be good, there is no point in buying the game if your PC can only churn out 30FPS. 

That said, selecting a CPU to run Starfield isn’t as simple as picking one from a list, and that is due to two reasons. First, there are many options from the industry giants Intel and AMD, which can be confusing. Second, this game requires powerful CPUs, and they aren’t cheap.

So, to help you figure out which CPU is right for you, we’ve put together this in-depth guide that lists different CPUs, their details, and their pros and cons so you can make an informed decision.

How we picked 

There are various aspects you need to consider while pairing any CPU with a GPU. For a demanding game like Starfield, we need to look at various factors like the brand, architecture, cores, threads, base and boost frequencies, motherboard compatibility, and other important factors into account. This helps us filter our options and also gives us an idea which CPU and GPU pairing would be the closest to ideal.

However, other than specifications that anyone can read, we take a more hands-on approach by thoroughly testing the CPUs for synthetic and real-world performance. If you’re interested in learning more about that, we recommend you head to our PC Guide Testing Lab, which will show the process in detail.

Best CPU for Starfield

01
  • An Intel Core i9-13900K processor installed in a motherboard socket, surrounded by circuits and components.
Best in ClassHighly Recommended
Specifications
  • 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
  • Powerful performance in gaming and professional tasks
  • Capable of handling demanding multitasking effortlessly
  • Compatible with DDR4 and DDR5 RAM
Reasons to Avoid
  • Reached 100°C during our stress tests
  • It comes with a premium price tag
  • It has a high TDP of 253W

To run a demanding game like Starfield, you need a CPU powerful enough to handle various elements like AI NPCs and more. That said, it shouldn’t be surprising that our top pick is the Intel Core i9-13900K, a gaming and productivity powerhouse. In our i9-13900K review, we were glad to see its stellar gaming and synthetic benchmarks performance, making it a well-rounded flagship option. 

In a similarly demanding game like Starfield, Cyberpunk 2077, this CPU managed 342 FPS at 1080p low settings. This is impressive because the lower you go, the more CPU-reliant the game becomes, and Starfield is generally said to be more CPU-intensive than GPU. 

However, with the i9-13900K in your setup, you shouldn’t worry about performance dips or frame drops. It features 24 cores, 32 threads, a 36MB L3 cache, and a max turbo frequency of 5.8 GHz. This processor has excellent performance due to the hardware it packs under the hood, but with great power comes great power draw, which means higher temperature. 

According to Intel, it has a maximum TDP of 253W, which is not very power-efficient. The more power it consumes, the higher its temperature will be. So, to keep it tame, we recommend pairing it with the best AIO water cooler or CPU cooler for i9-13900K

This CPU is also compatible with PCIe 4.0 and 5.0, meaning you can pair it with DDR4 and DDR5 RAM without compatibility or stability issues. The faster memory speeds should also enhance performance. If you’re interested in exploring some options, check out our best DDR4 and DDR5 RAM guides for the top picks. 

Overall, this is one of the most powerful CPUs in recent years and should be more than capable of handling Starfield’s demands. One thing to note is that it does run hot and is power-hungry, so investing in a good CPU cooler is recommended. On top of that, undervolting this CPU might be beneficial as long as its productivity doesn’t take a hit. 

What users say

This CPU has a 4.7 out of 5.0 rating on Amazon, and its users have great things to say about it. Its Amazon reviews paint it as a powerhouse, which we can attest to. One reviewer said, “The Intel Core i9-13900K Gaming Desktop Processor has completely redefined my gaming and computing experience, offering a level of performance that’s truly in a league of its own.” Other than that, the ease of installation and versatility were also much-liked and talked-about features.

Best AMD CPU for Starfield
02
  • Product packaging of an AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D processor featuring 3D V-Cache technology, with an orange and black color scheme.
  • Close-up view of an AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D processor installed in a motherboard socket
  • A close-up of an AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D processor
  • A close-up of an AMD Ryzen 7 processor on a white table
  • 7800X3D facing down showing contact pads on a white table
Excellent
4.5 /5
Editor’s Rating
How We Review
Reasons to Buy
  • Excellent gaming performance
  • Massive 96MB L3 cache
  • Low TDP of 120W, given its performance
Reasons to Avoid
  • The shift to the AM5 platform is costly
  • Can’t be used with DDR4 RAM
  • Not the best CPU for productivity tasks

Next, we have a gaming behemoth from Team Red: the Ryzen 7 7800X3D. Based on the Zen 4 architecture and sitting atop the AM5 socket, this processor is one of the best for running Starfield.

For starters, it has eight cores, 16 threads, a max boost clock of 5.0 GHz, and a massive 104MB L3 cache. Out of the 104MB cache, 96MB is stacked on top via the 3D V-cache technology. This gives it an edge in gaming performance as the data is stored on the CPU die, making it faster and easier to find and process. 

This reduces access time and increases efficiency as more game elements are readily available, and the CPU doesn’t have to utilize time and resources to call for a particular element.

Despite its gaming prowess, it has a comparatively low TDP of 120W, which should keep its temperature relatively under control. On top of that, pairing it with the best CPU cooler for 7800X3D should lower the temperature even more.

Opting for this CPU would be expensive as it’s made for the AM5 socket, and transitioning will cost more. The AM4 utilized the Pin Grid Array (PGA) socket, but AMD shifted to Land Grid Array (LGA) sockets for their 7000 series CPUs, similar to Intel. This means AM5 processors can’t run on AM5 motherboards and require a new motherboard and DDR5 memory. If you’re interested in checking out some options, we recommend our best AM5 motherboard guide that has the top picks available. 

This processor also supports a maximum of 128GB DDR5 5200 MHz RAM. This means that depending on your motherboard, you could increase the system memory, which should also improve the overall speed and efficiency, resulting in better in-game and professional performance. 

Overall, the Ryzen 7 7800X3D continues the legacy of the “X3D” chipsets and solidifies its name using 3D V-cache technology. Its gaming prowess should allow it to handle Starfield at various resolutions and deliver a seamless experience. 

What users say

According to Amazon reviews, this processor is power efficient and the “perfect gaming CPU.” However, its professional performance isn’t as great as its gaming performance, as some “X” variants outperform it. The AM5 socket is also a plus as it opens the door to upgrades for years to come, something you can’t get from Intel and their LGA 1700 socket. One reviewer said it the best: “If you care about gaming performance, you cannot currently do better than this chip.”

Best budget CPU for Starfield
03
  • AMD Ryzen 5 7600X CPU in front of its packaging, featuring the "7000 series processor" label.
  • AMD Ryzen 5 7600X processor with visible pins on a white background.
Excellent
Specifications
  • Cores: 6
  • Threads : 12
  • Boost speed : 5.3 GHz
  • Base speed: 4.7 GHz
  • L3 Cache: 32 MB
  • TDP: 105W
  • Platform: AMD (AM5)
Reasons to Buy
  • It has an affordable price point
  • Great real-world and synthetic results
  • Good power efficiency due to its low 105W TDP
Reasons to Avoid
  • Requires an AM5 motherboard and DDR5 memory
  • The AM5 platform is expensive to shift to
  • It’s not the best processor for heavy workstation tasks

Enjoying what Starfield has to offer shouldn’t be only for those who can afford the best of the best. For those looking for a budget pick, we recommend pairing the Ryzen 5 7600X with your GPU. 

In our Ryzen 5 7600X review, we tested it against multiple synthetic benchmarks and in-game. In Cyberpunk 2077, a similarly demanding game, it managed an impressive 295 FPS with 149 FPS in 1% lows. On top of that, it had great single- and multi-core results in Geekbench, with 2,955 and 13,236 points, respectively. 

At the time of writing, this CPU costs $206.50, which is a steal considering its performance in professional tasks and in-game. On top of that, this processor perfectly balances performance and value and allows for a budget build that is capable of running almost anything. 

It features six cores, 12 threads, a base clock speed of 4.7GHz, a boost clock speed of 5.3GHz, and a 32MB L3 cache. Some might not be impressed with the core and thread count, but our tests show how efficient and powerful the Zen 4 architecture is, and it should deliver an above-average experience in Starfield. 

It also uses DDR5 RAM as it sits on the AM5 socket. That said, while the CPU might not cost much, if you don’t have an AM5 motherboard, the overhead cost of new components will likely set you back.

However, a plus side to this is that the AM5 platform will allow for future upgrades, so you won’t have to get a new motherboard when AMD releases the next generation of CPUs. 

A great aspect of this CPU is its low TDP of 105W and maximum operating temperature of 95°C. While it’s unlikely that it would reach 95°C, external factors, such as poor-quality thermal paste and the ambient temperature, could push it toward that limit. To avoid that, we recommend you use the best thermal paste combined with the best AIO water cooler

Overall, this is a solid entry-level CPU with great, well-rounded performance. The best part is that it is pocket-friendly. It should be able to run various games without a hitch and power through productivity tasks in a similar manner. 

What users say

The user reception of this CPU justifies what we’ve found in our tests. One user stated, “I have absolutely zero complaints about this processor,” and went on to say, “The 7600X is an absolute powerhouse.” Its power efficiency, future-proofing, and performance were praised, while a couple of reviews stated that it tends to run a bit hot, but nothing a robust water cooler can’t fix.

How to pick the best CPU for Starfield

There are a handful of factors that you need to consider before choosing a CPU. We’ve listed some of those factors below so you can make an informed decision on your next CPU, regardless of application.

Performance 

Starfield is a notoriously demanding game that puts the CPU and CPU through their paces. To get a playable experience in this game, you’ll need a top-performing CPU from the latest Intel or AMD generations. Unfortunately, these CPUs have a premium price tag, but their performance should cover more than Starfield. You should be able to run various other games and resource-intensive applications without facing performance issues. So, think of it like an investment that will pay off in the long run. 

Budget 

Your budget is the most important factor to consider while choosing a CPU to run Starfield. As mentioned before, you’ll need a powerful and modern CPU to get the best performance, but those are expensive. That said, if your budget doesn’t allow for it, some options, like the AMD Ryzen 5 7600X, should be able to handle it well and won’t burn a hole in your pocket.

Is Starfield CPU or GPU intensive?

It’s mostly CPU-intensive. While a robust GPU will surely enhance visuals and effects, the game’s foundation relies heavily on CPU performance. Without a competent CPU, even the best GPUs will face bottlenecks, leading to less-than-optimal FPS.

Marla writes across a wide range of topics across PC Guide, including AI, PC hardware, and news on the latest tech releases. She's a passionate writer that's interested in the future of technology.

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