10 Best CPUs for RTX 3090 PC Builds

With the launch of the new Ampere-powered RTX 3000 series of graphics cards, Nvidia included the mighty RTX 3090, an enthusiast-grade GPU, which is an absolute monster. With over 10,000 CUDA cores, 24GB of GDDR6X memory, and PCIe 4.0 support, Nvidia shows us what they can truly achieve. Therefore, you’re definitely going to want the best CPU for RTX 3090 in your systems to take full advantage of what this GPU has to offer. Anything less than that will probably create a bottleneck and prevent us from enjoying all the power and features the RTX 3090 comes with. Powerful graphics cards require powerful computer processors, and there are only a few of them that are up to the task.

While most of the attention is the RTX 3080, which is also impressive and quite more affordable, the 3090 deserves a great deal of respect for the sheer amount of power it provides and the future possibilities it unlocks. It’s more than your typical high resolution or VR gaming GPU. The RTX 3090 is becoming one of the top choices for a variety of workstations as well. Therefore, we’re going to explore a list of CPUs that are at the top of their class, both for gaming as well as highly demanding productivity tasks. But keep in mind that there are a couple of budget-oriented processors that will manage to keep the RTX 3090 in check, even though this GPU is aimed towards the high-end PC market.

To summarize the RTX 3090, it’s roughly 20% more powerful than the RTX 3080 if we compare the technical specifications, has more than double the amount memory, and it’s the most power-hungry GPU on the market with a requirement of 350W. With that in mind, you should check your power supply and make sure it’s a beefy one because you’ll need all the power you can get.

Best CPUs for RTX 3090 Builds

The RTX 3090 is aimed towards 4k and even 8k gaming, but the impressive 24 GB of memory is more aimed towards intensive workload tasks. So let’s see which CPU can fit in and fully unlock Nvidia’s behemoth.

1AMD Ryzen 9 5950X

Specifications:
Architecture: Zen 3 | Socket: AM4 | Cores/Threads: 16 / 32 | Base Frequency: 3.4GHz | Boost Frequency: 4.9GHz | TDP: 105W
Key features:
  • PCIe 4.0 support
  • 7nm architecture
  • 72MB total cache
  • AMD StoreMI technology
  • AMD Ryzen Master Utility

If you’re looking for a processor with a high core count, the Ryzen 9 5950 is the top choice, unless we count in the Threadripper. With 16 cores, this CPU is one of the best solutions for consumer-level high-end computers. Combined with the RTX 3090, you can build a 4K gaming system and a workstation in one setup. With a 4.9GHz clock speed and 32 threads, this processing behemoth is certainly fast. And with the RTX 3090, you have a powerful 3D modeling/rendering machine.

However, if you’re looking into the 5950X purely for gaming, you probably shouldn’t invest in it, especially if you’re on a budget. Why? Because this CPU is over the top when it comes to gaming. You’ll see almost no difference between the 5900X, or even the 5800X, and the 5950X in games because the RTX 3090 will do all the heavy lifting. Besides, most games don’t take advantage of more than six or eight cores. So if you really feel like you’re sacrificing your savings for this CPU, go with the lesser Zen 3 models because they’re just as future-proof. The 5950X is made to excel under the heavy workloads that come with demanding software.

In essence, the Ryzen 9 5950X has everything you want. It’s the best processor that isn’t a power-hungry Threadripper, it requires only 105W at stock speeds, and it has a lot of cores. So it’s definitely one of the best CPUs to match with the RTX 3090 if money is nothing to worry about.

2AMD Ryzen 9 5900X

Specifications:
Architecture: Zen 3 | Socket: AM4 | Cores/Threads: 12 / 24 | Base Frequency: 3.7GHz | Boost Frequency: 4.8GHz | TDP: 105W
Key features:
  • PCIe 4.0 support
  • 7nm architecture
  • 70MB total cache
  • AMD StoreMI technology
  • AMD Ryzen Master Utility

If you’re getting one of the best, if not the best, graphics cards on the market, you probably want a processor that’s just as powerful. If that’s the case, the Ryzen 9 5900X is a solid choice. This 12-core processor is powerful but still highly affordable. It can be boosted to 4,8GHz clock frequency, and perhaps even further if you’re an overclocking enthusiast who invests in serious cooling systems.

The 5900X is a fast processor that can be used for gaming in 4K resolution, as well as for professional applications. With 24 threads, it’s a beast when it comes to multitasking handling complex computations. Demanding software benefits greatly from the high thread count and impressive clock speeds. Furthermore, at the stock frequency, it requires only 105W, which is low thanks to the formidable 7nm architecture.

In the feature department, the 5900X is as impressive as the RTX 3090. It supports PCIe 4.0 and it comes with AMD’s Store MI feature that further improves the data transfer rates.

The only downside is that it doesn’t come with a stock cooler so you’ll have to purchase one separately. However, if you tend to overclock your CPUs, a stock cooler would have to be replaced anyway.

3AMD Ryzen 7 5800X

Specifications:
Architecture: Zen 3 | Socket: AM4 | Cores/Threads: 8 / 16 | Base Frequency: 3.8GHz | Boost Frequency: 4.7GHz | TDP: 105W
Key features:
  • PCIe 4.0 support
  • 7nm architecture
  • 36MB total cache
  • AMD StoreMI technology
  • AMD Ryzen Master Utility

Since the RTX 3090 handles the complex graphics, ray tracing, and it’s the most important component in a VR system, we don’t need the most powerful CPU on the market. The Ryzen 7 5800X is a mainstream 8-core processor that is more than enough for most gaming systems. It won’t hold back the RTX 3090, and it’s enough for 4K gaming, virtual reality, and even some very demanding applications.

Thanks to the efficient 7nm architecture, it also has small power requirements, so if your PSU is already good enough to power the RTX 3090 you won’t need to replace it. Furthermore, it offers PCIe 4.0 support, and it comes with the same software improvements that AMD implemented in the entire Zen 3 series. So, if you’re looking to future proof your new RTX 3090 system, the 5800X is a great candidate.

That being said, if you’re somewhat restricted by your budget, look no further. The 5800X offers more performance per dollar than the 5900X and it’s more than you need for gaming. You should look for a more powerful processor only if you work with professional software or if you just want to make sure you don’t have to change the CPU for several years. Just take note that you’ll have to purchase a separate cooler because the 5800X doesn’t include the Wraith Prism as the 5600X does. Additionally, if you’re planning to overclock this processor, get a strong cooler. Some have managed to push this processor even beyond AMD’s 4,7GHz boost frequency specification by using high-end cooling systems.

4AMD Ryzen 9 3950X

Architecture: Zen 2 | Socket: AM4 | Cores/Threads: 16 / 32 | Base Frequency: 3.5 GHz | Top Boost Frequency: 4.70 GHz | TDP: 105W

Key Features:

  • 16 cores
  • PCIe 4.0 support
  • 7nm technology
  • 72MB GameCache memory
  • Supports up to 128 GB DDR4 3200 MHz

Not so long ago any CPU with more than 12 cores was found only in the “enthusiast” bracket for a premium price. AMD has successfully blurred the line between high end and budget by offering a high powered 16-core CPU at an affordable rate. The Ryzen 9 3950X is a workhorse that can be pushed to 4,70 GHz and comes with next-gen 24 PCIe 4.0 lanes. These factors alone make this processor an excellent choice for a future-proof PC built around the RTX 3090.

Furthermore, the 3950X requires a motherboard with an AM4 socket, just like many other AMD processors. If you already have a PC equipped with an older Ryzen CPU, chances are you already have a compatible motherboard to go with the 3950X. However, keep in mind that if you want to take advantage of the fast PCIe 4.0 lanes, you’ll need a motherboard that supports the interface. That means an x570 model is needed. Otherwise, PCIe 3.0 will be used instead and the processor won’t operate at maximum efficiency. AMD has designed its algorithms to take full advantage of the speed boost provided by the next-gen interface.

With an impressive 72MB of total GameCache memory (L1 + L2 + L3), as AMD calls it, this Ryzen 9 is indeed fast, even when operating at stock clock speeds. However, this characteristic comes with a downside for those that want to take full advantage of the CPU. To overclock it and run it at 4,70 GHz we need a serious cooling system. AMD recommends a good quality water cooler to tame the 3950X, but a 280mm air cooler should be able to keep the temperature under control. Anything less than that just won’t cut it.

All in all, the Ryzen 9 3950X is a high-speed, overclockable 16-core CPU that will allow you to extract every ounce of performance out of the RTX 3090. Just make sure you can keep the heating under control.

5AMD Ryzen 9 3900X

Architecture: Zen 2 | Socket: AM4 | Cores/Threads: 12 / 24 | Base Frequency: 3.8GHz | Top Boost Frequency: 4.6GHz | TDP: 105W

Key Features:

  • PCIe 4.0 support
  • 7nm technology
  • 70MB GameCache memory
  • Supports DDR4 3200 MHz
  • Wraith Prism Cooler included

The 3900X is the mainstream version of the aforementioned 3950X, bringing a lot of power per dollar despite four fewer cores. Thanks to AMD’s 7nm process, the cache is massive, providing much higher speeds than 14nm CPUs at lower prices.

While also including PCIe 4.0 support, this CPU comes with all the features we see in its slightly more powerful cousin, the 3950X. However, compared to other processors on the market, there’s not as much overclocking room. The maximum speed might be more than enough in most situations, but who knows what the future brings. This is why future-proofing your PC is important, and those who would purchase a top of the line piece of hardware like the RTX 3090 should certainly pay attention to this aspect. But again, this depends on the intended use. A CPU overclocked at 4.6 GHz or close to that value should be more than enough for a premium high-end gaming system. It’s certainly enough to handle Nvidia’s newest beast.

The Ryzen 9 3900X also comes with AMD’s Wraith Prism air cooler, which is quite good and can easily keep the processor at low enough temperatures. It can even handle some overclocking, but if you want to squeeze every last MHz of clock speed, you’ll need an aftermarket cooler.

In conclusion, get the 3900X if the RTX 3090 did enough damage to your pocket. It’s a powerful processor and will handle any game at 4k resolutions, at least for now.

6Intel i9-10900K

Architecture: Comet Lake-S | Socket: LGA 1200 | Cores/Threads: 10 / 20 | Base Frequency: 3.7GHz | Top Boost Frequency: 5.30GHz | TDP: 125W

Key Features:

  • 10 cores in the affordable range
  • Thermal Velocity Boost technology for high overclocking
  • New overclocking controls
  • Hyper-Threading technology

While Intel continues to push their 14nm CPUs to new heights, they managed to boost the i9-10900K to an impressive 5.3GHz clock speed. This is all thanks to the new Thermal Velocity Boost technology that gives the cores additional power in controlled bursts. But even without using this new feature, the CPU can reach a regular overclocked speed of 4.9GHz, which is still impressive.

Unfortunately, with such high clock speeds, a system that combines this i9 with the RTX 3090 is going to need a serious amount of cooling, as well as a powerful power source. In addition to the 350W requirement of Nvidia’s GPU, the i9 requires 125W.

However, when the processor is pushed to its limit, it’s going to need a lot more juice than that. If both energy and heat are kept well under control, we gain 10 cores of tremendous power. And even if that doesn’t sound as impressive as 16 cores or more, few if any games can take full advantage of anything beyond 12 cores. So having 10 cores capable of running at such high clock speeds is certainly no impairment for a system running the infamous RTX 3090.

The more important downside of using this processor is the fact that it doesn’t have PCIe 4.0 support like the Zen 2 line of Ryzen CPUs. This translates to slower reading speeds as more and more graphics cards are becoming PCIe 4.0-ready. Keep that in mind when you consider the future-proofing side of PC-building.

7AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X

Architecture: Zen 2 | Socket: sTRX4| Cores/Threads: 32 / 64 | Base Frequency: 3.7GHz | Top Boost Frequency: 4.5GHz | TDP: 280W

Key Features:

  • 32 core-processor
  • A whopping count of 88 PCIe 4.0 lanes
  • 7nm technology
  • 144 MB GameCache memory
  • Quad-channel DDR4 support up to 3200 MHz

Do you want to render, encode, develop, stream, and game at the same time? Then look no further than the Threadripper 3970X. This 32-core unit is built for heavy workloads and it will cut a lot of your wasted rendering time and other complex processes. It’s not designed for typical PC gaming builds and the price certainly demonstrates that. But what else would you want to be paired with a top of the line GPU like the RTX 3090?

Every specification we look at is simply mind-blowing. It comes with an out of this world total cache of 144MB, 88 PCIe 4.0 lanes, quad-channel DDR4 support, and we can even get 4.5 GHz out of 32 cores. That’s a lot of cores and a lot of power. Unfortunately, that also translates to a high electricity bill. The Threadripper requires 280W of power! That’s a lot when compared to a 105W Ryzen 9. Combined with the RTX 3090’s power requirements we can conclude that we’ll need only the best PSUs on the market and a cooling system that matches. This kind of build simply can’t be restricted by budget.

The main strength of this processor is its ability to multitask at high speeds, so remember that when you’re considering spending roughly $2,000 on a CPU alone. And that’s not all. To install the Threadripper we need a TRX40 motherboard that’s equally high-end as well as expensive.

8AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

Specifications:
Architecture: Zen 3 | Socket: AM4 | Cores/Threads: 6 / 12 | Base Frequency: 3.7GHz | Boost Frequency: 4.6GHz | TDP: 65W
Key features:
  • PCIe 4.0 support
  • 7nm architecture
  • 35MB total cache
  • Wraith Prism Cooler with Razer Chroma support included
  • AMD Ryzen Master Utility
  • AMD StoreMI technology

The Ryzen 5 5600X remains one of the best choices for any gaming system. Since the performance of processors has vastly outpaced game requirements, the 5600X has the most value to offer. Despite having only six cores, this CPU comes with the same features the other, more expensive, Zen 3 processors have to offer. It fully supports PCIe 4.0, it comes with StoreMI technology that improves data transfer rates and data integrity, and it even includes the Wraith Prism cooler which the other CPUs don’t.

If you’re afraid that the 5600X will bottleneck the RTX 3090, don’t be because it won’t. This CPU is powerful enough even for 4K gaming since the GPU does most of the work. It offers plenty of processing power to allow you to use the RTX 3090 at its full potential. And as a bonus, it only requires 65W. That’s great news since the GPU requires a lot of power because it allows you to be more flexible with the power supply.

So, if you’re on a strict budget after buying an RTX 3090, or if you simply need a CPU that’s good enough for gaming, the 5600X is the best choice. Thanks to its features, you can have a cheap but future-proof CPU and focus on the rest of your system. You can even overclock it to a respectable 4.6GHz frequency, just keep in mind that you may need to replace the stock cooler and compensate for the additional power draw. All in all, the 5600X is the next mainstream CPU that you will find in a lot of budget to high-end systems simply because it’s versatile and affordable.

9Intel Core I7-10700K

Architecture: Comet Lake | Socket: LGA 1200 | Cores/Threads: 8 / 16 | Base Frequency: 3.8 GHz | Top Boost Frequency: 5.10 GHz | TDP: 125W

Key Features:

  • Can be overclocked up to 5.1 GHz using Turbo Boost Max 3.0
  • Hyper-Threading technology
  • New overclocking controls for fine-tuning
  • Intel Optane Memory support

Next on our list we have the i7-10700K that makes a great alternative for the Ryzen 3800X. The base frequency is at 3,8 GHz, which is great for programs and games that take advantage of single-threaded performance. The processor also comes with the Turbo Boost technology that was previously used in the i9 line of CPUs. This allows us to boost the processor frequency up to a whopping 5.1 GHz. But as always, this means we need a strong cooling system to handle all the heat generated from so much power.

The i7-10700K can easily be paired with the RTX 3090, despite having only 8 cores and a smaller cache than the Ryzen alternatives. The high clock speeds manage to compensate. However, Intel hasn’t adapted this line of processors to the PCIe 4.0 interface, and therefore systems won’t be able to take advantage of the fast reading speeds provided by the next-gen tech.

10AMD Ryzen 7 3700X

Architecture: Zen 2 | Socket: AM4 | Cores/Threads: 8 / 16 | Base Frequency: 3.6 GHz | Top Boost Frequency: 4.40 GHz | TDP: 65W

Key Features:

  • PCIe 4.0 support
  • 7nm technology
  • 36MB GameCache memory for boosted performance
  • Wraith Prism Cooler included

The Ryzen 7 3700X is the budget alternative to the 3800X. The difference between the two isn’t enormous since it’s also an 8-core CPU and the max frequency is just 100 MHz lower. With a good cooler, we can obtain almost as much performance and it will be enough to unlock the RTX 3090’s potential. Therefore those who are restricted by their budget, especially after purchasing Nvidia’s top of the line GPU, still have a chance of building an excellent gaming system.

In addition, the 3700X requires less power than any other CPU on this list, with a requirement of only 65W. This is important because the RTX 3090 is a real power drainer, but if we use the 3700X processor we can get away with a smaller power supply.

Furthermore, PCIe 4.0 is standard with this CPU as well even though it falls into the budget category. This is good news because we can take advantage of faster than ever before SSDs that would run at slower rates on the PCIe 3.0 CPUs.

The Ryzen 7 3700X might not appear impressive at a first glance, but it comes with all the bells and whistles needed to properly enjoy the benefits provided by the RTX 3090.

Final Thoughts

Nvidia’s RTX 3090 is an impressive GPU that requires a good CPU for us to be able to enjoy all of its features and performance. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we need a Threadripper. All of the CPUs on this list will enable us to experience next-gen high-resolution gaming and some of them make the best workstations for dedicated visual artists and data scientists. Choose the one that suits your goals and your budget. Lastly, you can use this bottleneck calculator to better help you choose the right CPU for your RTX 3090 GPU.

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