Pairing up a strong CPU with the NVIDIA RTX 4090 is key for top-notch gaming or getting through heavy-duty workloads. Whether you lean towards Intel or AMD, picking the right CPU will help you get the most out of your RTX 4090.
I have tested a lot of CPUs by pairing them with the Nvidia RTX 4090 and the numbers and performance don’t lie. So in this post, I’ll share my top picks of Intel and AMD Ryzen CPUs to pair with the RTX 4090. Also, check out the Best 4K monitors to pair with Nvidia RTX 4090.
Intel Core i9-13900K
The Intel Core i9-13900K is a beast of a chip that sits well with the powerhouse NVIDIA RTX 4090 GPU. With its 24 cores, it crunches through heavy tasks and keeps gameplay smooth with the capability to turbo up to 5.8 GHz.
The 125W base TDP but the turbo TDP goes up to 253 watts which is a bit on the higher side of power consumption, but it’s a trade-off many are willing to make for the level of performance it delivers. The chip also tends to run way too hot under heavy loads, so a GOOD cooling setup is a must to maintain optimal performance and longevity.
Whether you are gaming or running professional workloads, pairing it with the RTX 4090 will allow you to experience fast performance and high frame rates, making the most out of your GPU’s capabilities. 13900K also features support for DDR4 as well as DDR5 memory, so it also gives you the option of that sweet sweet upgradability in the future if you like that sort of thing.
Or maybe you do not have to shell out money on the expensive DDR5 memory right now and can only afford DDR4 RAM, either way, you have options which in the case of PC building is a good thing.
Basically, if you can manage its thirst for power and can spend on a solid cooling setup, the Intel Core i9-13900K is the best CPU that Intel has to offer for the Nvidia RTX 4090, promising a smooth experience whether you’re gaming, streaming, or tackling demanding professional projects, without causing any bottlenecks.
AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D
The AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D is a top contender when eyeing a solid CPU for the NVIDIA RTX 4090 GPU. Now this chip from AMD is a tad more energy-efficient than the Intel Core i9-13900K, running at a TDP of 120W. Ryzen 7950X3D also runs a bit cooler compared to the Intel 13900K, thanks to its better thermal efficiency, which is a big plus when pushing the system and longevity of the components overall.
Especially when paired with the RTX 4090, this CPU shows its muscle delivering smooth gameplay and handling demanding tasks without sweating. Its lower power draw and better thermal management give it a slight edge over the Intel chip. It is also about 70 dollars more expensive than the i9 13900K, but the thermal and power efficiency makes up for it in my personal opinion.
The only problem I could see is if you are upgrading and not building a PC from scratch, this CPU only supports DDR5 memory and doesn’t support DDR4 memory if you had plans about that.
The bigger 128MB L3 cache is also a leg up as compared to the Intel 13900K, not to mention it is a multi-core performance beast. I’d also like to mention that I picked this one over the non-3D version of this CPU (the Ryzen 9 7950X), which is about 100 dollars cheaper because in a lot of the scenarios, the 3D cores help a lot and the 7950X3D gives better performance than the 7950X. Also, the standard AMD Ryzen 9 7950X runs at around 170 watts of TDP, which is just a lot less power efficiency compared to the 3D version.
AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D
The AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D emerges as a budget-friendly champ that pairs well with the high-end NVIDIA RTX 4090 GPU. Thanks to its 3D V-cache technology and higher 96 MB of L3 cache, this CPU handles gaming and other demanding tasks smoothly. It’s a wallet-friendly alternative that doesn’t skimp on performance with 8 cores (going up to 5GHz) and 16 threads, it even gives pricier competitors like the Intel Core i9-13700K a run for their money in multi-threaded workloads, especially when paired with the RTX 4090.
Like Ryzen 9 7950X3d, the Ryzen 7800X3D is also made with the more power-efficient 5nm process so it has good thermal efficiency while having the same TDP as the 7950X3D at around 120 watts. We again run into a problem with no DDR4 support like with other AMD 7000 series CPUs, which can be a big deal if you already have bought DDR4 RAM for your new build or planned to use DDR4 RAM that you already had.
Because DDR5-supported motherboards are a bit more expensive compared to the motherboards supporting DDR4, not to mention that DDR5 RAM is so much more expensive as compared to DDR4 RAM.
While it is not as powerful as an AMD Ryzen 9 7590X3D, I’d argue it is more than enough to handle the raw power of the RTX 4090, ensuring your RTX 4090 GPU doesn’t get bottlenecked, and you get to experience high FPS gameplay and Video Editing while saving 250-300 dollars as compared to the 7590X3D. With a price tag of around 370 dollars, it’s a no-brainer especially if you have a tighter budget and are looking to build a rig around the RTX 4090 without compromising on CPU performance.
Intel Core i5-13600K
The Intel Core i5-13600K, priced around an affordable $320 price tag, is a pocket-friendly CPU for the power-packed NVIDIA RTX 4090. Despite it being a relatively mid-range chip, it doesn’t skimp on performance with its 6 performance cores and 8 efficiency cores. Its 13th-generation architecture gives it a leg up, helping it hold its own against more expensive Ryzen rivals, which is a big plus if you want a more gaming-oriented PC on a budget.
Yes, it’s a bit power-hungry chip and tends to run a little hot compared to the AMD counterparts, but that is nothing a good cooling setup can’t handle. The point is, that the i5-13600K is a smart pick for those building a PC with the RTX 4090 but aren’t keen on spending too much on a CPU. The i5-13600K, like the 13900K also has support for DDR4 as well as DDR5 RAM, unlike the AMD competition.
Now that, paired with every other consideration makes it a solid choice for budget-conscious gamers or creators looking to venture into high-end graphics territory with the RTX 4090.
Backward Compatibility with DDR4 RAM: A Cost-Saving Perk
Now I’m not someone who leans towards any particular brand, be it Intel or AMD because I think healthy competition in any industry is good for the end consumer, that is you and me.
But there are some key considerations to make before you make a final decision about which CPU you are going to pick for your RTX 4090-based PC build and I have to share those factors/considerations with you. I have touched on DDR4 RAM compatibility above but let me talk a little more about that factor now.
Lower Initial Investment
- DDR4 Pricing: DDR4 RAM is generally cheaper than DDR5. Choosing a CPU that supports DDR4 memory can significantly reduce the initial cost of building a PC.
- Motherboard Compatibility: Motherboards that support DDR4 are also more affordable compared to those that support DDR5. A CPU with DDR4 compatibility allows for a wider range of budget-friendly motherboard options.
- Availability: DDR4 RAM and compatible motherboards are more widely available, giving you more options to choose from, which can further help in keeping the overall cost of your PC build down.
The Flexibility to Upgrade
- Gradual Upgrade: With a CPU that supports both DDR4 and DDR5, you have the option to start with DDR4 and upgrade to DDR5 when your budget allows.
- Resale Value: DDR4 components have a decent resale value. If you decide to upgrade to DDR5, you can sell your DDR4 RAM and motherboard to offset some of the costs.
For many users, the performance boost provided by DDR5 may not be necessary. A CPU that supports DDR4 can provide a balanced performance that caters to a wide range of computing needs without overstretching the budget.
Overall Better Compatibility
- Peripheral Compatibility: Some peripherals may have better compatibility with DDR4-supporting systems, ensuring a smoother user experience.
- Troubleshooting Ease: A system with DDR4 might have more documented troubleshooting solutions due to its longer presence in the market, making it easier to manage and maintain.
Opting for a CPU with backward compatibility to DDR4 RAM is a budget-friendly choice that doesn’t necessarily compromise on performance. It offers a balanced approach to building a PC and guarantees a smoother transition if and when you decide to upgrade to DDR5.
I am not saying that the no-backward-compatibility is all bad if you don’t mind having a CPU that is not backward-compatible with DDR4 memory, my AMD picks in this post are absolute beasts and shouldn’t be overlooked, especially in terms of price-to-performance ratio.
AMD Ryzen 7000 series CPUs are so much better in terms of lower power consumption and high thermal efficiency. If you factor in these two things like I have, choosing the AMD CPUs makes perfect sense in the long run.
That wraps up my recommendations for CPUs to pair with the NVIDIA RTX 4090. Each CPU reviewed here has its own set of advantages that cater to different user needs and budgets. Considering the power consumption and potential heating issues as well as the cost will help you in making an informed purchasing decision. So, weigh your options and preferences, consider your budget, and pick a CPU that will let your RTX 4090 work without bottlenecks.