Best CPU for Emulation | WePC

What is the best CPU out there for emulation?

Updated December 13, 2022 1:14 p.m

Best CPU for emulation

Retro gaming and emulation have been on the rise in recent years. That’s because a lot of people are tired of Triple A games repeating the same formula over and over again. It’s easy for gamers to be jaded and cynical about the gaming industry in its current state, so many people are turning to retro gaming to enjoy the games of the past. But wheat is the best CPU for emulation?

Now read: Best CPU for gaming.

Of course, the debate between “the good old days” and the current state of gaming is a bit controversial. That’s a story for another day entirely. In the meantime, if you’re looking to get into retro games and are turning to emulation, you might be wondering if your rig can handle it.

Most gaming PCs built in the last decade can easily handle emulators for most consoles. Even a Core i3 9100F will easily handle PS2, Gamecube, Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast emulation. The trouble starts when you want to emulate consoles like the PS3 and the original Xbox/Xbox 360.

You need a little more horsepower for that. Emulators are usually more CPU intensive, so that’s what you should focus on. If you are building a new gaming PC, here are the best CPUs for emulation.

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Best CPU for emulation – our top picks

Do I need a good GPU for emulation?

Depending on the capabilities of the type of emulator you want to use, the GPU may or may not matter. To render geometry in emulators like RPCS3 (PS3 emulator) and Xenia (Xbox 360 emulator) you need a powerful GPU.

However, if you just want to play some old-school Nintendo games from consoles like the Gameboy, NES, SNES, or Gamecube, you don’t need the latest and greatest GPU. Most cheap Android phones can emulate these consoles as well, eliminating the need for a high-end GPU.

Even something like an entry-level GTX 1650 Super will more than suffice for most retro games. Of course, this also depends on what kind of game you are playing and what settings you want to play it with. Even then, you can play PS2 games in 4K at high settings with cheaper GPUs, so it’s all relative to the emulator and game.

Best CPU for Emulation – In-Depth Review

Here we’ll list our picks of CPUs and briefly explain why they’re a good choice.

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X – Best overall

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X 1

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

In our opinion, the Ryzen 5 5600X is the best CPU for emulation. This isn’t because it’s the most powerful processor out there, but it’s certainly very powerful. We must also consider factors such as motherboard availability and price.

The 5600X has 6 cores and 12 threads. Its relative performance in modern games is very commendable, and it achieves that with a low TDP of 65W. For emulators, you get excellent performance without the insane power draw of a Core i9 13900K.

You can expect excellent performance in most emulators. These include Yuzu and Ryujin (switch emulators), as well as RPCS3 and Xenia. Combine it with a decent graphics card and you’re good to go. The 5600X will give you impressive performance, and it’s a chip that will remain highly efficient for years to come.

However, there is a factor that Intel processors like the 13600K and 12600K can outperform it. That being said, you can usually find a 5600X and B550 combo cheaper, so it’s ultimately a win for AMD.