We know it, Not every one can afford an i7 6700K or i5 6600K.
A large portion of the gamer community have a tight budget when it comes to PC building. They can only get a budget processor for gaming. Enthusiasts who have more money always spend a lot of money upgrading their rigs because they want the best performance even if the performance per dollar they get is very low. So here budget gamers come out to be cleverer as they get more performance per dollar spent if they get the best budget processor for their rigs.
But finding out the best processor for $100 or $150 is not an easy task. There are several generations and several platforms which use different technology based processors. One might go with FM2 kaveri processors as they offer the best integrated graphics but at the same time the AM3 processors are faster when combined with a dedicated gpu even if they don’t have integrated graphics.
Similarly there are several generations of Intel processors. One might go with i3 2120 or i5 2320 even if the latest generation processors are available at the same price. So after doing a lot of research, I have compiled a list of the best cheap and budget processors that range from $70 to $200 that will give you the best performance per dollar spent when combined with an entry level or mid end graphics card. Let’s start with the $70 cpu.
1. Intel Pentium G3258
Pentium G3258 anniversary edition is the best ever budget gaming cpu since 2014. It’s based on Haswell 22nm architecture which is used in the Intel core i3’s, i5’s and i7’s 4th gen. But what makes it come to this list is because it has immense unlocked power unlike the core i3’s. For such a cheap price i.e., only $70, it’s performance in many games matches that of i5 4690K which is triple the price of G3258.
The pentium g3258 has two cores and no hyperthreading and is clocked at 3.2Ghz. Although it does not have turbo boost technology but you can overclock it manually. When combined with a good cpu cooler like Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO or Corsair H60, you can get past 4.5Ghz easily. After overclocking the processor you can see a significant boost in gaming. No matter what processor comes in this price, be it Amd X4 860K quad core or Fx 6300, it beats all of them in many games.
As the maximum critical temperature of this processor as mentioned by Intel is 72 degrees, going above it won’t damage the chip. But it is recommended to buy a CPU cooler from the above mentioned two options otherwise there is no meaning of getting it. If you don’t want to overclock then you can go with the skylake Pentium G4400 where you will get all new DDR4 platform and faster single core performance.
But after overclocking this g3258 that g4400 is no match. G4400 is locked and can’t be overclocked. That is the con of G4400 which led G3258 in this list. But know that this is only for budget builds and you will have some bottlenecking in games like The Witcher 3 and GTA V where the games are more CPU intensive and there i3’s will perform better.
2. Amd Fx 6300
From AMD side the Fx 6300 is a good deal at $100 which I have used in my $500 gaming build also. I didn’t included the Fx 4300/4350 as they are quad core and perform slower than the fx 6300 even the price difference isn’t that much. For the same price of $70-$80 G3258 is a good choice. But going for $100, you must use a more core processor as many games are CPU intensive now a days. 4 cores are used by Far cry 4 and Gta V doesn’t like 2 cores. You will get very low fps if you pair a high end or mid end graphics card with a dual core processor in CPU intensive games.
Although in some games Pentium G3258 outperforms the Fx 6300 but Fx 6300 has better multi-core performance plus you will not have a future proof gaming rig with a pentium dual core. You must get at least four cores for gaming in future. Fx 6300 has six cores and is also unlocked. It is clocked at 3.5Ghz and has a boost clock of 4.1Ghz but with a good cpu cooler you can overclock it to 4.5Ghz. Now be cautious when you overclock it as AMD cpu’s can’t handle too much high temperatures, So a Good CPU cooler is necessary.
3. Intel Core i3 6100
Perhaps the best bang for buck for all games. For just $20 more you can get this one over fx 6300. The comparison will show you real difference. The i3 6100 performs almost 20-30% faster with high end graphics cards. And with mid end cards you can get 20% performance more over fx 6300 and 10-15% as compared to i3 4130, the last generation i3 processor. This is a huge gap. The price of i3 4130 and i3 6100 is same yet the latter is more powerful.
With i3 6100 you will also get a chance of using the latest skylake platform with ddr4 memories. DDR4 memories are clocked higher and the more higher clocked memories you will use the more performance you will get with higher end graphics cards as illustrated by DigitalFoundry youtube channel. I3 6100 gives equal performance to i5’s when compared in Gpu intensive games and perform very close in CPU intensive games too. With 2 cores and 4 threads you will not have any problem in running any game unlike the pentium processors which only have 2 cores.
This chip is clocked at 3.7Ghz which is a huge jump from the previous generations and with 14 nm architecture it’s even more power efficient. For entry level rigs or mid end rigs, this cpu with a gtx 960 or R9 380 will do very good. With RX 470, it will perform even better and there will be very less issue of bottlenecking in most of the games.
4. Amd Fx 8350
Again from Amd there is a good 8 core processor which is better than the fx 6300 and has more multi-core and single core performance. It performs somewhat equal to i3’s but i3 6100 gets away with it in many games due to latest architecture but the reason to include it to the list is obvious. You are getting 6 more cores over i3 and better multi-tasking performance. If you are really into multi-tasking and use to open chrome, microsoft word, adobe behind and game simultaneously like me then this one has advantage over i3.
i3 many times slows down due to too much opened background applications and hangs. Fx 8350 also has better core clock/boost clock and can be overclocked upto 4.6Ghz with a custom cooler giving you more performance over the Fx 6300 and similar to the i3 6100 in many games. The base clock is 4.0Ghz and boost clock is 4.2Ghz. Along with that it has 8mb of L2/L3 cache which is much more than the cache present in the i3’s.
Note one thing that if you love intel platforms and just want to game with a entry level or mid end graphics card, the fx 8350 may not be the good solution for you but at the same time jumping from i3 to another better budget processor will require you spend as almost as double the money. The fx 8350 fits here just right as an intermediate solution to gaming and other operations as well.
5. Intel Core i5 6400
The last one is i5 6400 used in my $600 gaming build which will increase your budget close to $200. Now you may be thinking why I have included an expensive cpu like this. Because Intel core i5’s are the best solution for gaming right now and there isn’t a graphics card present which can not be handled by these chips. For paying less than $200 you will get a lower clocked i5 processor which almost equals in performance if you compare it to the i5 6500, i5 6600 and even i5 6600K if not overclocked. The latter chips are expensive and they fall in high end gaming processors so you don’t need them with budget builds.
However if you are using an entry level or a high end graphics card, the i5 6400 is the best solution for tight budget and you will be able to use it in a $600 gaming pc like I have used it with a R9 380X. Now specs wise, it’s clocked at 2.7Ghz which is low but can be overclocked to 3.3Ghz with turbo boost. This 600Mhz benefits with a high end graphics card and is not needed always but if you want to make sure that your graphics card won’t bottleneck the least, you may do it always if you wish.
It has 4 cores and 6mb of cache which is the basic requirement for all the CPU intensive games now a days and surely it has an upper hand on i3 6100 as the two extra cores are real physical cores not like the hyperthreading present in the i3. Overall the performance of this chip is really good and has an advantage in rendering applications where you need more cores and faster multi-core performance. If you don’t want to compromise gaming for the next 2-3 years, this one is the best of all.
If you would like to spend more, then read my list of Best Gaming Processors which will help you buy the best processor for your money.
More good budget Gaming processors and motherboards