Best CPU Under $300 From Intel & AMD In 2021

(Image credit: Intel)

Having an unlimited budget would make everything so simple. All you would have to do is to purchase the best hardware available in the market. Unfortunately, it’s not the case. And when having a limit in mind that you don’t want to exceed, you will want to get the best value product for your money. However, this journey can sometimes be tough in case you are not familiar with the PC hardware industry. And that’s why we wanted to simplify the process of choosing the best CPU for you. If your main goal is acquiring the best hardware for your gaming machine while being gentle with your wallet, we believe that you have landed at the right place. Because today, we are going to walk you through the best CPU under $300.

Every gamer wants to keep his battle station up to date. But since not all PC components were created equal, some will requires more attention than the others. While there are many pieces of hardware that hugely impact the overall gaming performance, the CPU will need all your care and love. That’s why we have brought you a list that will be game-changing for you. In other words, the CPU that you are going to discover will take your gaming experience a step further while remaining under $300.

Model
Best Overall
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X
Best Value
Intel Core i5-10600K
All-Rounder
Intel Core i7-10700F
Design
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X 6-core, 12-Thread Unlocked Desktop Processor with Wraith Stealth Cooler
Intel Core i5-10600K Desktop Processor 6 Cores up to 4.8 GHz Unlocked  LGA1200 (Intel 400 Series Chipset) 125W
Intel Core i7-10700F Desktop Processor 8 Cores up to 4.8 GHz Without Processor Graphics LGA1200 (Intel 400 Series chipset) 65W
Cores
6
6
8
Threads
12
12
16
Base Clock
3.70 GHz
4.10 GHz
2.90 GHz
Boost Clock
4.60 GHz
4.80 GHz
4.80 GHz
Socket
AM4
LGA1200
LGA1200
Energy Consumption
65 W
125 W
65 W
Stock Cooler
Yes
No
Yes
Best Overall
Model
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X
Design
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X 6-core, 12-Thread Unlocked Desktop Processor with Wraith Stealth Cooler
Cores
6
Threads
12
Base Clock
3.70 GHz
Boost Clock
4.60 GHz
Socket
AM4
Energy Consumption
65 W
Stock Cooler
Yes
Best Value
Model
Intel Core i5-10600K
Design
Intel Core i5-10600K Desktop Processor 6 Cores up to 4.8 GHz Unlocked  LGA1200 (Intel 400 Series Chipset) 125W
Cores
6
Threads
12
Base Clock
4.10 GHz
Boost Clock
4.80 GHz
Socket
LGA1200
Energy Consumption
125 W
Stock Cooler
No
All-Rounder
Model
Intel Core i7-10700F
Design
Intel Core i7-10700F Desktop Processor 8 Cores up to 4.8 GHz Without Processor Graphics LGA1200 (Intel 400 Series chipset) 65W
Cores
8
Threads
16
Base Clock
2.90 GHz
Boost Clock
4.80 GHz
Socket
LGA1200
Energy Consumption
65 W
Stock Cooler
Yes

Last update on 2021-04-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

1-AMD Ryzen 5 5600X (Best Overall)

AMD Zen 3’s lineup has got a massive uplift on the IPC compared to the previous generation. This latter has provided them with a huge performance gain, which allowed these CPUs to shine in gaming performance while holding the crown of best multitasking processors. Even though this lineup includes several CPUs, we have decided to introduce you to the most affordable one, the Ryzen 5 5600X.

What makes it good?

There are many reasons that make the Ryzen 5 5600X worth the money, but our focus will be on the main features. First of all, despite its competitive performance, this processor consumes 65W TDP only. The fact that it’s not a power-hungry CPU makes it the perfect option for users who don’t want to invest in an aftermarket cooler. Yes, that’s right, the Ryzen 5 5600X includes a stock cooler. And if you already own a powerful cooler, the stock cooler will still remain a solid backup in case of emergency.

Furthermore, when pairing the Ryzen 5 5600X with a B550 or x570 motherboard and one of the RX 6000 GPUs, you will gain access to the SAM technology (Smart Access Memory). This feature allows the CPU to access the GPU memory, resulting in a significant performance gain of up to 10%. If you would like to learn more about the SAM feature, we recommend taking a look at this article from TheVerge.

What you should expect from it?

The Ryzen 5 5600X is a mighty CPU. And based on the latest benchmarks, this processor has succeeded in matching Intel’s comet lake’s flagship, the Core i9-10900K, in many titles despite its premium price and higher core count. And thus, we believe that the Ryzen 5 5600X is the best pick for gamers that don’t want to spend a significant amount of price on a CPU while enjoying high-end gaming performance.

Another point that worth to be highlighted is its core frequencies. The Ryzen 5 5600X has a boost clock of up to 4.6GHz. In addition to that, and thanks to Ryzen Master Utility, this latter can be pushed by 100-200 MHz above its boost clock.

We also know that you guys, overclocking enthusiasts, would like to reach 5.0GHz with this CPU. Unfortunately, it’s not possible due to the tiny overclocking headroom that the Ryzen 5 5600X offers.

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2-Intel Core i5-10600K (Best Value)

This entire article is built around spending your money wisely, right? While there are several options that you could choose from while building your battle station, there is only one CPU that will really give you the best bang for your buck, and it’s the Intel Core i5-10600K. Yes, that’s right, folks; you will have Intel’s flagship gaming performance without the need to break the bank.

What makes it good?

With its 6 cores and 12 threads, the Intel Core i5-10600K is our recommended CPU for users looking to build a PC mainly for gaming. Its core configuration is not by any means near to be obsolete. And its supported socket is considered future proof, and therefore, this build should last for quite some time.

In terms of its specifications, the Intel Core i5-10600K comes with a base frequency of 4.1GHz, and a turbo boost of up to 4.8GHz. And if you are not familiar with Intel CPUs, the “K” means that it’s an unlocked chip. In other words, this CPU can be overclocked.

Besides, thanks to its affordable price, you can invest the extra cash on a good CPU cooler, especially that the Intel Core i5-10600K doesn’t include a stock cooler. However, the choice of the cooler should be based on your utilization.

What we mean by that is, if you are looking to overclock this CPU, then we recommend getting either a good air cooler or liquid coolers such as 280mm AIO. But, if you would like to leave this processor at its stock speed, then a reasonably priced air cooler will be more than enough.

What you should expect from it?

Whether you intend to overclock the Intel Core i5-10600K or leaving it at its stock speed, you should benefit from high-end gaming performance, especially at 1440P and 2160P. But does it mean that this CPU is good only for gaming? definitely not.

In our multitasking benchmarks, we find out that the Intel Core i5-10600K provided us with a productivity score similar to the Ryzen 5 3600. And hence, if we take its price/performance ratio into consideration, we believe that the Core i5-10600K is the best value CPU, especially for gaming.

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3-Intel Core i7-10700F (All-Rounder)

For gamers that are also content creators, higher core counts, threads, and solid single-core performance are their main target. While most people would see these CPUs as premium ones due to their top-notch performance, some reasonably priced CPUs slip under the hoods. That means you can find some fantastic options capable of offering you the desired performance while remaining within your budget range. And one of these stars is the Intel Core i7-10700F.

What makes it good?

One of the things that we look for when choosing a CPU on top of its performance is how long it will age. And this is one of the reasons why we highly recommend the Intel Core i7-10700F. First thing first, its 8 cores with hyperthreading are a fantastic option for video editing, streaming, or any type of heavy workload. It also got a fantastic single-core performance with a boost clock of up to 4.80GHz, all you need for a perfect gaming experience.

Moreover, the Intel Core i7-10700F support LGA1200. And one of the best motherboards with this socket type is the Z490 boards. These latter are equipped with amazing features while they are also future-proof since, according to intel, they support rocket lake CPUs.

Besides, just like the Ryzen 5 5600X, the Intel Core i7-10700F is power efficient. It also includes a stock cooler. Yet, this latter will not be able to handle the Core i7-10700F under full load. That’s the reason why you should pair a 3rd party cooler with this CPU. However, since this processor consumes 65W TDP only, a decent midrange CPU cooler would be more than adequate to keep it under low temperature.

What you should expect from it?

Despite its old 14nm architecture, the Intel Core i7-10700F is almost on par with the Ryzen 5 5600X in gaming benchmarks.

In addition to that, and thanks to its high core counts with hyperthreading, the Intel Core i7-10700F will allow you to have a smooth streaming experience resulting in high-quality time for your viewers.

However, please bear in mind that, unlike other Intel CPUs, the Core i7-10700F doesn’t have integrated graphics, which means that a discrete graphics card will be required.

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4-AMD Ryzen 7 2700X

Have you ever wondered how you can be gentle with your wallet without compromising on the gaming performance? Well, we believe that we have the perfect answer for this. And it’s the AMD Ryzen 7 2700X. This powerful gaming CPU offers a fantastic multi-core performance, an excellent gaming experience, and on top of that, it’s reasonably priced.

What makes it good?

The AMD Ryzen 7 2700X offers the perfect balance between gaming and multitasking performance. While it doesn’t have a high core frequency compared to the competition, it did provide us with a fantastic gaming experience almost identical to the Intel Core i7-9700K.

Moreover, the AMD Ryzen 7 2700X got 8 cores and 16 threads along with a boost clock of up to 4.3GHz. It also includes an eye-appealing Wraith Prism CPU cooler. This latter should be more than enough when the CPU is at its stock speed.

Another feature that we like with Ryzen CPUs is AMD Ryzen Master. This software gives users the ability to tweaks the entire system’s settings such as CPU core clock, core voltage, RAM clock, timing…and much more. It also permits you to access the Precision Boost Overdrive feature.

For those who are not familiar with the PBO (Precision Boost Overdrive), this feature will automatically overclock your CPU by taking the temperature, maximum frequency as well as power into consideration. In other words, it will make the process of overclocking your CPU much easier than it used to be with other processors.

What you should expect from it?

If you are a gamer that is also a content creator and are looking to minimize the cost as much as possible, then the Ryzen 7 2700X is a great pick.

Besides, it’s true that when it comes to pure gaming performance, the Ryzen 7 2700X falls behind the newer generation of Ryzen CPUs as well as the latest Intel processors. However, when gaming at a higher resolution, such as 1440P and 4K, the performance gap in most cases will be almost meaningless.

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5-Intel Core i7-9700K

Another mighty gaming CPU that gets the chance to be included in this list, the Intel Core i7 9700K. Thanks to the tough competition between Intel and AMD, customers enjoy powerful CPUs at a fantastic price point. And whether you are building your battle station for casual or hardcore gaming, you are going to be impressed with how powerful this CPU will perform.

What makes it good?

Just like every premium Intel CPU, the Core i7-9700K embeds 8 cores with high frequencies. Like we all know, single-core performance is crucial when aiming for an amazing gaming experience. And intel has always provided the gamers’ community with high core frequency CPUs. And hence, despite its old architecture, the Intel Core i7-9700K still competes with the current top leading processors.

Also, since Intel has kept the same 14nm architecture with its newer CPUs, you will not notice a huge performance gain when comparing this CPU to its newer version, the i7-10700K variant. In other words, this CPU should provide you with comet lake’s gaming performance at a lower price point.

What you should expect from it?

What makes the i7-9700K worth it is its powerful 8 cores that can boost up to 4.9GHz. And wait, that’s not everything. This processor also got enough overclocking headroom to push its core frequency up to 5.1GHz.

Now you may are wondering why we didn’t put this CPU on the top of the list. In fact, it’s not its performance that has affected its ranking but is its upgrading path. Since the Core i7 9700K uses LGA 1151, the only upgrade option you got is the Intel Core i9-9900K which doesn’t provide any performance gain in gaming.

However, if you are not looking to upgrade your CPU, we highly recommend this processor as it offers a fantastic overall experience despite its lack of hyperthreading.

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6-AMD Ryzen 5 3600XT

Last but definitely not least is the Ryzen 5 3600XT. With its 7nm architecture, this processor has got a significant performance gain over the previous generation resulting in similar gaming performance to its midrange competitor from Intel, the i5-9600K. This CPU is also a refresh version of its little brother, the Ryzen 5 3600X but with higher frequencies.

What makes it good

The AMD Ryzen 5 3600XT comes with 6 cores with hyperthreading. This core configuration allows it to perform in gaming and workstation amazingly well. So, this midrange gaming CPU combines both spectacular gaming performance as well as stunning multitasking scores in one single chip.

Another key that pushes us to recommend this processor is its platform compatibility. As we all know, AMD has kept its promise in maintaining the same CPU socket over many processors’ generations. And therefore, by going with a good motherboard such as B550 or X570, you will not only allow your CPU to give you every performance juice, but you will also have a great upgrading path toward one of the newest AMD CPUs, such as Ryzen 5 5600X.

What you should expect from it?

The AMD Ryzen 5 3600XT got a better quality silicone compared to the Ryzen 5 variants in the same lineup, which has resulted in a better overall performance. Besides, this CPU beats the overclocked Ryzen 5 3600 right after the box while being at its stock speed. And according to our benchmark, we got a similar gaming performance as the Intel Core i5-9600K.

In other words, you can be confident that regardless of how powerful your graphics card is, you should experience high-end gaming performance just like the CPUs mentioned above without worrying about bottlenecking issues.

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Conclusion

If you are wondering which CPU you should choose from this list, then here are some quick tips that could simplify the process of selecting the perfect one for you. First of all, you have to identify your budget. Don’t overspend on a CPU if you know that you will not utilize it at its maximum potential.

Also, if you are building your gaming rig just for casual gaming, then a 6 cores CPU should be more than adequate in delivering the best gaming experience for you while being gentle with your bank account. However, if you are a gamer and content creator, we recommend either the Ryzen 5 5600X or one of the 8 Core CPUs mentioned above.

For those who are building a new gaming PC and are not sure which motherboard to pair with their selected CPU, we highly recommend taking a look at our CPU & Motherboard combo. This article should provide you with the information you are looking for in order to get the best value for your money.

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