Best CPU Under $400: Enjoy High-End Performance

(Image credit: INTEL)

The desktop processors’ industry is stuffed with plenty of options at a different price tag, but we believe that the perfect price range for a quality CPU is around $400 or slightly under. Usually, these CPUs are not only great for gaming, but they will also offer you outstanding performance at multitasking and will last for several years.

But like we all know, the market change. And what is good today may be outdated the next month. That’s why I did my best to provide you with a list of some amazing processors that will blow your mind.

Without further ado, let’s introduce you to our mind-blowing CPU list.

Model
Best Overall
Intel Core i9-10850K
Runner-Up
Intel Core i7-10700K
Best Value
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X
Good Alternative
Intel Core i9-9900K
Design
Intel Core i9-10850K Desktop Processor 10 Cores up to 5.2 GHz Unlocked LGA1200 (Intel 400 Series chipset) 125W
Intel Core i7-10700K Desktop Processor 8 Cores up to 5.1 GHz Unlocked LGA1200 (Intel 400 Series Chipset) 125W (BX8070110700K)
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X 8-Core, 16-Thread Unlocked Desktop Processor with Wraith Prism LED Cooler
Intel Core i9-9900K Desktop Processor 8 Cores up to 5.0GHz Unlocked LGA1151 300 Series 95W (BX806849900K)
Cores
10
8
8
8
Threads
20
16
16
16
Base Clock
3.60 GHz
3.80 GHz
3.60 GHz
3.60 GHz
Boost Clock
5.20 GHz
5.10 GHz
4.40 GHz
5.00 GHz
Total Cache
20 MB
16 MB
32 MB
16 MB
Socket
LGA1200
LGA1200
AM4
LGA1151
Energy Consumption
125 W
125 W
65 W
95 W
Stock Cooler
No
No
Yes
No
Unlocked
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
PCI Express Version
PCIe 3.0
PCIe 3.0
PCIe 4.0
PCIe 3.0
Best Overall
Model
Intel Core i9-10850K
Design
Intel Core i9-10850K Desktop Processor 10 Cores up to 5.2 GHz Unlocked LGA1200 (Intel 400 Series chipset) 125W
Cores
10
Threads
20
Base Clock
3.60 GHz
Boost Clock
5.20 GHz
Total Cache
20 MB
Socket
LGA1200
Energy Consumption
125 W
Stock Cooler
No
Unlocked
Yes
PCI Express Version
PCIe 3.0
Runner-Up
Model
Intel Core i7-10700K
Design
Intel Core i7-10700K Desktop Processor 8 Cores up to 5.1 GHz Unlocked LGA1200 (Intel 400 Series Chipset) 125W (BX8070110700K)
Cores
8
Threads
16
Base Clock
3.80 GHz
Boost Clock
5.10 GHz
Total Cache
16 MB
Socket
LGA1200
Energy Consumption
125 W
Stock Cooler
No
Unlocked
Yes
PCI Express Version
PCIe 3.0
Best Value
Model
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X
Design
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X 8-Core, 16-Thread Unlocked Desktop Processor with Wraith Prism LED Cooler
Cores
8
Threads
16
Base Clock
3.60 GHz
Boost Clock
4.40 GHz
Total Cache
32 MB
Socket
AM4
Energy Consumption
65 W
Stock Cooler
Yes
Unlocked
Yes
PCI Express Version
PCIe 4.0
Good Alternative
Model
Intel Core i9-9900K
Design
Intel Core i9-9900K Desktop Processor 8 Cores up to 5.0GHz Unlocked LGA1151 300 Series 95W (BX806849900K)
Cores
8
Threads
16
Base Clock
3.60 GHz
Boost Clock
5.00 GHz
Total Cache
16 MB
Socket
LGA1151
Energy Consumption
95 W
Stock Cooler
No
Unlocked
Yes
PCI Express Version
PCIe 3.0

Last update on 2021-06-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

1-Intel Core i9-10850K

Usually, midrange CPUs are the ones that benefit from discounts, but this time, Intel has decided to change the rules of the game. They have decided to price the Core i9-10850K at a cost that puts AMD in a real tough position. You read it well. No need to break the bank to watch your FPS counter exploding.

What makes it good?

Despite being weaker on paper than the Core i9 10900K, the Core i9-10850K did actually offer the same performance and reached the same core clock as the Core i9 10900K. In other words, going with this CPU will provide you with a high-end gaming experience just like other premium CPUs.

Unlike the Core i9-11900K, the Core i9-10850K comes with 10 cores instead of 8. This means that you will enjoy top-notch gaming performance while benefiting from 2 additional core. The high core configuration will also be great for heavy workloads.

Furthermore, even if you are not an overclocking enthusiast, the Core i9-10850K offers a strong boost clock thanks to its thermal velocity technology. All you will have to do is to ensure a great cooling solution.

What could have been better?

The Core i9-10850K is a power-hungry CPU. And based on our tests and researches, this processor can easily replace your heater. In other words, you will have to purchase a good quality CPU cooler to enjoy its high-end performance and maintain its high clock speed.

Our recommended coolers would be the Noctua NH-D15 as an air cooler or Arctic 360mm AIO CPU cooler.

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2-Intel Core i7-10700K

It looks like AMD will have to make a move as quickly as possible because, again, Intel is offering a high-quality CPU, the Core i7-10700K, at a competitive price. That’s right, no need to wait for Christmas gifts to purchase such a mighty processor.

What makes it good?

Offering the same performance and core configuration as the Core i9-11900K, the Core i7-10700K is another CPU that you should consider when building a solid gaming rig. The performance it offers is on par with all the latest chips from Intel and AMD while representing a better value for money.

The Core i7-10700K comes with 8 cores and 16 threads, making it an all-rounder CPU that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Besides, it offers an outstanding single core performance with a boost clock of up to 5.10 GHz, which is amazing for all tasks that require a solid single-core performance such as gaming.

Moreover, another area worth highlighting is the fact that the Core i7-10700K managed to beat the new Core i7-11700K in several games despite being one year old.

Even though it’s advertised with 125W, the Core i7-10700K did actually perform really cool. In fact, when paired with a Noctua NH-D15, this CPU didn’t exceed 73 °C.

Bear in mind that temps in gaming will be significantly less than the stress test. This means that you won’t need a premium cooler to enjoy Core i7-10700K’s high-end performance.

What could have been better?

While it does offer an amazing gaming experience, the Core i7-10700K does fall in multitasking performance compared to AMD CPUs, such as the Ryzen 7 3700X.

Besides, like every unlocked Intel CPU, the Core i7-10700K, does not come with a stock cooler. Therefore, purchasing a third party cooler is an inevitable step.

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3-AMD Ryzen 7 3700X

Here where things start getting interesting. Even after the release of the Ryzen 5000 CPUs, the Ryzen 7 3700X is still shining by being one of the most common picks among PC builders. Its high core count, threads, and single-core performance make it the perfect CPU for gamers and content creators.

What makes it good?

AMD Ryzen 7 3700X is our first recommended CPU for users that would like to build a solid, future-proof gaming rig. It comes with an improved IPC over the previous Ryzen CPUs allowing it to offer better performance in every aspect while being power efficient.

It indeed offers a slower single-core performance than the Core i7-10700K, yet it managed to provide similar gaming performance. Actually, even when gaming at 1080P resolution with a high-end graphics card, the difference was really insignificant.

Another area that makes the Ryzen 7 3700X a great value product is its backward platform compatibility. Like we all know, finding a reasonably priced, good quality motherboard with an AM4 socket is quite straightforward. However, our recommended pick would be at least a B550 motherboard.

In addition to that, the Ryzen 7 3700X comes with a decent stock cooler. If you aren’t an overclocking enthusiast, and you are glad about the performance that this CPU has to offer right out of the box, then the stock cooler will be more than adequate for you.

However, if you wish to get some extra juice of performance, the AMD Ryzen Master will be your saviour. This user-friendly software can take care of the overclocking process all by itself, preventing the headache and worry that can occur when dealing with the BIOS settings.

What could have been better?

Unlike the Ryzen 5000 lineup, the Ryzen 7 3700X slightly falls behind the competition in single-core performance. Even though the difference margin is insignificant, it does affect competitive gamers since every FPS matters for them.

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4-Intel Core i9-9900K

Designed with Coffee Lake architecture on a 14nm process node, the Core i9-9900K is another well worthy CPU that you can consider, especially during a discount. Despite its old architecture and obsolete platform, you can be confident that this CPU will offer you the competitive performance you have always dreamed of.

What makes it good?

You are definitely wondering why we are recommending to you a few years old CPU, don’t you? Here is why. The Core i9-9900K is an 8 core CPU featuring hyper-threading that can boost up to 5.00 GHz. Its core configuration is not by any mean near to be obsolete.

Besides, this CPU is still stealing the light from all current high-end processors in gaming thanks to its monstrous performance. And when paired with a decent cooler, its turbo frequency will be extended for a long period of time, resulting in some crazy performance gain.

But most importantly, the Core i9-9900K also received a decent price cut. This price drop didn’t make it a solid option for gaming only, but also a great product in terms of value for money.

What could have been better?

Unfortunately, the Core i9-9900K support an obsolete platform which is LGA1151. Building a gaming rig on this platform doesn’t offer any upgradable path since the Core i9-9900K is the flagship on this lineup.

Therefore, the only way of getting a better CPU is by changing the motherboard, which can heavily increase the upgrade cost.

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Conclusion

Every CPU mentioned above should provide you with an outstanding gaming experience. And regardless of which one you choose, we believe that you will be happy with the result you will receive. Also, if you wish to increase the budget, we have recently reviewed some fantastic gaming CPU under the $500 price tag.

We will highly appreciate it if you leave us a comment letting us know which CPU has mostly caught your attention. And if you see that we have missed a good quality CPU to mention on the list above, please let us know this below.

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