Best CPU Under $500 [From Intel & AMD] in 2021

(Image credit: AMD)

You finally decide to purchase a high-end CPU with a budget of $500 or slightly under, but you wonder which one really deserves your money, right? We believe we have the solution for this. With the release of the latest processors and our recent benchmarks, I have successfully compiled a wonderful list of some mind-blowing processors.

All these CPUs will offer you a fantastic experience in gaming, multitasking, and they will also serve you for several years. In other words, by going with one of these processors, you will have peace of mind since you won’t need to replace it with the next generation or worry about it being the bottlenecking factor in your gaming rig.

Model
Best for Gaming
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X
Runner-Up
Intel Core i9-10900K
Best Overall
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
Most Affordable
AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT
Design
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X 8-core, 16-Thread Unlocked Desktop Processor
Intel Core i9-10900K Desktop Processor 10 Cores up to 5.3 GHz Unlocked  LGA1200 (Intel 400 Series Chipset) 125W
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X 12-core, 24-thread unlocked desktop processor with Wraith Prism LED Cooler
AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT 8-core, 16-Threads Unlocked Desktop Processor
Cores
8
10
12
8
Threads
16
20
24
16
Base Clock
3.80 GHz
3.70 GHz
3.80 GHz
3.90 GHz
Boost Clock
4.70 GHz
5.30 GHz
4.60 GHz
4.70 GHz
Total Cache
32 MB
20 MB
64 MB
32 MB
Socket
AM4
LGA1200
AM4
AM4
Energy Consumption
105 W
125 W
105 W
105 W
Stock Cooler
No
No
Yes
No
Unlocked
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
PCI Express Version
PCIe 4.0
PCIe 3.0
PCIe 4.0
PCIe 4.0
Best for Gaming
Model
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X
Design
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X 8-core, 16-Thread Unlocked Desktop Processor
Cores
8
Threads
16
Base Clock
3.80 GHz
Boost Clock
4.70 GHz
Total Cache
32 MB
Socket
AM4
Energy Consumption
105 W
Stock Cooler
No
Unlocked
Yes
PCI Express Version
PCIe 4.0
Runner-Up
Model
Intel Core i9-10900K
Design
Intel Core i9-10900K Desktop Processor 10 Cores up to 5.3 GHz Unlocked  LGA1200 (Intel 400 Series Chipset) 125W
Cores
10
Threads
20
Base Clock
3.70 GHz
Boost Clock
5.30 GHz
Total Cache
20 MB
Socket
LGA1200
Energy Consumption
125 W
Stock Cooler
No
Unlocked
Yes
PCI Express Version
PCIe 3.0
Best Overall
Model
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
Design
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X 12-core, 24-thread unlocked desktop processor with Wraith Prism LED Cooler
Cores
12
Threads
24
Base Clock
3.80 GHz
Boost Clock
4.60 GHz
Total Cache
64 MB
Socket
AM4
Energy Consumption
105 W
Stock Cooler
Yes
Unlocked
Yes
PCI Express Version
PCIe 4.0
Most Affordable
Model
AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT
Design
AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT 8-core, 16-Threads Unlocked Desktop Processor
Cores
8
Threads
16
Base Clock
3.90 GHz
Boost Clock
4.70 GHz
Total Cache
32 MB
Socket
AM4
Energy Consumption
105 W
Stock Cooler
No
Unlocked
Yes
PCI Express Version
PCIe 4.0

Last update on 2021-06-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

1-AMD Ryzen 7 5800X (Best for Gaming)

The time has come to join the team Red. With the Ryzen 7 5800X, gamers and tech enthusiasts will be able to take their gaming experience a step further. If you have been searching for a CPU that allows you to play your preferred titles while watching your FPS number going up through the roof, then search no more.

What makes it good?

Like every Ryzen 7 predecessors, AMD has kept the same core configuration on the Ryzen 7 5800X, which are 8 cores and 16 threads.

However, AMD has done something impressive. Even though they used the same 7nm architecture, they again managed to improve the IPC over the previous Ryzen generation resulting in a better single-core and multi-core performance.

Furthermore, the Ryzen 7 5800X support PCIe gen 4.0 on both B550 & X570 motherboards and offer a boost clock of up to 4.7GHz. In addition to that, and thanks to AMD Ryzen Master, you can get extra free performance by enabling Auto-OC, which will take care of the overclocking process entirely by itself. All you will have to do is to enjoy the high-end performance.

Even though the Ryzen 7 5800X consume a fair amount of energy at its stock speed, it did remain relatively cooler during gaming. And this result means that this CPU can easily be cooled with a decent midrange cooler, such as a good 280mm AIO cooler.

What could have been better?

Unfortunately, AMD has ditched the stock cooler on the Ryzen 5000 CPUs aside from the 5600X variant. Therefore, an aftermarket cooler will be required in order to enjoy this CPU’s high performance.

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2-Intel Core i9-10900K (Runner-Up)

Comet Lake’s flagship, the Intel Core i9-10900K, is another premium CPU that PC builders should consider. And as gamers, we know how powerful Intel CPUs are in gaming. That’s why we truly believe that this CPU definitely worth your attention.

What makes it good?

The Core i9 10900K has scored amazing results in multitasking and gaming benchmarks from the day it was released. And it’s still holding gamers’ attention even after the release of the rocket lake lineup.

In fact, thanks to its 10 cores and 20 threads configuration, it did outscore the new rocket lake flagship, the Core i9-11900K, in multitasking performance while offering similar single-core performance.

Unlike the previous generation, the Core i9 10900K uses the LGA1200 socket type. This socket is also compatible with the rocket lake lineup, offering you the possibility to keep the same motherboard in case you decide to upgrade the CPU.

When comparing it to the competition, you can be confident that the Core i9-10900K will offer you the same performance in most games as Ryzen 5000 CPUs. Also, with such a high core count and threads, this processor will serve you for several years, making it an excellent investment.

What could have been better?

Unfortunately, the Core i9 10900K does consume a fair amount of energy. Actually, it did score some very high peaks during the test, forcing its users to purchase a good CPU cooler to maintain its high frequencies as long as possible. Our recommended cooler for this CPU is the Arctic 360mm, or any similar 360mm AIO cooler.

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3-AMD Ryzen 9 3900X (Best for Workstation)

Got tons of work to do but cannot prevent yourself from gaming? Are you tired from leaving your PC on all night long just to render that video that you spent tons of time working in? Don’t worry. We got you covered. With the Ryzen 9 3900X, you will be able to accomplish your desired work in a blink of an eye and enjoy the high-end performance as you have never done it before.

What makes it good?

The Ryzen 9 3900X is the perfect option for users that do heavy workload. Its high core configuration and amazing multitasking performance make it an unbeatable CPU at this price range. This processor comes with 12 cores and 24 threads with a boost clock of up to 4.6GHz. Pretty amazing, right!!

Moreover, the Ryzen 9 3900X offers a similar gaming performance to the current top leading CPUs at high resolution (1440P & 4K). Therefore, despite being few years old, you can rely on it when it comes to gaming.

Besides, if you are not an overclocking enthusiast, you can save some cash by keeping the Wraith Prism that comes with this CPU. This stock cooler is more than capable of handling the Ryzen 9 3900X at its stock speed without facing any performance throttling issues.

We find out that the Ryzen 9 3900X absolutely crushes the competition on multitasking benchmarks. To give you an idea, the Ryzen 9 3900X has scored 7089 in Cinebench R20 while the Intel Core i9 10900K and 11900K have scored 6411 and 5958, respectively.

What could have been better?

For competitive gamers, it will be hard to recommend the Ryzen 9 3900X as it slightly falls behind in gaming performance at 1080P resolution. Therefore, if every FPS matters for you, it would be better to go with the Ryzen 7 5800X.

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4-AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT (Most Affordable)

Last but definitely not least is the refresh version of the Ryzen 7 3800X, the 3800XT variant. Featuring the same core configuration as the Ryzen 7 5800X, the 3800XT is another 8 cores CPU that worth your attention. Its overall performance is on par in many cases as other CPUs on this list while representing a better value for money. Actually, this CPU is the cheapest one on this list.

What makes it good?

Even though the Ryzen 7 3800X has been a fantastic solid option for gamers and content creators, AMD did push things even further by squeezing every juice of performance out of this CPU. It indeed reduced the overclocking headroom, but it managed to offer a beast right out of the box, ready for you to take advantage out of it.

Featuring a boost clock of up to 4.7GHz and paired with 32 MB total cache, the Ryzen 7 3800XT is the performance monster that you have been looking for all this time long. In addition to that, despite its 105W energy consumption, it didn’t generate too much heat.

Besides, as it shares the same AM4 socket type, finding a good quality motherboard will be a piece of cake.

In fact, with the wide range of motherboards from B450 up to X570 chipsets, you can be confident that regardless of your current budget, you can get a good quality motherboard for the Ryzen 7 3800XT without breaking the bank.

What could have been better?

Just like the Ryzen 7 5800X, the Ryzen 7 3800XT doesn’t feature a stock cooler. So again, users will have no way other than purchasing a good quality CPU cooler to maintain this beast under low temperature.

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Conclusion

Regardless of which CPU you choose, you should benefit from a fantastic gaming experience. And if you didn’t choose a graphics card yet, we highly recommend looking at our review regarding either the Nvidia RTX 3080 or the AMD RX 6800 XT since they both offer similar gaming experience. We also consider them as a fantastic pick to pair with one of these CPUs.

Finally, we hope that we have helped you learn about the best gaming CPU under $500 that truly worth your money. Feel free to leave us a comment below letting us know which CPU has caught your attention the most.

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