Best CPU for Gaming Under $300 in 2020

What CPU to Choose for Your Gaming PC?

Choosing the right CPU for your gaming rig can be a bit tricky. For gaming, you basically need a great graphics card, but the CPU is also essential because its performance will directly impact the video card.

So, no matter how much you pay for a GPU, if the CPU cannot keep up with the video card performance, your system will be bottlenecked. To avoid this issue, you need to make sure the CPU handles whatever your GPU throws at it.

If you’re on a budget, building or upgrading your rig with a better CPU is not an impossible quest. For under $300, you can get some of the best CPUs for gaming in 2020.

You will see in our list the top 6 best CPUs under $300, great for mid-level gaming rigs.

Top 6: Intel Core i5-9400F

Intel Core i5-9400F Best CPU for Gaming Under $300 in 2020

+ Pros: good performance, cheap, comes with a cooler

– Cons: the least performant CPU in our list

SPECS

  • Architecture: Coffee Lake-R 14nm++
  • Socket: LGA 1151
  • Cores/Threads: 6/6
  • Base Frequency: 9 GHz
  • Top Boost Frequency: 1 GHz
  • TDP: 65W

The Core i5-9400F is a mid-range processor that comes with an all-around utility considering its price is in the $150 range. We chose it because it’s cheaper and has the same performance as the non-F series 9400 version. The -9400F comes with a rather flimsy cooler, but it’s better than nothing.

Nonetheless, when compared to AMD’s Ryzen 5 family, it might be cheaper, but it’s not great in terms of performance.

Top 5: Intel Core i5-9500

Intel Core i5-9500 Best CPU for Gaming Under $300 in 2020

+ Pros: has integrated UHD 630 GPU

– Cons: lower clock speed than what Core i5-9600K offers

SPECS

  • Architecture: Coffee Lake-R 14nm++
  • Socket: LGA 1151
  • Cores/Threads: 6/6
  • Base Frequency: 3 GHz
  • Top Boost Frequency: 4 GHz
  • TDP: 95W

One extra feature the Core i5-9500 would make us consider buying it, is the UHD Graphics 630 IGP.

If we’re purely talking about gaming, the difference you’ll see from the previous Core i5-9400F and the Core i5-9500 isn’t visible at all. You’ll only pay a bit more on this one for a small gain thanks to some more added clock speeds.

However, if you’re looking for higher clock speeds, you’d better head over to the Core i5-9600K, which is still under the $300 range.

Top 4: Intel Core i5-9600K

 

Intel Core i5-9600K Best CPU for Gaming Under $300 in 2020

+ Pros: Single-threaded performance, overclockable

– Cons: needs a Z-series motherboard to overclock

SPECS

  • Architecture: Coffee Lake 14nm++
  • Socket: LGA 1151
  • Cores/Threads: 6/6
  • Base Frequency: 7
  • Top Boost Frequency: 6 GHz
  • TDP: 95W

We’ve mentioned earlier that this CPU is much better than the Core i5-9500. It’s obvious that being a new generation, it comes with improved performance for a good price. Right now, if you’re looking for an Intel CPU, this one is the fastest chip in this price range.

However, we all know AMD has much better results in terms of performance. We’ll explain this issue at the end of our list and you’ll see it is not difficult to choose from an AMD and an Intel CPU.

Top 3: AMD Ryzen 5 3600

AMD Ryzen 5 3600 Best CPU for Gaming Under $300 in 2020

+ Pros: cheap, great gaming and productivity performance, comes with a decent cooler, PCIe 4.0 support, overclockable, Backward compatibility

– Cons: needs PCIe 4.0 motherboard, no integrated GPU

SPECS

  • Architecture: Zen 2
  • Socket: AM4
  • Cores/Threads: 6/12
  • Base Frequency: 6 GHz
  • Top Boost Frequency: 2 GHz
  • TDP: 65W

For a small CPU in the lower side of the $300 price range, the Ryzen 5 3600 lets you overclock it with a simple click of a mouse and will show you almost as much performance as its expensive counterpart.

Compared to the Core i5-9400F and the Core i5-9600K from our list, the Ryzen 5 3600 is excellent not just when it comes to price, but also in terms of performance. It’s discrete and it only needs 65W!

Top 2: AMD Ryzen 5 3600X

AMD Ryzen 5 3600X Best CPU for Gaming Under $300 in 2020

+ Pros: great gaming and productivity performance, comes with a decent cooler, PCIe 4.0 support, Backward compatibility

– Cons: needs PCIe 4.0 motherboard, only slightly overclockable

SPECS

  • Architecture: Zen 2
  • Socket: AM4
  • Cores/Threads: 6/12
  • Base Frequency: 8 GHz
  • Top Boost Frequency: 4 GHz
  • TDP: 95W

Sitting on rank 2 in our list of CPUs under $300, the AMD Ryzen 5 3600X is one of the best processors for gaming and productivity.

It’s power-efficient, comes with an auto-overclocking tool (but it only offers limited overclocking), and has a cooler of its own, which is a welcomed extra.

Even at stock settings, the Ryzen 5 3600X will easily defeat the more expensive Core i5-9600K in productivity and gaming, which is why this CPU is usually a fan-favorite when it comes to finding an under $300 CPU.

Top 1: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X

AMD Ryzen 7 3700X the Best CPU for Gaming Under $300 in 2020

+ Pros: top gaming and productivity performance, PCIe 4.0 support, comes with a good cooler, overclockable, Indium solder, Backward compatibility

– Cons: needs PCIe 4.0 motherboard

SPECS

  • Architecture: Zen 2
  • Socket: AM4
  • Cores/Threads: 8/16
  • Base Frequency: 6 GHz
  • Top Boost Frequency: 4 GHz
  • TDP: 65W

We chose AMD Ryzen 7 3700X because it’s the best CPU that has reached our price limit of $300. Ranked #25 in 3DMark Time Spy Physics test, AMD Ryzen 7 3700X has a score of 9710, compared to the first CPU in the test (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X – with a score of 13451, and a price of over $700).

If you’re into game streaming or video editing and any other workloads, AMD’s Ryzen 7 3700X is the CPU you want since it offers more threads at an incredible value.

AMD Ryzen 7 3700X has twice the threads the Core i7-9700K but at a much lower price and using less power. Add the Wraith Prism RGB cooler that comes bundled with the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X, and you’ve got a hell of a deal!

Final Words

As we have mentioned in the intro, the CPU doesn’t limit your gaming experience unless you’re trying to play at very high frame rates. However, you can get great performance for under $300 by choosing AMD’s CPUs, especially the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X.

Now going back to the Intel CPUs, you’re also getting great performance if you’re able to find the CPUs at reasonable prices. Nonetheless, it always goes down to the type of software you mainly use. For instance, as a gamer, you’re looking to get a 1920×1080 resolution. If you’re strictly using your PC for gaming, the Core i5-9600K can deliver the performance you want at a good price.

What Intel CPUs cannot deliver is the performance for content creation and productivity since it’s a workload that is multi-threaded in nature, and it’s more in AMD’s playground.

With AMD you get the bang for the buck, even if you choose the lower AMD Ryzen 5 3600. Plus, its always easy to upgrade since AMD has promised existing motherboards will continue to be compatible with the new 2020 AMD chips.

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