Best CPU under $300

Absolute system customization occurs when you have the freedom of choosing computer components regardless of budget, color, size, and more. If you just want to update your computer, doing this will undoubtedly improve the gaming performance. While altering the rig, the processor is the main element around which the efficiency of all other rig’s parts rotates. Suppose you somehow managed to uncover the suitable chip for you. In that case, I’m telling you, you will always enjoy smooth gaming experiences since you will be utilizing the system’s total power.

Out of several must-consider factors before buying any element, budget is the essential element to take under the umbrella of consideration. No one can spend 400 dollars only on one chip when building a gaming rig under 900 dollars. Knowing that not everybody can afford costly chips, we will introduce you to the best CPU under $300. A lower price point does not mean you have to compromise over the performance, specifications, or some must-have feature; a lower price means you are not spending your valuable money on some unnecessary or flashy things.

However, hunting such a chip is not that easy when the market is full of hundreds of processors from tens of brands. Even there are numerous terminologies that an ordinary user can’t understand. If you’re one of such users, then don’t worry. We have added a buying guide section immediately after this introduction to help you know all the necessary features to finalize your item. After reading that, you can go to our list of eight chips. We have done thorough research regarding whether they are capable or not.

Quick shopping tips:

Budget: If you’re reading this post, it stipulates that you have a slightly tight-pocket budget, so you can’t buy an expensive chip. Hence, before going to the market, make sure you finalize your budget and uncover a chip with pretty good performance but at an affordable price. Remember, a lower budget doesn’t mean that you must compromise over some crucial feature. If you work smart, you can find a perfect fit according to your expectations.

Usage: My team and I asked many experts about how to buy a perfect chip; all they asked was rotating about the usage. So, we have to consider this a must-known factor as it directly impacts the choice. If you are developing and often have to deal with long-long coding and extra-large data sets, you can work out with a powerful computer with a chip perfect for single-core performance and has a higher core count. But the gamers can go for a chip with 6-8 cores — gaming complexity also matters.

Cores and Threads count: I’ll start by elaborating on what the core exactly looks like. Simply, you can assume a core like a pipe to extract water from the source; increasing the pathway pipes fastens the water flow. The chip’s overall performance is directly proportional to the number of cores and threads. While buying a chip, consider one with more core and threads over one with lesser. 

Base clock and Overclocking: The clock speed is the number of cycles or instructions a CPU can execute in one second, and it is usually measured in MHz or GHz. In short, it’s the core’s speed. If a chip can be overclocked or unlocked for overclocking, it means the chip can increase its base clock speed up to a specific limit to enhance the performance. We call the difference between base and boost clocks for users’ ease of overclocking headroom. You must prefer a chip with at least 2.7GHz or more with higher overclocking headroom.

Best CPUs under $300 at a Glance:

  1. Intel Core i5 12600K
  2. Intel Core i5-10500
  3. Intel Core i5-11600K
  4. Intel Core i5-11400F
  5. Intel Core i5-9400F
  6. AMD Ryzen 5 5600X
  7. AMD Ryzen 5 3600
  8. AMD Ryzen 5 5600G

The Best CPU Under $300 You Can Buy Today


Intel Core i5 12600K
Intel Core i5 12600K (Image credit: Amazon)

Intel Core i5 12600K

Best Flagship CPU Under $300

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: Core i5 | Socket: LGA 1700 | Cores/Threads: 10/16 | Base Clock: 3.70 GHz| Top Boost Clock: 4.90 GHz | TDP: 125 W | Cache: 20 MB

REASONS TO BUY

Excellent gaming performance

Lower price than the competition

Unlocked for overclocking

PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 support

REASONS TO AVOID

No bundled cooler

I’ll start discussing the Intel Core i5 12600k by adding its performance benchmarks against some other high-end chips. If you compare it with the Ryzen 5 5600x, this chip can provide 38% more threaded efficiency and 7% more performance compared to the Ryzen 7 5800x. Additionally, when we look at the price point, the 12600k is way cheaper than both of the chips. Well, it has to happen since Intel was working very hard on 12th generation Alder Lake processors. The chip has received positive feedback for being the best flagship CPU under $300.

The chip has ten cores and sixteen threads, where the cores are split into six performance cores and four efficiency cores. If we look at the core’s clocks, the P-cores can operate 3.7 / 4.9 GHz, and the E-cores use a 2.8 / 3.6 GHz clock structure. On top of that, it has 9.5MB of L2 cache along with a 20 MB L3 cache. No doubt, it has everything to be the best CPU under $300 and is a perfect choice for gamers, developers, and serious content creators.

It offers leading-edge connectivity with 16 lines PCIe 5.0 interface and an additional four PCIe 4.0 lanes for a fast M.2 SSD port. You can also use either DDR4 or DDR5 memory modules according to your choice. Since the chip has an LGA 1700 socket, you can connect a wide range of air-based or water-based CPU coolers and the latest 600-series motherboards — the Z690 models should be a prior choice. Further, it has a 150W of rated power which is significantly lower compared to its counterparts and will save your bills.

Intel Core i5-10500
Intel Core i5-10500 (Image credit: Amazon)

Intel Core i5-10500

Best Value CPU Under $300

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: Core i5 | Socket: LGA 1200 | Cores/Threads: 6/12 | Base Clock: 3.10 GHz | Top Boost Clock: 4.50 GHz | TDP: 65 W | Cache: 12 MB |

REASONS TO BUY

Increased performance over previous-gen

HyperThreading

Integrated graphics

Box includes CPU cooler

REASONS TO AVOID

No support for PCIe 4.0

If you go to the market and ask about the processors, you will hear only two names, AMD and Intel. Talking a few years ago, AMD was dominating the market but not now. Intel has been working on improving its technologies day after day, and we can see some of those in the Intel Core i5-10500 chip. Putting this chip against the Ryzen 5 3600 and 3600x, both have numerous forward-looking features but lack integrated graphics since the i5 10500 comes with this support. Moreover, it offers a more excellent performance-to-price ratio, the reason why it’s the best value CPU under $300.

The chip is based on 10th generation Comet Lake microarchitecture with 14nm lithography and stands confident with excellent HyperThreading technology. Numerous other improvements are also made to enhance the overall efficiency of the cores. It has six cores and twelve threads topped with a 12MB Intel Smart Cache. If we compare it with the i5-10400 with a 2.9GHz base clock, this chip offers a 3.10GHz clock and a maximum Turbo Boost frequency of 4.50GHz, 200MHz more than the i5 10400 chip.

Looking at everything we discussed earlier, his chip is simply a bad boy regarding multi-threading performance, especially at such an affordable price point. You can enjoy a good amount of perfection in gaming, video editing, and more. One more impressive thing is the retail boxed CPU cooler that comes with the chip without spending extra money. The rated TDP of 65W makes it extra-efficient over its competitors with the same performance but higher power consumption. In short, if you have less budget but still want to enjoy the gaming thrill, you must go for this processor.

Intel Core i5-11600K
Intel Core i5-11600K (Image credit: Amazon)

Intel Core i5-11600K

Best Intel CPU under $300

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: Intel Core i5 | Socket: LGA 1200 | Cores/Threads: 6/12 | Base Clock: 3.90 GHz | Top Boost Clock: 4.90 GHz | TDP: 125 W | Cache: 12 MB

REASONS TO BUY

Much affordable than Ryzen 5 5600x

Excellent multithreading performance

Strong single-core efficiency

Unlocked for overclocking

REASONS TO AVOID

Weak PCIe 4.0 support

Power-inefficient

The Intel Core i5-11600k is an Intel’s top-end processor from the 11th generation Rocket Lake lineup famous for excellent HyperThreading, impressive clock speeds, and unlocked multipliers supporting overclocking. If we compare it with the Ryzen 5 5600x, there is a massive price difference between the two but not very much in performance. Further, it has got numerous improvements over the 10th generation version with more clock speed, improved memory bandwidth, graphics frequency, and more. It’s a definite recommendation over the Intel Core i9 11900k and i7 11700k since it’s an improved chip.

Some important CPU specifications include six cores and twelve threads with a 12MB Intel Smart Cache. The chip has a base clock speed of 3.9GHz that can ramp up to 4.6GHz in both all-core configurations during multithreading and single-core forms. It uses the Intel UHD Graphics 630 chip to make the integrated graphics support true and has DDR4 memory support with 50 GB/s of memory bandwidth. If we compare it with the other Intel chip, it is the best Intel CPU under $300 since no other can provide such an excellent performance-to-price ratio.

Though it has PCIe 4.0 support, it’s not that effective with the new Z590 chipset motherboards — it wasn’t even great with the higher-end Core i9 chip. If we compare it with the Ryzen 5 5600x, there is a significant difference in terms of power efficiency and the i5 11600k lags in this aspect. Its rated TDP value of 125W often increases above its given limits when it’s going through intensive multithreading. If you are ready to compromise its less-power-efficient aspect and inadequate PCIe 4.0 support, you must go for this chip.

Intel Core i5-11400F
Intel Core i5-11400F (Image credit: Amazon)

Intel Core i5-11400F

Best Overall CPU Under $300

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: Intel Core i5 | Socket: LGA 1200 | Cores/Threads: 6/12 | Base Clock: 2.60 GHz | Top Boost Clock: 4.40 GHz | TDP: 65 W | Cache: 12 MB

REASONS TO BUY

Affordable price

Excellent performance

Power-efficient

Bundled cooler included

REASONS TO AVOID

A locked chip

The Intel Core i5 11400F is one of the best 11th generation processors since it has an excellent price-to-performance ratio. If we compare it with the AMD Ryzen 5 5600x, it has almost half the price but not the performance; it has similar single-core performance for gaming purposes. Since it’s a locked chip, it can’t be overclocked, but when you pair it with a good-quality graphics card, it provides an ideal gaming experience. In short, it’s the best overall CPU under $300 and the best mid-range chip for excellent performance without spending too many bucks. 

The CPU specifications include six cores and twelve threads grouped with 12 MB Intel Smart Cache. It has a base clock speed of 2.60 GHz that can ramp up to 4.4 GHz via Intel Turbo Boost technology 2.0. Moreover, it can accommodate 128 GB of DDR4 memory with a maximum 3200MHz memory clock and 50 GB/s of memory bandwidth. It comes with the same integrated graphics as the standard 11400 model, comprising UHD Graphics 750 Xe engine with 32EUs. Despite a lower price tag, you can enjoy a pretty good amount of features and performance.

You can utilize 20 lanes PCIe 4.0 where four are dedicated to one M.2 slot, but still, the chipset will remain on PCIe 3.0 connection. The chip has everything a user may need during gaming sessions, and this is why it’s the best CPU under $300. You may think that the processor will consume a massive amount of energy when it performs so much. But it’s not true. It has a 65W of rated TDP during ordinary uses, reaching up to 154W during peak performance.

Intel Core i5-9400F
Intel Core i5-9400F (Image credit: Amazon)

Intel Core i5-9400F

Best All-Rounder CPU Under $300

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: Intel Core i5 | Socket: LGA 1151 | Cores/Threads: 6/6 | Base Clock: 2.90 GHz | Top Boost Clock: 4.10 GHz | TDP: 65 W | Cache: 9 MB

REASONS TO BUY

Extra affordable

Leading gaming performance

3D inbuilt graphics

Power-efficient

REASONS TO AVOID

Locked processor

No PCIe 4.0 support

When we researched the economic processors, it was challenging not to consider the Intel Core i5-9400F on our list. Despite being a mid-range chip, it has the same high-end multitasking performance as the non-F variant while providing a more excellent value for money. One downside of the chip is that it’s locked, so you can’t overclock it to boost the performance or be underclocked to reduce power usage. However, the 3D inbuilt graphics ensured good-level gaming and content creation like video editing, photoshopping, and more.

It is from Intel’s 9th generation Coffee Lake processors family and manufactured based on the 14nm process. The CPU specifications include six cores and six threads with 9 MB of Intel Smart Cache. Its base clock speed lies at a 2.9 GHz rating and can increase up to 4.1 GHz of turbo frequency using Intel Turbo Boost Technology. If we compare its overall working capabilities to the 10th gen same-variant chip, there is no noticeable difference between both chips. The title of the best all-rounder CPU under $300 sits perfectly fine in the case of i5 9400F.

There is no support for PCIe 4.0 connectivity, but you can effectively utilize its PCIe 3.0 support given in the form of sixteen PCIe express lanes. Moreover, you can connect up to 128GB of DDR4 volatile memory running at a maximum of 41.6 GB/s of memory bandwidth and 2666MHz memory speed. It has a very minimum 65W of rated TDP, making it more efficient in power usage than its counterparts. In short, if you want a good taste of high-end multitasking without spending too many bucks, you must go for this chip. 

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X (Image credit: Amazon)

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

Best Enthusiast CPU Under $300

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: Ryzen 5 5600X | Socket: AM4 | Cores/Threads: 6/12 | Base Clock: 3.7 GHz | Top Boost Clock: 4.6 GHz | TDP: 65 W | Cache: 35 MB

REASONS TO BUY

Power-efficient

Best-in-class performance

PCIe 4.0 support

Easy to cool

Bundled cooler

REASONS TO AVOID

No integrated graphics

After reviewing five processors from Intel, finally, the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X from AMD is on our hitlist of economic chips. How can skip taking its performance benchmarks into account? It has almost $50 more than its counterparts, but an unprecedented increase in the performance. The AMD Ryzen 5 5600X is even beating the Intel Core i9-10900k, which becomes more impressive when we take a blink of price tags. Interestingly, we have got the same gaming trend from this chip as its more-expensive sibling, the Ryzen 7 5800x.

The AMD Zen 3 Core architecture powers this chip manufactured over 7nm FinFET core technology. It has six cores and twelve threads, along with a 3MB L2 cache and 32MB L3 cache. Officially, Team Red has announced its base clock speed of 3.7GHz and a boost of 4.6GHz, but combining it with the right motherboard and cooling system, you can expect more-than-rated overclocking. Remember, you have to maintain a minimum TDP of 65W or more and a temperature below 95°C since it’s its maximum operating temperature.

For connectivity puppies, you can utilize its PCIe 4.0 support and DDR4 memory support, where the chip allows 3200MHz of maximum memory speed. The chip comes with an AM4 type socket, and users can connect both 400-series and 500-series motherboards with the chip — the B550 lineup offers the best-in-class value plus B450 is also a good option. Performance and best value make it the best enthusiast CPU under $300, which can handle any type of game and day-to-day application load with pretty impressive efficiencies.

AMD Ryzen 5 3600
AMD Ryzen 5 3600 (Image credit: Amazon)

AMD Ryzen 5 3600

Best AMD CPU Under $300

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: Ryzen 5 3600 | Socket: AM4 | Cores/Threads: 6/12 | Base Clock: 3.6 GHz | Top Boost Clock: 4.2 GHz | TDP: 65 W | Cache: 35 MB

REASONS TO BUY

Low price

PCIe 4.0 support

Low power consumption

Unlocked multiplier

Bundled cooler

REASONS TO AVOID

Zen 2 architecture

No integrated graphics

You must consider this AMD Ryzen 5 3600 as your first choice if you require a mid-to-high-end performance from an affordable chip. Interestingly, it gives users the ability to overclock the chip with only one click, so it’s effortless to fetch adequate performance without putting in too much effort. This chip is built over the Zen 2 architecture, which obviously lags from its more advanced version, the Zen 3 architecture; the chips with Zen 3 can fastly access the cores than with Zen 2. Otherwise, the main specs are identical and give you a similar level of performance.

If we compare the 3600 chip with its full-fledged Ryzen 5 3600X sibling, AMD has given almost the same basic features and specs. It has got the same six cores and twelve threads with a 32MB L3 cache and a 3MB L2 cache. The base clock speed of 3.6GHz can ramp straight up to 4.2GHz for optimal performance. When it has everything that comes with expensive counterparts, it can be the best AMD CPU under $300.

For connectivity purposes, you can utilize PCIe 4.0 support consisting of 16 lanes and DDR4 type dual-channel memory support running with 3200MHz of memory speed. Since the card is unlocked, the users can adjust the overclocking limits along with the power usage to effectively tackle the load. Moreover, AMD has featured a wraith stealth thermal solution which is very effective in maintaining the temperature below 95°C, the maximum operating temperature of the chip. In short, the Ryzen 5 3600 is not a top-tier CPU, but its low price and adequate gaming performance shine in the crowd.

AMD Ryzen 5 5600G
AMD Ryzen 5 5600G (Image credit: Amazon)

AMD Ryzen 5 5600G

Best Integrated Graphics CPU under $300

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: Ryzen 5 5600G | Socket: AM4 | Cores/Threads: 6/12 | Base Clock: 3.9 GHz | Top Boost Clock: 4.4 GHz | TDP: 65 W | Cache: 19 MB

REASONS TO BUY

Good-quality performance

Fastest Zen 3 CPU cores

Power-efficient

Bundled cooler

Outstanding graphics

REASONS TO AVOID

PCIe 3.0 instead of PCIe 4.0

The AMD Ryzen 5 5600G is very cheap and even better than the Ryzen 5 5600x, having performance benchmarks giving a hard time to the expensive chips. It uses the same Zen 3 architecture that mostly comes in the advanced chip by Ryzen, which provides almost 19% more IPC performance than the Zen 2 architecture. Such an over-generation boost ensures more efficiency in running games, single-threaded, and multi-threaded applications. Moreover, this chip is unlocked and can be overclocked, which ultimately tops the speeds and enables us to adjust the input power supporting overclocking.

Like most the mid-range AMD chips, it has six cores and twelve threads topped by 16MB L3 cache and 3MB L2 cache. I didn’t like only 0.5GHz of overclocking headroom between 3.9GHz base and 4.4GHz boost clock speeds; however, some competitive chips have more headroom. Another downside to this chip is that it has 24 lanes of PCIe 3.0 support instead of 24 lanes of PCIe 4.0 found on the Ryzen 5000 models for desktop PCs. However, it supports dual-channel DDR4 type memory to run volatile memory with 3200MHz memory speed.

As far as the cooling matters, the chip has a bundled cooler based on Wraith Stealth thermal solution, and it needs to maintain below 95°C temperature. Moreover, it has a default TDP of 65W, but the processor can run effectively between 45-65W input power. The AM4 socket allows accommodating 400-series and 500-series motherboards without any issue. We call this chip the best integrated graphics CPU under $300 for some valid reasons. It has built-in Radeon Graphics comprising seven graphics counts and a maximum of 1900 MHz of graphics frequency.

Conclusion

A processor behaves in a computer in the same way as the brain works in our body — controlling every change that happens in the body. So, if you have a more robust and good-performance chip in a rig, you will enjoy excellent performance and gaming speeds. Since the market is full of hundreds of processors, it has become very complex to uncover a processor. However, it becomes easy if you know some factors split into some bullet points. Just check a particular factor, and if it exists, don’t wait to pick it up.

Out of all those factors, price plays a key role. Due to this reason, we have introduced you to this post of finding the best CPU under $300. A lower price point doesn’t mean you have to compromise over the performance. We have added eight products to our list featuring outstanding performance benchmarks along with excellent features. Also, the list contains various types of chips to fulfill the needs like price, performance, built-in graphics support, PCIe 3.0 support, PCIe 4.0 support, and more. So, check the list and find one according to your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is the best CPU under 300?

We have included numerous chips from Intel and AMD for possibly every user. However, the Intel Core i5 12600k is an all-rounder processor featuring a lot of features and specifications. It has an excellent gaming performance while keeping the price below 300 bucks compared to its competitor. Moreover, it’s unlocked for overclocking and supports PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 connectivity.

Does a CPU has integrated graphics?

Some processors have integrated graphics support, and some don’t. So, it all depends on the processor or brand whether a CPU comes with built-in graphics support or not.

How to buy a processor?

We have to check numerous factors in a chip before uncovering a processor. Some of those factors include budget, usage, CPU specifications like core and threads count, base clock speed, overclocking headroom, and more. If you want to read more about these factors or how to buy a chip, you must go and read the quick shopping tips section.

Arslan Ashraf
Arslan Ashraf is Computer Expert. He developed his passion for reviewing the latest tech products. He likes to review every single piece of Hardware. If you have any questions related to Tech Products. He'll be happy to answer you.

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