Best CPU under $300

by Arslan Ashraf

Best CPU under $300

The current-era gamers, content creators, and regular computer users all like the idea of upgrading their PCs. While updating the system, the processor is the main element around which the efficiency of all other parts rotates. A good-quality processor is the only way to enjoy smooth gaming experiences and utilize the system’s true potential. But there are several factors that a user has to consider when buying a processor. The budget is the essential user-based factor to consider out of all the factors. No one can spend $500 only on one chip when building a gaming rig under $1200. 

Knowing that not everybody can afford costly chips, we have decided to hunt the best CPU under 300 dollars. Remember, 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 unnecessary or flashy things. However, hunting such a chip is challenging when the market is full of hundreds of processors from tens of brands. Therefore, we have tested several processors and reviewed some good ones in this article. Read this entire post before buying one. 

Quick shopping tips

Usage: My team and I asked many experts how to buy a perfect chip; all they asked was about the usage. So, we must 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. 

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, ensure 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. 

Base clock and Overclocking: The clock speed is the number of cycles or instructions a processor 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 can increase its base clock speed up to a specific limit to enhance its 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 higher overclocking headroom.

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 cores and threads over one with lesser.

CPU socket: Another factor that you must consider is the compatibility of the processor with the motherboard. A processor comes with a particular socket, and only a handful of the same socket-compatible boards can accommodate it. Most current AMD processors come with AM4 sockets, while Intel embeds LGA sockets with certain pins to stand out in the crowd. You must match your processor’s socket with your motherboard. You can read this post, compatibility between CPU and motherboard, for a better understanding.

The Best CPU Under $300 You Can Buy Today


Intel Core i5-12600K

Best Pick
Intel Core i5 12600K
Intel Core i5 12600K

Brand: Intel | Series/Family: 12th Generation Intel Core i5 Processors | Lithography: Intel 7nm | Cores: 10 | Threads: 16 | Cache: 20MB Intel Smart Cache | Hyper-Threading: Yes | Unlocked Multiplier: Yes | Integrated graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 770 | Socket: LGA1700 | Base clock: Efficient core: 2.8GHz, Performance core: 3.7GHz  | Boost clock: Efficient core: 3.6GHz, Performance core: 4.9GHz, Maximum Boost: 4.9GHz | Rated TDP: 150W maximum | Bundled cooler: No

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, It can provide 38% more threaded efficiency and 7% more performance than the Ryzen 7 5800x. In addition, 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. Overall, the i5-12600k is quite similar to its big brother, i9-12900k, the fastest Intel chip on the planet.

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.

THE PROS

Excellent gaming performance

Lower price than the competition

Unlocked for overclocking

PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 support

THE CONS

No bundled cooler

AMD Ryzen 5 5600G

Staff Pick
AMD Ryzen 5 5600G
AMD Ryzen 5 5600G

Brand: AMD | Series/Family: AMD Ryzen 5 5000 G-Series Desktop Processors | Lithography: 7nm | Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Cache: 3MB L2, 16MB L3 | Multi-Threading: Yes | Unlocked Multiplier: Yes | Integrated graphics: Radeon Graphics | Graphics cores: 7 | Graphics frequency: 1900MHz | Socket: AMD AM4 | Base clock: 3.9GHz | Boost clock: 4.4GHz | Rated TDP: 65W | Bundled cooler: Wraith Stealth cooling solution

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, and single-threaded and multi-threaded applications. Furthermore, 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 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. Further, it supports dual-channel DDR4 memory to run with a 3200MHz of 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 issues. We call this chip the best integrated graphics CPU under $300 for some valid reasons. It has built-in Radeon Graphics support to get better performance. You can enjoy a smooth performance if you pair it with a good-quality motherboard and graphics card. 

THE PROS

Good-quality performance

Fastest Zen 3 CPU cores

Power-efficient

Bundled cooler

Outstanding graphics

THE CONS

PCIe 3.0 instead of PCIe 4.0

Intel Core i5-10500

Budget Pick
Intel Core i5-10500
Intel Core i5-10500

Brand: Intel | Series/Family: 10th Generation Intel Core i5 Processors | Lithography: 14nm | Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Cache: 12MB Intel Smart Cache | Hyper-Threading: Yes | Unlocked Multiplier: No | Integrated graphics: No | Socket: LGA1200 | Base clock: 3.1GHz | Boost clock: 4.5GHz | Rated TDP: 65W | Bundled cooler: Yes

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 improving its technologies daily, 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 much perfection in gaming, video editing, and more. Another 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.

THE PROS

Increased performance over previous-gen

Hyper Threading

Integrated graphics

Box includes CPU cooler

THE CONS

No support for PCIe 4.0

Intel Core i5-9400F

Intel Core i5-9400F
Intel Core i5-9400F

Brand: Intel | Series/Family: 9th Generation Intel Core i5 Processors | Lithography: 14nm | Cores: 6 | Threads: 6 | Cache: 9MB Intel Smart Cache | Hyper-Threading: No | Unlocked Multiplier: No | Integrated graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 630 | Socket: LGA1151 | Base clock: 2.9GHz | Boost clock: 4.1GHz | Rated TDP: 65W | Bundled cooler: Yes

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 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 the 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.

THE PROS

Extra affordable

Leading gaming performance

3D inbuilt graphics

Power-efficient

THE CONS

Locked processor

No PCIe 4.0 support

Intel Core i5-11600K

Intel Core i5-11600K
Intel Core i5-11600K

Brand: Intel | Series/Family: 9th Generation Intel Core i5 Processors | Lithography: 14nm | Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Cache: 12MB Intel Smart Cache | Hyper-Threading: Yes | Unlocked Multiplier: Yes | Integrated graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 750 | Socket: LGA1200 | Base clock: 3.9GHz | Boost clock: 4.9GHz | Rated TDP: 95W | Bundled cooler: No

The Intel Core i5-11600k is 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 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. Hence, ensure an effective thermal solution to deal with the heat. If you are ready to compromise its less-power-efficient aspect and inadequate PCIe 4.0 support, you must go for this chip.

THE PROS

Much more affordable than Ryzen 5 5600x

Excellent multithreading performance

Strong single-core efficiency

Unlocked for overclocking

THE CONS

Weak PCIe 4.0 support

Power-inefficient

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

Brand: AMD | Series/Family: AMD Ryzen 5 Desktop Processors | Lithography: 7nm | Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Cache: 3MB L2, 32MB L3 | Multi-Threading: Yes | Unlocked Multiplier: Yes | Integrated graphics: No | Socket: AMD AM4 | Base clock: 3.7GHz | Boost clock: 4.6GHz | Rated TDP: 65W | Bundled cooler: Wraith Stealth cooling solution

After reviewing five processors from Intel, finally, the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X from AMD is on our hitlist of economic chips. How can we skip taking its performance benchmarks into account? It has almost $50 more than its counterparts but an unprecedented increase in 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, this chip has the same gaming trend 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, twelve threads, and 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 by 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 400-series and 500-series motherboards with the chip — the B550 lineup offers the best-in-class value, plus the 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.

THE PROS

Power-efficient

Best-in-class performance

PCIe 4.0 support

Easy to cool

Bundled cooler

THE CONS

No integrated graphics

Intel Core i5-11400F

Intel Core i5-11400F
Intel Core i5-11400F

Brand: Intel | Series/Family: 10th Generation Intel Core i5 Processors | Lithography: 14nm | Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Cache: 12MB Intel Smart Cache | Hyper-Threading: Yes | Unlocked Multiplier: No | Integrated graphics: No | Socket: LGA1200 | Base clock: 2.9GHz | Boost clock: 4.3GHz | Rated TDP: 65W | Bundled cooler: Yes

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 but may lag in overclocking. 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 a 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 has 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 and play many current-era games.

You can utilize 20 lanes of 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 lot of energy when it performs so much. But it’s not true. It has a 65W rated TDP during ordinary uses, reaching up to 154W during peak performance. The stock cooler that comes with the chip might be enough for cooling—if not, make sure to pair a good-quality third-party cooler to handle the heat.

THE PROS

Affordable price

Excellent performance

Power-efficient

Bundled cooler included

THE CONS

A locked chip

AMD Ryzen 5 3600

AMD Ryzen 5 3600
AMD Ryzen 5 3600

Brand: AMD | Series/Family: AMD Ryzen 5 Desktop Processors | Lithography: 7nm | Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Cache: 384KB L1, 3MB L2, 32MB L3 | Multi-Threading: Yes | Unlocked Multiplier: Yes | Integrated graphics: No | Socket: AMD AM4 | Base clock: 3.6GHz | Boost clock: 4.2GHz | Rated TDP: 65W | Bundled cooler: Wraith Stealth

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 allows users 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 behind its more advanced version, the Zen 3 architecture; the chips with Zen 3 can fastly access the cores than those with Zen 2. Otherwise, the main specs are identical and give you a similar performance level in most games.

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. Overall, it’s one of the best enthusiast-class chips with great one-click overclocking and value for the money.

For connectivity purposes, you can utilize PCIe 4.0 support consisting of 16 lanes and DDR4 dual-channel memory support running with 3200MHz of memory speed. Since the card is unlocked, the users can adjust the overclocking limits and 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.

THE PROS

Low price

PCIe 4.0 support

Low power consumption

Unlocked multiplier

Bundled cooler

THE CONS

Zen 2 architecture

No integrated graphics

Conclusion

A processor behaves in a computer in the same way as the brain works in our body—controls every change that happened 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 are split into 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 on finding the best CPU under 300 bucks. 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

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.

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. Most of the time, the integrated graphics aren’t that good to compete against the dedicated graphics. You have to purchase a dedicated GPU if you play games whether your CPU has built-in graphics or not.

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.

Arslan Ashraf

Arslan Ashraf is a tech enthusiast and an experienced technical writer at GamingDairy. He has been writing all types of guides, tutorials, and tips for gamers, developers, and other people who use computers. His way of writing is quite unique: he starts with testing every single piece of Hardware and does a long list of experiments before writing the actual masterpiece. Well, if you have any queries, ensure to connect with him!