If you’re a casual gamer and don’t play games all the time, there’s no point in spending tons of cash on the best gaming processors that money can buy.
The best budget gaming CPUs offer excellent performance at a fraction of the cost. 🖥️ 💰
While big and powerful processors hog all the limelight, they are relevant to very few gamers. The fact is, most games still only use four cores, most gamers play at a resolution of 1080p, and 30-40 fps isn’t bad at all.
If you want processors that can handle all your non-gaming tasks while also being good at rendering games in these specs, there are some excellent options on offer.
To make things simple for you, we’ve gone through all the relevant processors and picked three outstanding ones. Each of these processors renders games very well while handling all non-gaming tasks easily.
Update: AMD shook up the market with its new release, so we recommend you also go and check out the best Ryzen 3000 CPUs out there.
Best Choice: Ryzen 3 2200g
Pros & Cons
- Built for gaming
- Integrated GPU
- Can play 1080p games
- Not very good with old single threaded games
- Low on all around performance.
- L x W x H → 1.6 x 1.6 x 0.3 inches
- Weight → 1 lb
- Wattage → 65
- CPU Model Socket: AM4
- Onboard Graphics Processor
- Four Cores, four threads
- 3.5 GHz Clock Speed
- Includes Precision Boost.
Ryzen 3 2200g Review
There are a lot of great AMD gaming processors, but if you want to game on a budget, the AMD Ryzen 3 2200g is pretty much the best processor you can buy today. The sub-$100 processor has somewhat revolutionized budget gaming. The 2200G is a four core, four thread processor that has been built using the 14nm architecture.
The architecture itself is old, given that almost all the latest Ryzen processors are built using the Zen+ 12nm process. However, this doesn’t mean that the 2200G can’t handle serious tasks.
In fact, the 2200G is on par with the Intel i3 8100 - its primary competitor - and sometimes even better. Precision Boost 2 allows the cores to be boosted to up to 3.7 GHz, which for a budget processor, is brilliant.
What’s more, unlike the Intel i3 8100, the 2200G can be overclocked. But all this is secondary, though. The trump card for the Ryzen 2200G is gaming.
The AMD Ryzen 2200G costs just under $100 and for that price, AMD will ship a Radeon Vega 8 graphics card along with the processor itself. In terms of value for money, there’s really no better deal.
Even an ordinary GPU usually costs about $90 - $100 and AMD ships a rather decent one, essentially, for free. Vega 8 is no slouch and neither is the processor. So, you can expect to play most games easily at 1080p with a very decent 30 - 40 FPS.
Are there drawbacks? Of course. If you open a few more tabs than necessary, you’ll start wishing for a processor with more cores. You can’t play AAA titles with the Ryzen 3 2200G and stressing the processor will bring things to a halt.
But then again, this is true of any budget processor. What makes the 2200G stand apart is its gaming performance, and at that, it is excellent.
Premium Pick: Intel Core i3 - 8100
Pros & Cons
- Enough cores for most games
- Excellent single-threaded performance
- Has four physical cores
- No turbo boost
- No hyper-threading
- 4 cores and 4 threads
- 3.6GHz clock speed
- 6 MB cache
- 2 Memory channels
- L x W x H → 1 x 1.5 x 2.75 inches
- Weight → 4.32 ounces
- Wattage → 65
- CPU Model Socket → LGA_115
Intel Core i3 - 8100 Review:
If you’re building a PC from ground up for budget gaming, the Ryzen 3 2200G is the way to go. However, if you already have an Intel setup and are just upgrading your processor, the Ryzen 3 2200G is not a viable option.
Instead, you might want to consider the Intel i3 8100, which is one of the best Intel CPUs for gaming for its price. The core and count number are the same. The 8100, like the 2200G, has 4 cores and 4 threads. The clock speeds are similar too. AMD offers 3.6 GHz whereas the i3 can reach up to 3.6 GHz. One major difference to note is that the Intel offering cannot be overclocked.
The 8100 is also slightly expensive when compared to the 2200G. However, you get no discrete graphics card with the 8100. So, if you were to spend another $80 on a GPU, you’re looking at a cost difference of almost $100.
However, if you already have a GPU, Intel is definitely the way to go. In non-gaming tasks, both the processors are almost the same. Intel leads with a small margin thanks to stronger cores. For more details look into our guide about how Core i3 compares to i5 and i7.
When it comes to gaming, the i3 8100 is better if you couple it with a decent GPU. Again, the margins aren’t huge, but the 8100 is certainly better.
So, should you but the Intel i3 8100? If you’re building a rig from scratch, no. The AMD Ryzen 3 2200G is far better, given that you get a GPU included in the costs.
However, if you already have an Intel setup, the i3 8100 is a really good processor. What’s more, it’s actually better than the Ryzen 3 in terms of pure gaming performance if you couple it with a good GPU.
So, if you’re looking for an Intel upgrade, consider the 8100. Or else, go the Ryzen way.
Best Value: AMD Ryzen 5 2600
Pros & Cons
- Backward Compatibility
- Shipped with a cooler
- High value for money
- Effective heat management
- Overclocking calls for serious cooler backups
- Single-core performance is not as good as Intel counterparts
- 6 cores and 12 threads
- Up to 3.9GHz clock speed
- StorMI Technology included
- L x W x H → 1.6 x 1.6 x 0.3 inches
- Weight → 1 lb
- Wattage → 65
- CPU Model Socket → AM4
AMD Ryzen 5 2600 Review
Ryzen 5 2600 is relatively expensive. It retails at around $150. It’s also not a gaming processor through and through. But it still makes our list for a very good reason - all-around performance.
Flagship AMD processors usually have an ‘X’ suffix. This usually means that they have Precision Boost, XFR, and very good overclocking abilities. For this performance overload, you pay a premium price.
But if you don’t want all those enthusiast-level features and just want to enjoy games from time to time, the Ryzen 5 2600 is the processor for you. It’s cheaper and as far as gaming is concerned, just as good as the more expensive 2600x.
The Ryzen 5 2600 has a clock speed of 3.9 GHz and for gaming, that is more than enough. It is powered by a 6 core, 12 thread configuration that can handle games very well.
This is where the all-around factor comes in. The Ryzen 3 2200G and the Intel i3 8100, at the end of the day, are not very powerful processors. They can handle simple tasks, but anything more than that, and you’ll run into troubles. So, if you're looking for the best CPU for gaming, you better look for something else.
The Ryzen 5 2600, on the other hand, is a true performance processor. What’s more, if you dabble in overclocking, you can increase the clock speed to a very impressive 4.1 GHz. Thanks to the 6 cores on offer, you get excellent multi-threaded performance as well.
So, unlike the other two processors on this list, this one is a truly complete processor. It isn’t a niche processor that can do only one job. What’s more, AMD will ship the processor with a Wraith Stealth cooler which can handle moderate overclocking as well.
So, irrespective of what your interests are - overclocking or gaming - the Ryzen 5 2600 has you covered, which makes it one of our favorite processors on sale today.
Top Budget Gaming CPUs: Buying Guide
If you’re building a gaming rig for yourself, it’s important to get the CPU right. After the GPU, your processor is the most important part of your rig. If you are new to the world of PC building, understanding the products on offer can be pretty tough. Enthusiasts and experts throw around all sorts of numbers and terms.
So, we created this short buying guide to help you buy the perfect processor.
Before getting into the details, the first thing to do is to clearly define what you want your processor to do. In this case, it’s gaming performance that we want to understand.
Gaming performance is decided mainly by the GPU. And irrespective of what your budget is, there are some excellent GPUs in the market today. The second most important component is the CPU.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet for you:
- Clock speed: Higher the better. No exceptions.
- Cores: At least 4 cores are required. 6 core processors are preferable. Higher core number doesn’t always indicate better gaming performance.
Now, based on what your budget is, make sure you always look for these two specs. Also, clock speed is more important than the number of cores if the core number is greater than 4.
While the AMD Ryzen 3 2200G might look like the perfect processor for you, there are other things to consider.
Will you only ever game with this PC? If yes, then the 2200G is excellent, agreed. Apart from gaming, if you will only ever do simple tasks, yes, the 2200G is perfect.
However, if you also do a lot of non-gaming tasks that require CPU power, then Ryzen 5 2600 is a much better choice. It has more cores, threads, and higher clock speed.
Also, if you’re planning to overclock, the Ryzen 3 2200G isn’t for you. Overclocking also requires better coolers. Make sure to factor that into your budget.
In conclusion, the point is to understand what your needs are in the long-term and buy a processor that serves all your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
When it comes to budget gaming, we always get a few repeat questions. We have answered them below.
Are budget Intel processors good for gaming?
If the processor you’re buying is less than $200, chances are, AMD has some better product on offer. Mind you, Intel gaming processors are usually the best in the market, but budget gaming is very much AMD’s forte. On the other side, if you're more than a casual gamer and looking for a high-quality processor, you better look for the best i5 for gaming.
What resolution and FPS can I expect from budget gaming processors?
As far as the three processors on this list are concerned, you can expect to play most titles at 1080p and 30-40 FPS. Of course, if the resolution decreases, FPS will increase and vice versa.
Can I play all games with budget CPUs?
More or less, yes. AAA titles are an exception, though. You can’t run most of them. Whatever your choice is, you need to know how to boost gaming PC performance and bring the best out of your CPU.
Will overclocking increase gaming performance?
Technically, yes. However, the jump in performance won’t be drastic. At times, it may just add 5-6 FPS and to gain that, you’ll have to go to a lot of trouble. Overclocking also heats the CPU more, meaning you’ll have to spend on better cooling solutions. Having that in mind, you should check out our list of the best CPU coolers.
All in all, if gaming is your primary concern, overclocking your CPU isn’t really necessary or useful.
All the three processors listed here are excellent if budget gaming is what you’re after. However, if you want to expand your search, the Buying Guide and FAQ sections should help you out. Just remember to define your needs and choose a processor that fulfills those needs within your budget.
Tell us which processor you’d choose.