If you are looking to upgrade your computer to be able to play the latest games and give you the best gaming experiences, you’re probably looking at a significant investment. There is the graphics card, the motherboard, RAM, memory and the processor or CPU. But it doesn’t necessarily need to break the bank, there are some great budget options out there if you know what you’re looking for.

You should look at the processor as the foundations of your house. As much as all the other components are important, and they really are, if you don’t have a semi-decent processor you might as well forget about having a good gaming experience. The smart way to upgrade your computer is to start with your CPU and build from there.

At this point in time, gaming is still based on the CPU power generated from a single thread. Coding for multi-core processors has been a sticking point for developers, so they’ve been reliant on a single core with a large portion of the capacity of our processors have gone unused. But times, they are a-changin’.

DirectX 12 and Vulkan dedicated games are being developed to be able to tap into all the processing power offered by multi-core CPUs delivering a much better gaming experience. For you, looking to upgrade your computer for gaming now, it would be a shame to not factor in that upcoming change and find your computer out-of-date in 6 months.

    Best Budget Gaming CPU:

    AMD Ryzen 5 1600X64.0 GHz3.5/5$200-300
    Intel Pentium G456023.50 GHz5/5Under $100
    AMD Ryzen 3 1300X43.7 GHz4/5$120-180

    When you choose a CPU, it’s not just the processor you’re making a decision on, but you’re also agreeing to buy into ecosystem of that company. They’ll control upgrades and they’ll limit motherboard chipsets available to you. So, it’s important to make the right decision, personally most of us at Breech are using Intel setups, however, AMD is still a strong alternative especially when on a budget…

    Indeed, budget also plays a major role when it comes to picking your next processor. There are reasonable options that range in price from $50 to $1000. As a general rule of thumb, as with most things, the more the CPU costs, the better it is likely to be, but we’ve found a few CPUs that really break that mold and are able to deliver on performance without breaking the bank.

    Here are our top 3.

  • 3.

    AMD Ryzen 5 1600X

  • Is the AMD Ryzen 5 1600X any good?

    Just about squeezing into the budget category, the Ryzen 5 is just a great CPU.

    We love the 1600X because it boasts six-cores and eight-threads. It has a base clock speed of 3.6GHz. For the price, it’s an extremely good CPU for under $250. When we tested it out we found it performed better than some of it’s Intel counterparts easily.

    What’s also a plus is how smooth it is. When AMD Launched the Ryzen 7 they had some teething problems that needed some updates to smooth out. But with the Ryzen 5, they’ve seemed to have learned from those mistakes and the Ryzen 5 comes with peace of mind. Independent testing has it as a better performing CPU, that’s just a fact. So if you heard bad things about the R7 have no fear about the R5 falling from the same tree.

    AMD Ryzen 5 1600X Processor (YD160XBCAEWOF)
    • Frequency: 4.0 GHz Precision Boost
    • 6 Cores/12 Threads UNLOCKED
    • Cache: 3 MB/16 MB (L2/L3). Maximum system memory speed: 2667MHz
    • Socket Type: AM4. System Memory Type: DDR4
    • Extended Frequency Range (XFR). Max Temperature: 95°C

    Is It Worth It?

    Yessir. If you’ve got the budget, it’s a great option. Overclocking can be a bit tricky if you’re not the most technically minded, although there are plenty of “how to” videos. It’s totally worth it though, with speeds of 4.0 GHz possible.

    In terms of negatives, the only drawbacks you should be aware of is that it’s not particularly easy to overclock and it’s at the top end of the budget. If can you stretch a little further, then common sense says this has to be a serious contender for anyone looking to buy a CPU. It’s been proven to be better than most of its contemporaries. In fact, you could spend another $200-300 and end up with a processor that delivers less.

    • 4GHz
    • Six Cores
    • AM4 Socket
    • Powerful for the price

    • Higher-end of the budget line

    Check prices >

  • 2.

    Intel Pentium G4560

  • Intel Pentium G4560 - Best Budget Gaming CPU Under $200

    Using the Kaby Lake architecture, this bad boy outperforms many other processors using Kaby Lake, and it costs less than $80. That’s about as cheap as you can ever expect to pay for a CPU.

    Sure, it’s only got a couple of cores and four-threads, and you won’t be able to overclock it, but 3.5GHz is reasonable and the architecture from Intel’s Core really gets the most out of it. We wouldn’t normally recommend a two-core processor, especially with the Ryzen 5 having six-cores. But with hyper-threading, in essence, the Pentium delivers 4 cores.

    Intel Pentium G Series 3.50 GHz Dual-Core LGA 1151 Processor (BX80677G4560)
    • Socket LGA 1151
    • Intel 200/1001 Series Chipset Compatibility (1. Excludes Intel Optane Technology support)
    • Intel HD Graphics 610
    • 7th Generation (Kaby Lake)

    Is It Worth It?

    If you have $250 or more, this processor wouldn’t get a look in, because there are some really powerful options in that price range. However, if you have a budget of $100 or less, this would be our go-to CPU every time.

    In this price range, it’s a no-brainer. It’s a real deal CPU that handles gaming and it’s streets ahead of the competition. This is probably the top pick for the best budget CPU under $200 for Intel builds.

    • Kaby Lake
    • Consistent
    • Amazing Power For The Price
    • Value For Money

    • It’s a Pentium so you can’t overclock it

    Check prices >

  • 1.

    Ryzen 3 1300X

  • Ryzen 3 1300X is the best budget gaming CPU of 2018

    We’ve picked out our best budget CPU for less than $250 and we’ve looked at the best there is for under $200 in the Intel range, which turned out to be less than $100… But if you’re looking for our number one choice for the budget category it is, without doubt, the Ryzen 3 1300X. This CPU is by far the best budget gaming processor under 200 bucks period.

    We are talking about quad-core with a dual-core price point. With a trend of games utilizing more cores, thanks to DirectX 12 having those extra cores is going to have increasing importance for gamers.

    At this price, 3.7GHz speed is pretty exciting but the icing on the cake is that these Zen cores are overclockable, and if you’re willing to play around with it, can produce up to 3.9GHz.

    Obviously, the numbers are important but it would be wrong to just look at the numbers, they often don’t tell the full story. The numbers might be great but the reality is, that doesn’t necessarily mean the over performance will reach the same heights. That’s definitely not the case with the Ryzen 3. The technical data is good, the performance is better. For under $200 this CPU has no rival. It’s an easy choice.

    AMD Ryzen 3 1300X Desktop Processor with Wraith Stealth Cooler (YD130XBBAEBOX)
    • 3.7 GHz Precision Boost (up to 3.9 GHz with XFR)
    • True quad-core, unlocked CPU architecture
    • A future-proof, VR-Ready platform. Large 10MB total cache
    • Includes AMD Wraith Stealth cooler
    • Supported technologies are zen core architecture, amd sensemi technology, amd ryzen master utility, enmotus fuzedrive for amd ryzen, avx2, fma3 and xfr extended frequency range

    Is It Worth It?

    Ryzen 3 Overclocking

    Image from Linus Tech Tips

    If you’ve got the budget, you’ll probably take the Ryzen 5, but if we’re honest for most people it’s a stretch calling it a budget CPU and if we rule it out, then the Ryzen 3 is our pick every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

    We are talking a quad-core, for less than $200 and with 3.7GHz that’s overclockable to 3.9GHz. That’s a serious CPU that’s going to stay up-to-date and current for a good while yet. And it’s why the Ryzen 3 is our top pick

    • AMD Wraith Cooler Included
    • Great for overclocking
    • 10MB Cache
    • Amazing value for money

    • It’s a budget option

    Check prices >

In Summary

We really wanted to get into the meat of this topic. It’s so easy to wax lyrical about the Ferrari of the CPU world, and we’d all love to have a killer CPU, but for many gamers, it just doesn’t fit into their budget. Most people need to get the most bang for their buck and that’s exactly what we’ve gone for here.

We’ve picked our top pick for those who can spend a little more, for those who have a really tight budget, and finally, our number one pick, the sweet spot between the two. To be honest, once we looked at it for a length of time, these 3 became easy choices. They are that good, compared to their immediate competitors, that you won’t be disappointed regardless of your budget.

Last price update on 2019-04-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API