The quest for the best budget gaming CPU has started once again with the recent launch of Intel’s 10th Gen desktop processor lineup. AMD had also released new entry-level skews a few weeks back that include the Ryzen 3 3100 and the Ryzen 3 3300X CPUs. It has increased competition in the budget desktop segment. Let us analyze these new products and determine the best budget gaming CPU for 2020.
The Best Budget Gaming CPU – In Short
Here is a quick and short summary of how Ryzen 3 3300X was deemed as the best budget gaming CPU.
- AMD Ryzen 3 3100
- AMD Ryzen 3 3300X
- AMD Ryzen 5 1600AF
- Intel Core i3-10100
- Intel Core i3-10300
- AMD Ryzen 3 3300X CPU is quite a bit faster than Ryzen 3 3100, Ryzen 5 1600AF, and Intel Core i3-10100 in games and CPU tasks.
- It matches Core i3-10300 CPU’s gaming performance while beating it in non-gaming tasks.
- AMD Ryzen 3 3300X has a base price of $120 and sells for around $135.
- It is slightly expensive than Ryzen 3 3100 ($100), matches the price of Intel Core i3-10100 ($130), and is slightly cheaper than Core i3-10300($150).
- AMD Ryzen 3 3300X can be paired with a cheap B450 motherboard that allows future upgrades to a ZEN 3 CPU.
- Future upgradability for Intel B460 motherboards is not confirmed yet.
- AMD’s B450 motherboards support CPU and memory overclocking while Intel B460 motherboards don’t.
- Power Limit Boosting technology on Intel B460 motherboards, named as ASUS APE, ASRock BFB, and MSI PLO, won’t benefit 10th Gen Core i3-processors much.
Verdict – Ryzen 3 3300X is the best budget gaming CPU costing $135 (approx).
The Best Budget Gaming CPU – In Detail
The budget gaming segment is one of the most popular around the world. First-time PC builders, individuals or students on a budget, and casual gamers form a significant part of this segment. Cheap pc builds allow them to game at reasonable framerate. A CPU is the main component of cheap desktop computers. It should provide reasonable performance while being easy on the pocket. The segment generally includes CPUs priced under $150 (USD).
Best Budget Gaming CPU Contenders – AMD Ryzen 3 3100, 3300X, Intel Core i3-10100, 10300
There are quite a few contenders for the title of the best budget gaming CPUs. The latest products include the Core i3-10100 and Core i3-10300 from Intel and the Ryzen 3 3100 and the Ryzen 3 3300X from AMD. Besides these processors, there are a few older offerings from these companies. They include Intel’s Core i3-9100 and Core i3-9300, and the Ryzen 5 1600AF from AMD.
Intel’s Core i3-9100 and Core i3-9300 are 4-core CPUs, but they don’t have HyperThreading. Intel had disabled HyperThreading on its 9th Gen desktop processors except for the flagship 9900K CPU. It had put Intel CPUs at a disadvantage against their AMD counterparts. However, the company has enabled HyperThreading on all of its 10th Gen CPUs, including Core i3 models. It will help its desktop processors to recover lost ground and compete with AMD’s offerings.
|Ryzen 3 3100
|Ryzen 3 3300X
|Ryzen 5 1600(AF)
|Intel Core-i3 10100
|Intel Core-i3 10300
|Base Clock (GHz)
|Boost Clock (GHz)
|Base Price USD (Excluding Taxes)
AMD’s Ryzen 5 1600AF is an improved ZEN+ based 6-core and 12-thread version of the original ZEN Ryzen 5 1600 CPU that performs as well as a Ryzen 5 2600. It was originally priced at $85 but is now being sold for more than $130. It makes for an enticing offering as it has two extra cores and four more threads.
Intel Core i5-10400 and AMD Ryzen 5 3600 cost $30-50 more, which becomes a mainstream segment. Therefore, we won’t include them in the budget category.
How We Chose The Best Budget Gaming CPU?
Here are the primary factors that we used to decide the best budget gaming CPUs.
- Platform Upgradability and Overclocking
AMD Ryzen 3 3300X vs. Ryzen 3 3100 vs. Intel Core i3-10100 vs. Core i3-10300 – Performance
Performance is the first criterion to determine the best budget gaming CPU. While gaming performance will play a major role, the performance of the CPU in other tasks may be considered as well.
Ideally, the AMD Ryzen 3 3300X and Ryzen 3 3100 will be paired with a B450 motherboard and 3200MHz RAM while the Intel processors, Core i3-10100 and Core i3-10300, will go with a B460 motherboard and 2666MHz RAM. We are going to compare the performance of these processors with these specifications.
When using a B460 motherboard with an Intel 10th Gen Core i3 CPU, you will only be able to use up to 2666MHz DDR4 RAM. While Z490 motherboards will support overclocking and improve the performance of even Core i3 CPUs, they are quite expensive, and it won’t be wise to use them with a non-K CPU, especially the budget ones. On the other hand, a B450 motherboard with Ryzen 3 3300X will support 3200MHz RAM easily. While B550 motherboards are now available, they are more expensive than B450 motherboards. B450 motherboards would better serve buyers looking for the best budget gaming CPU.
Ryzen 3 3300X vs. Ryzen 3 3100 vs. Ryzen 5 1600AF
Among all AMD’s budget offerings, the Ryzen 3 3300X CPU is a clear winner when it comes to performance. It is significantly faster, around 9-10% on average, than the Ryzen 3 3100 in both gaming and non-gaming tasks (owing to its single CCX layout compared to the dual CCX layout of the latter). It beats the Ryzen 5 1600AF in games by 6-7% and matches it in most non-gaming CPU tasks. The performance uplift of ZEN 2 architecture is exhibited here.
Ryzen 3 3300X vs. Intel Core i3-10100 vs. Core i3-10300
When compared to the Intel Core i3-10100, the Ryzen 3 3300X performs slightly better in games while being almost 10% faster in CPU tasks. It even beats the Core i3-10300 under these test conditions. In pure gaming performance, the Ryzen 3 3300X leads the Intel Core i3-10300 by around 2% on average at 1080p resolution when using a 2080Ti. The margin is neutralized when the resolution is increased to 1440p. However, the Ryzen 3 3300X CPU is 6% faster on average in non-gaming tasks. It comfortably beats Intel’s 9th Gen processors, which lacked hyperthreading.
The Ryzen 3 3300X performs better overall and is the best budget gaming CPU in terms of performance.
AMD Ryzen 3 3100 vs. Ryzen 3 3300X vs. Intel Core i3-10100 vs. Core i3-10300 – Pricing
Price is another important factor for choosing the best budget gaming CPU. A desktop processor that is slightly behind in performance but costs significantly less than the top performer can be a lucrative option. However, it is not the case here, as we will see. Let us consider the prices of these desktop processors.
Intel Core i3-10100 desktop processor is priced at $130 but is available for around $140 after taxes, while the Ryzen 3 3300X is priced at $120 and is being sold for near about $135. Intel’s Core i3-10300 has a base price of $150 and will probably cost around $165-170 after taxes. Ryzen 3 3100 has a base price of $100 but is currently being sold for almost the same price as the Ryzen 3 3300X CPU.
Ryzen 3 3300X not only performs well, but it also costs almost the same as AMD Ryzen 3 3100 and Intel Core i3-10100 while being cheaper than the Core i3-10300. Even if the Ryzen 3 3100 was being sold at its base price of $100, we would still recommend the Ryzen 3 3300X at its current price of around $135 as we believe the performance gains are worth the extra premium.
The Ryzen 3 3300X CPU is the winner when considering pure performance as well as the price-to-performance ratio.
Best Budget Gaming CPU Platforms – AMD B450 vs. Intel B460
You will be using a B460 motherboard with the Intel Core i3-10100 and i3-10300 CPUs. The Ryzen 3 3300X will do fine with a B450 motherboard. Both of these motherboards will cost about the same, with the cheapest models available for around $80 to $100. While the price of the motherboards won’t make a major difference, AMD has a few advantages in this department.
For one, AMD allows users to upgrade their processors. AMD has stated that its B450 motherboards will support ZEN 3 CPUs. You can upgrade your Ryzen 3 3300X to a ZEN 3 CPU provided your motherboard manufacturer releases a BIOS supporting it. You can opt for a popular B450 motherboard to increase your upgrade options. While there have been some rumblings of B460 and Z490 motherboards supporting Intel’s next generation of processors (Rocket Lake), we can’t say for sure until they release.
Also, AMD enables CPU and memory overclocking on its B450 and B550 motherboards while Intel does not support overclocking on its B460 motherboards. It may allow you to extract a little extra performance from Ryzen CPUs, although you won’t get any gains on Ryzen 3 3300X. However, it may benefit you if you will upgrade to a Ryzen 5 3600 or other processors that have some overclocking headroom in the future.
Even though you can boost the performance of Intel 10th Gen Core i3 CPUs by pairing them with a Z490 motherboard, we don’t recommend the same. The cheapest Z490 motherboard will cost almost twice as much as the cheapest B460 motherboard. You are better off spending the money on another component of your PC, like a graphics card.
Some Intel B460 motherboards increase the power limit to extract more performance out of 10th Gen processors. It can be used with non-K CPUs. The feature increases the power limit for allowing CPUs to hit higher boost clocks and sustain them for longer durations. It can improve the performance of the non-K CPUs significantly, albeit still less than their K-variants. However, it also increases the heat produced, and the CPUs will require a high-end air cooler or AIO.
The main thing is that it won’t significantly benefit Core i3 CPUs as they are not power constrained. It may be beneficial for 10th Gen Intel desktop processors with six or more cores but not the lower-end models. You will notice gains of up to a couple of percent at maximum on the Core i3 processors, depending on the application. Therefore, AMD’s B450 platform offers better overclocking features and support, which further solidifies the positions of the Ryzen 3 3300X as the best budget gaming CPU.
Ryzen 3 3300X – The Best Budget Gaming CPU
With the recent launches from Intel and AMD, buyers have quite a few options at hand for building a budget PC. The AMD Ryzen 3 3300X is easily the best budget gaming CPU. It delivers excellent gaming performance at a reasonable price. The desktop processor matches or beats Intel’s 10th Gen Core i3 offerings and is significantly faster than AMD’s Ryzen 3 3100. It does exceptionally well in non-gaming tasks, which has been a strong suit of AMD’s Ryzen processors.
When compared to older CPUs, Ryzen 3 3300X matches or comes close to a stock Intel Core i7-7700K desktop processor, which was a flagship CPU three years ago. It has a base price of $120 compared to the $339 of the Core i7-7700K CPU. Sometimes, the Ryzen 3 3300X comes close to a Ryzen 5 3600 as well.
AMD Ryzen 3 3300X CPU easily deserves the best budget gaming CPU crown and is the ideal choice for gamers and system builders who don’t want to spend a considerable amount of money on a PC.