Best CPU Under $300 in 2022 – The 10 Best Mid-Range Processors Reviewed

Best CPUs Under $300

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If you are a beginner enthusiast PC builder, or just replacing parts on a higher-end machine and looking for a high-performing CPU that’s not too expensive, you have come to the right place.

We will walk through some pros and cons of some of the best CPUs under $300 in 2022. Whether you’re looking for the best CPU for gaming or even some heavy rendering, you’ll be able to choose the best one for your needs.

If you are considering even a cheaper CPU, make sure to have a look at our other articles: Best CPUs Under $200 and Best CPUs under $100.

Best CPU Under $300 in 2022 Round-Up

The table below will give you a quick look at our selections for the best CPUs under $300 currently available on the market. To read a full review, simply click on ‘review>>’ in the respective row.




1. Intel Core i5-12600K

''Best CPU under $300 overall''


2. AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

''Best AMD CPU under $300''


3. Intel Core i5-11600K

''Best Intel 11th generation CPU under $300''


4. Intel Core i5-12500

''Best Intel 12th generation CPU under $300 runner-up''


5. AMD Ryzen 5 5600G

''Best AMD CPU under $300 runner-up''


6. Intel Core i5-10600KF

''Best Intel 10th generation CPU under $300''


7. Intel Core i7-10700F

''Best octa-core CPU under $300''


8. AMD Ryzen 5 3600

''Honorable mention''


9. Intel Core i5-11500

''Honorable mention #2''


10. Intel Core i7 9700KF

''Honorable mention #3''


1. Intel Core i5-12600K

Architecture: Alder Lake | Socket: LGA 1700 | Cores: 10 | Threads: 16 | Base Frequency: 3.7 GHz | Max Boost Frequency: 4.9 GHz | TDP: 125 W

Intel Core i5-12600KREASONS TO BUY

  • The most powerful CPU per dollar and per watt available in 2022
  • The hybrid core architecture delivers ten cores total, and tons more power than previous generations
  • High clock rate with added overclocking potential
  • Excellent for gaming
  • Fantastic multi and single-core performance
  • Supports both DDR5 and PCIe 5.0
  • Beats the 11900K in overall performance


  • No included cooler
  • Draws more power than Ryzen equivalents

Our Rating:   9.9/10

Intel’s 12th generation of CPUs includes several of the best processors for sale in 2022. You’ll typically find the extremely powerful i9-12900K at the top of the best of 2022 lists, but the i5-12600K is usually right behind it. At half the price of the i9 and under $300, the i5-12600K is a shoo-in for the best budget CPU of 2022.

Many of the Alder Lake (12th gen) Intel CPUs use a hybrid architecture, and this includes the 10 cores available in the i5-12600K. The hybrid architecture is a mix of two kinds of cores. The first is the more traditional, high clock CPU cores (Golden Cove) which Intel calls the performance cores or P-Cores.

These are powerful hyper-threaded cores, and the i5-12600K has six of them with a base clock rate of 3.7 GHz and a max clock rate of 4.9 GHz. They’ll do most of the heavy lifting for gaming, rendering, and other CPU-intensive processes.

In addition, the remaining four cores are efficiency cores, referred to as E-Cores. They’re a more compact, power-efficient core with only a single thread and a base clock of 2.8 GHz, and a boosted clock of 3.6 GHz. They’ll quickly handle light processing tasks in the background, leaving the central P-Cores free to focus on heavier tasks.

The combination of P-Cores and E-Cores makes this processor a huge jump up from processors of the previous generation, including the significantly more expensive eight-core i9-11900K and the fan-favorite six-core Ryzen 5 5600X. Current-gen processors with 8-10 hyperthreaded cores will still perform at a higher level but will consistently be almost twice the price.

Furthermore, the i5-12600K is an unlocked processor, which means that it’s ready for overclocking. With proper cooling, you’ll be able to overclock to around 5.3 GHz and even more, if you put the time and effort in.

Now, since this is a K series CPU, it does not ship with a cooler. This could set you back anywhere from $20-30 for the equivalent of what you’d find bundled with other CPUs, to $100-200 for some premium options. If you’re not planning on overclocking it, the cheaper options should be fine, but you’ll notice quieter and smoother performance with a mid-range cooler.

A quick word on compatibility: obviously you can’t just put any CPU on any motherboard. Different brands and generations will use different sockets, but several motherboard brands have started making their 12th Gen Intel motherboards for the new DDR5 form factor which is both a lot more expensive and harder to find than DDR4 and so definitely not suitable for a budget build.

All in all, the Intel Core i5-12600K is by far the best CPU under $300 in 2022, and depending on who you ask, could actually be the best processor, period. For the price, it offers amazing performance, plus the support for DDR5 memory will unlock the next level of performance for your PC. If you’re trying to build the best PC for the money, the Intel Core i5-12600K is the perfect starting point.

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2. AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

Architecture: Zen 3 | Socket: AM4 | Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Base Frequency: 3.7 GHz | Max Boost Frequency: 4.6 GHz | TDP: 65 W


  • By far the best AMD CPU under $300
  • Fantastic performance for gaming
  • Battle-tested fan-favorite CPU
  • Consistently available despite shortages
  • Good overclocking potential
  • Ships with a cooler
  • Draws little power
  • Easy to cool


  • Significantly slower than its Intel counterpart
  • More expensive than expected for a CPU in this generation
  • No integrated graphics chip

Our Rating:   9.7/10

The Ryzen 5 5600X has been one of the best budget CPUs since its release way back in 2020, a status that will continue until at least the launch of the Zen 4 7000 series, which is expected in the latter half of this year.

The main appeal of the Ryzen 5 5600X is in its versatility. Like all AMD processors, it’s unlocked and therefore capable of being overclocked. Intel processors, despite their typically higher base and boosted clock speeds, are often split on whether or not they can be overclocked.

If you’re not overclocking, and don’t have a lot of high-intensity processing needs, then you’ll find that the lower power consumption (and consequently lower temperature and cooling needs) to be a significant boon.

The Ryzen 5 5600X is a six-core processor. Most day-to-day operations on a PC, including gaming, typically only use between 2 and 4 cores, so the six cores available from this processor are going to smoothly handle just about anything short of really heavy rendering, or video editing.

Like most processors in the most recent generations, it has multi-threaded cores. Having more than one thread per processor allows a larger number of commands to be stored and readied, and allows the CPU to quickly perform complex tasks or have multiple programs running simultaneously.

Despite being on the older side for a processor, the base clock speed of 3.7 GHz is on par with some of the 12th Gen Intel processors. The built-in boosting goes up to 4.6 GHz which is slightly lower than you’ll see from a lot of both 11th and 12th gen Intel CPUs but will deliver quick response times for most daily operations, including high-end gaming and streaming.

As an added value, the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X ships with a basic air cooler. It isn’t very strong, however, can be nice for having your entire build ready to go out of the box. For most users, it’ll be adequate, especially if you’ve got good case cooling equipped. If you’re going to be doing sustained gaming sessions, you might want to swap it out, especially if you’re working with a smaller case that doesn’t have as much fan space.

If you’re a fan of AMD, this is currently the best CPU under $300 you can get your hands on. It delivers great performance across the board, both for gaming and more complex CPU-intensive tasks.

Because of the lack of support for DDR5 and PCIe 5.0, it’s not as futureproofed as the 12600K but that can be an upside if you’re looking to only upgrade your processor.

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3. Intel Core i5-11600K

Architecture: Rocket Lake | Socket: LGA 1200 | Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Base Frequency: 3.9 GHz | Max Boost Frequency: 4.9 GHz | TDP: 95 W

Intel Core i5-11600KREASONS TO BUY

  • Cheaper alternative to 12th-gen CPUs
  • Clock rates equal or better than the next-gen models
  • Better value than the AMD counterpart
  • Very strong single-core performance
  • Excellent for gaming and streaming
  • Unlocked for overclocking
  • Easy to cool


  • Lower core and thread count than 12th Gen equivalent
  • Not compatible with DDR5 and PCIe 5.0
  • No stock cooler
  • Fairly high power consumption

Our Rating:   9.6/10

When it comes to building a PC, it’s important to know where you need to splurge, and where you can scale back a little without sacrificing performance. While each new generation of processors does bring noticeable improvements, a lot of users aren’t going to be pushing their processors to the point where those differences are going to make a consistent difference.

So, getting a processor that’s a generation or two back can be the perfect way to free up money for a better GPU or some awesome custom cooling, especially with prices and availability being what they are.

If you are going to step back a generation, or if you already have an LGA 1200 board, one of your best choices is going to be the Intel Core i5-11600K. This processor is the 11th generation version of one of 2022’s best processors, the i5-12600K.

Intel did start using a hybrid architecture in the 12th generation, so there’s a wider gap in performance between some of the 11th and 12th generation processors than you’ll usually see between generations, but a lot of the base specs are still very similar.

The i5-11600K is a six-core processor, which is going to be ideal for most gamers, streams, and casual content creators. A lot of games are barely making full use of a four-core processor, so six cores is the power to spare even once you throw streaming in the mix. All six cores are multi-threaded for increased efficiency, unlocking even more speed and multitasking efficiency.

In terms of clock rate, the i5-11600K is indistinguishable from its 12th-gen successor, with a max clock rate of 4.9 GHz. In fact, its base clock rate is a little higher at 3.9 GHz, which could make it friendlier for lower-demand processor tasks. On top of that, it’s an unlocked processor, so if you’re looking to boost the already impressive max clock rate, you’ll be able to draw even more power out of it.

Again, since this is a K series processor, there is no included stock cooler. Intel’s stock coolers are decent for less demanding applications, so having one included here could have streamlined the initial setup process for a lot of users.

If you’re not starting from scratch, or even if you’re in some cases, the i5-11600K has a better chance of playing nice with all of your components. The 10th and 11th gen use the same sockets, and prices for older motherboards will often be lower as well.

However, if everything else was equal, we don’t know if the difference of $50 is enough to justify not getting the incredible upgrades Intel has made to the i5-12600K.

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4. Intel Core i5-12500

Architecture: Alder Lake | Socket: LGA 1700 | Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Base Frequency: 3.0 GHz | Max Boost Frequency: 4.6 GHz | TDP: 65 W

Intel Core i5-12500REASONS TO BUY

  • Good thread and core count
  • Low suggested price for the max performance
  • Strong gaming performance
  • Excellent single-core performance
  • Still good for multi-tasking and advanced office applications
  • Support for DDR5 memory
  • Supports PCIe 5.0


  • Low stock is causing significant resale markups
  • Low base clock rate
  • Doesn’t ship with a cooler
  • High power consumption

Our Rating:   9.5/10

In theory, the Intel Core i5-12500 should be the budget-friendly version of the i5-12600K. The Intel MSRP is almost $100 lower despite having a lot of the same baseline specs. As of launch, that hasn’t been the case, though once we approach the middle of the year, that might start to resolve itself.

Both the i5-12500 and the 12600K have six of what Intel has labeled “performance cores” or P-cores. In previous generations, these are just what would have been referred to as the standard multi-threaded cores. However, for its 12th generation of CPUs, Intel has added efficiency cores, or E-Cores, which can boost the performance of your CPU with minimal increases in price and power consumption.

However, unlike the i5-12600K, the i5-12500 doesn’t have any E-cores. With that being said, if the i5-12500 was consistently in stock, and you could get it at the list price suggested by Intel, that would be a justifiable deal. For now, that’s not the case. Stocks are just low enough, in fact, to make it roughly the same price as the much higher performing 12600K.

Even if this resolves as we head into Summer or Fall 2022, there’s another issue: the clock rate. It’s really disappointing to see a base clock of only 3.0 GHz in a 12th gen processor, and the boost of 4.6 GHz only partially makes up for that. If you tend to do a lot of processor-heavy tasks, it’s going to need to keep hitting that boosted rate which will drive up power consumption and cooling demand. It’s also not overclockable.

In a vacuum, this probably wouldn’t be a bad processor. Six cores and twelve threads and a max clock rate of 4.6 GHz is going to power most gaming builds, and even some lighter streaming and creative builds. Hypothetically, if this were the only CPU available next time you walk into MicroCenter, you could still walk out with the makings of a decent PC. It’s not going to be the only processor available though, and it’s probably not even going to be in stock the next time you walk into a parts store.

To make things even worse, the i5-12500 does not ship with a stock cooler, which is always nice to have. However, because of the range of speeds and power consumption that you’re going to get from this processor, the level of cooling you’ll want to install is highly contextual. As a result, it’s nice to not be spending anything extra (even if it’s only $10-15) on a cooler that you’re just going to swap out.

The Core i5-12500 doesn’t live up to the potential of Intel’s 12th generation, but it does have the same supply and pricing issues. At the Q1 prices, we’d strongly recommend you to get the i5-12600K which performs much better for a similar price. If you’re not stuck on Intel, then any of the current-gen six-core AMD chips are going to be a lot more stable on performance and power consumption.

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5. AMD Ryzen 5 5600G

Architecture: Zen 3 | Socket: AM4 | Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Base Frequency: 3.9 GHz | Max Boost Frequency: 4.4 GHz | TDP: 65 W


  • Extremely budget friendly six-core processor
  • You can usually get it for way under $300
  • Fantastic performance for the money
  • Integrated graphics processing
  • High base clock rate
  • Ships with a cooler
  • Very efficient and easy to cool
  • Great overclocking potential


  • Lower boosted clock rate
  • Integrated graphics processing doesn’t add much value
  • Surpassed by Intel’s 12th generation processors
  • Doesn’t support PCIe 4.0

Our Rating:   9.5/10

As the name would suggest, the AMD Ryzen 5 5600G is very similar to the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X. There are a few key differences that we’ll go over, but the only difference that a casual user is going to notice is the price.

The AMD Ryzen 5 5600G is one the cheapest options on this list, usually way cheaper than the Ryzen 5 5600X. In spite of the price difference, it has benchmarks that are competitive with a lot of the more expensive CPUs you might find on this list.

Like any good gaming CPU, the Ryzen 5 5600G is a six-core, twelve-thread processor. In fact, that’s typically more power than you’ll need, freeing up some space for streaming and will even give you some serious power for advanced applications.

Further, the base clock rate is a bit higher than you’ll see from a lot of contemporary and even some newer processors at 3.9 GHz. The default boosts only go to 4.4 GHz, which is anywhere from 0.2 GHz to 0.5 GHz lower than what’s offered by most other competitive processors.

However, since this is an AMD Ryzen processor, it’s unlocked and overclockable, and so the boosted clock rate can be whatever you say it is (as long as you have the cooling to back it up). If you’re a creative professional who isn’t familiar or comfortable with overclocking, you’ll probably want something with a higher default boost.

The biggest difference between the 5600X and the 5600G is that the 5600G has integrated graphics capability. This is more common in mobile processors since it theoretically removes the need for a GPU. In desktop builds, it’s not as crucial, and having the same component running both graphics and central processing can really slow you down, especially in processor-heavy games. Any GPU past the $200 price point is going to do a better job.

Like all AMD processors in this price range, it ships with a basic air cooler. Higher intensity users, especially overclockers will want to swap it out, but if you’re not putting it through sustained use or you have more than two or three case fans, you’ll be able to get by without upgrading it.

If you’re trying to save a few bucks, the Ryzen 5 5600G is going to give you very similar performance to some of the more expensive options while staying way below the $300 mark. The lower boosted clock and PCIe 3.0 connectivity might be a dealbreaker for some users, but the performance per dollar is truly amazing. The low price point and integrated graphics could make this a good fit for extremely cheap compact builds, like the backup you’ll see in high-end, dual-processor streaming builds.

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6. Intel Core i5-10600KF

Architecture: Comet Lake | Socket: LGA 1200 | Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Base Frequency: 4.1 GHz | Max Boost Frequency: 4.8 GHz | TDP: 95 W

Intel Core i5-10600KFREASONS TO BUY

  • Much cheaper than processors with equivalent specs
  • High base and max clock rate for an i5
  • Excellent budget processor for gaming
  • Unlocked for overclocking
  • Beats AMD’s 3rd generation counterparts


  • Power-hungry
  • PCIe 3.0 connectivity
  • Doesn’t ship with a cooler
  • Doesn’t support DDR5 memory
  • No integrated graphics chip

Our Rating:   9.4/10

With the Intel Core i5-10600KF we’re going back two full generations from the current models. With Intel pushing out a new model basically every year, and the i5-10600KF being a later model in the 10th generation, you’ll barely see any differences between this and an 11th gen 11600K.

The 11th generation in turn has a lot of similarities to the 12th gen models, so an older processor like this will let you play all of the current releases while being significantly cheaper. The 10th gen is still in production, but since it’s two generations back, and at least two years old at this point you’re going to start seeing them marked down below the already low MSRP. If you’re lucky, you might be able to grab this one way below the $300 mark.

Like its equivalents in later generations, the i5-10600KF is a six-core processor, which will pull its weight in any current releases and will even perform moderately well in more processor-intensive activities. If you’re a professional streamer or video editor, you might want to go with the newer gen or get something with a couple of extra cores, but otherwise, it’s going to check all the boxes you need for regular use.

Besides that, the cores are still multithreaded, allowing them to prepare multiple command lines at once, making your processor much quicker on the execution when handling complex tasks or running more than one program at once.

Furthermore, the i5-10600KF has a tight range when it comes to clock speeds, with a base of 4.1 GHz, and a max of 4.8 GHz. The high clock speeds will make it really quick when it comes to launching and running individual programs, though the higher base tends to make it more power-hungry than some other processors that launched the same year, especially a lot of the Ryzen 5 processors.

It can also make cooling more of an issue if you’re not dealing with a well-ventilated case. And even more of an issue if you decide to overclock it since this is an unlocked processor, allowing you to overclock for added performance.

Lastly, there is no stock cooler, which can bump the price of your build up a bit, but lets you customize to a greater degree, adding more RGB elements or even some liquid cooling if you choose.

If you’re trying to save money on your build, the i5-10600KF consistently stays way under $300 and is going to give you the steepest discounts while making the fewest compromises on performance. The drawbacks are mostly going to be on invisible things, like power consumption and cooling demands. Some of the Ryzen processors are going to be better on those and are currently about the same price, so if those are concerns for you, they could be a better choice.

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7. Intel Core i7-10700F

Architecture: Comet Lake | Socket: LGA 1200 | Cores: 8 | Threads: 16 | Base Frequency: 2.9 GHz | Max Boost Frequency: 4.8 GHz | TDP: 65 W

Intel Core i7-10700FREASONS TO BUY

  • One of the only 8-core, 16-thread processors under $300 in 2022
  • The balance between budget and performance is perfect for students and amateur users
  • Fantastic performance for gaming
  • Superb single-core performance
  • Draws very little power
  • Comes with a stock cooler


  • Stock cooler will be underpowered for most users
  • Outclassed by the new 12th gen 6-core processors
  • Very low base clock speeds
  • Locked for overclocking

Our Rating:   9.3/10

As a general rule, if you’re looking to stay under $300 for your CPU you’re going to be confined to a four or six-core processor. There are a couple of exceptions, the most worthwhile among them being the Intel Core i7-10700F.

The i7 models are on the higher end of Intel’s Core series, and in the newest generations run upwards of $400, so getting one for less than $300 is a great deal. Granted, it’s a couple of generations back which takes some of the cutting-edge shine off, but it still packs a lot of raw power.

In a lot of cases, a multi-threaded 8-core processor like the i7-10700F is more than you’re going to need for most day-to-day activities, including gaming. If you’re not regularly doing a ton of processor-intensive activities like rendering, video editing, compiling large programs and so on then you’re going to get smoother performance from a newer six-core processor for the same price.

If you’re regularly performing processor-heavy tasks in a professional capacity, then you could probably justify scaling up to something like an i9. A budget 8-core processor like this one is going to be best for students, and others who may be consistently performing those tasks but are still at an entry-level.

Further, the i7-10700F has a lower base clock rate of 2.9 GHz, but a max clock of 4.8 GHz. This is a wider range than you’ll find in a lot of the 10th generation, but means that it’s more efficient at the low end, but can quickly ramp up when dealing with demanding tasks. It’s a particularly good configuration for people who have very light demands of their PC for most of the day, with brief segments of high-intensity work or gaming.

The i7-10700F ships with a stock cooler, which you don’t always see from Intel, or from more powerful CPUs in general. We’re usually fans of having the stock cooler, even if we don’t use it, just because it makes the product more accessible to everyone, and it’s one less thing that you need to research and buy.

That said, a lot of the time an 8-core processor is going to be more powerful than a stock cooler can handle for long periods running at the max clock, and anyone who is going to get the most out of an 8-core processor is definitely going to be doing that.

Overall, the Intel Core i7-10700F is the best and currently the only octa-core CPU available under $300. If you’re reading this list because you’re trying to put together the best gaming you can PC for less than $1200, go back and grab yourself a Ryzen 5 5600X or one of the new i5-12600Ks.

If you’re starting to get serious about video editing, animation, or programming, but still can’t justify the $500-600 you’d need to spend on a new i9 or Ryzen 9 then this will be a perfect compromise, especially if you already have an LGA 1200 motherboard.

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8. AMD Ryzen 5 3600

Architecture: Zen 2 | Socket: AM4 | Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Base Frequency: 3.6 GHz | Max Boost Frequency: 4.2 GHz | TDP: 65 W


  • Excellent gaming performance
  • The best 3rd gen Ryzen processor under $300
  • Very reasonable power consumption
  • Still good multitasking capability
  • Ships with a cooler
  • Very easy to cool


  • Around the same price as the 5600X
  • Low max clock rate, even when overclocked
  • Low overclock ceiling
  • Outperformed by many CPUs in the same price category

Our Rating:   9.2/10

A casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that the AMD Ryzen 5 3600 is basically the same processor as the Ryzen 5 5600x. Most of the differences are down to the Zen2 vs Zen3 architecture, which have to do with core grouping and the way the individual cores access the processor.

The Zen3 is obviously more efficient in this respect, but a Zen2 processor with otherwise identical main specs is going to give you a very similar level of performance, so can be a way to save some money if other parts of your build, like the GPU, are going to be doing more heavy lifting.

Like the 5600X, the Ryzen 5 3600 is a Hexa-core processor. If you’re spending more than $200 on a processor, you’re wasting your money on anything that doesn’t have at least six cores.

Six cores is also a comfortable minimum for most mid-range gaming PCs and will prevent your CPU from being the performance bottleneck no matter what games you’re playing. All six cores are dual-threaded for higher multitasking efficiency and better performance for complex single programs.

Ryzen’s 5 series is highly power-efficient, and the 65W consumption is almost half of what you’ll see from most of their Intel competitors. Part of this is the lower base clock rate, which is 3.6 GHz in the 3600 model. This comes at the expense of a lower max clock rate ceiling, in this case, 4.2 GHz.

Like all Ryzen processors, it’s unlocked, so you can feed more power into it to up the max clock rate, though the Ryzen 5 3600 doesn’t have as high of an overclocking ceiling as their newer models or even higher-end models from the same generation.

Lastly, the AMD Ryzen 5 3600 ships with a Wraith Stealth cooler, which is a fairly efficient and quiet air cooler. You’ll need to get decent air circulation from your case fans if you don’t upgrade it, but properly ventilated, the stock cooler can keep it cool while running at the 4.2 GHz max clock for a reasonable amount of time.

As we move closer to the launch of AMD’s Zen 4 processors, the price of the Zen 3 processors (which includes the 5600X and 5600G) has dropped to about the same price point as the Zen 2s. The differences aren’t super pronounced; you’ll typically be looking at a difference of about 10% for most benchmarks, but since they have the same price and availability, there’s really no reason to not get the newer model.

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9. Intel Core i5-11500

Architecture: Rocket Lake | Socket: LGA 1200 | Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Base Frequency: 2.7 GHz | Max Boost Frequency: 4.6 GHz | TDP: 65 W

Intel Core i5-11500REASONS TO BUY

  • Great budget processor for gaming
  • Good on thermal and power efficiency at base clock rates
  • (Theoretically) More budget-friendly than other 6-cores in this generation
  • Included stock cooler
  • Integrated graphics chip
  • Still a great single-core performance


  • Current shortages wipe out any savings you’d get over better CPUs
  • Not great for sustained, high-demand usage
  • Locked for overclocking
  • Outperformed by many CPUs in the same price range

Our Rating:   9.1/10

The aim of the i5 500 models has consistently been to use the increases in efficiency of the new generation of chips to drive the price down. The difference in MSRP between the 11500 and 12500 is only $10.

Ironically, the reputation of these chips as an efficient budget option has caused them to be hit hard by the current chip shortage and driven the price in most outlets up by substantial margins. The i5-11500 is currently going for about $250 in most outlets, which is lower than the i5-12500 but doesn’t quite live up to the promise of an efficient budget chip when many of the performance-focused CPUs on this list are going for a similar price.

Without the rock bottom price to distinguish it, there’s not much that makes the i5-11500 special. It’s a slightly stripped-down version of the i5-11600K, which is to say it’s a six-core, twelve-thread processor that’s going to deliver an amount of power that’s not exactly exciting, but adequate for gaming, streaming, and photo-editing, and even some light video work.

Now, there’s a wider range between the base and max clock rate than what you’d get from a lot of the rest of the 11th generation. The base sits at a very low 2.7 GHz, but the boost is all the way up to 4.6 GHz. The low base clock rate can be good for energy efficiency and not driving up the internal temperature of your PC as much as some other Intel chips, but AMD still delivers better on that front and has better base clock rates.

On the other hand, the 4.6 GHz boost will handle demanding tasks, but if you need your CPU running at a consistently higher rate, you’ll get better performance out of the 11600K, or even the 10600K in some cases. This is also one of the only locked processors on this list, which might not be a big deal for a lot of users, but can often be the only saving grace of a CPU like this.

Lastly, the i5-11500 ships with a low-profile stock cooler, always a plus for a CPU you’re going to plug into a budget build, but if you’re going to be running a lot of CPU-intensive tasks, you’ll definitely hear it struggling to keep up.

Between the two, the 12500 is still a much better buy, as this is one of the weakest 11th gen chip you can get. It’s still available for under $300 but current shortages are keeping it from doing what it’s meant to do, and so there’s not really any point to getting it instead of the i5-12500, i5-11600K, or the Ryzen 5600X.

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10. Intel Core i7 9700KF

Architecture: Coffee Lake | Socket: LGA 1151 | Cores: 8 | Threads: 8 | Base Frequency: 3.6 GHz | Max Boost Frequency: 4.9 GHz | TDP: 95 W

Intel Core i7-9700KFREASONS TO BUY

  • Excellent performance for gaming
  • Powerful 8-core processor
  • High clock rate
  • Unlocked for overclocking


  • Fewer compatible motherboards in stock
  • No hyperthreading
  • PCIe 3.0 connectivity
  • No support for DDR5
  • Out-dated technology
  • Poor multi-core performance
  • Doesn’t ship with a cooler
  • Power-hungry

Our Rating:   8.8/10

The i7 9700KF is going to be basically the last resort for someone looking to spend the smallest amount of money possible on an 8-core processor. Getting anything with 8 cores for less than $300 is an accomplishment so it deserves a spot on this list, but whether it’s the right processor for you is going to be highly contextual.

A CPU with a high core count like the i7 9700KF is going to be good for demanding but straightforward tasks. It will be a good fit for users who do a lot of rendering or compiling. But, since Intel didn’t start using Hyperthreading on all CPUs until the 10th generation, this is going to not be nearly as good for tasks that are both demanding and complex.

There’s only one thread per core, which means the CPU can’t have as many commands ready at once and will be slower for multitasking or the parallel processes involved with streaming, for example. Even if you are mostly performing tasks where the multiple threads aren’t going to be as critical, you’ll still notice the difference between an 8 core/8 thread processor like the i7-9700KF and an 8 core/16 thread like the i7-10700KF.

If you do go with this CPU and do a lot of work on straightforward, demanding tasks like the ones mentioned, then the high boosted clock rate of 4.9 GHz and additional overclocking capacity is going to be a lot faster than any of the slower six-core processors.

There is no cooler included with this bundle, which might have been nice, but isn’t as big of a deal as it would be with a four or six core processor with a lower clock rate. Anyone who is going to consider this a worthwhile processor is going to be putting a lot of strain on it and will want more powerful cooling than you’d get from a stock cooler.

Compatibility-wise, Intel switched socket types between the 9th and 10th generation, and the new 12th gen processors use yet another socket, so with this processor you’re three generations back on CPUs and two generations back on motherboard compatibility. That can make it hard to find a suitable motherboard, and they’re going to be in shorter and shorter supply as the year progresses.

All in all, there’s not a very wide audience for the i7-9700KF at this point. Your average gamer is going to get way more functionality out of a hyperthreaded six-core CPU. Plus, the fact that the 10th-gen equivalent, the i7-10700F has Hyperthreading, and therefore offers 16 threads instead of just 8 for a difference of only $20-30 in most cases.

If you need an 8-core processor and every penny counts, this isn’t a bad choice, but you could also wait for the 10th-gen models to go on sale, which is happening more frequently with the launch of the 12th gen CPUs.

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What Should I Look for When Buying a CPU?

When you are considering building a PC or replacing a part in a PC as important as the CPU, the task can be daunting.

The biggest challenge is information overload and you can run into paralysis by analysis as easy as breathing. It can also be very daunting because you may make a decision based on a firm price point when the next CPU past your budget offers tools that can save you hundreds of hours in productivity time over the life of the processor.

The first thing you should identify is what your exact use case is for the processor.

This is difficult because it’s very easy to go buy a CPU for the purpose of editing videos and not take into consideration that you will be listening to music on the machine, as well as sometimes play games, maybe sometimes use the PC for school, sometimes for work. So identify first, if you had the perfect PC what is everything you want to do with it. Then identify the minimum that the PC needs to do well.

After you decide what it needs to do, then begin planning your budget. If you are building a new computer from the ground up, that is a wholly different budget than upgrading an existing PC. Once you really narrow down your budget, and you have all the capabilities needed and wanted from the processor, the fun begins.

You need to look at if this is going to be a one-time purchase, or is this going to be something you plan to upgrade every year, every 5 years? This makes a difference in choosing AMD versus Intel, because AMD tends to have fewer socket changes of late, meaning I can keep the same motherboard and upgrade to the newer processors with less cost.

Once you have identified your upgrade plans for the future, you need to start looking at benchmarks. Narrow down your processors to those that will complete the tasks you need, and at the price you want.

At this time, start plugging these processors into a web search and see how fast they perform compared to each other. Find out if they multi-task well if that is needed. Begin looking at core counts and multi-threading.

If you are going to have an extreme multitasking workload with video editing, also gaming, and productivity tools all at the same time, you are going to go for the highest amount of cores you can afford, and make sure they are multi-threaded for that extra quantity of things you can be doing at the same time.

The next thing I start reviewing is the presence of onboard video. Many higher end processors do not have onboard video, meaning that you can’t even turn the computer on without an additional video card. I would want to know what upgrade options I have with any purchase, so I am not buying the end of a series that can’t be upgraded easily if you need more power in the future.

One of the last concerns I look at is heat generation. This is very relative to the TDP (Thermal Design Power) of the processor. If the processor has a high TDP, this may cause me not to select it, if I am using a smaller case, or if I can’t afford an additional cooling solution.

PCIe 4.0 is becoming more of a looming concern for high-end computing systems because in the upcoming months we will see a new series of graphics cards being released.

If you are the professional running multiple graphics cards, the use of 2 graphics cards on most processors under $1000, you will run them in x8 by x8 configuration. Already the Nvidia 2080ti graphics cards are exceeding the bandwidth for this configuration on PCIe 3.0 systems. Any improvements to future graphics cards will be a limiting factor, where the PCIe 4.0 will have no problems handling this.

If you can identify a good budget, upgrade plans, needed usage and wanted usage, single-core speed, multi-core speed as well as the heat generation and answer the PCIe 4.0 question and its future-proofing, the processor will almost pick itself as to what is the best processor for you.

Don’t waste your time asking other people about this, it would be like asking your friend what type of tires to purchase while you are driving a truck and he is driving a motorcycle. You will find so much bias with people about brand loyalty that it can confuse the facts, and may edge you one way or the other based on something that is completely irrelevant to you.

If you spend a little time in your research you can potentially cut hundreds of hours of waiting on your computer over the next few years. There is nothing worse than spending a lot of time and effort building a computer and turning it on to be deflated by its performance.

Do a little research and it will save you a lot of headaches, not only for the immediate purchase but for the hours and years you will use the CPU in the future.

About Richard Gamin 201 Articles
My name's Richard and over the years, I have personally built many PCs for myself and my friends. I love gaming, programming, graphics designing and basically anything that has to do with computers and technology. If you ever need a hand with anything, feel free to contact me and I will be more than happy to help you out.

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