Best CPU Under $300 of 2020 – Top 6 Mid-Range Processors Reviewed

Best CPU 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.

I will walk through some pros and cons of some of the best CPUs under $300 of 2020. I like to say those processors between $200-$300 are really entry level pro processors, so this information will be very helpful to you.


If you are looking for a lower price point processor, make sure to have a look at my other articles titled: Best CPUs Under $200 and Best CPUs under $100.

Best CPU Under $300 of 2020 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 respective row.

Product

Image

Rating

1. AMD Ryzen 7 3700X

9.9

2. Intel Core i7-9700F

9.7

3. AMD Ryzen 7 2700X

9.6

4. AMD Ryzen 5 3600XT

9.5

5. Intel Core i7 6700K

9.1

6. Intel Core i5 7500

8.9


1. AMD Ryzen 7 3700X

Architecture: Zen 2 | Socket: AM4 | Cores: 8 | Threads: 16 | Base Frequency:  3.6 GHz | Max Boost Frequency: 4.4 GHz | TDP: 65W

AMD Ryzen 7 3700XBEST USES 

  • Advanced office apps
  • Gaming
  • Video production
  • Video editing
  • 3D animation and rendering

Our Rating:   9.9/10

The Ryzen 7 3700X is an 8 core 16 thread processor with a base clock speed of 3.6 GHz and a boost speed of up to 4.4 GHz. It supports 128 GB of 3200 MHz DDR4 memory out of the box. It is part of the 3rd generation of the Ryzen lineup built on the 7 nanometer Zen 2 architecture.

When you compare the Ryzen 7 3700X to others on this list, this processor will stand out as the multi-tasking champ.

In discussing octa-core speeds in many benchmarks, octa-core no longer is a sufficient measurement to understand the capabilities of this processor, instead we turn to looking at user benchmarks of 64 core speeds to understand when the 3700X really shines.

When looking at the single core speed, the 3700X goes toe to toe with the Intel i7-9700F at a score of 135 points when averaging user benchmarks.

When you review the 64 Core speed scores by user benchmarks, tick the 3700X in at 1,408 points! When measuring this against a non-multithreaded 8 core processors such as the i7-9700F, this is almost 50% faster on heavy multithreaded workloads.


If you are a professional content creator or artist, this is the lowest cost CPU to be able to handle the rigors of multi-threaded abuse that you are likely to put it through in this line of work.

While the 3700X shows great strength in multi-tasking, the single core performance is as strong a score as you will see in the under $300 price range. With this combination, it will do as well as a gaming machine as a productivity one.

If you are a gamer who also streams, this processor is a wonderful tool being able to do both at the same time without missing a beat.

With the Gen 3 AMD architecture, it is compatible with PCIe 4.0. For those who don’t know, PCIe 4.0 carries information to and from components of your PC to the CPU. PCIe 4.0 carries twice as much information as PCIe 3.0 which is a significant advantage of Zen 2 processors over any other processors made today.

This is more of a future-proofing concern today, as many parts manufacturers have not started building PCIe 4.0 compatible parts. However, with the advent of graphics cards that are potentially releasing this year, PCIe 3.0 may reach its limits in many production setups using multiple GPUs.

Currently the highest performance graphics card on the market (2080ti) passes too much bandwidth for the PCIe 3.0 on an 8x configuration. In short, the PCIe 4.0 may be very significant upgrade in coming months.

All things considered, if you’re looking for the best CPU you can get your hands on for under $300, the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X is your best bet.

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2. Intel Core i7-9700F

Architecture: Coffee Lake | Socket: LGA 1151 | Cores: 8 | Threads: 8 | Base Frequency:  3.0 GHz | Max Boost Frequency: 4.7 GHz | TDP: 65W

Intel Core i7-9700FBEST USES 

  • Advanced office apps
  • Gaming
  • Video production
  • Video editing
  • 3D animation and rendering

Our Rating:   9.7/10

The Intel Core i7-9700f is an 8 core 8 thread offering from with a 3.0 GHz base clock with a boost clock of up to 4.7 GHz. The i7-9700f is part of the Coffee Lake generation meaning that it will slot into an LGA 1151 socket with the Intel 300 series chipset.

The sub $300 budget is where the first Intel i7 processors are becoming available, whereas the sub $200 Intel processors are owned by the i5s.

What do the i7’s bring to the table?

Generally speaking, look out for more cores and faster processors as these are the beginning of Intel’s premium series of consumer and prosumer grade processors.

The i7-9700f does not include onboard graphics, which becomes more commonplace in the enthusiast grade processors, assuming you will already own, or be in the market for a dedicated graphics card.


The enthusiast grade PCs and CPUs are generally used by people who are doing heavy graphics intensive applications, such as video editing and 3d video creation as well as gaming.

The i7-9700f comes in with a very nice single core speed of 135 points as measured by users benchmarking their builds and has a very respectable octa-core benchmark scoring 972 points (64 core score is 968 points).

With 8 cores of fast performance, this is a great start for those enthusiast vloggers, YouTubers and 3d animation artists who are spending hours a day rendering and editing videos. If you are a gamer, you will be very happy with the single and multi-core experience as well.

While the i7-9700f supports 128 GB of DDR4-2666 MHz of memory, this memory is able to be overclocked much higher with a little bit of overclocking knowledge.

If you are planning to really punish this processor, you may consider getting an aftermarket cooling solution to help keep those temps down as the stock cooling fan that comes with the processor is small.

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3. AMD Ryzen 7 2700X

Architecture: Zen+ | Socket: AM4 | Cores: 8 | Threads: 16 | Base Frequency:  3.7 GHz | Max Boost Frequency: 4.3 GHz | TDP: 105W

AMD Ryzen 7 2700XBEST USES 

  • Advanced office apps
  • Gaming
  • Video production
  • Video editing
  • 3D animation and rendering

Our Rating:   9.6/10

The Ryzen 7 2700X is an 8 core 16 thread processor boasting a 3.7 GHz base clock and a 4.3 GHz boost clock. The 2700X is the previous model Ryzen of this series replaced by the Ryzen 7 3700X.

The 2700X is built on the Zen+ architecture which is only capable of the PCIe 3.0 architecture. The single core speed of the 2700X comes in at 118 points as measured by users average benchmark score, but again with the high core count, it does a very nice job with 64 core speeds at 1259 points on the same user average benchmarks.

Like the other Zen+ processors, this is on the AM4 socket but optimized for the 400 series AMD chipsets, such as the B450 and X470. As with most Ryzen products, the motherboard chipset is not as big of a challenge as with intel due to AMD’s backwards compatibility.


Matching the most current processor with the most current motherboard, allows for more features. If you use the backwards compatible motherboards with newer processors or vice versa, you may not enjoy all the new benefits released each year, but it is still possible to be used, unlike Intel changing models.

With the very nice core count paired with multi-threading, this PC will run away with mostly anything that you can throw at it. It will absolutely run heavy professional content creator workloads without too much effort.

The only reason I recommended the 3700X and not the 2700X for professionals, is that it is a minimal upgrade cost to get the newest generation processor. The wraith cooler that accompanies the 2700X is perfectly adequate to run the stock settings you can add additional after market cooling if you intend to overclock it to its highest levels.

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4. AMD Ryzen 5 3600XT

Architecture: Zen 2 | Socket: AM4 | Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Base Frequency:  3.8 GHz | Max Boost Frequency: 4.5 GHz | TDP: 95W

AMD Ryzen 5 3600XTBEST USES 

  • Advanced office apps
  • Gaming
  • Video production
  • Video editing
  • 3D animation and rendering

Our Rating:   9.5/10

The AMD Ryzen 5 3600XT is a 6 core 12 thread processor. It has a base clock of 3.8 MHz with a turbo boost of up to 4.5 MHz.

The XT moniker identifies this Ryzen as built on a refreshed Zen 2 architecture. This is not a new or different architecture to the 3700X for instance, but it is an optimized version of the same processor build. Why did AMD do this?

This is a small improvement from the Ryzen 3600X reviewed in the article titled “Best CPUs under $200 of 2020”.

What improved?


The higher frequency allowed for a fast single and multicore performance with benchmark improvements ranging between 2-4% over the 3600X. The single core average user benchmarks come in at 141 points as one of the fastest single core speeds in all CPUs under $300.

If you are a gamer or a budget driven overclocker, this may be important to you to squeeze every bit of performance out of your dollar spent. If you are more price conscious and the 6 core processor meets your needs, you may want to have a look at the 3600X.

This is another processor, as with most higher end units, that does not have built in graphics and needs a discrete graphics card to be able to function. Like all Ryzen products to date this is built for the AM4 socket, but requires a 570 or 550 series motherboard to be able to take advantage of the PCIe generation 4.0. Out of the box, the processor will support 128 GB of 3200 MHz DDR4 memory.

Again, this is not for the average every day consumer, or even professional PC users, the primary reason to purchase this processor is to attain extreme benchmarks on a budget.

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5. Intel Core i7 6700K

Architecture: Skylake | Socket: LGA 1151 | Cores: 4 | Threads: 8 | Base Frequency:  4.0 GHz | Max Boost Frequency: 4.2 GHz | TDP: 91W

Intel Core i7 6700KBEST USES 

  • Advanced office apps
  • Gaming
  • Video production
  • Video editing

Our Rating:   9.1/10

The Intel Core i7-6700K is a 4 core 8 thread processor with a base clock of 4.0 GHz and a turbo clock of 4.2 GHz. It represents the oldest generation on the list as part of the Skylake series of processor family built on the LGA 1151 socket, compatible with 100 series Intel chipsets.

With the age of this processor, it still supports DDR3L-1333/1600 MHz RAM as well as DDR4-1866/2133 MHz.

The i7-6700K delivers very strong single core performance coming in at 124 points in average user benchmarks. Despite being somewhat dated, it still offers really strong performance for those who may have a budget and a simple replacement for other 100 series Intel chips.

Note that in this price range, the 6700K is outclassed by almost every processor on this list in the ability to handle multi-faceted workloads or working with multi-threaded applications.

If you decide to purchase this CPU, I would caution you to verify the source of the purchase since this processor is discontinued. There are many reports of people getting used processors when expecting a new one in the box.

When I look at the cost of this processor and the capabilities of both Intel and AMD processors on this list, I have a hard time recommending this processor unless it is a very specific use case.

The “K” series of processors are Intel’s enthusiast labeled CPU due to it’s binning and ability to handle overclocking. Frankly, this processor was one of the top offerings of its day and still effective today, it is just simply outclassed by more advanced technologies.

If you are in the market for a direct replacement of an older 6700 or 6700K processor and you want a simple switch, there is nothing wrong with that. Or if you have another 6th generation Intel CPU and you don’t want to go through potential mismatching chipsets, or upgrading the BIOS, I doubt you will be disappointed in those cases. But if you are buying a motherboard and other parts for your rig, you are best off looking at the other options here.

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6. Intel Core i5 7500

Architecture: Kaby Lake| Socket: LGA 1151 | Cores: 4 | Threads: 4 | Base Frequency:  3.4 GHz | Max Boost Frequency: 3.8 GHz | TDP: 65W

Intel Core i5 7500BEST USES 

  • Advanced office apps
  • Gaming

Our Rating:   8.9/10

The Intel Core i5-7500 is a 4 core 4 thread processor with a 3.4 GHz base speed and a 3.8 GHz boost speed. The i5-7500 is of the Kaby Lake family and came into the marketplace in the first quarter of 2017.

The single core clock speed benchmarked by users averaging 106 points, which puts this CPU in the lower spectrum of overall speed on the sub $300 list. The 4 non-threaded cores will be challenged when used for multi-tasking, but the i5-7500 has long been a favorite amongst gamers running legacy single core-optimized games.

In 2020, this processor will be heavily taxed and begin bottlenecking many of today’s graphics cards. In 2017, this was a go to gaming processor, but in 2020, not as much. Kaby Lake designates the processor as a 7th generation Intel processor.

Just like the 6700k on this list (which is a 6th generation Intel processor) the i5-7500 supports both DDR3L and DDR4 memory. The max supported speed on DDR4 is 2400 MHz.

In today’s marketplace, this processor should be relegated to replacement applications, especially those builds that need to work with DDR3 memory.

Why should this be relegated to the replacement category?

Simple, the speeds and multi-tasking capabilities are just improved so much because technology has advanced so far. This is not a poor quality processor, and is a very high rated purchase for those buying at that time. Besides that, unlike current CPUs, the i5-7500 only supports up to 64GB or memory, which is however, far more than is needed for almost any workload.

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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 you 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 less 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 a 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 this 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 it’s 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 headache, not only for the immediate purchase, but for the hours and years you will use the CPU in the future.

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About Richard Gamin 77 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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