Today's Core i3 processors pack an impressive quad-core punch, and even the previous-gen Core i3 chips are an incredible value given their pricing. The price-performance ratio is even sweeter for both generations today, as the previous-gen graphics-less Core i3-10100F is retailing for a mere $68 for Prime day (opens in new tab), an all-time low. The graphics-equipped Core i3-10100 is also at all-time low pricing of $95 (opens in new tab), which is a steal for a capable quad-core that doesn't have any meaningful competition at its price point.
Stepping up to newer fare, Intel's current-gen Core i3-12100 is now at $129 (opens in new tab), a significant saving from the previous $149 pricing, while the graphics-less Core i3-12100F is listed for $106 (opens in new tab), a smaller savings of $5 from its previous $111 pricing. These 12th-gen chips have all of the modern amenities of the Alder Lake generation, including support for DDR5 memory and the PCIe 5.0 interface, though the former doesn't make too much sense for a chip of this class. However, you can opt to use DDR4 instead to save some cash.
The Core i3-10100/F models feature four cores and eight threads paired with a 3.6 GHz base and 4.3 GHz boost clock rate. The 65W chips have 6MB of L3 cache, support DDR4-2666 memory and PCIe 3.0, and are fabbed on the 14nm process. The non-F model comes with the UHD 630 graphics engine that runs up to 1.1 GHz, but you shouldn't expect to game with it. Instead, you can save some cash if you have a discrete GPU and opt for the F-series model to score a pretty impressive quad-core for $68. You'll just need to make sure that you select the right series of motherboards for these chips, as the 10100 is a previous-gen offering.
The more modern Core i3-12100 series also delivers a shockingly-strong price/performance ratio. The markdowns here aren't as big, but these are still great deals on lower-end chips that can sometimes be hard to find. The Alder Lake Core i3s support DDR4-3200 or up to DDR5-4800 memory. PCIe support will vary by motherboard, but they expose up to 16 lanes of PCIe 5.0 and an additional four lanes of PCIe 4.0 from the chip for M.2 storage. That's excellent connectivity at this price point.
Intel Core i3-10100F: was $179, now $68 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
This previous-gen 65W quad-core chip has eight threads paired with a 3.6 base and a 4.3 GHz boost clock. The 14nm chip has 6MB of L3 cache, supports DDR4-2666 memory and PCIe 3.0, and comes without an integrated GPU.
Intel Core i3-12100F: was $111, now $106 at Newegg (opens in new tab)
This current-gen 58/89W quad-core chip has eight threads and a 3.3 base and 4.3 GHz boost clock. The chip supports DDR4-3200, DDR5-4800, PCIe 5.0, has 12MB of L3 cache, but lacks an integrated GPU.
Intel Core i3-10100: was $122, now $95 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
This previous-gen 65W quad-core chip has eight threads paired with a 3.6 GHz base and a 4.3 GHz boost clock. The 14nm chip has 6MB of L3 cache, supports DDR4-2666 memory and PCIe 3.0, and comes without the UHD Graphics 630 integrated GPU.
Intel Core i3-12100: was $149, now $129 at Newegg (opens in new tab)
This current-gen 58/89W quad-core chip has eight threads and a 3.3 base and 4.3 GHz boost clock. The chip supports DDR4-3200, DDR5-4800, PCIe 5.0, has 12MB of L3 cache, and has the UHD Graphics 730 integrated GPU.
The Core i3-12100 is our current pick for the best cheap CPU for gaming. Intel's Alder Lake drops into Socket 1700 motherboards from the 600-series, including Z690, H670, B660, and H610. The Core i3-12100 has a 60W PBP (base) and 89W MTP (peak) power rating. The chip clocks in with a 3.3 GHz base and boosts up to 4.3 GHz. It also comes with 12 MB of L3 cache. Again, you can discard the UHD Graphics 730 engine and save some cash if you select the 12100F model. You can read far more about this chip in our Intel Core i3-12100: The Little Gaming Giant review, but here's the rub:
The Core i3-12100 is obviously the higher-performance variant of the two chips, delivering incredible gaming performance at its price point. However, remember that the Core i3's primary competitor in the charts, the AMD Ryzen 3 3300X, hasn't been available for more than a year. As such, the Core i3-10100 reigns uncontested at its normal price point, and that value is magnified with the Prime Day pricing.
And let's keep things in perspective — getting over an average of 105 fps in gaming from the Core i3-10100 is incredible for $65. And that's when the chip is paired with the mighty RTX 3090, which actually makes no sense for a chip at this price point. In other words, the Core i3-10100 can easily push any GPU you typically find in a lower-end machine to the fullest.