Best Cheap CPUs of 2019, Tested and Ranked

There's never been a better time to buy a cheap CPU. AMD's latest processors have shaken up the low-cost landscape, so now you can find quad-core models with gaming-capable integrated graphics for a mere $100, and the Athlon lineup now dips as low as $55. Intel's response has brought Hyper-threading to its low-end Pentium processors and two additional cores to the Core i3 line, which greatly improves performance for its budget chips even though they're still limited in terms of their graphics.

But supply issues and the resulting price hikes have made Intel's Pentium chips a tougher sell. And AMD has recently taken advantage of this by introducing the Athlon 200GE, 220GE, and 240GE. All three of these chips are surprisingly capable at gaming even without a dedicated card. For more details about how the 200GE stacks up against Intel's comparable budget chip, see our feature AMD Athlon 200GE vs. Intel Pentium Gold G5400: Cheap CPU Showdown.

Quick Shopping Tips

When choosing a CPU, consider the following:

  • You can't lose with AMD or Intel: Both companies offer good budget chips, and overall CPU performance between comparative parts is closer than it’s been in years. That said, if you’re primarily interested in gaming, Intel’s chips will generally deliver better performance when paired with a graphics card, while AMD’s Raven Ridge models (like the AMD Ryzen 3 2200G) do a better job of delivering gaming-capable performance at modest settings and resolutions without the need for a graphics card.
  • Clock speed is more important than core count: Higher clock speeds translate to snappier performance in simple, common tasks such as gaming, while extra cores will help you get through time-consuming workloads faster.
  • Get the latest gen: You won't save much money in the long run by going with an older CPU
  • Budget for a full system: Don't pair a strong CPU with weak storage, RAM and/or graphics.
  • Overclocking isn’t for everyone, but the ability to squeeze more performance out of a budget offering is enticing. Intel doesn't have overclocking-capable processors for the sub-$125 market, but AMD's processors allow for tuning, and in most cases the bundled AMD cooler is sufficient for the task. Automated overclocking features in most motherboards make the process simple and easy, so even the least tech-savvy users can enjoy the benefits.

For even more information, check out our CPU Buyer’s Guide, where we discuss how much you should spend for what you’re looking to do, and when cores matter more than high clock speeds.

Best Cheap CPUs

1. Intel Core i3-8100

Best $100-$130 CPU Pick

Rating: 4/5

Architecture: Coffee Lake | Cores/Threads: 4/4 | Base/Boost Frequency: 3.6/~ GHz | TDP: 65W | iGPU: UHD Graphics 630 | Graphics Frequency: 350 Mhz / 1.1 GHz

Pros: Four physical cores • Good mix of gaming and application performance • Low price • Capable stock cooler

Cons: Locked multiplier • No B-series motherboards (yet) • No Hyper-Threading

The Coffee Lake Core i3-8100 is a quad-core processor with a 3.6 GHz frequency. Like all of Intel's Coffee Lake i3 lineup, the processor doesn't feature hyper-threading, so it only wields four threads. But the jump to four cores represents a significant performance upgrade over Intel's previous-gen dual-core models.

The Core i3-8100 comes armed with Intel's integrated UHD Graphics 630 engine while competing AMD models in this price range come without built-in graphics. That means you don't have to worry about splurging for a discrete video card if gaming isn't your top priority. Intel's integrated graphics aren't a great option for gaming, but the Core i3-8100's nimble performance in lightly-threaded tasks is a great pairing for lower-end graphics cards. The processor is also surprisingly powerful in productivity applications, which adds to the value.

Read Review: Meet Intel's Core i3-8100

Alternate $100-130 Pick:

MORE: Best Gaming CPUs

MORE: Best CPUs for Desktop Applications

2. AMD Ryzen 3 2200G

Best $85-$100 Budget Pick

Rating: 4/5

Architecture: Zen | Cores/Threads: 4/4 | Base/Boost Frequency: 3.5/3.7 GHz | TDP: 65W | iGPU: Radeon Vega 8 | Graphics Frequency: 1.1 GHz

Pros: Price • Higher frequencies • Solid 720p gaming performance • Unlocked multipliers

Cons: Eight lanes for PCIe slots • Need to ensure motherboard BIOS compatibility • Requires a better heatsink for overclocking

When money is tight, being able to game without a graphics card can lead to serious savings. And with RAM prices continuing to soar, those working with small budgets need to tighten the strings anywhere they can.

That makes the four-core, four-thread Ryzen 3 2200G particularly appealing for budget gaming builders and upgraders. The $99 chip delivers solid 720p performance thanks to its Vega on-chip graphics, decent CPU muscle for mainstream tasks, and can be dropped into an existing inexpensive 300-series motherboard (after a requisite BIOS update), to form the basis of a surprisingly capable low-cost PC. It’s also unlocked, so with proper cooling you can tune the graphics or the CPU to best suit your needs.

Read Review: AMD Ryzen 3 2200G Review: Vega Barrels Into Budget Gaming

Alternate $85-100 Pick:

MORE: AMD Processor Price List

MORE: Intel CPU Price List

3. AMD Athlon 240GE

Best $60-$85 Entry-Level Pick

Rating: 4.5/5 (Editor's Choice)

Architecture: Zen | Cores/Threads: 2/4 | Base/Boost Frequency: 3.5/ ~ GHz | TDP: 35W | iGPU: Radeon Vega 3 | Graphics Frequency: 1 GHz

Pros: Attractive price • Includes a bundled thermal solution • Overclocking is possible, though officially unsupported • All models provide similar performance after overclocking

Cons: Graphics engine and memory can't be overclocked • Weak single-threaded performance

AMD's Athlon 240GE serves as the flagship of the company's budget lineup, but it still packs a convincing punch for low-end gaming systems. The integrated Radeon Vega 3 graphics facilitate playable frame rates at lower resolutions and quality settings, but the 3.5 GHz base clock is the only differentiating feature between the Athlon 240GE and its counterparts. Due to the unofficial support for overclocking, that means you can tune the Athlon 200GE to the same top performance as the more expensive chips, but at a $20 price savings.

If overclocking isn't in your plans, the Athlon 240GE is the best budget chip in its price band. Intel's competing Pentium lineup lacks the graphical horsepower to be serious contenders for the extreme low-end of the budget gaming market, but they are attractive if gaming isn't your primary goal. That is, of course, if you can find them.

Read Review: AMD Athlon 240GE and 220GE Review: Retaking the Low Ground

MORE: Intel and AMD Processor Hierarchy

MORE: All CPU Content

4. AMD Athlon 200GE

Best Under $60 Entry-Level Pick

Rating: 3.5/5

Architecture: Zen | Cores/Threads: 2/4 | Base/Boost Frequency: 3.2/ ~ GHz | TDP: 35W | iGPU: Radeon Vega 3 | Graphics Frequency: 1.1 GHz

Pros: Attractive price • Includes a bundled thermal solution • Overclocking is possible, though officially unsupported • All models provide similar performance after overclocking

Cons: Graphics engine and memory can't be overclocked • Weak single-threaded performance

AMD’s sub-$60 Zen-based Athlon is a good all-around value, thanks to its four computing threads and Vega 3 graphics that are capable of light gaming at lower resolutions and settings. Lightly threaded performance isn’t great, but when you’re spending this little on a CPU, you should expect compromises somewhere. And while it isn’t officially supported by AMD, if you have a compatible motherboard, this chip can be overclocked to eke out some extra CPU performance.

If your build budget can swing it, the $100 Ryzen 3 2200G is a much better chip with more cores and beefier graphics. But if you can only spend $60 or less on your CPU and you aren’t adding a dedicated graphics card, the Athlon 200GE is tough to beat. Intel’s competing Pentiums, the Gold G5400 and G4560, deliver better CPU performance. But they have higher MSRPs, and production shortages have made them hard to find unless you’re willing to spend close to $100 or more, making them incomparable in terms of budget CPUs.

Read Review: AMD Athlon 200GE Review: Zen and Vega Get Cheap

Integrated Graphics Gaming Performance

You won't find many game titles that will play well at the popular 1920X1080 resolution on the sub-$80 chips, but there are a few. As we can see, AMD's $100 Ryzen 3 2200G is the undisputed king of the hill for 1080p gaming on integrated graphics, but the Athlon chips also push out playable frame rates in a few titles (if you're willing to tolerate lower graphics quality settings).

Switching over to 1280x720 finds the Athlon processors providing up to 50 FPS at stock settings and experiencing a decent performance boost from overclocking. Remember, all of the Athlon chips will benefit equally from overclocking, meaning the Athlon 200GE and 220GE will achieve the same level of performance as the overclocked Athlon 240GE. That's an amazing value for these low-cost chips. It should go without saying, but the Ryzen 3 2200G's Radeon Vega 8 graphics engine blows through the 1280x720 tests with ease.

Intel's Pentium lineup, and even the Core i3-8100 for that matter, struggle tremendously under the weight of these titles. Gaming at 1920x1080 is a painful experience: You won't find many games that are playable on Pentium processors at that resolution. Switching over to the 1280x720 resolution brings the Core i3-8100 and Pentium G5600 into acceptable territory, but those chips still can't match the Athlon's performance, not to mention the crazy good savings. Intel's Pentium G5400 is particularly disappointing, though, due to its pared-down UHD Graphics 610 engine. We wouldn't recommend this processor for gaming on integrated graphics.

But it's hard to recommend Pentium processors at all right now. Intel is struggling with a shortage of 14nm production capacity, so these chips are extremely hard to find, and when you do find them, they are subject to severe price gouging.

Discrete GPU Gaming Performance

We focus primarily on integrated graphics gaming performance for ultra-budget chips, but these processors are also a great pairing with low-end discrete graphics cards. Below, we've tested the chips paired with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 2080 at the 1920x1080 resolution to remove any GPU limitations from our tests below. We tested with an Nvidia GeForce 1080 FE graphics card to remove graphics-imposed bottlenecks, but the difference between the processors will shrink with the cheaper graphics cards that are commonly found in budget builds. Provided the performance deltas are small, you can select less expensive models and enjoy nearly the same gaming experience with graphics cards on the lower-end of the GPU hierarchy.

Intel’s Coffee Lake Pentium models come with slight frequency improvements, a 3W increase in the TDP rating, and 4MB of L3 cache. These slight adjustments deliver a surprising boost to performance compared to the previous-gen Kaby Lake models. The Coffee Lake Pentium Gold G5600 even beats out the Kaby Lake Core i3-7100 in most of our gaming benchmarks, highlighting the impressive performance gains Intel made within a single generation.

The G5600 grapples with the Ryzen 3 2200G. The Ryzen 3 2200G is relatively simple to overclock with single-click options in the BIOS, and the bundled cooler provides enough headroom for all but the most extreme overclocking efforts. At stock settings, the 2200G trails the Intel Pentium Gold 5600, but the advantage of AMD’s unlocked multipliers is clear: At $99, the tuned Ryzen 3 2200G’s performance nearly matches the $117 Core i3-8100.

The Ryzen 3 2200G also comes with powerful integrated graphics that provide surprisingly strong gaming performance at lower resolutions and quality settings. That’s a feat the Core i3-8100 simply cannot match. If you’re seeking the absolute best gaming performance (when paired with a dedicated card) regardless of price, the Core i3-8100 fits the bill. If you want the most bang for your buck or plan on gaming on integrated graphics, the Ryzen 3 2200G is the clear value winner.

Productivity Performance

The Core i3-8100’s solid mixture of frequency and IPC throughput delivered to our expectations. The agile processor took the lead in several of our lightly-threaded applications, like the Adobe Cloud suite, but it is also surprisingly powerful in threaded workloads. The Intel Core i3-8100 also offers superior performance in applications that use AVX instructions, like HandBrake, which is a great addition to its impressively well-balanced repertoire. Much like we observed in our gaming tests, the Core i3-8100 offers the best overall performance.

Even after overclocking, the AMD Ryzen 3 1300X isn’t competitive enough with the Core i3-8100 to justify its higher price tag, and the lack of integrated graphics also restricts its appeal.

The Ryzen 3 2200G continues to impress with its lower price point and competitive performance, not to mention the integrated Vega graphics, making it the obvious choice for budget builders who are willing to spend a little extra time on tuning.

The Pentium lineup excels in most applications, but the Athlon processors also offer an impressive level of performance. It's also noteworthy that Intel's Pentium processors don't accelerate AVX instructions, a staple in many types of rendering applications, while the Athlon processors fully support the densely-packed instructions. Intel's chips lead in lightly-threaded applications, like web browsers, but the competing AMD chips also offer more than suitable performance in those workloads.

MORE: All CPU Content

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  • bennie101
    I dont see how the Intel I3 8100 fits in 130 bucks or less???? Always Intel with toms hardware kinda bias at least now AMD gets some credit unlike before ....
  • feelinfroggy777
    119964 said:
    I dont see how the Intel I3 8100 fits in 130 bucks or less???? Always Intel with toms hardware kinda bias at least now AMD gets some credit unlike before ....


    PCPartPicker part list: https://pcpartpicker.com/list/7yjc9W
    Price breakdown by merchant: https://pcpartpicker.com/list/7yjc9W/by_merchant/

    CPU: Intel - Core i3-8100 3.6 GHz Quad-Core Processor ($124.79 @ OutletPC)
    Total: $124.79
    Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
    Generated by PCPartPicker 2018-12-11 10:04 EST-0500
  • rgd1101
    119964 said:
    I dont see how the Intel I3 8100 fits in 130 bucks or less???? Always Intel with toms hardware kinda bias at least now AMD gets some credit unlike before ....


    the link was for cpu and dram.
  • salgado18
    You forgot to mention the upgrade paths:

    - 1151-1 (i3-7100) is a dead socket, the best upgrade is to a 4 core with HT CPU, which is too low nowadays;
    - 1151-2 (i3-8100) can get you up to 8/16 cores/threads, although prices are very high for those (and Intel doesn't lower them much with time);
    - AM4 can get you up to 8/16 cores/threads, but rumors suggest next year there will be 16/32 CPUs for this same socket, backwards compatible.

    Again, the age-old conclusion:
    - you want raw performance, go Intel;
    - you want value or efficient performance, go AMD;
    - you don't know what you want: go AMD :D
  • Math Geek
    i'm confused by this line under the $60-85 heading

    "AMD doesn't have any of its next-generation offerings in the sub-$85 segment (at least at the time of this writing), so Intel reigns largely uncontested."

    shouldn't that be the other way around? especially considering you then talk about the new athlon 200ge. seems like it should read

    "Intel doesn't have any of its next-generation offerings in the sub-$85 segment (at least at the time of this writing), so AMD reigns largely uncontested."
  • Kawi6rr
    Again I see another biased review from Tom's I guess that's why I stopped coming here regularly a few years back. Not sure why I bothered again?
  • feelinfroggy777
    1864409 said:
    Again I see another biased review from Tom's I guess that's why I stopped coming here regularly a few years back. Not sure why I bothered again?


    Exactly how is the review biased?

    Of the 3 product segment prices reviewed, AMD won 2 out of 3. If you look at the charts, the 8100 clearly beats AMD's offerings for the pricing bracket. In the other pricing brackets, AMD CPUs clearly win in performance and they were the recommended selections. So again, where is the bias?
  • lightofhonor
    2380071 said:
    1864409 said:
    Again I see another biased review from Tom's I guess that's why I stopped coming here regularly a few years back. Not sure why I bothered again?
    Exactly how is the review biased? Of the 3 product segment prices reviewed, AMD won 2 out of 3. If you look at the charts, the 8100 clearly beats AMD's offerings for the pricing bracket. In the other pricing brackets, AMD CPUs clearly win in performance and they were the recommended selections. So again, where is the bias?


    It's more that this "review" is the literary equivalent to shovel-ware. The text wasn't updated, none of the prices fit (at the link level at least), the comparisons are old (They have the AMD 1300X which has been replaced by the 2200G for $30 less), and they stuff their "review" just to include more links "you can save quite a bit by going with the faster Pentium Gold G5600 or the Ryzen 3 2200G. Or you can simply pick up the current-gen Core i3-8100 for the same price as the -7100."

    Just a lazy article designed to earn affiliate dollars, which is why they decided to link to the more expensive option. 8100 is $130 on Newegg, so let's send them to the more expensive Amazon. Amazon has a better price on the G5600 than Newegg? Obviously we send them to Newegg!
  • feelinfroggy777
    693577 said:
    2380071 said:
    1864409 said:
    Again I see another biased review from Tom's I guess that's why I stopped coming here regularly a few years back. Not sure why I bothered again?
    Exactly how is the review biased? Of the 3 product segment prices reviewed, AMD won 2 out of 3. If you look at the charts, the 8100 clearly beats AMD's offerings for the pricing bracket. In the other pricing brackets, AMD CPUs clearly win in performance and they were the recommended selections. So again, where is the bias?
    It's more that this "review" is the literary equivalent to shovel-ware. The text wasn't updated, none of the prices fit (at the link level at least), the comparisons are old (They have the AMD 1300X which has been replaced by the 2200G for $30 less), and they stuff their "review" just to include more links "you can save quite a bit by going with the faster Pentium Gold G5600 or the Ryzen 3 2200G. Or you can simply pick up the current-gen Core i3-8100 for the same price as the -7100." Just a lazy article designed to earn affiliate dollars, which is why they decided to link to the more expensive option. 8100 is $130 on Newegg, so let's send them to the more expensive Amazon. Amazon has a better price on the G5600 than Newegg? Obviously we send them to Newegg!


    If you want to attack the monetization ideology of the site then I agree completely. I find most of the links in their articles are wrong and the way the ads are pushed, particularly the auto play videos, have gotten pretty bad. I am not sure if they are just using old links for sales or if it is deliberate as all of these have been around for while apart from the Athlon. Either way, it does not bode well.

    But the complaints here are this AMD vs Intel nonsense. Both make great CPUs, but you always get people here that complain that Tom's is biased against AMD and I just get tired of it.
  • justin.m.beauvais
    Dear Author,

    Please re-read your article and correct as necessary. This thing is a bit of a mess. I realize that copy and paste saves time, but at least read it before you copy and paste.

    Why trust us - "We've tested hundreds of models, at both stock and overclock settings where applicable, so we can separate the best from the multi-core disappointments." - I don't see any FX chips on your listing, so you can probably drop that line.

    $100-$130 - "AMD's Ryzen 3 lineup is competitive and comes with unlocked ratio multipliers, so you can overclock at will, but the company’s processors in this price range come without integrated graphics." - This was true, until Raven Ridge.

    i3 description - "The Core i3-8100 comes armed with Intel's integrated UHD Graphics 630 engine while competing AMD models in this price range come without built-in graphics." - Again, this was true, until Raven Ridge.

    Side note of my own - The i3 8100 isn't just for lightly threaded workloads anymore... the thing is a quad core. Practically an i5 from previous generations. It is a very capable CPU.

    $60 - $85 Entry-Level Pick - Just rewrite the whole paragraph.


    You guys do good work, don't let minor mistakes sully that. A little attention to detail goes a long ways.
  • logainofhades
    A 1300x is a stupid buy, with the 2200g being available.
  • 1_rick
    "A 1300x is a stupid buy, with the 2200g being available."

    Exactly--same thread count and clock speeds, plus you get an integrated gpu that's better than Intel's. Plus, in spite of the comment about tuning it for overclocking, it barely counts. You should be able to go into the bios and change the speed to 3.9 and be done with it. Oh, and right now it's $40, not $30, cheaper on Newegg.

    While we're at it, the $180 price for the i3-8100 is a bundle including RAM--Amazon's price for the CPU alone is $129. But you'd probably be better off spending another $30-40 and getting a Ryzen 2200G, and get double the cores and threads, and get a significantly better iGPU (userbenchmark says Vega 11 is 159% faster than HD 630, obviously neither will match a discrete card.)
  • logainofhades
    The i3 8100 is a pure quad core, as is the 2200g.
  • s1mon7
    Minor correction - the G4560 is 3.5ghz, not 3.4ghz.

    As a side note, I can't believe at how long this chip has been in top recommendations for budget builds. Some people have had it for almost 2 years now. Can you imagine the value of having a $60 chip serving all the gaming and everyday computing needs so well for years? I think that's unprecedented, actually, and there are still only a few CPU-demanding AAA titles that it can't handle flawlessly at rock solid 60fps. Heck, 2 years later the same money gets you only 5-7% more performance. For comparison, if you invested in the 7700k on the same platform (and spent 6 times as much money) that cash would get you almost double that performance now.. and you'd probably get an itch to upgrade equally fast anyway. The G4560 seems to be the new 2500k of the low end.
  • Tom72468
    It always amazes me how websites just can't get prices, or links right. "CPUs (Under $130)"... i3 8100 priced at 234.32 and links to a CPU/Fan combo. Can't decide if stupid, or just lazy.
  • Math Geek
    In all the years of reading reviews like this and seeing all the nice graphs and charts, i have always been left wanting a touch more. when looking at say the first chart or 99% fps, i find myself looking back and forth at prices to judge what you pay for whatever increase in performance. cpu, gpu or even cooling performance i find myself scrolling back and forth and worse when the chart is 5 pages deep into the review and prices are listed on page 1. in the future i'd love an extra addition like this to the chart to make it 100% more useful right away. puts the results into perspective nicely. just an example, prices are whatever partpicker is showing right now.



    this is what i'm asking Santa for this year!!!
  • PsykoTenshi
    [plethora of comments pointing out oopsies]
    And one more thing! The price efficiency graphs shows Intel i3-7100 (and sometimes the 8100 instead) as costing 55$

    Pick yourself together Tom's hardware, please. You can do so much better than this joke of an article.
  • tim.hotze
    59887 said:
    A 1300x is a stupid buy, with the 2200g being available.


    Right? The "Quick Shopping Tips" at the top literally says "Get the latest gen: You won't save much money in the long run by going with an older CPU," and yet they recommend a previous-gen Ryzen.
  • tim.hotze
    The $130 price point seems really arbitrary, especially when you look at total build costs. A lot of budget systems are built with "here's what I can afford today, but I want to expand in the future."

    If that's the case, the smartest buy (IMO) would be to spend ~$160 on a Ryzen 5 2400G. In real-life performance, almost anything that's playable with a GTX 1050 is playable with the Ryzen's integrated Vega graphics, meaning your costs between CPU+GPU would be say, $260-$300 for an i3 8100 and a GTX 1050 vs. $160 for the Ryzen. Saving $100 is huge on a budget build, and at today's prices, could be the difference between going with 8GB RAM+256GB SSD and 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. The former will feel cramped and limiting fast, while the later is enough that you won't need to think about upgrading for quite a while.

    Plus, it means that when you have some cash and want to upgrade your system, you can buy an external GPU and not have to throw anything out of your system (or try to recoup part of your money on eBay). It's a great way to start off with a solid platform to build on.