Budget CPUs have garnered a significant reputation among PC enthusiasts, and for good reason. Their low price bracket, remarkable price-to-performance ratio, and formidable performance have allowed them to thrive in the PC market, even topping the sales of higher-end processors in some instances. That said, their sheer onslaught of CPUs available means finding one that meets your requirements can be challenging. My list of the Best Budget CPUs is here to help you with precisely that.
Last update on 2023-09-21
Other Components To Go With The i5-12600KF:
Best Budget CPUs
Here are my picks for the Best Budget CPUs In 2023.
- AMD Ryzen 5 5600
- Intel Core i5-12400F
- Intel Core i5-13400F
- AMD Ryzen 5 5600G
- Intel Core i5-12600KF
AMD Ryzen 5 5600
Best AMD Budget CPU
Socket: AMD AM4 | Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | L2 Cache: 3MB | Base Clock: 3.5 GHz | Boost Clock: Up to 4.4 GHz | TDP: 65W
While the debate between AM5 vs. AM4 is undoubtedly an interesting one, the AM4 chipset still seems to be thriving more than ever, courtesy of the legendary value provided by older 5000 series processors. The Ryzen 5 5600 sits within the same category of CPUs, boasting an incredible price-to-performance ratio that triumphs the majority of the budget chips in the market.
At its core, the Ryzen 5 5600 is a 6-core, 12-threaded chip with a modest base clock speed of 3.5 GHz. Based on the Zen 3 architecture, the Ryzen 5 5600 closely resembles the 5600x, with a few subtle changes inconspicuously added to reduce the price by a small margin. Of course, the price reduction is precisely why I have deemed it as the perfect budget AM4 CPU.
Naturally, the slight holdbacks do not detract from the actual performance of the Ryzen 5 5600. Packed with 32MB of L3 Cache and 2MB of L2 Cache, this rendition of the 5600 seems to closely match the Ryzen 5 5600x’s performance. On the other hand, the Ryzen 5 5600 can also go up to a boost clock speed of 4.4 GHz, which is relatively impressive for a budget chip.
Although the clock speeds have been dialed back compared to the 5600x, it maintains the same TDP of 65W, which was expected. Speaking of which, AMD has included a stock cooler with the Ryzen 5 5600, which is a firm departure from the latest 7000-series offerings from AMD.
Given that the Ryzen 5 5600 is compatible with the AM4 platform, anyone upgrading from older Ryzen processors, such as the Ryzen 5 3600, is bound to notice a substantial leap in performance. Combine that with its power-efficient operation, and you might not even need to upgrade your PSU when moving to the Ryzen 5 5600.
Since you’re building a budget AMD build, you might want to check Best CPU For RX 7600.
What We Liked
Lower TDP: With a TDP of 65W, the Ryzen 5 5600’s power consumption is definitely on the lower side.
Competitive Price tag: Despite being slightly older, the Ryzen 5 5600’s lower overall price tag allows it to hold its own against newer budget CPUs.
What We Disliked
No Integrated Graphics: Much like most other 5000 series CPUs, the Ryzen 5600 does not come with integrated graphics.
Might Not be Future Proof: AMD’s recent shift to the AM5 architecture does limit the upgrade path from Ryzen 5 5600, which can be a deal-breaker for some people. Furthermore, AM4 processors like the Ryzen 5 5600 are not compatible with DDR5 memory modules.
Who Is It For?
All in all, the Ryzen 5 5600 renders itself a capable chip for anyone looking to build a budget PC. Additionally, anyone upgrading from an older Ryzen processor will also be presented with remarkable performance gains.
What Makes It The Best AMD Budget CPU
The Ryzen 5 5600 is bundled with an attractive price tag and decent performance that makes it a standout budget product in all prospects. Furthermore, its lower TDP of 65W and impressive boost clock speed of 4.4 GHz also contribute to making it the Best AMD Budget CPU.
|Performance: 7/10||Value: 10/10|
|Features: 7/10||Efficiency: 9/10|
Intel Core i5-12400F
Best Budget Intel CPU
Socket: LGA 1700 | Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | L2 Cache: 7.5MB | Base Clock: 2.5 GHz | Boost Clock: Up to 4.4 GHz | TDP: 65W
Intel’s i5 processors are often hailed as the best budget alternatives to the otherwise expensive flagship options. Each iteration in the i5 lineup constitutes newer changes for marginal performance gains. Fortunately, Intel has continued this trend over the years, bringing tremendous leaps in performance in the budget segment with the Core i5-12400F.
On top of bringing several upgrades over the 11th gen SKUs, the 12400F also serves as the first i5 processor to be based on the LGA 1700 socket. That also means it marked the debut of Intel’s Golden Cove CPU cores, drastically improving energy efficiency and performance. It is worth mentioning that E-cores are missing since they were reserved for the higher-end 12th-generation processors.
LGA 1700 also brought support for DDR5 RAM; however, that did result in an influx in motherboard prices. That said, affordable chipsets such as B660 and H610 should suffice for the i5-12400F. The Core i5-12400F arrives with a base clock speed of 2.5 GHz, which is not that different than last gen. Boost clock speeds also follow a similar trend, clocking in at 4.4 GHz.
The core i5-12400F follows in the footsteps of its predecessors, retaining a core count of 6 cores and 12 threads. On the other hand, single-threaded performance has seen a visible improvement over the last generation, giving the i5-12400 an edge in gaming compared to other budget processors.
Given the increased accessibility and reduced price of DDR5 RAM, pairing the Intel Core i5-12400F with a capable DDR5 RAM module is entirely possible thanks to the present compatibility. Its remarkable performance makes it a solid CPU for 1440p gaming; however, turning things down to 1080p should not detract from the experience either.
With the locked multiplier the Core i5-12400F comes with, traditional overclocking means will certainly not apply to this CPU. Some workarounds are still available. In my testing, the Core i5-13400F runs relatively cool even with the stock cooler, which is an added benefit for anyone not interested in going the extra mile to get a separate CPU cooler.
What We Liked
DDR5 Compatibility: Unlike the Ryzen 5000 series GPUs, the Core i5-12400 boasts compatibility with DDR5 memory modules, making it slightly more future-proof.
Upgradeability to 13th Gen: The Core i5-12400F is compatible with the LGA 1700 socket, which means upgrading to 13th Gen is as easy as it gets.
What We Disliked
Limited Overclocking potential: As evident by the lack of the K-suffix on the Core i5-12400F, any kind of overclocking beyond will not be possible.
Who Is It For?
Anyone looking for an Intel alternative for a Budget CPU is going to be pleased by the Core i5-12400F’s performance. It manages to achieve the perfect balance between price and performance, allowing it to cater to anyone on a strict budget.
What Makes It The Best Budget Intel CPU
Intel’s implementation of the Golden Cove architecture, in conjunction with the remarkable multi-core performance, gives the Core i5-12400F the lead it needs over most other budget processors in the market. That, combined with its competitive price tag, makes it the Best Budget Intel CPU.
|Performance: 8/10||Value: 10/10|
|Features: 9/10||Efficiency: 8/10|
Intel Core i5-13400F
Budget CPU For Gaming And Streaming
Socket: LGA 1700 | Cores: 10 (6P + 4E) | Threads: 16 | L2 Cache: 9.5MB | Base Clock: 2.5 GHz (P-cores) | Boost Clock: Up to 4.6 GHz (P-cores) | TDP: 65W
If the i5-12400F’s performance was lackluster for your workload, then the added horsepower of the i5-13400F might be more in line with what you are looking for. The added performance allows it to handle demanding titles while also leaving enough headroom for streaming at a decent bit rate.
In addition to the already well-received performance cores, the Core i5-13400F also brings Gracemount-based E-cores to the table, which were previously only reserved for the higher-end variants in the 12th generation series of processors. Both types of cores work in conjunction to form a hybrid core architecture to enhance the CPU’s overall performance.
All of that adds up to a total of 10 cores and 16 threads, which is a substantial leap over the measly 6 cores found in the i5-12400F. It is worth mentioning that anyone interested in integrated graphics can also opt for the non-F variant of the i5-13400, which is priced slightly higher. Surprisingly, spending a bit more for the Core i5-13500 nets you four additional cores, resulting in an 11.1 percent performance increase, as shown in our comparison between the Core i5-13500 Vs 13400.
As far as clock speeds are concerned, the Core i5-13400F offers a moderate base frequency of 2.5 GHz on the performance cores and 1.8 GHz on the E-cores. Adding on to that, the max turbo frequency has been dialed up to 4.6 GHz on the performance cores, which is slightly beyond the realm of frequencies you would typically see on an i5. As expected, BLKC overclocking is not available with the Core i5-13400F due to the locked multiplier.
We also see a noteworthy increase in the Cache capacity, with the Core i5-13400F now offering an L3 Cache of 20MB as well as an L2 Cache of 9.5MB. Following the specification overhaul, a slight increase can be found in the CPU’s Maximum Turbo Power, which now sits at 148W. It is important to note that the rated TDP has stayed at 65W.
The Core i5-13400F showcases impressive performance against Zen 3 processors and the latest Ryzen 7000 series. On the other hand, while its performance may fall short when compared to the Ryzen 5 7600X from AMD, its slightly lower price also reflects that, accommodating the slightly lower performance in some instances.
Unsurprisingly, the performance difference further trickles down in gaming tests, with the Core i5-13400F going head to head with the Ryzen 5 7600X in most titles. In my testing, the Core i5-13400F stacks up exceptionally well against the competition, especially considering the narrow price gap between the Ryzen 5 7600 and the Core it-13400F.
What We Liked
Extra Cores: The i5-13400F is equipped with a total of 10 cores, which was previously unheard of in an i5 series processor.
Exceptional Performance: The Core i5-13400F truly showcases a generational leap in performance, toppling over the 12th generation i5 by a huge margin.
What We Disliked
Increased power consumption: All of that added performance has resulted in an inevitable increase in the CPU’s maximum power draw, which now comes in at 148W.
Who Is It For?
The i5-13400F proves to me more than capable of handling gaming and streaming, making for an excellent choice for anyone looking to dabble in that field. It guarantees a flawless streaming and gaming experience thanks to the additional core counts, efficiency cores, and increased boost frequencies.
What Makes It The Best Budget CPU For Gaming and Streaming
All in all, the Core i5-13400F surpasses its predecessors in every scenario possible. Between high boost frequencies to a hybrid core architecture comprising 10 cores, the Core i5-13400 prevails in every aspect, making it the Best Budget CPU For Gaming and Streaming.
|Performance: 9/10||Value: 9/10|
|Features: 8/10||Efficiency: 7/10|
AMD Ryzen 5 5600G
Best Budget Gaming CPU
Socket: AMD AM4 | Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | L2 Cache: 3MB | Base Clock: 3.9 GHz | Boost Clock: Up to 4.4 GHz | TDP: 65W
When it comes to gaming, budget-friendly Ryzen processors fare extremely well; however, the lack of integrated graphics might be a deal-breaker for some people. The Ryzen 5 5600G tackles this very issue, effectively including Vega graphics to the already well-received attributes of the Ryzen 5000 family.
Based on the Zen 3 architecture, the Ryzen 5 5600G is built on a 7 nm production process. In a similar vein as its budget competitors, it comes with a total of 6 cores and 12 threads, which hold up well in most cases. While it falls slightly below the 5600X in terms of raw performance, I did not notice any significant differences in gaming.
The dial-downs become are accentuated when looking at the L3 cache of the 5600G. With only 16MB of L3 Cache present, the Ryzen 5 5600G effectively halves the L3 cache compared to the 5600, which can be seen as a major downgrade. Fortunately, the L2 cache has remained the same, coming in at 3MB.
Moreover, the Ryzen 5 5600G features a clock speed of 3.9 GHz along with a respectable boost clock speed of 4.4 GHz. While its base clock speed is an increase over the Ryzen 5 5600, the boost clock speed has remained the same. Thankfully, the Ryzen 5 5600G does come with an unlocked multiplier, providing users with decent overclocking headroom.
As mentioned previously, the Ryzen 5 5600G is equipped with integrated Vega graphics. With a clock speed of 1.9 GHz, six compute units, and a shader count of 448, the IGPU shows clear signs of antiquity. Despite appearing slightly dated on paper, the iGPU can still handle lighter titles at 720p, making it the Best Budget Integrated Graphics GPU.
Integrated graphics aside, pairing the Ryzen 5600G with an equally capable dedicated GPU paints an entirely different picture. In fact, it boasts enough dedicated CPU horsepower to even handle a GeForce RTX 4070 without running into CPU bottlenecks. Of course, that also demonstrates its capabilities to handle modern games without any major hiccups.
What We Liked
Integrated Vega Graphics: While the Vega graphics are by no means capable of rivaling high-end dedicated GPUs, they can hold their own in lighter titles, providing users with a plausible gaming experience.
Decent Overclocking Potential: Unlike most budget processors from Intel, AMD’s Ryzen 5000 series comes with an unlocked multiplier, allowing these CPUs to reach higher clock speeds. The same can also be said for the Ryzen 5 5600G, which can boost up to decent clock speeds as long it is accompanied by a capable cooling solution.
What We Disliked
Lacks PCIE Gen 4.0 Compatibility: The Ryzen 5600G utilizes a total of 24 PCIe 3.0 lanes, which is a bit disappointing compared to the 24 PCIe Gen 4.0 lanes found on the standard 5000 series processors.
Who Is It For?
Anyone looking for a capable CPU with integrated graphics is bound to be pleased by Ryzen 5600G’s performance. While the Vega graphics are going to struggle in modern titles, light 720p gaming is definitely possible.
What Makes It The Best Budget Gaming CPU?
Packing integrated graphics, compelling clock speeds, and remarkable overclocking potential under its belt, the 6 core 12 threaded Ryzen 5 5600G doesn’t disappoint in any category. It makes the Best Budget Gaming CPU for its incredible value and previously mentioned attributes.
|Performance: 10/10||Value: 9/10|
|Features: 7/10||Efficiency: 8/10|
Intel Core i5-12600KF
Best Budget CPU For Video Editing
Socket: LGA 1700 | Cores: 10 (6P + 4E) | Threads: 16 | L2 Cache: 9.5MB | Base Clock: 3.7 GHz (P-cores) | Boost Clock: Up to 4.9 GHz (P-cores) | TDP: 125W
Much like the previously mentioned Core i5-13400, the i5-12600KF mainly competes in the same budget market, garnering a tremendous win over the competition with its outstanding set of features. The i5-12600KF builds upon the features of its predecessors, ushering in the budget market with its architectural shift and modest price tag.
For comparison, the i5-12600KF comfortably sits a notch above the i5-12400F in the CPU hierarchy, and its upgrades reflect precisely that. You also receive an upgrade in the core count, with the Core i5-12600KF including four additional E-cores, for a total of 10 cores on the CPU.
Naturally, it also retains the six performance cores based on the Golden Cove architecture. Of course, its price has received a slight increase, with the i5-12600KF treading the grounds as a mid-range CPU rather than an entry-level one, which is expected from an i5 processor of this caliber.
Base and boost clock speeds for the performance have been adjusted to 3.7 and 4.9 GHz, respectively. While its stock boost clock speeds might be a little under 5 GHz, the unlocked multiplier means pushing the Core i5-12600KF above that limit shouldn’t be a problem. In my testing, the Core i5-12600KF can be easily overclocked to reach 5 GHz on the performance cores without any stability issues.
Integrated Intel UHD graphics aren’t present with the Core i5-12600KF, which was a given, considering the F-prefix added to its name. Moving on, Intel has tweaked the L3 Cache to 20MB, which is shared between the performance and efficiency cores. Moreover, L2 Cache sits at 9.5MB, a decent improvement over the 12400F.
The Core i5-12600K demonstrated a considerable leap in performance when compared to the Ryzen 5 5600x, gaining a maximum lead of ~35% in productivity workloads. It also yielded impressive results when compared against the Ryzen 5 5800X, only trailing 0.7 percent behind in gaming
This benchmark further evidences its wins against its predecessors. The Core i5-12600KF not only takes the lead against the 11600K but also triumphs over the 11700k as well as the flagship 11900K, which is an astounding feat for an i5 CPU. Make sure to also check out our comparison on 12th Gen vs 11th Gen CPUs, which goes in-depth about the differences between the two generations.
What We Liked
Hybrid Architecture: The Core i5-12600KF combines combining Golden Cove cores and Gracemount-based cores to form a hybrid core architecture, which helps increase the overall performance.
Solid overclocking potential: The core i5-12600KF has been left with a lot of headroom for overclocking, allowing users to push it past its stock.
What We Disliked
Higher power consumption: Unlike the core i5-12400F, the i5-12600KF is rated at a slightly higher TDP of 125W, which was expected given the upgrades it comes with.
Who Is It For?
The Core i5-12600KF carefully intertwines both performance and efficient cores into one complete package, giving users a balanced overall experience. Not only does the CPU fare well in gaming tasks, but the added horsepower of E-cores also makes it an ideal option for Video Editors.
What Makes It The Best Budget CPU For Video Editing?
The Core i5-12600KF pushes the very limit of the amount of power one can pack inside an i5-based CPU. Its combination of performance and efficiency cores work in favor of delivering a moderate experience, making it the Best Budget CPU For Video Editing.
|Performance: 8/10||Value: 9/10|
|Features: 9/10||Efficiency: 7/10|
Gaming Benchmarks Of The Best Budget CPUs
Important CPU Key Terms
- Cores: A single CPU core represents a processing unit that is responsible for executing instructions at a particular speed. The number of CPU cores directly affects the processor’s performance and price.
- Threads: Often referred to as virtual cores, threads are instructions assigned to a CPU core for execution. Modern CPUs make use of features such as multi-threading to properly utilize these threads in order to gain substantial performance.
- Multi-Threading: Multi-threading refers to the process of using cores to execute two or more threads simultaneously. Intel and AMD use separate terms for this process: Hyper-threading for Intel and Simultaneous Multi-Threading for AMD.
- Cache: CPU Cache is high-speed storage that effectively reduces the time required to access data from the main memory. L1, L2, and L3 Cache are all variations of CPU Cache, each differing in speed. The access speed progressively decreases with each Cache level, resulting in lower speeds.
- Clock Speed: The clock speed of your processor represents the number of executions it is capable of executing within a second. A processor’s boost clock speed refers to the maximum speed it is capable of reaching.
- TDP: Measured in Watts, the TDP of your system is an accurate representation of the heat your CPU generates. The Thermal Design Power or TDP of your system allows users to gauge the type of cooler your processor needs to maintain adequate temperatures.
- Overclocking: The process of giving more power to the CPU in order to achieve higher clock speeds is known as overclocking. Overclocking your CPU might increase performance; however, you need to have a compatible CPU and a cooler that can withstand the higher power draw.
Tips To Buy Best Budget CPUs
Here are some of the most important aspects I took into consideration when coming up with my list of the Best Budget CPUs In 2023.
Intel vs AMD
With the launch of the newer Zen 4 processors, both Intel and AMD have now started competing on equal terms, going head-to-head against each other with every generational leap. While Intel might have the upper hand with its hybrid architecture that comprises performance and efficiency cores, AMD’s 3D V-Cache processors flip the table on Intel, even gaining a lead in some cases.
Similarly, when choosing the Best Budget CPUs, both Intel and AMD prevail in their respective categories. AMD’s non-x 5000 series GPUs compete directly against the 12th-generation ones from Intel, which means choosing between the two will mostly come down to personal preference and availability in your region.
The overclocking capabilities of your processor play a considerable part in influencing the overall buying decision. Processors that come with an unlocked multiplier allow users to go beyond the stock speeds of the processor, which results in a performance increase. Some of the budget CPUs in our list come with an unlocked multiplier, providing users with decent overclocking headroom.
Of course, as good as all of that sounds, overclocking is not without its qualms. While a hefty performance uplift on your CPU might be what you are looking for, you can run into the risk of reducing your CPU’s lifespan as a result.
Simply put, your CPU’s clock speeds determine its capability to process instructions. Faster frequencies allow your processor to interpret instructions quickly, resulting in a faster overall experience as a result. Thankfully, all of the CPUs in my list boast adequate clock speeds that allow them to perform flawlessly in most cases.
The chipset your processor utilizes depends on the type of socket it is compatible with. For instance, Intel’s latest 13th-generation processors utilize the LGA 1700 socket, meaning they are compatible with motherboards based on the 700-series and 600-series chipsets. When choosing the best Budget CPUs, it is important to ensure that the CPU you end up going with is compatible with your selected motherboard.
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When finding the Best Budget CPUs for my list, I extensively researched each product to reach the optimal conclusion. I considered multiple factors, including but not limited to overclocking, clock speeds, accessibility, and price.
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The Ryzen 5 5600 takes the crown as the best Budget CPU from AMD. Over at the Intel side of things, the Core i5-12400F is an equally capable budget processor. Around 10-30 percent should be allotted to the CPU alone; however, most of your budget allocation will boil down to personal requirements. Both Intel and AMD have budget offerings that compete in the same price category; however, Intel might have a slight advantage thanks to their i3 series of processors. Investing in a good CPU will always pay off when it comes to video editing. Between lower render times and faster editing speeds, a capable processor gives users a smooth experience that enhances the video editing experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Ryzen 5 5600 takes the crown as the best Budget CPU from AMD. Over at the Intel side of things, the Core i5-12400F is an equally capable budget processor.
Around 10-30 percent should be allotted to the CPU alone; however, most of your budget allocation will boil down to personal requirements.
Both Intel and AMD have budget offerings that compete in the same price category; however, Intel might have a slight advantage thanks to their i3 series of processors.
Investing in a good CPU will always pay off when it comes to video editing. Between lower render times and faster editing speeds, a capable processor gives users a smooth experience that enhances the video editing experience.
- August 30, 2023: A few text changes to improve readability. No products were changed.
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