If you want to build a great gaming computer, you can do so even on a limited budget. There are two very important components when it comes to gaming computers: the graphics card and the CPU or processor. And in this article we’ll cover the latter and share with you the best cheap gaming processors under $200 in 2017.
The truth is that you can still find decent gaming CPUs at around $100, but they would make it very difficult for you to run current generation games. However, with a budget of up to $200, you can find some solid gaming processors on the cheap that will help you run even the more recent games at decent speed. Of course, you will have to pair them with a solid GPU, but that’s for another article.
Until then, let’s take care of this important matter and let’s check out below the best gaming processors under $200 aka the best cheap CPUs for gaming in 2017!
Intel Core i3-6100
With the latest generation of gaming processors being in the i7 range, you would believe that Intel’s i3 processor is long dead and obsolete. However, this is not true! This is a dual-core processor that does a great job at delivering the best performance for games at its price (remember – this is the lowest priced processor on our list!) Actually, even the most recent games don’t take advantage yet of more than two cores, so even though having a quad-core, hexa-core or octa-core processor sounds impressive, it won’t help your gaming experience that much!
So if you’re on a budget, the Intel Core i3-6100 is a good choice. It runs at 3.7 GHz which is pretty impressive, and requires a motherboard with a LGA 1151 socket – which is even better because it allows for future upgrades that won’t require you to buy a new motherboard. In other words, you can buy the i3 processor now and later upgrade to an i5 or i7 easily.
However, as multiple benchmarks have shown, the i3-6100 performs great and you shouldn’t even consider that there’s a need for an upgrade. Pair it with a great graphics card and you will get impressive FPS rates in recent games: for example, up to 64 FPS in Witcher 3 or 72 FPS in Far Cry 4, to name just a few. If you won’t take my word for it, you can check out Digital Foundry’s benchmark video on YouTube to see the amazing performance this cheap gaming CPU can offer if paired with a solid GPU.
Of course, there are better options out there – I’m not trying to say that the Intel Core i3-6100 is THE best choice for a gaming processor, but if you’re on a limited budget, it might be a better idea to get this processor, spend a bit more on your graphics card and consider upgrading it in the future. And enjoy some high quality gaming until then!
AMD FX 8350 Black Edition
If you have a bit more to spend and you want a performance boost now, the AMD FX 8350 Black Edition will be a great choice for you. Even though I always recommend Intel CPUs when it comes to gaming PCs, I must admit that when it comes to budget gaming, this particular CPU is really good if we take price into consideration. It delivers a better performance than the i3 listed above and some benchmark charts put if over some more recent i7 processors!
Its stats are a bit more impressive too: it has 8 cores and 8 threads and runs on a frequency of up to 4.0 GHz (which can get a Turbo boost up to 4.2 GHz). This seems impressive, but don’t forget what I told you already: most games still don’t take advantage of the multiple cores so in the end it’s the single core / dual core performance that matters the most. But surely the AMD FX 8350 Black Edition can handle modern games and do it great!
For example, after running GTA 5 on Ultra settings on a computer powered by this cheap gaming CPU, the framerates per second never dropped under 60 FPS and we constantly got over 65 frames per second during gameplay and over 80 during the cutscenes. In other words, this does perform great and can handle even more recent games without a problem.
As cons, I would underline the fact that it’s a bit more difficult to upgrade in the future without getting a new Motherboard (especially if you’d like to switch to a more powerful Intel processor) and its power requirements are a bit higher than those of the Intel i-range of processors, meaning that you will most likely have to spend a bit more on the Motherboard. But you’ll get a performance boost compared to the i3 model listed above and you’ll normally get this for much less than the better Intel processors listed below!
Intel Core i5-4590
We have two very similar cheap gaming processors under $200 remaining – both in terms of price, as well as performance. I am listing the Intel Core i5-4590 first as it is the older model and gets slightly lower ratings in benchmarking face-offs and tests, although in my opinion the difference is not that impressive.
Talking about the technology used, the Intel Core i5-4590 is a quad core processor with 4 threads. It runs at a speed of 3.3 GHz and its biggest disadvantage compared to the model below is, in my opinion, the fact that it runs on the older Haswell architecture as opposed to the more recent Skylake. It also doesn’t offer support for DDR4, only DDR3.
However, despite all these minor flaws which might not even matter – it all depends on the other components you have – the Intel Core i5-4590 performs really well in current generation games. For example, in Witcher 3 Wild Hunt, with a GTX 970 GPU, it constantly delivers over 30 FPS on Ultra settings – sometimes managing to get past 40 FPS. This is indeed impressive and proves that we’re talking about a great cheap CPU for gaming. But don’t rush to buy it until you read what I have to say about the final recommended CPU below!
Intel Core i5 6500
In my opinion, this is the best gaming processor for the money if your budget is $200 or under. At the moment of writing this article, its price is just at the top of our budget, but it’s the same as the Intel Core i5-4590. And even though it’s just slightly better in terms of performance, I think it’s the better choice.
First of all, it runs on the modern Skylake technology, which is a bonus when it comes to performance and power consumption. It has a processor frequency of 3.2 GHz and runs on 4 cores and 4 threads. It’s single core performance is slight lower according to some benchmark tests when compared to the 4590, but its overall performance is usually considered slightly better.
Even more, it’s more future-proof in my opinion, as it has DDR4 support and runs on the Skylake technology. So if you pair it with some slightly better components, the overall performance will definitely be better than if you’d run them on an i5-4590.
Doing some testing in recent video games, the Intel Core i5 6500 performed really well: it got over 40 FPS in Witcher 3 on Ultra Settings, 60 FPS without a problem in GTA 5… so paired with the right GPU, it can really perform wonders! In other words, when building a gaming computer, I would always pick the Intel Core i5 6500, even if I had a slightly higher budget. The i7 doesn’t really make sense unless you have an unlimited budget. Since you probably don’t, go for the i5-6500 and invest as much as possible in a solid graphics card!
So these would be my recommendations for the best cheap gaming processor under 200. We start close to the $100 mark and climb up to the top of our budget, so you have multiple choices depending on the actual money you have. As I said already, if I would have no problem spending a bit more, I’d always go for the Intel Core i5 6500 gaming processor!