These are the best cheap CPUs you can buy in 2022
Picking the right processor for your PC mostly depends on what you plan on using the computer for. While it might be tempting to buy the latest and the fastest hardware that you can afford, it’s always best to figure out your use case to avoid investing in high-end components that you don’t necessarily need. Something like an AMD Ryzen 7 5800X or the Core i7-12700K is overkill if you’re going to limit yourself to a few browser tabs or basic productivity apps. There are plenty of budget CPUs on the market that can handle those workloads for you. In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the best cheap CPUs you can buy right now in 2022.
The assortment of budget CPUs a.k.a cheap processors has gotten a lot better over the years. Even a relatively low-end chip can now deliver enough performance to handle even a lot of demanding tasks. Additionally, a lot of these cheap CPUs have other advantages including wide compatibility with plenty of motherboards, bundled stock coolers, and more. Unlike older low-end CPUs, budget shoppers will now find plenty of value in many of these newer affordable options. And with that out of the way, let’s get started with the list, shall we?
Navigate this article:
- Best cheap CPU from AMD: AMD Ryzen 5 3600
- Best cheap Intel CPU: Intel Core i3-12100
- Best cheap CPU under $100: Intel Pentium Gold G7400
- AMD APU under $100: AMD Athlon 3000G
Best cheap CPU from AMD: AMD Ryzen 5 3600
AMD processors have shown a significant performance improvement over the years. The company now has a ton of reliable CPUs on the market that are already a part of a bunch of our collection articles including the best CPUs, best gaming CPUs, and more. AMD also has a ton of offerings in the budget space that deliver great overall performance at a very affordable price. The Ryzen 5 3600 is one such processor that we think should be high up your list if you’re looking to shop for the best cheap CPUs on the market right now.
The AMD Ryzen 5 3600, as you probably already know, isn’t the newest AMD chip on the market. It’s one of the last-gen processors that has Intel’s mid-range processors in its crosshairs. The Ryzen 5 3600 is a six-core, twelve-thread chip that comes with a 65W TDP envelope. It’s certainly not as powerful as a lot of other chips on the market right now, but we think it still packs a great punch for the price. It’s got enough performance to push even the most demanding workloads in 2022. It features a 3.6GHz base frequency and a 4.2GHz boost frequency.
The Ryzen 5 3600 comes with a healthy 32MB of L3 cache, which is double the capacity of its predecessor. In fact, it’s more than three times the cache memory of its Intel counterparts, so that’s something to make a note of. The Ryzen 5 3600 drops into the AM4 CPU socket on AMD’s 500-series chipset motherboards. They’re readily available on the market, often at very cheap prices too. Alternatively, you can also use a 400-series chipset motherboard to use this particular chip if you really need to save some money on the build.
All the Ryzen 3000 series chips including the Ryzen 5 3600 officially support dual-channel ddr4-3200 memory, which is a step up from its previous-gen CPUs. The Ryzen 5 3600 also supports overclocking, so you can increase the performance of your memory modules further. In terms of performance, the Ryzen 5 3600 managed to beat a lot of other competing Intel chips to become one of the value for money chips on the market. While there are more powerful CPUs out there right now in 2022, we think it’s still worth considering the Ryzen 5 3600 mainly because of how effectively it handles a lot of demanding workloads even today. For gaming, it stands as a viable alternative to the Ryzen 5 3600X, which is a slightly more expensive CPU. The Ryzen 5 3600X is very similar in performance to the 3600, but it does have a little bit more performance in the tank, especially due to its better-overclocking capabilities.
The AMD Ryzen 5 3600 arrived a couple of years back carrying a price tag of $200. While you may have a hard time buying this particular CPU on the market right now, we think you should be able to get it for far less than that. Anything less than $200 is a great value for this chip, especially if you’re looking for something that’s more powerful than your standard affordable Pentium and Athlon chips. If you’re looking for alternatives, then we highly recommend considering either the Ryzen 5 3600X or the Ryzen 5 5600G chip right now.
Alternate best cheap AMD CPU: AMD Ryzen 3 3100
If you’re in the market to buy a cheap CPU for gaming, then we think it’s worth checking out the AMD Ryzen 3 3100. This particular chip is still a pretty good option to consider for gaming in 2022. At the time of its launch, this particular CPU was considered to be a “lite” version of the more powerful Ryzen 3 3300X. It’s worth pointing out that AMD hasn’t really launched an upgraded Ryzen 3 chip in a couple of years, so we’re yet to see a successor to this chip. That might change very soon with the arrival of newer processors on the market, but this is as good as it gets for now.
In terms of the specifications, the AMD Ryzen 3 3100 features four cores and eight threads. We’re looking at a base clock of 3.9GHz and a turbo boost frequency of 3.6GHz along with a 16MB L3 cache. It uses AMD’s 7nm process technology and falls under the umbrella of the Zen 2 architecture. This CPU is joined by a couple of stellar budget chips in the Ryzen 3000 series including the Ryzen 3 3200G and the Ryzen 5 3400G.
The Ryzen 3 3100, just like the other processors in this particular family slots into the AMD AM4 socket, which is only going to be replaced now after these years with the arrival of the new AM5 platform. In terms of general performance, this particular chip delivers impressive numbers on the benchmark boards. It matches the general performance of the Ryzen 3 3300X for a few dollars less. That, however, isn’t really a surprise considering the fact that it packs specifications that are almost identical to that of the Ryzen 3 3300X. The Ryzen 3 3300X just happens to be a little faster thanks to its 3.8GHz base and 4.3GHz boost frequency.
One thing that’s worth pointing out about the Ryzen 3 3100 chip is that it lacks an integrated graphics chip. This means you’ll have to rely on discrete graphics cards to use your computer. That might prove to be an issue, especially now since it’s almost impossible to find graphics cards at retail prices. Unfortunately, the same goes for cheap GPUs too, so keep that in mind. As an alternative, we recommend buying a CPU that comes with integrated graphics like, say, the Ryzen 5 5600G.
In case you’re wondering, you can also overclock the Ryzen 3 3100 CPU. However, you’ll have to spend more money on a third-party CPU cooler. But instead of buying a separate CPU cooler and putting more effort into overclocking, we think it’s better to spend that additional cost and go with the Ryzen 3 3300X, to begin with. It’ll serve you well with better performance and it comes with a more powerful cooler too. Alternatively, you can choose to completely avoid overclocking the 3100 and use it at stock settings. It performs well out of the box and we think it’s more than enough for economic shoppers who are looking to game on a budget. You may have a hard time finding it in stock considering this is a relatively old chip, so we recommend hitting the link below to get the best price for it online.
Best cheap Intel CPU: Intel Core i3-12100
Intel has created a huge wave in the PC hardware space with the launch of its new 12th-gen Alder Lake chips. These new Intel CPUs have plenty of great things on offer, making them some of the best CPU options on the market right now. The new Alder Lake series has surprisingly good options even outside of the high-performance category. This means the new Alder Lake chips have some reliable processors in the budget space too. As such, we think the Intel Core i3-12100 is one of the best cheap CPUs that’s worth considering in 2022.
One of the best things about the new Intel Core i3-12100 is that it comes with support for both DDR5 memory modules and PCI Gen 5. In terms of specifications, the Intel Core i3-12100 features a 4-core, 8-thread design. Unlike the high-end Alder Lake chips, however, this particular CPU only has ‘Performance’ cores (P-cores) and lacks the ‘Gracemon’ efficiency (E-cores). That’s not really a surprise considering the fact that the hybrid architecture is mostly only reserved for the high-end chips.
The Intel Core i3-12100 processor has a base frequency of 3.3GHz and it can achieve single-core speeds of 4.3GHz. Like the rest of the Alder Lake lineup, the Core i3-12100 supports both the older DDR4 and the new DDR5 memory. The 12100 supports a maximum frequency of 3200MHz for DDR4 and 4800MHz for DDR5 memory. The chip also supports a maximum of 128GB of memory. In the efficiency department, the Core i3-12100 is more efficient than the Core i3-10100 chip. We’re looking at a base power of 60W as opposed to a base power of 65W for the older model. One thing that’s worth pointing out about the Intel Core i3-12100 is that it comes with a max turbo power rating of 89W, so it should be easy to keep this CPU at reasonable temps. That’s good news for budget shoppers because you won’t have to spend more on a third-party CPU cooler.
Lastly, it’s also worth noting that the Core i3-12100 comes equipped with Intel’s UHD 770 graphics. While we’re yet to get our hands on this particular chip to test just how good the iGPU is, we think it’ll perform better than the ones that came with the older chips. If you already have a discrete GPU, however, then we recommend picking up Intel Core i3-12100F instead of the Core i3-12100 to save some money on the overall build.
All things considered, we think the new Intel Core i3-12100 is a solid option to consider for budget shoppers. It’s priced at just $140, which means it’s one of the most affordable chips on the market right now. It’s also a significantly better chip as it brings support for both DDR5 memory and PCIe Gen 5. You may not be able to take advantage of these technologies on a budget build, it doesn’t hurt to keep the path open for potential future upgrades when DDR5 memory and PCIe Gen 5 peripherals are readily available.
Best cheap CPU under $100: Intel Pentium Gold G7400
We’ve already added a pretty good 12th-gen Alder Lake chip to this collection in the form of the Core i3-12100. We think it’s one of the best cheap chips on the market that now exists as a solid upgrade for those who are using an older 10th Core i3 processor or an older Ryzen chip. That being said, there’s another Intel chip that we think deserves a spot in this collection — the Intel Pentium Gold G7400. This particular Pentium series processor is powerful enough to deliver Core i3-like performance. It’s also among the cheapest CPUs out there in 2022.
As far as the specs are concerned, the Intel Pentium Gold G7400 features two cores and four threads, based on the 10nm Golden Cove core architecture. It’s an entry-level dual-core chip that trades blows with a lot of AMD Athlon chips out there. It features a clock speed of up to 3.7GHz and 6MB of L3 cache within a 46W TDP package. Despite being an Alder Lake chip, though, it doesn’t come with the hybrid combination of P and E cores. That’s reserved for more advanced parts, but there’s still plenty to like about the general performance of the Pentium Gold G7400.
On the memory front, the Intel Pentium Gold G7400 processor comes with support for DDR4-3200 and even the new DDR5 memory with up to 4800 memory frequency. Additionally, the new Pentium Gold G7400 chip also supports PCIe Gen 5, making it more future-proof than almost every other competing chip in this price range. The Pentium Gold G7400 processor also comes with Intel UHD graphics 710, which should be enough to handle the basic day-to-day graphical requirements.
The new Intel Pentium Gold G7400 is powerful enough to flex against AMD’s older quad-core chips such as the Ryzen 3 3200G. It may not be the fastest out there right now, but it’s impressive to see a dual-core chip being able to compete, and even match, the general performance of a quad-core processor. It’s worth noting that Intel is also bundling the new Pentium Gold G7400 CPU with its Laminar RS1 CPU cooler. Though not as impressive as the RH1 cooler that’s stacked with the 12th-gen Core i9 chip, we think it’s still good. It should easily be able to handle the Pentium Gold G7400’s thermal output at stock settings.
The Pentium Gold G7400 is more powerful than the Celeron G6900 CPU too but CPUs can be pushed beyond their stock settings to get more performance. Both the Pentium Gold G7400 and the Celeron G6900 are almost twice as fast as AMD’s current set of Athlon CPUs. That might change soon with the arrival of the new Athlon 4000 chips, but it remains to be seen if they can keep up with the general performance going against the Golden Cove cores.
While intel suggests a retail price of around $60 for the Pentium Gold G7400 chip, you can buy it for $80 right now on Best Buy or other similar retailers. There’s very little in the competition for the Pentium Gold G7400 under $100, so be sure to check it out.
AMD APU under $100: AMD Athlon 3000G
AMD’s Athlon processors are extremely popular in the budget space. These particular chips were above and beyond anything Intel had to offer until the new Alder Lake chips arrived on the market. Sure, you can probably get slightly better general performance with something like the Intel Pentium Gold G7400 processor, we think the Athlon 3000G is still an excellent CPU to consider. It’s AMD’s first Zen-based unlocked Athlon processor to hit shelves when it arrived a few years back.
In terms of the specifications, the AMD Athlon 3000G brings two cores and four threads to the table with a clock speed of up to 3.5GHz, 4MB L3 cache, and the Radeon Vega 3. The Radeon Vega 3 graphics packs 3 GPU cores and a clock speed of up to 1,100MHz with a 35W TDP envelope. This particular chip, just like its predecessor the Athlon 200GE based on the Zen 1.0 architecture, is compatible with AM4 motherboards. However, we’re looking at some meaningful improvements including the more advanced Zen+ architecture. The AMD Athlon 3000G also has slightly higher clock speeds thanks to the 12nm manufacturing process.
One of the best things about the AMD Athlon 3000G is that it can also be overclocked. This trait, by itself, makes it a better option for budget gamers. The integrated Radeon Vega 3 graphics also make the Athlon 3000G a solid chip to consider. It’s obviously not going to be as powerful as some other chips that are available on the market right now, but we think it still offers a lot of value for economic shoppers. The Athlon 3000G offers a decent 720p gaming experience with less resource-intensive titles. Games like Rocket League and CS:GO should have absolutely no issues pushing past the 100FPS mark.
The Athlon 3000G handily beats Intel’s budget offerings including the Pentium G5400, that too by a significant margin across different workloads. The Athlon 3000G is also faster than the Athlon 200GE. And on top of that, it’s an unlocked CPU that’s available for less, essentially making it faster and a cheaper Zen-based Athlon part. There are a number of other options in 2022 that will offer better performance than the Athlon 3000G, but they’ll also cost you significantly more money. For a chip that hit the shelves for $50 (available for slightly more right now), the AMD Athlon 3000G leaves very little room to complain about.
Other alternatives of the AMD Athlon 3000G include a couple of entry-level Ryzen chips too. We’re looking at the 2400G and the Ryzen 3 3400G as viable options, but they both are significantly more expensive options too. Similarly, the Ryzen 3400G is also an excellent option that’s a much more expensive offering in 2022. Unlike a lot of other budget options on the market, the AMD Athlon 3000G is readily available on the market right now. In fact, you can get it for under $100, making it a perfect option for this collection. You can hit the link below to find the price for it on Amazon right now.
Best cheap CPUs to buy in 2022: Final Thoughts
Well, that wraps up our collection of the best cheap CPUs you can buy in 2022. All processors mentioned in this collection, as you can see, are priced under $200. In fact, we’ve also added options like the Intel Pentium Gold G7400 and the AMD Athlon 3000G to this list that are easily available for under $100 right now. Intel’s new Core i3-12100 is also an excellent CPU and so is the Ryzen 5 3600 chip. In fact, these two processors also double up as great gaming chips for an entry-level gaming PC in 2022.
If you don’t mind spending a bit more money, then we highly encourage you to check out some other options that we’ve mentioned in our collection of the best CPUs and the best CPUs for gaming. Alternatively, you can also check out our entry-level PC build guide as well as the home/office work PC build guide to see how you can build an excellent rig for way under $1000 in 2022. As always you can also join our XDA Computing Forums to discuss your builds and get more recommendations for your new PC build from the experts in our community.