You can get a lot of great CPUs for under $250, but you might struggle to find one does everything you want under $150. Fear not as this list covers the best CPUs within that price range!
The Top-Rated CPU Under $150
|Top Pick||AMD Ryzen 3 3100||88%|
|Runner Up||AMD Ryzen 5 2600||87%|
|Budget Pick||Intel Core i3-9100F||83%|
|Luxury Pick||Intel Core i5-9400||90%|
|Best Integrated Graphics||Ryzen 3 3200G||88%|
|Honorable Mention||Intel Core i3-10100||86%|
Top Pick: AMD Ryzen 3 3100
- 3rd Gen AMD Ryzen processors are the world's most advanced in the desktop PC gaming segment
- Can deliver smooth 100+ FPS performance in the world's most popular games, discrete graphics card required
- 4 cores and 8 processing threads, bundled with the quiet AMD Wraith Stealth cooler
- 3.9 GHz Max Boost, unlocked for overclocking, 18 MB of GameCache, DDR-3200 support
- For the advanced Socket AM4 platform, can support PCIe 4.0 on X570 and B550 motherboards
If you are looking to build your first PC with a dedicated GPU, the AMD Ryzen 3 3100 would definitely meet your needs. It is a really good all rounded CPU and it is backed up with 4 cores and 8 threads. On paper, it might seem inferior to the Core i7-7700K from a few years back, but make no mistake, this is a very powerful processor. It is based on the latest (at the time of writing) Zen 2 architecture which makes everything so much better. In some cases, it even surpasses older Ryzen CPUs.
It comes with a 3.6GHz base clock that goes all the way to 3.9GHz which might not seem like a huge difference (and it isn’t a huge difference) but it makes gaming so much better and even it does the job for a little streaming, which is a great thing! It doesn’t have integrated graphics which might put off first time builders who can’t afford a graphics card. If you can find a Ryzen 3 3300X in stock, that too would be a much better processor as well. The Ryzen 3 3100 is a little beast that gets the job done incredibly well and takes the top pick.
Runner-Up: AMD Ryzen 5 2600
The AMD Ryzen 5 2600 is a bit old at this point but it still does a good job all round. It is a 6 core and 12 thread processor which means you should have enough power for editing, gaming, streaming etc. It is based on the older 12nm Zen+ architecture but it still does a great job! It is a 65W TDP chip which basically means that it is a very efficient processor.
It doesn’t have integrated graphics which might be a downer for some people but on the bright side, it starts at a 3.4GHz base clock and goes up to 3.9GHz. It does fall short when it comes to multi-core performance compared to its Intel counterpart, the i5-8600K. But what it lacks in multi-core performance, it is much better than the i5-8600K when it comes to single-core performance. The Ryzen 5 2600 is aimed at content creators and gamers who need the extra processing power.
Budget Pick: Intel Core i3-9100F
- 4 Cores /4 Threads
- Up to 4.2 GHz. Total Storage size=512 GB. Max TDP = 65 W.
- Discrete graphics required
- Compatible with Intel 300 Series chipset based motherboards
- Bios update may be required for motherboard compatibility
If you don’t like AMD or simply support Team Blue or if you’re simply on a tight budget, the Intel Core i3-9100F is a good buy for a first time build. It is a 4 core and 4 thread processor which might pale in comparison to the Ryzen 5 2600 but if this is your first build, the i3-9100F should do just fine.
It does start at a 3.6GHz base frequency that boosts all the way up to 4.2GHz. Most people would take advantage of this by using dual-channel RAM and it does make a difference. It doesn’t have integrated graphics so keep that in mind. If you want to get into PC gaming on a tight budget, the i3-9100F is a good choice.
Luxury Pick: Intel Core i5-9400
- 6 Cores/ 6 Threads
- 2. 90 GHz up to 4. 10 GHz Max Turbo Frequency/ 9 MB cache
- Compatible only with Motherboards based on Intel 300 Series chipsets
- Processor Graphics - Intel UHD Graphics 630
- Intel Optane Memory supported
The Intel Core i5-9400 is a decent CPU that does a pretty great job if your primary focus is only gaming since it does fall short in other departments. It is a 6 core and 6 thread processor which means most demanding games like Assassin’s Creed and others would run fine, provided you have a good GPU to back it up. It has the Intel UHD 630 GPU integrated on the CPU, so if you plan on using this CPU purely for productivity or watching movies, it does a great job.
It is a 65W TDP chip and is fairly efficient as well. The base clock is at 2.9GHz and boosts upto 4.1GHz which should help massively when it comes to gaming. The lack of hyper threading does hurt in some cases but if you need integrated graphics coupled with a high core count, this is something to choose.
Best Integrated Graphics: Ryzen 3 3200G
- Includes advanced Radeon Vega 8 graphics, no expensive graphics card required
- Can deliver smooth high definition performance in the world's most popular games
- 4 processing cores, bundled with the quiet AMD Wraith stealth cooler
- 4.0 GHz max boost, unlocked for overclocking, 6 MB cache, DDR 2933 support
- For the advanced socket AM4 platform. Base clock 3.6 GHz
Ryzen APUs have been value for money ever since their inception and the Ryzen 3 3200G is no exception. Don’t be fooled by the name of the product as it isn’t based on the Zen 2 architecture but rather the Zen+ architecture. It isn’t bad though as it is still a very capable quad core processor with four threads and it still beats out a couple of Intel Core i7 processors when it comes to benchmarks.
It comes equipped with Vega 8 graphics which does a decent job, especially in most eSports titles like League of Legends, Valorant etc. It starts out at a 3.6GHz base clock speed which makes things a lot smoother and faster. To take advantage of it, it’s recommended to use 8GB RAM in dual channel as to get the best out of this processor. It also goes up to 4GHz and with the included cooler, it ensures that thermals are kept within check. This APU is the best for those who plan on using it for light gaming and office work.
Honorable Mention: Intel Core i3-10100
- 4 Cores / 8 Threads
- Socket Type LGA 1200
- Up to 4.3 GHz
- Compatible with Intel 400 series chipset based motherboards
- Intel Optane Memory Support
The Intel Core i3-10100 is the successor to last gen’s Core i3-9100 and it does come with a couple of worthwhile upgrades. It supports hyper threading (which would certainly make a difference when it comes to games and streaming) and it is a 4 core and 8 thread processor. It performs very similarly to the i7-7700 which is saying something, especially since the i7-7700 used to be Intel’s high end offering. It starts at a 3.6GHz boost clock and goes upto 4.2GHz while also having Intel UHD 630 on it.
People who want to use it for daily tasks such as emails, web browsing etc. would have a great time with this CPU as this one crushes all of those simple tasks. Most games take advantage of this processor and it is a great processor for a beginner build.
What to Look for in a CPU
Before purchasing a CPU, you should always keep in mind about a couple of things to make sure you get the right CPU that suits your needs.
Most modern CPUs don’t come with their own graphics which basically means you need a dedicated graphics card for video output (which you’ll struggle to get for under $150). Certain Intel processors come with integrated graphics which should help you get started but most mainstream Ryzen CPUs come without integrated graphics. It is recommended that you check out the specs of the CPU before purchasing one.
In some cases, a higher core clock would make a huge difference compared to core count. Some processors might be similar in core count and threads but what makes the real difference is whether they have higher base clocks compared to their counterparts. The same goes for certain processors where a quad core CPU with a higher clock frequency would do much better than a hexa core CPU with a bad frequency.
Paying attention to the thermal design if a CPU does play an important role and most people tend to skip this criteria. Games tend to draw a lot of power from the CPU which basically requires a higher wattage without overheating. Make sure that your cooling system would properly support the CPUs thermal needs.
Last Updated on April 12, 2021 by Thomas Bush