The Best CPUs – 2023 Update

Starting with the most affordable CPUs, our focus here is mostly on gaming performance and there are only a few worthwhile options in this range. Considering the most affordable AM5 processor is priced at $225, AMD’s latest platform might not be suitable for those with a tight budget. Instead, we suggest considering the AM4 platform, the Ryzen 5 5500 or preferably the Ryzen 5 5600. Intel also offers a viable option with the Core i3-12100 series.

For those with a tight budget, considering a new PC build or even just a platform upgrade, the Core i3-12100F is a solid starting point at $90. Paired with affordable DDR4-3600 CL16 memory, the 12100 typically outperforms the Ryzen 5 5500 in gaming, delivering around 15% more performance in our tests.

There are several reasonably priced B660 boards that can support Core i9 processors without any throttling issues. One such example is the $150 MSI Pro B660M-A. However, if you have no plans to upgrade beyond a Core i5, the Asrock B660M Pro RS works well for $95. Still, investing an additional $55 for the MSI model provides a more capable product in terms of power delivery.

This means if you pair the $90 12100F with a decent $150 B660 board and $40 for a 16GB DDR4-3600 CL16 memory kit, the combination will cost you $280. We’d urge you to consider spending an extra $20 on a comparable 32GB kit, taking the total to just $300.

That being said, our current recommendation leans towards DDR5. We advise skipping B660 boards and opting for B760, where you’ll find decent models around $150. Several 32GB DDR5-5600 kits are now selling for roughly $80 US, which is a minor premium over DDR4-3600 kits. This brings the total to just $320, with the extra memory bandwidth offering noticeable gains in CPU-limited games like Spider-Man Remastered, Hogwarts Legacy and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.

In our opinion, the only viable alternative to the Core i3-12100 series is AMD’s Ryzen 5 5600, which is still available for $135, a price point it has maintained for over a year. The AM4 processor can be used with a quality B550 board for as little as $100, like the MSI B550M-Pro VHD WiFi, while the Asrock B550 Pro4 for $105 is another viable option.

For $60, you can get a decent 32GB DDR4-3600 CL16 memory kit. This means you can assemble the AM4 combo for as little as $290, saving $10 compared to the 12100F. Plus, you have the luxury of upgrading to the 5800X3D in the future, or for better productivity performance, the 5900X or 5950X.

So, for a similar price when considering platform costs, you can opt for either the Core i3-12100F or the Ryzen 5 5600. Both are excellent choices with promising upgrade paths. It’s tough for us to choose between them, as their current performance is impressive, and the upgrade option to either the 13600K or 5800X3D is equally attractive. Both choices have strong arguments in their favor, so we recommend you to evaluate the prices in your region, as that could be the deciding factor.



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