A processor or CPU is the central unit of your computer that decides how fast your computer will run. Hundreds of Intel and AMD desktop processors are available in different price ranges. Desktop processors are available from as low as $35 to as high as $1000 or even more. Different models of desktop CPUs and the latest APU (CPU+GPU)s sell for an almost equal price making it difficult to decide which CPU is the best for the bucks. That is where this list comes. This list presents relatively recent CPUs meant for low to medium budget computer. Since we list only the more recently released CPUs, so if you are not building a new computer, please check if your motherboard supports the CPU. The following list suggests the best CPUs in price ranges starting from $50 to $250.
(Note: The following list is made based on the market price of the processors as of August, 2018. Generally, price drops occur once in 6 months. So, this list should be good till January, 2019.)
Many good processors are available for $50 or less in the present market. However, you cannot expect to play latest games or software (that demand heavy processing need) smoothly even with a latest dedicated graphics card installed in your PC. But you can expect to build a computer with a $50 CPU and do the day-to-day computing jobs such as using Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop CS7, internet browsing, online video streaming, watching movies, listening to music, and playing basic games pretty smoothly, efficiently, and fast. You may be able to run some old high-end games but you will not get a decent Frames-Per-Second (usually less than 25FPS while game details set to medium and lower). If you are an apps developer, and use tools such as Android Studio, it would be better if you go for a better CPU.
Best AMD CPU under $50: AMD A6-9500.
Best Intel CPU under $50: Intel 7th Gen Celeron.
However, if you can add $15 to your budget, you should go for Intel Pentium Gold G5400 for a little bit better gaming performance.
$100 processors should give you a decent performance in everything you do on a computer. If you want to run graphic intensive apps and games, you’ll need a dedicated graphics card. Even then a $100 CPU may not give you the expected speed and fps. But it will perform steadily. It will run most apps easily. In case of playing relatively recent games, it will lag a little. But you will be able to play the games at lower fps.
Best AMD CPU under $100: AMD Ryzen 3 1200.
Best Intel CPU under $100: Intel Pentium Gold G5600.
$150 processors should be your choice even if your budget for the whole computer is as low as $500. I say this because, the processors available in this price range are jack of all trades (though they are master of none). You can build a gaming PC or work PC with it. It will be able to run every apps and latest games given that you have a dedicated GPU.
Best AMD CPU under $150: AMD Ryzen 5 1600.
Best Intel CPU under $150: Intel i3-8100.
When your budget for the processor alone is $200, you can surely expect better performance. And processors in this price range are capable of giving better performance, and faster operation. These processors will give you better fps when playing latest games. A good gaming PC requires you to spend $200 on processor.
The best CPU under $200: Intel Core i5-8400.
However, best would be to add $15 to your budget and go for Intel Core i5-8500
If you are going to build a great gaming PC, you should want to spend at least $250 on the CPU. The processors in this price range will run anything you throw at it without a glitch. It will improve your gaming experience by a great deal. You will get much better fps. If your GPU is good enough, you will be able to run latest games in high details.
Best AMD CPU under $250: AMD Ryzen 7 1800X.
Best Intel CPU under $250: Intel Core i5-8600K.