The Basics: What is a CPU and Why is it Important?
When we talk about a CPU or Central Processing Unit, we’re talking about the brains of your computer. The CPU is responsible for processing all the data that goes in and out of your computer, making it one of the most important components in any system.
Think of your CPU as the conductor of an orchestra. It coordinates all the different parts of your computer to work together seamlessly, allowing you to run programs, watch videos, play games, and do everything else you need to do on your PC.
A good CPU can make a huge difference in how fast and efficient your machine runs. From powering fast gaming rigs to handling heavy workloads like video editing or 3D rendering, investing in a good CPU can be well worth it.
The $400 Price Range: What You Get for Your Money
When it comes to buying a new CPU, you might be wondering what kind of budget you need to get something decent. While there are CPUs out there that cost upwards of $1000 or more, there are also plenty of great options available at more affordable price points like $400 or less.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the best CPUs available under $400. While this might not be enough money for top-of-the-line models with all the bells and whistles, you’d be surprised at just how capable some mid-range CPUs can be.
At this price point, you can expect to find plenty of options from both Intel and AMD, including quad-core processors with hyperthreading all the way up to eight-core models with impressive clock speeds. Whether you’re building a new PC from scratch or upgrading an existing system, there’s bound to be something on this list that fits your needs and your budget.
Top 5 CPUs under $400
Ryzen 5 5600X: The Best All-Round Performer
If you want a reliable and fast CPU that delivers excellent performance, then the Ryzen 5 5600X is your best bet. This processor is equipped with six cores and twelve threads with a base clock speed of 3.7 GHz and a boost clock of 4.6 GHz, making it an ideal choice for gaming and other demanding applications. The Ryzen 5 5600X features AMD’s latest Zen 3 architecture, which improves the processor’s IPC (Instructions per Cycle) performance by up to twenty percent compared to its predecessor.
It also has excellent power efficiency, making it an energy-efficient option despite its high performance. In terms of benchmarks, the Ryzen 5 5600X ranks high among its competitors in both single-core and multi-core tests.
It scores a respectable mark of around six thousand points in Cinebench R23 multi-core tests, outperforming many other CPUs in this price range. The only downside to the Ryzen 5 5600X is that it doesn’t come with integrated graphics.
You’ll need to purchase a dedicated GPU if you plan on using this CPU for gaming or graphic-intensive tasks. However, if you’re looking for raw processing power at an affordable price point, you can’t go wrong with this CPU.
Intel Core i5-11600K: A Solid Gaming Processor
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly gaming processor that can handle demanding games like Cyberpunk2077 or Assassin’s Creed Valhalla without breaking your bank account, then the Intel Core i5-11600K is worth considering. This processor comes equipped with six cores and twelve threads and has a base clock speed of around three point nine GHz which can be boosted up to 4.9 GHz, delivering top-notch performance in single-core and multi-core tests. In benchmarks, the i5-11600K outperforms many of its competitors in gaming and productivity tasks.
It scores around six thousand points on Cinebench R23 multi-core tests and produces a whopping three hundred FPS in games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. One major drawback to this processor is its power consumption.
The i5-11600K consumes more energy than some of its competitors, which can lead to higher electricity bills over time. Furthermore, it lacks PCIe 4.0 support which is a bit disappointing for gamers who want the best of the best.
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X: An Ideal CPU for Content Creators
The AMD Ryzen 7 3700X is a beast when it comes to productivity tasks like video editing or rendering thanks to its eight cores and sixteen threads. The processor has a base clock speed of around three point six GHz and can boost up to 4.4 GHz under heavy workloads.
In terms of benchmarks, the Ryzen 7 3700X performs admirably in both single-core and multi-core tests. It scores around seven thousand points on Cinebench R23 multi-core tests, making it one of the most powerful CPUs available in this price range.
The only downside to this processor is that it lacks integrated graphics, meaning you’ll need to purchase a dedicated GPU if you plan on using this CPU for gaming purposes. Additionally, some users have reported issues with high temperatures when overclocking which may cause instability or damage over time.
Intel Core i7-10700K: A Powerful Processor with Great Overclocking Potential
If you’re looking for one of Intel’s most powerful processors that won’t cost an arm and a leg but still pack plenty of punch, then the Core i7-10700K is a great option. This eight-core, sixteen-thread processor has a base clock speed of around three point eight GHz and can boost up to five point one GHz.
The i7-10700K performs well in both single-core and multi-core benchmarks, scoring around seven thousand points on Cinebench R23 multi-core tests. Additionally, it has excellent overclocking potential, meaning you can push this processor to its limits if you know what you’re doing.
One downside to this processor is that it’s relatively power-hungry compared to other processors in its class. Also, like many other CPUs on this list, it lacks PCIe 4.0 support which is a bit disappointing for some users who want the latest technology.
AMD Ryzen Threadripper PRO WX3200: A Powerful Processor for Demanding Workloads
The AMD Ryzen Threadripper PRO WX3200 is the most expensive CPU on this list but offers incredible performance for demanding workloads like 3D modeling or video rendering. It comes equipped with twelve cores and twenty-four threads and has a base clock speed of around three point four GHz which can be boosted up to four point two GHz under heavy loads.
In benchmarks, the WX3200 performs exceedingly well in both single-core and multi-core tests, scoring nearly ten thousand points on Cinebench R23 multi-core tests. It also supports PCIe 4.0 technology which makes it one of the fastest CPUs available right now.
The only major downside to this processor is that its high price tag puts it out of reach for some users who are shopping within a tight budget. Furthermore, since it’s designed for high-end workloads rather than gaming purposes, it doesn’t come with integrated graphics so you’ll need to purchase a dedicated GPU if you plan on using this CPU for gaming or other graphic-intensive tasks.
CPU Cores: How Many Do You Need?
When it comes to choosing a CPU, the number of cores is an important factor to consider. A core is essentially a processing unit that can handle tasks independently.
The more cores your CPU has, the more tasks it can handle simultaneously. However, having too many cores can be overkill for some users and cause them to overspend on a CPU they don’t need.
Generally speaking, most modern CPUs come with at least 4 cores, but some high-end CPUs can have up to 16 or even more. For basic tasks like browsing the web and using Microsoft Office applications, a quad-core CPU should suffice.
However, for more demanding tasks like video editing or gaming, you’ll want to consider a CPU with six or eight cores. Ultimately, the number of cores you need will depend on your usage and budget.
If you’re building a budget PC and don’t plan on doing anything too demanding, then a quad-core CPU will be fine. But if you’re planning on using your PC for heavy workloads such as video editing or gaming then investing in a higher core count could be beneficial.
Clock Speed: How Much Do You Need?
Clock speed refers to how many cycles per second your CPU can process data. A higher clock speed means your CPU can process data faster which leads to better performance overall.
However, having an extremely high clock speed doesn’t always translate into better performance since other factors such as the number of cores also play an important role. In general terms, most modern CPUs have base clock speeds in the range of 3 GHz to 4 GHz which should be sufficient for most users’ needs.
However, if you’re planning on gaming or doing other demanding activities then investing in a processor with higher base clocks could provide better performance. It’s worth noting that overclocking is another way for users to increase their CPU’s clock speed beyond the manufacturer’s specifications.
However, overclocking can void a warranty and can also lead to system instability if not done correctly. Always make sure to do your research before attempting any overclocking.
When choosing a CPU under $400, you want to make sure you’re getting the best value for your money. It’s important to consider factors like the number of cores and clock speed when making your decision.
For basic tasks like browsing the web or using Microsoft Office applications, a quad-core CPU with a base clock of around 3GHz should suffice. On the other hand, for more demanding workloads, investing in processors with higher core counts and base clocks could provide better performance.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to what you plan on using your PC for and how much you’re willing to spend. With this guide in mind, we hope that you’re now better equipped to choose the right CPU for your needs!