So you are looking for the cheapest new CPU you can find for gaming – you look at AMD’s options well the Ryzen 3100 doesn’t seem to exist, nor the 3300X, you can’t buy the 4th gen APUs and even a 2200G is £135 right now. You could get a 1600 AF for £137, but that’s still pretty high and technically a generation or two old. So, team blue. Intel’s i3 10100 and 10100F can be had for at-or-around £100, offers 4 cores and 8 threads, and boost up to 4.3GHz. So seems like your best option, right? Well, Intel’s i5 10400F can be had for £135 and with that you get 6 cores and 12 threads, and the same 4.3GHz boost clocks. So, what do you buy? Well, lets test them out and see. But first, if you haven’t already, consider subscribing for more videos like this one every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The i3 10100 is about as low as I’d recommend for gaming these days, 4 cores especially for modern games is becoming the minimum you’d want, plus for the same price as a B460 or H410 motherboard you’ll need for it, it’s pretty easy to recommend. It does have some drawbacks, beyond its immediate performance. For this generation, Intel were on the warpath to remove any and all features that aren’t absolutely necessary, and sell them back to you in “K” SKU products, including setting your memory speed to anything over their spec frequency, which for i3’s and i5’s is 2666MHz. So, despite me using a modest 3200MHz kit here, even setting the XMP profile on it still only ran at 2666MHz. You can circumvent that rule by using a Z490 board instead, but then you are spending more on your motherboard than you are your CPU and if you have spare cash it’s better to put that on a higher end CPU anyway.
One thing the H410 motherboard I’m using did let me do though was set the PL1 profile based on if I was using the (god awful) stock cooler, or an aftermarket AIO or tower cooler. If you pick the ‘Boxed Cooler’ option, it sets the PL1 and PL2 profiles to stock, which for the 10400F is 65W and 134W, but if you set it to tower or water cooler, it sets both to 255W. I set the same for the 10100 too.
So, enough talking, let’s look at some benchmarks. I’m testing with a 2080Ti to help isolate the CPU and see how well they actually perform. I’m playing at 1080p ultra settings, and I threw in a ‘simulated’ Ryzen 5600X, a 5900X with a full CCX disabled, as a reference.
In Watchdogs Legion, the 10100 still performs reasonably well, although is around 20% slower than the 10400F which while it does have a lower 1% low number, is within margin of error of the 6 core Ryzen on the average.
COD Modern Warfare is a lot closer, with the 10400F being just 5% faster than the 10100, meaning realistically you won’t notice that difference.
So with a more… limiting… GPU, the 10100 is a much more viable option. Sure, the 10400F especially in CPU heavy games like Cyberpunk does provide a better playing experience but for most games that are GPU bound it’s pretty close. There is one advantage the i5 has over the 10100 though, which is productivity performance.
In Cinebench Single Threaded you can see why the 10100 was so close to the 10400F in games, it’s basically the same chip with a few extra cores.
All that performance difference translates to streaming too. I’ve tested the 10400F for streaming before and it did ok, if not amazingly. But apply that 33% less cores to the 10100 and it’s going to be pretty bad. You might still be ok streaming using your GPU encoder, but if you are streaming through a program like OBS it still takes some CPU power to run that and it might end up being less than ideal for both you and your viewers if you had the 10100.
So, for £10-30 more depending if you buy the 10100 or 10100F, the 10400F seems like an amazing option. Especially if you plan on streaming or say editing videos, get the 10400F. It’s worth it. But, if you want the cheapest new gaming CPU right now, the 10100(F) is your best choice. Especially with a mid level GPU, you are going to have a great time with it, and worst case you can always upgrade it later anyway.