Top i3 CPU for Gaming (2020)

Out of the 5 budget Intel processors we reviewed, we recommend the Intel Core i3-8100 as the best i3 CPU for gaming thanks to a solid performance while running at normal temperatures (see more below). See our full review of the top 5 Intel i3 processors below and find out if an i3 is worth it for gaming, and if you should buy one for your new gaming laptop or pre-built PC in 2020…

Image
Intel Core i3-8100 Desktop Processor 4 Cores up to 3.6 GHz Turbo Unlocked LGA1151 300 Series 95W
Intel 3.70 GHz Core i3-6100 3M Cache Processor (BX80662I36100)
Intel Core i3-7100  7th Gen Core Desktop Processor 3M Cache,3.90 GHz (BX80677I37100)
Intel 7th Generation Core i3-7350K 4.20 GHz FCLGA1151 Desktop Processor (BX80677I37350K)
Intel Core i3-8350K Desktop Processor 4 Cores up to 4.0 GHz unlocked LGA 1151 300 Series 91W
Title
Intel Core i3-8100
Intel Core i3-6100
Intel Core i3-7100
Intel Core i3-7350K
Intel Core i3-8350K
Clock Speed
3.6 GHz
3.7 GHz
3.9 GHz
4.2 GHz (unlocked)
4.0 GHz (unlocked)
Core/Thread Count
4/4
2/4
2/4
2/4
4/4
Image
Intel Core i3-8100 Desktop Processor 4 Cores up to 3.6 GHz Turbo Unlocked LGA1151 300 Series 95W
Title
Intel Core i3-8100
Clock Speed
3.6 GHz
Core/Thread Count
4/4
Price
Image
Intel 3.70 GHz Core i3-6100 3M Cache Processor (BX80662I36100)
Title
Intel Core i3-6100
Clock Speed
3.7 GHz
Core/Thread Count
2/4
Price
Image
Intel Core i3-7100  7th Gen Core Desktop Processor 3M Cache,3.90 GHz (BX80677I37100)
Title
Intel Core i3-7100
Clock Speed
3.9 GHz
Core/Thread Count
2/4
Price
Image
Intel 7th Generation Core i3-7350K 4.20 GHz FCLGA1151 Desktop Processor (BX80677I37350K)
Title
Intel Core i3-7350K
Clock Speed
4.2 GHz (unlocked)
Core/Thread Count
2/4
Price
Image
Intel Core i3-8350K Desktop Processor 4 Cores up to 4.0 GHz unlocked LGA 1151 300 Series 91W
Title
Intel Core i3-8350K
Clock Speed
4.0 GHz (unlocked)
Core/Thread Count
4/4
Price

Best i3 CPU for Gaming

It may have been years since the release of the 8th gen Intel Core i3-8100 but it still holds up to modern gaming standards on a low budget.

Pros:
  • Best for budget gaming
  • Runs at cool temperatures
  • Has enough power to run modern games at low settings
Cons:
  • No overclocking
  • Stutters when multitasking
  • Lots of slowdown

The Intel Core i3-8100 centers around accessibility for the budget gamer. While it may not be the cheapest in the i3 lineup, it sure does have good power for its price. The i3-8100 has only 4 cores and 4 threads, meaning you will not be able to do multi threading. But if your only reason is to play video games on medium to low settings, this will do you justice as it allows you to play in HD and in almost fluid frames. Its average clock speed is 3.6 GHz which is just enough to run a game like GTAV at lowest settings and in 30 fps. Overall, we chose this as the best of the bunch thanks to its included integrated graphics and fluid performance.

If you’re looking for the top 5 CPU’s in terms of price vs performance, check out our best CPU for gaming review for 2020.

 

Best Value i3 CPU for Gaming

For the low-end gamers, the Intel Core i3-6100 is an excellent choice if you are willing to play games using a duo core. With its hyperthreading feature, you can safely play the most popular and trending online games without much worry.

Pros:
  • Very budget friendly
  • Best for low-end gaming
  • Multithreading
Cons:
  • No overclocking
  • Only 2 cores
  • Cannot play most of the modern games

Quite frankly, the Intel Core i3-6100 is more of an office type of a processor rather than for gaming. However, if you are willing to push its limits, make sure that the settings are at the lowest in order not to experience any constant stuttering like some poorly-made GMod animation. It does not quite properly run smoothly on modern games but if you are going to just play classics such as League of Legends, DotA 2, or CSGO, or during the 2000s era of gaming (except Crysis), then this should work properly. And hey, it even includes hyperthreading to maintain a normal performance while multitasking on other programs like Word or even a live streaming app.

Have you considered an i5? Get an increase in gaming FPS and check out our best i5 gaming CPU’s for 2020.

Best Budget i3 CPU for Gaming

This comes as a bit of a surprise for us (and for many budget gamers) but the Intel Core i3-7100 performs quite well even on some of the most resource-demanding games of the mid-2010’s.

Pros:
  • Surprisingly good performance
  • Can multitask
  • Suitable for live streaming
Cons:
  • No overclocking
  • Costs as much as a Pentium Gold
  • Issues with WIndows 7

What we really like about the Intel Core i3-7100 is that it is the cheapest i3 in this list but it is also one of the more powerful processors for gaming.

Looking for an i9 power house processor? Check out our review of the best i9 CPU’s for Gaming and find out if an i9 is worth buying in 2020…

Mysteriously, while it only runs on 2 cores, its hyperthreading helps in doing some multitasking (more emphasis on the “some”) such as live streaming – specifically just webcam or digital art (no gaming) and running at least 3 tabs on Google Chrome without the PC flinching.  It is a solid pick if you are willing to go the extra mile on playing some of the best games in the very lowest settings.

Need more performance? Avoid the potential or future CPU bottlenecks and check out our top 5 i7 Gaming CPU review, fresh for 2020.

Best Kaby Lake i3 CPU for Gaming

Here is something more sophisticated; the Intel Core i3-7350K is one of the more extensive options that let you overclock and can play more resource-heavy modern games. Still, it may be less superior than the i5 gaming chip but it checks out.

Pros:
  • Multithreading
  • Overclocking
  • Can multitask with ease
Cons:
  • Still imperfect overclocking
  • Medium settings in modern games only
  • May still load slowly

The Intel Core i3-7350K primarily lets you do the following: overclock up to 4.20 GHz, multithread and play modern games in at least medium settings.

But you might be asking what the “Kaby Lake” is supposed to be. Well, according to the wiki, Kaby Lake is “an Intel codename for a processor microarchitecture Intel announced on August 30, 2016. Like the preceding Skylake, Kaby Lake is produced using a 14 nanometer manufacturing process technology.”

Are You Intel Fan? See our top 5 picks for the best Intel gaming CPU and find out if you should buy Intel in 2020.

In layman’s terms, it is just a more advanced version available for the i3. As such, this processor can make the impossible possible that feels more than just a good budget overclocking CPU.

Are you a Streamer? See our best CPU for Streaming in 2020.

Most Powerful i3 CPU for Gaming

The Intel Core i3-8350K is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with in the i3 lineup. It lets you overclock up to 4.0 GHz (which is unlocked) and can run modern games smoothly in HD, which is something that most CPUs in its lineup cannot do much.

Pros:
  • Unlocked clock speed
  • Can overclock
  • Runs modern games without a problem
Cons:
  • Needs lots of manual settings
  • No hyperthreading
  • Still expensive especially for an i3

The Intel Core i3-8350K is more of a premium type of i3. Unlike many before it, this 8th gen banger does a good job in presenting games well without stuttering… most of the time, that is. But, of course, you will need to manually calibrate how much power it should consume in order to achieve a proper performance.

PRO TIP: Keep your CPU cool, consider buying a good AIO water cooler they are easy to install and offer lower noise, cooler temps and higher overclocking… While you’re at it see our NEW guide for the best thermal paste freshly updated for 2020.

What is best about the Intel Core i3-8350K  is that its max clock speed is unlocked beyond 4.0 GHz, meaning you can run programs at the same time without having any slowdown. It may not have hyperthreading but it still does a pretty swell work in making sure you can play modern games within the low to medium spectrum without any major slowdowns.

Do you prefer AMD processors? Check out our New review of 2020’s best AMD CPU’s for gaming.

What We Would Buy

Alas, you have read all of the best i3 CPU for gaming. What you will pick is up to what you need in a CPU. Do you prefer performance over visuals? Maybe you just need to meet League of Legends recommended settings, but whatever your reason may be, you should definitely put the Intel Core i3-8100 at the top – we know we would. But if you want an ultra budgeted option, you have two choices (each is equally good): the Intel Core i3-6100 or the Intel Core i3-7100. And if these feel too weak for you, then you can go for something that can overclock and play the current games you want without any problems. For that, you may either choose to get the Intel Core i3-7350K or the Intel Core i3-8350K. If you’re still stuck trying to make a decision check out our gaming CPU hierarchy for an overview of Intel & AMD processors.

Editor & reviewer of gear from iOS control pad’s to high-end PC gaming hardware. He’s been gaming since the 1980s and mostly plays CS GO & Overwatch.