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Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: March 2010

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March 15, 2010 6:38:40 AM

Please add Core i7-980X to the Gaming CPU Hierarchy Chart :) 
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a b 4 Gaming
March 15, 2010 6:46:17 AM

Ok, you've decided what tier you want to be on. Which platform do you choose, and why? A comprehensive comparative review of the currently available platforms (including the older AM2 and LGA775 for upgraders) would be useful.
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March 15, 2010 6:46:17 AM

I picked up an X3 440 3.0Ghz based on this article. Great CPU. Managed to get 4 cores out of it even.
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March 15, 2010 6:46:29 AM

Core i7-860, -870, -920, -940, -950
is missing the , -960
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March 15, 2010 6:47:15 AM

Core i7-860, -870, -920, -940, -950
is missing the ", -960"
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a b à CPUs
March 15, 2010 7:14:23 AM

Good to hear the i3s are becoming better value, but have yet to find a article comparing its performance to a true quad
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March 15, 2010 7:47:55 AM

jtt283Ok, you've decided what tier you want to be on. Which platform do you choose, and why? A comprehensive comparative review of the currently available platforms (including the older AM2 and LGA775 for upgraders) would be useful.

Including older platforms would make this article way too long. I'm sure you can find the kind of reviews you're talking about in the forums.
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March 15, 2010 7:54:21 AM

Umm is it just me or do they still have the i7-920 up there?

hmm it seems to me like that is a worthless recommendation unless you live near a microcenter. as the i7-930 has a higher core clock by about 200mhz and has a higher multiplier, for just $5-ish more. please change your list to reflect this or give a reason why it isn't on the list.
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March 15, 2010 10:07:11 AM

I'm hoping the new hexa cores will be able to push everything else down a tier or maybe even see AMD fill in that empty first tier.
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March 15, 2010 10:38:38 AM

Good to see 9 AMD Processors mentioned as best (for that price point) and only 5 intel Processors
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a b à CPUs
March 15, 2010 10:47:30 AM

shreeharsha said:
Good to see 9 AMD Processors mentioned as best (for that price point) and only 5 intel Processors



Typical Fanboy
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a b à CPUs
March 15, 2010 10:56:10 AM

I knew AMD was successful in the low end market, but I didn't they were THAT successful!

The Athlon II X4 620 is a great bargain!



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March 15, 2010 12:25:47 PM

couple suggestions:
a) Be consequent in the specs! For instance the i3 series boards have mentions of cores/threads wheras the 1366 based i7 systems only state cores. Also teh i5 is missing qpi data.
b) None of the core i series processors have a mention of turbo mode speed nor is fsb listed for processors where it is relevant. Perhaps even add an 'unlocked multiplier' spec to the processors where applicable (black and extreme ed processors).
c) Maybe also mention the amount of pcie lanes and wether or not the processor has ecc support (if any of the recommended even support that? xeon w3520 does, and opterons do - both run in [some] desktop boards). You may argue that ecc support slows performance and therefore isn't wanted - but ecc support means cheaper access to 4gb memory modules.
4) that's perhaps a stretch, but add a spec that mentions which chipsets are supporting the cpu. Particularily important for the two core 2 processors as someone with lga775 won't nessecarily be able to run the processors just because the socket fits. Same goes for older am+ systems hoping to upgrade to a phenom x3. Don't really expect this last request to be within the reasonable limits of what can be expected from a 'quick list of processors'
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March 15, 2010 1:10:20 PM

neiroatopelcccouple suggestions:a) Be consequent in the specs! Fo


Good points, Neiro. I'll update the format for next month.
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March 15, 2010 1:49:24 PM

In fact, while they do not carry every processor on this list, for the one's they do carry, they are usually lowest in price, often by large margins, e.g., i7 975 for 799.99.
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March 15, 2010 1:53:23 PM

If all processors they carry are cheaper than here, what's your problem? the ratios are still going to match up then.
Here in Denmark all the prices are higher, but since the ratios are similar the list is quite useful.
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a b 4 Gaming
March 15, 2010 2:18:28 PM

it seems like there were a lot of honorable mentions this month.
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March 15, 2010 2:47:23 PM

p1n3apqlexpr3ssGood to hear the i3s are becoming better value, but have yet to find a article comparing its performance to a true quad


Check Anand's article on them. Particularly the launch article.
Short form:
1-2 threads they do great. However, it should be noted that an i7-860 comes within 5% of the single-thread performance of an i5-661 and beats the i3s. The i3s are comparable to a high-end C2D here.
Light multithreading they still beat the Athlons and show very well for themselves. In other words, they game very well with a good GPU.
At 4 heavy threads though, the limitations of HT start to show. It lets otherwise wasted cycles be used productively, that's it. Athlon X3s and X4s meet and beat them respectively. The PII quads and i5/i7 quads just eat them alive on heavily threaded benchmarks.
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March 15, 2010 2:48:29 PM

If you are overclocking to ~4.0 ghz or less, the 920 will be about the same as the 930. That being said, the $10-$30 price difference isn't too hard to swallow for the newer chip...
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a b à CPUs
March 15, 2010 3:14:45 PM

Isn't the Phenom II 965 about even with the i5 750 as far as gaming goes?
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March 15, 2010 3:18:44 PM

RequiemsallureUmm is it just me or do they still have the i7-920 up there? hmm it seems to me like that is a worthless recommendation unless you live near a microcenter. as the i7-930 has a higher core clock by about 200mhz and has a higher multiplier, for just $5-ish more. please change your list to reflect this or give a reason why it isn't on the list.


He is right the i7-920 should not be recommended the i7-930 should be it over clocks better.
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March 15, 2010 3:41:17 PM

flyinfinniIsn't the Phenom II 965 about even with the i5 750 as far as gaming goes?


Only on CPU speed centric games like Fallout 3. Clock for Clock, the i5 750 beats it handily.
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March 15, 2010 3:44:19 PM

Ugh, what's with all the Honorable mentions, I just want to know which is the best CPU for my price. I would be CPU at the 110-130 price point, but you guys just HM every CPU in the list. Are there really no CPUs at that large prce gap to recomend anybody. And thats not thhe only area thats been outrageosly HMd!

Thios is the first list that I've completely hated.
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March 15, 2010 3:48:51 PM

Thanks for a nice write-up.

I'd love to see some kind of performance metrics, with an entry-level, mid, and high end graphics card, as well as comparisons to older stuff. It's always quite easy to find info on what to upgrade to, but not so easy to find out whether to upgrade or not, especially if your PC is 3-4 years old: there's no direct comparisons in the newer benchs.
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March 15, 2010 3:50:57 PM

bustaprUgh, what's with all the Honorable mentions, I just want to know which is the best CPU for my price. I would be CPU at the 110-130 price point, but you guys just HM every CPU in the list. Are there really no CPUs at that large prce gap to recomend anybody. And thats not thhe only area thats been outrageosly HMd!Thios is the first list that I've completely hated.


to translate teh list : buy an athlon x3 or x4 or go all the way and get an i5
anything in between is a waste
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a b à CPUs
March 15, 2010 4:27:22 PM

i guess there should b ea mention about the core i7 930... now that it is replacing the aging 920..
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March 15, 2010 4:29:04 PM

p1n3apqlexpr3ssGood to hear the i3s are becoming better value, but have yet to find a article comparing its performance to a true quad


PC Pro Magazine says the i3 530 compares to a Core 2 Quad Q8400 (2.66 Ghz, 4Mb L2, 1333 Mhz FSB).
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Anonymous
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a b 4 Gaming
March 15, 2010 4:30:40 PM

So i'm wondering if i plan to build i3 with H55 board shouldn't be a problem if i'm not going to cf/sli right?
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March 15, 2010 4:38:44 PM

bustaprUgh, what's with all the Honorable mentions, I just want to know which is the best CPU for my price. I would be CPU at the 110-130 price point, but you guys just HM every CPU in the list.


The problem is, the answer isn't the same for everyone.

Let's say you have an existing LGA 775 board. Is it worth it for you to buy an Athlon AM3 board so you can buy the Phenom II X4? Nah, you'd be better off with a Core 2 quad. But if you're building new, yes, AM3 is the way to go.

The CPUs in this list are solid recommendations, but there is no perfect answer for everything. Having said that, if you bought any of the listed CPUs you would likely be quite happy with it.
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March 15, 2010 4:41:45 PM

I also have seen benchmarks where the Ph II 965 runs with the core i5 and i7 fairly well, especially overclocked. As in the gulftown review:
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/core-i7-980x-gulfto...

Is there really THAT much difference in performance between the 965 and the intel CPU's? And yes, I understand some of these benchies were GPU bottlenecked.
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March 15, 2010 4:48:45 PM

RequiemsallureUmm is it just me or do they still have the i7-920 up there? ... please change your list to reflect this or give a reason why it isn't on the list.


Changed. As for the reason, the article was written before the i7 930 was available.
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March 15, 2010 4:49:58 PM

realsatan84So i'm wondering if i plan to build i3 with H55 board shouldn't be a problem if i'm not going to cf/sli right?


Yeah, should be fine. I'd probably go with P55 if you're going to buy an external graphics card tho.
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March 15, 2010 4:53:41 PM

It seams that the tiers are becoming more condensed as time goes on, a lot of processors are grouped together where in the past they were separated on different performance tiers. Is there a reason for this?

Also, I was wondering if you could start adding in mobile CPU's to your performance tiers like you guys did when you added the mobile GPU's for your graphics hierarchy chart at the end of your Best Graphics Cards for the money articles? I just think it would be a neat thing to see (but I don't know if its wise do to the shear amount of mobile processors on the market).

BTW.. speaking of hierarchy charts.. Did you spell hierarchy wrong? Spell checker wants to make it hier, but you have it spelled with heir...I did a quick search and find it spelled both ways depending on the web site I look at.... a mystery is afoot!! lol
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March 15, 2010 4:54:35 PM

Yeah, I think most of us know what Honorable mention means. Its not a strong recommendation because of the other components in the price range, but it IS worth mentioning.

I think its another nice article, very useful and fairly comprehensive. Nice to see the 720BE mentioned this time, I am sad to see it go as I'd be interested for future builds. Well, I'll prolly get the X3 435 and see if I can unlock, if not I'll enjoy overclocking that puppy. Building a gaming rig for my niece who just graduated high school.
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March 15, 2010 5:10:18 PM

Damn, AMD sucks.
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a c 159 à CPUs
a b 4 Gaming
March 15, 2010 6:05:43 PM

Yeah, my X4 955 is still in the list, that's a good news for me and my rig.
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Anonymous
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a b 4 Gaming
March 15, 2010 6:39:09 PM

You write, "I don’t recommend upgrading your CPU unless the potential replacement is at least three tiers higher. Otherwise, the upgrade is somewhat parallel and you may not notice a worthwhile difference in game performance."

I'd say that's fair enough, IF--and only if--you're staying at the same core count. I went from a C2Duo E6750 to a Q9550, and even before overclocking (the Q9550 overclocked far more easily than the E6750, though that may also have been affected by P45 vs P35) there was significant increase. Only a small step (2.66GHz-->2.83GHz) in clock speed, but those two additional cores are huge.
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March 15, 2010 6:40:43 PM

The chart shows what Cpu's are out there for someone who is looking to upgrade. Performance wise it depends on what type of hardware you are going to couple with these cpu's. A smart builder always researches the best viable option they can obtain need it be intel or amd.
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March 15, 2010 6:43:40 PM

i wanna see a mobile version of this article please for those that are buying in that market.
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March 15, 2010 9:21:24 PM

My BE 720 still rules.. I'll upgrade sometime in the future but with it overclocked to 3.7ghz it cruises along with the best of them, and all for $120
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March 15, 2010 11:14:38 PM

You never seem to mention it, but the 955BE has been available with C3 stepping for nearly as long as the 965BE. Newegg has been selling it for the same price($160) as the old C2 model for several weeks now, making the 965BE(C3) at $180 a poor value.
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March 16, 2010 1:15:16 AM

So if i plan to build i3 with H55, it should be fine as long as I'm not going to CF/SLI right?
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March 16, 2010 1:26:34 AM

Good info up there except for the prices. I bought an I-3 530 from MicroCenter for 107.64 after tax. You can also get an I-7 920 for 199.99 at the same place.
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March 16, 2010 3:40:13 AM

i5 750 is still the bet performance for gaming here in aus, specially with the price of the lga1156 platform, and dual ddr3 being so low (triple ddr3 has been going up since october '09
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March 16, 2010 3:51:48 AM

cleeve said:
Changed. As for the reason, the article was written before the i7 930 was available.



sounds good :) 

i re-read my comment and realized it could have come off as rude, i apologize for that.
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March 16, 2010 4:26:01 PM

Lots of mention about the i7 930 being left out, but I didn't see any comments about the Athlon II X4 630. It's 200 MHz faster than the 620, and currently the exact same price on Newegg ($99). It's been at that price for at least a week.
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March 16, 2010 5:35:33 PM

Requiemsalluresounds good i re-read my comment and realized it could have come off as rude, i apologize for that.


no worries man, but thanks anyway! :) 
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