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Best Gaming CPU: Under $110

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: December 2010

Best Gaming CPU for ~$85:

Athlon II X3 455

Athlon II X3 455
Codename: Rana
Process: 45 nm
CPU Cores: 3
Clock Speed: 3.3 GHz
Socket: AM2+/AM3
L1 Cache: 3 x 128 KB
L2 Cache: 3 x 512 KB
HyperTransport: 4000 MT/s
Thermal Envelope:
95 W

The new Athlon II X3 455 is the fastest triple-core Athlon II available, and it sports an ideal combination of three execution cores, a high clock rate, a low price, and respectable overclocking headroom. Despite the deceptively low buy-in, this processor delivers some serious gaming capability.

Intel's Core i3-550 does manage to up the ante, but it costs $30 more, and doesn't perform as well in threaded environments due to its less complex dual-core architecture.

Best Gaming CPU for $100: None

Honorable Mention:
Athlon II X4 640 (Check Prices)

Athlon II X4 640
Codename: Propus
Process: 45 nm
CPU Cores: 4
Clock Speed: 3.0 GHz
Socket: AM3
L1 Cache: 4 x 128 KB
L2 Cache: 4 x 512 KB
HyperTransport: 4000 MT/s
Thermal Envelope:
95 W

There are a few gaming titles out there that will take advantage of a fourth CPU core---real-time strategy games, mostly--making the Athlon II X4 a potentially attractive choice to enthusiasts who multitask while they play, and are willing to overclock this processor. Moreover, as a general-purpose CPU (during the hours you don't spend gaming), the quad-core solution is going to be superior.

Now found as low as $100, true quad-core CPUs are well within the grasp of the budget-oriented gamer. Specifically, the Athlon II X4 640 model is impressive, with its 3 GHz clock speed.

Read our review of the Athlon II X4, right here.

Honorable Mention:
Pentium Dual-Core E6800 (Check Prices)

Pentium Dual-Core E6800
Codename: Wolfdale-2M
Process: 45 nm
CPU Cores: 2
Clock Speed: 3.33 GHz
Socket: LGA 775
L2 Cache: 2 MB
Front Side Bus: 1066 MT/s
Thermal Envelope:
65 W

The 3.33 GHz Pentium E6800 replaces the 3.2 GHz Pentium E6700 as the fastest budget dual-core available for the LGA 775 interface.

While the E6800 doesn't have any dormant cores that could be unlocked (like the Phenom II X2 555), it has a solid reputation for overclocking well, and it makes a good upgrade option for tweakers with older LGA 775-based systems who are not yet ready to put money into a new motherboard and CPU.

For folks considering a full upgrade, the Socket AM3 and LGA 1156 platforms are probably better choices. Just bear in mind that LGA 1156's days are numbered. The launch of Sandy Bridge in just a couple of weeks sees Intel pulling a hack-job with yet another interface, leaving mainstream buyers with Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 CPUs stranded without a viable upgrade path.

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  • 4 Hide
    Tamz_msc , December 29, 2010 4:41 AM
    It will be interesting to look up this article in January.
  • 1 Hide
    carlhenry , December 29, 2010 4:58 AM
    i think the Phenom II 965's & 970's should be out of consideration. the i5 750/760 obliterates the opposition. hey, i'm an AMD guy, bought a phenom II 940 back in the day. but if i'm upgrading to that price segment, i'd go for an i5. no need to upgrade to phenom II 955++ if ever, just OC the 940 to get more value from it, plus it OC's pretty well without a sweat.
  • 1 Hide
    Stardude82 , December 29, 2010 5:33 AM
    Again, am I the only guy annoyed with the disapearance of the 95W Phenom II x4's?
  • 1 Hide
    firefyte , December 29, 2010 7:04 AM
    Does the Athlon II X3 455 even work in a AM2+ socket, as it is a AM3 socket-product?
  • 1 Hide
    aznshinobi , December 29, 2010 7:43 AM
    Yes it does, AM2+ has more pins than AM3. Just drop it in and it should work.
  • -1 Hide
    tmk221 , December 29, 2010 8:15 AM
    it seems to me like cpu market is dead like for 6 months. intel and amd please release new line of cpu already!!
  • 2 Hide
    7amood , December 29, 2010 8:17 AM
    2011 is a new year
    some evolution to this highly anticipated article is highly appreciated.
    pleeeeeeeeease add info such as bas BCLK, Ratio, VCore, TDP, ...etc.

    to be honest i tried manytimes to leave tom's but i keep commin' back for some great articles.

    and by 'some' i mean 2 ~ 3 / week.

    other websites are evolving, tom's hardware is still the same...
  • 2 Hide
    elkein , December 29, 2010 8:42 AM
    I really don't believe that Intel creating even more blank space on the amd column next month is gonna be healthy for anyone.
  • 2 Hide
    Onus , December 29, 2010 9:09 AM
    Please add AMD's 45W CPUs to the chart. I'm sure they won't win any performance prizes, but it would be nice to see where they fall. If even the X2 255 was able to play most games not all that long ago, perhaps the X3 415e is also "good enough" where power saving is important.
  • 1 Hide
    billj214 , December 29, 2010 10:49 AM
    I think this re-occurring article is great but I don't see a future in it with AMD dropping from the upper end chip competition and the i5 760 is really the only budget choice due to its extreme flexibility.

    I was running a Q9650 over 2 years ago and it still outperforms most AMD's according the the CPU hierarchy.
  • 2 Hide
    Onus , December 29, 2010 11:02 AM
    I disagree that AMD is in any trouble here. If you can go 3-4 tiers down in the chart and still have a decent gaming CPU, having nothing in the top tier really doesn't make much difference.
  • 0 Hide
    dowsire , December 29, 2010 11:33 AM
    Bulldozer is taking forever. My system I have now is going to be my new HTPC and a new build for bulldozer, is just waiting for it to get here. AM3+ motherboards needs to come out already. 4 module(8core) AMD Bulldozer here I come. When bulldozer comes out buy them by modules not by cores cause, with the new design 1 new module(AM3+) design will equal 1 old core(AM3) design. So todays AMD PII X4 955=Bulldozer 4module.
  • -1 Hide
    gxpbecker , December 29, 2010 12:10 PM
    still holding strong with my 3.8gig OC 940 and 4770. :)  will upgrade when SB and BD come around.
  • 1 Hide
    mliska1 , December 29, 2010 12:25 PM
    Shouldn't you start at a point lower than $85? Some of us still want to know what's best for those really low-budget rigs. Should start in the $50-$60 range.
  • 3 Hide
    KBentley57 , December 29, 2010 1:04 PM
    I love the recommendations for "best 999 dollar cpu". There is only one CPU that costs that much, so I guess it's winner by default.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , December 29, 2010 1:21 PM
    your adds suck!
  • 1 Hide
    poppasmurf , December 29, 2010 1:42 PM
    I think a misprint is above in the article in the stating of the newer line from AMD
    Phenom II X2 965
    haven't heard of this chip, I believe they are referencing to the Phenom II X2 565 not a Phenom II X2 965
  • 0 Hide
    elbert , December 29, 2010 1:43 PM
    I think the E5620 and E5630 should be mentioned. Due to the 32nm process both these CPU's can run 4GHz+ long term stable unlike i5's and i7's. The i5's and i7's shouldn't be clocked more than 3.73GHz else they start showing problems in under a year. The memory bandwidth of the E56x0 put them far ahead of i7's clock for clock. These 2 workstation CPU's with an ASUS rampage III are much better gaming CPU's than the 6 core i7's. These 2 CPU's are a real step up from an i7 950 but for price premium.
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , December 29, 2010 1:58 PM
    I think a misprint is above in the article in the stating of the newer line from AMD
    Phenom II X2 965

    Thanks for catching that, fixed to Phenom II X2 565!
  • 0 Hide
    fuzzyplankton , December 29, 2010 2:18 PM
    firefyteDoes the Athlon II X3 455 even work in a AM2+ socket, as it is a AM3 socket-product?

    Yes it does. i put one in a am2+ board and am3 board already. The chip comes with a ddr2 and ddr3 controller and have unlock 3 in a row there 4 cores.
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