What about this other CPU that’s not on the list? How do I know if it’s a good deal or not?
This will happen. In fact, it’s guaranteed to happen because availability and prices change quickly. So how do you know if that CPU you have your eye on is a good buy in its price range?
Here is a resource to help you judge if a CPU is a reasonable value or not: the gaming CPU hierarchy chart, which groups CPUs with similar overall gaming performance levels into tiers. The top tier contains the highest-performing gaming CPUs available and gaming performance decreases as you go down the tiers from there.
However, a word of caution: this hierarchy is based on the average performance each CPU achieved in our charts test suite using only four game titles: Crysis, Unreal Tournament 3, World in Conflict, and Supreme Commander. While we feel this represents an acceptable cross-section of typical gaming scenarios, a specific game title will likely perform differently. Some games, for example, will be severely graphics subsystem-limited, while others may react positively to more CPU cores, larger amounts of CPU cache, or even a specific architecture. We also did not have access to every CPU on the market, so some of the CPU performance estimates are based on the numbers similar architectures deliver. Indeed, this hierarchy chart is useful as a general guideline, but certainly not as a gospel one-size-fits-all perfect CPU comparison resource.
You can use this hierarchy to compare the pricing between two processors, to see which one is a better deal, and also to determine if an upgrade is worthwhile. 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.
|Gaming CPU Hierarchy Chart|
| Core i7-965, -975 Extreme, -980X Extreme|
Core i7-860, -870, -875K, -920, -930, -940, -950, -960, -970
Core i5-750, -760
Core 2 Extreme QX9775, QX9770, QX9650
Core 2 Quad Q9650
|Core 2 Extreme QX6850, QX6800|
Core 2 Quad Q9550, Q9450, Q9400
Core i5-650, -655K, -660, -661, -670, -680
|Phenom II X6 1100T BE, 1090T BE, 1075T|
Phenom II X4 Black Edition 970, 965, 955
|Core 2 Extreme QX6700|
Core 2 Quad Q6700, Q9300, Q8400, Q6600, Q8300
Core 2 Duo E8600, E8500, E8400, E7600
Core i3 -530, -540, -550
|Phenom II X6 1055T|
Phenom II X4 945, 940, 920, 910, 910e, 810
Phenom II X3 Black Edition 720, 740
Athlon II X4 645, 640, 635, 630
Athlon II X3 455, 450, 445, 440, 435
| Core 2 Extreme X6800|
Core 2 Quad Q8200
Core 2 Duo E8300, E8200, E8190, E7500, E7400, E6850, E6750
|Phenom II X4 905e, 805|
Phenom II X3 710, 705e
Phenom II X2 565 BE, 560 BE, 555 BE, 550 BE, 545
Phenom X4 9950
Athlon II X4 620
Athlon II X3 425
| Core 2 Duo E7200, E6550, E7300, E6540, E6700|
Pentium Dual-Core E5700, E6300, E6500, E6600, E6700
| Phenom X4 9850, 9750, 9650, 9600|
Phenom X3 8850, 8750
Athlon II X2 265, 260, 255
Athlon 64 X2 6400+
| Core 2 Duo E4700, E4600, E6600, E4500, E6420|
Pentium Dual-Core E5400, E5300, E5200
| Phenom X4 9500, 9550, 9450e, 9350e|
Phenom X3 8650, 8600, 8550, 8450e, 8450, 8400, 8250e
Athlon II X2 240, 245, 250
Athlon X2 7850, 7750
Athlon 64 X2 6000+, 5600+
| Core 2 Duo E4400, E4300, E6400, E6320|
| Phenom X4 9150e, 9100e|
Athlon X2 7550, 7450, 5050e, 4850e/b
Athlon 64 X2 5400+, 5200+, 5000+, 4800+
|Core 2 Duo E5500, E6300|
Pentium Dual-Core E2220, E2200, E2210
| Athlon X2 6550, 6500, 4450e/b, |
Athlon X2 4600+, 4400+, 4200+, BE-2400
|Pentium Dual-Core E2180|
| Athlon 64 X2 4000+, 3800+|
Athlon X2 4050e, BE-2300
| Pentium Dual-Core E2160, E2140|
Celeron E1500, E1400, E1200
There you have it folks: the best gaming CPUs for the money this month. Now all that’s left to do is to find and purchase them.
Also remember that the stores don’t follow this list. Things will change over the course of the month and you’ll probably have to adapt your buying strategy to deal with fluctuating prices. Good luck!
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