If you don’t have the time to research benchmarks, or if you don’t feel confident enough in your ability to pick the right processor for your next gaming machine, fear not. We at Tom’s Hardware have come to your aid with a simple list of the best gaming CPUs offered for the money.
March 2017 Updates
After a busy couple of months in the CPU space (and lots of testing in the Tom’s Hardware labs), we have an updated list of recommendations based on data collected in real-world games and desktop apps.
The action is no doubt precipitated by AMD’s Ryzen processors—present and future. At the high-end, Ryzen 7 1800X is available right now. That model does battle with Intel’s Broadwell-E-based Core i7-6000-series chips (read more in AMD Ryzen 7 1800X CPU Review). We also have the Ryzen 7 1700 and 1700X running in the lab, and our reviews of them will go live in the next few days.
Here’s the thing about Ryzen 7, though. In a great many threaded applications, it fares well against the Intel competition for significantly less money. In games, the benchmarks aren’t as compelling. We’re still waiting to see if AMD or its motherboard partners can address the data in our launch review. But because our picks emphasize entertainment, last month’s list topped out with a Core i7-7700K for $350 anyway. A $500 Ryzen 7 1800X is not a step up in that context. As an honorable mention, we tapped Intel’s Core i7-5820K mostly for its 28 lanes of PCIe 3.0…if you need them. Even then, though, you’re out the door for less than $400. We eschew Broadwell-E altogether for gaming, and Ryzen 7 receives the same treatment.
Hopefully, Ryzen 5 improves AMD’s position in gaming with higher clock rates (since it won’t have as many cores) and lower prices. A little more maturity on the platform side won’t hurt, either. The introduction of these lower-end Ryzen CPUs can’t come soon enough. After all, with Socket AM4 a reality, we don’t want to continue pointing value-seekers in the direction of Socket AM3+-based processors anymore.
Regardless of how Ryzen 7 did on launch day, Intel is clearly feeling the pressure to make its entry-level offerings more attractive. Budget-oriented enthusiasts now have access to an unlocked Core i3, which we covered in Intel Core i3-7350K Review. Just don’t expect to find the -7350K on our list of recommendations. It’s simply too expensive once you factor in the retail box, requisite heat sink, and premium motherboard needed to exploit the unlocked multiplier.
More interesting are Intel’s Hyper-Threaded Pentiums, which many of you asked to see in last month’s Best Picks list. We wanted benchmarks in-hand before making that call though, and now we have them from Intel Pentium G4620 And G4560 Review: Now With Hyper-Threading. The short of it is that a Pentium G4560 offers a tremendous step up from the Athlon X4 750K. Even an Athlon X4 860K wouldn’t stand a chance. As such, we’re pleased to start this month’s list $10 cheaper with a much faster CPU.
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