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Best Gaming CPU: $250 And Up

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: July 2009
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Best gaming CPU for $280:

Core i7-920 (Check Prices)

Core i7 920
Codename: Nehalem
Process: 45 nm
CPU Cores: 4
Clock Speed: 2.66 GHz
Socket: LGA 1366
L2 Cache: 4 x 256 KB
L3 Cache:   8 MB
QuickPath Interconnect (QPI): 4.8 GT/s
Thermal Envelope:
  130 W

While the jury is sometimes still divided, Intel's Core i7 has proven itself to be the most powerful gaming CPU option available based on the data we have available. The Core i7-920 is a great choice for systems coupled with multiple graphics cards in an SLI or CrossFire configuration. The motherboards and DDR3 RAM that the i7 architecture requires will bring the total platform cost higher than other systems, but the resulting performance should be worth the purchase price.


Past the Point of Reason:

With rapidly-increasing prices over $300 offering smaller and smaller performance boosts in games, we have a hard time recommending anything more expensive than the Core i7-920. This is especially the case since the Core i7-920 can be overclocked to great effect if more performance is desired, easily surpassing the stock speed of the $1,000 Core i7-965 Extreme.

Then again, while we recommend against purchasing any CPU that retails for more than $300 from a value point of view, there are those of you for whom money might not be much of an object and who require the best possible performance money can buy. If you're using dual Radeon HD 4870 X2s or a trio of Nvidia's fastest cards in SLI, we recommend the following CPUs:

Best gaming CPU for $1,000:

Core i7-975 Extreme (Check Prices)

Core i7 975 Extreme
Codename: Nehalem
Process: 45 nm
CPU Cores: 4
Clock Speed:   3.33 GHz
Socket: LGA 1366
L2 Cache: 4 x 256 KB
L3 Cache:   8 MB
QPI: 6.4 GT/s
Thermal Envelope:
  130 W

This is the big kahuna, the fastest gaming CPU currently available for purchase on mother Earth, as our game tests show. Is it worth $1,000? If you have money growing on trees, are afraid to try to overclock the Core i7-920, and are willing to pay for the bragging rights, then it just might be. Otherwise, the Core i7-975 Extreme is a hard sell from a value standpoint.

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