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Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: July 2009

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 both stock levels and prices change quickly. So how do you know if that CPU you’ve got your eye on is a good buy in its price range?

Here is a resource to help you judge if a CPU is a good buy 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 Extreme, Core i7 940
Core 2 Extreme QX9775, Core 2 Extreme QX9770, Core i7 920, Core 2 Quad Q9650, Core 2 Extreme QX9650, Core 2 Quad Q9550, Core 2 Duo E8600, Core 2 Extreme QX6850, Core 2 Quad Q9450, Core 2 Duo E8500, Core 2 Extreme QX6800, Core 2 Quad Q9400Phenom II X4 955
Core 2 Quad Q6700, Core 2 Extreme QX6700, Core 2 Duo E8400, Core 2 Quad Q9300, Core 2 Duo E8300, Core 2 Quad Q8400, Core 2 Duo E7600, Core 2 Quad Q6600, Core 2 Quad Q8300, Core 2 Duo E8190, Core 2 Duo E8200, Core 2 Duo E7500, Core 2 Duo E6850
Phenom X4 945, Phenom X4 940, Phenom II X4 920, Phenom II X4 810,  Phenom II X3 720
Core 2 Quad Q8200, Core 2 Duo E7400, Core 2 Duo E6750, Core 2 Extreme X6800Phenom II X4 805, Phenom II X3 710, Phenom II X4 910, Phenom II X3 705e, Phenom II X4 905e, Phenom X4 9950
Core 2 Duo E7200, Core 2 Duo E6550, Core 2 Duo E7300, Core 2 Duo E6540, Core 2 Duo E6700, Dual-Core Pentium  E6300
Phenom II X2 550, Phenom X4 9850, Phenom X4 9750, Phenom II X2 545, Phenom X3 8850, Phenom X3 8750, Phenom X4 9600, Phenom X4 9650, Athlon 64 X2 6400+
Core 2 Duo E4700, Dual-Core Pentium  E5400, Core 2 Duo E4600, Core 2 Duo E6600, Dual-Core Pentium  E5300, Dual-Core Pentium  E5200, Core 2 Duo E4500, Core 2 Duo E6420 Athlon II X2 250, Phenom X3 8650, Phenom X3 8600, Phenom X3 8550, Phenom X4 9500, Phenom X4 9550, Phenom X3 8450e, Phenom X3 8400, Phenom X3 8450, Athlon 64 X2 6000+, Phenom X3 8250e, Phenom X4 9450e, Athlon X2 7850, Phenom X4 9350e, Athlon X2 7750, Athlon 64 X2 5600+
Core 2 Duo E4400, Core 2 Duo E6400, Core 2 Duo E4300, Core 2 Duo E6320
Athlon 64 X2 5400+, Athlon 64 X2 5200+, Phenom X4 9150e, Phenom X4 9100e, Athlon X2 7550, Athlon X2 7450, Athlon 64 X2 5000+, Athlon X2 5050e, Athlon X2 4850e/b, Athlon 64 X2 4800+
Dual-Core Pentium  E2220, Core 2 Duo E6300, Dual-Core Pentium  E2200, Dual-Core Pentium E2210 Athlon X2 6550, Athlon X2 6500, Athlon 64 X2 4600+, Athlon X2 4450e/b, Athlon X2 BE-2400, Athlon 64 X2 4400+, Athlon 64 X2 4200+
Celeron E1600, Dual-Core Pentium  E2180
Athlon 64 X2 4000+, Athlon X2 4050e, Athlon 64 X2 3800+, Athlon X2 BE-2300
Celeron E1500, Dual-Core Pentium  E2160, Dual-Core Pentium E2140, Celeron E1400, Celeron 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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