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Best Gaming CPU: $100-$150

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: August '09
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Best gaming CPU for $100:  Tie

Phenom II X3 710

Phenom II X3 710
Codename: Heka
Process: 45nm
CPU Cores: 3
Clock Speed: 2.6 GHz
Socket: AM3
L1 Cache: 3 x 128KB
L2 Cache: 3 x 512KB
L3 Cache: 6MB
HyperTransport: 4,000 MHz
Thermal Envelope:
95W

At $100, we see the first triple-core CPU recommendation in conjunction with a whopping 6MB of L3 cache. Based on AMD's most modern architecture, the Phenom II X3 710 is essentially a Phenom II X4 910 with one of its four cores disabled. Since the games we've tested tend to scale best on CPUs with three cores, the Phenom II X3 710 performs well in a gaming environment, generally demonstrating performance similar to the Phenom II X4 910.

Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition (Check Prices)

Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition
Codename: Callisto
Process: 45nm
CPU Cores: 2
Clock Speed: 3.1 GHz
Socket: AM3
L1 Cache: 2 x 128KB
L2 Cache: 2 x 512KB
L3 Cache: 6MB
HyperTransport: 4,000 MHz
Thermal Envelope:
80W

While the dual-core Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition might be a bit slower than the comparably-priced Phenom II X3 710 when it comes to gaming, it offers something that the 710 hasn't got: an unlocked multiplier. Like all of AMD's Black Edition processors, the Phenom II X2 550 can be effortlessly overclocked by simply upping the multiplier, earning this CPU a place on our recommended list for tweakers. 


Best gaming CPU for $120:  Tie

Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition (Check Prices)

Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition
Codename: Heka
Process: 45nm
CPU Cores: 3
Clock Speed: 2.8 GHz
Socket: AM3
L1 Cache: 3 x 128KB
L2 Cache: 3 x 512KB
L3 Cache: 6MB
HyperTransport: 4,000 MHz
Thermal Envelope:
95W

Is the mere 200 MHz clock speed increase over the Phenom II X3 710 worth $20? Maybe, but the unlocked multiplier feature that AMD's Black Edition processors sport is worth a lot more to overclockers.


Core 2 Duo E7500 (Check Prices)

Core 2 Duo E7500
Codename: Wolfdale-3M
Process: 45nm
CPU Cores: 2
Clock Speed: 2.93 GHz
Socket: LGA 775
L2 Cache:   3MB
Front Side Bus: 1,066 MHz
Thermal Envelope:
65Watts

At 2.93 GHz, the Core 2 Duo E7500 is a good match for the Phenom II X3 720. Even without an unlocked multiplier, the E7500 is an excellent overclocker and won't disappoint.

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