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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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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    cleeve , September 1, 2009 7:00 AM
    falchardI fail to see the point of a gaming CPU. Beyond a certain point the difference in performance is under 1 frame.


    Not true at all. Depends on the game, and wether or not that game is bottlenecked by the graphics card or CPU.

    Frankly, I've been seeing a *lot* more CPU-limited games during my benchmarking over the past year.
  • 11 Hide
    Anonymous , September 1, 2009 10:57 AM
    Some people think every one lives next to a Microcenter.
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    Proximon , September 1, 2009 6:18 AM
    Brave :) 

    I thought the flames might have scared you off.
    Correction: you have E6300 in the gray area of the table for the E5300.

  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , September 1, 2009 6:31 AM
    Heheh. Nah, I don't frighten easy. :) 

    Thanks, I'll look into that.
  • 0 Hide
    megamanx00 , September 1, 2009 6:51 AM
    I like that the E8500 made a showing. I wonder how this picture will change once the LGA1156 CPUs are widely available. It's too bad that AMD can't really compete in the +$200 market right now.
  • 14 Hide
    cleeve , September 1, 2009 7:00 AM
    falchardI fail to see the point of a gaming CPU. Beyond a certain point the difference in performance is under 1 frame.


    Not true at all. Depends on the game, and wether or not that game is bottlenecked by the graphics card or CPU.

    Frankly, I've been seeing a *lot* more CPU-limited games during my benchmarking over the past year.
  • 9 Hide
    FallenSniper , September 1, 2009 7:17 AM
    Man I wish the Core 2 Quad prices were just a little lower
  • 6 Hide
    rambo117 , September 1, 2009 7:22 AM
    great review! much better than the first one IMO.
    i liked that you thought about us OCers this time ;) 
  • 3 Hide
    dirtmountain , September 1, 2009 7:55 AM
    Yup, great review, good job.
  • -7 Hide
    barmaley , September 1, 2009 8:54 AM
    So, not quite sure why they have i7 920 for ~$280. I just bought mine @ Microcenter last week for $199.99 plus tax, $210 total. So, ok I had driven there so $5 for the gas, $215 total. They have loads of them in stock, and they will get you the D0 stepping if asked (First one they tried to sell me was a C0, but I asked them for D0 and they got me one no questions asked). I can see how some people may not have a Microcenter nearby, but hey, for a lot of people there is! I thought that should've been reflected in the article somehow, that's all...
  • 0 Hide
    sudeshc , September 1, 2009 9:00 AM
    Nice review, need i thought phenom 2 965 could be compared to Core 2 Quad Q9650 but seems i was wrong.
  • 0 Hide
    alikum , September 1, 2009 9:23 AM
    I like the fact that you mention LGA775 chips, and perhaps that would be the last time they're up on the list as they are getting phased out.
  • 0 Hide
    eddieroolz , September 1, 2009 10:09 AM
    Too bad Core 2 Quads are still rather expensive for the performance. I guess my E7200 will just have to live on for another two years.

    Good article, by the way!
  • 1 Hide
    masterjaw , September 1, 2009 10:20 AM
    The results are far better than the first one. Taking overclock-ability into consideration is good especially for the enthusiasts. Kudos!
  • 0 Hide
    enewmen , September 1, 2009 10:45 AM
    "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."

    Agree.
    I was hoping the author will focus a little more on the total system cost than just the CPU cost. This is the main reason why I got the q9550 and not the i7. But that was 6 months ago, maybe now the motherboard and DDR3 isn't as big a factor anymore. I'm also guessing min specs of games and apps in 4 years won't specify C2Q and i7 - just something like Min specs: Intel or AMD Quad/Hex/Oct core - 2.5+ Ghz.

    my
  • 11 Hide
    Anonymous , September 1, 2009 10:57 AM
    Some people think every one lives next to a Microcenter.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 1, 2009 11:09 AM
    Even though theese processors have been tested thoroughly before, but not necessarily against each other with latest drives, patches and whatnot, so some charts with a few game tests would make the article much more informative.
  • -8 Hide
    snotling , September 1, 2009 12:22 PM
    prices do not account for the fact that AMD mobos usually cost 30-60$ less than their intel equivalent.
  • 3 Hide
    Pei-chen , September 1, 2009 12:34 PM
    The monthly update of the same thing is getting bored. Thanks god next gen is just around the corner and we'll see some big performance gain.

    Can you believe what computer gaming would be like if that that crack from id's opinion is real; graphic hardware hit a wall and future improvement is on console.
  • 0 Hide
    wicko , September 1, 2009 1:05 PM
    Why did you guys not wait for the Lynnfield NDA to lift when it is being released in < 1 week?
  • 3 Hide
    joesapp37 , September 1, 2009 1:29 PM
    wickoWhy did you guys not wait for the Lynnfield NDA to lift when it is being released in < 1 week?


    Because we like to party every end of the month!
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