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Conclusion

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: August '09
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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 availability 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
IntelAMD
Core i7 Extreme 965, 975
Core i7 920, 940, 950
Core 2 Extreme QX9775, QX9770, QX9650
Core 2 Quad Q9650

Core 2 Extreme QX6850, QX6800
Core 2 Quad Q9550, Q9450, Q9400
Core 2 Duo E8600, E8500
Phenom II X4 Black Edition 955, 965
Core 2 Extreme QX6700
Core 2 Quad Q6700, Q9300, Q8400, Q6600, Q8300
Core 2 Duo E8400, E8300, E8190, E8200, E7600, E7500, E6850
Phenom X4 945, 940, 920, 810
Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition
Core 2 Quad Q8200, E7400, E6750
Core 2 Extreme X6800
Phenom II X4 910, 805, 905e
Phenom X4 9950
Phenom II X3 710, 705e
Phenom II X2 545, 550 Black Edition
Core 2 Duo E7200, E6550, E7300, E6540, E6700
Pentium Dual-Core E6300
Phenom X4 9850, 9750, 9650, 9600
Phenom X3 8850, 8750
Athlon 64 X2 6400+
Core 2 Duo E4700, E4600, E6600, E4500, E6420
Pentium Dual-Core E5400, E5300, E5200
Athlon II X2 250
Phenom X4 9500, 9550, 9450e, 9350e
Phenom X3 8650, 8600, 8550, 8450e, 8450, 8400, 8250e
Athlon X2 7850, 7750
Athlon 64 X2 6000+, 5600+
Core 2 Duo E4400, E4300, E6400, E6320
Phenom X4 9150e, 9100e
Athlon X2 7550, 7450, 5050e, 4850e/b
Athlon 64 X2 5400+, 5200+, 5000+, 4800+
Core 2 Duo E6300
Pentium Dual-Core E2220, E2200, E2210
Athlon X2 6550, 6500, 4450e/b,
Athlon X2 4600+, 4400+, 4200+, BE-2400
Pentium Dual-Core E2180
Celeron E1600
Athlon 64 X2 4000+, 3800+
Athlon X2 4050e, BE-2300
Pentium Dual-Core E2160, E2140
Celeron E1500, E1400, E1200

Summary

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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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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