If you don’t have the time to research the benchmarks, or if you don’t feel confident enough in your ability to pick the right processor for your next gaming machine, fear not. We at Tom’s Hardware have come to your aid with a simple list of the best gaming CPUs offered for the money.
Our Second Gaming CPU for the Money Article
In our first Best Gaming CPU for the Money article, we tried to keep things as objective as possible by basing recommendations completely on comparison data instead of our opinions. Unfortunately, the best data we could muster was a fairly small sample size of four games run continuously in our own labs. In addition, it appears that our Athlon II X2 CPU performance data was a little pessimistic.
As a result, we'll be opening this month's column up to more subjective opinion and experience. Hopefully, this counterbalances the possibility of recommendations based on apps highly optimized for one architecture or another. Thus, you'll see us adding to and modifying some of the picks. Having said that, if you purchased a CPU using last month's article, then fear not. Those choices remain valid and defensible. This time around we're simply adding some price points and making extra recommendations for outstanding overclockers.
With regard to new additions, the past month saw AMD introduce its Phenom II 965 BE, though it doesn't offer too much excitement other than a slight clock speed bump over the 955 model in the company's Phenom II series. More interesting are the lowered prices across the rest of the Phenom II X4 line, making the Phenom II X4 955 and 945 models more attractive from a value standpoint.
As far as Intel, everyone is waiting for the new Core i5 CPUs to show up, which look like they are going to give the existing Core 2 Quad and Phenom IIs a good run for their money. We've already wrapped up our performance testing and are comfortable recommending that performance enthusiasts with mid-range budgets will want to see what Intel's latest efforts yield. It'll only be a week's wait, we promise!
Some Notes About Our Recommendations
This list is for gamers who want to get the most for their money. If you don’t play games, then the CPUs on this list may not be suitable for your particular needs.
The criteria to get on this list are strictly price/performance. We acknowledge that there are other factors that come into play, such as platform price or CPU overclockability, but we're not going to complicate things by factoring in motherboard costs. We may add honorable mentions for outstanding products in the future, though. For now, our recommendations are based on stock clock speeds and performance at that price.
Cost and availability change on a daily basis. We can’t offer up-to-the-minute accurate pricing information in the text, but we can list some good chips that you probably won’t regret buying at the price ranges we suggest (and our PriceGrabber-based engine will help track down some of the best prices for you).
The list is based on some of the best U.S. prices from online retailers. In other countries or at retail stores, your mileage will most certainly vary. Of course, these are retail CPU prices while we do not list used or OEM CPUs.