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Best Gaming CPU: $50-$90

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: November '09
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Best gaming CPU for $65:

Athlon II X2 245

Athlon II X2 245
Codename: Regor
Process: 45nm
CPU Cores: 2
Clock Speed:   2.9 GHz
Socket: AM2+/AM3
L1 Cache: 2 x 64KB
L2 Cache: 2 x 1MB
HyperTransport: 4,000 MHz
Thermal Envelope:
65W

Despite the Athlon 64 6000+ becoming a little less expensive, the Athlon II X2 245 takes our recommendation for the lowest-priced gaming processor.

This CPU allows the flexibility to go one of two different ways: either drop it in as an upgrade for your Socket AM2+-based platform or build a brand new low-cost Socket AM3 machine on it. With a relatively-high 2.9 GHz clock speed, the Athlon II X2 245 offers excellent performance at the price.

Best gaming CPU for $80:

Athlon II X3 425

Athlon II X3 425
Codename: Rana
Process: 45nm
CPU Cores: 3
Clock Speed:   2.8 GHz
Socket: AM2+/AM3
L1 Cache:   3 x 64KB
L2 Cache:   3 x 512KB
HyperTransport: 4,000 MHz
Thermal Envelope:
65W

For a mere $15 more than the Athlon II X2 245, you stand to gain a whole CPU core while losing a mere 100 MHz of clock rate. The extra CPU core will make a notable difference in multi-tasking performance, as well as game play, and you probably won't notice the 100 MHz deficit (if you do, simply overclock the thing--it will more definitely have headroom to spare).

Best gaming CPU for ~$90:

Athlon II X3 435

Athlon II X3 435
Codename: Rana
Process: 45nm
CPU Cores: 3
Clock Speed:   2.9 GHz
Socket: AM2+/AM3
L1 Cache:   3 x 64KB
L2 Cache:   3 x 512KB
HyperTransport: 4,000 MHz
Thermal Envelope:
65W

From a stock performance standpoint, the Athlon II X3 435 only offers a 100 MHz speed bump over the Athlon II X3 425. However, the higher multiplier might help if your goal is overclocking, making this the superior tweaker's choice for a very slight $10 difference.

Read our review of the Athlon II X3 435, right here.

Pentium E6500

Pentium Dual-Core E6500
Codename: Wolfdale-2M
Process: 45nm
CPU Cores: 2
Clock Speed: 2.933 GHz
Socket: LGA 775
L2 Cache: 2MB
Front Side Bus: 1066 MHz
Thermal Envelope:
65W

At stock speeds, the E6500 will usually lose to the Athlon II X3 435. However, the E6500 has already established itself as a CPU with a very high overclocking potential, reportedly making it over 4 GHz without too much trouble. This makes it an attractive option for budget-oriented overclockers who already have have an LGA 775 motherboard.

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