Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Best Gaming CPU: $100-$150

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: November '09
By

Best gaming CPU for $100:  Tie

Athlon II X4 620 (Check Prices)

Athlon II X4 620
Codename: Propus
Process: 45nm
CPU Cores: 4
Clock Speed: 2.6 GHz
Socket: AM3
L1 Cache:   4 x 128KB
L2 Cache:   4 x 512KB
HyperTransport: 4,000 MHz
Thermal Envelope:
95W

Frankly, the high clock speed of the Athlon II X3 435 allows it to perform better than an Athlon II X4 620 at stock clock speeds in a great majority of games.

However, there are a few titles out there that will take advantage of a fourth CPU core, making the Athlon II X4 a potentially-attractive choice to buyers who want all four CPU cores and are willing to overclock this processor. Moreover, as a general-purpose processor for the hours you don't spend gaming, the quad-core solution is going to be superior.

Read our review of the Athlon II X4 620, right here.

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

Although the dual-core Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition might be a bit slower than the less expensive Athlon II X3 435 when it comes to gaming, it offers something that the Athlon II X3 doesn't have: an unlocked multiplier. Like all of AMD's Black Edition processors, the Phenom II X2 550 can be easily overclocked by simply upping its clock multiplier in the motherboard BIOS of your choice, earning this CPU a place on our recommended list for overclocking fans. 

Read our review of the Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition, right here.

Best gaming CPU for $120:  None

With the Athlon II X3 435 offering comperable performace at the $90 price point, there's little benefit to be had from the following $120 CPUs. However, these models can provide extra headroom for overclockers willing to massage them a bit:

Honorable Mentions:

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 unlocked CPU multiplier and 6MB of L3 cache worth the $30 premium over the Athlon II X3 435? For performance nuts, it just might be.

We're a bit torn here. On the one hand, we know that overclocking is the surest way to negate your warranty coverage. However, the Phenom II X3 720 not only has that unlocked multiplier, but we've also had some luck unlocking the fourth core on a handful of samples. The chance may or may not be worth the extra money you drop in this chip. Bear in mind, though, that it's an "expensive" model for AMD to sell, so we wouldn't be surprised if these disappeared sooner, rather than later.

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:
65W

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

It has a slight clock rate advantage over AMD's contender, but its dual-core design won't be as nimble in multithreaded apps. The direction you go at this price level will really depend on the type of software you run.

React To This Article