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Conclusion

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: November '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 860, 870, 920, 940, 950,
Core i5 750
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
Athlon II X4 630
Athlon II X3 435
Core 2 Quad Q8200, E7400, E6750
Core 2 Extreme X6800
Phenom II X4 910, 805, 905e
Phenom II X3 710, 705e
Phenom II X2 545, 550 Black Edition
Phenom X4 9950
Athlon II X4 620
Athlon II X3 425
Core 2 Duo E7200, E6550, E7300, E6540, E6700
Pentium Dual-Core E6300, E6500
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
Phenom X4 9500, 9550, 9450e, 9350e
Phenom X3 8650, 8600, 8550, 8450e, 8450, 8400, 8250e
Athlon II X2 240, 245, 250
Athlon X2 7850, 7750
Athlon 64 X2 6000+, 5600+
Core 2 Duo E4400, E4300, E6400, E6320
Celeron E3300
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
Celeron E3200
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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  • -4 Hide
    liquidsnake718 , November 23, 2009 5:26 AM
    E7500 still going strong and on the list....
  • 4 Hide
    Otus , November 23, 2009 5:54 AM
    AFAIKT, Athlon II 425 runs at 2700 MHz, not 2800 MHz.
  • 8 Hide
    laweinhander , November 23, 2009 6:25 AM
    The athlon x3's DO NOT have 3 mb of l2 cache !
    This needs changed asap...
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/athlon-ii-x3,2452-2.html
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , November 23, 2009 6:58 AM
    laweinhanderThe athlon x3's DO NOT have 3 mb of l2 cache !This needs changed asap...http://www.tomshardware.com/review [...] 452-2.html


    Fixed!
  • 3 Hide
    IzzyCraft , November 23, 2009 7:04 AM
    oh hilarity ensues

    edit: osse you can edit your posts but finding the forum and post is not that easy, you can even delete a post if you go into full edit instead of a quick edit

    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/forum2.php?config=tomshardwareus.inc&cat=56&post=2466&page=1&p=1&sondage=0&owntopic=1&trash=0&trash_post=0&print=0&numreponse=0"e_only=0&new=0&nojs=0

    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/forum-56.html

    And the reason why cpus are tested at low resolutions is more academic then practical yes but it does show in theory that what a cpu can do when other parts of the computer isn't holding it back mainly the gpu as "practical" test can't show everyone's personal set up and quarks of a system
  • 0 Hide
    4ILY45 , November 23, 2009 7:07 AM
    pentium dual-core E2160 still there..
  • 0 Hide
    2shea , November 23, 2009 8:24 AM
    @ osse, 1 to 4 frames difference is not something I would call worthless performance... That can easily be a difference because of slightly other parts besides the cpu as it would be the cpu.
    And if it were so that it was 1-4 frames slower that still doesn't mean it is slower on all facets of cpu usage. ofcourse gaming is important but other tasks it will outperform amd easily.
  • -9 Hide
    2shea , November 23, 2009 8:24 AM
    @ osse, 1 to 4 frames difference is not something I would call worthless performance... That can easily be a difference because of slightly other parts besides the cpu as it would be the cpu.
    And if it were so that it was 1-4 frames slower that still doesn't mean it is slower on all facets of cpu usage. ofcourse gaming is important but other tasks it will outperform amd easily.
  • 2 Hide
    batuchka , November 23, 2009 8:35 AM
    Actually with latest prices in the $100-150 cataogory we have
    Phenom 2 x4 925 @ $141 :p 
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103656
    Locked multi but still good to go for clocking hehe
  • 0 Hide
    copfrance , November 23, 2009 8:36 AM
    I have asked this question op a number of forums but nobody seems to know the answer. What is the CPU design software that AMD and Intel use for designing their processors. Maybe Cadence products?
  • 0 Hide
    Onyx2291 , November 23, 2009 8:40 AM
    Good to consider then build around. Will help with the few builds I am considering.
  • -4 Hide
    osse , November 23, 2009 9:45 AM
    @2shea

    I for the most agree that 1-4 frames isnt much, and it wasnt in that context i refered to the 2 tests where high end grapic card is used 5850/5870.

    While there is no diffrense in 100 vs 130 frames, there can be a diffrense between 40 and 44 frames in gamer experience. However small.

    It was in the context to the claim that i5-750 is superior in gaming. When it actually loose when you have settings that gamers want.

    Edit:
    And i was actually more supprised when guru matched i7-940 vs phenom 965, espeially in Far cry, wich should be a very good game for Nehalm, I7-940 wins big times on 1024x768, but looses with a few frames when we go to 1920x1200.
    with gamer settings : high-quality DX10 mode with 4x AA (anti-aliasing) and 16x AF (anisotropic filtering).

    Same happens in Brother In Arms, i7-940 wins big time 1024x768, and looses with a few frames in 1920x1200. In crysis they tie at 1920x1200, and resident evil I7-940 wins good.

    But the conclusion so far of tests out on the web with gamer setting , is that overall phenomII 965 is abel to pull a few more frames out of the radeon 58xx, both against the i5-750 and i7-940. On stock speed.

    And that is the oposit result of what you would expect from testing in low resolutions and no grapic effects tells us, there both i5-750 and i7-940 wins big time.
  • 1 Hide
    gtvr , November 23, 2009 10:10 AM
    I just bought an i750 at Microcenter for $149. Great steal, not sure if they have pics of Andy Grove or something, but that changed the price/performance enough for me to go Intel this time around - I'd been looking at Phenom II x3s until that find.
  • 0 Hide
    evongugg , November 23, 2009 10:27 AM
    It would be nice to do an overclocked section, so we could compare overclcocked to non overclocked processors. It is being done here:

    http://www.cpubenchmark.net/overclocked_cpus.html


  • 2 Hide
    ifko_pifko , November 23, 2009 12:53 PM
    Uhm... what is E7500 doing there, when there is also E6500, which supports virtualization... unlike the E7500?
  • -4 Hide
    ifko_pifko , November 23, 2009 12:53 PM
    Uhm... what is E7500 doing there, when there is also E6500, which supports virtualization... unlike the E7500?
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