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Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: November '09

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: November '09
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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.

November Updates

AMD has introduced some new CPUs since our last installment; most notably, the Athlon II X3 family. The new Athlon II X3 435 combines three CPU cores, a fast 2.9 GHz clock rate, and a low $90 price tag. Since today's games tend to utilize no more than three CPU cores on average, the Athlon II X3 435 is a fantastic gaming processor for the enthusiast on a budget. Our Athlon II X3 435 sample overclocked to 3.7 GHz fairly easily, so there's a lot to like about this low-cost processor. In addition to the X3 435, AMD has also created an Athlon II X3 425 with a 2.8 GHz clock speed, available for about $80.

There are a number of other new AMD CPUs available, mostly a host of low-power Athlon II X2, X3, and X4 variants. These are great for energy-efficient applications, but they don't offer much to gamers looking for maximum performance per dollar.

Aside from those introductions there isn't much to report on the CPU front, with Intel dominating the $200+ market with its Core i5 and Core i7, and AMD dominating the sub-$200 market with the Phenom II X4 955 and new Athlon II.

Speaking of the Phenom II X4 955, the street price has dropped to $175, making it a great deal for a premium multiplier-unlocked processor.  The Core i5 is faster, but the $25 price difference might be enough for some tweakers to opt for the unlocked Phenom II, especially since the P55 platform tends to be a bit more expensive than AMD options at this time. Either way, there are some fantastic products out there--let's look at the recommendations.

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.

Display 69 Comments.
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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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