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Best Gaming CPU: under $95

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

Athlon II X2 250 (Check Prices)

Athlon II X2 250
Codename: Regor
Process: 45nm
CPU Cores: 2
Clock Speed:   3.0 GHz
Socket: AM2+/AM3
L1 Cache: 2 x 64KB
L2 Cache: 2 x 1MB
HyperTransport: 4,000 MHz
Thermal Envelope:
65W

The Athlon II X2 250 has dropped a few dollars in price, displacing its slightly slower Athlon II X2 245 derivative for our lowest-priced gaming CPU recommendation.

This chip 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 based on it. With a high 3.0 GHz clock speed, the Athlon II X2 250 offers excellent gaming performance at the price. Moreover, its 65W thermal design power is great for power- and heat-conscious enthusiasts.

Best gaming CPU for $80:

Athlon II X3 425

Athlon II X3 425
Codename: Rana
Process: 45nm
CPU Cores: 3
Clock Speed:   2.7 GHz
Socket: AM2+/AM3
L1 Cache:   3 x 64KB
L2 Cache:   3 x 512KB
HyperTransport: 4,000 MHz
Thermal Envelope:
65W

The Athlon II X3 425 boasts three execution cores. And, compared to a dual-core processor, that extra core will make a notable difference in multi-tasking performance, as well as game play. This model also has good overclocking headroom if you want to push it a little further.

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 200 MHz speed bump over the Athlon II X3 425. However, the higher multiplier might help if your goal is overclocking. Thus, we're including this one as a potentially-superior tweaker's choice.

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: 2.93 GHz
Socket: LGA 775
L2 Cache: 2MB
Front Side Bus: 1,066 MHz
Thermal Envelope:
65W

At stock clock rates, the E6500 will usually lose to AMD's Athlon II X3 435. However, the E6500 has already established itself as a CPU with plenty of high overclocking potential, reportedly exceeding 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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