Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Best Gaming CPU: $110-$150

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: January '10
By

Best gaming CPU for $110-$130: None

With the Athlon II X3 435 offering comparable performance at a $90 price point, and the Athlon II X4 620 providing a true quad-core option at $100, there's little benefit to be had from the following $110-$130 CPUs. However, these models can provide extra headroom for overclockers willing to massage them a bit. In addition, the new Clarkdale-based Core i3-530 is extremely promising from what we've seen. It's a bit of a dark horse until we have more comprehensive performance data at our disposal, but preliminary numbers look good.

Honorable Mention:
Core i3-530

Core i3 530
Codename: Clarkdale
Process: 32nm
CPU Cores/Threads: 2/4
Clock Speed: 2.93 GHz
Socket: LGA 1156
L1 Cache:   4 x 32KB
L2 Cache:   2 x 256KB
L3 Cache: 4MB
Thermal Envelope:
73W

From the scant gaming performance data we have seen, the new Core i5-530 might actually be good enough to wipe away the rest of the recommendations on this page and represent this price segment with little challenge. But we're going to wait for more solid data before making that call definitively. In the interim, we can heartily give this processor an honorable mention as a viable alternative for folks in the market for an LGA 1156-based platform.

Honorable Mention:
Athlon II X4 630 (Check Prices)

Athlon II X4 630
Codename: Propus
Process: 45nm
CPU Cores: 4
Clock Speed: 2.8 GHz
Socket: AM3
L1 Cache:   4 x 128KB
L2 Cache:   4 x 512KB
HyperTransport: 4,000 MHz
Thermal Envelope:
95W

Now at a lower $113 price point, the Athlon II X4 630 cannot be denied as a good option for overclockers who want a full four processing cores.

This model isn't unlocked (it's not one of AMD's Black Edition chips), but it does sport a higher multiplier than the Athlon II X4 620, making it a great quad-core overclocking processor on the cheap.

Honorable Mention:
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 Black Edition. 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 multi-threaded apps. The direction you go at this price level will really depend on the type of software you run.

Honorable Mention:
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 $40 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 Black Edition 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.

React To This Article