Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

CPU Heirarchy Chart

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: February '10

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
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 i5-650, -660, -661, -670
Phenom II X4 Black Edition 955, 965
Core 2 Extreme QX6700
Core 2 Quad Q6700, Q9300, Q8400, Q6600, Q8300
Core 2 Duo E8600, E8500, E8400, E7600
Core i3 -530, -540
Phenom II X4 945, 940, 920, 910, 910e, 810
Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition
Athlon II X4 635, 630
Athlon II X3 440, 435
Core 2 Extreme X6800
Core 2 Quad Q8200
Core 2 Duo E8300, E8200, E8190, E7500, E7400, E6850, E6750
Phenom II X4 905e, 805
Phenom II X3 710, 705e
Phenom II X2 555 BE, 550 BE, 545
Phenom X4 9950
Athlon II X4 620
Athlon II X3 425
Core 2 Duo E7200, E6550, E7300, E6540, E6700
Pentium Dual-Core E6300, E6500
Pentium G9650
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


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!

Follow us on Twitter for more tech news, reviews, and exclusive updates!

Display all 77 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
  • 8 Hide
    siliconchampion , February 22, 2010 6:00 AM
    Just yesterday, I built and tweaked my friend's computer for him. I used the Athlon ii x3 435 (from stock 2.9GHz), 4 gigs of ddr3 1600 gskill memory, and the asus Formula Crosshair motherboard, and the combo is amazing together. I used the CM Hyper 212+ for the cpu cooler.

    The Athlon X3 definitely has overclocking headroom. I overclocked it to 3.51 GHz on stock voltages, with the memory running at 1667 MHz, and that was a breeze to hit. I bsod'd at 3.9, booted but not stable at 3.8-3.6 at stock voltages, and settled in at 3.5 GHz. At the moment, his system is bottlenecked by a GT 240 which he will be replacing, so I'll push it farther, later.

    What is most impressive about the Athlon ii's to me are the temps they run at. I use a Propus at stock 2.6 GHz in my HTPC, and at 70 degrees fahrenheit ambient, it idles at 24 degrees and maxes out at 37 degrees celcius on stock cooling.

    I had to check my eyes when I saw what temps my friends processor was running at though. Through a combo of good case airflow, the Hyper 212, and some arctic silver 5, while running at 3.5 GHz on 1.4V, in the same ambient temps, the processor idles at 19 degrees C, and maxes at 36 degrees C. I couldn't believe it. I checked with coretemp, speedfan, and the bios for those temps.

    Overall, my props go out to amd's new athlon ii line. they dish up great performance and great overclockability, at an awesome price.
  • 9 Hide
    shubham1401 , February 22, 2010 7:05 AM
    At 75$ Athlon II X3 435 is very impressive chip.

    Love the article and the hierarchy chart as well!! :) 
  • 8 Hide
    ta152h , February 22, 2010 7:25 AM
    osseJust wonder how some can say that I7 or I5 is a faster gaming cpu.There are 4 tests so far on gamersettings with radeon 5850, 5870 and 5890. Well xbit lab i actually dont count as a valid test, becouse they paired x8 Crossfire, Am2+ motherbored with 2 gb DDR2 of ram vs i7 x16 crossfire and 6 gb DDR 3 ram. vs phii 965 both at 4 ghz and with radeon 5970Phenom wins 5 of 9Ties 1I7 wins 3 of 9 - I7-940 vs phii 965 at stock with 5870.Brother in Arms- På stocki 1024x768 I7-940 beatsPHII 965 with 5 fpsi 1920x1080 PHII 965 beats I7-940 with 3 fpsCrysis warheadi 1024x768 I7-940 beats PHII 965 with 6 fpsi 1920x1080 tiesResident Evili 1024x768 I7-940 beats PHII 965 47 fpsi 1920x1080 I7-940 beats PHII 965 30 fpsFar Cryi 1024x768 I7-940 beats PHII 965 with 25 fpsi 1920x1080 PHII 965 beats I7-940 with 5 fps vs phII 965 - With radeon 5850Devil May Cry 4 BenchmarkBenchmark Reviews uses the DirectX 10 test set at 1920x1200 resolution to test with 8x AA (highest common AA setting available between GeForce and Radeon video cards) and 16x AF. The benchmark runs through four different test scenes, but scenes #2 and #4 usually offer the most graphical challenge.Sene 2I5-750 - Loses with 4,8 fpsSene 4I5-750 – Loses with 4,4 fpsFar Cry 2 BenchmarkBenchmark Reviews used the maximum settings allowed for DirectX 10 tests, with the resolution set to 1920x1200. Performance settings were all set to 'Very High', Render Quality was set to 'Ultra High' overall quality, 8x anti-aliasing was applied, and HDR and Bloom were enabled.I5-750 – Loses with 1,8 fpsResident Evil 5 TestsBenchmark Reviews uses the DirectX 10 version of the test at 1920x1200 resolution. Super-High quality settings are configured, with 8x MSAA post processing effects for maximum demand on the GPU. Test scenes from Area #3 and Area #4 require the most graphics processing power, and the results are collected for the chart illustrated below.Area 3#I5-750 – Loses with 1,6 fpsArea 4#i5-750 – Loses with 3,7 fpsSo yes if you want to play on low resulution and with eye candy off, i5 and i7 is superior, but can you see it ?, most lcd screens works on 60hz, witch meens 60fps.But what happens when u turn eyecandy and resolution up.As far as i can count of the 3 valid tests on gamersettigsPhenom II 965 has 12 winsTies 2 timesPhenom II 965 looses 4 timesWell one time major, but this should tell u that in most games Phenom II is evry bit as good as i5 and i7, actually a littel better.This also should tell evryone that is interested in hardware that testing on low res and with eyecandy off do not tell the truth wich cpu is a good gamercpu.

    Please tell me you're not comparing a AMD processor overclocked to 4 GHz, with the stock clock speed of the i7 940. Because I looked at your benchmark, being surprised that the lowly Phenom would beat an i7 940, and found it got raped, except when overclocked to 4 GHz.

    Why waste your time writing such a long message when it's nonsense? Are you hoping that by posting a link, no one would follow it and just believe you?

    Or, did you create a long post so, as Winston Churchill said "This report, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read.".
  • 6 Hide
    FlorinR , February 22, 2010 7:46 AM
    What are you on?
  • -1 Hide
    Yahzi , February 22, 2010 9:08 AM
    So what is the consensus ? Is the i5 750 faster than the 965 or not ? Some websites show superior performance in some games (stock0, others show worse performance. Is there really a consensus that can be made or does it really depend on the game ?
  • -7 Hide
    Sihastru , February 22, 2010 9:21 AM
    The idea is the top of the line Phenom II X4 can be just as good as the low end i7 (7x0) in certain games, since games are more about the graphics card then the CPU (we're talking about quad cores here, so plenty of power to be harnessed by any game), but if you also use your computer for other things, not just games, you're better off with an i7. I know overall an i7 can/will be more expensive then a PII, but you feel so much better when your CPU "PWNS anything out there", and not just offer "the best bang for the buck" while loosing in 90% of the applications.
  • 2 Hide
    Reynod , February 22, 2010 11:11 AM
    Don thanks for the latest roundup ... nice read.

  • 0 Hide
    SininStyle , February 22, 2010 11:14 AM
    looking at your numbers you can conclude the phenom can keep up but only keep up. the i7 either loses by such a small margin it cant be noticed or wins by a HUGE margin.

    losing by 3-5fps isnt enough for me to call it a loss. others maybe. I will say though a tie has to go in the phenoms favor due to the cheaper pricing.

    Still you cant ignore the games like Resident Evil. Could very well be the sign of things to come. The other games just are not coded to take advantage of what the i7 chips can truly do and thats no fault of the chip. Tomorrows games could very well all take full advantage and where does that leave the phenom owner? wishing he spent a few bucks more few months back.
  • 0 Hide
    Yahzi , February 22, 2010 11:19 AM
    I'm seriously considering either the Phenom chip or the i5 750. I just can't seem to get a definitive answer on whether either chip is overall faster for gaming. I don't program or run 3d modeling software, I just want the best value CPU possible for the money.

    Some sites claim the 965 is faster while others contradict those findings so it makes it very difficult for prospective buyers to make up their minds. Then there are lots of people here that swear by the i5 750 chip. Makes my head hurt. :) 

    I could be wrong on this, but all things being equal, competing within the same performance bracket, the Intel motherboards tend to be more pricey than their AMD competitors not to mention the memory requirements.

    Again, just want the fastest CPU for the money. I've got a Radeon 5770 card at the moment on a AMD x2 6000+. I know either way, whether I go Intel or AMD, both should offer substantially better performance even with my current card, but I want the best for the money.

    So, is there an easy answer to this ? : - )
  • -8 Hide
    osse , February 22, 2010 11:37 AM
    According to reviews on Gamersettings the phii 965 has the margins on its side. But u should also consider the motherbordcost. Among that is the crossfiresupport, as far as i seen u have to pay quite much for an 1156 motherbord with at least 8x8 crossfiresupport, most comes with x4 on the second pcie slot.

    And well there will not be such a big diffrence that u think with just one 5770 and AMD 6000 vs i5 or phii 965. The diffrence will come when you move to 2 x 5770.

    But since u want the best gaming setup, and u have one 5770, u should at least get a motherboard with x8 crossfiresupport. Preferabel x16.

    On the AMD side then you are looking for a 790x chipset for 8x8 CF support, and 790FX for 16x16 crossfiresupport. With crossfire the diffrense will be between 2-5% better performance with 790FX. This according to a review anandtech had of CF of 4870.
  • -2 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , February 22, 2010 12:01 PM
    Things seemed to have slowed down a bit. Fermi is behind schedule. Any estimates on the next releases?
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , February 22, 2010 12:40 PM
    I disagree on the i5-750 CPU when you look to performance/price. The i7-860 has got an way better value and costs only 35 USD more. This 35 USD is worth the money when you look the performance!

  • -8 Hide
    osse , February 22, 2010 12:55 PM

    Resident evil can obiously take adavatage of lots threads, and so will evry game that build on that game engine. And actually i do hope that it is that way the games go, beeing abel to take advantage of lots of treads.

    But is the money extra spent on I7 now worth it, sandy brigge and bulldozer are bout under a year away, wich both promise even better performanse.

    I do built quite a few rigs, and always tries to set up the best gamrigg for the budget. And i do always set up a rig in the following order, as long as it is a gamerigg, looking for the best grapic card within the budget, the grapic card has highter priority than the cpu, then a cpu fast enough to power the grapic card, then a motherbored and cpu that can take care of good crossfire support.

    For a mainstream gamerigg i also think its importent that it can power eyefinety, leaving the 5870 as the best graphic card, then at least x8 crossfiresupport, and 750w good psu.

    What i see of newbies that set up gameriggs, they put in an phii 965 or an i5-750 or even worse i7-920 or I7 860, teams it up with a 5770 and think they got a good gamerigg. The biggest drawback with the 1156 is the price of the motherboard with at least x8 crossfiresupport.
Display more comments