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CPU Heirarchy Chart

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: March 2010
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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 i7-965, -975 Extreme
Core i7-860, -870, -920, -930, -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, E6600
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

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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Top Comments
  • 10 Hide
    requiemsallure , March 15, 2010 7:54 AM
    Umm is it just me or do they still have the i7-920 up there?

    hmm it seems to me like that is a worthless recommendation unless you live near a microcenter. as the i7-930 has a higher core clock by about 200mhz and has a higher multiplier, for just $5-ish more. please change your list to reflect this or give a reason why it isn't on the list.
Other Comments
  • -8 Hide
    shubham1401 , March 15, 2010 6:38 AM
    Please add Core i7-980X to the Gaming CPU Hierarchy Chart :) 
  • 6 Hide
    Onus , March 15, 2010 6:46 AM
    Ok, you've decided what tier you want to be on. Which platform do you choose, and why? A comprehensive comparative review of the currently available platforms (including the older AM2 and LGA775 for upgraders) would be useful.
  • 7 Hide
    cruiseoveride , March 15, 2010 6:46 AM
    I picked up an X3 440 3.0Ghz based on this article. Great CPU. Managed to get 4 cores out of it even.
  • -4 Hide
    aandea , March 15, 2010 6:46 AM
    Core i7-860, -870, -920, -940, -950
    is missing the , -960
  • -4 Hide
    aandea , March 15, 2010 6:47 AM
    Core i7-860, -870, -920, -940, -950
    is missing the ", -960"
  • -1 Hide
    TheGreatGrapeApe , March 15, 2010 7:00 AM
    For those anonymous readers with trouble figuring products out;
    http://ark.intel.com/Product.aspx?id=42915
    http://ark.intel.com/ProductCollection.aspx?familyID=42912
  • 0 Hide
    p1n3apqlexpr3ss , March 15, 2010 7:14 AM
    Good to hear the i3s are becoming better value, but have yet to find a article comparing its performance to a true quad
  • 0 Hide
    blackjellognomes , March 15, 2010 7:47 AM
    jtt283Ok, you've decided what tier you want to be on. Which platform do you choose, and why? A comprehensive comparative review of the currently available platforms (including the older AM2 and LGA775 for upgraders) would be useful.

    Including older platforms would make this article way too long. I'm sure you can find the kind of reviews you're talking about in the forums.
  • 10 Hide
    requiemsallure , March 15, 2010 7:54 AM
    Umm is it just me or do they still have the i7-920 up there?

    hmm it seems to me like that is a worthless recommendation unless you live near a microcenter. as the i7-930 has a higher core clock by about 200mhz and has a higher multiplier, for just $5-ish more. please change your list to reflect this or give a reason why it isn't on the list.
  • 3 Hide
    kokin , March 15, 2010 10:07 AM
    I'm hoping the new hexa cores will be able to push everything else down a tier or maybe even see AMD fill in that empty first tier.
  • 0 Hide
    shreeharsha , March 15, 2010 10:38 AM
    Good to see 9 AMD Processors mentioned as best (for that price point) and only 5 intel Processors
  • 2 Hide
    shubham1401 , March 15, 2010 10:47 AM
    Quote:
    Good to see 9 AMD Processors mentioned as best (for that price point) and only 5 intel Processors



    Typical Fanboy
  • 8 Hide
    chunkymonster , March 15, 2010 10:56 AM
    I knew AMD was successful in the low end market, but I didn't they were THAT successful!

    The Athlon II X4 620 is a great bargain!



  • 3 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , March 15, 2010 12:25 PM
    couple suggestions:
    a) Be consequent in the specs! For instance the i3 series boards have mentions of cores/threads wheras the 1366 based i7 systems only state cores. Also teh i5 is missing qpi data.
    b) None of the core i series processors have a mention of turbo mode speed nor is fsb listed for processors where it is relevant. Perhaps even add an 'unlocked multiplier' spec to the processors where applicable (black and extreme ed processors).
    c) Maybe also mention the amount of pcie lanes and wether or not the processor has ecc support (if any of the recommended even support that? xeon w3520 does, and opterons do - both run in [some] desktop boards). You may argue that ecc support slows performance and therefore isn't wanted - but ecc support means cheaper access to 4gb memory modules.
    4) that's perhaps a stretch, but add a spec that mentions which chipsets are supporting the cpu. Particularily important for the two core 2 processors as someone with lga775 won't nessecarily be able to run the processors just because the socket fits. Same goes for older am+ systems hoping to upgrade to a phenom x3. Don't really expect this last request to be within the reasonable limits of what can be expected from a 'quick list of processors'
  • 4 Hide
    cleeve , March 15, 2010 1:10 PM
    neiroatopelcccouple suggestions:a) Be consequent in the specs! Fo


    Good points, Neiro. I'll update the format for next month.
  • 1 Hide
    JohnMD1022 , March 15, 2010 1:35 PM
    If you are within driving distance or a microcenter store, or know anyone who is, check their prices.

    A friend got an i7 920 for 199.99 on Saturday (March 13, 2010).

    http://www.microcenter.com/search/search_results.phtml?web_group=byopc_proc
  • 0 Hide
    JohnMD1022 , March 15, 2010 1:49 PM
    In fact, while they do not carry every processor on this list, for the one's they do carry, they are usually lowest in price, often by large margins, e.g., i7 975 for 799.99.
  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , March 15, 2010 1:53 PM
    If all processors they carry are cheaper than here, what's your problem? the ratios are still going to match up then.
    Here in Denmark all the prices are higher, but since the ratios are similar the list is quite useful.
  • 1 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , March 15, 2010 2:18 PM
    it seems like there were a lot of honorable mentions this month.
  • 1 Hide
    dertechie , March 15, 2010 2:47 PM
    p1n3apqlexpr3ssGood to hear the i3s are becoming better value, but have yet to find a article comparing its performance to a true quad


    Check Anand's article on them. Particularly the launch article.
    Short form:
    1-2 threads they do great. However, it should be noted that an i7-860 comes within 5% of the single-thread performance of an i5-661 and beats the i3s. The i3s are comparable to a high-end C2D here.
    Light multithreading they still beat the Athlons and show very well for themselves. In other words, they game very well with a good GPU.
    At 4 heavy threads though, the limitations of HT start to show. It lets otherwise wasted cycles be used productively, that's it. Athlon X3s and X4s meet and beat them respectively. The PII quads and i5/i7 quads just eat them alive on heavily threaded benchmarks.
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