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CPU Heirarchy Chart

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: April 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, -980X 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
  • 16 Hide
    surda , April 8, 2010 7:27 AM
    930 has replaced the 920 from 2.66 to 2.8 at the same price! im surprised that Intel didn't bump that price up, this is something unusual from Intel, but i like it, keep it up.
  • 12 Hide
    eddieroolz , April 8, 2010 11:21 AM
    As much as I like this article, I think people should wait until the Phenom II X6 comes out, which will (almost certainly) result in massive price cuts!
  • 10 Hide
    Onus , April 8, 2010 12:56 PM
    Considering the findings in the article about i3 for games, I think the emphasis on "gaming" needs to be dropped from this comparison. Unless results from specific CPU-dependent titles can be cited, it was clear that all modern CPUs are sufficiently powerful that which one you choose doesn't matter much. The question becomes, will the bottom recommended chip, the Regor 245, handle modern games at typical resolutions (e.g. 1680x1050) with ANY GPU?
    I think it would be useful to see the GAMES on the tiers, with the minimum CPU needed to play them well.
    In the meantime, it looks like it will take productivity apps, not games, to distinguish a difference between a machine running an Intel i7 and one running an Athlon X3.
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 8, 2010 6:42 AM
    Core i7 920 phased out?
  • 3 Hide
    dlpatague , April 8, 2010 6:56 AM
    The 930 replaced the 920. This was not a sudden move. Intel said they were going to do this a while ago. I bought a 920 for my new computer at first. My plan was to buy the 930 when it came out and sell the 920 to my friend...which I did and it's a great chip.
  • 1 Hide
    lemonade4 , April 8, 2010 7:06 AM
    yeah.. it's all aboot the 930 now
  • 16 Hide
    surda , April 8, 2010 7:27 AM
    930 has replaced the 920 from 2.66 to 2.8 at the same price! im surprised that Intel didn't bump that price up, this is something unusual from Intel, but i like it, keep it up.
  • 0 Hide
    7amood , April 8, 2010 7:53 AM
    surda930 has replaced the 920 from 2.66 to 2.8 at the same price! im surprised that Intel didn't bump that price up, this is something unusual from Intel, but i like it, keep it up.

    is called marketing... that's how u keep a product flying off the shelves.
  • 1 Hide
    Tindytim , April 8, 2010 8:03 AM
    surda930 has replaced the 920 from 2.66 to 2.8 at the same price! im surprised that Intel didn't bump that price up, this is something unusual from Intel, but i like it, keep it up.

    They replaced the 940, with the 950, then the 960 at the same price points. And the 965ee was replaced by the 975ee also at the same price point.

    The i7-930 was actually release at an MSRP $10 higher than the processor it replaces.
  • 0 Hide
    liquidsnake718 , April 8, 2010 8:30 AM
    Yet again for the 4th month in a row I am amazed that the core 2 duo e7500 is still at least an honarable mention, I hope this stays here until at least July!!!!
  • 1 Hide
    shubham1401 , April 8, 2010 9:06 AM
    Quote:
    Yet again for the 4th month in a row I am amazed that the core 2 duo e7500 is still at least an honarable mention, I hope this stays here until at least July!!!!



    E7500 will remain the honorable mention until dual cores become obsolete for gaming.

    It is a decent performer and there are still many people who have LGA 775 Mobo :) 
  • 5 Hide
    xizel , April 8, 2010 10:10 AM
    still wondering if i do a simple upgrade to the honorable mention q9400 Now or wait a few months and do a full upgrade to PII X6.
  • 12 Hide
    eddieroolz , April 8, 2010 11:21 AM
    As much as I like this article, I think people should wait until the Phenom II X6 comes out, which will (almost certainly) result in massive price cuts!
  • 0 Hide
    mad_typist , April 8, 2010 12:30 PM
    The i7-930 can actually be snagged at a much lower cost if you watch sites like slickdeals.net you know. I got mine for $189 at Microcenter.
  • 2 Hide
    abhishekk89 , April 8, 2010 12:37 PM
    agree with eddieroolz... will wait and see if it turns out to be gr8 will buy one or else go for the good old i5 750...
  • 0 Hide
    hixbot , April 8, 2010 12:41 PM
    Nice job!
    I'm suprised you didn't mention that the core i3 can overclock to well over 4ghz on air.
  • 10 Hide
    Onus , April 8, 2010 12:56 PM
    Considering the findings in the article about i3 for games, I think the emphasis on "gaming" needs to be dropped from this comparison. Unless results from specific CPU-dependent titles can be cited, it was clear that all modern CPUs are sufficiently powerful that which one you choose doesn't matter much. The question becomes, will the bottom recommended chip, the Regor 245, handle modern games at typical resolutions (e.g. 1680x1050) with ANY GPU?
    I think it would be useful to see the GAMES on the tiers, with the minimum CPU needed to play them well.
    In the meantime, it looks like it will take productivity apps, not games, to distinguish a difference between a machine running an Intel i7 and one running an Athlon X3.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 8, 2010 1:26 PM
    The table of info on the Core i7-930 has "Core i7-920" in the header row, but the rest of the table appears to be correct (i.e., 2.8 GHz).
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-gaming-cpu,2599-6.html
  • 0 Hide
    bongobrain , April 8, 2010 3:06 PM
    Quote:
    Considering the findings in the article about i3 for games, I think the emphasis on "gaming" needs to be dropped from this comparison. Unless results from specific CPU-dependent titles can be cited, it was clear that all modern CPUs are sufficiently powerful that which one you choose doesn't matter much. The question becomes, will the bottom recommended chip, the Regor 245, handle modern games at typical resolutions (e.g. 1680x1050) with ANY GPU?
    I think it would be useful to see the GAMES on the tiers, with the minimum CPU needed to play them well.

    The i3 article shows that, given an HD 5850 and the subsequent resolutions/options (you don't buy a 5850 for a 1280*1024 monitor) , any processor upwards of or equal to an i3 will do.
    IMO it is hardly relevant to indicate what cpu you need for a game: the question is what gpu (class) at typical resolutions you need (the best graphic card series already gives an indication of playable resolutions in most games). The next question is: what is the minimum cpu to drive that class of gpu. So what I would like to see in the "cpu for your money"-series is an indication along the lines of "this cpu will drive gpu's up to (specify class/tier) without becoming the bottleneck". But perhaps this is what you mean?
    I do agree that gaming will no longer be the factor for choosing a cpu: that will be what you want your pc to do in the background while you're gaming....
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , April 8, 2010 3:31 PM
    cgramerThe table of info on the Core i7-930 has "Core i7-920" in the header row, but the rest of the table appears to be correct (i.e., 2.8 GHz).http://www.tomshardware.com/review [...] 599-6.html


    Thanks, fixed!
  • 3 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , April 8, 2010 4:07 PM
    Good to see the slight price reductions. Building a new system is getting to be expensive.
  • 9 Hide
    Onus , April 8, 2010 4:33 PM
    Quote:
    ...
    The next question is: what is the minimum cpu to drive that class of gpu. So what I would like to see in the "cpu for your money"-series is an indication along the lines of "this cpu will drive gpu's up to (specify class/tier) without becoming the bottleneck". But perhaps this is what you mean?
    ....

    Yes, essentially. A column could be added to the GPU chart (or two, one for Intel, one for AMD), "minimum CPU to NOT bottleneck this card;" although also whether or not a specific game is CPU- or GPU-dependent may affect the result. THIS crowd is always going to go at least one more level than we need anyway :sol: 
  • 1 Hide
    saint19 , April 8, 2010 4:55 PM
    Good, at least in this guide my X4 955 still in the list.
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