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Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: April 2010

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: April 2010
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If you don’t have the time to research the benchmarks, or if you don’t feel confident enough in your ability to pick the right processor for your next gaming machine, fear not. We at Tom’s Hardware have come to your aid with a simple list of the best gaming CPUs offered for the money.

April Updates

The big news in March was the introduction of the worlds first hexa-core CPU for the desktop, Intel's Core i7-980X Extreme Edition processor. With six physical CPU cores and capable of running 12 threads thanks to Hyper-Threading, the 32nm Gulftown core is the most powerful desktop CPU on the planet, taking that top spot from the Core i7-975 Extreme processor. At $1,090 it's not a wise choice from a budgetary perspective, but we have to give it props for being the best gaming CPU money can buy. You can read more about the Core i7-980X Extreme here.

March also saw the commercial availability of Intel's Core i7-930 CPU, a 2.8 GHz model that nudges aside the older 2.66 GHz Core i7-920 favorite.  Released at the same ~$290 price that the Core i7-920 has occupied for a long time, the new CPU takes our recommendation for a reasonably priced overclockable LGA 1366 CPU to pair with the powerful X58 chipset.

There wasn't too much else of note in the CPU realm, except for the price shifting we expect on a month-to-month basis. The Phenom II X2 550 BE and Athlon II X4 630 dropped about $10 each to $100 and $88, respectively. In the Intel camp, the Core i5-670 dropped $20 to $280, but the dual-core CPU still seems overpriced compared to the true quad-core Core i5-750. Owners of LGA 775 motherboards might be happy to hear that the Core 2 Duo E7000-series has come down a few dollars, making an upgrade from an older CPU easier to justify.

Some Notes About Our Recommendations

This list is for gamers who want to get the most for their money. If you don’t play games, then the CPUs on this list may not be suitable for your particular needs.

The criteria to get on this list are strictly price/performance. We acknowledge that there are other factors that come into play, such as platform price or CPU overclockability, but we're not going to complicate things by factoring in motherboard costs. We may add honorable mentions for outstanding products in the future, though. For now, our recommendations are based on stock clock speeds and performance at that price.

Cost and availability change on a daily basis. We can’t offer up-to-the-minute accurate pricing information in the text, but we can list some good chips that you probably won’t regret buying at the price ranges we suggest (and our PriceGrabber-based engine will help track down some of the best prices for you).

The list is based on some of the best US prices from online retailers. In other countries or at retail stores, your mileage will most certainly vary. Of course, these are retail CPU prices. We do not list used or OEM CPUs.

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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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