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The month of May saw AMD make significant price cuts to its aging Athlon and Phenom families. Additionally, we have more news about the upcoming CPU and GPU hybrid, AMD's (code-named) Llano APU! Intel's prices didn't move much this month, unfortunately.
If you don’t have the time to research 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.
AMD applied aggressive price cuts to its premium models in the past month. The most notable of these was the Phenom II X6 1100T, which dropped $30 and now sells for a flat $200 flat. This is the most powerful desktop-oriented processor in the company's portfolio. While AMD's hexa-core flagship may be a great deal for workstation users, most games don't take advantage of more than four execution cores, so it's not ideal for a dedicated entertainment machine.
Gamers should be more interested in the $120 Phenom II X4 955 BE and $110 Phenom II X4 925, SKUs that dropped $20 and $10, respectively. These quad-core models are better suited for gaming and general productivity, and overclockers naturally appreciate the Phenom II X4 955's unlocked multiplier.
Having said that, it's a testament to the effectiveness of Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture that dual-core Hyper-Threaded models like the Core i3-2100 demonstrate notably superior game performance in some benchmarks. Because of this, the Phenom II X4 955 retains an honorable mention, rather than garnering a full recommendation.
Current owners of AM2+- or AM3-compliant motherboards may find AMD's new prices to be an attractive impetus for an upgrade. And the company's quad-core architecture does demonstrate advantages over Intel's Core i3 in heavily-threaded applications. At $110, the Phenom II X4 925 would have made an interesting entry, were it not for the mere $10 spread between itself and AMD's X4 955. We do have to give the chip credit for pushing four cores and a full 6 MB of L3 cache to an all-time low price, though.
AMD's price changes sit in stark contrast to Intel's stagnant CPU lineup, composed of products that haven't really shifted at all on the price scale. It all goes to show that when you're on top, there's really no reason to discount products. To that end, here's hoping AMD can present something compelling when it launches Llano in June.
While we can't go into detail about the Llano APU right now, we can tell you that we attended AMD's Llano Preview and Tech Day event, and that a date is set for us to publish details on this desktop-class CPU/GPU hybrid processor in the not-too-distant future.
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 available at retail.