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Gaming CPU Hierarchy Chart

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: June 2011
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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 have your eye on is a good buy in its price range?

Here is a resource to help you judge if a CPU is a reasonable value 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.

This hierarchy is originally 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. We have since incorporated new game data into our criteria, but it should be known that any specific game title will likely perform differently depending on its unique programming. 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 i7-2600, -2600K
Core i7-965, -975 Extreme, -980X Extreme, -990X Extreme
Core i7-980, -970, -960
Core i5-2500, -2500K, -2400, -2310, -2300

Core i7-860, -870, -875K, -920, -930, -940, -950,
Core i5-750, -760, -2405S, -2400S
Core 2 Extreme QX9775, QX9770, QX9650
Core 2 Quad Q9650
Core i3-2100, -2105, -2120
Phenom II X4 Black Edition 980, 975
Core 2 Extreme QX6850, QX6800
Core 2 Quad Q9550, Q9450, Q9400
Core i5-650, -655K, -660, -661, -670, -680
Phenom II X6 1100T BE, 1090T BE, 1075T
Phenom II X4 Black Edition 970, 965, 955
Core 2 Extreme QX6700
Core 2 Quad Q6700, Q9300, Q8400, Q6600, Q8300
Core 2 Duo E8600, E8500, E8400, E7600
Core i3 -530, -540, -550
Pentium G850, G840
Phenom II X6 1055T
Phenom II X4 945, 940, 920, 910, 910e, 810
Phenom II X3 Black Edition 720, 740
A8-3850
A6-3650
Athlon II X4 645, 640, 635, 630
Athlon II X3 460, 455, 450, 445, 440, 435
Core 2 Extreme X6800
Core 2 Quad Q8200
Core 2 Duo E8300, E8200, E8190, E7500, E7400, E6850, E6750
Pentium G620
Phenom II X4 905e, 805
Phenom II X3 710, 705e
Phenom II X2 565 BE, 560 BE, 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 E5700, E5800, E6300, E6500, E6600, E6700
Pentium G9650
Phenom X4 9850, 9750, 9650, 9600
Phenom X3 8850, 8750
Athlon II X2 265, 260, 255
Athlon 64 X2 6400+
Core 2 Duo E4700, E4600, E6600, E4500, E6420
Pentium Dual-Core E5400, E5300, E5200, G620T
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 E5500, 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
  • 24 Hide
    tacoslave , June 29, 2011 4:28 AM
    amd needs bulldozer thats one thing we can all agree on.
  • 16 Hide
    dogman_1234 , June 29, 2011 4:33 AM
    Good review. I love the best Gaming CPU monthly. Ready for BD and to give a run against IB as well. will be interesting to see what AMD has to offer against the king i7-2600K.
  • 15 Hide
    undead_assault , June 29, 2011 4:46 AM
    hmmm, nice reviews! But since you guys only updated a little sections because there are not much new CPU's to compare, please consider a new article like Best Gaming Motherboard (for AMD & Intel) For The Money!

    If that's too much, you can begin with new platforms first (AMD 900 series, Intel 1155, 1366).

    Thanks Toms, you rocks!
Other Comments
  • 24 Hide
    tacoslave , June 29, 2011 4:28 AM
    amd needs bulldozer thats one thing we can all agree on.
  • 2 Hide
    wildeast , June 29, 2011 4:29 AM
    Good job again with these articles, always keeping me updated about the best buy. :) 
    I noticed there is no i5 2400 in the Hierarchy Chart though.
  • 16 Hide
    dogman_1234 , June 29, 2011 4:33 AM
    Good review. I love the best Gaming CPU monthly. Ready for BD and to give a run against IB as well. will be interesting to see what AMD has to offer against the king i7-2600K.
  • 15 Hide
    undead_assault , June 29, 2011 4:46 AM
    hmmm, nice reviews! But since you guys only updated a little sections because there are not much new CPU's to compare, please consider a new article like Best Gaming Motherboard (for AMD & Intel) For The Money!

    If that's too much, you can begin with new platforms first (AMD 900 series, Intel 1155, 1366).

    Thanks Toms, you rocks!
  • 3 Hide
    jdw_swb , June 29, 2011 5:05 AM
    2500K all the way for gaming. Awesome CPU for an amazing price.

    OC's effortlessly, and rips through every game it meets.
  • 3 Hide
    lothdk , June 29, 2011 6:06 AM
    Since the Phenom II X4 955 is now a Best Gaming CPU you might want to edit the last paragraph that reads

    Quote:
    But AMD's CPU retains an honorable mention as a good entertainment-oriented option better suited to multitasking, thanks to its quad-core architecture. And at its new low price, it remains a recommendable option.
  • 2 Hide
    crisan_tiberiu , June 29, 2011 6:36 AM
    well, i went i7 2600k. I was thinking that of i spend some money now ill get the best... but i was not sure becasue i wanted to wait for BD..bit it takes to long..
  • -5 Hide
    clonazepam , June 29, 2011 7:00 AM
    If Ivy Bridge is as boring to overclock as Sandy is I may go with Bulldozer even if there's a loss in performance, just for the fun of the tweaking inside and out. If BD's bad, then maybe i'll just go retro with the x58 platform and hope Intel puts the nail in its coffin with a new 1366 chip in 22nm flavor... hmmm I should start writing that letter.
  • -1 Hide
    renz496 , June 29, 2011 7:03 AM
    honestly i hope bulldozer able to make i5 2500k much more affordable :p 
  • 0 Hide
    clonazepam , June 29, 2011 7:06 AM
    I hope there's an extreme series of sandy and ivy that replace the graphics section with bigger L1, L2, and L3 caches all shared up and pretty.
  • 4 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , June 29, 2011 7:06 AM
    clonazepamIf Ivy Bridge is as boring to overclock as Sandy is I may go with Bulldozer even if there's a loss in performance, just for the fun of the tweaking inside and out. If BD's bad, then maybe i'll just go retro with the x58 platform and hope Intel puts the nail in its coffin with a new 1366 chip in 22nm flavor... hmmm I should start writing that letter.

    In what way is SB boring to overclock? you get amazing performance for little money.....i think your really missing something here, maybe do some more reading about SB overclocking.
  • 0 Hide
    haplo602 , June 29, 2011 7:06 AM
    dual opteron 2220 here ... plenty fast for what I need. looking for a better GPU :-)
  • 0 Hide
    clonazepam , June 29, 2011 7:08 AM
    Most only need to change voltage and multiplier. Compare that to socket 775 and even moreso involved overclocking the x58 and AMD's platforms. I know I have issues and am OCD so normal folks won't understand I just really enjoy tweaking the system endlessly for better performance gains... That's just me. I'm special.
  • -2 Hide
    clonazepam , June 29, 2011 7:12 AM
    I'm loving that core i3, want that, max ram, single slot low power grfx, most efficient mobo, and a case with 6 to 8 drive bays. I bought my cheap 4 port sata II pci-x1 slot card for it, now need the rest hehe.

    I have to read up on watercooling but I'd like to do a nice passive water cooling setup with a fan on the drive bays only. I wanna beefy NAS.

    I'll worry about overclocking whenever i decide between bulldozer / sb / and ib for the new multimedia creation gaming station.
  • 4 Hide
    lunyone , June 29, 2011 8:53 AM
    I'd like to see the best mobo/CPU combo for gaming for the $!!!
  • 0 Hide
    ubercake , June 29, 2011 9:18 AM
    I can get an i5-2500K (4-core no HT) or an i7-960 (4-core with HT) at Microcenter for $180 these days. For gaming, I'd suggest the i5-2500K at this price point.
  • 2 Hide
    silverblue , June 29, 2011 10:02 AM
    widream and eidream are two examples of the new spam craze that seems to have hit this site over the past few days or so. I honestly don't get what they're trying to say.

    The i5-2500K is still looking to be the perfect choice for the enthusiast. due to its unique architecture, I am not placing any bets on Bulldozer being a top-tier gaming CPU; its capabilities seem far more suited to server workloads. However, I did think that about Sledgehammer and Barcelona, so maybe I'm wrong, especially considering AMD seems to want to resurrect the FX branding.
  • -6 Hide
    tomate2 , June 29, 2011 10:56 AM
    comments are getting so repetitive!
    waiting for bulldozer and stuff...
    is it not obvious enough that EVERYONE is waiting to see some benches for bulldozer??
    or that it needs something to compete with the sandy bridge k cpus?
    amd didnt launch a new line of performance cpus for how many years?
    everyone knows that they need bulldozer
    stop stating the obvious... its getting old
  • 3 Hide
    Onus , June 29, 2011 11:55 AM
    I chose a X4 970 over a x4 955 recently because the benchmarks over at Anandtech show the faster chip also using considerably less power, a difference that would become even more pronounced if I OC'ed a 955 to 970 speeds.
  • -2 Hide
    grody , June 29, 2011 2:01 PM
    Well this was a yawnfest. Not much has changed since the last 2 times they did this.
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