Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: November 2010

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: November 2010
By

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.

November Updates

With all of the action in the graphics department, November has been a relatively calm month in the CPU world, though we have seen some significant price shifting.

Let's start with Intel's Core i3-540. Now available for about $115 on Newegg, this processor is actually cheaper than the Core i3-530 at the time this column was written. Perhaps Intel is phasing out the 2.93 GHz -530 in favor of its 3.06 GHz -540. In any case, the Core i3-540 inherits the 530's recommendation at $115. Similarly, the 2.66 GHz Core i5-750 favorite has gone up a few dollars, while the 2.8 GHz Core i5-760 has gone down a few, leaving the faster processor with a single $205 recommendation on our list.

AMD's price adjustments are much more notable. The entire Phenom II X6 line seems to have been slashed $20 to $40, with the Phenom II X6 1055T at $179, the 1075T at $200, and the 1090T at $230. While these prices make the X6 line infinitely more interesting from a productivity standpoint, they're only slightly more attractive from a gamer's point of view, since games tend to utilize no more than four CPU cores. The cheaper and higher-clocked quad-core Phenom II X4 processors are a better bet for recreational use, but for a user interested in mixing business with pleasure, the Phenom II X6 prices are a lot more attractive.

On the other side of the coin, the Phenom II X4 is a bit more expensive than it was previously. The $140 Phenom II X4 955 is sadly no more, back up to a more fitting $155 price point. The Phenom II X4 965 and 970 models are now $165 and $185, respectively. 

With the end of 2010 so very close, it is now a waiting game for Intel and AMD to release their next-generation products. When the end of the race is so close, the final mile seems to take forever. But it'll be here soon, and we can't wait to see how both companies improve their standing in gaming circles.

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 available at retail.

Ask a Category Expert

Create a new thread in the Reviews comments forum about this subject

Example: Notebook, Android, SSD hard drive

Display all 53 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 16 Hide
    tony singh , November 22, 2010 4:36 AM
    Phenom 2 965 & 970 both @ 3.4 Ghz ?? Come on Tom..
  • 10 Hide
    darkchazz , November 22, 2010 8:55 AM
    Glad to see my Phenom II 955 is on this list , I never regretted buying that cpu.
Other Comments
  • 3 Hide
    dogman_1234 , November 22, 2010 4:10 AM
    It's nice to see the Phenom II x6 is still kicking. Can't wait until SB and Bulldozer.

    C'mon guys, I want to see the next "CPU for the Money" with the new chips at hand!
  • 16 Hide
    tony singh , November 22, 2010 4:36 AM
    Phenom 2 965 & 970 both @ 3.4 Ghz ?? Come on Tom..
  • 7 Hide
    buckcm , November 22, 2010 4:50 AM
    Why isn't the Phenom II X4 940 not a recommendation at less than $100? Isn't another $50 in a video card better than getter DDR3 and AM3 vs DDR2 and AM2+?
  • 0 Hide
    crisan_tiberiu , November 22, 2010 4:57 AM
    My Core 2 Duo e6750 (purchased 2 years ago) OCd to 3.4 GHZ (2,66 stock) performs preety well in games. The only thing i changed was my nvidia 8800 GT to GeForce gtx 460 and its enaugh for now. Ill wait for the next gen CPUs next year
  • -3 Hide
    dogman_1234 , November 22, 2010 4:57 AM
    buckcmWhy isn't the Phenom II X4 940 not a recommendation at less than $100? Isn't another $50 in a video card better than getter DDR3 and AM3 vs DDR2 and AM2+?


    Depends.
  • -7 Hide
    dogman_1234 , November 22, 2010 4:58 AM
    crisan_tiberiuMy Core 2 Duo e6750 (purchased 2 years ago) OCd to 3.4 GHZ (2,66 stock) performs preety well in games. The only thing i changed was my nvidia 8800 GT to GeForce gtx 460 and its enaugh for now. Ill wait for the next gen CPUs next year


    Good idea. Seems we have a happy camper...
  • 4 Hide
    duk3 , November 22, 2010 5:18 AM
    The clock speed of the Phenom x4 970 is 3.5 not 3.4 ghz.
  • 0 Hide
    fstrthnu , November 22, 2010 5:32 AM
    Seems like this late in the year, it'd be better to wait for Sandy Bridge than to get anything right now. February and March aren't THAT far away by now
  • 0 Hide
    sudeshc , November 22, 2010 5:35 AM
    Agreed W8ing for Sandy Bridge would be worth and it not that long.
  • 0 Hide
    Stardude82 , November 22, 2010 6:24 AM
    AMD is no longer so future proof and because of this it's too bad we aren't seeing AM3+ boards out yet. With RAM prices dropping, it would be great to make a jump to DDR3 now.

    I'm thinking it's not a great time now to make a system switch at all with ALL the sockets changing in the near future.
  • 4 Hide
    blibba , November 22, 2010 7:43 AM
    Q9650 on the same hierarchy level as the 980X while the rest of the chart features hierarchy levels often separated by no more than 200mhz? Is this an exponential scale?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , November 22, 2010 7:55 AM
    can anyone guide me where to buy the Phenom II X3 740 Black Edition (OEM)
    as it not available anywhere in my local store with the rest of phenom II x3. they only have phenom II x2 and x4 and x6 no x3 at all >_
  • 10 Hide
    darkchazz , November 22, 2010 8:55 AM
    Glad to see my Phenom II 955 is on this list , I never regretted buying that cpu.
  • 1 Hide
    Onus , November 22, 2010 9:47 AM
    I know they'll never earn a recommendation as they are overpriced and likely relatively slow, but please add the X4 605e and other low-power chips to the chart. For older or less-demanding games, it might be "good enough," depending on where it falls.

  • 5 Hide
    enzo matrix , November 22, 2010 10:10 AM
    DarkMeatcan anyone guide me where to buy the Phenom II X3 740 Black Edition (OEM)as it not available anywhere in my local store with the rest of phenom II x3. they only have phenom II x2 and x4 and x6 no x3 at all >_

    1. Hang on let me use my psychic powers to find out where you live.
    2. This is what the forums are for, not the comments. Make a thread on the forums and link me to it in a PM and I will be more than happy to help.
  • 2 Hide
    enzo matrix , November 22, 2010 10:13 AM
    Ok, why is the i5 760 only an honourable mention? You guys never explained why it was an honourable mention and not a recommended?
  • 4 Hide
    englandr753 , November 22, 2010 10:51 AM
    As buckcm mentioned, this is a very good deal and I swept up two of these:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103644&cm_re=amd_940-_-19-103-644-_-Product

    I know its an OEM but should at least deserve an honorable mention. For those of us that have heatsinks for paperweights lying around, this is a no brainer purchase if you have a pre-existing system to upgrade.

    When is the last time anyone has had to RMA a cpu? I'd like to hear that story...
  • 3 Hide
    jj463rd , November 22, 2010 11:46 AM
    buckcmWhy isn't the Phenom II X4 940 not a recommendation at less than $100? Isn't another $50 in a video card better than getter DDR3 and AM3 vs DDR2 and AM2+?

    Yeah that's the OEM version (and no heatsink and fan comes with it).
    Although it's an AM2+ CPU at about $96 over at newegg it's a fantastic buy
    especially for AM2+ board upgraders.I was looking at the passmark website where they they had a list of the performance vs cost of CPU's.It indeed is near the top of that list.
  • 3 Hide
    schwizer , November 22, 2010 11:48 AM
    I'm guessing the specs for the 970 were copy/pasted from the 965 but the title and clock speed were not updated.
  • -4 Hide
    pinkfloydminnesota , November 22, 2010 12:07 PM
    Microcenter has had the i7 950 for $280 for over a month, and lately on sale for $200, no rebates no nothing.

    Since they don't advertize here you don't put that price up?
Display more comments