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Best Gaming CPU: $90-$110

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: August 2010
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Best Gaming CPU for $100: None

As mentioned previously, the Athlon II X3 445 features such value-oriented (and yet, wholly solid) gaming performance that it is difficult to recommend spending up to $130 for similar results. Having said that, other factors can come into play. For these reasons, the following CPUs are being given honorable mentions.

Honorable Mention:
Athlon II X4 635 (Check Prices)

Athlon II X4 635
Codename: Propus
Process: 45 nm
CPU Cores: 4
Clock Speed:   2.9 GHz
Socket: AM3
L1 Cache:   4 x 128 KB
L2 Cache:   4 x 512 KB
HyperTransport: 4,000 MT/s
Thermal Envelope:
95 W

Frankly, the higher clock rate of the Athlon II X3 445 allows it to perform better than the Athlon II X4 635 in a great majority of games (at stock frequencies).

However, there are a few titles out there that will take advantage of a fourth CPU core, making the Athlon II X4 a potentially attractive choice to enthusiasts who multitask while gaming, and are willing to overclock this processor. Moreover, as a general-purpose CPU (during the hours you don't spend gaming), the quad-core solution is going to be superior.

Now found as low as $100, true quad-core CPUs are well within the grasp of the budget gamer.

Read our review of the Athlon II X4, right here.

Honorable Mention:
Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition (Check Prices)

Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition
Codename: Callisto
Process: 45 nm
CPU Cores: 2
Clock Speed: 3.2 GHz
Socket: AM3
L1 Cache: 2 x 128 KB
L2 Cache: 2 x 512 KB
L3 Cache: 6 MB
HyperTransport: 4,000 MT/s
Thermal Envelope:
80 W

Although the dual-core Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition might be a bit slower than the less-expensive Athlon II X3 440 when it comes to gaming, it offers something that the Athlon II X3 doesn't have: an unlocked clock multiplier. Like all of AMD's other Black Edition processors, the Phenom II X2 555 can be easily overclocked by simply upping its multiplier in the motherboard BIOS of your choice, earning this CPU a place on our recommended list for overclocking fans. Found online at $100, this CPU offers high-end overclocking features for a budget price.

In addition, as with all of AMD's X2 and X3 CPUs, the Phenom II X2 555 offers the potential for possibly unlocking dormant CPU cores. Our Phenom II X2 555 sample was capable of running with all four of its cores enabled, although there is no guarantee this will work on every CPU (or even half of them) found in the wild.

Read our overclocking review of the Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition, right here.

Honorable Mention:
Pentium Dual-Core E6700 (Check Prices)

Pentium Dual-Core E6700
Codename: Wolfdale-2M
Process: 45 nm
CPU Cores: 2
Clock Speed: 3.2 GHz
Socket: LGA 775
L2 Cache:   2 MB
Front Side Bus: 1,066 MT/s
Thermal Envelope:
65 W

Despite a 1 MB L3 cache deficit, the 3.2 GHz the Pentium E6700 trumps the older 2.933 GHz Core 2 Duo E7500 honorable mention, especially when you consider the $20 lower price tag of the newer Pentium CPU. While the E6700 doesn't have any dormant CPU cores that might unlock like the Phenom II X2 555, it has a solid overclocking reputation and makes a good upgrade option for tweakers with older LGA 775 systems not yet ready to put money into a new motherboard and CPU. For folks considering a full upgrade, the Socket AM3 and LGA 1156 platforms are probably better long-term choices.

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Top Comments
  • 15 Hide
    TheStealthyOne , August 16, 2010 7:20 AM
    "Is Intel putting pressure on the Phenom II X6?" Maybe Intel's telling itself that lowering a 1000 dollar Cpu's price by 100 dollars is "competing" with a 200 dollar chip... lol
  • 15 Hide
    jgv115 , August 16, 2010 6:58 AM
    @Daggs

    The Phenom II X6 is not in there because it is not as good as the other CPUs in its price range at GAMING.
Other Comments
  • 9 Hide
    amk09 , August 16, 2010 6:26 AM
    Can't wait until sandy bridge and bulldozer comes out and to see how they stack up against the current chips.
  • -9 Hide
    Anonymous , August 16, 2010 6:27 AM
    first coment :p , actually the fastest triple-core Athlon II is available for only $77, new lower price!!! plus c3 stepping, and the athlon II x4 640 (3.0 Ghz, the fastest and c3 too ) for only $107, i hope amd will do this with ati products too...
  • -5 Hide
    daggs , August 16, 2010 6:46 AM
    if you put the Core i7-980X Extreme, why don't you put any of the amd phenom II x6, they do deserve to be mentioned.
  • 15 Hide
    jgv115 , August 16, 2010 6:58 AM
    @Daggs

    The Phenom II X6 is not in there because it is not as good as the other CPUs in its price range at GAMING.
  • 0 Hide
    henryvalz , August 16, 2010 7:09 AM
    The i7-930 was available this weekend at Fry's for $260. Seems to be widely available for about $270... Which makes it even sexier.
  • 15 Hide
    TheStealthyOne , August 16, 2010 7:20 AM
    "Is Intel putting pressure on the Phenom II X6?" Maybe Intel's telling itself that lowering a 1000 dollar Cpu's price by 100 dollars is "competing" with a 200 dollar chip... lol
  • 2 Hide
    Stardude82 , August 16, 2010 7:24 AM
    The 945 really should have always been on the list since the C3 stepping because of all the budget boards with 95W limitations. The 640 is still a better deal, but hey if 775 CPUs are still listed, CPUs catering to limited AM2+/AM3 boards should be too!
  • 2 Hide
    Stardude82 , August 16, 2010 7:29 AM
    thestealthyone"Is Intel putting pressure on the Phenom II X6?" Maybe Intel's telling itself that lowering a 1000 dollar Cpu's price by 100 dollars is "competing" with a 200 dollar chip... lol

    Um... in terms of gaming, the $300 1095T can't compete with a $200 i5 760.

    Back when AMD held the performance crown the FX line was similarly ridiculously overpriced. More likely Intel is just naming it's price to maximize it's profit. Supply and demand.
  • 6 Hide
    L0tus , August 16, 2010 8:33 AM
    amk09Can't wait until sandy bridge and bulldozer comes out and to see how they stack up against the current chips.


    Absolutely. I really want to see AMD get their head's back into the game as far as high-end performance goes cos intel is ruling that area right now.

    I can guarantee that if AMD had a chip in the i7 performance range, intel wouldn't be charging us $1000 for a suped up i7-975. Competition = lower prices = happiness :) 
  • -4 Hide
    dco , August 16, 2010 8:55 AM
    I would like to see GPU recommendations for each CPU to make these articles even more informative
  • 0 Hide
    nukemaster , August 16, 2010 11:23 AM
    Good article. keep em coming.
  • -9 Hide
    Ruminari , August 16, 2010 12:29 PM
    My question is why on earth is Tomshardware still listing the i7-930 at $290. MicroCenter has been selling this processor for $199.99 since mid June!!! Tomshardware definitely needs to review where they are finding their current processor costs.
  • 9 Hide
    burnley14 , August 16, 2010 12:40 PM
    RuminariMy question is why on earth is Tomshardware still listing the i7-930 at $290. MicroCenter has been selling this processor for $199.99 since mid June!!! Tomshardware definitely needs to review where they are finding their current processor costs.


    Processors are almost always cheaper at Microcenter than anywhere else. But there are only a handful of Microcenter locations across the country, so it's not a price everyone can get. You can't base universal prices on the few areas that do have access.
  • 5 Hide
    7amood , August 16, 2010 1:25 PM
    would like to request the multiplier lock for each CPU to be included.
    This is important info for overclockers.
  • 3 Hide
    tony singh , August 16, 2010 1:26 PM
    Really happy with my 965BE C3 its cool, fast and reliable.
  • -6 Hide
    sandmanwn , August 16, 2010 1:29 PM
    Stardude82Um... in terms of gaming, the $300 1095T can't compete with a $200 i5 760.Back when AMD held the performance crown the FX line was similarly ridiculously overpriced. More likely Intel is just naming it's price to maximize it's profit. Supply and demand.

    yeah, cause we all know how important gaming is to the bottom line. Those few extra frames always influence my overall purchase decisions... [/sarc]
  • 2 Hide
    Onus , August 16, 2010 1:41 PM
    sandmanwnyeah, cause we all know how important gaming is to the bottom line...

    As much as I'd like to see something similar done for productivity apps, this article is about gaming CPUs. So, gaming will be the most important thing to the bottom line.

    With a Q9450 in my primary PC, going to AMD would be a lateral move, not worth the upgrade price. I have high hopes for Bulldozer though, and for Sandy Bridge.
  • 1 Hide
    sandmanwn , August 16, 2010 1:50 PM
    jtt283With a Q9450 in my primary PC, going to AMD would be a lateral move, not worth the upgrade price.

    Not sure I get where you are going. I wasn't making any suggestion to make that move. If you have anything in this range it wouldn't make any sense to really buy a new cpu just for gaming.
    Quote:
    As much as I'd like to see something similar done for productivity apps, this article is about gaming CPUs.

    Just about every processor on here will do well for gaming. At some point this gaming article is sort of redundant when even the base processor can get the job done. Its sort of losing its relevance when every processor that comes out these days is well above the mark needed to run any game.

    Maybe the article needs to put setups into the equation such as which CPU is best for running multiple graphics cards or something.
  • -4 Hide
    masterasia , August 16, 2010 2:15 PM
    Quote:
    The i7-930 was available this weekend at Fry's for $260. Seems to be widely available for about $270... Which makes it even sexier.


    $199 at Microcenter
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