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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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