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Gaming CPU Heirarchy Chart

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: August 2010
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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’ve got your eye on is a good buy in its price range?

Here is a resource to help you judge if a CPU is a good buy 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.

However, a word of caution: this hierarchy is 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. While we feel this represents an acceptable cross-section of typical gaming scenarios, a specific game title will likely perform differently. 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 Heirarchy Chart
IntelAMD
Core i7-965, -975 Extreme, -980X Extreme
Core i7-860, -870, -875K, -920, -930, -940, -950, -960, -970
Core i5-750, -760
Core 2 Extreme QX9775, QX9770, QX9650
Core 2 Quad Q9650

Core 2 Extreme QX6850, QX6800
Core 2 Quad Q9550, Q9450, Q9400
Core i5-650, -655K, -660, -661, -670, -680
Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition
Phenom II X4 Black Edition 955, 965
Core 2 Extreme QX6700
Core 2 Quad Q6700, Q9300, Q8400, Q6600, Q8300
Core 2 Duo E8600, E8500, E8400, E7600
Core i3 -530, -540, -550
Phenom II X6 1055T
Phenom II X4 945, 940, 920, 910, 910e, 810
Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition
Athlon II X4 640, 635, 630
Athlon II X3 445, 440, 435
Core 2 Extreme X6800
Core 2 Quad Q8200
Core 2 Duo E8300, E8200, E8190, E7500, E7400, E6850, E6750
Phenom II X4 905e, 805
Phenom II X3 710, 705e
Phenom II X2 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 E6300, E6500, E6600, E6700
Pentium G9650
Phenom X4 9850, 9750, 9650, 9600
Phenom X3 8850, 8750
Athlon II X2 255, 260
Athlon 64 X2 6400+
Core 2 Duo E4700, E4600, E6600, E4500, E6420
Pentium Dual-Core E5400, E5300, E5200
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
  • 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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