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Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: August 2010

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: August 2010
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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.

August Updates

In July, Intel stole the spotlight with a number of incremental CPU introductions, including the Core i3-550, the Core i5-760, and the Core i7-970.

Let's start with the Core i3-550 CPU. This processor is really nothing more than a Core i3-540 with a single multiplier ratio increase, resulting in a clock speed of 3.2 GHz (a 133 MHz bump over the Core i3-540's 3.06 GHz frequency). The interesting part about this is that the Core i3-550 runs at the same speed as the Core i5-650, with the only functional difference between the two being the Core i5's Turbo Boost feature. The Core i3-550's $150 launch pricing has brought these two CPUs within $30 of each other. The introduction of the new model has also caused the Core i3-540 price to drop, which is down around $125 as a result, making it a much better value than it was before and earning it an honorable mention in our price list.

Just as the Core i3-550 is a Core i3-540 with a incremental multiplier ratio increase, the new Core i5-760 is a Core i5-750 that received the same treatment. The Core i5-760 is 133 MHz faster than its predecessor. And for $210, the new CPU takes the recommendation from the Core i5-750. The Core i5-750 has always impressed us with its price, performance, overclockability, and value. So, we expect the same great traits from the new model.

The real story, though, is the Core i7-970. This is no Core i7-960 with a higher multiplier. Rather, the new CPU is a six-core Gulftown processor running just 133 MHz slower than the Core i7-980X Extreme flagship, fully featured with all 12 MB of L3 cache and the ability to process 12 threads at the same time. Of course, the Extreme Edition's unlocked multiplier is not present here. But at $900, the new CPU is $100 cheaper, too. It looks like Intel wants to put a little bit of pressure on AMD's six-core Thuban models, although there's a lot of price ground left to cover.

Aside from the new CPU introductions, we've noted that the Core i7-870 has dropped in price from $579 to $289, which sounds like a steal until you remember that the multiplier-unlocked Core i7-875K has been available for $329 since its introduction last month. The new price brings the old CPU in line with its value compared to the rest of the Core i7-800 lineup.

All of this, combined with the usual price fluctuations, have had an impact on our recommendations this month. Read on for the details!

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.

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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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