April is relatively quiet on the processing front. However, we know AMD recently started shipping its new Fusion-based Llano CPUs to customers, so we may be on the cusp of significant changes to the market. Learn more in this month's review!
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.
Pricing remains surprisingly stable since our last update. That's fair enough; there really isn't any reason we'd expect movement, since Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture is still pretty new, and AMD has little to compete with it above the $130 mark. Frankly, Intel will probably stay pretty quiet without compelling competition, and we may not see any significant new products from the company until its LGA 2011 interface arrives in Q4 2011.
Llano Now Shipping (Not For Sale)
AMD has some interesting products in the pipeline, however. On April 6th it announced that new quad-core Llano CPUs are being shipped out to OEM system providers. This means we should see Llano available for purchase sometime this quarter, by the end of June.
For those of you unfamiliar with what Llano will bring to the table, it's AMD's Fusion-based product aimed at the notebook and desktop markets, combining both CPU and graphics hardware on the same 32 nm die. While the Brazos platform brought Fusion to low-power nettops and netbooks, Llano is far more powerful. It sports Phenom II-class dual- and quad-core processors (sans L3 cache), combined with capable graphics hardware. Initial speculation suggests that the most powerful of these integrated GPUs may be comparable to a Radeon HD 6570.
The impact that Llano will have on the market is difficult to predict. Sandy Bridge should have little trouble outpacing AMD's aging Stars architecture when it comes to CPU processing power. But AMD's integrated GPU promises to be worlds ahead of HD Graphics 3000 (and even more so versus HD Graphics 2000). Enthusiasts will continue favoring Intel's processors paired up to discrete graphics cards. But Llano may offer something we've never seen before: a budget-oriented solution capable of handling a taxing graphics load.
Only time will tell how this will affect the market, and we'll be sure to keep our readers appraised of developments as they happen.
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.