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Intel & AMD Processor Hierarchy

Intel & AMD Processor Hierarchy
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Fans of our Best Gaming CPUs for the Money column will recognize the hierarchy chart as a side-by-side comparison tool designed to help you pick an appropriate processing upgrade. It groups CPUs with roughly similar gaming performance into tiers. The top tier contains the highest-performing CPUs available and gaming performance decreases as you descend.

This hierarchy was originally based on the average performance each CPU achieved in our test suite. We have since incorporated new game data into our criteria, but it should be known that any specific title will likely perform differently depending on its unique programming. Some games, for example, will be severely graphics subsystem-limited, while others may react positively to more CPU cores, larger amounts of on-die cache or even a specific architecture. We don't have access to every CPU on the market, so some of the placements are based on the results similar models deliver. Indeed, this hierarchy chart is useful as a general guideline, but certainly not as a one-size-fits-all CPU comparison resource. For that, we recommend you check out our CPU Performance Charts.

Perhaps you noticed that we split the former top tier in half, moving a handful of quad-module AMD CPUs up in the process. Recognizing that a lot of older platforms are going to be paired with graphics subsystems multiple generations old, we wanted to define the top of our range to encourage balance between host processing and complementary GPUs. At this point, anyone with a Sandy Bridge-based Core i7 would realize a gain from stepping up to Skylake or Haswell-E, for example. And putting AMD's top FX CPUs next to a handful of Core i7s and those older Core i5s represents an upgrade to their status.

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IntelAMD
Core i7-3770, -3770K, -3820, -3930K, -3960X, -3970X, -4770, -4771, -4790, -4770K, -4790K, -4820K, -4930K, -4960X, -5775C, -5820K, 5930K, -5960X, -6700K, -6700
Core i5-6600K, ,-6600, -6500, -5675C, -4690K, 4670K, -4590, -4670, -4570, -4460, -4440, -4430, -3570K, -3570, -3550

Core i7-2600, -2600K, -2700K, -965, -975 Extreme, -980X Extreme, -990X Extreme
Core i5-3470, -3450P, -3450, -3350P, -3330, 2550K, -2500K, -2500, -2450P, -2400, -2380P, -2320, -2310, -2300
FX-9590, 9370, 8370, 8350, 8320, 8300, 8150
Core i7-980, -970, -960
Core i7-870, -875K
Core i3-4370, -4360, -4350, -4340, -4170, -4160, -4150, -4130, -3250, -3245, -3240, -3225, -3220, -3210, -2100, -2105, -2120, -2125, -2130
FX-6350, 4350
Phenom II X6 1100T BE, 1090T BE
Phenom II X4 Black Edition 980, 975
Core i7-860, -920, -930, -940, -950
Core i5-3220T, -750, -760, -2405S, -2400S
Core 2 Extreme QX9775, QX9770, QX9650
Core 2 Quad Q9650
FX-8120, 8320e, 8370e, 6200, 6300, 4170, 4300
Phenom II X6 1075T
Phenom II X4 Black Edition 970, 965, 955
A10-6800K, 6790K, 6700, 5800K, -5700, -7700K, -7800, -7850K, 7870K
A8-3850, -3870K, -5600K, 6600K, -7600, -7650K
Athlon X4 651K, 645, 641, 640, 740, 750K, 860K
Core 2 Extreme QX6850, QX6800
Core 2 Quad Q9550, Q9450, Q9400
Core i5-650, -655K, -660, -661, -670, -680
Core i3-2100T, -2120T
FX-6100, -4100, -4130
Phenom II X6 1055T, 1045T
Phenom II X4 945, 940, 920
Phenom II X3 Black Edition 720, 740
A8-5500, 6500
A6-3650, -3670K, -7400K
Athlon II X4 635, 630
Core 2 Extreme QX6700
Core 2 Quad Q6700, Q9300, Q8400, Q6600, Q8300
Core 2 Duo E8600, E8500, E8400, E7600
Core i3 -530, -540, -550
Pentium G3470, G3460, G3450, G3440, G3430, G3420, G3260, G3258, G3250, G3220, G3420, G3430, G2130, G2120, G2020, G2010, G870, G860, G850, G840, G645, G640, G630
Phenom II X4 910, 910e, 810
Athlon II X4 620, 631
Athlon II X3 460
Core 2 Extreme X6800
Core 2 Quad Q8200
Core 2 Duo E8300, E8200, E8190, E7500, E7400, E6850, E6750
Pentium G620
Celeron G1630, G1620, G1610, G555, G550, G540, G530
Phenom II X4 905e, 805
Phenom II X3 710, 705e
Phenom II X2 565 BE, 560 BE, 555 BE, 550 BE, 545
Phenom X4 9950
Athlon II X3 455, 450, 445, 440, 435, 425
Core 2 Duo E7200, E6550, E7300, E6540, E6700
Pentium Dual-Core E5700, E5800, E6300, E6500, E6600, E6700
Pentium G9650
Phenom X4 9850, 9750, 9650, 9600
Phenom X3 8850, 8750
Athlon II X2 265, 260, 255, 370K
A6-5500K
A4-7300, 6400K, 6300, 5400K, 5300, 4400, 4000, 3400, 3300
Athlon 64 X2 6400+
Core 2 Duo E4700, E4600, E6600, E4500, E6420
Pentium Dual-Core E5400, E5300, E5200, G620T
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, G440
Athlon 64 X2 4000+, 3800+
Athlon X2 4050e, BE-2300
Pentium Dual-Core E2160, E2140
Celeron E1500, E1400, E1200

Currently, our hierarchy consists of 13 total tiers. The bottom half of the chart is largely outdated; you'll notice those CPUs dragging down performance in the latest games, regardless of the graphics card installed in your PC. If you own a CPU in that range, an upgrade could really take your gaming experience to another level.

Really, it's the top five tiers or so that remain viable. And in that top half of the chart, an upgrade is typically worthwhile if it's a least a couple of tiers higher. Otherwise, there's just not enough improvement to warrant the expense of a fresh CPU, motherboard and memory (not to mention the graphics card and storage solution you'd be considering as well).

MORE: Best CPUs
MORE: Best CPU Cooling
MORE: Best Motherboards
MORE: How To Build A PC

MORE: All CPU Content

Chris Angelini is Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Display all 41 comments.
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  • 2 Hide
    Tzn , November 3, 2015 12:09 PM
    Basically if you are at least on Sandy Bridge you are saved a few years. Yay i have i5-3570s.
  • 2 Hide
    Eggz , November 3, 2015 12:09 PM
    And another CPUs hierarchy chart! Thanks for the update :) 
  • 3 Hide
    thunderbird32 , November 3, 2015 12:48 PM
    My poor old Yorkfield Core 2 is getting really long in the tooth. :( 
  • 4 Hide
    CaedenV , November 3, 2015 1:37 PM
    Yay! 4 years later and my CPU is still in the 2nd tier (i7 2600 non-K)! I just need to throw a newer GPU in my system and I think I'll be good for another few years until 4K gaming really becomes a thing.
  • 0 Hide
    ODuron , November 3, 2015 2:59 PM
    "At this point, anyone with a Sandy Bridge-based Core i7 would realize a gain from stepping up to Skylake or Haswell-E, for example." OK, my CPU is a 3930K after a few years it's sitting at the tops of the charts. I was thinking there should be a chart that compares CPU's and features. One chart could compare the i7 series say from the i7 2600 to the new i7 6700K. I'm looking to upgrade to the Z170 chipset, but is it worth it?
  • 2 Hide
    XxD34THxX , November 3, 2015 4:27 PM
    I still have a E5300... RIP
  • 3 Hide
    Pareja , November 3, 2015 4:37 PM
    I'm from Brasil, sorry for my bad english. I think you can make a better list, divide it in more tiers. For example: I know that FX 6300 it's more powerfull than mine Athlon II x4 640, (twice) in all that i have read.
    In your's GPU hierarchy Chart the same hapens, mine HD 7750 it's twice faster than GTS 250 and the two cards are in the same tier in the chart.
    Thanks in advance.
  • 0 Hide
    vern72 , November 3, 2015 5:35 PM
    Yay! One of my CPUs is still viable (barely). The other CPU is nearly dropping off the bottom.
  • 0 Hide
    cdabc123 , November 3, 2015 8:56 PM
    c'mon you got to throw some xeons on that list. they are becoming more popular chips and preform extremely well. my old x5677 setup can still preform within the 2nd tier.
  • -5 Hide
    cdabc123 , November 3, 2015 8:56 PM
    c'mon you got to throw some xeons on that list. they are becoming more popular chips and preform extremely well. my old x5677 setup can still preform within the 2nd tier.
  • 1 Hide
    Hellowalkman , November 4, 2015 7:10 AM
    next update when Zen releases ;) 
  • 2 Hide
    blazorthon , November 4, 2015 9:17 AM
    Quote:
    c'mon you got to throw some xeons on that list. they are becoming more popular chips and preform extremely well. my old x5677 setup can still preform within the 2nd tier.


    They perform the same as an i5 or i7 (depending on the Xeon having HTT or not) of the same architecture and frequency. Sure, they could be added, but it would be a little redundant.
  • 0 Hide
    jeyman , November 4, 2015 11:25 AM
    Good to see my antique i7-3770k and my wife's i5-2500k (although not on the list, but close enough) still are contenders. The world moves on, but with those two overclocked to 4.5Ghz, I don't really have much call to upgrade until they die. Some of the best CPU money I have ever spent given the longevity. My pair of 7970's are getting a little old too but still hold their own just fine. Until 4k gaming becomes a norm, and this whole G-Sync/FreeSync thing gets cleared up, I see no serious need for a change. This has been an oddly quiet and somewhat refreshing period of time in PC building. The only major changes in the mainstream have been in the adoption, growth, and price per GB of SSDs.
  • 1 Hide
    Robert Cook , November 4, 2015 7:18 PM
    I feel the Phenom II X6 1100T should be second tier not third. If you get a good board and spend thirty minutes overclocking, it will get rather close to a 3770. Also, all the X4 BEs should be in the same category, as they all overclock very well, and inevitably reach about the same speeds.
  • 2 Hide
    tea urchin , November 5, 2015 9:07 AM
    Let us see this new data.
  • 2 Hide
    tea urchin , November 5, 2015 9:11 AM
    Otherwise you are expecting us to swallow that an fx is as good as a 2600k , 'suddenly', in games after you have been saying it was not for years. I dont believe it,myself and think we deserve to see the new benchmark suite or data thus incorporated.
  • 0 Hide
    tea urchin , November 5, 2015 9:27 AM
    Quote:
    I feel the Phenom II X6 1100T should be second tier not third. If you get a good board and spend thirty minutes overclocking, it will get rather close to a 3770. Also, all the X4 BEs should be in the same category, as they all overclock very well, and inevitably reach about the same speeds.


    If you include o/c performance,the a.m.d. chips will stay as they are or move downwards compared to the unlocked intel chips which would make the chart a bit complicated.
    Intel games performance scales better with overclocking than a.m.d. chips.
  • -1 Hide
    aoe21 , November 5, 2015 2:49 PM
    So according to your charts the i5 3550 and 3570 are faster gaming cpus than the i7 2600K and 2700K and belong to a higher tier??
  • 2 Hide
    tea urchin , November 5, 2015 4:50 PM
    Quote:
    So according to your charts the i5 3550 and 3570 are faster gaming cpus than the i7 2600K and 2700K and belong to a higher tier??


    It is not my chart,obviously_but as explained,the cpu's are tiered at stock frequencies.It is too complicated otherwise and there are no guarantees any cpu will overclock at all.
    You will have to add the jollies value from overclocking yourself,which would obviously mean an i7 K 2 series is a lot better than a locked 3 series i5 chip.
    In fact, considering the chart has been altered according to 'data' from new games which would perform better on older i7's than newer i5's,I would call the entire chart into repute and now consider it useless as a reference tool and unusable as a quotable guideline. Unless a fresh benchmarking suite is established and all the higher cpu's run again this chart is now a waste of time.
  • 1 Hide
    tea urchin , November 5, 2015 5:24 PM
    Quote:
    Yay! 4 years later and my CPU is still in the 2nd tier (i7 2600 non-K)! I just need to throw a newer GPU in my system and I think I'll be good for another few years until 4K gaming really becomes a thing.


    Considering this unseen evidence is based on more multithreaded games (The FX line have moved up)
    I would assume your i7 should still be in the top tier.But I guess we will have to wait on this evidence.
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