Intel & AMD Processor Hierarchy

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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Core i7-3770, -3770K, -3820, -3930K, -3960X, -3970X, -4770, -4771, -4790, -4770K, -4790K, -4820K, -4930K, -4960X, -5775C, -5820K, 5930K, -5960X, -6700K, -6700, -6800K, -6850K, -6900K, -6950X
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
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).

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

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Create a new thread in the Reviews comments forum about this subject
    Your comment
  • technoholic
    Tom's is preparing the charts for a possible ZEN reveal it seems :P
  • ffleader1
    Gotta prepare everything before October :D
  • Donald_31
    you didnt include my processor AMD Black Edition 8 Core 950 where does that fit in the table
  • gondor
    How about fixing your tables so that they display correctly in Firefox?

    Most tables on this site display as a single column (some show up just fine, those "Best <anything>" work fine for example) ... how comes you can't get these straight in 2016 while all those other tech review websites work just fine?
  • darth_adversor
    I realize these charts have to be based on stock clocks, since there would be too many variables involved if overclocks were included. That being said, it saddens me to see my 2500k reduced to the second tier. Overclocked, it still competes with the best of them. In my opinion, based on raw performance (not taking platform upgrades into account), Skylake still isn't compelling enough to upgrade.
  • Jarmund
    i can't seem to find AMD's Athlon x4 880k... should be between on tier 3 or 2
  • Anonymous
    Yup I'm still running an overclocked 8320, nothing significantly more powerful enough and priced decently to upgrade. Maybe Zen will change that! My secondary rig still runs a Phenom II 965, Still tier 4!!

    Did you mean 9590, Donald? That's tier 2. I don't think AMD made a 950 anything unless it was a low clocked quad core Phenom II part used in OEM systems. The 880K should be tier 3. It trades blows with Haswell i3's in gaming benchmarks.
  • Ethan Feinhaus
    What about the athlon x4 845? That's a cpu.
  • magusat999
    Nice chart! I'd like to see slot types added as well.
  • John von War
    @Ethan Feinhaus—the x4 845 would probably sit around tier 5, maybe brushing tier 4. It gives performance roughly similar to a stock x4 860, but falls far behind an overclocked one.
    Where's the i5 6400?
  • Jogden
    i3 6100 ?
  • jonxor
    I'm pissed at how misled I was by this hierarchy page.
    I had a rig with an AMD FX-9590 that I thought was the problem. Every Intel fanboy on the planet was dumping on me for still using AMD.

    My CPU usage in GTA 5 @ 1080P was barely 75%, and I could stream it using twitch or steam broadcast.

    I "Upgraded" to an i5-3570K, Same RAM, Same Video card, Same SSD's. Even OVERCLOCKED to 4.3 ghz, it stays pegged at 100% CPU usage, and my framerates are worse, and that's without even trying to stream it.

    The FX-9590 sells for $180 on Amazon
    The i5-3570K sells for $210 on Amazon

    I understand in the past that CPU power recently has been mostly about IPC, and clock speed, just necessary to run the game, but this does not take into account streaming. The benchmarks for media rendering are in the back of the articles and mostly ignored.

    It's moot point now that AMD isn't making any FX line procs, but I wish you guys would re-evaluate AMD performance, and start including simultaneous Gaming + streaming benchmarks, so we can see how well processors perform with both a Game, and the rendering workload to stream it, since that is now an extremely common use case.
  • van Rhyn
    First off thank you for posting the list in the first place, it does help in general guidelines.
    However I understand Jonxor's frustration, Tom's Hardware is a staple for my tech info needs, however this is one of the only let downs I've come across. This chart's tier system needs to be far more inclusive (many relevant cpus missing) and have a bit more contrast across tiers, sure it might be long but it could use 20 tiers if you want to keep the dinosaurs around.
    I am at a loss as to why a 3550 is in the same tier as the 4790K, I agree with a 4690 earning a spot for gaming purposes solely, but there is a clear disparity with the 3550 and 4430 among real high end top tier cpus. I know that i5's can hold their own within demanding games, but with a 1080 there is no chance that the 3550 can produce the same level of min/avg fps and frame time variance as the 4790K. I own one, and it totally overpowers my GTX 760 which I had bought beforehand with another cpu before upgrading. It's soon to be replaced by a 1080 ti. The difference between my old cpu and the 4790K in gaming is slim, because of the gpu bound nature of games. You could throw the first three tiers in with my 760 and not see a massive difference, so are graphics card tiers being taken into account here?
    I understand that the 9590 doesn't make it into the top tier because it is behind the 4430 in single core performance, still most relevant in games, for the time being, and it really belongs in a third tier if you broke it up well. Also if it was present, despite being an i3 the 6300 would barely belong in the same tier as a 4130. The 6300 even beats the 3550 in single core performance by a respectable number.
    Please update, you will get a lot of hits just for being Tom's Hardware and I like you guys and honestly I'm being critical because I want to look out for your rep. Everyone's going to be off sometimes, but Tom's is the place you go for rock solid facts and advice, not things like rumors or stuff like that, you go to Wccftech for that. The motherboard hierarchy list by MeteorsRaining was much more comprehensive and the standard for the caliber expected of this site.
  • van Rhyn
    Where is the 6100? 6300? 6500? 7890K? It's a very good reference list and thank you for providing it, but it is incomplete and I feel it could be a lot more robust with some tiers holding too many cpus. I'm with Jonxor, this list really doesn't do the real world any justice. Toms Hardware is a staple for all my tech info needs, this is one of the very few times I'm disappointed. It's as simple as a little more thought and effort to fix the problem though.
  • van Rhyn
    Didn't mean for that second post, guess it went through because of my login errors. I would like to add, I did just the gun a bit. I only did a speed read of the explanation, and after reading it I admit it makes one or two of my points redundant. I still think the list as a whole needs a big overhaul, but please forgive my overstep.
  • sera1552
    sorry fx series sucks at single core performance comparing to i7 can't even defeat most of the i5, and power hungry, i will only buy fx series multicores for rendering processing like video editing . as fx series provide muliticores at cheaper price
  • Ambular
    I'm guessing the i3-6100 would be at least as high as tier three, maybe tier two...
  • passarodoartico
    still waiting for amd new processors