Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Best Gaming CPU: $90-$110

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: May 2010
By

Best gaming CPU for $100: None

As mentioned previously, the Athlon II X3 440 features such value-oriented (and yet wholly solid) gaming performance that it is difficult to recommend spending $100 to $130 for similar results. Having said that, other factors can come into play. For these reasons, the following CPUs are being given honorable mentions.

Honorable Mention:
Athlon II X4 630 (Check Prices)

Athlon II X4 630
Codename: Propus
Process: 45 nm
CPU Cores: 4
Clock Speed: 2.8 GHz
Socket: AM3
L1 Cache:   4 x 128KB
L2 Cache:   4 x 512KB
HyperTransport: 4,000 MT/s
Thermal Envelope:
95W

Frankly, the high clock rate of the Athlon II X3 440 allows it to perform better than an Athlon II X4 630 at stock frequencies in a great majority of games.

However, there are a few titles out there that will take advantage of a fourth CPU core, making the Athlon II X4 a potentially attractive choice to buyers who want all four CPU cores and are willing to overclock this processor. Moreover, as a general-purpose CPU (during the hours you don't spend gaming, of course), the quad-core solution is going to be superior. Now found as low as $100, true quad-core CPUs are well within the grasp of the budget gamer.

Read our review of the Athlon II X4, right here.

Honorable Mention:
Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition

Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition
Codename: Callisto
Process: 45 nm
CPU Cores: 2
Clock Speed: 3.2 GHz
Socket: AM3
L1 Cache: 2 x 128KB
L2 Cache: 2 x 512KB
L3 Cache: 6MB
HyperTransport: 4,000 MT/s
Thermal Envelope:
80W

Although the dual-core Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition might be a bit slower than the less-expensive Athlon II X3 440 when it comes to gaming, it offers something that the Athlon II X3 doesn't have: an unlocked clock multiplier. Like all of AMD's other Black Edition processors, the Phenom II X2 555 can be easily overclocked by simply upping its multiplier in the motherboard BIOS of your choice, earning this CPU a place on our recommended list for overclocking fans. Found online at $100, this CPU offers high-end overclocking features for a budget price.

In addition, as with all of AMD's X2 and X3 CPUs, the Phenom II X2 555 offers the potential for possibly unlocking dormant CPU cores. Our Phenom II X3 555 sample was capable of running with all four cores enabled, although there is no guarantee this will work on every CPU found in the wild.

Read our overclocking review of the Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition, right here.

Ask a Category Expert

Create a new thread in the Reviews comments forum about this subject

Example: Notebook, Android, SSD hard drive

Display all 57 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
  • 9 Hide
    touchdowntexas13 , May 17, 2010 6:16 AM
    I guess I'm not too surprised that the Phenom X6 1055t didn't beat out the i5-750 at it's price point. From what I have seen, the i5-750 does tend to perform better in games.

    However, I thought the 1055t would have made it into the honorable mention, especially for gamers looking for some awesome power for video conversions and that sorta thing. It may not be the best "gaming" cpu for $200, but for gamers looking for something a little extra, the 1055t presents a great value.

    Anyways, like I said I was not too surprised here. Another great article.
  • 0 Hide
    pr0m3th3us , May 17, 2010 6:29 AM
    touchdowntexas13I guess I'm not too surprised that the Phenom X6 1055t didn't beat out the i5-750 at it's price point. From what I have seen, the i5-750 does tend to perform better in games.However, I thought the 1055t would have made it into the honorable mention, especially for gamers looking for some awesome power for video conversions and that sorta thing. It may not be the best "gaming" cpu for $200, but for gamers looking for something a little extra, the 1055t presents a great value.Anyways, like I said I was not too surprised here. Another great article.


    AMDs Hexacore cpus don't help with gaming compared with deneb, unless you use its great overclocking ability. It OCs better than Deneb....
  • 0 Hide
    eklipz330 , May 17, 2010 6:33 AM
    What makes the Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition better than the 955? I mean they're both unlocked right? Is it that the 965 is better binned or something? Does it justify $25 extra bucks?? I mean newegg has the new steppings listed differently, so there's no way you can go wrong by getting a 955...
  • 5 Hide
    ohim , May 17, 2010 6:34 AM
    The AMDs hexacore cpus would have made the tops only if this was a: Best multimedia/video encoding CPUs For The Money: May 2010
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 17, 2010 7:09 AM
    I hear the 965 b and the 955 b are the same thing when unlocked.
  • -6 Hide
    Gigahertz20 , May 17, 2010 7:54 AM
    The i7-930 can be purchased for $200 at Micro Center in store only. Pretty damn good deal, no price online can beat it.

    http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml?product_id=0331303
  • 4 Hide
    Otus , May 17, 2010 8:18 AM
    TA152HUpgrading is always something I've never understood. People seem to get a warm fuzzy feeling from saying they can upgrade their processor, but does anyone actually do it? It's been this way almost forever, show me someone that upgrades JUST his or her processor, and I'll show you an idiot. By the time the processor is obsolete, the whole platform is, so you just get both new. There are exceptions, but, really, upgrading processors alone has always sounded like something you'd want, until you realize you never end up doing it.


    Upgrading often makes sense with budget CPUs. Last year I upgraded from a Phenom based Athlon X2 to a new Athlon II X4. I more than doubled my threaded performance for the 40€ it cost me after selling the old CPU.
  • 1 Hide
    spentshells , May 17, 2010 8:32 AM
    i must agree with some of that mentioned above.
    but mostly just the shunning part. core2 is still very powerful and the hype is just that...hype not much more.
    remember when they were showing the 9550 along side the I7 the advantage they were showing when gaming was not staggering. I believe they removed core2 quad from the picture for just that reason.
    but ive been known to be wrong ;) 
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , May 17, 2010 8:37 AM
    I just upgraded my Athlon 64 X2 5000 to a Athlon II X4 thanks to a new BIOS on my ASUS M2N-E. Bought this four or so years ago and I'm happy that there was room to upgrade.

    I used to think that I would buy a new machine the next time I needed upgrades but now I realize that being able to upgrade the CPU and various other components along the way is much nicer (and cheaper).
  • 3 Hide
    iulianx , May 17, 2010 8:45 AM
    I agree with you, TA152H. The fact is, i haven't seen a proper head to head comparison here on Toms between core i3 530 and core2duo E8400, or between core i5 750 and core2quad Q9400. And let's not forget that Intel stated that each new cpu generation will bring a new socket, so there's really no upgrade path for 1156. For LGA775 you either get a core2duo, like a E8400, or a core2quad, like a Q9400 and you're done. There's nothing else. That's the same on 1156: you either take core i3 530 or core i5 750. It's not like you can upgrade beyond that, to a core i7 930 or smt. And the cpus Intel will release from now on will be on a new socket, so you're in exactly the same situation.
  • -1 Hide
    Stardude82 , May 17, 2010 9:01 AM
    TA152H.Also, the Pentium E6500 costs $75, the Core E7500 $117, both at the same clock speed. Is 1 MB cache worth $42 more?
    The E8400 in certain benchmarks is still a force to be reckoned with.. the E7500 is middling and not a big step up from the much cheaper E6300.

    Yes the 1156 platform is limiting, but the benchmarks for the i5 750 speak for themselves. On the other hand, I don't see any devices near max SATA 3 speeds and probably won't until the next upgrade cycle in a couple years.
  • -3 Hide
    Moshu78 , May 17, 2010 10:15 AM
    eklipz330What makes the Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition better than the 955? I mean they're both unlocked right? Is it that the 965 is better binned or something? Does it justify $25 extra bucks?? I mean newegg has the new steppings listed differently, so there's no way you can go wrong by getting a 955...

    965 is 3.4 GHz, consuming 125W while 955 is 3.2 GHz also comsuming 125W. Basically the 955 is a 965 that heats more/consumes more. You can OC the 955 to 3.4 GHz but then it will consume around 140-150W. The 965 can OC to higher frequences than the 955 due to the lower thermal dissipation, however, if you like the stock frequences, you can turn a 955 into a 965 without issues. The extra 25 bucks is worth if you go OC for 4.0 GHz and more.
  • 3 Hide
    dertechie , May 17, 2010 10:45 AM
    OtusUpgrading often makes sense with budget CPUs. Last year I upgraded from a Phenom based Athlon X2 to a new Athlon II X4. I more than doubled my threaded performance for the 40€ it cost me after selling the old CPU.


    Yeah, makes more sense with AM3 platforms where you can go from a $50 budget CPU to a high end PII. Meanwhile Intel doesn't really do that whole 'backwards compatible' thing.

    TA152H Stuff


    In my opinion the only reason Intel hasn't EOL'd LGA775 yet is because they haven't pushed Nehalem that far down the stack yet. Once we see $50 Nehalerons, I expect LGA775 to die.

    Most of the LGA775 CPUs seem overpriced for the performance they give. The E8400 costs more than the i3-530, but the two CPUs will go toe to toe in most benches. The Q9400 is only a hair cheaper than the i5-750, and the 750 is going to best it, particularly in poorly threaded apps like games.

    P55's lack of PCIE is not really a problem unless you're using a pair of top end GPUs. The x4 slot can take care of USB3/SATA6. So you may as well grab a modern CPU with your modern GPUs. If you are building with a pair of 5870s, then you're already spending at least $800 on graphics, the $50 price difference between an x48 and an x58 is rather small by comparison (you won't be buying an el cheapo LGA775 here). The other thing is that if you're using enough GPU to bottleneck at x8-x8, you'll need a good CPU to not bottleneck them anyway. Again, you're already shelling out enough that the difference between a Q9400 and an i7-930 isn't worth quibbling over (especially if you have a Microcenter nearby), and the 930 does have a performance lead over the Q9400.

    P55 is a pared-down X58, not a crippled/brain-dead one. Intel did well there, the cuts give X58 a solid advantage, but most normal builds won't be bottlenecked by them.

    TL;DR: If you're spending enough on GPUs that P55 PCIe bottlenecks matter, you may as well go big and get X58. If you aren't get P55 and a decent CPU/GPU pairing. LGA775 is really only worthwhile if you already have parts of it.
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , May 17, 2010 11:38 AM
    the 635 is now $105
  • -4 Hide
    steddy , May 17, 2010 12:44 PM
    No! My E1400 is at the bottom of the heirarchy chart. I hope it doesn't bottleneck my GMA 4500.
  • 3 Hide
    husker , May 17, 2010 1:39 PM
    TA152HUpgrading is always something I've never understood. People seem to get a warm fuzzy feeling from saying they can upgrade their processor, but does anyone actually do it? It's been this way almost forever, show me someone that upgrades JUST his or her processor, and I'll show you an idiot. By the time the processor is obsolete, the whole platform is, so you just get both new. There are exceptions, but, really, upgrading processors alone has always sounded like something you'd want, until you realize you never end up doing it.

    I have to admit there is some truth to this. I myself in a recent build was constantly debating about justifying the additional cost of a more "future proof" motherboard vs. one that was just good-enough for what I needed today. I finally decided it simply made more sense to ignore SATA II, USB 3, and 6 core support for now and put the money elsewhere.
  • 0 Hide
    buzznut , May 17, 2010 1:40 PM
    Another great article, but it doesn't look like much has changed since AMD did some shuffling with a few new CPU's. Intel isn't doing its users any favors with the constant socket changes. On the other hand, Intel has a few really solid models while AMD has so many in all different price ranges, it seems they may be competing with themselves. I'm not sure it is a wise strategy to have so many CPU's in the market.

    I have to disagree with the cpu upgrades though, my current platform has gone from a fx-62 dual core to a X4 9850 to a X4 PhII 940. All of these were significant upgrades with much higher performance and overclocking ability. This has kept my PC relevant for 3 years. I will need to move to another mobo for 6 or 8 cores, but I don't think I will do that for another year.
  • 1 Hide
    ta152h , May 17, 2010 2:11 PM
    dertechieYeah, makes more sense with AM3 platforms where you can go from a $50 budget CPU to a high end PII. Meanwhile Intel doesn't really do that whole 'backwards compatible' thing.In my opinion the only reason Intel hasn't EOL'd LGA775 yet is because they haven't pushed Nehalem that far down the stack yet. Once we see $50 Nehalerons, I expect LGA775 to die.Most of the LGA775 CPUs seem overpriced for the performance they give. The E8400 costs more than the i3-530, but the two CPUs will go toe to toe in most benches. The Q9400 is only a hair cheaper than the i5-750, and the 750 is going to best it, particularly in poorly threaded apps like games. P55's lack of PCIE is not really a problem unless you're using a pair of top end GPUs. The x4 slot can take care of USB3/SATA6. So you may as well grab a modern CPU with your modern GPUs. If you are building with a pair of 5870s, then you're already spending at least $800 on graphics, the $50 price difference between an x48 and an x58 is rather small by comparison (you won't be buying an el cheapo LGA775 here). The other thing is that if you're using enough GPU to bottleneck at x8-x8, you'll need a good CPU to not bottleneck them anyway. Again, you're already shelling out enough that the difference between a Q9400 and an i7-930 isn't worth quibbling over (especially if you have a Microcenter nearby), and the 930 does have a performance lead over the Q9400.P55 is a pared-down X58, not a crippled/brain-dead one. Intel did well there, the cuts give X58 a solid advantage, but most normal builds won't be bottlenecked by them.TL;DR: If you're spending enough on GPUs that P55 PCIe bottlenecks matter, you may as well go big and get X58. If you aren't get P55 and a decent CPU/GPU pairing. LGA775 is really only worthwhile if you already have parts of it.


    You kind of missed the point with your rambling.

    x58 is a LOT more expensive, and would perform worse in most cases if the extra money were spent on video cards. That's the irony with this type of article - with games, the processor really isn't so important, the video card is. That's why they struggle to find a point in processors in a pretty big cost range and just give honorable mentions.

    You're comparing x58 to x48, when you talk about dual GPUs, I was comparing to P55. When you start comparing x58 to x48, you're automatically looking at a much more expensive platform and more expensive processors. Put another way, would you do better on most games with an overclocked Pentium E6500 and an extra $250 on the video card(s), or a i7 930? I think we both know the answer to that. It's not an absolute, but the more money you can spend on the video card, the better.

    I like x58, but for this narrow criteria, on almost all price points, and most games, you'd be better off with a cheaper CPU and more expensive video cards. It doesn't make it bad, it's just the nature of games right now - video cards matter more, especially at resolutions where you want to play.
  • -7 Hide
    kelemvor4 , May 17, 2010 3:22 PM
    I think this list is a total failure. You're going to have a major bottleneck even with an i7-920 on systems with a current GPU (GF100, ATI 5770). To recommend i5 and lower for gaming is just not reasonable. Those may be useful for web surfing and office computing but not gaming.
Display more comments