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Gaming CPU Hierarchy Chart

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: October 2011
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What about this other CPU that’s not on the list? How do I know if it’s a good deal or not?

This will happen. In fact, it’s guaranteed to happen because availability and prices change quickly. So how do you know if that CPU you have your eye on is a good buy in its price range?

Here is a resource to help you judge if a CPU is a reasonable value or not: the gaming CPU hierarchy chart, which groups CPUs with similar overall gaming performance levels into tiers. The top tier contains the highest-performing gaming CPUs available and gaming performance decreases as you go down the tiers from there.

This hierarchy was originally based on the average performance each CPU achieved in our charts test suite using only four game titles: Crysis, Unreal Tournament 3, World in Conflict, and Supreme Commander. We have since incorporated new game data into our criteria, but it should be known that any specific game 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 CPU cache, or even a specific architecture. We also did not have access to every CPU on the market, so some of the CPU performance estimates are based on the numbers similar architectures 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.

You can use this hierarchy to compare the pricing between two processors, to see which one is a better deal, and also to determine if an upgrade is worthwhile. I don’t recommend upgrading your CPU unless the potential replacement is at least three tiers higher. Otherwise, the upgrade is somewhat parallel and you may not notice a worthwhile difference in game performance.

Gaming CPU Hierarchy Chart
IntelAMD
Core i7-2600, -2600K
Core i7-965, -975 Extreme, -980X Extreme, -990X Extreme
Core i7-980, -970, -960
Core i5-2500, -2500K, -2400, -2320, -2310, -2300

Core i7-860, -870, -875K, -920, -930, -940, -950,
Core i5-750, -760, -2405S, -2400S
Core 2 Extreme QX9775, QX9770, QX9650
Core 2 Quad Q9650
Core i3-2100, -2105, -2120, -2125, -2130
FX-8150
Phenom II X4 Black Edition 980, 975
Core 2 Extreme QX6850, QX6800
Core 2 Quad Q9550, Q9450, Q9400
Core i5-650, -655K, -660, -661, -670, -680
Core i3-2100T, -2120T
Phenom II X6 1100T BE, 1090T BE, 1075T
Phenom II X4 Black Edition 970, 965, 955
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 G860, G850, G840, G630
Phenom II X6 1055T
Phenom II X4 945, 940, 920, 910, 910e, 810
Phenom II X3 Black Edition 720, 740
A8-3850
A6-3650
Athlon II X4 645, 640, 635, 630
Athlon II X3 460, 455, 450, 445, 440, 435
Core 2 Extreme X6800
Core 2 Quad Q8200
Core 2 Duo E8300, E8200, E8190, E7500, E7400, E6850, E6750
Pentium G620
Celeron 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 X4 620, 631
Athlon II X3 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
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
A4-3400
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

Summary

There you have it folks: the best gaming CPUs for the money this month. Now all that’s left to do is to find and purchase them.

Also remember that the stores don’t follow this list. Things will change over the course of the month and you’ll probably have to adapt your buying strategy to deal with fluctuating prices. Good luck!

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Top Comments
  • 30 Hide
    julianbautista87 , October 26, 2011 4:55 AM
    you basically have two options: Intel or f*** you. Come on AMD! why are you so good on the gpu market and so bad in the cpu market?
  • 17 Hide
    cleeve , October 26, 2011 5:10 AM
    ojasweren't we promised a round-up of the sandy bridge pentium processors a long time ago?


    Yes, and I'm working on it! behind schedule, although the delay means we can include the FX series. The budget FX-4000 CPUs look like they might not be that terrible considering they're multiplier-unlocked.
  • 13 Hide
    alhanelem , October 26, 2011 7:33 AM
    not surprised that bulldozer didn't even show up in this article
Other Comments
  • 30 Hide
    julianbautista87 , October 26, 2011 4:55 AM
    you basically have two options: Intel or f*** you. Come on AMD! why are you so good on the gpu market and so bad in the cpu market?
  • 2 Hide
    ojas , October 26, 2011 5:09 AM
    weren't we promised a round-up of the sandy bridge pentium processors a long time ago?

    really should have a comparison of the various sub $100 processors from both AMD and Intel. Could use the i3-2100 for reference.

    would be useful for entry-level gaming builds and office builds.

    Or, could be useful to check if it's a good idea to pair a G860 or Phenom II x4 840 with a GTX 460/560 or 6850 and get decent gaming performance.
  • 17 Hide
    cleeve , October 26, 2011 5:10 AM
    ojasweren't we promised a round-up of the sandy bridge pentium processors a long time ago?


    Yes, and I'm working on it! behind schedule, although the delay means we can include the FX series. The budget FX-4000 CPUs look like they might not be that terrible considering they're multiplier-unlocked.
  • 9 Hide
    tlmck , October 26, 2011 5:29 AM
    I for one am very happy with my Phenom II X4 840. Of course I got mine on sale at a local place called Microcenter for $59.99. Won't win any benchmark contests, but it plays every game I throw at it at high settings. Good enough for me.
  • 3 Hide
    de5_Roy , October 26, 2011 6:03 AM
    1. i totally agree with this article.
    2.
    Quote:
    Instead, Intel's lower-cost Core i3s and Core i5s are likely better (and less expensive) options.

    this made me chuckle. okay, it made me laugh. i never imagined the day when intel would seem like a value proposition, in gaming, even. but this is true - among 32 nm cpus, intel is cheaper and a better all round performer.
    if you read anandtech's bd review they used a core i5 2400 in their benches which beat bd in some if not enough benchmarks. i wonder how a core i3 2100, core i5 2400 will fare against fx 4100, 6100 and 8120. i think the core i5 will emerge as a better cpu despite being locked.
    it's funny to see 'quadcore' 3.6 GHz FX-4100 @ $115. imo fx 4100 is a 125 tdp dual core with ht(amd version). no one needs this space-heating-almost-as-costly-core-i3 dud. it's not a good upgrade from a ph ii 955. fx 6100 and fx 8120 are of better value among bd cpus.
  • 3 Hide
    qu4k3r , October 26, 2011 6:03 AM
    When will the other FX models review be ready ?

    I'd like to see where 8120,8100,6100,4170,4100 are located in this chart.-
  • 5 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , October 26, 2011 6:19 AM
    qu4k3rWhen will the other FX models review be ready ?I'd like to see where 8120,8100,6100,4170,4100 are located in this chart.-

    Guru3D did a review of the FX lineup. It's mostly non-gaming benchmarks, but it gives you a good idea of how the other processors in the FX series perform in general.

    http://www.guru3d.com/article/amd-fx-8150--8120-6100-and-4100-performance-review/
  • 6 Hide
    Stardude82 , October 26, 2011 6:35 AM
    The G840 is about $80 now. That should shift things next month. Heck the G620 is faster than the 455 in gaming benchmarks and that's been sub $80 for a while.
  • 0 Hide
    jet-21 , October 26, 2011 6:56 AM
    I think it would be nice if toms would do a chart where they would merge both the best gaming cpu and the best cpu for the money. ie: the best gpu combo for the best cpu price point. Just my musings
  • 0 Hide
    de5_Roy , October 26, 2011 6:57 AM
    just a little correction to my earlier comment: seems only fx 4170 is a 125 w tdp, fx 4100 is a 95 w tdp bulldozer cpu(still 30w higher than core i3's 65 w tdp).
  • 0 Hide
    qu4k3r , October 26, 2011 7:10 AM
    dragonsqrrlGuru3D did a review of the FX lineup. It's mostly non-gaming benchmarks, but it gives you a good idea of how the other processors in the FX series perform in general.http://www.guru3d.com/article/amd- [...] ce-review/

    I also saw these reviews:
    http://nl.hardware.info/reviews/2382/amd-fx-8150--8120--6100--4100-bulldozer-review
    http://www.techspot.com/review/452-amd-bulldozer-fx-cpus/page10.html

    But I'm still doubtful about what cpu to buy

    Having a Q6600 oc@3.2GHz I've bought an AM3+ mobo which I really like and I want to use it, so I'd rather buy a cpu 3 tiers higher than mine on AMD side.
  • 13 Hide
    alhanelem , October 26, 2011 7:33 AM
    not surprised that bulldozer didn't even show up in this article
  • -8 Hide
    dontqqnub , October 26, 2011 7:35 AM
    The 2700k isn't on the list. =\
  • 6 Hide
    fyasko , October 26, 2011 8:18 AM
    dontqqnubThe 2700k isn't on the list. =\

    it's best "gaming" cpu's for the $... think about it...
  • 4 Hide
    Dacatak , October 26, 2011 8:32 AM
    I got an X4 955 BE for $88. No tax, no BS MIR, free shipping. Boo-yeah.
  • 9 Hide
    jdw_swb , October 26, 2011 8:37 AM
    2500K....still an awesome CPU for the price.
  • -2 Hide
    Aoyagi , October 26, 2011 8:43 AM
    julianbautista87you basically have two options: Intel or f*** you. Come on AMD! why are you so good on the gpu market and so bad in the cpu market?

    Because AMD has never intered GPU market itelf, it's ATI. And come on, they still need to get over their own CPUs ^^ (meaning Phenom 2s)
  • 4 Hide
    RCPG , October 26, 2011 11:40 AM
    Where is the Phenom II X4 840 on the hierarchy chart? It's recommend and it's not even on the chart. And I have a Phenom II X4 850 which also isn't on the chart. Please update the chart with these two processors.
  • 1 Hide
    Onus , October 26, 2011 11:56 AM
    Disappointing for AMD, but predictable.
    At the low end, unless perhaps it is for a single, specific application in an unchanging environment, I still don't see ever recommending a non-HT dual core (e.g. Pentium) over a 3- or 4-core CPU (e.g. Athlon II); not for modern workloads.
  • 0 Hide
    Reynod , October 26, 2011 1:10 PM
    By the looks of it don you haven't had time to bench the rest of the Bulldozer CPU lineup yet?

    Once some of the cheaper silicon in that range hits the street would you mind doing some gaming benchies and seeing if there is a good quality gaming chip in the mix?

    I would think there might be.

    Good work on this regular article as usual.

    :) 
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