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Gaming CPU Hierarchy Chart

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: November 2011

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
Core i7-2600, -2600K, -2700K, -3820, -3930K, -3960X
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
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
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
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


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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  • 1 Hide
    manu 11 , November 28, 2011 3:28 AM
    please test the fx 4100 gaming performance, eagerly waiting for some decent benchmarks.
  • 0 Hide
    AbdullahG , November 28, 2011 3:31 AM
    Interesting list. I see Intel isn't far from dominating ever category for gaming CPUs. The ~$80 zone is holding them back. I'm still glad to see AMD holding up.
  • 2 Hide
    Onikage , November 28, 2011 3:37 AM
    yeah well, still waiting for ivy, i'll get the same speed if not faster than a 2700k but with less heat and less energy,and a better oc, maybe a better price too,,
  • 6 Hide
    Zero_ , November 28, 2011 3:42 AM
    I believe Intel owns sub $80 as well. The G850 costs just $82 and beats the Athlon II X3 455 easy, and the $60 Celeron G540 is faster than any Athlon II X2.

    The only AMD CPU worth buying right now is the Phenom II X2 955.
  • 1 Hide
    de5_Roy , November 28, 2011 3:45 AM
    love the new hierarchy chart :) 
    i read fx 4100's performance in a legitreviews article, that this got beaten by a core i3 and a llano a8 in a lot of cases and it sucks more power (at stock settings) than core i3. it does have a lower price tag than bigger fx cpus but what amd conveniently skips over is this - fx 4100 is a Dual Module, 4 core, 95w processor. it's more like a core i3 (65w), but unlocked and far more watt-hungry. imo one can get more out of a ph ii x4/x6 + 990x/990fx or an (oc over 3 ghz) a8 3850 + a75 combo for gaming.
  • 4 Hide
    alhanelem , November 28, 2011 3:58 AM
    thankfully my e8500 is still pretty high up in the hierarchy so ill hold off upgrading till later
  • -1 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , November 28, 2011 4:03 AM
    *Sigh*... does this really have to come out every month? i5-2500K for gaming, Sandy Bridge Pentium or Core i3 for budget builds, i7-2600K for enthusiast or future-proof gaming, period. No need for a new article every month until IB is out :) 
  • 1 Hide
    Dacatak , November 28, 2011 4:03 AM
    Micro Center was selling the 2500K for $149.99 on Black Friday....

    ...and I gots me one.
  • 1 Hide
    ojas , November 28, 2011 4:04 AM
    Hmmm....i looked up Anandtech for benchmarks for the Pentium G860 and Phenom II x4 840, they didn't have them, so i had to compare the Phenom II x4 940 and Pentium G850, and well, Intel wins mostly, except in some threaded applications. Games favour Intel slightly too.

    Here's the permalink
  • 2 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , November 28, 2011 4:21 AM
    manu 11please test the fx 4100 gaming performance, eagerly waiting for some decent benchmarks. it sucks for gaming and everything else. Get yourself a phenom II x4 over any FX chip.
  • -5 Hide
    Zero_ , November 28, 2011 4:30 AM
    Request to editors.

    When you do test out the FX4100, please make a direct comparison with the X4 955. Not the 965, not the 980, not the A8-3850. The 955.
  • 2 Hide
    gmcizzle , November 28, 2011 4:39 AM
    Wow, Intel dominates basically every price range in the consumer field. I think giving AMD the $80 range was just out of pity, since the G850 beats the Athlon II X3 455, as mention above.
  • -1 Hide
    jrharbort , November 28, 2011 5:05 AM
    The recommendations have remained unchanged for the past few months, with the exception of the $600+ range thanks to the introduction of the LGA2011 platform.

    I used to recommend AMD for quite a while over Intel for budget gamers, but Sandy Bridge really pushed Intel above and beyond anything that AMD can offer at multiple price points. For once, Intel's prices are actually justified.

  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , November 28, 2011 8:22 AM
    I'm a gamer, just got the Intel Core i7-2600K from for around $300 and it satisfies all my gaming needs. I was tempted to go with the Core i7-3930K for even more speed but the double price tag 0f $600 turned me off. I can play any game now this this and don't see the need for anything faster. Maybe eventually.
  • -1 Hide
    assassin123 , November 28, 2011 8:32 AM
    can anyone tell me in now day intel is good or amd i know great performance but i want to know it
  • 0 Hide
    jemm , November 28, 2011 9:42 AM
    Great article!
  • -2 Hide
    AppleBlowsDonkeyBalls , November 28, 2011 11:58 AM
    Intel is actually the best for gaming at all price points.

    Celeron G530: $57
    Athlon II X2 250: $62

    The G530 beats the 250 by 15-25% in gaming.

    Pentium G620: $72
    Athlon II X3 445: $75

    The G620 beats the 445 in gaming by 5-15%.

    Pentium G850: $88
    Athlon II X4 640: $100

    The G850 beats the 640 in gaming by 5-15%.

    Core i3-2100: $125; Core i3-2120: $130
    Phenom II X4 955: $125; Phenom II X4 965: $130

    Both beat the 955 and 965 in gaming by 5-10%, respectively.

    Everything above these get no competition at all from AMD when it comes to gaming. The Phenom II X6 1090T isn't a gaming processor; if you want that you get a 955/965.
  • 0 Hide
    jdw_swb , November 28, 2011 12:18 PM
    The 2500K is such an amazing gaming CPU.

    It will really take something special, both in price and performance, to beat it.
  • 0 Hide
    elbert , November 28, 2011 1:36 PM
    Please benchmark the Athlon II X4 631. It runs about equal to 300~400MHz higher clocked older athlon II's and is lower priced. At $89.99 its a much better deal than the X3's and price wise better than any older X4's. Possible this CPU can give the FX-4100 a run for the money.
  • 1 Hide
    giovanni86 , November 28, 2011 1:55 PM
    I always enjoy these each month, wish they had one for each component of a PC. But that would be quite a lot of work but i would like to see more articles on specific hardware like Motherboards, power supply's, hard-drives/SSD's, cases, CPU coolers. Might be a lot of work, i'd do it if i worked there =D. As always Core i5-2500K owns all, waiting on what IVY bridge offers, otherwise that $600 i-3930k seems like the best future proof bet.
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