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High-End: $210 And Up

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: October 2014

Best Gaming CPU for $240:

Diminishing Returns Kick In:

CPUs priced over $240 offer rapidly diminishing returns when it comes to gaming performance. As such, we have a hard time recommending anything more expensive than the Core i5-4690K, especially since this multiplier-unlocked processor is easy to tune up to 4.3 GHz or so with the right cooler. Even at stock clocks, though, it matches or beats the old $1000 Gulftown-based Core i7-990X Extreme Edition in our benchmarks.

We have seen a small handful of titles benefit from Hyper-Threaded Core i7 processors, though. Because we believe this is a trend that will continue as developers optimize their software, we're including the Core i7-4790K as an honorable mention, now selling for $340. In a vast majority of games, the Core i7 won't demonstrate much advantage over the Core i5. But if you're a serious enthusiast who wants some future-proofing and values highly-threaded application performance, this processor may be worth the extra money.

In addition, there's certainly an argument to be made for using LGA 2011-v3 as the ultimate gaming platform. Haswell-E -based CPUs have more available cache and as many as four more execution cores than the flagship LGA 1150/1155 models. Additionally, more bandwidth is delivered through a quad-channel DDR4 memory controller. And with up to 40 lanes of third-gen PCIe connectivity available from Haswell-E-based processors, the platform natively supports two x16 and one x8 slot, or one x16 and three x8 slots, alleviating potential bottlenecks in three- and four-way CrossFire or SLI configurations.

Although they sound impressive, those advantages don't necessarily translate into significant performance gains in modern titles. Our tests demonstrate fairly little difference between a $240 LGA 1150 Core i5-4690K and a $1000 LGA 2011 Core i7-4960X, even when three-way graphics card configurations are involved. It turns out that memory bandwidth and PCIe throughput don't hold back the game performance of existing Sandy Bridge-, Ivy Bridge-, and Haswell-based machines.

Where we do see the potential for Haswell-E to drive additional performance is in processor-bound games like World of Warcraft or the multiplayer component of Battlefield 4. If you're running a three- or four-way array of graphics cards already, there's a good chance that you already own more than enough rendering muscle. An overclocked Core i7-5960X or -5930K could help the rest of your platform catch up to an insanely powerful arrangement of GPUs.

To summarize, while we generally recommend against purchasing any gaming CPU that retails for more than $240 from a value point of view (sink that money into graphics and the motherboard instead), there are those of you who have no trouble throwing down serious money on the best of the best, and who require the fastest possible performance available. If this describes your goals, the following CPUs may be for you:

Best Gaming CPU for $340: None
Honorable Mention:

Best Gaming CPU for $590: (or for any price)

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Top Comments
  • 11 Hide
    Treynolds416 , September 16, 2014 9:43 PM
    No recommendation/honorable mention of i7-5820k in article whaaaaat
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    adamovera , September 16, 2014 9:22 PM
    Archived comments are found here:
  • 11 Hide
    Treynolds416 , September 16, 2014 9:43 PM
    No recommendation/honorable mention of i7-5820k in article whaaaaat
  • -1 Hide
    blackmagnum , September 16, 2014 9:47 PM
    If I was paying for the electricity, I would be picking Intel for my builds. What benefit do AMD's current CPUs have over Intel other than price and 'competition'?
  • 1 Hide
    Amdlova , September 16, 2014 9:53 PM
    i love the pentium g3258.
  • 0 Hide
    UltimateDeep , September 16, 2014 9:58 PM
    Agreed with Treynolds416.

    All things considered, I would pick the Core i7 5820K over the 5930K. The processor itself is priced just very slightly over the 4790K and will still perform quite a bit better in Heavily threaded apps and gaming. I wouldn't care much about the lack of 12 PCI-E lanes because I wouldn't cramp in anything more than 2 GPUs anyways. Apart from the -12 PCI-E Lanes, the 5820K is still pretty much a 5930K; even if that was clocked lower, you can Overclock it so no difference at all.
  • 2 Hide
    hmp_goose , September 16, 2014 11:32 PM
    Sooo we still don't know if the new FX's will overclock to the same Hz using less W?
  • -1 Hide
    Subhe Kudsi , September 17, 2014 12:03 AM
    How about i3-4330 110$ @ Amazon ?

    Cpu benchmarks at 5000 ( 2000 single thread)
  • 2 Hide
    de5_Roy , September 17, 2014 12:31 AM
    amd should launch steamroller-b based athlon x4 860K a.s.a.p. i wanna see how it fares against the pentium g3258.
  • 0 Hide
    Memnarchon , September 17, 2014 12:41 AM
    Since Intel has the same price for i5 4440 and i5 4430, why placing best gaming CPU for $180 the i5 4430? i5 4440 is clocked 100Mhz higher.
  • -1 Hide
    RCPG , September 17, 2014 2:50 AM
    There's a typo on the recommendation of Intel Core i7-5930K. In the text it say's Core i7-3530K and should say Core i7-5930K.
  • 0 Hide
    Drejeck , September 17, 2014 3:30 AM
    Based on this article I would like to know about the 35W TDP options.
    I'm building a gaming HTPC with a PicoPSU 160XT (which has 96w of continuous output) and a GTX 750Ti from KFA2. I know that the i3 4130T fits the power requirements but I wish to know if stepping up to a 4C/4T with lower frequencies is better. In my opinion it should. Meanwhile I think I'll wait Broadwell K and the Impact VII ITX.
  • 0 Hide
    Drejeck , September 17, 2014 3:50 AM
    Yes I'm interested in 860K both for power consumption and performance in the entry level. I don't like 2M/4T architecture. I want AMD to go back to SMT architecture and if possible triple core processors.
  • 1 Hide
    Onus , September 17, 2014 4:04 AM
    Until I see the stuttering issue thoroughly addressed, I won't even consider the G3258 for a gamer. Maybe it's fine, but if it isn't, a lot of buyers will be severely irritated if they buy one. Tests please! And, this is one where balance matters. I know you typically isolate CPU performance by using a top-end graphics card, but in this case that may be little more than giving this chip the rope by which to hang itself. G3258+R7 260X may be more enjoyable than G3258+R9 290 (even if settings must be lowered), and AMD+nVidia differences may matter too, like R7 260X vs. GTX750Ti.
  • 0 Hide
    SU11YBEAR , September 17, 2014 4:44 AM
    Small typo in the 5930K article
    "Four hundred dollars and change left over, and an Intel Core i7-3530K. "

    As many have argued I would have liked to see the 5820K as an honorable mention but with the caveat that any build will cost more due to the high price of DDR4 right now.
    Also would be nice to see more segregation at the top of the hierarchy right now there are 39 (by my quick count) processors listed in the top bracket
  • -4 Hide
    Onus , September 17, 2014 5:50 AM
    The top tiers definitely need to be spread out. There is no way that AMD is going to be that near the top.
  • 0 Hide
    Agera One , September 17, 2014 6:58 AM
    Why don't you list the famous i5-4440 processor in hierarchy chart?
  • -1 Hide
    Agera One , September 17, 2014 7:02 AM
    I have the same question !
  • 0 Hide
    beavermml , September 17, 2014 7:16 AM
    so when my i5-2500K will be considered as obsolete??
  • -1 Hide
    Amdlova , September 17, 2014 7:35 AM
    tomshardware need test the 5820k x 5860k with 32gb DDR4 dual crossfire 290x. see what diference we will find with 28 lanes or 40 lanes of pci-e.
  • 0 Hide
    Amdlova , September 17, 2014 7:36 AM
    *****ops "5830k"
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