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Conclusion: Performance Per Dollar

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: August 2014
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In an effort to further illustrate the performance you get for every dollar spent on our recommendations, we chart out the hierarchy of processors in our column. The green, blue, black, and red bars represent average frame rates in StarCraft II, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Far Cry 3, and an aggregate of all three titles. The orange line indicates cost. Mousing over the bars gives you a pop-up with performance statistics relative to Intel's Core i7-4930K, our 100% ceiling. Mousing over the dots on the orange line pops up a price that's easily attainable. Clicking a bar or dot gives you the option of shopping for a specific CPU, taking you to a link of our choice in that category. Often, our picks are priced lower than the number displayed.

Price and performance generally scale along a similar upward trend as we look down the chart, not including the pricey Core i7 options. Budget-oriented gamers should pay attention to the significant performance increase available when you step up from the $70 Pentium G3258 to the $125 Core i3-4130, though. The $200 Core i5-4590 looks great, offering performance close to more expensive options that cost well over $200.

After that, the speed-ups are more subtle, while the premiums are far greater (particularly as you look to the $570 Core i7-4930K). Frankly, if value is an important consideration, there's little reason to spend $200 on a Core i5-4590 (or even more on a Core i7) unless you want to overclock it for a better experience in some of your other apps. The Core i5-4590 is a clear performance-per-dollar winner, demonstrating no weaknesses in any of the games we've tested.

Price Starcraft Skyrim Far Cry 3 Average
Intel Pentium G3258 70.00 Amazon 75 58 76 69.7
AMD FX-6300 120 Newegg 73 61 87 74
Intel Core i3-4130 125 Newegg 85 74 84 81
Intel Core i5-4590 200 Newegg 99 97 95 97
Intel Core i5-4690K 240 Newegg 99 97 95 97
Intel Core i7-4790K 340 Newegg 100 100 100 100
Intel Core i7-4930K 570 Newegg 100 100 100 100

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  • 2 Hide
    adamovera , August 4, 2014 8:36 PM
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/id-2204550/gaming-cpus-money-january-2012.html
  • -4 Hide
    Achoo22 , August 4, 2014 9:30 PM
    This is the first round-up I can remember that didn't recommend AMD CPUs at any price range, but I seriously doubt it will be the last.
  • 0 Hide
    Swaagath , August 4, 2014 10:54 PM
    Its nice to hear
  • 0 Hide
    Alex Kelly , August 5, 2014 12:32 AM
    Great post! I 100% agree with all of these recommendations.
  • -1 Hide
    Bob0jones , August 5, 2014 12:58 AM
    Won't the g3258 need a bios update prior to using it in a cheap motherboard? So you would have to buy two processors to get it to work. Correct me if i'm wrong.
  • 2 Hide
    Alex Kelly , August 5, 2014 1:00 AM
    Quote:
    Won't the g3258 need a bios update prior to using it in a cheap motherboard? So you would have to buy two processors to get it to work. Correct me if i'm wrong.


    You can update the BIOS using BIOS flashback, but it's very inconvenient.
    Most of the time the older motherboards have already been updated to a newer BIOS.
  • 3 Hide
    chimera201 , August 5, 2014 1:31 AM
    Pentium G3258 is in Tier 5 and Athlon X4 750K is in Tier 3 in the Gaming CPU Hierarchy Chart when tomsHardware itself reviewed G3258 and found it to be better than X4 750K.
  • 6 Hide
    Alex Kelly , August 5, 2014 2:13 AM
    Quote:
    Once again proving my assessment that Tom's doesn't pay attention to detail, and puts out low quality articles that lack professionalism, and accuracy, on the first page, we get two misspellings of Carrizo. The first has it as "Corrizo", the next as "Carizo".

    You really think we can take any information seriously regarding this, when you can't even figure out how to spell the name. Twice.

    Good grief, why can't you guys figure this kind of stuff out? What gift did God give you that prevents you from being embarrassed that you're trying to give information out on something you can't even spell right? One time, typo, which really shouldn't get through editing (you can forgive the first person, but how does this never get caught by the proofreader?). Twice? It's hard to understand.


    Get over it! It's a typo, for gods sake...
    This is a great quality article. The fact that they misspelled something doesn't change that.
    You need to grow up.
  • 2 Hide
    Memnarchon , August 5, 2014 4:30 AM
    This hierarchy chart needs to be changed. i5 2300 (2,8Ghz Sandybridge 4c4t) is not by any means in the same tier as i7 4790K (4Ghz Haswell 4c8t). Not to mention the i7 950 in the same tier as Athlon X4 640 while the athlon 640 cannot even beat i3 530...
  • 7 Hide
    alithegreat , August 5, 2014 6:07 AM
    I am using Phenom II X4 965, and according to your chart, upgrading to i7 4770K from X4 980 will be pointless...

    There is a clear mistake here, the higher tiers must have more segments. You should add at least 3 more tiers and place i5's and i7's accordingly.
  • 0 Hide
    maddogfargo , August 5, 2014 6:42 AM
    I'd like to see the older, low core count games removed from the benchmarks altogether. Starcraft 2 and Skyrim are both 3+ years old now, and testing for 1-2 core performance is backward thinking.

    Devs are going for more cores on nearly every recent release. Adherance to an old standards provides outdated information and flawed conclusions on what we should get for a current build.

    Factor in the plethora of forum posters asking about 'future proofing' and it should be obvious that your audience is looking forward, not back. We need a new, updated comparison chart and CPU hierarchy chart that represents the current state of gaming...not one that is 3-4 years old.
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , August 5, 2014 6:53 AM
    Quote:
    Pentium G3258 is in Tier 5 and Athlon X4 750K is in Tier 3 in the Gaming CPU Hierarchy Chart when tomsHardware itself reviewed G3258 and found it to be better than X4 750K.

    The reason for this is that the charts are based on stock performance. As such, it can be an appropriate guide for someone who doesn't overclock. Someone who does OC presumably knows to adjust performance expectations accordingly.
    I do agree that the uppermost tiers need to be broken up and spread out. If that leaves AMD lagging, so be it; if the shoe fits, etc.
    Also, with the possibility of stuttering I've seen mentioned regarding the G3258 even overclocked, I'd like to see that topic explored a little more before recommending that one. Is there actually a problem? Is it limited to certain [types of] games, or not present in other [types of] games? Speaking for myself, I know I'd rather have a smooth 30FPS than a choppy 40FPS.
    Finally, not to be a Nazi about it, but I do believe that professionally-written articles should indeed minimize spelling (and other) errors. Do writers / editors pay attention to their PMs? If so, perhaps a polite PM rather than a public airing would be a better way to suggest corrections.

  • 0 Hide
    jdwii , August 5, 2014 7:12 AM
    I think its time you change the games in the list to BF4-Watch dogs also the 8320 is a Superior choice compared to a I3 in modern gaming and fast enough on older games.
  • 6 Hide
    filippi , August 5, 2014 9:07 AM
    Quote:
    This is the first round-up I can remember that didn't recommend AMD CPUs at any price range, but I seriously doubt it will be the last.


    Best Gaming CPU for $120: AMD FX-6300.
  • 4 Hide
    surphninja , August 5, 2014 9:10 AM
    Why is the i3-4130, which you recommended, not listed on the chart?
  • -1 Hide
    RedJaron , August 5, 2014 10:18 AM
    Quote:
    I think its time you change the games in the list to BF4-Watch dogs also the 8320 is a Superior choice compared to a I3 in modern gaming and fast enough on older games.

    And comparing a $125 CPU to a $160 chip is relevant how? The better question is why spend $40 more over the FX-6300 on a chip that largely doesn't gain you anything in a gaming sense? Especially if a tight budget is a big concern.
  • 0 Hide
    Shadowblade2652 , August 5, 2014 10:26 AM
    Just curious,
    Can you put a recommended GPU with each CPU so that people can kind of get a feel for what bottlenecks and what doesn't?
  • 1 Hide
    chimera201 , August 5, 2014 11:34 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Pentium G3258 is in Tier 5 and Athlon X4 750K is in Tier 3 in the Gaming CPU Hierarchy Chart when tomsHardware itself reviewed G3258 and found it to be better than X4 750K.

    The reason for this is that the charts are based on stock performance. As such, it can be an appropriate guide for someone who doesn't overclock. Someone who does OC presumably knows to adjust performance expectations accordingly.
    I do agree that the uppermost tiers need to be broken up and spread out. If that leaves AMD lagging, so be it; if the shoe fits, etc.
    Also, with the possibility of stuttering I've seen mentioned regarding the G3258 even overclocked, I'd like to see that topic explored a little more before recommending that one. Is there actually a problem? Is it limited to certain [types of] games, or not present in other [types of] games? Speaking for myself, I know I'd rather have a smooth 30FPS than a choppy 40FPS.




    The G3258 beats X4 750K at stock according to tomsHardware in gaming. I'm saying that G3258 needs to be atleast on the same tier as X4 750K if not above. And the same also goes for rest of CPUs as others have said.

    For other countries, pricing and availability is different so this whole article is useless for them except for the Gaming CPU Hierarchy Chart. So it needs to be accurate. It is referred in forums quite often.
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , August 5, 2014 11:51 AM
    In that case, then yes the chart should be changed (I had not referred back to the report). Hopefully Don W. will review these comments and at least consider some of these changes being mentioned.
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