Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: July 2014

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: July 2014
By

We've seen what Intel's new $75 multiplier-unlocked Pentium G3258 can do, and you shouldn't be surprised that it affects our recommendations. In addition, we talk about AMD's upcoming water-cooled CPU and rumors of Intel's Haswell-E architecture.

If you don’t have the time to research benchmarks, or if you don’t feel confident enough in your ability to pick the right processor for your next gaming machine, fear not. We at Tom’s Hardware have come to your aid with a simple list of the best gaming CPUs offered for the money.

July Updates: 

Last month, Intel introduced its Devil's Canyon CPUs, which are refreshed Haswell-based processors with improved thermal interface material and beefier power delivery. This month, those chips showed up for sale. The multiplier-unlocked Core i7-4790K is available for $340 and features a 4 GHz base clock rate that jumps as high as 4.4 GHz in lightly-threaded workloads. It displaces the Core i7-4770K, which started at 3.5 GHz and accelerated up to 3.9 GHz through Turbo Boost. Similarly, the Core i5-4690K at $240 displaces the -4670K.

But the real enthusiast treat is a dual-core Pentium G3258, now available for $75 on Newegg. Intel doesn't add the -K suffix to its model name, but this is a multiplier-unlocked processor. Chris Angelini managed to push his sample up to a stable 4.5 GHz across two cores (and 4.6 GHz on one) at 1.3 V. In his story, Intel Pentium G3258 CPU Review: Haswell, Unlocked, For $75, it had little trouble sliding past AMD's Athlon X4 750K in most of our benchmarks, despite the competition's four integer units.

Although the Pentium is a dual-core architecture lacking Hyper-Threading, Haswell's excellent efficiency earns the Pentium a low-budget gaming CPU recommendation as a result of Chris' findings. My only hesitation comes from the fact that Intel's most affordable platform controller hubs aren't designed to enable overclocking, forcing you into a more expensive Z87 or Z97 Express-based board. With that said, several manufacturers have started slipping out BIOS updates for their B85/H81/H87/H97 offerings with multiplier tuning tweaks. Some of those products sell for under $60. They're not supposed to be doing that, but we'll see how the saga plays out.

What does this mean for AMD's Athlon X4 750K, one of the CPUs that undoubtedly compelling Intel to capitulate and introduce an unlocked budget processor of its own? We'll give it the respect it deserves with an honorable mention, attributable to the supporting platforms selling around $55 that are designed for overclocking. Should Intel's board partners introduce low-cost LGA 1150-based solutions that don't require leaked firmware, the unlocked Athlon's days will be numbered, though.

Speaking of AMD, we saw a number of surprising price changes (both up and down) across the company's CPU line-up. The A4-5400K dropped $5 to $60, while the A8-6600K and FX-8350 shed $10 to $100 and $180, respectively. The FX-4350 dropped $30 to $100, and now includes Saint's Row in what looks like a short-term promotion. But we saw just as many models become more expensive since last month. The $65 Athlon 5350 and $140 A10-6800K cost $10 more now, the $160 FX-8320 and $190 A10-7850K increased $20, and the $130 A8-5800K went up $30.

Some Intel processors also went the wrong direction. The Celeron G1830, Core i5-4690, Core i7-4770, and Core i7-3820 are $10 more expensive than last month. The Core i5-4790S shed $10, though, and the Celeron G1820, G1850, Pentium G3240, Core i3-4350, and Core i7-4771 dropped $5.

In other news, AMD teased pictures that suggest a new liquid-cooled FX processor is on the way, though it's rumored to be a re-packaged FX-9590. In addition, we've also heard plenty of whispering from the motherboard companies we work with about Haswell-E and an introduction in the third quarter of 2014.

Some Notes About Our Recommendations

This list is for gamers who want to get the most for their money. If you don’t play games, then the CPUs on this list may not be suitable for your particular needs.

The criteria to get on this list are strictly price/performance. We acknowledge that there are other factors that come into play, such as platform price or CPU overclockability, but we're not going to complicate things by factoring in motherboard costs. We may add honorable mentions for outstanding products in the future, though. For now, our recommendations are based on stock clock speeds and performance at that price. Remember to check out our new performance per dollar comparison page, where you can overlay the benchmark data we’ve generated with pricing, giving you a better idea where your ideal choice falls on the value curve.

Cost and availability change on a daily basis. We can’t offer up-to-the-minute accurate pricing information in the text, but we can list some good chips that you probably won’t regret buying at the price ranges we suggest (and our PriceGrabber-based engine will help track down some of the best prices for you).

The list is based on some of the best US prices from online retailers. In other countries or at retail stores, your mileage will most certainly vary. Of course, these are retail CPU prices. We do not list used or OEM CPUs available at retail.               

Display 33 Comments.
  • 3 Hide
    adamovera , July 2, 2014 10:09 PM
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/id-2176387/gaming-cpus-money-january-2012.html
  • 8 Hide
    crisan_tiberiu , July 3, 2014 12:09 AM
    we have unlocked i7's, i5's, now an unlocked Pentium... When do we have an i3? :)  that would be awesome :p 
  • 0 Hide
    blackmagnum , July 3, 2014 12:51 AM
    An unlocked i3 that would bite the heels of a stock i5? Not happening!
  • 0 Hide
    CodeMatias , July 3, 2014 4:06 AM
    The ridiculous chart at the end needs to be redone... The performance divided by price is the entire point of the article, yet the chart only shows performance and price...

    And stop making it a curve for price, these are discrete components!
  • 1 Hide
    Onus , July 3, 2014 5:03 AM
    After reading the review of the unlocked Pentium, clearly it does pretty well. Might it absolutely choke on certain well-threaded games? Yes, it beats the 750K most of the time, but are there certain titles for which it is absolutely the wrong choice?
  • 2 Hide
    sea monkey , July 3, 2014 5:29 AM
    "I don’t recommend upgrading your CPU unless the potential replacement is at least three tiers higher."

    Do you think Skylake will finally bring about a tier shift in your chart? My Phenom II X4 965 (C3) was released in November of 2009, yet there's still nothing three tiers above it.
  • 7 Hide
    maddogfargo , July 3, 2014 6:29 AM
    I would love to see a chart just sorting by individual game performance. This would be useful.

    Tom's tests with games that are 2, 4 and 6+ core capable. Knowing how each CPU does in low, medium and high thread count environments will help people choose better based on the kinds of games thay play.
  • 1 Hide
    vishalaestro , July 3, 2014 9:08 AM
    still my core2duo E9400 paired with amd 7750 works perfectly on medium settings at 1600x900 .i couldn't believe that adding a gpu will make my pc faster than ever in gameplay.
  • 3 Hide
    littleleo , July 3, 2014 10:25 AM
    I have heard most of the 1150 motherboard chipsets besides the Z87/97 models can overclock. The motherboard companies can't advertise this or they will violate their marketing agreement with Intel. It would be great to see Tom's do some testing of this with some of the entry level motherboards perhaps we don't have to wait for that cheaper board after all. Perhaps we have them now and just don't know it.
  • 1 Hide
    Lightbulbie , July 3, 2014 10:31 AM
    So how come if the FX-6300 does better than the i3, it's in a lower grade? Same price can be found on both. C'mon Toms, you're lacking as of late.
  • 0 Hide
    RedJaron , July 3, 2014 10:50 AM
    Quote:
    After reading the review of the unlocked Pentium, clearly it does pretty well. Might it absolutely choke on certain well-threaded games? Yes, it beats the 750K most of the time, but are there certain titles for which it is absolutely the wrong choice?

    My question as well, and it will be interesting to see what happens in the coming year. Watch Dogs is a good example of newer, bigger games that demand both CPU and GPU. At higher resolutions/details, Trinity chips are considerably slower than an i5 at 3.4GHz, even if paired with a 290X. It's still playable, but is this indicative of a change in games to come?


    Quote:
    I have heard most of the 1150 motherboard chipsets besides the Z87/97 models can overclock. The motherboard companies can't advertise this or they will violate their marketing agreement with Intel. It would be great to see Tom's do some testing of this with some of the entry level motherboards perhaps we don't have to wait for that cheaper board after all. Perhaps we have them now and just don't know it.

    Some of them can. I've heard Asus and ASRock are the main "culprits" here. The news I've read says we DO have them now as well.
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , July 3, 2014 10:50 AM
    It depends on the game. Poorly-threaded titles will run much better on the i3. Remember too that the table is for the CPUs at stock; overclocking I'd expect is good for a one-tier jump, maybe two in some cases.
  • 3 Hide
    Deus Gladiorum , July 3, 2014 6:24 PM
    Come on, AMD. I'm hoping that this new water-cooled CPU isn't just a rehash and is something new all together to at least put some mileage back into camp AMD. Considering the money they must be getting from having their silicon packed into every 8th gen console, they hopefully can put those funds into some R&D. Regardless of what side you belong to, I think everyone can recognize the need for AMD to start throwing out some brand new standalone CPUs to put some fire under its competition. The last thing we need is Intel to solidify that monopoly on the standalone CPU market.
  • 1 Hide
    CaptainTom , July 3, 2014 10:59 PM
    Ugh, the FX-4350 does not belong next to the 8-core CPU's, and the 8-core cpu's are as strong as i5's. Whatever this will become more clear over time just like when the Phenom II x4's jumped up 3 spots all of the sudden...
  • 0 Hide
    TheEvolution , July 4, 2014 4:10 AM
    What are the alternative entry level gaming budget CPUs ?
    Intel Pentium G3258 & Athlon X4 750K not available in India and will never be available in future here.
  • 1 Hide
    de5_Roy , July 4, 2014 7:23 AM
    Quote:
    What are the alternative entry level gaming budget CPUs ?
    Intel Pentium G3258 & Athlon X4 750K not available in India and will never be available in future here.

    the article is mainly based on u.s. prices. other markets will have varying prices like the example below.

    as for india, lower end amd cpus/apus tend to show up late. on flipkart.com, a10 7850k(out of stock atm) is priced higher than core i5 4440. even if 750k doesn't show up, the pentium g3258 is much more likely to show up. the new unlocked cpus only recently went on sale in the u.s., they'll show up later in other markets.
  • 0 Hide
    jwesley , July 4, 2014 1:55 PM
    AMD's Athlon 760K has been out for more than a year now. It costs $10 more than the 750K and has better performance. Why aren't we seeing it here?
  • 0 Hide
    computertech82 , July 4, 2014 5:39 PM
    ouch no amds in the list at all. But i guess that's normal now. AMD did admit they will not compete against intel anymore.
  • 1 Hide
    James Mason , July 6, 2014 3:59 PM
    Where's the i3 4130?
  • 0 Hide
    George Purcell , July 6, 2014 6:04 PM
    I have a Dell XPS 420 with a Core 2 Quad Q6600. How do I know which versions of the i3-i7 chips represent a three tier upgrade?
Display more comments
React To This Article