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Best Gaming CPU: Under $100

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: July 2011
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Best Gaming CPU for ~$80:

Athlon II X3 455 (Check Prices)

Athlon II X3 455
Codename: Rana
Process: 45 nm
CPU Cores: 3
Clock Speed: 3.3 GHz
Socket: AM2+/AM3
L1 Cache: 3 x 128 KB
L2 Cache: 3 x 512 KB
HyperTransport: 4000 MT/s
Thermal Envelope:
95 W

The Athlon II X3 455 is the second-fastest Athlon II X3 available, and it sports a well-balanced combination of three execution cores, a high clock rate, a low price, and respectable overclocking headroom. Despite the affordable buy-in, this processor delivers some serious gaming capability, qualifying it for the entry-level rung on our recommendation ladder.

AMD's own quad-core Phenom II X4 840 outperforms the X3 in modern titles better-optimized for threading, but at a price point $20 cheaper, the Athlon II X3 455 remains a great low-budget option.

Best Gaming CPU for $100: Tie

Phenom II X4 840 (Check Prices)

Phenom II X4 840
Codename: Propus
Process: 45 nm
CPU Cores: 4
Clock Speed: 3.2 GHz
Socket: AM3
L1 Cache: 4 x 128 KB
L2 Cache: 4 x 512 KB
HyperTransport: 4000 MT/s
Thermal Envelope:
95 W

The Phenom II X4 840 is bereft of the 6 MB L3 cache found in the rest of the Phenom II lineup, and in fact it's a re-branded Athlon II X4. Having said that, its 3.2 GHz clock is respectable. Moreover, this quad-core part is still capable of delivering solid performance in threaded applications at a price point hovering around $100.

Pentium G850

Pentium G850
Codename: Sandy Bridge
Process: 32 nm
CPU Cores/Threads: 2
Clock Speed: 2.9 GHz
Socket: LGA 1155
L2 Cache: 2 x 256 KB
L3 Cache: 3 MB
Thermal Envelope:
65 W

The new Pentium G850 is no slouch either. However, it only offers half of the execution cores as AMD's alternative, and it doesn't even have the Hyper-Threading technology needed to logically address four threads. Instead, it's forced to compete through a more modern architecture and elevated efficiency (the Pentium is only a 65 W part, whereas AMD's Phenom II X4 is a 95 W component).

Because these two similarly-priced CPUs are so different from each other, comparing their performance is difficult. When it comes to productivity-oriented apps, they'll trade blows depending on whether the software is threaded or not. On average, though, both chips should facilitate similar gaming performance.

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Top Comments
  • 10 Hide
    The Greater Good , July 27, 2011 6:22 AM
    wintermintNice! I've been waiting for the July update for awhile


    For what...about a month?
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    wintermint , July 27, 2011 4:43 AM
    Nice! I've been waiting for the July update for awhile :) 
  • 0 Hide
    andy7i , July 27, 2011 5:30 AM
    The Phenom II X4 840 seems to be missing from the CPU comparison chart.

    Thanks for the update!
  • 8 Hide
    LuckyDucky7 , July 27, 2011 5:43 AM
    Why bother to even mention the enthusiast-unfriendly processor, the i5-2400, when the i5-2500K is 20 bucks more?

    It's the only chip worth buying in that range since, well, it usually winds to 4.5 GHz with a little care: and if you can afford a 2400, you can afford a 2500K.


    (And I still can't wait for Bulldozer.)
  • 10 Hide
    The Greater Good , July 27, 2011 6:22 AM
    wintermintNice! I've been waiting for the July update for awhile


    For what...about a month?
  • 8 Hide
    Cylent , July 27, 2011 6:51 AM
    LuckyDucky7(And I still can't wait for Bulldozer.)


    Personally, I'm waiting for Piledriver, the revised Bulldozer architecture which is scheduled for 2012.
  • 7 Hide
    nearly nil , July 27, 2011 8:42 AM
    Its nice to see that the 2500k, released in January, still retains its value. For how much longer? That depends on Bulldozer's eventual release, performance, and pricing. Ivybridge is not too far around the corner though, so get busy AMD...
  • 4 Hide
    Onus , July 27, 2011 10:10 AM
    No doubt way too late for this article, the Phenom II X3 720BE has recently re-emerged for $60 (with the promo code): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103652
    That looks like a contender for the upcoming $500 SBM...
  • 2 Hide
    jdw_swb , July 27, 2011 10:33 AM
    The 2500K is still showing its strength. Such a powerful gaming CPU for the money.

    It's going to take something pretty special to move it from the top spot....the ball is in your court, AMD.
  • 0 Hide
    mistyirc , July 27, 2011 12:15 PM
    I've always wondered something about the i5-760 recommendation. For someone with a Pentium G6950, this is fine, but for someone with an i3 or an i5-6XX, this seems to defy the hierarchy's advice about being "three tiers higher". Is the upgrade from four logical cores to four physical cores that important for gaming?
  • 5 Hide
    Zeh , July 27, 2011 12:31 PM
    These articles always seem to be a copy+paste from the last month ever since SB arrived. Hopefully AMD will be able to change this.
  • 1 Hide
    hardcore_gamer , July 27, 2011 1:13 PM
    September 19 is the release date of BD cpus with 2,3 and 4 modules..Still 2 months away :( 
  • -4 Hide
    killerclick , July 27, 2011 3:44 PM
    Llano fails again ha ha
  • -4 Hide
    redheadgirl , July 27, 2011 6:13 PM
    I don't understand this one bit. This is about the best chip right? How can Llano be excluded when it clearly beats Sandy Bridge on graphics, and the fact that it runs DX11 and Sandy Bridge, according to what I read, can't do so. Can someone explain this?
  • 3 Hide
    crisan_tiberiu , July 27, 2011 6:39 PM
    redheadgirlI don't understand this one bit. This is about the best chip right? How can Llano be excluded when it clearly beats Sandy Bridge on graphics, and the fact that it runs DX11 and Sandy Bridge, according to what I read, can't do so. Can someone explain this?

    Its about CPU not chip.
  • 3 Hide
    ScrewySqrl , July 27, 2011 8:40 PM
    redheadgirlI don't understand this one bit. This is about the best chip right? How can Llano be excluded when it clearly beats Sandy Bridge on graphics, and the fact that it runs DX11 and Sandy Bridge, according to what I read, can't do so. Can someone explain this?


    They explained at the start of the article. While Llano beats Sandy Bridge graphically, its only with the on-board GPUs. Once you add a middling gaming card (anything 6770 or up), as a *gaming* PC is going to do, the advantage always swings back to Sandy Bridge. Llano's great for a basic PC, but for a serious gamer, it is just an Athlon II.
  • -2 Hide
    verbalizer , July 27, 2011 8:48 PM
    still much of the same, AMD is a poor man's Intel...;)
  • 1 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , July 27, 2011 9:24 PM
    Phew! Still in good shape. No need or desire to upgrade.
  • 0 Hide
    Stardude82 , July 27, 2011 9:42 PM
    ScrewySqrlOnce you add a middling gaming card (anything 6770 or up), as a *gaming* PC is going to do, the advantage always swings back to Sandy Bridge.


    You are being generous, a 5570 will handily beat 6550D even with expensive high performance RAM. Ignoring power consumption and for most games, you are much better off with a 6670 and an Athlon X2 for the same price as a A8-3850. Plus, it is uncertain about what sort of future compatibility FM1 will have.
  • -7 Hide
    stevelord , July 27, 2011 10:41 PM
    No matter what AMD releases, history shows they will be behind the curve and only able to match Intel's technology from 2 years ago.
  • -1 Hide
    KenZen2B , July 28, 2011 12:05 AM
    "No! In theory, the current ultimate gaming platform (until Intel releases the LGA 2011 interface in the second half of this year) would be a P67 chipset paired with the NF200 bridge."

    Please change your statement "in the second half of this year" since we are already in the second half of this year.
    OPTIONS:
    1. in Q4
    2. later half of Q3
    3. sometime next year
    4. it will depend on Intel
    5. "vapor" sometime in the future
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