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Gaming CPU Hierarchy Chart

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: July 2011
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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
IntelAMD
Core i7-2600, -2600K
Core i7-965, -975 Extreme, -980X Extreme, -990X Extreme
Core i7-980, -970, -960
Core i5-2500, -2500K, -2400, -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
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
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 G850, G840
Phenom II X6 1055T
Phenom II X4 945, 940, 920, 910, 910e, 810
Phenom II X3 Black Edition 720, 740
A8-3850
A6-3650
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
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
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
Athlon 64 X2 4000+, 3800+
Athlon X2 4050e, BE-2300
Pentium Dual-Core E2160, E2140
Celeron E1500, E1400, E1200

Summary

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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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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