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Best Gaming CPU: Under $90

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: June 2010
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Best Gaming CPU for ~$65:

Athlon II X3 425 (Check Prices)

Athlon II X3 425
Codename: Rana
Process: 45 nm
CPU Cores: 3
Clock Speed:   2.7 GHz
Socket: AM2+/AM3
L1 Cache:   3 x 128KB
L2 Cache:   3 x 512KB
HyperTransport: 4,000 MT/s
Thermal Envelope:
95W

The Athlon II X3 425 has dropped to just under $65 online. It boasts three execution cores and a respectable 2.7 GHz clock speed, and compared to a dual-core processor, that extra core will make a notable difference in multi-tasking performance, as well as game play. This model also has good overclocking headroom if you want to push it a little further.

The Athlon II X3 425's new low price has completely edged out the Athlon II dual-core models from our recommendations.

Best gaming CPU for ~$75:

Athlon II X3 440 (Check Prices)

Athlon II X3 440
Codename: Rana
Process: 45 nm
CPU Cores: 3
Clock Speed:  3.0 GHz
Socket: AM2+/AM3
L1 Cache:   3 x 128KB
L2 Cache:   3 x 512KB
HyperTransport: 4,000 MT/s
Thermal Envelope:
95W

The Athlon II X3 440 has recently dropped in price to $75 in response to the forthcoming Athlon II X3 445 model replacing it.

Until the Athlon II X3 445 arrives, this CPU offers an ideal combination of multiple CPU cores, high clock speed, low price, and overclockability. It is such a great gaming CPU, in fact, that it almost renders most of the CPUs in the $100 to $130 range redundant. As a result, many of our recommendations in this range are aimed specifically at overclockers and users upgrading an older platform.

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Top Comments
  • 15 Hide
    killerclick , June 8, 2010 8:42 AM
    AMD again rules this list (up to the $200 price point).
  • 15 Hide
    black06 , June 8, 2010 6:23 AM
    "Its 3.6 GHz clock speed does give it the distinction of being the fastest Clarkdale-based CPU available. Actually, it has the highest clock speed of any Intel CPU ever released."

    Weren't there some 3.8 GHz Pentium 4's? Wikipedia lists a Prescott core shipping at 3.8Ghz, and that sounds like what I remember from the time.
  • 11 Hide
    dirtmountain , June 8, 2010 7:40 AM
    Another excellent article in this continuing series. I know you're probably buried in work, but any chance a "Best Gaming Motherboards for the Money" may become a regular feature as well? I know i'd sure like to see a brief overview of available affordable gaming mobos.
Other Comments
  • 6 Hide
    wintermint , June 8, 2010 6:12 AM
    Good job. I always look forward to these kind of articles!
  • 15 Hide
    black06 , June 8, 2010 6:23 AM
    "Its 3.6 GHz clock speed does give it the distinction of being the fastest Clarkdale-based CPU available. Actually, it has the highest clock speed of any Intel CPU ever released."

    Weren't there some 3.8 GHz Pentium 4's? Wikipedia lists a Prescott core shipping at 3.8Ghz, and that sounds like what I remember from the time.
  • -9 Hide
    basket687 , June 8, 2010 6:38 AM
    black06"Its 3.6 GHz clock speed does give it the distinction of being the fastest Clarkdale-based CPU available. Actually, it has the highest clock speed of any Intel CPU ever released."Weren't there some 3.8 GHz Pentium 4's? Wikipedia lists a Prescott core shipping at 3.8Ghz, and that sounds like what I remember from the time.


    We all know that we can't compare different processor families using clock speed as a measure, but even though you can argue that the i5 680 can turbo to 3.86 and that is higher than the 3.8 of the Prescott.
  • 10 Hide
    HansVonOhain , June 8, 2010 6:41 AM
    Agreed with Black. But those pentiums were able to cook a dinner for you, whereas this chip is very cool. I am expecting to see some world records for highest overclocks set.

    As usual Toms, I enjoy reading these kind of articles. This is what I visit the site for, not some BS like 'a cat touched an iPad, and made it turn on." ZOMG
  • 7 Hide
    thedreadfather , June 8, 2010 7:12 AM
    basket687We all know that we can't compare different processor families using clock speed as a measure, but even though you can argue that the i5 680 can turbo to 3.86 and that is higher than the 3.8 of the Prescott.

    I believe the criteria is for highest base clock frequency, not Turbo and not actual speed.
  • 10 Hide
    Anonymous , June 8, 2010 7:22 AM
    Could you please create a non-gaming CPU hierarchy?
    For those of us more interested in scientific, encoding, graphics applications and the like.
  • 1 Hide
    johnbilicki , June 8, 2010 7:31 AM
    No, 3.8GHz if the fastest stock speed CPU Intel has ever shipped; it's a single core and working with one for a week it was clear a balance of cores and frequency is important.
  • 11 Hide
    dirtmountain , June 8, 2010 7:40 AM
    Another excellent article in this continuing series. I know you're probably buried in work, but any chance a "Best Gaming Motherboards for the Money" may become a regular feature as well? I know i'd sure like to see a brief overview of available affordable gaming mobos.
  • -3 Hide
    liquidsnake718 , June 8, 2010 7:47 AM
    Ahh its still refreshing to see my old trusty cpu here still for about 6months and running on this list! Are they still selling the e7500? I love this cpu so much that im still using it over my i7920.... (also bec I still dont have a good x58 mb yet)
  • -4 Hide
    letsgetsteve , June 8, 2010 8:11 AM
    Please add the Intel K series to your charts. I think they are ground breaking enough to include them. I just find it amazing that Intel is finally starting to see what enthusiast's want and are giving to us at much less rediculas prices. I can find an i7 875K for under $300, that one hell of an improvement from the i7 870 going for just under $700 last week.
  • 15 Hide
    killerclick , June 8, 2010 8:42 AM
    AMD again rules this list (up to the $200 price point).
  • -3 Hide
    crazybaldhead , June 8, 2010 10:40 AM
    It's hierarchy and not heirarchy. Please, fix this at last.
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , June 8, 2010 12:42 PM
    Where is Thuban? Not even a reference?
  • 2 Hide
    haplo602 , June 8, 2010 12:59 PM
    soslCould you please create a non-gaming CPU hierarchy?For those of us more interested in scientific, encoding, graphics applications and the like.


    can you also do an article about the Xeon/Opteron part of the CPU landscape ? I am trying to decide on a 2nd hand workstation, however finding any reasonable comparisons on Xeon and Opteron (especialy Opteron to Athlon/Phenom equivalency) is a mission impossible.
  • 6 Hide
    haplo602 , June 8, 2010 1:05 PM
    JofaTESTWhere is Thuban? Not even a reference?


    Thuban does not add anything to quadcore Phenoms for gaming.
  • -1 Hide
    nforce4max , June 8, 2010 1:24 PM
    I am going to stick with my 8250e that I got running at 2.6ghz even though I got the upgrade bug again. I am wanting to get a 16gb (4x4gb) DDR2 ECC (unbuff) kit and ditch the page file.
  • 3 Hide
    JofaMang , June 8, 2010 1:33 PM
    Quote:
    Thuban does not add anything to quadcore Phenoms for gaming.


    But they are overclocking better than their quadcore contemporaries, and OC potential is a factor to be considered (as it has been thus far)
  • -4 Hide
    joejamesatou , June 8, 2010 1:47 PM
    I know this line has been in the last few gaming CPU round ups about the Core i7, but can we finally put this one out to pasture?

    "The motherboards and DDR3 RAM that the i7 architecture requires will bring the total platform cost higher than other systems, but the resulting performance should be worth the purchase price. "

    Budget X58 boards are pretty easy to find, and DDR3 is cheaper than DDR2.
  • -2 Hide
    triplebug , June 8, 2010 2:32 PM
    i5-750, your best bet.
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , June 8, 2010 2:41 PM
    JofaMangBut they are overclocking better than their quadcore contemporaries, and OC potential is a factor to be considered (as it has been thus far)


    They're not worth it compared to an X4 in the Gaming arena, and extra overclocking headroom--if any--is not offset by the large price increase.
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