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CPU Heirarchy Chart

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: June 2010
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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’ve got your eye on is a good buy in its price range?

Here is a resource to help you judge if a CPU is a good buy 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.

However, a word of caution: this hierarchy is 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. While we feel this represents an acceptable cross-section of typical gaming scenarios, a specific game title will likely perform differently. 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 gospel one-size-fits-all perfect CPU comparison resource.

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 i7-965, -975 Extreme, -980X Extreme
Core i7-860, -870, -920, -930, -940, -950
Core i5-750
Core 2 Extreme QX9775, QX9770, QX9650
Core 2 Quad Q9650

Core 2 Extreme QX6850, QX6800
Core 2 Quad Q9550, Q9450, Q9400
Core i5-650, -660, -661, -670, -680
Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition
Phenom II X4 Black Edition 955, 965
Core 2 Extreme QX6700
Core 2 Quad Q6700, Q9300, Q8400, Q6600, Q8300
Core 2 Duo E8600, E8500, E8400, E7600
Core i3 -530, -540
Phenom II X6 1055T
Phenom II X4 945, 940, 920, 910, 910e, 810
Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition
Athlon II X4 640, 635, 630
Athlon II X3 445, 440, 435
Core 2 Extreme X6800
Core 2 Quad Q8200
Core 2 Duo E8300, E8200, E8190, E7500, E7400, E6850, E6750
Phenom II X4 905e, 805
Phenom II X3 710, 705e
Phenom II X2 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 E6300, E6500, E6600
Pentium G9650
Phenom X4 9850, 9750, 9650, 9600
Phenom X3 8850, 8750
Athlon II X2 255, 260
Athlon 64 X2 6400+
Core 2 Duo E4700, E4600, E6600, E4500, E6420
Pentium Dual-Core E5400, E5300, E5200
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
  • 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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