Today, we're putting the newest and fastest sub-$150 processors against each other in a gaming competition to see which models offer the best bang for your buck. Will it be Intel's Core i3, its Clarkdale-based Pentium, or AMD's Athlon and Phenom II CPUs?
At Tom's Hardware, we recently explored the ability of the Core i3-530 (Is Intel's Core i3-530 Fast Enough For Performance Gaming?) and the Athlon II X3 440 (Gamers: Do You Need More Than An Athlon II X3?) to play games compared to more powerful processors.
We've seen some interesting results and used some different methods for testing gaming prowess, but we haven't yet focused on comparing a wide variety of budget CPUs with each other in the gaming arena. Until today, that is.
We test the most compelling sub-$150 CPUs to see which ones offer the best bang for the buck, and to find out whether or not the more expensive models have something to offer compared to the sub-$100 options.
Let's start with a look at the competitors.
We're going to compare what we feel are the most relevant sub-$150 CPUs. We'll avoid Intel's LGA 775 because it's a dated platform, and that leaves us with AMD's Socket AM2+/AM3 and Intel's LGA 1156 interface. This provides us with a great number of models to look at, so we'll stick with the fastest and newest processors available at retail. From the AMD camp, that gives us the Athlon II X2 260, the Athlon II X3 445, the Athlon II X4 640, and the Phenom II X4 940 and 945 processors. On the Intel side, we have the Pentium G6950, the Core i3-530, and the Core i3-540.
|AMD Athlon II X2 260||Intel Pentium G6950||AMD Athlon II X3 445||Intel Core i3-530||AMD Athlon II X4 640||AMD Phenom II X4 940/945||Intel Core i3-540|
|Process:||45 nm||32 nm||45 nm||32 nm||45 nm||45 nm||32 nm|
|Cores (Threads):||2||2||3||2 (4)||4||4||2 (4)|
|Clock Speed:||3.2 GHz||2.8 GHz||3.1 GHz||2.93 GHz||3.0 GHz||3.0 GHz||3.06 GHz|
|Socket:||AM2+/AM3||LGA 1156||AM2+/AM3||LGA 1156||AM2+/AM3||AM2+ (940)|
|Online Price:||$76.99||$84.99||$84.99||$114.99||$120.99||$125.99 (X4 940)|
$139.99 (X4 945)
Looking at the stats, we can see that the Athlon II models start a lot lower on the price scale and represent true dual-, triple-, and quad-core CPUs that retail for under the $150 mark.
The Intel offerings are all dual-core processors, but the Core i3 models do support Hyper-Threading and can handle four threads at a time. Since we're concentrating on games, it will be interesting to see if Intel's Hyper-Threading feature can help the Core i3 processors keep up with true triple- and quad-core CPUs.
- Who'se Got Game For Under $150?
- Testing Methodology
- Test System And Benchmarks
- Benchmark Results: 3DMark Vantage
- Benchmark Results: Crysis
- Benchmark Results: Aliens Vs. Predator
- Benchmark Results: Far Cry 2
- Benchmark Results: World In Conflict
- Benchmark Results: DiRT 2
- Multitasking Benchmark
- Conclusion: Three Processors Stand Above The Sub-$150 Crowd