Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Gaming CPU Hierarchy Chart

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: September 2011
By

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, -2320, -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, -2125, -2130
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
Core i3-2100T, -2120T
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 G860, G850, G840, G630
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
Celeron G540, G530
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, 631
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
A4-3400
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, G440
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!

Follow us on Twitter for more tech news, reviews, and exclusive updates!

Ask a Category Expert

Create a new thread in the Reviews comments forum about this subject

Example: Notebook, Android, SSD hard drive

Display all 62 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 16 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , September 28, 2011 4:47 AM
    Quote:
    We can also confirm that we're still sitting on our hands, waiting for the Bulldozer-based Zambezi samples to show up


    that pretty much sums up this whole review. without zambezi, there is nothing thats beating intel in raw performance.
Other Comments
  • 3 Hide
    hmp_goose , September 28, 2011 4:46 AM
    This is the first time, IIRC, anyone has come out and said there was a point to looking for HD 3000 to go with QuickSync: Glad to finally have heard so.
  • 0 Hide
    alhanelem , September 28, 2011 4:46 AM
    im still waiting to replace my e8500 with something from bulldozer,the wait is killing me....
  • 16 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , September 28, 2011 4:47 AM
    Quote:
    We can also confirm that we're still sitting on our hands, waiting for the Bulldozer-based Zambezi samples to show up


    that pretty much sums up this whole review. without zambezi, there is nothing thats beating intel in raw performance.
  • 0 Hide
    Vestin , September 28, 2011 4:51 AM
    EDIT: misread the article -_-". Nothing to see here...
  • 0 Hide
    Stardude82 , September 28, 2011 5:12 AM
    alhanelemim still waiting to replace my e8500 with something from bulldozer,the wait is killing me....


    You can probably continue to wait for a replacement even when it comes out. I don't think Bulldozer will change this list much, if at all.
  • 0 Hide
    The Greater Good , September 28, 2011 5:36 AM
    As per usual, a great round-up! Thanks, Tom!
  • 6 Hide
    joytech22 , September 28, 2011 6:02 AM
    Even though I own an i7 2600 and aren't even looking to upgrade at this time, I always like to read these. :p 
  • 0 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , September 28, 2011 6:17 AM
    Ah, good, 2600 is still at the top... no need to upgrade... I hope it will still be good for another couple of years :D 
  • 1 Hide
    jdw_swb , September 28, 2011 9:35 AM
    I see the 2500K is still the champion for gaming......awesome chip.
  • -3 Hide
    Anonymous , September 28, 2011 9:37 AM
    Only loosely related to the article but Walmart sells processors now? And I have no idea what you're using to get prices Toms but on Amazon.com AND Newegg.com you can get a i7-2600k for $314.95 which is cheaper than that little price thing at the bottom. Even clicking "See More Deals" shows them as cheaper...

    Quote:
    Best prices for tested products

    Athlon II X3 450 Triple Core Processor
    Walmart.com $96.88
    See More Deals


    Core i3-2100 Dual Core Processor (3.10GHz, 3MB L3 Cache, Socket LGA1155)
    Walmart.com $124.00
    See More Deals


    Core i5-2400 Quad Core Processor (3.1GHz, 6MB L3 Cache, 4x1MB, Socket H2 LGA1155)
    Walmart.com $193.00
    See More Deals


    Core i5 i5-760 2.80 GHz Processor - Quad-core (1 MB L2 - 8 MB L3 - Socket H LGA-1156 - Box)
    Walmart.com $218.00
    See More Deals


    Core i7-2600K Quad Core Processor (3.4 GHz, 8 MB L3 Cache, 4x256 MB L2 Cache, Socket H2 LGA1155)
    Walmart.com $328.00
    See More Deals
  • 0 Hide
    Flying-Q , September 28, 2011 9:47 AM
    After reading all of the previous updates and seeing how the price breaks have fluctuated over the years, I'm at a loss how Tom's defines and justifies the breaks.

    Don W. please could you add a section to the next "Best Gaming ...." to explain the reasoning behind the chosen pricing breaks. Alternatively, could you make it a seperate article and have a link to it near the top of each "Best..."

    These articles are brilliant for helping me show my friends and family what choices are available when I build or upgrade one of their machines.

    Keep up the great work.

    Q
  • -2 Hide
    CaedenV , September 28, 2011 12:17 PM
    nonameguy10923Only loosely related to the article but Walmart sells processors now? And I have no idea what you're using to get prices Toms but on Amazon.com AND Newegg.com you can get a i7-2600k for $314.95 which is cheaper than that little price thing at the bottom. Even clicking "See More Deals" shows them as cheaper...

    Micro Center is even cheaper with the i5K at $180 and the i7K at $280... granted you have to purchase in the store. They also have an interesting bundle deal this month of -$80 if you buy an i5/7 with a performance mobo. Granted their mobo prices are a little steep, but with the discount it looks like a good deal. When I upgrade next year it will be interesting if I go with Newegg or Micro Center.
    Every rig I have built from 2002 until now has been all Newegg because it was impossible to beat the price and warranty... but brick and mortar stores are coming back strong this year.
  • 5 Hide
    Onus , September 28, 2011 12:29 PM
    I do like seeing these hierarchy articles, but I agree that really we're just in a holding pattern until Bulldozer gets here. Even then, from looking at the architecture, my limited knowledge of the nitty-gritty of it leads me to suspect that it will be a kickass Productivity CPU, but nothing special in games. We shall see.
  • 0 Hide
    SteelCity1981 , September 28, 2011 1:31 PM
    i'm in no rush i'm still rockin and rollin on my Phenom X4 9750 AM2+ system. Whenever bulldozer comes out i'm more then ready to upgrade, but if i'm going to do it i'll prob wait alittle while longer when PCI-E 3.0 comes out and just do the upgrade all at once.
  • 0 Hide
    JamesSneed , September 28, 2011 1:46 PM
    Not much has changed but I do agree with the choices.

    On a side note a few months ago I upgraded from a Phenom II X4 940(original one that was DDR2 only) to an Intel 2500k and it made a huge difference in gaming. Even the wife noticed web pages were loading faster.
  • 0 Hide
    torque79 , September 28, 2011 1:55 PM
    Don't even see Bulldozer mentioned on AMD's website... STILL. God what is taking so long. I am regretting the fact that I did not just go buy a sandybridge months ago now. It's been so long that now i might as well wait for AMD 7000 series video too. I'll have 10 games to buy by the time I finally buy this damn computer I've been waiting for.
  • -2 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , September 28, 2011 1:59 PM
    Still no need or requirement to upgrademy system. Now if I could just resist the temptation.
  • 0 Hide
    BSMonitor , September 28, 2011 2:03 PM
    The Core i3 line makes AMD's entire mid-low end totally laughable.

    The only benchmarks it wins at are the threaded video encoding tasks and not by much...

    This is with TWO more cores!!

    The funniest part of this, Intel still hasn't even released a 125-30W Quad Core Sandy Bridge chip. 65 and 95W CPU's are wiping the floor 125W Phenoms with more cores.
  • -3 Hide
    custodian-1 , September 28, 2011 2:13 PM
    OverDrivenOn the first page you stated that Q3 2011 had come and gone. Last time I checked, Q3 2011 only started 5 days ago.


    Q4 = Sept Oct Nov Dec
Display more comments