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 Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: February '10


Table of contents

* 1 – January Review And February Updates
* 2 – Best Gaming CPU: Under $90
* 3 – Best Gaming CPU: $90-$110
* 4 – Best Gaming CPU: $110-$140

* 5 – Best Gaming CPU: $150-$195
* 6 – Best Gaming CPU: $200 And Up
* 7 – CPU Heirarchy Chart

If you don’t have the time to research the benchmarks, or if you don’t feel confident enough in your ability to pick the right processor for your next gaming machine, fear not. We at Tom’s Hardware have come to your aid with a simple list of the best gaming CPUs offered for the money.

January Review and February Updates

In January, AMD supplied us with a significant speed bump and refresh of its entire sub-$130 CPU lineup.

AMD's New Processor Speed Bumps
Model
Code Name
Clock
CPU Cores
L3 Cache
Power
Street Price
Phenom II X4 910e Deneb
2.6 GHz
4
6MB
65W
$170
Phenom II X2 555 BE Callisto
3.2 GHz
2
6MB 80W
$100
Athlon II X4 635
Propus 2.9 GHz
4
None 95W
$126
Athlon II X3 440
Rana 3.0 GHz
3
None 95W $89
Athlon II X2 255 Regor 3.1 GHz
2
None
65W $78


While there is no new technology here, the refresh represents a solid 100 MHz speed bump for the entire Athlon II lineup, in addition to a couple of Phenom II models. This in itself isn't much to get excited about but, when combined with price cuts (in many cases, the newer, faster models are the same price as the ones they're replacing), this delivers a welcome increase in AMD's value proposition. Particularly, a gamer might be excited about the Athlon II X3 440. Operating 100 MHz faster than the 435 model, the 440 is already found at the same street price as the older processor, which had already established itself as a solid gaming value.

There have been other price changes, too. Particularly the Phenom II X4 940 and 945 have dropped to $145/$150. This is an appropriate move, since they were formerly found at the same price as the superior Phenom II X4 955 BE. This brings these processors face to face with the new Core i3-540 and makes for a good match-up.

But the prices haven't all dropped; some have gone up. It looks like pricing models are still being tweaked now that there is a comprehensive lineup of Intel mainstream CPUs. Quite a few models from the Intel camp seem to be a little more expensive these days, including the Core i7-940 and -975 Extreme.

We've seen more gaming data regarding Intel's sub-$200 Pentium and Core i3 CPUs, and we're subsequently withdrawing the Pentium G6950 as a gaming recommendation. While overclocking this processor can yield good results, baseline game performance is so dismal that a gamer is better served elsewhere. We've already had some G6950 overclocking adventures, and we're not going to include it as a recommended product until we can see how it plays when pushed to limits it can live with. You can expect that review to follow in February. The Core i3 models do look to be more promising, and we'll also be exploring those, in addition to the new AMD lineup in the near future.

Some Notes About Our Recommendations

This list is for gamers who want to get the most for their money. If you don’t play games, then the CPUs on this list may not be suitable for your particular needs.

The criteria to get on this list are strictly price/performance. We acknowledge that there are other factors that come into play, such as platform price or CPU overclockability, but we're not going to complicate things by factoring in motherboard costs. We may add honorable mentions for outstanding products in the future, though. For now, our recommendations are based on stock clock speeds and performance at that price.

Cost and availability change on a daily basis. We can’t offer up-to-the-minute accurate pricing information in the text, but we can list some good chips that you probably won’t regret buying at the price ranges we suggest (and our PriceGrabber-based engine will help track down some of the best prices for you).

The list is based on some of the best US prices from online retailers. In other countries or at retail stores, your mileage will most certainly vary. Of course, these are retail CPU prices. We do not list used or OEM CPUs.

Best prices for tested products

*
o
o Athlon II X2 Dual-core 245 2.9GHz Desktop Processor (2.9GHz - 4000MHz HT - 1MB L2 - Socket AM3)
o Buy.com $71.65
o See More Deals
*
o
o Athlon II X3 Tri-core 425 2.7GHz Processor (2.7GHz - 4000MHz HT - 1.5MB L2 - Socket AM3 - Retail)
o Buy.com $82.24
o See More Deals
*
o
o Athlon II X4 Quad-core 620 2.6GHz Processor (2.6GHz - 4000MHz HT - 2MB L2 - Socket AM3 - Retail)
o TigerDirect $99.99
o See More Deals
*
o
o Core i3 i3-530 2.93 GHz Processor - Dual-core (512 KB L2 - 4 MB L3 - Socket H LGA-1156 - Retail)
o Buy.com $126.89
o See More Deals
*
o
o Core 2 Duo E7500 2.93GHz Desktop Processor (2.93GHz - 1066MHz FSB - 3MB L2 - Socket T)
o TigerDirect $124.99
o See More Deals
*
o
o Core i3 i3-540 3.06 GHz Processor - Dual-core (512 KB L2 - 4 MB L3 - Socket H LGA-1156 - Retail)
o TigerDirect $119.99
o See More Deals
*
o
o Phenom II X4 Quad-core 955 3.2GHz Processor (3.2GHz - 4000MHz HT - 2MB L2 - 6MB L3 - Socket AM3)
o Amazon.com $159.95
o See More Deals
*
o
o Phenom II X4 965 3.40 GHz Processor - Quad-core (4000 MHz HT - 2 MB L2 - 6 MB L3 - Socket AM3 PGA-941 - Retail)
o TigerDirect $169.99
o See More Deals
*
o
o Core i5 Quad-core I5-750 2.66GHz Processor (2.66GHz - 2.5GT/s QPI - 1MB L2 - 8MB L3 - Socket H - Retail)
o TigerDirect $199.99
o See More Deals
*
o
o Core i7 Extreme Edition Quad-core I7-975 3.33GHz Processor (3.33GHz - 6.4GT/s QPI - 1MB L2 - 8MB L3 - Socket B)
o TigerDirect $999.99
o See More Deals

 

 

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