Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: July 2010

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.

July Updates

This month we aren't seeing much in the way of new products, but processors previously announced in May and June have finally shown up at retail.

From AMD, the Athlon II X2 260, Athlon II X3 445, and Athlon II X4 640 are available to purchase. As we've recently put these three new models through some rigorous gaming testing versus their sub-$150 Intel counterparts, you can how they fared against one another in our Game-Off: Seven Sub-$150 Processors Compared review.

Of particular interest to readers of the Best Gaming CPUs For The Money articles, the Athlon II X3 445 has earned a place in our recommendations, as does the Phenom II X4 940 and 945. For that matter, Intel's Core i3-530 shows off its gaming prowess and ends up on the list. But the Core i3-540 isn't able to make its value as apparent, given a higher price tag, and has been stripped of its honorable mention status.

From the Intel camp, we have the Pentium E6700, Core i5-655K, and Core i7-875K now available to buy. The Pentium E6700 is another speed bump in the dual-core Pentium series of processors, boasting a 3.2 GHz clock rate, but little else of interest. We do see this being a viable upgrade for folks holding on to a slow single-core LGA 775 system who are looking for a cheap upgrade.

The Core i5-655K and Core i7-875K are another matter entirely. Essentially, these are Core i5-650 and Core i7-870 CPUs that have their multipliers unlocked. The K suffix is Intel's equivalent to AMD's Black Edition moniker, and these models allow overclockers to push their CPUs to the limit without stressing the rest of their system. The really interesting thing about these new CPUs is how Intel priced them. The Core i5-655K costs about $20 more than its Core i5-650 predecessor, but the Core i7-875K costs $250 less than we're used to paying for a Core i7-870. While it's true that the Core i7-870 was overpriced, it's a staggering move to add an overclocking feature and slash the price in one quick swoop. That's an un-Intel-like move, and we have to applaud it. The only people who aren't happy about this development are folks who recently purchased a Core i7-870. In any case, you can read our Intel Core i7-875K And Core i5-655K Battle Beyond 4 GHz review if you're interested in more information about these models.

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 available at retail.

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  • Phenom II X4 965 beats Q9650 in games as well as apps, how can it be placed 1 step lower??
  • Could you guys do one so that they are in low resolution, 1680x1050 below and higher res which 1680x1050 above similar to video card thing, where you a overall explanation on resolution performance
  • Enough with the advertising already. KiKi012 please just go away.