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Best Gaming CPU: Mid-range

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: February 2013
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Best Gaming CPU for £90:

Core i3-3220

Core i3-3220
Codename: Ivy Bridge
Process: 22 nm
CPU Cores/Threads: 2/4
Clock Speed (Max. Turbo): 3.3 GHz
Socket: LGA 1155
L2 Cache:   2x 256 KB
L3 Cache: 3 MB
Thermal Envelope:
55 W

Intel's Ivy Bridge-based CPUs are very capable gaming processors, though we're increasingly seeing dual-core derivatives of the design lagging behind in our favorite titles. Conversely, benchmark data makes it clear that the company's Hyper-Threading technology is effective in helping improve the performance of a dual-core CPU in threaded games.

Although a locked multiplier limits overclocking to a few-megahertz bump in BCLK frequency, we still consider Intel's Core i3-3220 to be a good starting point for gamers who might upgrade to a faster LGA 1155-based processor in the future.

Read our review of the Ivy Bridge-based CPUs here.

Honourable Mention:
FX-4300

FX-4300
Codename: Vishera
Process: 32 nm
CPU Cores/Threads: 2/4
Clock Speed (Max. Turbo): 3.8 GHz (4.0 GHz)
Socket: AM3+
L2 Cache:   2 x 2 MB
L3 Cache: 8 MB
Thermal Envelope:
95 W

At stock clock rates, AMD's FX-4300 is able to keep up with the Phenom II X4 965 and just about reach the Core i3-3220. However, its TDP is 35 W lower than the Phenom, and an unlocked multiplier is an advantage over the Core i3. We're giving it an honourable mention for the few reasons folks might want to consider a low-cost CPU built on the Piledriver architecture.

Read our review of the Vishera-based FX CPUs here.

Best Gaming CPU for £135:
Core i5-3350P

Core i5-3350P
Codename: Ivy Bridge
Process: 22 nm
CPU Cores/Threads: 4
Clock Speed (Max. Turbo): 3.1 GHz (3.3 GHz)
Socket: LGA 1155
L2 Cache:   4 x 256 KB
L3 Cache: 6 MB
Thermal Envelope:
69 W

Intel's Sandy and Ivy Bridge-based Core i5 processors are well-known for their gaming prowess at reasonable prices, and the Core i5-3350P is a particularly interesting option at £135.

The P suffix is an indication that Intel disables its HD Graphics engine, but we're perfectly alright with such a decision. If you're buying a gaming processor, you're going to want discrete graphics anyway. Consequently, this CPU ducks in under 70 W.

Read our review of the Ivy Bridge-based CPUs here.

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  • 0 Hide
    Blahman11 , 21 February 2013 14:57
    It's nice to see AMD back on the recommendation list rather than an honorable mention. The Phenom 965 has to be one of the best value for money CPUs at the moment, especially if youre willing to overclock it.
  • 0 Hide
    aje21 , 22 February 2013 00:07
    I'd be interested to see how Lucid Logix MVP affects some of this - I have a Core i3 3225 in a media centre machine which I'm going to try out for gaming (HD4000 should be OK for some old titles), but when I get around to adding a discrete card for more modern titles will it prove to be a useful addition over the i3 3220?
  • 1 Hide
    MajinCry , 22 February 2013 05:20
    The AMD Radeon HD 5450 (Also named the 6450) is one tier, in terms of performance, above the HD 4000, so yeah. Even a 6570 ddr3 will be a significant gain.

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-graphics-card-review,3107-7.html
  • 0 Hide
    aje21 , 23 February 2013 03:49
    My question was not "will a discrete card be better" but "will HD4000 and MVP be of benefit once a discrete card has been added". If you have a few pounds (dollars) unallocated during a build, is it better to go for a slightly higher spec discrete card or the i3 3225 and MVP over i3 3220 and no MVP?
  • 0 Hide
    megadelayed , 24 February 2013 21:45
    i don't get how on the hierachy chart how the X4 640 is on the same tier as i7-9xx series and the core 2 extremes and above the Q9550
    i think that the charts gets a bit confusing if you compare some of the intel processors to the AMD ones
  • 0 Hide
    sanilmahambre , 26 February 2013 03:08
    FX 4300 gets a Honorable mention!

    Its like a first step for AMD, next is steamrollar and Excavator
  • 0 Hide
    tornadohh , 27 February 2013 20:40
    Seriously, what are you writing about? You are still using the same games/benchmarks where you hyped the Pentium G860... Still the Pentium G860 performs better in these games for the money and if you wanna upgrade just buy the cheapest i5 (which performs way better then any current AMD CPU) for your existing 1155 mainboard. Nobody knows how will perform future AM3+ CPUs yet. IF you want AMD then go FM2 maybe ?? At least thats a new platform (with mini-itx mainboards as well). AMD Athlon II X4 750K for example and even that performs worse in games compared to the G860 right now ... about the future ? well, who knows but at the moment certainly these cpus are not a recommendation for me regarding gaming performance/power consumption/future upgrades.

    If you want a cheap upgradable modern gaming PC go 1155 + G860 + discrete graphics or if you want a cheap allround/gaming pc then go FM2 + AMD integrated graphics.
  • 1 Hide
    MajinCry , 27 February 2013 22:18
    The cheapest i5 performs way better than any AMD CPU? Boys, we have an intel fan o'er here!

    The 965 BE, AMD's price:p erformance beast, is only 20% slower, at worse, than the i5 2500k. And it costs 50% of the price.

    Keep your intel jargon to yourself, tornadohh.
  • 0 Hide
    tornadohh , 28 February 2013 02:03
    actually after my Pentium 3-500 until now (Pentium G860) i just had AMD CPUs the last one being Athlon II X3 425 which was quite decent but seriously these days AMD is some generations behind Intel.

    Pls show me some benchmarks where 965 BE is just 20% slower at worse than the i5 2500k. That is at best wishful thinking and no im not Intel fan... otherwise i would have bought this wonder AMD long time ago but the truth it its old technology by now and the i5 CPUs are very well worth their money.
  • 0 Hide
    tornadohh , 28 February 2013 03:05
    okay anyway lets keep it civilized im not saying the 965 BE is a bad CPU and certainly if you can live with that its sucking a lot of power and no mini itx boards are available its still an relative well performing cpu for gaming. just not cutting edge or efficient anymore compared to intel cpus... and yes the intel quad core cpus are somewhat more expensive but you also get more performance and low power consumption.

    and honestly tomshardware was hyping the G860 like its the best thing after sliced bread (beating the 965 BE in some of the same games they are still benchmarking now) but in 2013 a dual core cpu is not good anymore so the old AMD quadcores get the recommendation because they are cheaper than the i5 s - hhhhm interesting.

    actually when i compared my Athlon II X3 425 (4th core unlocked and overclocked to 3GHz) the G860 (dual core 3GHz) performs a lot better and im talking about current simulations not only shooters.

    on the other hand there is the FM2 plattform and for example the A10 5800k really kicks some ass when its comes to a cheap TINY itx allround gaming pc (with picu psu for example). WITHOUT discrete graphics card. other than that im sorry there is not so much AMD can offer at the moment.

    and really im not intel fanboy ...

    Honourable Mention:
    FX-4300

    i wish that would have been the i5 killer but unfortunately its just not there... competing with an intel dual core cpu :( 

    The way it is we have quite the odd battle AMD quadcore vs Intel dualcore in the same price range... which makes decision not so easy because yes sometime soon there might be really no place anymore for a dual core in gaming but right now there is.