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Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: April 2015

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: April 2015
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AMD's new A8-7650K has hit the market since our last update, and it might offer the most attractive price/performance of the company's APU line. As always, we check the newest price changes and report on the latest news and rumors!

If you don’t have the time to research 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.

April Updates: 

This column has always been about answering the question, “What CPU should I buy for my gaming PC? I have $xxx to spend.” Given our regular coverage of processor performance with many different graphics cards across a broad range of games, we are uniquely qualified to make recommendations based on real data from our own lab. So, rather than focus on the ups and downs of pricing this month, let’s spend a little time talking about our choices and what they mean to you, starting with the high-end.

Previously, we had Intel’s Core i7-5930K as our top choice. As the most affordable CPU in Intel’s portfolio with 40 lanes of third-gen PCI Express, it made sense for anyone planning a gaming monster based on three-way CrossFire or SLI. Really though, the Core i7-5820K is a smarter buy at £315. Like the -5930K, it’s a six-core chip. It’s similarly multiplier-unlocked. And although its PCI Express controller is limited to 28 lanes, that’s plenty of throughput for single- and dual-card configurations. Take the almost £110 you’d save compared to a -5930K and step up from a GeForce GTX 970 to a 980. Now that’s an upgrade you’ll notice.

Even though it surfaces just £50 cheaper than the -5820K, we’re standing by our Core i7-4790K recommendation for gamers with LGA 1150-based platforms. Intel’s Haswell-based flagship boasts four cores, Hyper-Threading technology, 8MB of shared L3 cache and that unlocked multiplier so critical to procuring additional performance. Sixteen lanes of PCIe sounds like a big hit compared to Haswell-E, but again, dividing that in two yields more than enough throughput for two graphics cards. Some high-end Z97-based motherboards include switches to enable three-way configurations—if you’re going that route, consider starting with a -5820K or -5930K instead.

Intel’s Core i5-4690K is a far more practical recommendation at £175. It still gives you four cores, an unlocked multiplier and 16 lanes of third-gen PCIe, but sacrifices 2MB of shared L3 cache and Hyper-Threading. Just as important, the -4690K features the enhancements to overclocking we covered in Core i7-4790K Review: Devil's Canyon Tantalizes Enthusiasts. If the pricier processors already mentioned fall outside of your budget, this Core i5 is represents a gaming sweet spot.

At £93, there may be reason to supplement our Core i5-4460 recommendation with AMD’s older FX-8320. It’s true that the Haswell architecture gets far more work done per clock cycle than Piledriver. And the Core i5 does run a lot cooler. However, the FX’s quad-module configuration is competent in and out of games. Why not step up to the -8350 for £30 more? This processor is unlocked, whereas the Core i5 is not. You should be able to tune it right up to the -8350's level and beyond. We’re not huge fans of AMD’s chipset portfolio, but at least the 990FX is mature. Just be sure you’re pairing this processor with an appropriately mainstream GPU to avoid bottlenecks.

Down from there, the Core i3-4160 remains a strong mainstream CPU that combines two Hyper-Threaded cores, 3MB of shared L3 cache and two channels of DDR3 memory support in a 54W package. At this price point, Intel locks out overclocking. But you get enough performance at the processor’s stock 3.6GHz to mitigate the loss somewhat.

Under 780, AMD’s Athlon X4 860K is generating quite a bit of buzz. We’ll be honest—we still haven’t tested this one in the lab. But you’re basically looking at an A10-7850K with its on-die graphics disabled (read more about that one in AMD A10-7850K And A8-7600: Kaveri Gives Us A Taste Of HSA). Armed with an unlocked multiplier, it’s easy to imagine the Athlon doing serious damage to entry-level Core i3s priced in excess of £80.

And then there’s the Pentium G3258 for less than £60. While it’s not super popular in the comments section (yes, two cores can be easily overwhelmed by a modern game optimized for threading), the Pentium is both super inexpensive and ridiculously fun to overclock. We'll see how DirectX 12 further distinguishes dual-core and dual-module CPUs...some day. A PC based on any £60-something processor isn't going to age gracefully.

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. Remember to check out our new performance per dollar comparison page, where you can overlay the benchmark data we’ve generated with pricing, giving you a better idea where your ideal choice falls on the value curve.

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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  • 4 Hide
    ruban71 , 8 March 2014 09:36
    For consistency with the Best Graphics Cards For The Money: March 2014 you should give the A10-7770/7850k mention alongside the entry level. Whilst it's not a cost effective chip to pair up with a high end GPU it is a consideration for anyone looking for modest gaming. Specifically if you look at both round ups and conclude that a x4 750k and R7 240 is what you need.

    Article is looking a little out of date in places. i5-3350 could be replaced with the i5 4440 which is actually cheaper in the UK
  • 1 Hide
    Nicku , 8 March 2014 21:51
    On page: 4. Best High-End Gaming Processors, the Core i7-4930K is definitely a Ivy Bridge-E processor manufactured at 22nm. It also has a 3.4GHz base core and a 3.9GHz turbo (see the table). Getting lazy?!?
  • 0 Hide
    Nicku , 8 March 2014 21:53
    And there's no edit button? Above I meant 3.4GHz base "frequency", not core. Sorry!
  • -1 Hide
    victordrake , 20 March 2014 12:21
    Let people know: I have just composed this rig: Intel I7-4930K, MSI Big-bang Xpower II, G.skill F3-19200CL10Q-32GBZHD (4*8gB sticks), Sapphire R 290 Tri-X OC, 840 pro 512 Gbsize, WD 4tb Hyb, Power supplier Sapphire 1050 Pure, case Nox-Hummer Zero white, (altogether for more than € 2000).Well, (but I need to say very bad...), infact all this hdw (on first boot) is ABSOLUTELY NOT (reapeat) NOT working, giving each time a dull code 67 (or L9 if read upside-down), like it'ld be impossible to initialize CPU!My direct answer is: how can serious trade marks allow this shame?? Investigation are open on different fronts, completing saying already tried with a different video ad., Sapphire 5870, with same result! Good luck to others customers...
  • -6 Hide
    Moisey80 , 21 March 2014 10:24
    fuck you that there were paid for by Intel so compare fx-83 series c I3 .. fuck you that very ebanulsya FX-8350 get away I7 3770k not speak about I5 and I3! your brains quite propudrili intel!!! you finish up this garbage suffer: (
  • -5 Hide
    Moisey80 , 21 March 2014 10:24
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neeL3zymT_o
  • 0 Hide
    TheyreAllDeadDave , 4 April 2014 22:23
    I'd rather get the Athlon X4 760K.
  • 1 Hide
    paulbatzing , 16 April 2014 08:11
    The high end i5 and i7 have LGA1155 specified in your listing. It should be LGA1150
  • 3 Hide
    guanyu210379 , 8 May 2014 14:40
    No E3-1230V3? Why?
    E3-1230V3 is a good alternative for those who like i7 4770k but do not want to OC, do not want to use the iGPU and are willing to pay only the price of a i5 4670k.
    This processor belongs to the best gaming processors too.
  • -3 Hide
    Ammi6543 , 9 May 2014 17:12
    FX-8320 should've taken the £150 catergory.
    It performs as well as an i5 in games. Put it on any task like photoshop or video encoding, or even just having a bunch of programs open, and it will beat the i5, they can even perform as well as Ivy-Bridge Socket 1155 i7s.
  • -3 Hide
    Krister Arvesen , 11 May 2014 00:14
    Am I the only one thinking that AMD should be represented here? the FX-8350 is cheaper than the i5 4570 and it beats both the i5 4670K and the i7 4770K in some games... atleast I would say that's worth mentioning :p 
  • 1 Hide
    Gragiulo2000 , 28 May 2014 20:52
    The FX-6300 outperforms the i5-4430 in raw benchmark data.
    go see the passmark website
  • 0 Hide
    Alpha3031 , 4 July 2014 04:46
    Many typos this month :) 
  • 0 Hide
    Alpha3031 , 4 July 2014 04:46
    Many typos this month :) 
  • 0 Hide
    RobTHUK , 4 July 2014 17:58
    The title in Honourable mention for the i7-4790K Devil's Canyon calls it an "Core i5-4790K"
  • -1 Hide
    Twirlz , 15 July 2014 22:51
    I think the AMD 6300 should have been listed in the mid range section. Compared to an i3, which is similar in price, it offers pretty good performance on newer titles.
  • 0 Hide
    parrot1553 , 18 August 2014 21:39
    you have wrote
    Honourable Mention:

    Core i5-4790K its supposed to be i7 :)  also,I want to ask,what about the i5 4690?? where I live its about the same price as the i5 4590
  • 0 Hide
    parrot1553 , 18 August 2014 21:42
    you have wrote
    Honourable Mention:

    Core i5-4790K its supposed to be i7 :)  also,I want to ask,what about the i5 4690?? where I live its about the same price as the i5 4590
  • 0 Hide
    tea urchin , 18 September 2014 13:36
    The i5 4430 should have been given a spot months ago. It has actually been replaced by the 4440 and I believe the 4430 is end of line. (Logically..)However. I have been using a 4430 for 6 months,and the retail price has dropped as low as £116 at reputable Etailers as it became outdated. There is no competitive or sensible alternative for those who want 'enough' gaming power without expensive boards and coolers.
    I note (again) that there is no mention of this processors 4600 igp on Tom's graphics card hierarchy chart,despite it being hailed as 30 to 60% better than the hd4000. Though being fair its not important for a proper games machine.
  • 0 Hide
    tea urchin , 18 September 2014 13:39
    (repeat post).
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