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Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: June 2015

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: June 2015
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Intel just announced a handful of Broadwell-based Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, along with several fourth-gen Xeon E3 processors. Unless you're building an HTPC with gaming chops, though, skip right on by and wait to see what Skylake can do.

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.

June Updates: 

This month, our Best Gaming CPUs for the Money update is almost two weeks later than it’d normally be. We knew there’d be announcements at Computex, and weren’t sure how they’d affect the host processor market. Now that the dust has cleared, though, and our evaluations of the Core i7-5775C and Core i5-5675C are available, it’s pretty clear that Intel’s Broadwell-based processors won’t have much impact on gamers.

The Broadwell Aftermath

Let me rephrase. Socketed Broadwell won’t attract gaming enthusiasts, most of whom buy capable CPUs and complement them with discrete graphics processors. It’s not that these new chips aren’t fast. Four IA cores manufactured using an advanced 14nm process and infused with the latest microarchitecture updates are incredibly powerful. But Intel has them operating at lower clock rates than its refreshed Haswell processors. Yes, they feature unlocked ratio multipliers as well. However, we don’t have mature-enough platforms to definitively say how the -5775C and -5675C will overclock in comparison. They sport less shared L3 cache, are rated for lower TDPs and should be used with DDR3L memory. You get the picture—these weren’t designed to displace the higher-end Haswell models.

Then again, if you’re piecing together a home theater PC, prioritize form factors without room for add-in cards, have a penchant for efficiency and really yearn for smooth 3D at 1080p, then an Iris Pro Graphics 6200-equipped CPU might suffice if you’re willing to dial the details back. Intel’s benchmarks claim (and ours concur) that several popular titles are perfectly playable at FHD resolutions with average frame rates in excess of 60. A Core i5-4430 and GeForce GT 740 might cost about the same and be about as fast. Together, though, they’d consume a lot more power and physical space.

Aside from that fairly niche target market, the two LGA 1150-based models don’t make much sense. You’re better off with a more mainstream quad-core CPU and a bigger investment into discrete graphics.

Intel also introduced a handful of Broadwell-based Xeon E3-1200 v4 processors, one of which is blessed with a 95W TDP and more aggressive 3.5GHz core clock floor. Unfortunately, an almost-$560 price tag overshoots what most enthusiasts are willing to pay. For that, you could almost have a six-core Core i7-5820K and an entry-level X99 motherboard.

Skylake Cometh

It almost sounds like we’re encouraging you to hold off on an upgrade, right? Well, if you’re planning to build a gaming PC and it’s not going to include one of Intel’s Core i7-5000-series CPUs, then yeah, you might want to hang tight for a couple of months. Skylake-S is on the way with new IA and graphics architectures. It’ll support DDR4 and DDR3L, and the accompanying 100-series chipsets will introduce PCIe 3.0 to the Platform Controller Hub, augmenting I/O throughput in a major way.

From what we know of Intel’s preliminary SKU plan, the company will launch with 95, 65 and 35W TDPs. Across those envelopes, we’ll see a dual-core die with 2MB of L3 cache and GT1 graphics called Celeron. Pentiums will look similar, only with 3MB of L3 cache. Entry-level Core i3s add Hyper-Threading with something Intel calls “GT1.5” graphics, and the top models incorporate GT2 with 4MB of shared L3. The Core i5s naturally step up to four physical cores with GT2 graphics and 6MB of L3 cache, while Core i7s boast Hyper-Treading and 8MB of cache. It looks like there will again be two unlocked SKUs—one i5 and one i7—both with 95W TDPs.

Expect those unlocked models to offer some knobs and dials previously unavailable. For example, Intel is planning granular base clock control in 1MHz increments on the Z170 chipset (instead of the existing ratio-based implementation). Memory should be tunable in 100/133MHz steps, rather than 200/266MHz. And the fully-integrated voltage regulator is gone, reversing one of the previous generation’s design decisions that many enthusiasts lamented.

Given the expected top-to-bottom refresh of Intel’s line-up, which will be much more comprehensive than the recent Broadwell launch, budgets from sub-$100 to $300+ should be affected. August should be an interesting month, indeed.

New CPU Charts

Many of you are asking for stronger correlation between our recommendations and more up-to-date benchmarking data. We’re discussing the best way to pack this column with information you can use to quantify your next purchase. Until then, though, we want to point you in the direction of our 2015 CPU Charts, recently updated to include new benchmarks, workloads and a list nearly 50 processors long of test subjects. We’ll continue adding to the list, just as we have in the past.

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 pound 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...
  • -7 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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