The Best Gaming CPUs for 2015

Best Gaming CPUs 2015

Everyone has heard of the processor. But how important is it towards your gaming experience really? The answer to that is: Very. In this article we’ll go over the best gaming CPUs on the market, so that you can make an informed decision when it comes time to buy your components.

The processor is at the center of everything in your computer. It is the “brains” of the operation.

And, in order to build a solid gaming computer in 2015, you’re going to need a quality CPU.

While some games (like first person shooters) are heavily dependent on your video card, other games (like RTS’ and MMORPGs) have many more calculations that need to be carried out and therefore utilize your processor more.

This should factor into your decision when looking for the best gaming CPU for your build.

Another thing you’ll need to take into account is the total budget you’ve set for your build. You obviously don’t want to spend $300 on a CPU when your total budget is $550, because you wouldn’t have very much money left over for other parts.

In this post, we will take a look at the best gaming CPUs in 2015. I’ve broken down the categories into four different tiers based on performance. While Tier 1 CPUs offer the most all-around performance, that doesn’t necessarily make them the best options if you are working with a budget. Even Tier 4 processors are good options if you are playing non-demanding games and you have a low budget.

For each Tier there are multiple CPUs listed and a few of those processors have a brief overview below.

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TIER 1GAMING PROCESSORS

These Tier 1 CPUs are comprised completely on Intel processors. It’s not that AMD doesn’t make capable gaming processors, it’s just that Intel offers the best all-around CPU performance.

However, the CPU you choose will not have nearly as big of an impact on your in-game performance as will your video card. Rather, when choosing a processor for your gaming computer, you want to choose one that will not hinder the performance of your video card.

It’s important to note that all of the Tier 2 CPUs will handle any game just fine and will not hinder even the most powerful of video cards. Even the Tier 3 CPUs are very viable options and will not create a bottleneck in the majority of situations.

So, then why choose a Tier 1 CPU if you can save money and go with a Tier 2 or Tier 3 CPU?

Well, Tier 1 CPUs offer better overall processor performance. While they may not offer more in-game performance, they will provide better performance outside of gaming. So, if you’re looking to do more than just game and high processing power is important to you, then these Tier 1 CPUs are a good choice.

*Intel’s extreme processor are not currently included on this list, but they will likely be added in the future. While Intel’s extreme processors don’t bring any significant benefits to gaming setups, if you have an unlimited budget and you want to push your system to the max, they may be worth your consideration.

Tier 1 CPU Comparison Chart

CPU Clock  Cores OC?
Intel Core i7-4790K 4.0/4.4 GHz 4 Yes

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Architecture Haswell
Frequency (Turbo) 4.0 (4.4) GHz
Cores (Threads) 4 (8)
TDP 88w
Process 22nm
Socket LGA 1150

Overview

For most users looking to build a high-end gaming computer, I would recommend the i5-4690K over the i7-4790K simply because, in most scenarios, the added threads that the i7-4790K possesses won’t really give you any kind of in-game performance boost. However, if you have the money to spend, choosing the i7-4790K over the i5-4690K won’t be a bad option… especially if you plan on using your system as a workstation as well.

While the added threads won’t give you increased in-game performance (in most cases, anyways), they will give you a performance boost if you’re doing some heavy video editing, graphics design work, streaming your gameplay, or other CPU-intensive tasks. So, if that’s you and you have the money to do so, going with the i7-4790K would make sense.

And, if you’re not planning on overclocking, your best bet is the i7-4790 which comes cheaper because it can’t be overclocked.

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Intel Core i7-4790 3.6/4.0 GHz 4 No

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COLLAPSE ⇑

Architecture Haswell
Frequency (Turbo) 3.6 (4.0) GHz
Cores (Threads) 4 (8)
TDP 84w
Process 22nm
Socket LGA 1150

Overview

The same as was said for the i7-4790K applies to the i7-4790 as well. It’s a CPU that’s built–and priced–more for workstation systems than it is for gaming.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that it won’t work for a gaming computer. It definitely will. It just means that if your sole purpose for building your computer is to play games, then you can save quite a bit of money by going with the i5-4690K instead because, ultimately, there isn’t a significant difference between the two in terms of in-game performance.

However, if you’re doing any kind of CPU-intensive tasks, like video editing, graphics design work, or streaming/recording your gameplay, then the extra threads that the i7 CPU comes with will help you out.

The i7-4790 is the locked version of the i7-4790K, which means it cannot be overclocked. So, if you want the extra threads and you don’t want to overclock then the Intel Core i7-4790 is the CPU for you.

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Intel Core i5-4690K 3.5/3.9 GHz 4 Yes

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COLLAPSE ⇑

Architecture Haswell
Frequency (Turbo) 3.5 (3.9) GHz
Cores (Threads) 4 (4)
TDP 88w
Process 22nm
Socket LGA 1150

Overview

In my opinion, the Intel Core i5-4690K is the perfect CPU for gamers looking to build a moderately-priced gaming computer. It’s more than powerful enough to handle any game you throw at it (today’s games depend more on the GPU than the CPU), it gives you the ability to overclock it for more performance, and it is an extremely efficient CPU.

So, if you’re building a gaming PC in the $800-$1,500 range (and even higher as well) the i5-4690K will work for you. If you will also be doing some CPU-intensive tasks like hardcore video editing, or CAD work, the i5-4690K will definitely get the job done, but you could also get a little more performance by bumping up to the i7-4790K or i7-4790 (depending on whether or not you want to overclock.)

Speaking of which, if you don’t plan on overclocking, then skip down to our next processor, the i5-4690, as it is locked (and, therefore can’t be overclocked) and will save you some money.

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Intel Core i5-4690 3.5/3.9 GHz 4 No

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COLLAPSE ⇑

Architecture Haswell
Frequency (Turbo) 3.5 (3.9) GHz
Cores (Threads) 4 (4)
TDP 84w
Process 22nm
Socket LGA 1150

Overview

While the i5-4690K is one of the best all-around CPUs on the market in terms of price-to-performance, if you don’t plan on overclocking in the future, you can always get the i5-4690 and save some money.

The only difference between the two is that the i5-4690 cannot be overclocked. It’s priced lower as is and since H97 motherboards cost less than Z97 motherboards, you can save even more money on your total build as well. This saved money can be put towards a better video card, which, ultimately, will give you better performance.

It is nice to have the ability to push your CPU to higher levels, but in terms of modern gaming, overclocking a CPU that is already powerful enough to hand any game isn’t really going to do much for you anyways.

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TIER 2GAMING PROCESSORS

Tier 2 is comprised of a set of excellent gaming processor options. While these CPUs don’t bring quite as much to the table as the Tier 1 CPUs, they are definitely powerful enough to deliver a more than ideal gaming experience.

And, at $200 or less, these processors are a little more affordable than the Tier 1 CPUs, which makes them perfect options for anyone who has a moderate budget.

If you want to overclock your CPU for more performance or you’re using your computer to run applications and games that utilize more than 8 cores/threads , the FX-8320 and FX-8350 are your best bet. If it’s single-core performance and power efficiency that you’re looking for, then the i5-4590 and i5-4460 are better options.

Tier 2 CPU Comparison Chart

CPU Clock  Cores OC?
Intel Core i5-4590 3.3/3.7 GHz 4 No

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COLLAPSE ⇑

Architecture Haswell
Frequency (Turbo) 3.3 (3.7) GHz
Cores (Threads) 4 (4)
TDP 84w
Process 22nm
Socket LGA 1150

Overview

We’ve already looked at the Intel Core i5-4690K and 4690. If you can those two processors, then definitely do so (especially if they go on sale). However, if you’re looking for an extra $30 or $40 so that you can fit in under your budget, or so you can upgrade to the next video card up, then you might want to consider the Intel Core i5-4590.

It doesn’t have as high of a clock rate and it can’t be overclocked, but since most modern games are either GPU-dependent, or just not very demanding in general, the i5-4590 will not bottleneck your system.

So, if you want to save money, the i5-4590 is the way to go.

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Intel Core i5-4460 3.2/3.4 GHz 4 No

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COLLAPSE ⇑

Architecture Haswell
Frequency (Turbo) 3.2 (3.4) GHz
Cores (Threads) 4 (4)
TDP 84w
Process 22nm
Socket LGA 1150

Overview

Just how the Intel Core i5-4590 will allow you to save some money to keep you under budget or help you upgrade another component, so, too, will the Intel Core i5-4460. The i5-4460 is typically $10-$15 cheaper than the i5-4590, and that extra money can land you a better case, motherboard, or power supply and, in some cases, a better video card.

I use the Intel Core i5-4460 in my $700 build along with a GTX 960. This combination is good enough to play pretty much any game on a 1920×1080 or 2560×1440 monitor at max settings.

So, if you’re looking for some budget relief, but you still want a processor capable of giving you ideal performance, then the i5-4460 will get the job done.

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AMD FX-8350 4.0/4.2 GHz 8 Yes

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COLLAPSE ⇑

Architecture Vishera
Frequency (Turbo) 4.0 (4.2) GHz
Cores (Threads) 8 (8)
TDP 125w
Process 32nm
Socket AM3+

Overview

I’m sure the AMD enthusiasts out there are grabbing for the nearest red object and winding up getting ready to throw it at me. They’re likely appalled that I didn’t include an AMD CPU in the Tier 1 processors…

The truth is that in in-game scenarios, an FX-8350 is going to perform very similar to an i5-4690K or even an i7-4790K. This is because–as I’ve said a thousand times in this post–modern games just aren’t that taxing on today’s CPUs. Heck, even the ~$100 FX-6300 can handle pretty much anything you throw at it.

So, in deciding which processors to put in each tier, I had to look subjectively at the whole package. And Intel’s efficiency and single-core performance is a large reason why they own the top tier in this post.

However, that doesn’t mean that going AMD is a bad choice. In fact, with the FX-8350 being $10 cheaper than the i5-4460, it really is a tough choice between the two. In my opinion, the i5-4460 is the better bet because it’s not going to require as much power and you can get a decent motherboard for it for well under $100, whereas the FX-8350 will require more cooling and a $100+ motherboard to fully utilize it.

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AMD FX-8320 3.5/4.0 GHz 8 Yes

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COLLAPSE ⇑

Architecture Vishera
Frequency (Turbo) 3.5 (4.0) GHz
Cores (Threads) 8 (8)
TDP 125w
Process 32nm
Socket AM3+

Overview

Perhaps even more enticing than the AMD FX-8350 is the FX-8320. The FX-8320 is essentially an 8350 that is slightly overclocked. And, with a small multiplier bump the FX-8320 can perform on par as a stock 8350.

The coolest part about the FX-8320 is that sometimes you will see it go on sale and go as low as the $120 mark. If it were that price all the time, I’d probably put it in the Tier 1 CPUs on this list simply for the price-to-performance alone.

Ultimately, by going with the FX-8320 over the FX-8350 you can save more money to get the better motherboard and cooling needed to really utilize the chip.

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AMD FX-9590 3.5/4.0 GHz 8 Yes

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COLLAPSE ⇑

Architecture Vishera
Frequency (Turbo) 4.7 GHz
Cores (Threads) 8 (8)
TDP 220w
Process 32nm
Socket AM3+

Overview

AMD has significantly dropped the prices on their extreme 9000 series CPUs over the past six months.

It wasn’t too long ago when their FX-9590 was prices at $900. Now, you can grab it for $240 (~$300 if you want the water-cooler packaged with it).

However, before you head out to grab the FX-9590 it’s important that you take a couple of things into consideration…

First, the FX-9590 has an astounding 220W TDP. That means if you’re putting it in your system you need to make sure you have a beefy motherboard, power supply, and CPU cooler. A stock cooler will not be ideal with this CPU.

Secondly, in my opinion, if you’re willing to spend ~$240 on a CPU, you might as well go with the more efficient Intel Core i5-4690K. Of course, if you prefer to support AMD, then the FX-9590 is still a viable option. Just remember that you’re going to need to more expensive hardware to accommodate it.

Ultimately, though, if you’re going the AMD route, I’d recommend an Fx-8350 or 8320 for over $150 less as they can be overclocked to approach FX-9590 speeds.

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AMD FX-9370 3.5/4.0 GHz 8 Yes

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COLLAPSE ⇑

Architecture Vishera
Frequency (Turbo) 3.5 (4.0) GHz
Cores (Threads) 8 (8)
TDP 220w
Process 32nm
Socket AM3+

Overview

The FX-9370 is to the FX-9590 as the FX-8320 is to the FX-9590. The only difference is that the FX-9370 isn’t noticeably cheaper than the FX-9590 and, because of that reason, the FX-9590 is the better buy.

Still, though, at this price range I would recommend the i5-4690K… or if you absolutely have to have an AMD processor, go with the FX-8350. With the right motherboard and proper cooling, it can be overclocked to approach FX-9370 and 9590 speeds. And, the extra money you save will allow you to upgrade other components in your rig.

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TIER 3GAMING PROCESSORS

For gamers who have a lower budget, these Tier 3 CPUs are excellent options. In fact, in most gaming scenarios, they offer enough power to not be a hindrance to your video card.

Therefore, if you have less to spend on your gaming computer, you can choose one of these CPUs to help you allocate more to your video card–which will ultimately give you better in-game performance.

The FX-6300 is probably the best option in this group as it’s very affordable, overclockable, and will not hinder even the top video cards in most situation.

All-in-all, these CPUs aren’t the best processors are the market, but they are affordable and will get the job done.

Tier 3 CPU Comparison Chart

CPU Clock  Cores OC?
AMD FX-6300 3.5/4.1 GHz 6 Yes

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COLLAPSE ⇑

Architecture Vishera
Frequency (Turbo) 3.5 (4.1) GHz
Cores (Threads) 6 (6)
TDP 95w
Process 32nm
Socket AM3+

Overview

There is a warm place in my heart for the AMD FX-6300. I would say that of all the components I have recommended to people who read the recommendations on this site, the FX-6300 is the most chosen processor… by far.

It’s not because the FX-6300 is the best-performing CPU on the market, but, rather, because it delivers the best price-to-performance ratio. The FX-6300 hovers between $99-$110 (and sometimes even less) and is powerful enough to handle pretty much any in-game scenario you can imagine. And, that’s pretty awesome for the price.

Essentially what the low priced FX-6300 does is allow gamers to spend more on their video card, which, in turn, allows them to build a more powerful gaming computer.

In the end, if you’re looking for a solid budget processor that will be able to handle most in-game situations, then the FX-6300 should be at the top of your list.

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Intel Core i3-4160 3.6 GHz 2 No

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COLLAPSE ⇑

Architecture Haswell
Frequency (Turbo) 3.6 GHz
Cores (Threads) 4 (4)
TDP 84w
Process 54nm
Socket LGA 1150

Overview

Who said that dual core processors aren’t suitable for gaming computers? The reality is that, even today, the majority of games out there can’t fully utilize more than two cores. This, of course, is changing, but for now a strong dual core CPU can still get the job done.

This is the case with the Intel Core i3-4160. In my opinion, you have two real choices if you’re looking to build a budget system… go with the FX-6300 or with the i3-4160.

If you want to be able to have more power now, then go with the FX-6300 (there are cheaper motherboard options for AM3+ and the FX-6300 is a little cheaper, which will allow you to get a bigger video card.) On the other hand, if you want a computer that is good now and has the potential to be amazing later, the i3-4160 will serve as a gateway to a system with an i5 or i7 CPU. And, unlike the AM3+ socket, the $70-$100 LGA 1150 motherboards will actually be suitable for an upgrade to a bigger CPU.

Ultimately, I recommend the FX-6300 in the majority of cases, simply because you’re building the computer now, so you might as well make it as powerful as possible now. You can always upgrade later. However, going the i3-4160 route makes upgrading later a lot easier at the expense of some performance now.

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AMD FX-6350 3.9 GHz 6 Yes

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COLLAPSE ⇑

Architecture Vishera
Frequency (Turbo) 3.9 GHz
Cores (Threads) 6 (6)
TDP 125w
Process 32nm
Socket AM3+

Overview

The FX-6350 is another viable option in this range, but in my opinion it falls short to the FX-6300 due to pricing. And, with some mild overclocking, the FX-6300 can reach 6350 speeds pretty easily.

So, in my opinion, there really aren’t any reasons to choose the FX-6350 over the FX-6300, unless it goes on some kind of crazy sale. If you do decide to choose the FX-6350 over the 6300, just note that the 6350 is a little more power hungry and therefore I would recommend choosing a better motherboard to go with it.

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Intel Core i3-4360 3.7 GHz 2 No

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COLLAPSE ⇑

Architecture Haswell
Frequency (Turbo) 3.7 GHz
Cores (Threads) 2 (2)
TDP 54w
Process 22nm
Socket LGA 1150

Overview

The Intel Core i3-4360 kind of sits in the same boat as the FX-6350… it’s a good processor, it’s just not priced to accommodate someone building a gaming computer. There’s just too many similarly-performing CPUs out there that are priced better.

For about $20-$30 less, the FX-6300 and i3-4160 are better options (the 4160, obviously, if you want the better upgrade path and the FX-6300 if you want a better system now.)

Ultimately, the i3-4360 should be avoided unless you can get an amazing deal on it.

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TIER 4GAMING PROCESSORS

If you have an extremely tight budget, then you will want to consider take a look at these Tier 4 CPUs. They won’t offer the best performance, but if you’re just looking to build a system that will at least play most games on lower settings, then they will easily accomplish that.

As mentioned above, the video card you choose will play a bigger role in determining your in-game performance. So, by choosing one of these more affordable CPUs you can allocate more money towards a better video card and you’ll

If your budget is so tight that you can’t afford a video card, then the two APUs listed will allow you to build an entry-level system that relies on integrated graphics. This won’t be the best solution, but it will allow you to get your feet in the door.

Tier 4 CPU Comparison Chart

CPU Clock  Cores OC?
AMD FX-4300 3.8/4.0 GHz 4 Yes

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COLLAPSE ⇑

Architecture Vishera
Frequency (Turbo) 3.8 (4.0) GHz
Cores (Threads) 4 (4)
TDP 95w
Process 32nm
Socket AM3+

Overview

The FX-4300 was recommended for a long time on some of the lower-priced systems I put up, but since the FX-6300 has dropped significantly in price, I don’t recommend it as much. However, since it’s consistently pried under $100, it’s still a very viable option.

In fact, in most in-game scenarios, the FX-4300 is going to get the job done just fine. And, if you’re playing games like League of Legends, or Dota 2, or Minecraft, an FX-4300 is even going to be a little overkill (those games don’t need a whole lot of processing power to run.)

Overall, the FX-4300 is a great alternative to those who are working with a tight budget and want $10-$20 extra (the difference between the 4300 and 6300) to put towards a better GPU.

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AMD A10-7800 3.5/3.9 GHz 4 No

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COLLAPSE ⇑

Architecture Kaveri
Frequency (Turbo) 3.5 (3.9) GHz
Cores (Threads) 4 (4)
TDP 65w
Process 28nm
Socket FM2+

Overview

There aren’t a lot of scenarios where I recommend choosing one of AMD’s newer APUs. While the APUs are a great step forward for AMD, for moderate to extreme gaming purposes, they miss the mark.

With their built in graphics, AMD’s APUs can handle most games on lower settings without the need of a discrete video card. However, if you want to play some AAA titles on maximum settings, an APU is not for you.

Ultimately, you should really only be looking at an APU (A10-7850K, A10-7800, or A10-6800K) if you are on a strict budget (less than $400) and you’re a casual gamer who doesn’t mind playing on lower settings.

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AMD Athlon X4 760K 3.8 GHz 4 Yes

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COLLAPSE ⇑

Architecture Richland
Frequency (Turbo) 3.8 GHz
Cores (Threads) 4 (4)
TDP 100w
Process 32nm
Socket FM2+

Overview

Another cheap quad-core CPU option from AMD is the Athlon X4 760K. In fact, a lot of people love the Athlon X4 760K as a budget processor.

In my opinion, though, why not go with the FX-4300 (or stretch to the FX-6300)and a decent AM3+ motherboard and stick to a socket where you have the better upgrade path?

I know that the AM3+ socket is getting old and isn’t as efficient as the FM2+ socket, but at least it was designed with enthusiasts in mind and has some high-end CPU options that you can upgrade to in the future.

Ultimately, though, if you’re working with a really tight budget, then the Athlon X4 760K is a decent option available to you… but probably not the best one.

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Intel Pentium G3258 3.2 GHz 2 Yes

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COLLAPSE ⇑

Architecture Haswell
Frequency (Turbo) 3.2 GHz
Cores (Threads) 2 (2)
TDP 53w
Process 22nm
Socket LGA 1150

Overview

For the most part, AMD typically takes the budget-processor crown. However, the Intel Pentium G3258 has plenty of selling points to it that definitely makes it worth mentioning in the Tier 4 category.

In fact, the Pentium G3258 might be a better buy than any of the CPUs in this Tier…

For starters, the G3258 is cheap. I mean like sub $80 cheap. That makes it by far the cheapest CPU on this list. It can also be overclocked and it can get to 4.0 GHz fairly easily.

And, perhaps the biggest benefit of going with a G3258 over an AMD APU or the FX-4300, is the fact that the G3258 (which belongs to the LGA 1150 family) can be upgraded to an ideal system (Intel i5/i7 CPU with a high-end video card.)

So, ultimately, the Pentium G3258 offers a very interesting CPU option at an incredibly affordable price that will not only give you decent performance, but will give you a good foundation to upgrade on later.

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Comments

  1. Michael says

    For the 600 dollar Build, What would be the best Windows OS system to get is it the 8.1 regular? Basically which windows version is best for gaming?

    • says

      Hey Michael, how’s it going?

      Right now, Windows 8.1 is your best bet. However, Windows 10 is coming out this Summer and it will be a free upgrade, so plan on switching in the near future!

      Let me know if you have any other questions.

      Best,
      Brent

    • ExtremelyRough says

      The i7 is what i would prefer for a gaming pc. I don’t know why they didn’t list that in here.

      • Lorenzo says

        My first build so far

        Enermax ostrog black with blue mesh
        Corsair CX Series 750W
        MSI X99S Gaming 7 motherboard
        MSI 970 gaming video card
        M500 crucial 240GB SSD
        WD black 1TB HDD

  2. Shane says

    I’m looking for a budget gaming laptop under $700 for my son who plays SWOTR, Skyrim, Rift style games…
    Here are the few I found:

    *Acer Aspire ($599.95): Intel® CoreTM i5-4210U processor (1.7GHz/2.7GHz w/ Turbo Boost) – 8GB DDR3L memory – 1TB hard drive / 15.6″ HD widescreen CineCrystalTM display (1366 x 768) – NVIDIA® GeForce® 840M w/ 2GB DDR3 VRAM

    *Acer Aspire 2 ($649.99): Intel Core i5-4210U 1.70GHz Dual-Core processor / 8GB DDR3L RAM / 15.6″ Active Matrix TFT Color LCD Display 1920 x 1080 / 1TB HDD / NVIDIA GeForce 840M w/2GB DDR3

    *Asus ($699.99): Intel Core i5-4210U 1.7GHz-Max Turbo Frequency 2.7GHz / 8GB DDR3L / 750GB / NVIDIA GeForce GT 840M-Dedicated 2GB GDDR3 (1920 x 1080)

    They all look fairly close as far as CPU and Graphics Card…Is having 1080HD that important? I like the cheaper one as it has 1TB Hard Drive but not 1080

  3. says

    The AMD FX 9590 should be the top CPU, it tops all the Intel chips!!!
    Works very stable, I use in my PRO rig!!!
    Also, I only use the AMD top four chips in my customer;s custom rigs!!!
    Works great, no problems at all!!!
    Heat from the top chip has no issues at all like how many on Intel’s bandwagon ($$$) says…
    It is top dog and the company is top old school class act!!!

    • Akhilesh says

      You are 100% right as I own a 9590 which is overclocked to 5.2 GHz. But the problem is, 9590 is sold only for individuals and not to companies. Hence,it is underestimated.

  4. Dustin says

    So now that the Intel Core i7-4790K Processor is out would you re-post this as top pick or still stick with Intel Core i5-4670k?

    Also how much better,IYO, is it to the AMD-8350?

  5. Kelby says

    Hey Brent!

    So I was looking at some cooling options for my cpu. My motherboard has an AM3+ socket, and i was thinking about liquid cooling my setup w/ the H100i. It says it’s compatible with AM3 sockets, so does that also mean it would be compatible with mine, or do I have to look elsewhere?

    BTW my motherboard is a Gigabyte GA-970A-DS3

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