CPU Roundup: Sub-$100 Intel and AMD Processors

By on May 11, 2010, 4:59 AM
Recently we compared a dozen AMD and Intel desktop processors priced between $100 and $200 in order to determine which offered the best performance vs. price ratio for mainstream computer users. But then we asked ourselves, what can be had for less than $100? Today we will be focusing on almost a dozen AMD and Intel chips priced below this mark. Something to be aware of is that this article features just a single LGA1156 processor from Intel, while the rest are designed to run on the company's dying LGA775 platform. On the other hand we have five AMD processors, all of which support the latest AM3 socket and are backwards compatible with older AM2/AM2+ motherboards.
This time around AMD has a significant advantage over Intel in terms of flexibility, but the question remains: how do they compare performance-wise? Before we throw all these processors on our test bed to find out, we will check out each model and give a brief explaination on why we chose them for our round-up. Read the complete review.

User Comments: 14

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Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Very Nice round up, At least AMD got something right, and fairly good gaming performance for the Phenom II X2 at higher resolutions. Might upgrade to one of these considering i'm on a Athlon X2.

Reloader2 said:

The cool think about the Phenom II is that you one some motherboard can unlock all 4 cores instead of just the 2. Try googling it.

ET3D, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Nice roundup. Pity it comes just as AMD has annouced new Athlon chips and is changing prices a litte, but I think this won't change the results too much.

I find it amazing that a $33 CPU can give 82 fps in UT3 and 90 fps in Street Fighter IV. Sure, it fails in Far Cry 2, but it does mean that there are decent games that can be played on such a PC. Of course, an inexpensive PC will likely have other slower components, but still...

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Excellent round-up. AMD really rules the roost when it comes to budget processors.

Grimrocker said:

I would say the prospect of spending $100 and getting the joy of trying to unlock the extra 2 cores off of a Phenom II X2 555 is hard to get over.

anonemus said:

I'm actually mulling over what bang-for-buck processor to go for from my Pentium E5200 and HD5850 rig. This article is immensely useful!

Guest said:

Very helpful article for those of us on a budget.. But, you should have use a 5770 / GTX 9800 or GTX 250 Vid Card. We would not put together a $100.00 Mobo / $100.00 Chip / 100.00 2*2GB Ram system and then go out and buy a $300.00 plus Video Card.. Please Re-Test with a more realistic card for the Bargin Builder..

Steve Steve said:

Very helpful article for those of us on a budget.. But, you should have use a 5770 / GTX 9800 or GTX 250 Vid Card. We would not put together a $100.00 Mobo / $100.00 Chip / 100.00 2*2GB Ram system and then go out and buy a $300.00 plus Video Card.. Please Re-Test with a more realistic card for the Bargin Builder..

What you are proposing is utterly useless from a testing point of view. What is the point of limiting the processors? This would skew the results delivering misleading data. The idea of this article is not to show you which processor works best with a mid-range graphics card. Rather we are showing which processor performs the best full stop!

There is no reason to assume that just because right now an Athlon II X4 owner might purchase a Radeon HD 5770 graphics card today they will not upgrade to something much more powerful in the future. In a year when they still have the Athlon II X4 and require a more powerful graphics card for gaming, something twice as powerful as the Radeon HD 5770 might be available for less than $200.

Gamers are much more likely to upgrade their graphics card before their processor meaning that the processor will live through more upgrades so you want to make sure you are getting the best bang for your buck and testing with low-end/mid-range graphics cards will not give you the full picture.

Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

@Guest, the GPU only affects gaming performance, and while I agree the realistic scenario is to test using a mid-range graphics card, the reason we used a high-end model is to remove any potential GPU bottleneck and show exactly how each processor scales up.

In other words, our test shows where the CPU limitation kicks in. If we were to test with a considerably slower graphics card, the fps averages would be almost flat regardless of the processor.

Guest said:

Good article. I have been working specking a new system for myself and decided on a AMD Athlon II X4 630 Quad for the CPU. I found the price/performance to be a sweet spot in the AMD $50 to $150 range. Its always nice to know you are making a good choice.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

On CPU Testing and Ethics........

While it doesn't really sell for less than $100.00 in most venues, the Core i3-530 is, (and has been for several months), a promotional item at Microcenter stores, with a walk-in, walk-out price of $99.95...!

The performance bump of this part, from the Pentium G6950 is considerable.

So, while including this CPU in the under 100 dollar roundup might have been a tad unethical, for someone that lives within striking distance of a Microcenter store and has a hundred bucks to spend, it's definitely worth owning.

alinsaviuc said:

I bought a Q8200 but now I realize I should have chose a E6600.

Cyberware said:

So u didnt mention that sempron 140 is dual core processor if u unlock it AND u can overclock it. With stock AMD fan u can get 3,5GHz and 2 cores working. Fsb is 260MHz. U get very powerfull processor with few bucks. Try to be more objective.

Guest said:

" the G6950 [...] is a far better overclocker than any AMD processor featured in this article."


Been rocking 24/7 for ~3.75 years now -

just upgrading video cards as required, as another poster said.

Best bang for buck since the Celeron 300A... this article sure backed the wrong horse!

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