Best Gaming CPU 2011 – 2012

The Intel i7-2600k CPU is unlocked for overclocking flexibility and increased performance.

When you are building a gaming pc it all starts with your gaming CPU.  Other than your graphics card your CPU is the most crucial piece of hardware for performance.  In 2011 both Intel and AMD have released new processors into the market.  Intel released its second generation of CPU or “sandy bridge” processors into the market early in the first quarter and AMD will release its Bulldozer series in late in Quarter 2 of this year (some sites have mentioned that June 20th is the date).

Because of additional new releases this year we will be revising this article from time to time to make sure you have the most up-to-date information.

In 2010 the i7-950 was the bestselling processor on the market.  It was made to accommodate gamers and computer builders who were looking for performance.  In fact, nearly all the 1366 motherboards used with the 1366 socket CPU were made without an on board video card.

With the release of Intel’s 2600k processor in the same price range it is sure to take over the 950’s place as bestselling CPU of the year.  AMD has a few CPU in the under $200 price range that we really like as well.  Consider the Phenom II 1090T X6 that has 6 core performance for $199.  With a reasonable motherboard you could get a high performance CPU/motherboard combo for about $310.

Without further adieu here is our list of the top 10 best gaming CPU for 2011 – 2012. (See a comparative price and specification chart in the CPU/Processors tab section above).

Top 10 Best Gaming CPU 2011 – 2012

1.) Intel i7-2600k/2600 (k for unlocked)

The i7-2600k gives you quad core 3.4GHZ performance (up to 3.8GHZ boosts) with Intel Hyper-threading technology that gives you up to 8 thread (acts as 8 cores) performance.  With the CPU unlocked gaming fans have been able to overclock the CPU to achieve even faster performance.  Find it for around $325-330 and you’ve got the best price available.

2.) Intel i5-2500k


If you want to save a little money but still get maximum performance from your games, then the i5-2500k will give you just that. It doesn’t have the hyperthreading the the i7-2600k has; however, it’s nearly the same speed and still has 4 core performance and you aren’t likely to see a performance differential in any games that you’ll come across for a long while.

3.) AMD Phenom II 1090T X6 (Also see the 1100T)

You won’t find 6 core power anywhere else for $169.  This CPU has a 3.2GHz/3.6GHz Turbo Core with an unlocked multiplier for over clocking.  Its performance on a budget at its best.  If you’re an AMD fan, then you know that this is as good as it will get until the Bulldozer release.

4.) Intel i7-950

The bestselling processor of this year now has a slightly more efficient model, the i7-960, but for the price this CPU still gives you a lot of power if you’re sticking with the 1366 socket motherboard.

5.) Intel Core i3-2100

This is an incredible processor for the money. You get to use Sandy Bridge technology, it has two cores of 3.1 GHz speed with hyperthreading for up to 4 thread multitasking, and on it outranks a lot of 4 core processors for overall speed.

6.) AMD Phenom II x4 965

You can get these processors for a great price (around $129) and they make a great value buy when you’re trying to build your rig for under $1000.

7.) AMD Athlon II x2 250

If you’re looking for an inexpensive work computer that can handle multiple tasks and browsing, then consider the x2 250 for around $60.

8.) Intel i5-760

The i5-760 is a great upgrade for that socket 1156 motherboard you still have.  You get 4 core Intel processing and 2.80 GHz, up to 3.33 GHz Max Turbo Frequency with 8 MB Intel Smart Cache for around $200.

9.) AMD Phenom II X4 925

10.) AMD Ahtlon II X4 640


  1. Angel Marrero says:

    Just purchased:
    ASRock P67 Fatailty Performace
    i5 2500k
    EVGA GTX460
    My issue is the MB only has 1 PCI 16X slot so no SLI.. So I went back to store and they are will to change MB for a SLI type MB but suggested X58 BD. Would like to get some direction on this . My budget is tight so I’m looking at a board between $125. – $145. give or take. Any ideas?
    Thank you..

  2. What about the amd phenom II x4 970 BE?
    i was think about using it until i came across this website. so plz help

  3. Roland that’s a lot like the 965 I just haven’t gotten around to updating this article in the last couple of months. Do you already have an AM3 motherboard setup? I really like the i5-2400 for just a few dollars more.

  4. how would you rate the athlon ii x4 640 for gaming purposes? i started building my pc a while bac, then couldnt afford to finish when i lost my job. what cpus would you recommend for the budget gamer?

  5. I am hearing/reading alot about the Intel Ivy Bridge chip coming out and how it will be a jump ahead of chips now. I am looking to buy a new gaming rig and was thinking of waiting till mid 2012 to see if the Ivy Bridge chip will really be that far ahead of like the I7-3900’s…anyone else know about Ivy, whether is will be worth the wait?