CPU upgrade - confused by the May Tom's hierarchy chart


Mar 23, 2009
I want to upgrade my PC and so I looked at the Tom's CPU chart here: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/cpu-hierarchy,4312.html

I am confused by the wild price differences. There seem to be CPUs in the top tier that as as cheap as $190 and as expensive as $3,000. How can they be in the same tier?

I have an old LG1150 board with a Intel Pentium G3258 Haswell Dual-Core 3.2GHz LGA 1150. I think it is my bottleneck. When I saw tier 1 CPUs as cheap as $190 I thought I might be able to jump all the way to the top tier - which seems impossible for my budget.

Can anyone help me with a path? What is the best CPU jump I can get while keeping my LG1150? Or is it time to upgrade to a new board and grab one of those inexpensive Intel Core i5-6400?

Thanks so much for any help - my full stats are:
- Case: Antec NEW SOLUTION SERIES VSK-4000 Black SGCC steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
- CPU: Intel Pentium G3258 Haswell Dual-Core 3.2GHz LGA 1150 53W BX80646G3258 Desktop Processor
- Mobo: ASRock H81M-DGS R2.0 LGA 1150 Intel H81 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
- RAM: (2) G.SKILL NS Series 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-1600C11S-4GNS
- GPU: 1024MB ATI AMD Radeon HD 6800 Series (ATI AIB) 40 °C ((1680x1050@60Hz))
- HD: 465GB Western Digital WDC WD5000AAKS-75A7B0 ATA Device (SATA) 30 °

Thanks - keep in mind I am a dad of two teens so I am not swimming in money here :)
If there are $190 CPUs in tier 1 it's because the chart is evaluating gaming performance. An unlocked i5 will keep up with any of the best CPUs on the market in 95% of games. Your choices realistically are the i5 4590, 4690, 4670k, 4690k, 4770, 4790, 4770k, and 4790k. If I was in your situation I'd probably get the 4790k because of the 4.4GHz boost clock on your locked motherboard, but you can look up prices and see what the best price/performance in your budget is. What are you even trying to do with the system? What is inadequate about the pentium? Also provide us with a flat dollar amount budget, "not swimming in money" means different things to everyone that's not exactly a helpful metric.


Thats the problem with tier lists, they are never actually right.
Back when there were fewer processors, it made sense. However, some processors that used to be tier 1 are still listed as tier 1, even though they have newer, more powerful models out. However, both can still do the same task at a "tier 1" level.

Honestly, ignore the tier list.

For you, depending on your budget, I would recommend something like an i5 4590, or 4690(k), or even an i7 4790(k).
Put the rest of your money towards a new GPU, its not really worth it for you to do a platform switch just yet.
A 6950X comes with 10 cores and 20 threads and costs a fortune.
For a regular user you won't see any benefits compared to let's say a Ryzen 5.
(Regular user meaning: watching videos, using Photoshop, office, gaming -- not professional video editing, multiple virtual machines)
That's why they're both in the same tier -- they'll perform around the same for you.

See if there are BIOS updates for your board and look at i7-47x0 CPUs. They are still very potent and you can keep your board & RAM.

while the CPU is your bottleneck, your GPU isn't very far ahead either (trust me, I was using a R6850PE until last year).
While it doesn't make much sense to upgrade the GPU with your current CPU, a 4790/4770 i7 can easily drive any card you throw at it.

If you can set a budget it's of course easier to suggest things to you.

James Mason

1. Update your BIOS to the latest version. http://www.asrock.com/mb/Intel/H81M-DGS%20R2.0/index.us.asp?cat=Download&os=BIOS
2. You need an overall general hardware upgrade, BUT your computer is also... like at the bottom level for it's generation, so you have a lot of room to upgrade for a rather serious performance increase. The following will give your computer like 3+ years of solid performance lifespan.
3. I don't know if you NEED a new GPU, if your playing more games, you definitely do though.

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

CPU: Intel - Xeon E3-1231 V3 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($279.99 @ Amazon)
CPU Cooler: Noctua - NH-L9i 33.8 CFM CPU Cooler ($39.95 @ Amazon) (this is a really easy to install cooler that performs well and doesn't have any sort of physical conflicts with anything else inside the computer.)
Motherboard: ASRock - H81M-DGS R2.0 Micro ATX LGA1150 Motherboard (Purchased For $0.00)
Memory: Patriot - Viper 3 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($59.99 @ Amazon)
Video Card: Zotac - GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB Mini Video Card ($144.99 @ Amazon)
Total: $524.92
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2017-09-25 13:03 EDT-0400



Oct 13, 2009
the tier list has very basic useage like jumping 3 tiers is a good thing. but in the same tier it means nothing.
i was around when people were recommending the 3258 for pc's. it was a great cpu with great overclocking potential at the time, but not future-proof by any means. i knew sooner or later people would experience bottlenecks from it.
dont get the i5-6400. i have it and it is not the greatest. for the price and longevity move to the new technology in ryzen or new platform like a z270 for kabylake.
*Your GRAPHICS CARD is your main gaming issue right now (if you game).

You don't actually SPECIFY the point of the upgrade.

The HD6800 is very old. I would get a GTX1050Ti perhaps as an upgrade:

It's about 2x as fast as an HD6870 graphics card, but is has more memory (4GB vs 1GB) so it also depends what games you play.

So in summary:

1. if doing very CPU intensive tasks, and not gaming you need a better CPU
- some games are more CPU intensive than others, or you may edit video or whatever

2. If GAMING is currently the main issue then start with the graphics card, and TWEAK the game settings carefully (A G3258 + GTX1050Ti isn't too bad)

3. for gaming I'd also learn how to use ADAPTIVE VSYNC. Example (for 60Hz monitor):
a) start game and exit
b) NVidia Control Panel (if NVidia card)-> manage 3d settings-> ... add game-> adaptive VSYNC -> SAVE
c) tweak settings for best visuals that ALSO get you a solid 60FPS about 90% of the time or better (dropping below 60FPS will turn VSYNC off to avoid stutters but it will cause SCREEN TEAR... usually it's better to have the tears than the stutter)

4. Upgrading to a XEON, i7, or i5 CPU of the same socket may require a BIOS update, otherwise everything should just work fine... HOWEVER, getting an i5-6500 isn't recommended as you'd need a new motherboard, DDR4 memory, reinstall Windows etc.

5. Normally I'd recommend an i5-4690K and overclock it but for the current motherboard the linked XEON above may be best (again, if you need the CPU power)
Depending on what is SLOW, you may also want to consider getting an SSD to clone your Windows installation over to.

Again, we need SPECIFICS on what the issues are to help properly.

CPU upgrade - for CPU-intensive games, and programs (like video editing) but generally browsing and most applications are fine with the G3258

GPU upgrade - mostly for video games (G3258 CPU may be sufficient for your needs)

SSD - for faster bootup, and snappier Windows experience

(if you have STEAM or other games you may want to have the HDD mainly for them, and the SSD for Windows and applications depending on your budget... for example, maybe a 256GB Samsung EVO 850 for Windows + apps and maybe a few games)
Top picks would be the i5 4670 ( Haswell ) or 4690 ( Devils Canyon ) although you could splash out and get the i7 4770/4790 but either way you'll HAVE to go used, if you can find any unused parts they'll almost certainly be at a stupid price.
Don't pay more for the 'K' versions of either chip, that suffix means the CPU can be overclocked better but your current 'H' series motherboard won't allow it, so you'll be paying for nothing of use to you.
The Devils Canyon parts are generally a little better, Intel improved internal cooling over the original Haswell design so they're easier to keep cool without excessive fan noise.

But it really depends on your purposes, as Photonboy says, you'll get more mileage out of a GTX1050Ti for gaming than a faster CPU-in many cases.



The tiers are based on the relative performance. Basically, in general you can expect the CPUs in Tier 1 to perform within 10-20% either way of each other, with the actual performance depending on the application & the rest of the platform. What it's really good for, however, is determining if a CPU upgrade is really worth it. The minimum improvement you want to have is a 2-tier improvement, although the more tiers you can move the better; since your current Pentium G3258 is a 6th-tier CPU, pretty much moving to any of the Core-based is an improvement (the compatible Core i3 models moves you up 3 tiers, & getting a compatible Core i5 or i7 would move you up to the 1st tier). Granted, there's been some slight movement in the tiers over the past year or so (4th-generation/Haswell Core i3 CPUs, for example, used to be 2nd-tier CPUs, & your Pentium used to be a 3rd- or 4th-tier CPU); by & large, though, as long as you pick a CPU for your upgrade that has at least 4 physical cores (i.e. Core i5 or i7), you should be fine for at least a couple more years. Note: "cores" refers to a CPU technically holding multiple physical processors inside it, while "threads" refers to a core's ability to run 2 threads simultaneously. Hence, pre-Coffee Lake desktop Core i5s are usually 4C/4T CPUs, with their Core i7 counterparts being 4C/8T CPUs (your Pentium is a 2C/2T CPU, while the Core i3 is a 2C/4T CPU). More cores/threads is generally better, although currently once you're past 4 cores/threads (& especially past 8 cores/threads) there are literally only a handful of applications (almost none of which are games) that can even take advantage of those extra threads/cores.

For keeping your current motherboard, you have a lot of CPUs available to pick from (http://www.asrock.com/mb/Intel/H81M-DGS%20R2.0/index.us.asp?cat=CPU). That being said, the particular one you want to pick is going to depend on your usage needs & your budget.

  • ■ Before picking a CPU, check the list of supported CPUs to make sure that you don't need to update the BIOS on your motherboard. You should probably be OK, as most of the compatible Core i5/i7 & Xeon CPUs list the same BIOS version (P1.20) as your Pentium G3258, but double-check before switching out.
    ■ If you're really limited on your budget, then you may want to stick with a 4C/4T CPU. The minimum I would recommend is the i5-4460. It's roughly $188 USD (https://pcpartpicker.com/products/cpu/#k=24&sort=price&s=12,13,26), & the core speeds are identical to your Pentium, but unlike your Pentium it has Turbo (which, as long as it runs cool enough, will let it run just a tiny bit faster). Plus, it doubles your cores/threads. The i5-4570 is similar (albeit with faster Turbo speeds), but will run you about $90 USD more. The only issue with going with any of the Core i5 CPUs is that we've started seeing more games in the past year that show definite performance gaps between 4C/4T Core i5 CPUs & their 4C/8T Core i7 brethren.
    ■ If you want to extend the life of your machine more & get a 4C/8T CPU, I would strongly recommend something like the Xeon E3-1240 V3 (note: that V3 is very important, as it signifies a Xeon CPU compatible with your Socket LGA 1150 board; the 1240/1240 V2 models were the older Sandy Bridge/Ivy Bridge models that only worked with Socket LGA 1155 motherboards, while the 1240 V5/V6 models are the newer Skylake/Kaby Lake models that need a Socket LGA 1151 motherboard to work). This particular Xeon is pretty much identical to the Core i7-4770, but at $268 USD is significantly cheaper than the Core i7 ($399 USD).
    ■ You may get a little confused if you see chips with a "K" after them (i.e. i7-4770 vs. i7-4770K), especially when they seem to be rated as slightly faster. While they are slightly faster, those base & Turbo speeds aren't really significant. The main feature of the "K" CPUs is that they can be overclocked beyond their base speeds...but in order to do so, you have to have the right chipset in your motherboard. Your system doesn't support overclocking (H81 chipset), so you won't be able to overclock them. More importantly, however, Intel assumes that everyone buying the "K" CPUs is going to overclock them anyway, so they don't sell them with a CPU cooler. Granted, it's quite possible that your Pentium's existing cooler would work with one of these CPUs...but your Pentium is rated at 53W TDP (Thermal Design Power; essentially, it's a rough estimate of how hot your CPU will run at full power), whereas the Core i5/i7 & Xeon CPUs are rated at 84 or 80W, so you'd run a bigger risk of your CPU having to run slower to maintain a safe operating temperature. Going with the Xeon or a non-K Core i5/i7 means you don't have to spend another $25-50USD on a CPU cooler.
Beyond that, there are only maybe 2 other suggestions I would make for potential upgrades:

    ■ Consider getting an SSD. Aside from texture & cutscene loading, the effect on gaming will be minimal, but the overall speed of your system (especially boot times) will be noticeable. I love my Samsung 850 EVO, which uses SATA III; your motherboard has 2 SATA III & 2 SATA II ports, so you should be able to add 1. Their 120GB is about $77 USD, but for $99 USD you can get the 250GB model. You can then use your old hard drive for data storage (https://pcpartpicker.com/products/internal-hard-drive/#t=0&i=25&S=110000,525000&sort=price&page=1). The only downside, however, is that you'll need to take the time to reinstall Windows & all of your apps/games.
    ■ Consider replacing your GPU. The only thing you have to worry about here is whether your power supply has enough juice to support it. However, if nothing else you could upgrade to a GTX 1050, which is a 3-tier improvement over the Radeon HD 6870 & 4 tiers better than the HD 6850 (http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gpu-hierarchy,4388.html); plus, there are plenty of the lower-power models that only draw power directly from the PCIe slot on the motherboard (unlike more powerful cards like the GTX 1060 or AMD's RX 480/580, which usually require 1 or more direct power connections to your power supply). That's also going to depend on your budget, as even the GTX 1050s are running $120-140 USD, with the GTX 1060 or RX 480/580 running at least twice that.

In summary: for about $200-270 USD, you can get a better/faster CPU for your system. Another $80-100 USD will get you a nice SSD that will also help your system run faster in general. If you still have another $150-300 USD to spare, you can also upgrade your GPU. If you decide to go with the SSD & GPU, you're looking at a budget roughly between $420 & 700 USD (depending on the options you pick). While that may seem like a lot, consider that replacing your system with a new Kaby Lake i7-7700, compatible ASRock mATX motherboard, & 16GB of DDR4-2400 RAM will run you just over $500 USD by itself (https://pcpartpicker.com/list/gxqWFd), & still leaves you with the old GPU & hard drive. Plus you'd need to reinstall Windows from scratch (also necessary if you decide to get the SSD, but not necessary if you only upgrade the CPU and/or GPU). And to be honest, I doubt you'd see much difference in performance between the Kaby Lake system & an upgraded version of your system.


Hey, no problem. It may seem confusing, but it's because there are no real cut-and-dried answers, especially when it involves upgrading an existing machine. If it were a very old machine -- like an old Core 2 Quad-based system -- then it would be slightly simpler, because it would be time to move up to a brand new set of hardware. But when there's still some potential life in the system, that's when you have to balance the cost of complete replacement vs. upgrading.


Mar 23, 2009
I play mostly MMO games (WoW, SWTOR, FFIX) and I think those are notoriously CPU intensive. That is why I was looking into a CPU upgrade. People on the MMO forums said my issues with shadows and stutters are CPU based, not GPU, based on the game.

Is this true? Is there something I should look for in the game to make sure it will take advantage of multiple cores, hyperthreading, turbo, or any of these other terms I do not understand?

Is it possible for me to upgrade my CPU but then have my game ignore the improvement since the game does not make use of the new cores/features?


Best thing to do is read reviews on sites like here, Anandtech, & Techspot. As part of their testing of games, they usually test across multiple CPUs, including CPUs with varying numbers of cores/threads. The CPU tests will give you an idea of whether a particular game is a) CPU-heavy or not, & b) whether or not it ignores any cores/threads past 2/4/8/etc.

Right now, about the only game I can think of that really scales up past 8 cores/threads with any regularity is Ashes of the Singularity. Most games of even the past couple of years see little improvement going past 4 cores/threads (although most of them do see a boost when going from 2C/2T & 2C/4T CPUs to 4C/4T+ CPUs), & those that do show a boost don't see much past the 4C/8T mark.


Mar 23, 2009
Thanks! So your guess is that if I move to any 4c/4t I'd probably see an improvement in most games? That makes sense. To be honest I was not sure if 'most' games made use of the full four cores.

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