CPU Vs RAM For Gaming – What’s More Important?

The CPU and the RAM have a close relationship with handling data and instructions, so they undoubtedly have a huge impact when it comes to gaming.

But you’re probably wondering out of the RAM and the CPU, which has the largest impact on FPS? Knowing this will help you invest your money correctly, and build the best gaming PC your money can buy.

Most gamers will tell you the CPU is more important for gaming, this is because the CPU has the ability to bottleneck the graphics card, but there’s a lot more to this question you must know.

Why Is The CPU Important For Gaming?

Besides gaming, the CPU is absolutely required for any build, whether it’s for gaming, video editing, music production, or programming.

Now for pure gaming, the CPU works very close with the graphics card, it’s responsible for passing resources such as wireframes, textures, models and coordinates for them to be processed by the GPU.

So before anything is processed by the GPU, the data and files MUST pass through the CPU first and with this type of relationship, a slow CPU can bottleneck a graphics card.

1. Games Love Higher Clock Speeds

Intel CPU high clock speeds

Games really love higher clock speeds because games benefit mostly from single-core performance, and clock speed is one of the main aspects of single-core performance.

So when you’re buying a processor, the CPU with the highest clock speed will most likely be a better gaming CPU, but there’s a few caveats.

When comparing two processors in terms of clock speed, you must ensure that the CPUs belong to the same architecture and generation.

This is because the architecture plays a huge role on how much work can be done per clock cycle, it’s called IPC.

CPUs of newer generations will usually have significantly higher IPC compared to their predecessor which makes comparing clock speeds impossible.

This is why overclocking is popular among gamers, it offers a free way to squeeze extra performance out of your CPU, and it’s usually safe if you know what you are doing.

Between Intel and Ryzen, Intel processors have higher clock speeds and better single-core performance, this is why they’re more preferred when it comes to building gaming PCs.

2. Games Love More CPU Cache

Ryzen 3d v cache is good for gaming

When it comes to gaming, the CPU cache has a huge impact on the gaming performance, the CPU cache is CPU memory, and its goal is to reduce time to access data from the main memory(RAM).

So how does this integrated CPU memory impact gaming? Well, the CPU cache is generally the second most important aspect of the CPU when it comes to gaming performance, single-core performance is considered the first.

Games today consist of a lot of random variables and values which the CPU cache helps immensely on. Without the CPU cache, the GPU would have to wait a lot longer on the CPU to send resources.

So you can see how the CPU cache aids in reducing time spent on processing simple instructions which reduces the CPU/GPU bottleneck.

This is why CPUs such as the Ryzen 7 5800X3D is considered the best gaming CPU of today, even better than the I9 12900K, this is because AMD is leading the way with 3D V-Cache.

Also Read: Does CPU Cache Affect Gaming?

How To Pick The Right Processor

how to pick the right cpu

So now you know the CPU is extremely important for gaming, now you’re most likely wondering how you can pick the right CPU for gaming.

Because you can’t just pick up any old CPU and expect it to perform to exceptional or acceptable levels, doing that is the quickest way to get disappointed.

When selecting a CPU for gaming, you must know exactly how the CPU works when games are being played. The CPU has an influence on the FPS and Scalable game elements.

For gaming, we recommend picking up a CPU with at least 6 cores, but 8 cores would be better for multitasking & streaming.

The core count really isn’t that big of a deal, but if you don’t have enough cores, then your overall system will struggle to run due to the lack of resources.

With clock speeds, they haven’t been increasing that much, but 4-5GHz is the accepted clock speed for desktop processors.

Also Read: Is 6 Cores Enough For Gaming?

How Big Is The CPUs Impact On Gaming?

cyberpunk 2077 CPU clock speed difference
Difference In Clock Speeds: 4.9GHz vs 5.0GHz vs 5.2GHz

Overall, we will have the say that the CPU has the second largest impact on gaming performance, the first obviously being the graphics card.

It’s important to prioritize the CPU right after you prioritize the GPU, and ensure that the CPU does not bottleneck the GPU of choice.

Remember, a balanced system is the goal, having a GPU significantly more powerful than your CPU isn’t helpful for gaming as you can allocate a lot of that money into getting a better CPU.

The first sign of a bottlenecked graphics card is that it’s not running at 100% in a gaming scenario, this is because the CPU is held up on processing information.

Why Is The RAM Important For Gaming?

Now the RAM is a whole different beast, the RAM is responsible for sending and receiving data between the CPU, and the CPU has a direct impact on the GPU.

I’m basically saying that the RAM impacts the GPU through the CPU, so the RAM has definitely had an influence on gaming performance.

The RAM gains its importance from its speed, it’s significantly faster than non-volatile storage devices such as the SSD and the HDD.

The CPU relies on the RAM for its speed, if the CPU has to wait for the SDD or even worse, the HDD for instructions, your system would barely work.

1. Games Loves Fast RAM

Fast RAM is good for gaming

Faster RAM has the tendency to increase performance across the board, this performance boost usually translates into more FPS in games.

So yes, faster RAM does improve gaming performance, and you can usually see a boost of around 5-10 FPS. This is because the RAM speed has an influence on the CPU.

The way the RAM influences the CPU is similar to how the CPU influences the GPU. If the RAM isn’t fast enough, there isn’t enough bandwidth which will bottleneck the CPU.

For DDR4 RAM, CPUs love speeds of at least 3200MHz, but Ryzen generally prefers faster speeds. For Ryzen, 3600MHz is optimal, and for Intel, 3200MHz is optimal.

The reason why faster RAM speeds are better for Ryzen based processors is because Ryzen is more sensitive to RAM speeds.

Also Read: How Much Does RAM Speed Affect FPS?

2. Games Love RAM Capacity

Battlefield V 8GB vs 16GB RAM

There used to be a time where 8GB of RAM was the recommendation, but now as games mature and become more advanced, we require at least 16GB of RAM to game effectively.

It seems that running modern games with 8GB of RAM incurs a huge FPS penalty, it shows that the RAM capacity is limiting the CPU in some sort of way.

This is evident with the screenshot above, 8GB of RAM will bottleneck modern games, it’s only when you go up to 16GB will you receive the maximum potential of your system.

Also Read: Is 8GB Of RAM Good For Gaming?

RAM Speed Vs Size For Gaming?

RAM speed vs Size for gaming

When buying RAM for gaming, you should always focus on RAM capacity first, then you can consider the RAM speeds.

This is because the RAM capacity by far has the largest impact on gaming performance, when your CPU has more RAM to work with, the less it gets bottlenecked by the permanent storage.

We just don’t recommend going above 16GB of RAM for gaming if you’re going to play average video games, but if you’re going to play simulation or modded type games, you may require 32GB of RAM.

The speed of the RAM is crucial too, having slow RAM will bottleneck the CPU which can result in you losing a decent chunk of your frame rate.

This is why many gamers will opt in for buying XMP RAM which is RAM that is easily overclockable. XMP RAM offers speeds significantly faster than normal DDR4 speeds, and you should always have it active for extra FPS.

How Big Is The RAMs Impact On Gaming?

Battlefield V RAM Benchmark
16GB Vs 32GB Diminishing Returns

The RAMs impact on gaming is huge, but not as big as the CPUs impact, this is because the CPU has a direct relationship with the graphics card.

Pass a certain threshold, the RAM will have minimal impact on gaming performance, and in terms of capacity, that threshold is usually 16GB of RAM.

You will rarely see a difference between 16GB of RAM and 32GB of RAM in the majority of games, and that’s due to most games using less than 16GB of memory.

Also Read: Is 8GB Of RAM Good For Gaming?

Conclusion, What Is More Important For Gaming – RAM Or CPU?

For gaming, the CPU is more important, you should always invest more money into the CPU than the RAM because the CPU would make the largest difference in games.

The clock speed of a CPU usually indicates its capacity for gaming, core count isn’t usually a big deal as most games receive the majority of the FPS boost from single-core performance.

However, the RAM is still important, the RAM helps with responsiveness, smoothness, and can help with preventing games from crashing.

The RAM speed and capacity both have an influence on gaming performance, and in some cases, buying more RAM will increase FPS.

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