For gaming, the CPU plays a crucial role as it works on processing information for the graphics card. But not many know how the CPU helps the GPU process information.
Gamers typically think it’s just single-core performance that influences how well a game plays, but there are actually multiple factors at play.
The CPU Cache is generally the second factor that influences gaming performance, the single-core performance being the most important.
What Is CPU Cache And How Does It Work?
CPUs will have different levels of CPU cache (L1, L2, L3, and maybe L4), and they all work as a hierarchy, L1 being considered a lower level cache, and L3 being considered higher level caches.
Lower level caches have smaller number of blocks, smaller capacity, and fewer blocks in a set, but they’re usually extremely fast.
Higher level caches are pretty much the opposite with more number of blocks, larger in capacity, and more blocks in a set, but slower.
So, the L1 cache is typically the fastest with the least capacity, and the L3 or the L4 cache is the slowest but has the most capacity.
Level 1 Cache/Primary Cache
The L1 cache’s proximity to the CPU cores are very close, and the L1 cache’s clock speed operates identical to the CPU core’s clock speed.
The L1 cache is where the CPU goes to find commonly used information, and each core has its own chunk of the L1 cache; it’s usually only a few kilobytes in size.
Level 2 Cache/External Cache
The L2 cache is slightly slower but slightly larger than the L1 cache. The L2 cache usually is not shared by the CPU cores.
The L2 cache is located on the same chip, but is usually external from the CPU cores, thus it isn’t as fast as the L1 cache.
The purpose of the L2 cache is to act as a cache of the L1 cache, this means the CPU will often check the L2 cache for information that wasn’t stored in the L1 cache.
Level 3 Cache/Specialized Memory
The L3 cache is typically shared by all cores on multicore processors, it’s the largest of all the caches, but it’s usually the slowest.
The L3 cache’s purpose is to capture recent data accesses, even though the L3 cache is slower than the L2 cache, it makes up in the form of capacity.
It’s important for the L3 cache to have a considerable amount of size in comparison to the L1 and the L2 cache because this saves the CPU from asking the RAM for data.
How Does CPU Cache Affect Gaming?
Games primarily rely on the L3 cache, it stores data about AI, and physics information, so basically data that the CPU needs to access reliably.
So if the CPU Cache fills up, then the CPU will have to send and retrieve data from the RAM, this pretty much means the CPU will have to wait longer to receive data.
When the CPU has to wait longer for something, it pretty much bottlenecks the system, and if the game relies a lot on the CPU, the game will suffer the most.
So the CPU cache is extremely helpful for games, it allows the CPU to work faster and more effectively which in turn gives higher frame rates.
In an ideal situation where the CPU could never run out of cache, games would run exceptionally well, and in reality, we can see this with CPUs such as the Ryzen 7 5800X3D.
What Is 3D V-Cache?
3D V-Cache was created by AMD, and in terms of innovation, it’s the best thing to happen to CPUs as it’s pushing the needle when it comes to performance.
3D V-Cache is basically L3 cache, and it’s stacked vertically meaning AMD is able to pack 3X the amount of L3 cache onto a single die.
The performance the 3D V-Cache offers is amazing, it’s evident with the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, the screenshots below should give you an idea.
When we compare the specifications of the I9 12900K and the Ryzen 7 5800X, the effects of 3D V-Cache become more obvious.
The I9 12900K is superior in single-core performance, it has a boost clock speed of 5.2GHz whereas the 5800X3D has a boost clock of 4.5GHz.
Now Intel is known for being the king of gaming processors due to their single-core performance, AMD is able to rival Intel with just their 3D V-Cache.
How To Check How Much CPU Cache I Have?
There are two ways you can use to find the CPU cache, the first way is to check the manufacturer’s website for information.
If you have an Intel Core processor, then head over to ark.intel.com, and browse for the CPU specifications, it should display the CPU cache.
The second way you can use to check the CPU cache is through Windows, and the great thing is that they make it extremely easy to do.
- Firstly, right click the start button
- Then click Task Manager
- Head over to the performance tab
- Select CPU
The CPU cache specifications should be displayed at the bottom right of task manager. From here, you can see the L1, L2, and L3 cache capacity.
How Much Cache Is Good For Gaming?
For games, the more CPU cache or more specifically, L3 cache you have, the better it is for gaming, and CPU bound games.
We can see this when we compare the Ryzen 7 5800X and the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, the latter has 3x as much L3 cache which in turns gives it an 11% boost in gaming scenarios.
Now, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D isn’t the best when it comes to single-core performance, but in gaming, it punches way above its weight thanks to the 3D V cache.
In turn, it makes the Ryzen 7 5800X3D compete against beasts such as the I9 12900K/KS whilst they’re superior in every other metric such as single-core performance.
|CPU||L3 Cache Capacity|
|Ryzen 7 5800X3D||96MB|
|Ryzen 7 5800X||32MB|
|Intel I9 12900K||34MB(P-Cores), 10MB(E-Cores)|
What’s Next For Gaming?
The future for gaming is looking great, with the release of Ryzen 7000/Zen 4, we’re going to see more CPUs utilize the 3D V-Cache.
We’re expected to see Zen 4 CPUs with 3D V-Cache after AMD releases the initial standard desktop chips.
Additionally, the Zen 4 chips have a huge single-core performance boost compared to Zen 3 with the final chips coming equipped with boost clock speeds of around 5.5GHz
Intel seems to have picked up on the cache hype as the Intel 13th gen chips are set to have more cache. It’s rumoured to have A 20% increase of L3 cache which will undoubtedly boost gaming performance.
In conclusion, if you’re just getting into gaming, you should still stick to focusing on single-core performance as that’s still the main metric for gauging gaming performance.
However, processors are now coming with more cache, specifically L3 cache which is known to boost gaming performance, especially with CPU bound games.