Building a gaming PC to many people can seem like a difficult and confusing task considering there’s so many parts to choose from.
For a gaming PC, selecting the right processor is crucial, and you usually have to pick between a CPU with many cores or a CPU with a higher clock speed.
The truth is for gaming if you need a balance of the both, you can’t have a competent gaming PC with very few cores, and GHz is important for pushing the frame rate.
What Are CPU Cores And Do They Help In Gaming?
On a processor, physically it will consist of many cores located on the CPU die, each core has its own individual clock speeds, and its own CPU Cache.
Each core can process information independently from each other which aids significantly in multitasking, and multithreaded applications.
So more cores literally translates to more performance in most cases, this is because not all applications respond to multiple cores the same.
Games for example are notorious for being hard to optimize for many cores whereas video editing, and streaming software is significantly easier.
What Is GHz(Clock Speed) And Does It Help In Gaming
For gaming, you probably hear that clock speed performance is key for gaming, and that’s partly true, this is because the majority of games (60%) leverage mostly one core.
The CPUs clock speed defines how many times the processor can cycle per second. If a CPU has a clock speed of 5GHz, it means the processor will cycle 5 billion times per second.
With each clock speed, the CPU will process data, so CPUs with higher clock speeds will generally process information faster.
Take a CPU clocked at 4GHz, and a CPU clocked at 5GHz, the CPU clocked at 5GHz will process information faster, and will perform better in games.
But this is only true if we keep the CPUs the same in terms of microarchitecture because not all processors process the same amount of information per clock cycle.
What Is Single-Core Performance & Is It Important For Gaming
Single-core performance is just a performance metric, and it’s made up of the processor’s clock speed and the IPC.
It’s just a way of understanding how well a single core can process information which is important for gaming and FPS.
It’s important to not only look at clock speed when judging a processor’s single-core performance, because single-core performance increases per CPU generation regardless of the clock speed.
The reason why the single-core performance increases with each generation is due to IPC increases, the CPU is performing more instructions per clock cycle.
If we look at the 12th gen Intel CPUs compared to the 11th gen CPUs, we find that the 12th gen CPUs outperform the 11th gen CPUs in terms of single-core performance.
The 11900K has a higher clock speed than the 12900K and still loses to its 12th gen counterpart, this is due to IPC increases.
So, if you’re buying a CPU for gaming, don’t just focus on clock speed, consider the CPU’s generation so you don’t make a bad purchase.
Also Read: Single Core Vs Multi Core
How Many Cores For Gaming?
If you were to ask me how to pick the right CPU for gaming, I’d tell you to pick a CPU with at least 6 cores, with a decent clock speed, between 4-5GHz.
So that usually means going for a mid tier processor such as an I5 or a Ryzen 5, they usually come with fewer cores than their higher models, but have decent clock speeds.
But you honestly can’t go wrong with an 8 core processor or more, this has its benefits such as better multitasking, and handling of the computer’s resources.
Below are games that benefit from higher core counts:
|Recommended Core Count
|Forza Horizon 5
|Far Cry 6
|Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
As you can see from the table above, the majority of triple A games will use between 2-6 cores, so in terms of raw system requirements, the core count isn’t that important for gaming.
Also Read: Is 6 Cores Enough For Gaming
What Is A Good CPU Clock Speed For Gaming?
In terms of clock speed, you need to be very careful as it can be misleading, and that’s because of how single-core performance actually works.
But, we recommended picking up a CPU with a clock speed between 4 and 5GHz for gaming, higher is definitely better at reducing the CPU/GPU bottleneck.
The clock speed doesn’t really tell the full story when it comes to gaming performance, because clock speed is only half of the story, the other half is IPC which stands for Instructions Per Cycle.
The truth is, processors and their clock speeds have not been increasing for a long time, it’s actually a bad idea to keep pushing for higher clock speeds.
Higher clock speeds come with significantly higher power requirements, and it’s inefficient when increasing single-core performance.
Also Read: What Is A Good CPU Clock Speed
How To Increase CPU’s Clock Speed
Increasing the CPU’s clock speed is possible through overclocking, but you have to be wary of what CPU you have as not all CPUs can overclock.
Overclocking the CPU can result in significant FPS gains in games especially if the CPU is limiting the GPU(bottlenecking).
Overclocking the CPU is done through the BIOS, (ensure your motherboard supports overclocking), and you’re meant to increase the clock speed modifier.
Increasing the clock speed modifier is usually done in small increments, this is so you don’t crash the system, and it’s easier to find a stable overclock this way.
Is Overclocking Safe?
With overclocking, there’s always a possibility of damaging the CPU, but in general, it’s a safe and easy way to boost the performance, and gain more FPS in games.
The first step for a safe overclock is to ensure that your motherboard is decent for overclocking. Good overclocking motherboards have decent VRMs.
Motherboards with decent VRMs are usually on the higher end side of things, so you might be spending a bit more money on the motherboard.
It’s worth getting a high end motherboard for overclocking as it will deliver cleaner power, and more stable voltages to the CPU cores.
Secondly, ensure you have a decent CPU cooler, overclocking will dramatically increase the temperatures and power draw due to the clock speed increases.
And finally, increasing the core voltage may become necessary once the overclock values become unstable, this is where you can damage the CPU, so be careful.
If we’re being honest, the clock speed is still king when picking out a CPU for gaming, the core count really is still important however, so don’t neglect it.
Increasing the core count will likely present diminishing returns, but increasing the clock speed will always dramatically increase the FPS in games.