Your processor’s clock speed is one of the most important ways of finding out how fast your processor is, after all it is a popular & basic metric.
The clock speed metric also plays a huge role in the performance of video games, this is because the clock speed is mainly what processes the games performance; but this isn’t always the case.
Clock speeds make sense when comparing processors of similar generation and architecture, other than that clock speeds are pretty much meaningless once IPC(Instructions per clock) is factored in.
For More On IPC: Check Out IPC vs Clock Speed For Performance
Why CPU Clock Speed Is Misleading
Let’s put two CPUs together, one is clocked at 5GHz, and the other is clocked at 4.5GHz, now it’s natural to think the 5GHz processor should always win, but this isn’t always the case.
If the 5GHz processor is older than the 4.5GHz processor, then the chances are that the 4.5GHz will outperform it, and this is due to IPC.
IPC or Instructions Per Clock pretty much define how much work a processor can do per clock cycle, and it’s a product of the architecture. So, a CPU with a more efficient architecture will have a higher IPC.
So, a newer processor, with a higher IPC will outperform an older processor with a higher clock speed. It’s important to know this so you don’t fall into the trap of purchasing older processors with high clock speeds.
The CPU Clock Speed Matters For Gaming
Despite the clock speed being misleading most of the time, for gaming, it actually plays an important role in performance.
At least 60% of the games made are highly dependent on single-threaded performance which naturally means the game benefits mostly from a single core. And single core performance is mostly measured by looking at the clock speed and IPC.
We find that a good CPU for gaming will actually have a clock speed around 4.5-5GHz. 5GHz being high end processors such as the I9’s, but Ryzen processors rarely hit 5GHz without a decent overclock.
But, if you stick to the same generation processors, you don’t need to count for IPC as the architecture mostly remains the same.
So, if we take the I9 12900K, and compare it to the I7 12700K, we can see the I9 12900K has a boost clock speed of 5.2GHz, and the I7 12700K has a boost clock of 5.0GHz.
Since they’re on the same Alder lake architecture, the IPC is irrelevant as they pretty much perform the same amount of instructions per clock.
But, if you compare the I9 10900K with a max clock speed of 5.30GHz, to the I7 12700K at 5.0GHz, even though the I9 is meant to be superior due to the clock speeds, the I7 12700K’s superior architecture wins in the end generating more FPS in games.
Another thing, the Ryzen 5000th generation processors were known for outperforming the Intel 10th gen chips in games, despite having lower clock speeds; this goes to show how important the processor architecture is.
Does Boost Clock Speed Matter?
You may have noticed that the processor you’ve brought has a “boost clock speed”, this pretty much means your CPU will automatically overclock once certain conditions are met.
Such conditions are the thermal state of the processor, so if the temperature is low enough, the CPU will automatically overclock for more performance.
The boost clock will usually be when your computer is performing a CPU intensive task, this could be gaming for example. So, you will usually notice a FPS boost once your processor boosts to its max frequency.
So, boost clock speed definitely matters for gamers, and you should probably have a decent cooling solution to get the most out of your processor’s boost clock speed.
Please note, when you’re not performing a CPU intensive application, there is no reason for your processor to activate its boost as this would be a waste of resources.
Both Intel and Ryzen processors offer boost clock speeds on their processors. With Intel, it’s called Intel® Turbo Boost, and AMD calls theirs AMD Turbo Core Technology.
What Is A Good Clock Speed For Laptops?
With laptops, there are so many processors to choose from, they all have different specialties for example, some are better for gaming, and some are better for light browsing and work.
So you’ll find that gaming laptops would have a high performing CPU with strong clock speeds, these are obvious if they’re denoted with a “H” or a “HX” at the end. For example, Intel Core I9 12950HX, and I9 12900H.
The HX Intel processors actually utilize desktop grade silicon which is why it’s able to perform so well. You essentially have a desktop CPU in a mobile package.
Now, you have the “U” grade Intel processors, and the type of CPU that has a U at the end specializes more in power friendliness. You mostly find them in notebooks, and other mobile devices that maintain battery life.
So, to achieve such power friendliness, the “U” grade processors don’t achieve high clock speeds, and they also have fewer cores, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t a “good” clock speed.
Also, you have G1-G7 type processors which are fairly new, and have a new manufacturing process. They have better power to performance ratios compared to “U” CPUs, so you will be seeing them more often.
The G1-G7 type CPUs will only really come with 4 cores max, so they’re more focused on core clock speeds as their main source of performance.
AMD also follows a similar pattern with their high performing mobile processors having a “H” suffix, and their power friendly CPUs having a “U” at the end. This makes everything easier to understand.
Let’s discuss what a good clock speed is for laptops now that we’ve discussed the differences between mobile CPUs.
A Gaming Laptop CPU should reach clock speeds around 4.0-5.0GHz, so nothing has changed compared to mobile processors.
- Top End Gaming Laptop CPU – I9 12500H: 3.80GHz(base) – 5.00GHz(boost).
- Mid End Gaming Laptop CPU – I5 12500H: 3.30GHz(base) – 4.50GHz(boost).
- Low End Gaming Laptop CPU – I5 12450H: 3.30GHz(base) – 4.40GHz(boost).
A more energy friendly processor should have a clock speed around 3.0GHz, this is more than enough to complete light browsing, and completing work.
- Top End Energy Friendly Laptop CPU – i7 1185G7: 3.00GHz(base) – 4.80GHz(boost).
- Mid End Energy Friendly Laptop CPU – I5 1145G7: 2.60GHz(base) – 4.40GHz(boost).
- Low End Energy Friendly Laptop CPU – I5 1135G7: 2.40GHz(base) – 4.20GHz(boost).
More Cores Vs Higher Clock Speed
A CPU core is a physical entity on the CPU chip, and it’s responsible for processing tasks and operations the system gives it. So, having multiple cores essentially means you have a faster processor.
For multithreaded applications, the more CPU cores you have, the better. This is why you find streaming & video editing PCs focusing more on core count instead of clock speed.
But for most video games, having more cores won’t actually increase your frame rate, but there are some exceptions like Doom Eternal which uses around 6 cores.
But, nothing is better than having a balanced system, that means having an adequate number of cores, as well as having decent single core performance.
The minimum number of cores you should have is around 6 as Quad core processors are quickly becoming redundant. As for clock speed, anything between 4 and 5GHz should be fine, clock speed improvements are rare nowadays.
So, if you manage to pick up a system with 6 cores with a decent core clock speed, then you should be able to game, as well as stream, video edit, and encode data pretty effectively.
A great example of a hexa-core processor would be the I5 12400, it clocks at 2.50GHz(base) & 4.40GHz(boost), and you have enough cores to maybe stream at the same time.
Applications Optimized For Multi core Performance:
- Streaming(Software Encoding) – Take x264 for example.
- 3D Rendering with Blender.
- Multitasking(Having multiple applications open at once).
- Data compression.
- Video editing.
Applications Optimized For Single core Performance:
- 60% Of Video games.
As you can see, there’s no reason to neglect core count as most applications benefit from it, also newer games are starting to use more cores, so we may soon see core count being more important for games.
In conclusion, the best core clock speed is around 4.5GHz-5.0GHz, this is on the top end with processors. But you can generally settle with less, processors around 3.0GHz perform well doing simple tasks such as browsing and work.
And for mobile devices, you can find processors that reach 5.0GHz for example the – I9 12500H, and the HX variants. These mobile processors disregard battery life in favour of better performance.
You can also find mobile processors that are more energy friendly such as the G1-G7 series processors. For example, the i7 1185G7 finds a balance of performance and power consumption being clocked around 4.80GHz.