With all the new games coming out, it’s no surprise that even casual gamers are investing in good gaming setups, whether pre-built or DIY. Arguably, choosing the best CPU for the job is vital to the success of the project. It’s often said that the CPU is the brain of the PC, and thus it will affect the overall performance of the gaming setup. Here, we’ve compiled a no-nonsense guide to help you begin finding the perfect CPU candidate for your ideal gaming experience.
Choose your manufacturer
When it comes to CPU manufacturers, there are two at the top of the game: AMD and Intel. The general rule is that your CPU has to be brand-compatible with your motherboard. In the past couple of years, AMD‘s performance has risen to be at par with Intel’s, so choose what works for you.
Choose your processor
Usually, a manufacturer’s best processors are those in their most recently released generation. This means that the higher the number on the label, the better the performance of the processor is likely to be. For example, Intel’s Core i3 and AMD’s Ryzen 3 are considered their entry-level series, while the Core i9 and Ryzen 9 are considered their high-end series. We recommend you base your decision on other factors, such as your budget and the CPU’s key specifications.
Check key specs
First on the list: cores and threads. Cores act as mini-processors within the processor, while each thread determines how many tasks the CPU can do simultaneously. The more of them there are, the more the CPU can multitask. For gaming, a processor with 4 cores and 8 threads is sufficient, and you risk diminishing marginal return on the CPU’s performance beyond 8 cores, so it’s best to pick a processor within this range.
Meanwhile, a CPU’s clock speed determines how many tasks an individual core can accomplish per second. Thankfully, today’s CPUs are built as meticulously designed circuit boards, with manufacturers able to design models with the electrical properties required for distributed resistance. This means higher clock rates and more complex functionalities.
This also means that a processor with a faster clock speed but fewer cores perform faster than a processor with a slower clock speed but more cores. Arguably, clock speed matters more than cores and threads for gaming, so if you’re looking to get more for your money, this is something to remember when choosing your processor.
The graphics card
The CPU’s integrated graphics card is vital in ensuring crisp graphics in gameplay alongside your main graphics card or GPU. If you’re setting up for some hardcore gaming, however, you can look to add a dedicated graphics card. As usual, the rule of thumb here is that more cores will deliver a better graphics display.
In fact, some PC DIY-ers argue that, for gaming, you don’t need a high-end processor (like the Core i7 and Ryzen 7 series) if you have a good graphics card. Ultimately, it depends on the overall CPU and graphics requirements of the game you want to play, so be sure to check out some reviews first before deciding if the integrated graphics card is sufficient for your needs.
Overall, AMD is generally coming out with the best processors this year, but Intel’s CPUs currently perform better if you’re only using your PC for gaming. Intel’s Core i5-11600K and AMD’s Ryzen 5 5600X are among the best options if you want to go all-out, and the AMD Ryzen 3 3300X is good if you’re on a budget.