Does CPU single-core speed matter for gaming? Let’s find out
Updated: March 16, 2023 9:42 am
The single-core speed of a CPU refers to its performance when only one of the cores is used. Today we find out: does CPU single-core speed matter for gaming? We’ll show you everything you need to know about single-core performance.
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Why does single-core performance matter for gaming?
Many games don’t make effective use of multiple threads. In general, the older the game, the fewer cores and threads it can use. That’s because game developers find it difficult to code games in such a way that the game engine can use multiple cores for processing.
Most games will do most of their processing on just a few of the many cores and threads available. So you would have a few cores/threads maxed out while the rest are doing secondary tasks or background processing. This is why a processor’s performance in single-core benchmarks is so directly correlated with its performance in gaming.
Now game developers have started coding their games to use more cores and threads, and future releases will likely be more capable of using multicore processing. But for now, single-core performance rules the roost when it comes to gaming.
What determines the single-core performance of a processor?
The single-core performance of a processor is affected by two factors. One of them you’re probably already familiar with is clock speed.
The other is the IPC, a lesser-known but equally important dictator of single-core performance. IPC stands for instructions per clock cycle.
A CPU with a higher IPC can execute more instructions than a CPU with a lower IPC, even if they both have the same clock speed.
IPC tends to increase with generation, which is why the new 5GHz Ryzen 7000 and Intel 13th Gen processors vastly outperform the older 4GHz CPUs in single-core benchmarks. It’s not just the 20% higher clock speed that’s at play, the IPC on these newer processors is also much higher.
Is single-core or multicore performance more important?
For gaming, single-core performance is most important right now. It is better to have a processor with fewer cores and threads but with a higher clock speed than a processor with lower clock speeds and more cores.
For productivity, multicore performance is more important, although single-thread performance also matters in certain applications. The processes involved in content creation can be easily broken down into smaller subtasks and thus can use all of a processor’s available cores and threads.
Keep in mind that a processor with fewer cores can still outperform a processor with more cores if it has a much higher clock speed. For example, the 6-core, 12-thread Ryzen 5 7600X with its maximum clock speed of 5.3 GHz easily outperforms the 8-core, 16-thread Ryzen 7 5700X with its maximum clock speed of 4.6 GHz.
What are the ideal specifications for a gaming processor?
For a gaming processor, you want a high clock speed, high IPC (although this is quite difficult to measure statistically), high L3 cache size, and only a moderate amount of cores and threads.
Adding more cores and threads won’t help game performance once you’ve got enough to game without a bottleneck – and this is currently somewhere between 8 and 12 threads.
The new Ryzen 5 7600 is a pretty good example of a processor with specs optimized primarily for gaming. It’s a 6-core, 12-thread CPU clocked at 5.1GHz and a healthy 32MB of L3 cache.