What is a CPU and why is it important for gaming?
With the increasing number of people building gaming PCs, many first-time builders are often curious about the role of each component in their PC build. In this article, we will focus on the central processing unit (CPU), which is essentially the brain of your computer. The CPU is responsible for performing complex calculations, logic, arithmetic, and executing instructions received from other components like your random access memory (RAM). It is also responsible for instructing other components, such as the graphics processing unit (GPU), on what to do.
In the absence of a CPU, the GPU, which is responsible for powering your display and gaming performance, cannot determine what to display on your monitor. The processor is required to tell your GPU what to display. The same rule applies to other components like your solid-state drive (SSD). The CPU performs all the necessary calculations to move individual files, read from existing data or write new files.
When selecting components for your build, we recommend starting with the CPU and GPU to determine the rest of your budget and the type of system you wish to assemble. A mid-range or budget processor may be suitable for gaming at 1080p High Settings, while a Ryzen 9 or Intel Core i9 processor may be a better option for intense rendering work like video editing.
You may hear about an APU, which is a variant of a CPU that features a more powerful integrated graphics chip. However, the CPU may produce slightly more heat than usual, and an adequate cooler may be necessary to reduce the heat output. Additionally, users looking for the best performance in games may not get the desired outcome from an APU. It may be more effective to consider a budget GPU, like Nvidia’s GTX 1650, RTX 3050, or AMD’s 6500XT, to achieve a significant increase in performance.
The world of CPUs is dominated by two major companies – Intel and AMD. While Intel has held the upper hand in the past, AMD has surged in market-share and performance over the past few years with the launch of their Ryzen processors. This has put significant pressure on Intel, who has responded with their 12th Generation line-up that has managed to retain the top spot for performance.
However, since the rise in popularity of gaming desktops, we have not seen any new entrants to the Gaming CPU marketplace. The barriers to entry are incredibly high, and it seems unlikely that we will see any new manufacturers in the near future. Despite this, competition between Intel and AMD remains fierce, with each company pushing the boundaries of CPU technology to deliver the best possible performance to their customers. As a result, it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest developments from both companies when choosing a CPU for your next gaming PC build.
Also read: Best G-Sync Curved Gaming Monitors In 2023
How To Choose The Best CPU?
When it comes to gaming, choosing the best CPU depends on the type of setup you want to build and the other components you plan to include in your build. While gaming relies heavily on the processing power of both your CPU and GPU, the overall power of your build should be considered. For instance, if you decide on the i5 12600K and a 3060Ti, we recommend pairing them with either 16GB or 32GB of RAM and adequate cooling to ensure optimal performance.
To provide a guide for different gaming settings, we have created a table outlining recommended CPUs and GPU pairings. It’s important to note that these recommendations are based on the assumption that other components in the build are appropriately matched. For a full list of the best CPUs for gaming, check out our other coverage on our website.
For 1080p High settings, the new Intel 12th Gen 12100F and AMD’s Ryzen 3 3100 are both suitable for 60FPS gaming when paired with a suitable GPU. As AMD and Nvidia continue to produce new budget cards, these are becoming increasingly available.
For 1440p gaming, you will need more powerful components, such as mid-range CPUs like the Ryzen 5 5600X or Intel’s Core i5 12600K, both of which offer overclocking support for additional performance.
For 4K and Ray Tracing gaming, the best components on the market are recommended. Ray Tracing technology has a significant performance overhead, so this should be taken into account. For the best performance, we suggest the Core i7 12700K or Core i9 12900K, Ryzen 7 5800X or Ryzen 9 5900X, Nvidia RTX 3080 or RTX 3080Ti, or AMD Radeon RX 6950XT or RX 6900XT.
In summary, when selecting a CPU for gaming, it’s important to consider the overall power of your build and the other components you plan to include. Our table provides a guide for recommended CPU and GPU pairings for gaming at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K. For the best performance, we recommend investing in the top-of-the-line components available.
Here is the table:
|Gaming Settings||Recommended CPUs||Recommended GPU Pairings|
|1080p High||Core i3 12100F, Ryzen 3 3100||Nvidia RTX 3050, Nvidia RTX 3060, Nvidia GTX 1650, AMD Radeon RX 6500XT, AMD Radeon RX 6650XT|
|1440p High||Core i5 12400F, Core i5 12600K, Ryzen 5 5600X, Ryzen 5 5500||Nvidia RTX 3060Ti, Nvidia RTX 3070, AMD Radeon RX 6750XT, AMD Radeon RX 6700XT|
|4K High||Core i7 12700K, Core i9 12900K, Ryzen 7 5800X, Ryzen 9 5900X||Nvidia RTX 3080, Nvidia RTX 3080Ti, AMD Radeon RX 6950XT, AMD Radeon RX 6900XT|
|Ray Tracing||Core i9 12900K, Ryzen 7 5800X3D, Ryzen 9 5950X||Nvidia RTX 3090, Nvidia RTX 3090Ti, AMD Radeon RX 6950XT|
Note: These are our recommendations and should be taken as a general guide. The best CPUs for gaming depend on the other components in your build, so we recommend doing further research and seeking advice from experienced builders.
Below, we’ve curated a list of our top picks from both Intel and AMD, giving you a range of choices in terms of pricing and features.
Let’s start with Intel CPUs. The Core i3 12100F is a great entry-level option for those who want to get into PC gaming without breaking the bank. Despite being an i3, it packs a serious punch and boasts a range of features, such as Gen4 PCI-£ M.2 support and PCI-E 5.0 for GPUs. Moving up the range, the Core i5 12600K is a fantastic mid-range CPU that offers overclocking support and a whopping 10 cores and 16 threads. With this processor, you’re definitely getting your money’s worth. And for those who want the absolute best, there’s the Core i9 12900K. This behemoth of a CPU is ideal for both gaming and workstation builds, with a staggering number of cores and threads and a max turbo speed of 5.2GHz for unbeatable single-threaded performance.
Now, let’s turn to AMD CPUs. The Ryzen 3 3100 is a worthy competitor to the 12th gen range of CPUs, particularly the Core i3 12100F. It offers great raw performance and uses the AM4 socket, which provides backwards compatibility for both coolers and other CPUs. The Ryzen 5 5500 is a great mid-range CPU that comes with six cores and 12 threads, making it an excellent choice for multi-threaded performance. And finally, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D is a recent addition to the 5000 range of Ryzen CPUs. With an impressive 96MB of L3 cache and 3D V-Cache technology, this CPU is designed to give you a boost within your games. Combined with a great GPU, you’ll be flying.
In conclusion, whether you’re on a budget or looking for the best of the best, there’s a gaming CPU out there that will meet your needs. We hope our list of recommended picks will help you in your search for the perfect CPU for your gaming rig.
Also read: Best Desks For 3 Monitor Setup in 2023: Optimize Your Gaming or Work Experience
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Does the processor make a difference in gaming?
A: Absolutely! Processors are responsible for managing a variety of elements that impact gameplay, including making worlds more comprehensive and realistic. Understanding how CPUs affect your gaming experience can make you a better PC owner and more conscientious gamer.
Q: Can the processor affect FPS?
A: Yes, the performance of the CPU can affect FPS. With so many options for gaming PCs on the market, it can be challenging to find the right one for your needs. However, by selecting a high-quality CPU, you can ensure that your FPS is optimized, although the impact is limited.
Q: Does the processor affect gaming overall?
A: Yes, it does. Current dual-core processors can bottleneck your graphics card, leading to poor gaming performance unless you also have an older, less powerful GPU. Upgrading to a quad-core CPU is more affordable, provides better performance, and results in fewer lags than previous versions.
Q: What is the best processor for gaming?
A: The Intel Core i5-12600K is currently the best gaming CPU on the market. Its base clock speed is 3.6GHz, but it can be boosted up to 4.9GHz for even better performance. Additionally, it comes with integrated graphics, so you don’t have to spend money on a dedicated GPU if you only plan to play less graphically demanding games.
Q: Which processor is the fastest for gaming?
A: The Intel Core i9-13900K is the current title-holder for the fastest gaming processor on the planet. It took the crown away from AMD’s Ryzen 7 5800X3D and the Ryzen 7000 family.