How Many CPU Cores Do You Need For Gaming?
Six-core CPUs are the best place to start for a gaming PC. This gives a system four cores for gaming and two for other tasks. You can get away with a four-core CPU, but won't be able to multitask intensive programs. Additionally, while eight cores aren't necessary yet, they help with future proofing your PC.
A processing core is a small unit within a CPU that is responsible for running all tasks on a PC, so the more you have, the better. Gaming requires a lot of processing power and even more if you want to stream or run other programs in the background. The amount of cores you should have depends on your needs but we recommend at least 6 cores for entry-level gaming.
This article covers the basics of processor cores and threads and how they affect gaming on PC.
What Are Processor Cores?
The CPU (Central Processing Unit) runs all tasks and applications on a computer. A processor core is the unit within the CPU that allows the performance of all tasks on your computer.
These cores are made of pathways that consist of microscopic transistors which process the data and instructions to carry out specific actions. There are two types of processors: single-core and multi-core. Most processors made today have at least two cores but can go up to 18.
What do CPU cores do?
CPU cores are responsible for processing and carrying out the tasks performed on a computer.
The processing cores go through 4 steps when they process data: fetch, decode, execute, and writeback. The entire process is known as an instruction cycle, and each cycle occurs quickly.
First, the core retrieves the instructions from either the processor or memory and the program counter tells the processor where the last instruction ended, and the next one begins. After fetching the data, the core decodes it and then executes the tasks. The writeback is the final step and it places the output of the process into the memory.
Bottlenecks occur when one or more components in your PC is less efficient than the other components causing a slow down. A good example of this would be if you upgraded your graphics card to a RTX 3090, but your processor was an Intel i3 processor.
While you have plenty of graphics power, your processor is significantly slower and would not be able to keep up with the demand of the graphics card, thus causing a decrease in performance. A great way to check if you have a bottleneck in your system is to keep an eye on your GPU and CPU usage while gaming. You can use task manager to see what percentage of your CPU and GPU is being used, as well as RAM and storage memory.
Single-core vs Multi-core
There are two kinds of CPUs: single-core and multi-core but almost all modern computers have at least a dual-core. Single-core processors were the standard following the invention of the CPU, but they are no longer manufactured. Any processor that has more than one core is known as a multi-core processor. The most common ones for gaming are dual-core and quad-core processors.
Although processing cores work quickly, they can only work on one task at a time and multitasking can cause your PC to slow down. When a CPU has more than one core, each core gets treated as a separate CPU and allows it to process multiple tasks at once. Each core can work on a different task so generally speaking, more cores will allow you to multitask and game faster and smoother.
Physical Cores vs Logical Cores
A common question when talking about core count is how many physical cores and how many logical cores does a chip have?
Physical cores are the tangible silicon wafers inside the computer, whereas logical cores are the number of threads that can run at a given time on the processor.
Most common processors will run two or more threads per core through a process called hyperthreading. So, if you have a quad core processor which runs two threads per core, your physical core count will be four cores, and your logical core count will be eight.
For gaming and advanced PC users, it is always recommended to go with the highest possible physical core count in your budget to achieve the best performance.
Are More Cores Better For Gaming?
Multi-core processors have been the standard in computers for many decades. As gaming technology advances, higher core counts will always be the better for your PC build.
Over the last decade processors have grown from their typical quad core to now eight cores and more, with many modern games capable of taking full advantage. Other tasks associated with gaming such as chatting on Discord, streaming on Twitch, and editing your game captures all benefit from multi core processors , especially while multitasking.
How Many Cores Do Most Gamers Have?
The most common core count you will find in gaming PC’s ranges between six to eight physical cores.
While many games may not take full advantage of all six or eight cores, it is good to have additional cores to improve multitasking capabilities. With the prevalence of live streaming and content creation, the benefits of having more physical cores expand beyond just gaming.
Cores Needed for Streaming
If you have ever tried to stream on your PC while gaming and you experienced stuttering and other performance issues, you probably didn't have enough physical cores to support your game and the overhead of streaming.
It may not seem like much but streaming takes a considerable amount of processing power to capture the game and re-encode it for the web. The Apex Streamer has different multi-core AMD processors to choose from made to handle streaming and gaming at the same time. The minimum for streaming alone is a quad-core, but six or more cores will yield the best experience.
How Many Cores Do Games Use?
Modern games such as Battlefield 5, The Witcher 3, and The Division 2 are all great examples of games that benefit from having eight cores or more.
As many AAA games increase in quality with features like environmental destruction, lighting and particle effects, and the ability to play 4k or even 8k resolution, utilizing as many cores as possible improves overall gaming quality. Thinking long term about your gaming setup, it is ideal to choose a eight core or higher CPU like the Intel Core i9 in the Apex Xtreme to ensure future proofing for games to come.
Minimum Number of Cores
The current minimum recommendation for a gaming CPU would be a quad-core chip. With four cores, most games take full advantage of and may leave little power leftover for other multitasking processes such as live streaming.
In the past, some argued that you could game with a single dual-core processor. Now, that is generally frowned upon when considering building a new custom gaming PC.
Recommended Number of Cores
The recommended number of cores for a proper gaming experience would be six cores or higher. If you want to future-proof your setup and your PC can take advantage of it, you could use a CPU with eight cores.
Not only for future proofing but also for the ability to multitask efficiently, an eight core processor provides many benefits long term.
Does Core Count Matter?
Having a larger core count can greatly improve your gaming and overall PC using experience. Applications such as web browsing, music creation, video editing tools, 3d modeling, & autoCAD all take advantage of multi-core processors.
It is more common for modern games to take advantage of four or more cores. This means if you plan on live streaming, you want to make sure your PC has more cores to take on the load.
Final Thoughts on How Many Cores You Need for Gaming
The minimum amount of cores you need for gaming depends on your gaming style and the games you want to play. Although dual-core processors are the minimum in the market, they are only adequate for smaller games that require less computer power.
Generally speaking, six cores is the standard amount for entry-level gaming today. If you plan on streaming while gaming or if you want to future-proof your PC then you will need a processor that has six cores or more.
All Apex Gaming PCs have either Intel or AMD multi-core processors that you can upgrade to fit your gaming needs. The Apex Silver has a dual-core AMD Athlon processor that is good for casual gaming but if you plan on running large programs then you will need to upgrade to a higher core count.
A six-core processor is recommended for entry-level gaming but the best way to future-proof your PC is to get an eight-core processor or above, like the eight-core Intel Core i7 on the Apex Carbon. Having a larger core count can greatly improve your gaming experience and if you have a higher budget then the Apex Zen has the option to upgrade to either a 12-Core or 16-Core AMD Ryzen processor, which allows you to play any current or new triple-A games on the market for years to come.
Written By Ginni Correa
Edited By William Wilson