The processor is generally considered the brain of the PC. This simile is due to the importance of this component, since it is a multipurpose component that is responsible for carrying out the general tasks of the system. This is the most important nuance that differentiates it from other components such as the GPU, that generality compared to the specialization of the latter.
Its importance is beyond any doubt since, in the end, the processor is the one in charge of converting the processes and threads into information that can be understood by the system, and by the rest of the equipment components. This helps us understand the close relationship between the processor, or CPU, and the graphics processing unit, or GPU . It depends on the first to be able to work, although that dependency is reduced depending on where a greater workload occurs, something that we already saw at the time in this article , dedicated to processors and bottlenecks.
Most people have some notions about what influences the performance of a processor, but the truth is that this depends, in reality, on many factors, and therefore the same chip can offer a totally different performance in two different applications , and it can also vary greatly depending on the components we have chosen to assemble a PC. This affects all areas, but it is especially complex when we talk about gaming, that is, the execution of games on PC.
Unfortunately, there are still many myths, lies or false beliefs , whatever you want to call it, around processors when they are used, or mainly focused, for gaming. Around these lies a kind of mantras have been propped up that refuse to abandon us, and that is why I have decided to share with you this article, where we are going to review five lies about the processor and gaming that we must definitely overcome.
1.-A processor with more cores and threads is always better in games
This is not the case, in fact the exact opposite can happen since, unfortunately, games maintain a clear tendency to depend more on other aspects of the processor than on its number of cores and threads. It hasn’t always been this way, but since the arrival of PS4 and Xbox One it became very evident, and frankly, it is a problem.
The first major transition we are experiencing in this regard occurred with the leap to dual-core processors . The Core 2 Duo had lower working frequencies than the Pentium 4, but thanks to their higher IPC ( instructions per clock cycle ) they more than compensated for this drop in frequency, and when they were run in games capable of parallelizing their two cores , the performance improvement they offered was enormous. However, in those titles that could not take advantage of its two cores, that improvement was much less.
When we jumped to quad-core, with Core 2 Quad and Phenom, the vast majority of games were still scaling only on dual-core processors. Battlefield 3 was one of the first games to take advantage of quad-core configurations, and the same happened with Guild Wars 2, but they were exceptions to a general rule that, only with the arrival of PS4 and Xbox One, changed to standardize the two cores and four threads, or four physical cores.
Look at the huge time frame we’ve covered in the previous paragraph, and how little we’ve evolved when it comes to multi-threaded game scaling on high-core processors. Right now, most games scale well on quad-core, eight-thread processors , but aren’t able to really take advantage of six-core, twelve-thread processors. A shame, since these have been in the general consumer market for several years, and were democratized in 2017 with the arrival of the Ryzen 1000 series.
If you have a processor with 8 cores and 16 threads like the Ryzen 7 1700, for example, you will have to accept that a Core i3-10100F, which has four cores and eight threads, will perform better in games because the latter has a higher IPC. , and reaches higher operating frequencies. It is true that the cores and threads matter, but only until we manage to reach the optimal level of each moment. If we exceed it, those extra cores will not be used, and they will not improve performance in games.
Where is the optimal level? If we look at the present, a quad-core, eight-thread processor with a high IPC complies without problems, but the ideal would be to opt for 6 cores and 12 threads to have a longer lifespan.
2.-A processor at a higher working frequency will always be better than another at a lower frequency
Let’s face it, there was a time when MHz mattered. I remember perfectly when I had a Pentium at 133 MHz and dreamed of being able to get a Pentium at 200 MHz. At that time, the MHz race was a reality, and Intel and AMD competed in it. It was so intense that, in just four years, we went from 200 MHz to 2,000 MHz working speed (Pentium and Pentium 4 series, respectively).
However, that MHz race bottomed out on several occasions. The first was with the launch of the Athlon 64 from AMD , which despite operating at quite low frequencies for the time, gave soups with sling to the Pentium 4 of the moment. The same happened later with Intel’s Core 2 Duo , which marked such a big jump in terms of IPC, and thanks to its two-core configuration, that a 1.6 GHz chip could overwhelm a Pentium 4 running at twice the speed. frequency.
Subsequently, we have returned to that race at specific times, in fact AMD had to pull it with its FX Bulldozer series , remember the FX 9590 at 4.7 GHz, but these are a perfect example that allows us to illustrate why the speed of work It’s long since stopped being so important. That chip has a turbo mode that allows it to scale to 5 GHz, but its IPC is so low that a Ryzen 3 1200 at 3.1 GHz-3.4 GHz, normal and turbo mode, beats it without problems.
The working frequency can improve the performance of a processor, that is not false, but its importance is less and less , and a processor running at a lower frequency can be better than another running at a much higher speed, even in current generations. Think, for example, of the performance offered by the Ryzen 5000 series compared to the eleventh generation Intel Core, despite the fact that the former do not reach such high working speeds.
3.-The processor matters less than the graphics card: The problem of imbalances
There is an important tendency to think, still, that the processor has a very small impact when we play, and that is why we must dedicate almost all the budget we have to the graphics card. This is a mistake, and it can have very serious consequences since, in fact, there are games that are highly dependent on the CPU , even if they do not scale properly in 6-core and 12-thread configurations.
We always have to start from the golden rule that we leave you in the first section, and that is that, when choosing a processor for games, we should not go down from a 4-core and 8-thread configuration . If we mount, for example, a processor with 4 cores and 4 threads, many games will not be able to parallelize all the workload they require simultaneously, which will translate into significant performance drops, unstable FPS rates, with very minimum peaks. marked, jerks and stuttering . In these cases, the normal thing is that the GPU cannot work at 100%, so we will be wasting its real potential.
It is true that the processor matters less than the GPU in games, especially when we move in high resolutions (4K), but this does not mean that we should forget about it completely . Assembling a powerful processor, capable of carrying out the workload that each game requires and of “feeding” our graphics card is essential to create a first-class gaming PC, even if we have a limited budget.
As I said in the first section, right now it is not worth mounting anything less than a four-core and eight-thread configuration, and the ideal is to opt for at least a six-core, twelve-thread processor . If you have to choose between a 6-core, 12-thread processor with a very high IPC and another with 8 cores and 16 threads with a significantly lower IPC, don’t hesitate, the former will be the best option if your main objective is to play.
4.-A low-end processor is not good for gaming
It is a topic that has been around for a long time on the Internet, and that I have even heard from some “experts”. The truth is that there are low-end processors that can even be used to render and edit video with demanding applications . Do you think I’m exaggerating? That is because you have not seen what a Ryzen 7 1800X at 4 GHz can do with its 8 cores and 16 threads, a chip that at the time could be bought, in the second-hand market, for just over 100 euros. This is, in fact, a myth that will make you lose money when setting up a PC .
As we have said before, the minimum we need to play with guarantees is located in the four cores and eight threads, as long as the IPC accompanies. Well, with something as cheap as an Intel Core i3-10105F , which costs just over 85 euros, we could play any current title without problems. Yes, in some specific cases it would be a bit tight, but if this is a problem we could opt for the Intel Core i5-10400F, which has 6 cores and 12 threads and costs just over 150 euros. Until recently I would have recommended the Intel Core i5-11400F, but it has gone up a lot in price due to high demand.
And what happens if we go to older generations? Well, more of the same, although in the case of AMD the lower CPI of the first generation Ryzen can end up making a palpable difference when we play in 1080p resolutions and, to a lesser extent, in 1440p. With this I do not mean that they are not perfectly capable of moving current games , but that they simply do not achieve that peak of performance that we can find in other processors with higher IPC.
The conclusion that we must draw from this is very simple, a low-end processor that has, at least, a four-core and eight-thread configuration , and that has an IPC at the level of the Skylake or Zen 2 architecture , is perfectly viable. in games. You do not need to spend more than 200 euros to get a processor capable of moving current games with all the guarantees and that also has a long useful life.
5.-It is better to avoid an AMD processor if we want to play
Another topic that stopped making sense a long, long time ago. If we get serious, it is true that there were times when AMD’s Ryzen processors performed less in games than Intel processors. You have to be fair and impartial, and yes, the first, second and third generation Ryzen (Zen, Zen + and Zen 2) performed less in games, but we cannot say that, therefore, we had to avoid them . All these processors made up for their lower performance by offering a very attractive price-performance ratio.
If we look at the present, we see that a Ryzen 5000 processor, based on the Zen 3 architecture , is capable of outperforming an 11th generation Intel processor in games, although unfortunately the price-performance value is less tuned in that generation. You already know that AMD raised the price of these new processors considerably, and that Intel was able to counteract its gross performance improvements by fine-tuning the price of its Core 10 and Core 11.
Price aside, and limiting ourselves to raw performance, the difference in gaming performance between pre-Zen 3 processors and their Intel equivalents was noticeable, especially at 1080p resolutions , and almost completely disappeared when we were moving at 1440p. When reaching 4K, those differences were totally diluted because the GPU assumed a greater weight. However, as we have said, the difference was not so great as to justify this idea of ”avoiding” them, they were no longer markedly inferior processors, as was the case at the time with the FX Bulldozers.
Starting with Zen 3, as we have said, AMD achieved such a large IPC improvement that it ended up outperforming Intel in gaming performance, a bill that it had been pending since the Athlon 64 era . If you are looking for a processor to play with, and you want to choose an AMD chip, the ideal is that you try to limit yourself to that architecture, although the chips based on Zen 2 also offer an interesting value if you find them at a good price. If not, a 10th Gen Intel Core will be your best option.