How would you like to get more performance for free? By following this guide, you can upgrade your gaming processor and double or even triple the speed of your machine without spending a single cent! Sounds interesting? Keep reading then.
Slapping a new graphics card into your computer is not the only way of boosting gaming performance: an upgrade on the CPU can also provide considerable benefits. After all, few games actually benefit from having more than one core – most advanced engines will use no more than two cores at their disposal anyway. That’s why we’re going to show our readers how to upgrade their processors with ease.
All in all, it makes sense to invest in a faster Gaming processor if you’ve already invested in a good graphics card (something along the lines of ATI’s Radeon HD6950 or Nvidia GTX570). With the money they save on replacing their graphics card, they can afford to buy an even faster processor (like Intel’s Sandy Bridge or AMD’s Bulldozer chips), which will give them the best possible performance regardless of the game.
How does it work?
As always, things are not as easy as it sounds. There are several pitfalls that you need to avoid when planning to upgrade your PC. First of all, if you’re looking for additional cores, be aware that most games cannot use more than two at once – so any attempt is futile unless your goal is limited to running background tasks while playing games (music download/uploads, etc.) You might think this does not apply to you, but actually, it does. Most games are limited to two cores, so the speed gained by having four instead of two is rather poor – less than 10% in most cases.
Here’s an example: The game Battlefield Bad Company 2 will always use only two cores even if you have a quad-core processor! While this might seem strange at first, it makes sense when you realize that the game was developed before quad-core CPUs were available on the market. So while your CPU may be faster, it won’t make any difference to your gaming experience because BFBC2 can’t use more than two cores correctly. As a result, you’ll be better off buying a faster graphics card instead of upgrading your processor.
How to get the right upgrade?
This is one of the most important factors when upgrading your gaming machine. Since you’re looking to spend some cash, it would be best if you found a processor that offers better value for money than what you currently have on your computer. If you only plan on running games and other similar applications (video encoding, 3D rendering, etc.) look for an application-specific CPU: these processors will generally offer much better performance than generic models – at least two or three times as fast! If you can afford such a beast, then go ahead and buy it (you’ll be able to max out every game available on the market)! If that option isn’t viable, however, we suggest trying something like Intel’s Core i5 2500Kor AMD’s Phenom II X4 980. These CPUs don’t offer a significant boost in application performance but they’re still plenty fast enough to run all games on the market at maximum settings, even those that are slightly older.
In short: if you’re looking for more cores, avoid quad-core models as these aren’t very suitable for gaming – focus on getting something like Intel Core i7 2600K instead of a Core i5 2500K! If your main priority is to upgrade your PC without emptying your pockets, go with a good dual-core processor and make sure it has a high clock speed( 3Ghz+ ) to be able to handle most modern games on the market.
Most processors will perform similarly when used for gaming. That’s why you should focus on getting something that will offer great value for money instead of something more expensive (which will only give you a few FPS max). Remember: all games are limited to using two cores, so there is no real need for having more than two.
Decide what you want to do with your PC
Before buying any component for your computer, decide what aspects are the most important ones according to your needs; if you intend to play many games at once while doing other stuff on your PC (multi-tasking), then an octa-core processor may be a better option than a quad-core one. If however, you don’t usually use more than 4 cores and/or less than 3, then it’s pointless spending money on that particular piece of silicon.
Understanding how many cores you need
Modern processors have between 2 and 16 cores (32 threads in some cases). If this was not enough already, there is also threading, where two threads are served by the same core. A four-core system, despite having 4 real cores, can act like an 8-thread one (4 physical cores * 2 HT).
For most users, 6 or 8 threads would be enough to cover most of their computing needs while gaming; some games only use a few threads and some others might average more than 4 simultaneously. Other heavy tasks make good use of extra cores: video rendering, transcoding, and compression usually take more time when using all available threads. It isn’t always easy finding out how many cores a specific game uses because it may vary from computer to computer depending on what hardware configurations they have along with other factors not related directly to the processor itself. In general though, if you find that your games aren’t smooth and you have a good multi-threading computer, then go with an octa-core. If not, either get a faster quad-core, or if the budget allows it, go for an octa-core instead.
Clock speeds and overclocking
The clock speed of a processor is measured in GHz (megahertz) and the higher it is, the better; this doesn’t mean however that all processors with higher numbers are better than those with lower ones: very low clock speeds may be due to poor cooling or simply because they are almost obsolete now. Higher frequencies provide more processing power but only up to a certain point. At some point, the CPU becomes unstable when operating at higher frequencies, so its manufacturer has to reduce the clock speed of a core in order to avoid that. In most cases, having fewer low-frequency cores is more useful than having more high-frequency ones.
Overclocking means running the processor at higher frequencies than its default one. It’s done by increasing both the voltage and multiplier of each core until it becomes unstable or reaches a certain temperature: if you can’t change or increase either, then it’s probably impossible (or very hard) to overclock your particular CPU. Usually, overclocked processors have better stock frequencies and/or potential for performance; however, they usually generate heat and produce less efficient chips. If you don’t plan on overclocking, get an average-priced chip with good CPU benchmarks that don’t require more voltage than usual. However, if you want a chip with better overclocking characteristics, then either overclock by yourself or buy a higher-end model that has more headroom for increased speeds without turning into a fried piece of silicon.
Integrated graphics or not?
Some short points to know about integrated graphics:
Integrated GPUs are not good for gaming. They are made to render the GUI of your OS, to play videos and other decoding tasks so you can watch them in high definition, to support the less powerful 3D rendering effects (like shadows or motion blur), to process lightmaps in videogames, etc. If your system is idle 90% of its time, an integrated GPU would be OK. For instance, if you use it as HTPC (Home Theater PC), like playing basic games or watching movies with Kodi (formerly known as XBMC). Otherwise, I don’t recommend integrated GPUs at all. As a general rule, newer CPUs have better-integrated GPUs than older ones. New high-end CPUs have mid-range dedicated GPUs.
Gaming processors often come with a cut-down integrated GPU, which you can use if your motherboard doesn’t have a PCIe slot for a dedicated card. This is the only way to have decent graphics performance in lightweight laptops. If there’s no other option, this solution will do fine, but you should still consider buying a discrete video card for your desktop or laptop.
Read reviews and benchmarks
If you don’t buy from enthusiasts who already know what they are talking about, you could be misled by speculations and marketing tricks from the company that makes the processor (Intel or AMD). For example:
To sum up, everything I said before: get an Intel i7 for gaming, just about any will do the job fine. I wouldn’t get anything less than an i5 unless you aren’t going to overclock it or build a budget PC. An AMD FX-8350 would be a decent choice, even if they are pricey and mostly go on sale only around the holidays.
I always recommend Intel processors because of their improved single-thread performance which is what most games rely on. For example, an i7 4770 has a clock speed of 3.4 GHz while a Ryzen 1700X has a base clock speed of 3.4GHz but can reach up to 3.8 GHz with overclocking while an i5 7600K reaches 4 GHz max out of the box but with overclocking it can reach 5.1GHz, meaning that the single-thread performance of an i7 is significantly faster than both of Ryzen CPUs in my example. I would recommend gaming processor AMD over Intel only if you want true competition in the CPU market with the cheapest possible prices for equivalent performance.
Charles Grice is a civil engineer, urban planner, and blogger. He is keen on exploring and writing about the technical hacks for iOS, Android as well as Windows.