Games are getting more sophisticated every year, and gaming equipment is getting expensive right along with it.
Whether you’re just curious or are looking to upgrade your PC for an optimal gaming experience, you’ll need to know whether gaming is more CPU or GPU intensive.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t have a very straight forward or easy answer, so I’ll dive a bit more into the topic.
Is Gaming More CPU Or GPU Intensive?
Gaming is more GPU intensive, especially when playing modern games with advanced 3D graphics and high resolution textures. AI and game mechanics like calculating whether one object is touching the other is left up to the CPU. Rendering textures and shaders at high resolutions is reliant on the GPU.
The reason I say that gaming is more GPU intensive is because most modern games have 3D graphics and high resolution textures.
On the other hand, they’re not normally calculating a lot of things at once. Well, they are calculating a lot of things, it’s just not hard for modern processors to keep up with those calculations.
This is why many games can be played with mediocre and poor CPUs but require dedicated GPUs in order to run well.
Games are probably just going to keep getting prettier and textures are going to continue to get more detailed.
While rendering these things does use the CPU, the GPU plays a bigger role in gaming most of the time.
There are definitely games out there that are more CPU intensive, and sometimes you can even play with settings to make a game use the CPU more than the GPU. But in general, modern games are more GPU intensive overall.
How To Know If A Game Is More CPU Or GPU Intensive?
The best way to check if a game is more CPU or GPU intensive is to play it and monitor your resources with Task Manager or another program. If your GPU usage is at 100% then the game is GPU intensive and yours is creating a bottleneck, if your GPU usage is low but your CPU is high then it is CPU intensive.
You can also check the game’s website and see what the game’s minimum requirements are. Most games will have a minimum specifications section as well as a recommended specifications section.
You can take a look at both of these and spend some time looking up the CPU and GPU.
If the game recommends a CPU that seems much more powerful than the GPU it is recommending, then it’s probably more CPU intensive.
However, if the game can run on a 4 core CPU, then it’s probably more GPU intensive.
You can also make an educated guess if you look at gameplay of the game. If the game has really sophisticated graphics, including detailed textures and fancy shaders, then it probably relies on the GPU more.
However, if the game prides itself on its AI, fancy mechanics, and realistic calculations, it is probably more CPU-intensive.
Should You Upgrade CPU Or GPU First?
You should upgrade your GPU first. Upgrading your GPU will show an immediate performance increase in most modern games. Upgrading your CPU is a good idea if you are on a very old processor (i.e. 4 cores or less), but jumping from 6 to 8 cores will not make nearly as much of a difference as upgrading your GPU.
Upgrading your GPU isn’t necessarily always the right choice, but more often than not you’ll see a huge boost in performance from upgrading your GPU.
This is especially true if you’re going from no dedicated GPU to a nice RTX card or something similar.
On the other hand, upgrading your CPU from a 4 core to a 6 core will probably show huge improvements in game, but after that there will be a lot of diminishing returns.
A good rule of thumb is to get a nice, mid range CPU and then upgrade your GPU as much as you can afford.
Of course, you can experience diminishing returns with GPUs as well. You should take the game(s) you plan on playing into consideration.
If your current GPU can max out your game’s settings and still get 300+ FPS, there’s no reason to upgrade your GPU.
Even if you squeeze out 400 FPS, it’ll probably look the exact same because most monitors do not have a refresh rate that can keep up with those frames.
Should CPU And GPU Usage Be The Same?
Your CPU and GPU usage shouldn’t be the same. Usually you would want at least one of them close to 90 or 100% because this means you’re getting the full use out of your components. It’s very normal to run a program that uses your GPU or CPU much more than the other, and is even desired in things like gaming.
Most of the time you don’t really want your CPU hitting anywhere near 100%. 80% and higher are actually pretty high loads.
The more your CPU is being used, the less free space it has to work on background tasks that may creep up. This could lead to lag, annoyance, and even overheating.
On the other hand, it’s perfectly normal for your GPU to hit 100% while gaming and can even do so for prolonged periods of time as long as it has proper cooling and nothing is overheating.
Can You Game Without A GPU?
You can play games without a GPU. Many CPUs actually have built in graphics. These graphics are known as “integrated graphics”. Integrated graphics are not as strong as dedicated GPUs, but they are strong enough to run some games. You will probably have to play on lower settings, depending on your CPU.
I played League of Legends on a laptop for well over 3 years without a GPU. I just had to rely on the old CPU and its integrated graphics.
Sure, I wasn’t clearing 100 FPS very often, and I had to play on the lowest settings (sometimes with sound off), but I got it done!
Now, integrated graphics can’t handle every single game out there. You can’t play games like Red Dead Redemption 2 or GTA V without a dedicated GPU, but there are still plenty of games you can play.
Eric streams 3 days a week on Twitch and uploads weekly to Youtube under the moniker, StreamersPlaybook. He loves gaming, PCs, and anything else related to tech. He’s the founder of the website StreamersPlaybook and loves helping people answer their streaming, gaming, and PC questions.