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What Does A CPU Do For Gaming? Is It Important?

CPUs are the brains of a computer, and a PC can’t work without one. Although the GPU gets the most attention when it comes to gaming, CPUs also play a vital role, especially in the absence of a GPU.

Many people would like you to believe that a good CPU is unnecessary for gaming, but that is untrue. Keep reading to find out just how important a CPU is.

What Does A CPU Do For Gaming?

The CPU processes actions taken in your game and transmits data to the GPU for further processing. Because of this, the GPU cannot work without the CPU. While the GPU is responsible for generating graphics, a weak CPU will bottleneck your PC and affect the framerate of your game.

Even though the CPU is less important than the GPU when gaming, it’s still important to balance the capabilities of both. An extremely good GPU matched with a terrible CPU will leave you with a severely underperforming system.

A powerful GPU is capable of processing heaps of data very rapidly. If your CPU is too weak, then your CPU may be unable to keep up with your GPU, resulting in reduced performance.

Mismatched capabilities between both pieces create a bottleneck in your computer. Even if you have a top-of-the-line GPU, it won’t perform at its best if the CPU can’t keep up with its speed.

This leaves you with performance better suited to a lower-grade GPU.

Will Upgrading CPU Improve Performance? 

Upgrading your CPU can greatly increase gaming performance. A CPU with a higher core count will allow you to run more tasks alongside gaming, such as streaming, without losing performance, and a higher clock speed will improve in-game features like AI, draw distance, and FPS.

While knowing the best CPUs available is good knowledge to have as a guideline when getting a new CPU, it’s far more important to know how to decide for yourself. 

There are two major features to take note of when choosing a CPU: clock speed and core count.

Clock speed refers to how fast the CPU handles tasks. It is usually measured in Gigahertz (GHz). Hertz is a unit that measures the number of cycles a CPU can do per second, and a Gigahertz stands for a billion cycles.

Generally, a faster clock speed will usually translate to better FPS while gaming.

The core count is how many cores your processor has. A processor with more cores can make more calculations simultaneously, improving its multitasking performance.

When it comes to gaming, the core count is not as important as clock speed. When choosing between multiple processors for a gaming PC, prioritize the ones with the highest clock speed and at least dual or quad-cores.

How Does CPU Affect FPS?

A better CPU improves FPS due to faster processing speeds. Although the GPU is the primary source of good FPS, a slow CPU can cause a bottleneck leading to a lower FPS. A good CPU becomes extremely important for FPS if your PC has integrated graphics instead of a discrete graphics card.

FPS drops can significantly reduce the quality of your game, causing stutters and sometimes making the game unplayable. The best way to improve your FPS is to get a better GPU with higher processing power.

Alternatively, you can also overclock your existing GPU to boost its performance. 

However, overclocking might require you to get a stronger cooling system as it can greatly increase the heat produced by the GPU.

Is CPU Or GPU More Important For Gaming?

The GPU is far more important for gaming because of how many gaming processes are dependent on it. While gaming, the CPU simply instructs the GPU on what to do. The actual heavy processing of animation, video rendering, geometry calculation, and much more is handled by the GPU.

One cannot work properly without the other. The GPU is essentially a horse, and the CPU is its rider. Neither can get very far on their own. The horse requires direction to get to the proper destination, and the rider knows the direction but needs the horse to cross the distance.

But while both are dependent on the other, you’re more likely to need a top-grade GPU than you are to need a top-grade CPU.

The majority of decent dual or quad-core processors will run your game quite fine, although a higher quality processor can improve your performance.

In contrast, some games won’t run at all without a good enough GPU. The number of tasks required to run some games simply can’t be done by low-grade GPUs.

The bright side to this is that this is relatively rare—most modern games are optimized to run on mid-range GPUs, and some can run on computers with CPUs only.

The Best CPUs For Gaming

Here are some of the best gaming CPUs, all available on Amazon:

Intel Core i9-12900K

If price is not an issue, the i9-12900k is by far the best processor you can get right now. It significantly outperforms the Ryzen 9 5950X, which is the best Ryzen processor currently available. However, it carries a hefty price tag. 

Intel Core i5-12600K

This Core i5 chip reaches speeds of up to 4.9GHz and comes with ten cores. It is outperformed by the Core i9-12900k, which reaches up to 5.2GHz, but it will give you comparable performance for a significantly lower price.

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

This chip is not the best AMD chip available, but like the Core i5 12600K, it gives you the best value for your money. It is outperformed by the Ryzen 9 5900X, but being so much cheaper, you’re better off with 5600X unless you plan to use your computer for heavy tasks other than gaming.

Overall, I’d recommend the Intel Core i5-12600K as the overall best. It’s the perfect mix of budget-friendly and performance.

The performance increase from upgrading to the more expensive Core i9-12900K is noticeable, but not large enough to justify the price difference if you will only use it for gaming.

Final Thoughts

Although the quality of GPU is far more important when it comes to gaming, having a decent CPU is still necessary for a smooth experience.

A dual or quad-core processor will get the job done for most games. If you only plan to do light gaming, integrated graphics and a good CPU should be enough.

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👋 Hey There, I'm Eric!

Since 2018, I've been making streams come true.

I like gaming, streaming and watching other people stream. I created this website to help streamers and viewers of streams answer some of the questions they may have regarding live streaming. I am a Twitch affiliate and currently stream on Twitch 3 days a week. I hope you find my content helpful. Feel free to stop by one of my streams to say hi.