Think it’s time to upgrade your gaming CPU? Read this first

We’re on the edge of a new generation of gaming CPUs – Intel’s 13th-generation Raptor Lake and AMD’s Ryzen 7000. If you’re reading this on the day it’s published, in fact, AMD is set to Next generation processors launched tomorrow. But should you care?

AMD and Intel will undoubtedly come out to claim ownership The best gaming CPUbut the test consistently shows it Do not have the gaming CPU upgrades The biggest impact on frame rate. There’s a lot going on in the next generation of processors, so I’ll help you break down how to understand your CPU’s role in games and how you can decide when to upgrade.

Layman’s Guide to CPU Bottlenecks

PC bottleneck graph.
Taylor Frent/Digital Trends

All gaming CPU upgrades drop to Jams in your computer. The bottleneck is when one component of your PC limits the performance of another, and CPUs have a bad secret when it comes to gaming – they don’t do much. Of course, your CPU is active and crucial to playing games, but its main role is to get away from your GPU.

The hitch of the CPU is that your processor limits your graphics card, and it’s easy to check if that’s happening with your computer. Load a demanding game that you want to play with the open task manager in Windows, click more details, And check where the CPU and GPU are being used. You have a bottleneck if your CPU usage is higher than your GPU usage.

CPU and GPU usage in Destiny 2.
This is where you ideally want to be, as there is plenty of room for your GPU and not waiting for your CPU.

Most systems have bottlenecks in different places, so you’re basically looking for big inconsistencies (like your CPU is at 100% while your GPU is at 60%). The goal of most games is to run your GPU at 100% full use no matter where your CPU is. Your graphics card is the most important component when playing games, so it should be using more than your CPU.

But there is some complexity here. For starters, 100% GPU usage doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t need to upgrade your PC. It just means that you should upgrade your GPU instead of your CPU, and this is especially true if you’re pairing a weaker graphics card with a powerful processor.

The accuracy you play is also a determining factor. The Core i5-12600K is about 15% faster than the Core i5-10600K at 1080p, for example, but there are only About 3% difference at 4K. The money you spend upgrading your CPU is better spent on a new graphics card (or maybe even 4K gaming monitor If you are already planning to upgrade).

Even then, most of the complexity comes down to the games you play. There is no strict rule about games using more CPU, but you can break down the titles you play to understand the role of the processor.

Dispelling gaming CPU myths

Someone with a Core i9-12900KS processor.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

There are a lot of misleading ideas about gaming CPUs because, frankly, they are complex. Some say you only need a quad-core CPU for gaming, others say that gaming performance is all about frequency, and gaming processors like Ryzen 7 5800X3D Do you think that gaming performance is about the size of the CPU cache.

The truth is that the core number, frequency, cache and all other specifications of your CPU are important; It just depends on which of these things is the most important. as such AMD’s Robert Hallock explained to meGames are divided into three groups. A game can be sensitive to frequency, latency, or graphics, and selecting sensitivities in your favorite games can tell you a lot about what you need from a new gaming CPU.

In general, competitive multiplayer titles such as rainbow six sig And the fortnite sensitive to response time. The instructions for these games are easy to implement for your CPU, but they are random and depend on the player’s choice. Your CPU gets the instructions quickly, but it needs those instructions as quickly as possible. This group of games is sensitive to latency, which is why the increased cache on the Ryzen 7 5800X3D provides such a big boost in games like fortnite.

Fortnite gaming CPU benchmarks.

Frequency sensitive games don’t have a lot of random instructions. The games are somewhat predictable, but have a lot of instructions that need to be executed very quickly. You can see an example of this in Red Dead Redemption 2, Increasing the basic count and clock speed Core i9-12900K It beats the boosted cache in the Ryzen 7 5800X3D.

Red Dead Redemption 2 benchmarks for gaming CPUs.

Finally, graphics sensitive games don’t care about your CPU. These games are heavy on your GPU, so different CPUs will not provide much benefit. Include some examples Cyberpunk 2077 movie And the Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, But it’s important to consider bottlenecks in graphics-sensitive games. These games may not experience a huge increase in clock speed or increase in cache, but they will take a huge leap if your GPU gets throttled.

You won’t find a game that focuses only on frequency or just cares about latency, but it’s a good idea to locate the games you’re playing. If you play a lot of Rainbow Six Siege, For example, you’ll notice a benefit from a newer CPU with a larger cache set, but in a relatively straightforward shooter like Borderlands 3, You only need six cores at most in a fairly recent generation.

Platform features make a difference

Corsair DDR5 RAM inside a computer.
pirate

AMD Ryzen 7000 and intel thirteenth generation lake raptor It represents a unique obstacle to CPU upgrades. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t recommend upgrading to a new generation if you’re focused on gaming (assuming you have a balanced PC otherwise). These two generations introduce the introduction of DDR5 and PCIe 5.0.

DDR5 . Memory Not as important as it might seem. I’ll dig deeper into DDR5’s role in gaming in my next column, but it’s no reason to upgrade your CPU alone. The most interesting platform feature is PCIe 5.0.

PCIe 5.0 still has a lot of maturity to come, but only a couple of generations ago we were locked out to PCIe 3.0. Intel 10th-gen, AMD Ryzen 2000, and older processors unlocked with PCIe 3.0. This means that you will not get the best performance from the features Like DirectStorageand it can be disastrous depending on your GPU (read file RX 6500 XT . Review For more information on that).

Should you upgrade your gaming CPU?

Core i9-12900KS processor socket on the motherboard.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

If you must upgrade your gaming CPU to what you have now, what games you plan to play, and what graphics card you pair the CPU with. There is a lot of advice in this entry for understanding a gaming CPU, but I didn’t want to leave it without some buying advice as well.

I went through all the major game releases in 2022, and none of them called for more than six cores. Six cores with one of the last three CPU generations is where you want to be. Some games can make use of eight cores, such as Cyberpunk 2077, But the differences are much smaller once you reach six cores.

The pairing of the CPU and the GPU also plays a big role. My rule of thumb is to have the GPU and CPU within two generations of each other and balance where they are in the product package. If you’ve upgraded to a card like the RTX 3060 Ti but are still sitting on a Ryzen 7 1700X, for example, swapping out your CPU will provide a massive performance boost. If you already have the newer Ryzen 5 5600X, you probably won’t see much of the boost.

There are not any strict rules for upgrading a gaming CPU. Ultimately, the best way to avoid unnecessary upgrades is to develop a deeper understanding of the role your CPU plays in games and pay close attention to how your computer handles it.

This article is part of risbeck – An ongoing biweekly column that includes in-depth discussions, tips, and reports on the technology behind computer games.

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