Is it time to update the processor in your gaming computer? Start by reading this.

Is it time to update the processor in your gaming computer? Start by reading this.

The next generation of gaming central processing units, known as 13th-gen Raptor Lake from Intel and Ryzen 7000 from AMD, is just around the corner. In the event that you are reading this on the same day that it is published, you should be aware that AMD plans to release its next-generation chips the following day. However, why should you care?

Although both AMD and Intel will definitely come out claiming to have the finest gaming CPU, tests have shown time and time again that upgrading the CPU is not the best way to increase your frame rate. So that you may better grasp your CPU’s function in games and know when it’s time to update, I’ll explain what’s new in the next generation of processors and how it affects your gaming experience.

An explanation of bottlenecks for the uninitiated

All gaming CPU improvements come down to addressing bottlenecks in your computer’s system. A bottleneck occurs when one component in your personal computer is restricting the performance of another component. When it comes to gaming, central processing units (CPUs) have a dirty little secret: they don’t do very much. It goes without saying that your central processing unit is engaged and necessary while you are playing games; nonetheless, its primary function is to get out of the way of your graphics processing unit (GPU).

It is simple to determine whether or not your computer has a problem known as a CPU bottleneck, which occurs when your computer’s processor is preventing your graphics card from functioning at its full potential. Launch a difficult game that you like playing while keeping Task Manager open on Windows. Click the More details button, and see the current usage levels of both your CPU and GPU. If your CPU usage is higher than your GPU utilization, you have a bottleneck in your system.

The majority of computer systems have bottlenecks in a variety of locations; thus, you should focus on finding significant differences (such as your CPU operating at 100% while your GPU operates at 60%). In almost all games, the objective is to have your graphics processing unit (GPU) operating at maximum capacity at all times, regardless of where your CPU is currently set. When you are playing games, the graphics card is the most crucial component, and as such, it should be used more often than the central processing unit.

However, this situation is not as simple as it seems. To begin, having a GPU usage of 100% does not always indicate that you do not need to improve your personal computer. Simply put, it indicates that you need to improve your graphics processing unit rather than your central processing unit. This is particularly the case if you are using a graphics card that is less powerful alongside a processor that is more powerful.

The resolution at which you play is another feature that plays a role in deciding the winner. For example, the Core i5-12600K is around 15% quicker than the Core i5-10600K when the resolution is 1080p, while the difference is closer to 3% when the resolution is 4K. You would be better off investing in a new graphics card with the money you would have spent on upgrading your processor (or maybe even a 4K gaming monitor if you were already planning on upgrading).

Despite this, the majority of the difficulty is determined by the games you choose to play. There is no concrete rule that specifies which games utilize the central processing unit (CPU) more, but you may dissect the games you play to better understand the function of your CPU.

Busting some common misconceptions about gaming CPUs

As a result of their complexity, many people have inaccurate beliefs about gaming central processing units (CPUs). Some argue that a quad-core CPU is sufficient for gaming, while others stress the need of a high clock speed, and gaming CPUs like the Ryzen 7 5800X3D insist that the capacity of the CPU cache is what really matters.

The truth is that your CPU’s core count, frequency, cache size, and other statistics are all significant; it simply depends on what you value most. Robert Hallock from AMD outlined the three main categories video games fall into. Learning which of your favorite games are more or less sensitive to frequency, latency, or graphics might help you determine what specifications you need in a new gaming CPU.

Games like Fortnite and Rainbow Six Siege that include competitive multiplayer modes are particularly latency-aware. These games’ instructions are easy for your CPU to follow, yet they are unpredictable and player-driven. Even if your CPU can complete the instructions rapidly, it needs them as soon as possible. The Ryzen 7 5800X3D’s larger cache provides a noticeable improvement in latency-sensitive games like Fortnite.

Games with a high frequency sensitivity tend to have few seemingly arbitrary rules. Games are very easy to foresee, but they feature a lot of instructions that must be carried out in a flash. An example of this can be seen in Red Dead Redemption 2, where the Core i9-12900superior K’s performance in comparison to the Ryzen 7 5800X3D’s improved cache can be seen in action.

The last reason is that games that rely heavily on visuals really don’t care about your computer’s processing power. The graphics processing unit (GPU) is more taxed in these games, so switching CPUs won’t make much of a difference. The graphics-intensive titles, such as Cyberpunk 2077 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, need you to be aware of bottlenecks. When your GPU is the bottleneck, even if you raise the clock speed or the cache, performance will rise dramatically.

There is no such thing as a game that is just concerned with frequency or latency, but it is helpful to recognize the games’ tendencies. A more current CPU with a bigger cache pool would help heavy users of Rainbow Six Siege, but a game like Borderlands 3 doesn’t need more than six cores, even on a processor from a recent generation.

Characteristics of the underlying platform matter.

There is a new challenge for CPU upgrades with AMD Ryzen 7000 and Intel 13th generation Raptor Lake. If your main priority is playing video games, I wouldn’t normally suggest upgrading to a newer generation (assuming you have a balanced PC otherwise). However, DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 are new to these generations.

The significance of DDR5 memory is overstated. In my future column, I’ll discuss the benefits of upgrading to DDR5 for gamers, but for now, know that it’s not enough to justify spending money on a new CPU. PCIe 5.0 is the most intriguing platform feature.

Even while PCIe 5.0 still has a long way to go before it’s ready for prime time, it was only a few generations ago that we were stuck on PCIe 3.0. For the time being, PCIe 3.0 is the only option for 10th-generation Intel and AMD Ryzen CPUs and older. This may be devastating for your GPU’s performance, preventing you from taking full use of technologies like DirectStorage (read my RX 6500 XT review for more on that).

Should you upgrade your computer’s CPU for gaming?

When deciding whether or not to update your gaming CPU, you should consider your current setup, the games you play often, and the graphics card you use. There’s a lot of information here that will help you understand your gaming CPU, but I didn’t want to end the piece without giving you some pointers on where to shop.

I’ve checked all of 2022’s top-tier video games, and not a single one of them requires more than six cores of processing power. Six cores with a processor from one of the past three generations is ideal. Games like Cyberpunk 2077 may benefit from eight cores, although the advantages become significantly minor beyond six cores.

It also matters how you match your CPU and GPU. The GPU and CPU should be within two generations of each other and should be placed in a balanced manner in the product stack, as per my rule of thumb. If you have a newer graphics card, such as the RTX 3060 Ti, but an older CPU, such as a Ryzen 7 1700X, you will see a significant speed boost by upgrading both. However, if you currently have the newer Ryzen 5 5600X, you likely won’t notice much of a difference.

As far as your gaming CPU goes, there are no hard and fast guidelines. The easiest method to prevent buying unneeded upgrades is to learn more about your CPU’s function in games and how your particular computer handles them.

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