AMD and Intel offer CPUs with more and more cores. But how many cores does a gaming or work PC really need? We investigate this question based on our measurement results and give specific purchase recommendations.
How many CPU cores will a gaming PC or work computer need in 2021? We deliver the answer.
The trend for desktop processors is clearly going in the direction of more and more computing cores, neither AMD nor Intel offer a quad-core with the current Ryzen 5000 or 11th Gen Core i generation, the entry point being hexa cores . But are more cores always better and where is the sweet spot for a gaming PC or a work computer? Will a quad-core still be enough for gaming in 2021 or does it have to be six cores or even more? We have analyzed the measurement results of our CPU benchmark 2021 (to the article) and provide answers to these questions.
Trend towards many computing cores
AMD has continuously optimized its Ryzen processors with each new generation and screwed on the IPC (Instructions per Cycle), the boost clock and the size of the cache. All are very important factors for the gaming performance of a CPU. This is because many games still benefit more from high computing power on a few cores than from many computing cores. However, due to the new game consoles in which octa-cores are installed, game manufacturers are likely to place more and more emphasis on supporting multi-cores in their products. Good examples of this are A Total War Saga or Battlefield V, in which the 12-core from AMD are a good deal ahead of the octa-cores. AMD actually no longer launched a quad-core with Zen 3, the entry is made with the hexa-core Ryzen 5 5600X. Intel has also dispensed with a quad-core with the Rocket Lake-S and only brought a refresh of the Core i3-10100 onto the market with the Core i3-10105 (to the test report).
Average gaming performance in 720p
CPU comparison: Average game performance in 720p from the twelve titles: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, A Total War Saga TROY, Battlefield V, Borderlands 3, Cyberpunk 2077, Doom Eternal, F1 2020, Hitman 3, Red Dead Redemption 2, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, and Watch Dogs Legion
to the picture gallery large view
This is how many computing cores a gaming PC will need in 2021
If we compare our measured values of the Core i3-10100, respectively the Core i3-10105F and the Core i5-10400F (to the test report), the quad cores sometimes clearly lag behind, although they even achieve a higher clock rate in the gaming tests : Intel Core i3-10100 4065 MHz, Intel Core i3-10105F 4175 MHz and Intel Core i5-10400F 3975 MHz. On the one hand, this is due to the smaller L3 cache, on the other hand, it is clearly due to the lack of computing cores. Even hexa-cores can fall behind a good bit, depending on the game, as the comparison between the Ryzen 5 5600X and the Ryzen 7 5800X shows. The octa-core clocks 100 MHz higher, but that doesn’t explain the hexa-core’s lag of around six percent on average. From our point of view, the current sweet spot for the number of computing cores is eight cores, which also corresponds to the number of computing cores in the current consoles.
CPU purchase advice 2021: How to find the ideal processor for your needs
Our recommendation for a gaming PC in 2021 is accordingly at least a hexa-core with simultaneous multithreading like that
to grab if your budget allows. With the current CPU generations from AMD and Intel – as already mentioned – there are no more quad-cores to be found anyway. If you want to play brand new games for several years, you have to use an octa-core like this
the even better choice. This recommendation applies above all to AAA games, the engines of which are optimized for the use of many computing cores. A quad core is still sufficient for older games or less demanding online titles. If you want to stream in parallel with your PC, it makes sense to use a CPU with twelve or more cores.
Average multi-core performance
CPU comparison: Average multi-core performance in the 10 applications: 7-Zip, Cinebench R23, POV-Ray, Blender, DigiCortex, Handbrake, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve and V-Ray
to the picture gallery large view
That’s how many cores a PC needs to work productively
In the case of a work PC, we have to differentiate between the main areas of application. Do you want to edit images or videos, create 3D renderings or carry out simulations with your PC? The curves of our measurement results almost all resemble a limited growth. From the quad-core to the hexa-core to the octa-core, the curves rise sharply and flatten out towards the 16-core. However, the sweet spot varies slightly. Image processing via Photoshop or video processing via DaVinci Resolve show that strong computing power on a few computing cores is even more important than many cores. The octa cores
are just behind the top and can clearly outperform the 10-core and 12-core of the previous generation. In Abobe Premiere Pro, the Ryzen 9 3900X and the Core i9-10900K are then in front of the two octa-cores and the two Ryzen 9 5000 models can further set themselves apart.
AMD & Intel: Cryptic CPU names decrypted
This picture is reinforced in the further tests on 3D rendering, the compression of files and mathematical calculations. Here the Ryzen 9 3900X is always in third place behind
often followed by the two 10-core Intel Core i9-10850K and Intel Core i9-10900K. The difference between the 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X and the octa-core Ryzen 7 5800X is 70 percent on average. While an octa-core is the sweet spot for image and video processing, it makes perfect sense to use a dodeca-core or a CPU with even more processing cores for other areas of application.
You should know these CPU terms
Which is more important: number of CPU cores or clock frequency?