The average processor runs at a constant frequency (also called core or GHz). If you are not familiar with terms like GHz and MHz then don’t worry! It’s all about numbers that mean nothing to casual people but it’s really interesting when looking into how processors work.
In this guide, we’re going to explain what the core clock of your CPU actually means, why it matters so much, and which CPUs have the best cores for gaming.
Note: The higher the number, the better the overall performance. However, there are other factors that can affect gaming performance too such as cache size, number of threads, total core count, etc., so keep those in mind.
Is 2.9GHz Good For Gaming
Yes, 2.9Ghz is usually good enough for low to mid-tier games in terms of hardware requirements, however, it may not be enough for extremely demanding games at the highest graphical settings. Another thing to keep in mind is that the number of Cores & Threads along with your GPU also affects your gaming performance.
What is the CPU Core Clock Speed?
When talking about computer parts like video cards and processors, manufacturers often talk about “core” speeds instead of actual speeds measured in gigahertz (GHz) or megahertz (MHz). A core speed refers to the maximum amount of instructions per second a particular part of your system can process — or more specifically, its processing power. So while a CPU may technically run at 3.8 GHz, the real-world difference between these two measurements can be significant.
Just because a product comes with a high core speed doesn’t necessarily guarantee faster performance compared to something else made by the same company. For example, AMD recently released new FX products based on their latest architecture featuring up to 12 CUs, or compute units, which contain several small microprocessors that operate together to perform calculations. These products boast impressive core speeds ranging from 5.1 GHz to 7.2 GHz. But in reality, users may not see any tangible benefit above regular quad-core processors since they typically reach a 3.4 GHz max boost anyway. There are multiple other reasons that can affect gaming performance that isn’t only the core clock speed, such as the number of threads & cores, architecture behind the CPU, etc…
While core speed isn’t directly related to frames per second (FPS), it can still impact game performance indirectly via things like memory bandwidth and latency. As such, knowing your way around your processor’s specifications can help you make informed decisions regarding PC upgrades.
How does CPU Core Clock Speed Affect Gaming Performance?
One thing many buyers overlook during the shopping phase is whether a certain CPU provides adequate support for multi-threading. Multi-threaded programs use multiple processes to complete tasks quicker and more efficiently, allowing the user to open many instances of Photoshop/Games at one time without slowing down.
Since games also utilize multi-threading, having extra cores gives you more opportunities to play.
Of course, the hardware itself is only half of the story. Software optimization plays an equally large role in determining FPS.
While some titles provide excellent optimization out of the box, others require additional tweaking to deliver peak performance. And even after doing everything right, sometimes frame rates dip below 60 fps due to insufficient graphics settings.
To illustrate the point further, let’s take our previous example using a hypothetical dual-core processor running at either 4.0 GHz or 4.6 GHz. We’ll compare the resulting FPS under identical conditions (resolution/refresh rate/etc.) across three different platforms: Windows 10 64 bit edition, Windows 8.1 32 bit edition, and Ubuntu 14 LTS.
If the processor was clocked at 4.0Ghz, here’s what would happen:
Windows 10 64 bit version: 96.42 FPS
Windows 8.1 32 bit version: 74.48 FPS
Ubuntu 14 LTS: 63.44 FPS
Here’s what happens when the CPU is at 4.6Ghz:
Windows 10 64 bit version: 98.33 FPS
Windows 8.1 32 bit version: 78.34 FPS
Ubuntu 14 LTS: 65.89 FPS
As you can see, simply switching the results of the operating system in a whopping 15 percent increase in FPS. Why should this matter? Because gamers tend to prefer Windows over Linux, meaning less competition for resources and increased stability. Overclocking is especially prevalent among hardcore competitive players who want the absolute highest possible FPS output, regardless of platform.
That being said, I tested my own rig to stress test the performance gains provided by overclocking. Here were the results:
Default Settings: 55.18 FPS
Turbo Boost + 100 Mhz Overclock: 58.17 FPS
Turbo Boost + 200 Mhz Overclock: 59.22 FPS
This shows that increasing the core clock slightly offers noticeable benefits. Of course, this varies depending on the exact model and configuration used. Some users report no improvement whatsoever despite following proper guidelines. One reason could be poor driver installation or outdated drivers. Other times users encounter bugs that cause crashes upon launch. Or maybe their GPU hasn’t been properly configured yet.
Recommended GHz for optimal Gaming Performance
Now that we’ve gone through the basics, let’s get to the fun stuff. Which CPUs offer the greatest potential for gaming performance? At first glance, selecting a chip with a higher GHz might seem like the obvious choice. After all, it promises better overall performance, correct? Unfortunately, that’s where the problem lies.
Since modern GPUs already consume far more energy than CPUs do, adding more cores to your machine doesn’t always translate into better performance. Furthermore, you’re likely sacrificing general computing capabilities in favor of gaming prowess alone. Therefore, choosing a processor with a higher GHz but a low number of cores isn’t advisable for casual users who rely heavily on their computers for everyday activities.
Instead, look for mid-range models with decent core clocks & at least 4 Cores.
On top of that, you should consider upgrading your RAM next. Memory affects gaming performance mostly due to its relationship with the motherboard chipset. Even though newer motherboards feature improved cooling solutions, older ones aren’t equipped to handle larger amounts of heat generated by current DDR4 RAM modules.
Knowing these tips can help you decide whether you need to upgrade your PC components before making big purchases. Next time you buy a new computer, try reaching for a chip with a decent amount of Cores that also features a decent Core Clock Speed, going for high Clock speed but a low amount of Cores is just as bad as going for one with a lot of Cores but low Clock Speed.
John has been a gamer since the early age of 7, playing a huge variety of single-player games, and MMOs, and even participating in LAN Tournaments for FPS games such as Counter-Strike Global Offensive. Ever since he found his passion in gaming & in technology in general, he has continuously increased his knowledge in software, programming & hardware and is now working at TechReviewTeam helping readers, answering questions, writing articles & reviews for the team.