There are many factors you must take into consideration when choosing a processor for your gaming PC. Start by looking at the two most popular brands – Intel and AMD.
Intel i5 vs. AMD
When comparing Intel and AMD CPUs, it can be helpful to think of them in tiers. Intel’s highest tier CPU is the Core i9, while the highest tier CPU from AMD is called Threadripper.
The main difference between these Intel and AMD products is price: Intel CPUs tend to be more expensive than their equivalent-performing counterparts from AMD (note: for this example, I’m using “equivalent” based on clock speed only).
So essentially, if you’re building a gaming PC with an $800 budget or less, then you should be looking at an AMD CPU. Conversely, if you don’t have any budgetary restrictions, you must opt for Intel CPUs as they offer slightly better performance.
Intel Core i5 vs. Ryzen 5
Currently, there are two main lines of CPUs made by AMD: Ryzen 3 and Ryzen 5. When comparing these two product lines against their equivalent Intel models, you’ll find that they’re about equal in terms of price – but not always equal in terms of performance.
For instance, an 8-threaded CPU from Intel will easily outperform an 8-threaded CPU from AMD for games – however, it isn’t quite as simple as that.
Ryzen 5 CPUs have a larger cache memory (larger amount of data your PC can easily access) and more cores than the corresponding Ryzen 3 CPUs, which means that they will be slightly better for gaming in most cases.
On the other hand, Intel’s Core i5 CPUs tend to outperform their i7 counterparts in games, but this is only true up to a certain point due to features such as hyperthreading and caching methods.
The bottom line: if you’re building an $800 PC, then go with an 8-threaded AMD Ryzen 5 CPU or equivalent Intel model. If you plan to build a more complex gaming PC, check out the information below on choosing between an Intel Core i3 vs. an i5 vs. an i7 CPU.
Intel Core i3 vs. i5 vs. i7 CPUs – What’s the Difference?
In short, a higher number in these models essentially means that it has more of the feature/attributes from the previous tier list at a slightly lower cost (so, for example, if an Intel Core i5 has hyperthreading, then the next model up from that would be an Intel Core i7, which has hyperthreading, along with other new features).
It eventually comes down to whether you want better performance than what AMD Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 3 CPUs offer.
If you want something with cache memory, go for an Intel Core i5 or equivalent AMD model. Likewise, if you want the best of what Intel has to offer, go with an i7 CPU.
What Else to Check?
A larger cache generally means that the processor will be able to access memory more efficiently. This limit can affect performance in some games, but usually not by much – so don’t worry too much about this one when choosing between AMD/Intel products.
Overlocking support is an essential consideration if you plan to overclock your CPU because CPUs from Intel and AMD are built differently and need different motherboards.
However, most modern motherboards support both of these brands’ CPUs without issue, so this shouldn’t be a problem either way.
In most cases, it doesn’t matter whether or not your motherboard’s socket type is compatible with the CPU you choose unless you plan on upgrading CPUs down the line.
For example, if you go with an Intel Core i7 7700K, you’ll need a Z270 or Z170 motherboard to overclock it – but any of these boards can support chips up to the i5 7600K.
Number of Cores vs. Clock Speed
CPU cores come into play when you’re trying to multitask or do things simultaneously on your PC. So, if you tend to have lots of applications open at once, then having more cores will help tremendously.
On the other hand, clock speed generally affects how fast your CPU is for games and single-threaded programs (so this number would affect if, say, audio in a game stutters due to a low frame rate).
Whenever possible, you should choose a CPU with more cores and a higher clock speed. However, there’s no sense in spending more money on something that will not affect your performance. Consider how often you multitask or use single-threaded programs before making your decision (and whether the corresponding cost is worth it for your needs).