In general, you need a CPU (central processing unit) with a 3.5 to 4.0 GHz speed for most modern games. Good single-threaded performance, however, is more important for gaming than processor speeds. “Good” single-threaded performance means the CPU can understand and complete single tasks efficiently, which makes for a faster laptop overall. Due to the extensive usage of Web resources, online gaming may require a 5 GHz processor. But if the games you play aren’t that demanding, 2.4 GHz is sufficient. The two most important things to consider for the speed of the CPU is the core count and single-threaded performance.
What Does a CPU Do for Gaming?
Understanding what makes good processor speed for gaming begins with understanding what the CPU does. Each component can improve the functionality of your gaming laptop. Let’s break down the components of a CPU to see what makes it fast.
The CPU is the piece of hardware in a laptop that’s responsible for the functionality of all the different games and even hardware plugged into the gaming laptop, like a keyboard, gaming mouse and gaming monitor. The processors interpret their instructions and determines the appropriate output.
A CPU is made up of integrated components that work together to deliver the information that helps you interact with the game.
But whether the CPU can process information quickly or painfully depends on the available cores and clock speed. These two processor technologies have the most to do with determining how much information the CPU can receive at one time. And how quickly that information can be processed by the CPU. The speed at which the processor cores and clock speed work is the processor speed, expressed as GHz.
What Does GHz Mean?
Gigahertz is the measure of a CPU’s internal clock. Each tick of the clock is data being processed. So, a 2.4 GHz CPU can process 2.4 billion commands a second. A 3.5 GHz CPU can process 3.5 billion commands per second.
As you can see, a higher clock speed typically means a faster CPU. The CPU processes many instructions (low-level calculation like arithmetic) from different games and hardware within the system every second. Clock speed measures the number of cycles the CPU executes per second, measured in gigahertz.
This “clock cycle” is technically a pulse synchronized by an internal oscillator. Or in other words, a clock cycle is a basic unit that helps us understand the speed that the billions of transistors within a processing unit opens and closes.
Why Processor Speed Matters
Processor speed is one of the most important specs when considering any laptop. The processor is of often referred to as the “brains” of a computer because this is the single piece of hardware that’s responsible for processing and executing instructions. All the instructions from every program and app you use must first pass through the CPU.
For graphics intensive activities like gaming, you need all the processing power you can get. And speed is important. It strongly affects the overall performance of the gaming laptop. A faster processor can run more sophisticated games. High-definition games consume significant processor resources. Without a fast processor, games like Overwatch wouldn’t even be possible.
Processor Core Versus Clock Speed
Processor cores and clock speed are different functions of the CPU that work together for the same goal of helping your gaming laptop function at its optimal best. Since gaming has specific requirements from the CPU, these technologies are worth exploring.
These are individual processing units within the CPU. A processor core receives instructions from one computing task. Working with clock speed, this information is quickly processed by the CPU and is temporarily stored in RAM (Random Access Memory).
All the information that needs to be stored permanently is stored in the hard drive, which could be an SSD (solid-state drive) or MHD (mechanical hard drive) or some combination thereof.
Most modern CPUs have multiple cores. These cores allow your laptop to complete multiple tasks simultaneously, very instrumental if you like streaming while you play. Complex games like AAA titles require a multicore processor to keep up with audio and graphical demands.
The clock speed determines how quickly the CPU can retrieve and interpret instructions. It helps your laptop complete more tasks by doing them faster.
The higher the GHz number, the faster the clock speed. Multi-core processors were first introduced in 2001 by IBM to help CPUs work harder as clock speed becomes tapped out.
Higher clock speeds mean your CPU will be able to complete tasks faster, making your gaming experience feel seamless by reducing the time needed to wait for levels to load.
What’s a Thread?
A thread is a virtual CPU core. Intel uses hyperthreading and AMD uses SMT (simultaneous multithreading) to virtualize cores. Either one results in breaking up physical cores into virtual cores or threads to increase CPU performance.
So, in a dual-core CPU, the dual processors will work as if the CPU has four cores. Similarly, a quad-core CPU with this virtualization technology will work as if there were eight cores, and so on.
Threads are what allow a multicore CPU to process more than one piece of information at a time.
What’s a Good Processor Count and Speed for Gaming
The CPU’s capabilities will affect the other hardware in a gaming laptop necessary for the performance of games, like the GPU, RAM and storage. Not to mention peripherals like keyboards, or gaming mice or a gaming monitor you’ve plugged into your gaming rig.
This is also an important consideration, especially if your game has specific hardware requirements.
Processor Requirements for Gaming
Again, a 3.5 to 4.0 GHz clock speed is good for gaming. Gaming is only going to become more complex. Added features and realistic experiences demand processors that can keep up in order to serve up those fantastic visuals and give you an amazing game play experience.
Most modern games use one to four processor cores. While picking up a laptop with a quad-core CPU could be considered the safe zone for gaming. Many games are constantly advancing the gaming experience with updated gaming abilities and game scapes, which require even more cores for an optimal experience. If you’re a gamer desiring to maintain the integrity of the designers’ experience, you might consider a six-core processer.
CPU-intensive games take advantage of multi-core technology to make graphics, audio and play come together for a hyper-realistic experience. A fast CPU without enough cores can still complete tasks faster. But the limited cores can slow down functionality.
Immersive Computing (VR)
Similar to gaming, a multi-core processor along with high clock speeds are essential for activities revolving augmented reality and virtual reality.
Single Core vs Multiple Core Performance
We said earlier that a CPU with good single-threaded performance is more important than clock speed. Note, this is not the same as a single core processor.
Good single core performance means the CPU does a good job understanding and completing single tasks. Multiple cores mean the CPU can understand and process more instructions at the same time. The difference is subtle, but it’s important.
More Cores or Faster Processor Speeds?
A laptop with multiple cores and super-fast clock speeds sounds good on paper. But what does this mean or the actual functionality of your gaming rig?
A higher clock speed but fewer cores mean your machine can load and interact with single applications with lightning speed. Mores cores and a slower clock speed means your gaming laptop can work with games and other applications simultaneously, at the cost of increased time to interact with them.