We decided to conduct thorough testing and try to establish an answer to this never ending dilemma: What is the Best CPU for Gaming ?

“Which CPU should I buy? Intel or AMD? What about overclocking, is there any use of it at all and if there is, is it worth giving extra  money for a more expensive overclockable CPU?”

So many questions that need answering, and answering only one of them is a difficult task.  PC gaming is on its turning point as next-gen consoles have been released, previous generation consoles are still here and will probably stick around for a year or two at least.

How does this affect PC gaming you ask , since game developers usually do not bother optimizing games when porting them from consoles, this usually means that games only use 2 CPU cores/threads, or in the best case scenario 4 cores/threads. And yes next-gen consoles have an eight core CPU however, if you have read our previous benchmarks you should know that optimization isn’t perfect with next-gen consoles and games. As long as old consoles are still here and make the majority of the market, improvements when it comes to optimizing console ports is not in sight. Most users are confused when looking to get a new CPU since it’s hard to pick a long lasting solution without the fear of wasting money, which is quite valuable in these troubling times. Not an easy time to pick a CPU, then again it never was.

 

Testing Methodology and List Of Games

 

Choosing a list of games to benchmark and the pre-sets to use wasn’t exactly an easy thing since some games, like Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag or COD: Ghosts are capped at 60 or 90 FPS meaning that we have to max out the settings in order to decrease the number of frames and avoid that retched cap. This changed our initial idea of testing the games at a 1080p resolution at medium settings, since we tried to simulate the real life situation as best we could. 1080p monitors are a standard for some time now as well as most gamers not maxing out their settings due to incapable hardware. The same thing goes for 1440p since it would only decrease the number of frames per second, and therefore decreasing or even diminishing the margin between processors due to heavier GPU rendering, which is something we wanted to avoid.

 

Best CPU For The Money

In order to determine which CPU is the best for the money we included a novelty into our testing procedure called Performance Value Index. After careful examination of the data we found that the i3 4130 is the cheapest CPU in our benchmark that gives the most stable and consistent performance, so we decided to give that CPU a 100% performance value index.

We calculated index performance for the benchmarked CPUs while overclocked at 4.5GHz (only for those where overclocking is possible of course), since if you are buying Intel’s K or AMD’s FX CPU you will want to overclock otherwise you are wasting your money. But we also tested the CPUs at stock speeds in order to find out whether overclocking gives benefits in games and to which extent.

The only CPU that could have been overclocked but wasn’t, is AMD’s FX 8320. Our sample could not reach more than 4.2GHz which is slightly better than the default frequency of the CPU running at 3.5GHz (4GHz turbo). Since the FX 8350 runs at 4.2GHz in Turbo mode there wasn’t really any reason in overclocking the FX 8320, since a FX 8350 gives exactly the same performance at stock. All of the other  indexes for CPUs have been tested and calculated in comparison with the i3 4130 index performance value. Of course we chose the best prices for each CPU that we could find on the market.

These are the prices that have been used when calculating Performance Value Index:

i7 4770k –  $320

i5 4670k–  $222

i5 4570–  $195

i3 4340 – $160

i3 4310– $120

FX 8350– $199

FX 8320– $140

FX 6300– $110

FX 4300– $97

You will find a detail description of pre-sets and the testing methodology for each game we have benchmarked. Also we added a Performance Value Index for each game which was calculated based on the performance in-game and the prices in online stores.

Best Gaming CPU Test Systems

 

CPU i7 4770Ki5 4670Ki5 4570i3 4340i3 4310
FX 8350FX 8320FX6300FX4300
Motherboard Gigabyte 990FXA-UD5Asus Gryphon Z87
RAM 2x 8GB@ 2133 Mhz Kingston HyperX Beast : KHX21C11T3K2/16X
HDD/SSD 2 x Intel 520 Series 240 GB
GPU GTX770 4GB
Monitor Shimian QH270-IPSMS 2560x1440p 27″
PSU Thermaltake ToughPower XT 775W
OS Windows 8.1

 

 Starcraft 2 CPU Benchmark

 

Starcraft 2 settings

 

For benching Starcraft 2 we used Unit Tester 0.97. This mod is very useful for players who want to perfect their in-game combat skills but it is also useful for benchmarking since you can put a large amount of units to collide. We decided to test one of the most extreme situations that you will ever encounter in Starcraft 2, 125 Zealots and 25 Medivacs on each side which gives a total of 250 active units. Of course all of that was run at Extreme settings as you can see from the image. Most of the time Starcraft 2 is not a demanding game and can run on pretty much any CPU locked at 60 FPS, however we wanted to investigate how CPUs behave in some of the most stressful situations possible and we believe we found the right measure. This scenario is likely to happen in 4 vs 4 large scale battles.

 

Starcraft 2 Min-Avg-Max FPS

 

Starcraft 2 Cpu Benchmark

 

Starcraft 2 Average Frametimes

 

Starcraft 2 Average Frametimes

 

As you can see from the frame rates and frametimings, AMD’s CPUs are sluggish, even the overclocked ones. It is interesting that the i3 CPUs handle the game quite well, not as well as a more expensive i5 or i7 CPU but, the performance is stable. Of course Intel’s i7 4770k and i5 4670k overclocked at 4.5GHz give the best performance and the gameplay with these CPUs is  as  smooth as butter.

 

 Starcraft 2 CPU Performance Index Value

 

Starcraft 2 CPU Performance Value Index

 

However, when we turn to the performance index and what you are getting for your money the situation is different. The i3 4340, FX 4300 4.5GHz and i5 4670k are all at a 78% index performance value  in terms of frames/price. But as you can see horrible frame timings with AMD’s CPUs make them less attractive.

ARMA 3 CPU Benchmark

 

Arma 3 settings

 

ARMA 3 is one of the most CPU intensive games on the market since it features 2 islands, Altis (270 square kilometers) and Stratis (20 square kilometers). Having huge maps with a viewing distance of up to 20 km is a massive hit on CPU performance. Testing ARMA 3 in MP surroundings was not possible due to inconsistent frame rates with all CPUs. In that light we went for free strolling and running across the island of Stratis. Even in that scenario Arma showed to be a very demanding piece of software.

ARMA 3 Min-Avg-Max FPS

 

ARMA 3 CPU Benchmark

 

 

ARMA 3 Average Frametimes

 

ARMA 3 Average Frametimes

 

Intel’s CPUs take the crown again when it comes to performance and the difference is substantial. This is one more game where it’s clearly shown that although being very CPU intensive, having more cores or threads doesn’t make much of a difference (if any). AMD’s FX 8350 and Intel’s i7s do a better job than their slower and less expensive counterparts.When it comes to frame rating Intel again does it better, although 10ms average frametimes for AMD is not a bad result.

 

ARMA 3 CPU Performance Index Value

 

ARMA 3 CPU Performance Index Value

 

In our performance value index only the FX 6300 and FX 4300 both overclocked at 4.5GHz can compete with the i3 4130 in terms of price/performance. If you want the best performance and you have enough money an i5 4670k is as good as it gets and buying an i7 CPU will not give you many benefits.

Call Of Duty: Ghosts CPU Benchmark

 

COD ghosts settings

 

Call of Duty: Ghosts is one of the games that come with capped FPS. Around 90 FPS is the most you will get out of this game. This is strange since this is a competitive game, where people use 120Hz monitors and 120 FPS is a must. Our initial idea was to test all of the first person shooter games at medium settings in order to get the performance that is most widely used amongst gamers. However with COD: Ghosts we had to make an exception and test on the highest possible settings in order to avoid that unfortunate FPS cap. Also check out our COD:Ghosts Benchmark .

 

Call Of Duty : Ghosts Min-Avg-Max FPS

 

COD ghosts cpu benchmark

 

 

Call Of Duty : Ghosts Average Frametimes

 

COD Ghosts average frametimes

 

 

The results are more or less identical, proving that you really don’t need an expensive CPU to run this game and get maximum performance. As a matter of fact you don’t really need to overclock. Call of Duty Ghosts is one of those games that can run on pretty much any modern CPU.

 

COD Ghosts CPU Performance Index Value

 

Cal of duty ghosts cpu performance index value

 

In this case, performance value index is just here to state the obvious. The FX 4300 is the best CPU you can buy for this game when it comes to the price/performance ratio. You won’t be wrong if you buy a FX 6300 or i3 4130. Buying an expensive CPU for just this game would be a clear waste of money.

Metro: Last Light CPU Benchmark

 

Metro LL settings

 

As we mentioned before, FPS games are tested at Medium settings in order to get the highest frame count per second as possible but still keep good image quality. Metro: Last Light is also one of the most demanding games on the market and it’s here to set an example on how CPU power hungry a single player FPS game can get.

 

Metro: Last Light Min-Avg-Max FPS

 

Metro Last Light Cpu Benchmark

 

Metro: Last Light Average Frametimes

 

 Metro Last Light Frametimes

 

 

This is one of the rare instances where the i3 CPUs didn’t perform very well. The FX 6300 beats them on stock clocks as well as when overclocked. The optimization in this game is good, but isn’t perfect. The i7 4770k does better than any other CPU, especially when overclocked but the difference is marginal vs the i5 4670k.

 

Metro: Last Light CPU Performance Index Value

 

Metro Last Light Cpu Performance Index Value

 

The numbers speak for themselves. The FX 6300 gives the best value for money on Metro Last Light. The FX 4300 also behaves well in terms of frames but just plain horribly when it comes to frame rating, so it is best to skip this CPU. The i3 and FX 8320 (on stock) give the best ratio in terms of price and performance on one hand and in-game smoothness on the other. For those who want the best performance, an i5 4670k is all you need, since once again the performance index values indicate that the i7 4770k is a waste of money.

 

Assassin’s Creed 4 : Black Flag CPU Benchmark

 

AC4 Settings

 

If you have ever played any Assassin’s Creed game you should know this game needs a lot of CPU power since there’s a large amount of AI swarming the streets. However, as we said the game is capped at 60FPS, so maxing out the setting to avoid the barrier was a necessity once again. This franchise has been notorious when it comes to optimization (well, not as bad as GTA, for example). It required powerful single core performance on one hand but it was completely rubbish when it comes to using CPUs with more cores. As with Starcraft 2, good per core performance in this game is imperative. Also check out our AC4 Benchmark.

 

AC4 Min-Avg-Max FPS

 

AC4 CPU Benchmarks

 

AC4 Average Frametimes

 

AC4 average frametimes

 

Improvements needed in optimization are evident and, although the i7 4770k performs as well as the i5 4670k we are glad to see that the days when all you needed is a dual core CPU for this game are over. The i5 4670k gives the best performance in this benchmark and we see a quite visible difference when you stop looking at Intel’s quad cores and you switch to i3 CPUs and AMD’s FX processors. The difference isn’t that big of a deal though. The frame rating in this game is just horrible to begin with so this is not a CPU issue. It’s either bad driver optimization or game optimization issues.

 

AC4 CPU Performance Value Index

 

Assassins Creed Performance Value Index

 

When it comes to this game the FX6300, FX 4300 and i3 4130 again give the best value for the money. Although the i5 4670k gives the best overall performance, the high price tag is something that keeps it away from the best buy ratio.

Sleeping Dogs CPU Benchmark

 

sleeping dogs settings

Sleeping Dogs is another open world game where there is a significant amount of AI which requires your CPU do to heavy calculations. This game is somewhere in between AC games and mainstream games in terms of CPU dependency.

 

Sleeping Dogs Min-Avg-Max FPS

 

Sleeping Dogs CPU Benchmark

 

Sleeping Dogs Average Frametimes

 

Sleeping Dogs Average Frametimes

 

Sleeping Dogs CPU Performance Index Value

 

Sleeping Dogs CPU Performance Index Value

 

All of the CPUs perform more or less the same, however Intel’s do provide around 10% better performance. The i7, i5 and i3 processors give the best performance and we  see a slight drop when we switch to AMD CPUs.

Tomb Raider CPU Benchmark

 

 Tomb Raider Settings

Tomb Raider, although a graphically impressive game, is more of a mainstream title when it comes to CPU requirements. That’s why we chose this game in our benchmark, since it represents a vast proportion of today’s single player games.

 

Tomb Raider Min-Avg-Max FPS

 

Tomb Raider CPU Benchmarks

 

Tomb Raider Average Frametimes

 

Tomb Raider Average Frametimes

 

As with Sleeping Dogs pretty much any modern CPU can run this game at maxed out settings without any hits on performance, assuming the person has a good GPU that is. All of the CPUs are within a margin of error, and same things goes when it comes to frametiming as difference doesn’t really exist.

 

Tomb Raider CPU Performance Value Index

 

Tomb Raider CPU Permormance Value Index

 

Again, i3 4130, FX 6300 and FX 4300 give the best value for the money. This scenario is something you should expect with most of the games on the current market as one decent quad core/thread CPU is all you need for the most games.

Battlefield 4 CPU Benchmark

 

BF4 Settings

 

This wouldn’t be a proper benchmark if we didn’t include Battlefield 4. This is probably the most demanding game and visually most impressive as well. Battlefield 4 is still in its prenatal phase where even a simple sneeze can cause a game to crash but that did not stop us from benching it.

 

Battlefield 4 Min-Avg-Max FPS

 

BF4 CPU Benchmark

 

BF4 Average Frametimes

 

Battlefield 4 Average Frametimes

 

If you looked at our previous Battlefield 4 Benchmark you already know that i7 4770k doesn’t perform very well. In fact, you actually need to overclock it in order to catch up with the i5 4670 on default settings. Check out that benchmark if you want to know more on this issue. When it comes to AMD processors this is the first time we see the FX 8350 actually performing better than the FX 6300. 17 patches have come out since we last did the testing and we are glad that things are looking better in terms of optimization, but the difference between those two CPUs isn’t that great to be honest.  However the big improvement might be with the FX 8350 though it still falls behind the i3 CPUs and only manages to catch up when overclocked.

 

BF4 CPU Performance Value Index

 

BF4 CPU Performance Value Index

 

This is one of the rare games where having a better, more expensive CPU isn’t such a bad idea. When we say that we mean an i5 4670k since it does provide the best performance, as the i7 4770k is very expensive and under-delivers. For people on a budget the FX 6300, FX 4300 and i3 4130 are CPUs worth considering.

Average Performance Value & Conclusion

 

Average CPU Performance Value

 

Best Price/Performance Gaming CPU

Quite surprisingly (for us at least) the overall winner of this benchmark is the FX 4300. This CPU is the cheapest in this line-up and provides the best performance for the money. Whether it’s enough is for the user’s end to decide. As we already mentioned in the beginning, and you were able to see as well, the i3 4130 gave the most consistent performance and if you are not into overclocking, this CPU might just be right for you. We do need to mention that when you plan overclocking your CPU, you better be sure to have a motherboard with a decent amount of power phases in order to get a stable overclock. However, motherboards with a higher power phase count are naturally more expensive, which increases the overall price when buying a new CPU and motherboard (if you don’t already have some old compatible parts).

 

Best Budget Gaming CPU

In that light at the end of the day the i3 4130 is the best CPU for gaming for users who are buying a new PC and do not want to spend a lot of money. If you already have an AM3+ compatible motherboard and have no intention in changing the whole system a FX 6300 or FX 8320 sounds like a good idea. AMD should really think about some price cuts for their FX 8xxx CPUs as, because of the price-performance, they are not competitive against Intel’s processors. On the other hand users who want more performance and are willing to pay for it should consider the i5 4570 or i5 4670k since they also provide good enough performance for the money and the i5 4570 provides even more since you do not need an expensive motherboard to use all of its features. With the i5 4670k buying a Z87 motherboard with a decent amount of power phases is a must if you plan to overclock your CPU. If you don’t then you have bought the wrong CPU.

 

Intel’s i7 4770k Is Not Worth It Right Now

To state the obvious for the end, the i7 4770k is a complete waste of money for gaming at this point in time and it doesn’t look likely that things will change in the future. Yes, the next-gen consoles will bring multi thread optimization but that is something we have yet to see since the old consoles still make up a vast majority of the market. So it is expected for the transitioning period to be slow and to take quite some time. Therefore it makes perfect sense to buy a CPU that provides the best performance for the money and that you can afford, instead of investing into something that should be around the corner but in reality isn’t, and who knows when it will.

 

Mantle Is Something You Might Want To Wait For

One more thing we have yet to see is AMD’s  Mantle, the new alternative to Microsoft’s DirectX. This could be the last chance for AMD to (kind of) catch up with Intel, although from what we managed to find out so far, performance benefits will primarily come in the GPU department. However, as we said, it’s something we have yet to see.

Mantle should be released in the upcoming days and it will be directly patched to Battlefield 4 via the Origin update.We will conduct some extensive benchmarking concerning pre and post-Mantle Battlefield 4. We have also added a graphics card article with it’s own novelty for those looking to upgrade their GPU.

If you have any questions about the benchmark please ask in the comment section below and I will be glad to answer.

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"I love the smell of fresh hardware in the morning..."