• Welcome to Overclockers Forums! Join us to reply in threads, receive reduced ads, and to customize your site experience!

Gaming performance: fewer cores w/higher clock, or more cores w/lower clock

Overclockers is supported by our readers. When you click a link to make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn More.

magellan

Member
Joined
Jul 20, 2002
I've come across some articles in the past that seemed to suggest it was better for gaming to have higher clockspeed w/fewer cores than more cores and a lower clockspeed. So if we had say, a 4-core Intel CPU running at a really high clock rate (5+ Ghz let's say) would that be better than having a slower 8-core Intel CPU running at say 4.4 Ghz for gaming?

I know that there's more hardware and software overhead assorted w/having more cores. For hardware, cache coherency for an 8 core CPU has to consume more resources than for a 4 core CPU and there must be more contention issues for access to L3 cache and memory.
 

Janus67

Benching Team Leader
Joined
May 29, 2005
Assuming all other variables held equal (architecture, chipset, RAM, GPU, resolution, settings, etc) and the game isn't coded to support more than the number of cores of the faster CPU, then yes.

It's for this precise reason that a lot of people recommend the i5 (2500k/4690k/6600k) CPUs as most games these days don't utilize more than 4 CPU cores. Granted I think that will continue to change/improve to support additional multi-threaded utilization to take advantage of as many cores as you have, but until that day comes if you can run an i5 faster than an i7 (for instance) then it will likely give better performance. I guess the only part leftover is having the additional cores there to for running additional system processes in the background could possibly provide higher performance, but it would likely be pretty negligible unless you are running some heavy workload in the background.
 
Last edited:

EarthDog

Gulper Nozzle Co-Owner
Joined
Dec 15, 2008
Location
Buckeyes!
Assuming all other variables held equal (architecture, chipset, RAM, GPU, resolution, settings, etc) and the game isn't coded to support more than the number of cores of the faster CPU, then yes.
+1! Simple logic there. It would depend on the game. :)
 

motherboard1

Member
Joined
Jan 7, 2006
This is a short list, I haven't tested all my games because I've only been pondering this subject a little longer than you.

In Crysis 3 I'm seeing all 8 cores virtually maxed out
Rise of the Tomb Raider, all 8 cores heavily taxed, with a couple maxed out
Black Ops 3 "free weekend" all 8 cores maxed out, reading 98% total system CPU usage !
Battlefield 4. All 8 cores @ around 70-80%

And Borderlands 2, which about maxes one core, and utilizes only one more core about 70%. I'll check some more tomorrow and post back.

Also, I'm not saying that all cores are being used in an efficient way, or that this should be meaningful because I have no idea. I'm just saying that Task manager is showing these games heavily taxing all 8 cores.

Edit: Weird double post.... Firefox was hanging on me last night as I was trying to post this, wound up not knowing if this had even been successfully posted last night before I just said **** it and powered down for the night.
 
Last edited:

Kenrou

Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2014
Civilization 5 has a few years on it and uses all available cores very efficiently.
 

OC-NightHawk

Member
Joined
May 13, 2003
This is by no means scientific. I hopped into each game long enough to move around in the game and noted the processor usage of the program from the task manager.

I'm calculating threads based off of 100/12 = 8.33333.

Elder Scrolls V Skyrim is single threaded. I saw it using 8% of my processor.
Cities Skylines is single threaded. I saw it using 8% of my processor.
Endless Space is single threaded and using 1.6% of my processor.
Fallout 3 GOTY is single threaded hovering around 4% of my processor.
Fallout New Vegas is single threaded and hovering around 6% of my processor.
Fallout 4 is using 3 threads from what I can tell. It's hovering at about 17 to 20%.
Farming Simulator 15 is single threaded and hovering around 5% of my processor.
Grand Theft Auto 5 is using 30 to 40% of my processor that is about 5 threads at the very least.
Wolfenstein the new order is using between 27 to 40% of my processor so I'm guessing about 5 threads.
X-Com Enemy Unknown is using up to 9.6% of my processor so it is dual threaded.

While loading a game save I saw X-Com 2 using 67% of my processor. However in a mission it is hovering around 12 to 14%. While moving my units it is about 42%. What I thought was originally a lower threaded game is probably actually using 8 threads. This is probably what causes the stuttering in the game play for people with i5 processors. They get good frame rate while considering their moves and then while moving the calculations for trajectories of bullets, line of sight,if any enemy can see you and if you see another enemy are probably being calculated. Without extra threads to handle this the frame rate stutters.

Crisis 3 is using 11% to 32% on my machine which makes it a 32bit quad core program. I don't know if it is using more then 4 threads however it is a looker of a game.

Dragon Age Inquisition is on 37 to 38% just in the title screen. In game it seems to be using anywhere from 5 to 16%. I'm thinking the graphics, music and controls are on two threads. Loading the levels it gets up to 39%.
 
OP
M

magellan

Member
Joined
Jul 20, 2002
In Crysis 3 I'm seeing all 8 cores virtually maxed out
Rise of the Tomb Raider, all 8 cores heavily taxed, with a couple maxed out
Black Ops 3 "free weekend" all 8 cores maxed out, reading 98% total system CPU usage !
Battlefield 4. All 8 cores @ around 70-80%

And Borderlands 2, which about maxes one core, and utilizes only one more core about 70%. I'll check some more tomorrow and post back.

- - - Updated - - -

This is a short list, I haven't tested all my games because I've only been pondering this subject a little longer than you.

In Crysis 3 I'm seeing all 8 cores virtually maxed out
Rise of the Tomb Raider, all 8 cores heavily taxed, with a couple maxed out
Black Ops 3 "free weekend" all 8 cores maxed out, reading 98% total system CPU usage !
Battlefield 4. All 8 cores @ around 70-80%

And Borderlands 2, which about maxes one core, and utilizes only one more core about 70%. I'll check some more tomorrow and post back.

Also, I'm not saying that all cores are being used in an efficient way, or that this should be meaningful because I have no idea. I'm just saying that Task manager is showing these games heavily taxing all 8 cores.

As far as motherboard1's results, I've never seen that kind of high CPU usage on either my i7-3820 (@4.7 Ghz) or my i7-5820 (@4.5 Ghz) w/Crysis 3.

Were your Battlefield 4 CPU usage statistics for multiplayer or singleplayer?
 

Kenrou

Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2014
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't all this boil down to how well the game is programmed ? If so 4 strong cores would be preferable no ?
 

motherboard1

Member
Joined
Jan 7, 2006
As far as motherboard1's results, I've never seen that kind of high CPU usage on either my i7-3820 (@4.7 Ghz) or my i7-5820 (@4.5 Ghz) w/Crysis 3.

Were your Battlefield 4 CPU usage statistics for multiplayer or singleplayer?

I've tested in areas of these games where I see frame rates suffer and I know to be CPU bound. That means Multiplayer for BF4, when my FPS are sub 60 the CPU is working hard, and area's in Crysis 3 that have large open areas and far draw distances like the Liberty Dome, or even some area's in the first level. That's when I see the CPU working heavily with all 8 threads.

It's important to know what area's of the game tax the CPU heavily.

===============

Edit:

Short Video demonstrating Crysis 3 using 80%+ on all 8 cores. FX-8350

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ld5PNVEWiUk&feature=youtu.be
 
Last edited:

Silver_Pharaoh

Likes the big ones n00b Member
Joined
Sep 7, 2013
I did this with Skyrim. (With many eye candy mods)
3 cores at 4.8Ghz had the SAME FPS as 6 cores at 4.6Ghz.

Lower clock rate and more cores for sure.
 

OC-NightHawk

Member
Joined
May 13, 2003
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't all this boil down to how well the game is programmed ? If so 4 strong cores would be preferable no ?

It depends. In the case of X-Com a quad core with no hyper threading might struggle during moves. After monitoring the processor usage it explains the performance complaints on steam. This is probably the most CPU intensive game I have seen.

Most of the games I have run just fine on four or less cores. For these games the fastest quad core with the best graphics chips would be best. That said with games starting to come out that use 5 or more cores a quad i5 with no hyper threading will start to struggle to keep up compared to a processor that can operate more cores at once.

A well programmed game won't make a game magically work better when the processor doesn't have enough cores. Hyper Threading would help a little bit but is no substitute to actual real cores. I think we are looking at the start of the hex era. :D
 

Kenrou

Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2014
A well programmed game wouldn't require 6 cores if the 4 are fast enough to keep up. And XCom is a really bad example (Reddit has a compilation list of bugs, it's fairly large), my 8370 at 4.7ghz barely kept up with the cutscenes but played perfectly well in a map, no lag or slowdowns whatsoever until it hit said bugs. Another example are Shadows of Mordor or Wtcher 3 in which the 8370 struggle but the 6700k plays perfectly fine.

A good example of good programming (see what I did there) would be GTA5 that for an open world game runs exceptionally well on 2/4/6/8 cores and older hardware. Hell the game plays decent-ish on a GeForce 210... We need more games like this.
 
Last edited:

Kenrou

Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2014
Plays on wife's fx-4300 4.7ghz + 660Ti stock + 8gb ram 1600mhz, at 1280x1024 ultra settings, haven't seen it drop from 60fps vsync yet even on air shots. It's all about the programming up to a certain point, not expecting a visually amazing game like Crysis to run on older hardware BUT 4 fast cores are enough like the i5 proved. For today's games 4 fast cores are enough, even BF4 will run perfect on a 6600k AFAIK ?
 

OC-NightHawk

Member
Joined
May 13, 2003
A well programmed game wouldn't require 6 cores if the 4 are fast enough to keep up. And XCom is a really bad example (Reddit has a compilation list of bugs, it's fairly large), my 8370 at 4.7ghz barely kept up with the cutscenes but played perfectly well in a map, no lag or slowdowns whatsoever until it hit said bugs. Another example are Shadows of Mordor or Wtcher 3 in which the 8370 struggle but the 6700k plays perfectly fine.

A good example of good programming (see what I did there) would be GTA5 that for an open world game runs exceptionally well on 2/4/6/8 cores and older hardware. Hell the game plays decent-ish on a GeForce 210... We need more games like this.

I'm going to play devils advocate but GTA V was made to run on machines from 2005 because it started life as an 360 and PS3 game. X-Com 2 runs good on my machine.

It is no doubt GTA V is more advanced in programming skill with their own engine.

I'm all for pushing hardware as much as possible but I also don't want the bar to be held back by older machines.
 

Kenrou

Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2014
Exactly my point, there isn't a game nowadays that wouldn't run on a fast 4 core given a few programming tweaks (and a few programming lessons to the actual programmers). OFC it might change eventually as games get more photo-realistic, but personally i don't see it happening soon. You might want/need more if for example you're gaming and streaming or gaming and folding or have several monitors and always multitask.

Tried out Shadows of Mordor said to be one of the most demanding games to date, disabled HT and ran the benchmark on 1920x1080 Ultra settings with the HD addon, max 201 average 146 min 106, re-enabled HT and got around ~10 fps faster on all counts. I think i have room to wiggle if i need to multitask :thup:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVl8Eupbr_E - Bit outdated but workable ?
 
OP
M

magellan

Member
Joined
Jul 20, 2002
I've tested in areas of these games where I see frame rates suffer and I know to be CPU bound. That means Multiplayer for BF4, when my FPS are sub 60 the CPU is working hard, and area's in Crysis 3 that have large open areas and far draw distances like the Liberty Dome, or even some area's in the first level. That's when I see the CPU working heavily with all 8 threads.

It's important to know what area's of the game tax the CPU heavily.

===============

Edit:

Short Video demonstrating Crysis 3 using 80%+ on all 8 cores. FX-8350

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ld5PNVEWiUk&feature=youtu.be

I've always read that AMD CPU's were incredibly weak and now I believe it.