There’s a lot to love about PC gaming. But most people would agree that the sheer wealth of options is what really defines it as a platform.
Gaming PCs, unlike consoles, give you total freedom to choose the capabilities which best serve your needs.
However, that’s only an advantage when you know every detail about your options. And that’s sometimes difficult when comparing some of the newer cutting-edge processors.
For example, the choice between AMD Ryzen 7 vs Intel i7 is particularly difficult. Both offer amazing performance. But which one should you actually choose for your gaming PC?
To find an answer to that question we’ll need to examine, compare, and contrast the processor’s most important aspects.
As you know, both Intel and AMD have several CPU models in the Ryzen 7 and Core i7 series of CPUs.
In order to have a relatively fair comparison, in this article we will be comparing two of the latest and popular gaming CPU models, specifically the Ryzen 7 7700X and the Core i7-12700K.
These two models are fairly equivalent and strong representatives of the whole family series of each brand.
There was a time when raw clock speed was easily the most important part of a gaming PC.
This has changed a lot over the years. In part because a dedicated GPU will usually handle most of the graphical processing.
And that obviously has a huge impact on game performance. But the advent of multi-core processors has also changed the overall impact of clock speed.
We don’t rely on a single CPU process to handle every task on our system anymore. Today an operating system is typically able to assign different tasks to different CPU cores on your processor.
But the raw processing specs do still have an incredible bearing on overall performance.
A processor’s clock speed is essentially the ceiling on how much it’s able to do. Multiple cores can allow a game to carry more processes at a particular pace.
But the pace itself is dependent on clock speed. And the Ryzen 7 7700X has the edge here.
The Ryzen 7 7700X runs at a base frequency of 4.5 GHz. In comparison, the Intel Core i7-12700K has a base frequency of 3.6 GHz.
However, both processors essentially run underclocked unless there’s a pressing need for additional power.
And if you’re gaming that need will almost certainly be present. As such it’s better to compare their “boost” speeds.
The Ryzen 7 7700X has a boost frequency of 5.4 GHz and the Intel Core i7-12700K can run at a maximum speed of 5.0 GHz.
Winner: Ryzen 7 7700X
We’ve noted that part of the reason why pure CPU speed matters less than it did in the past comes down to cores.
A multi-core processor is essentially a collection of separate processors that can work together as a collective.
One core on your PC will usually handle the totality of a single program’s tasks. But programmers can specifically write their code to move processes onto available cores.
So, one CPU-intensive program might have multiple threads that can be handed out to multiple cores.
This threading can essentially have every core working to its maximum capacity to handle different parts of a game.
However, it’s more common for games to only use multithreading to a limited extent. This highlights one of the downsides to modern PC gaming.
Developers are usually targeting a wide range of different platforms. There’s a huge difference between a PC and the various consoles.
And, likewise, there can be a lot of differences in different gaming PC setups. Complex but efficient multithreading can produce great performance on a fully compatible system.
But it also limits how well the code will run on different platforms. It’s easier for developers to instead work toward the lowest common denominator.
Which typically means using a multi-core design principle in games but limiting the extent of it.
This is why you can’t necessarily just throw more cores at a game and expect improved performance.
If a game only uses a couple of cores then adding additional cores won’t have much impact.
On a gaming PC you’ll usually see a few cores handling the game while others handle the underlying operating system and similar routine tasks.
The shared resource management is why you usually don’t see background tasks slowing down when you’re playing a CPU-intensive game.
The game is limiting itself to a few cores while the rest of the operating system’s tasks are relegated to the remaining cores.
Intel Core i7
This is also part of the reason why the Intel Core i7 12700K takes a somewhat unusual approach to its cores.
The Intel Core i7 12700K has twelve cores. But four of those cores are efficient cores rather than performance cores.
This makes them something of a workhorse rather than a runner. The strategy here is to match up the powerful cores with game processes while the efficient cores handle the underlying operating system and background processes.
Ryzen 7 7700X
Meanwhile, the Ryzen 7 7700X only has eight cores in total. But they’re all equivalent to each other and running at a higher clock speed than the Intel i7.
On top of this, the Ryzen 7 also uses an advanced 5 nm process for its Zen 4 CPU design. This offers an intrinsic advantage even for processors with the same specs but dissimilar architecture.
And in actual benchmarks, the Ryzen 7 7700X usually comes out with the advantage that you’d suspect.
The two CPU models both run extremely well. But games that put an emphasis on multi-core support do run better on the Ryzen 7 than the Intel i7.
Intel’s decision to add efficient lower-speed cores does help in cases of extreme system use.
For example, if you were decompressing several compressed files while playing a game or encoding videos. But for the most part this doesn’t offer a huge advantage to gamers.
Winner: Ryzen 7 7700X
A computer’s compatibility with RAM is limited by two factors. The first is your motherboard, and the second is the processor.
Both processor and motherboard need to support a particular type of RAM in order to actually work within that system.
As such, it’s important to keep in mind that a CPU’s support for RAM is going to be limited by the motherboard.
You need to make sure that a particular type of RAM is supported by both the motherboard and the CPU. Just having support from one or the other isn’t enough.
With that in mind, the Intel Core i7 12700K provides you with a solid range of options. It supports the latest DDR5, up to 4800 MT/s. But it also supports DDR4 at up to 3200 MT/s.
The Ryzen 7 7700X has less support for older technologies. It only works with DDR5, up to 5200 MT/s.
This makes it a little harder to declare a solid victory for either. The Intel i7 has better backward compatibility with older RAM.
But the Ryzen 7 supports the fastest memory speed. But going by pure performance the Ryzen 7 comes out ahead although you will need to buy the more expensive DDR5.
Winner: Core i7 for Backwards Compatibility
Most serious gamers have learned to loathe integrated graphics. These systems are usually enough to handle 2D games or Playstation 1 styled games at best.
And it’s true that you’ll almost certainly want to use a dedicated graphics card with either of these CPUs.
But most of us have had those moments when a graphics card dies on us and we’re stuck waiting on a replacement.
When that happens a good integrated graphics system can be a huge safety net during the waiting period. And both processors offer an integrated graphics processor (IGP).
Ryzen 7 7700X Integrated GPU
The Ryzen 7 7700X has an IGP capable of speeds up to 2.2 GHz with a GPU base of 400 MHz. This is an AMD Radeon Integrated Graphics GPU.
Intel Core i7 12700K Integrated GPU
In contrast, the Intel Core i7 12700K has a maximum speed of 1.5 GHz and GPU base of 300 MHz. The GPU model here is the popular Intel® UHD Integrated Graphics model.
Neither of these are going to come close to replacing a dedicated graphics card. But they can be surprisingly capable as a stopgap when you’re waiting for a new or replacement GPU.
Relying on these CPU’s IGP without a dedicated graphics card will produce sluggish results at best.
But sluggish is still a better option than nothing if you find your graphics card unexpectedly failing.
With that said, the Ryzen 7 7700X comes out ahead with its IGP. Neither are polygon-pushing marvels. But the Ryzen 7 7700X has significantly faster speeds.
Winner: Ryzen 7
Putting Everything Into the Proper Context
In our opinion, the Ryzen 7 7700X ultimately comes out as the winner and a better option for a gaming PC.
But one of the interesting parts of this comparison is how close the results usually are.
AMD and Intel have very different approaches to their underlying architecture. Even their approach to multithreading and core design puts a different emphasis on various parts of the computing experience.
But despite all of those differences, the two chips are both excellent options for any serious gamer.
The Ryzen 7 is the best choice. But, at the same time, the Intel i7 is still a solid CPU that can deliver great performance. It’s simply that the Intel i7’s great performance isn’t quite as great as what’s found in the Ryzen 7.