There are dozens of important decisions involved in building or choosing a gaming computer, but the decision of which CPU to pick is one of the most vital to your gaming experience.
Intel currently has five primary CPU offerings, with the mid-tier i3 and i5 chips being the most popular for casual and intermediate gamers.
Read on to find out if these affordable Central Processing Units will be capable of running the games you love at an impressive frame rate.
In the article below we’ll discuss if Intel Core i3 and i5 CPUs are good for gaming so keep reading to see all the details.
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The Intel Core i3 CPU
CPU speed, most easily thought of as clock speed, is measured in terms of frequency.
Today’s CPUs are rated in units of GHz, or Gigahertz. In electronics, clock speed translates to how many cycles or electronic pulses can be achieved by a chip in a single second.
Believe it or not, 1 GHz translates to one billion cycles per second in terms of CPU speed.
That means Intel’s lowest priced Core i3 CPU on the market today, which is capable of running at 4.1GHz, can process data at 4.1 billion individual cycles per second.
This translates to a smooth, seamless gaming experience for thousands of popular game titles.
Not only is the Intel Core i3 a blazing fast processor considering its place in the Intel hierarchy, it’s also packed with gaming-friendly features like smart caching and, on some versions, turbo boosting.
Intel’s smart cache feature helps to increase the efficiency of your CPU by storing data that’s likely to be needed in the near term, much like the way computer RAM works.
Turbo boosting works differently to help you have a smoother, faster gaming experience.
With turbo boosting, you can overclock your hardware to run at higher speeds which aren’t needed for daily word processing and other basic computer uses.
All of the latest versions of the Core i3 have smart cache technology with at least 10 MB of space dedicated to this feature, while the higher end i3s have turbo boosting capabilities as well.
The Intel Core i3 CPU has between four and ten cores, depending on which version you’re looking at.
Generally, the more cores a CPU has the more powerful it is and the more it will cost.
Intel’s Core i3 lineup currently has 14 different offerings, ranging from the least expensive 4-core UHD equipped chip to the 10-core 4.4GHz version which offers an advantage when playing games with multi-core processing capabilities.
The Intel Core i5 CPU
The Core i5 chip from Intel is a step up from the i3 CPU, in terms of both price and performance.
With the Intel Core i5 chip, users can achieve 4.9 GHz speeds, without having to overclock and risk overheating their devices.
That’s not to suggest that overlocking isn’t possible on some versions of the i5, as it can be configured in your BIOS settings for more demanding titles on some versions of the i5.
There are few AAA game titles that wouldn’t benefit from the increased clocking speed of the i5, but most games won’t require this feature to run smoothly.
Not only do you get a faster processing speed with the Intel Core i5, it has other advanced features that have excited gamers including high resolution on-chip graphics processing and upgraded graphics software support.
With on-chip processor graphics features, like the Intel UHD and Iris Xe systems, you can run games just as if you would on a dedicated graphics card.
Part of the hardware of the CPU is dedicated to detect and process video and gaming graphics while the rest of your CPU can handle other tasks like running your operating system and gaming software like Steam.
There are currently 24 versions of the Intel Core i5 Processor available through retail markets.
With this many options, it can be confusing for gamers to know which is best for them. A good place to start is by looking at your overall gaming machine budget, then consider the features you require.
All versions of the Intel Core i5 have at least 6 cores, while the higher end, more gaming-geared versions have up to 12 cores.
The top version of the i5, in terms of performance, has 20 MB of cache and can be clocked up to 4.9 GHz.
Some versions of the i5 have turbo boost, overclocking, and improved DirectX and OpenGL support, whereas more affordable versions are less customizable but will work fine out of the box for moderate gaming.
Intel’s Core i3 Vs. Core i5 CPUs for Gaming
Both the i5 and i3 series contain versions that support the UHD and Iris graphics processing formats, with some versions of the i5 enabling users to take advantage of the top of the line Iris Xe graphics processing.
This makes both chips great candidates for gaming and other video-based computer tasks.
The primary difference between the Core i5 and the Core i3 CPUs are in core counts and overall performance. Aside from the price difference, that is.
The Core i5 is likely to run you an extra $150 over the i3 series chips, depending on which versions of each you’re comparing.
The i3 is great for a budget build, and can usually fit in a total gaming PC budget of $500 to $700, since the chip itself will only set you back about $150.
The Core i5, on the other hand, is perfect for mid-tier gaming PCs in the $700 to $1400 range, as most versions of the chip cost about $200.
In our opinion, for a future-proof gaming machine, we’d suggest getting an Intel Core i5 instead of i3 (with a good dedicated GPU) since games are getting more graphic and processing intensive over time.
Is the Intel Core i3 Good for Gaming?
Depending on which games you like to play, the Intel Core i3 may be a perfect fit for you.
Minecraft, for example, does most of its rendering on one CPU core at a time, meaning you’d be fine playing it on the least expensive versions of the i3.
This is also true of a lot of independent game titles, that may use up to 4 cores but wouldn’t additionally benefit from buying a CPU with more than 4 cores.
Counter-Strike: Global Offense (CSGO), another popular gaming title, can also be played on the i3.
The Core i3 has features like smart cache, and on some models, turbo boosting, built-in and therefore makes a great choice for light to moderate gaming with its high clock speeds and dedicated cache space.
Is the Intel Core i5 Good for Gaming?
If you’re playing higher resolution games, including Call of Duty and other AAA titles, the i5 is a great choice.
It has expanded graphics chip options including the Intel Iris Xe system and increased cache size and speed compared to the i3.
With an Intel Core i5, you’ll be able to play games at a higher maximum frame rate and screen resolution than you would with the less expensive i3, and the price gap between the two chips isn’t terribly wide.
Remember to check your computers power supply unit if you’re looking to upgrade to an i5, however, as it does use slightly more wattage than the i3.
Many mid-tier gaming PCs come with the Intel i5 and it’s known to work well with most games, especially if you have a compatible graphics card installed.
Keep in mind that the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) is also very important for gaming, even more important than the CPU.
Other Important Features of CPUs for Gaming
Whichever Intel CPU you end up going with for your light to moderate gaming machine, you should consider getting the unlocked version.
All Intel chips that are unlocked are able to be overclocked. You can recognize an unlocked Intel i3 or i5 CPU by looking at the model number, as all of the company’s unlocked chips end in the letter “K.”
If you’re gaming primarily on a CPU, rather than having a dedicated GPU, you’re going to want a chip with smart cache capability or a similar system for recalling temporary data to reduce the time needed to retrieve files and code.
Even if you’re using an add-on GPU, your CPU plays an important role in the quality of your gaming experience.
Intel’s Core i3 and i5 CPUs are more affordable than the company’s i7, i9, or X-series processors, but that doesn’t mean they’re not able to provide an excellent gaming experience on the most popular games.