This article will give you an in-depth analysis of how a system generates FPS, and we are especially going to discuss does CPU affect FPS in games. A CPU is like the backbone of the system, and the better the CPU is, the better overall performance you will get. However, things are not that simple, and there is a ton of scenarios when there are going to be diminishing returns when upgrading the CPU to improve gaming performance.
CPU stands for central processing unit, and it refers to solely the processor installed in the system and never the whole system unit, as commonly misunderstood. Right now, two major companies are manufacturing CPUs; AMD and Intel, and both are giving tough times to each other, which is bearing great fruit for consumers.
FPS, on the other hand, refers to Frames Per Second. A frame is simply a picture, and as you might know already, a video or animated graphics is simply a combination of frames changing so fast that it seems like a moving animation.
FPS is the key to gaming, and if you want to enjoy gaming, you got to have a high FPS. If you are interested in multiplayer competitive games, then high FPS is a must, and it will greatly aid you against competitors.
The logic behind this is that when the FPS is high enough, the game movements get fluidity, and everything runs super smoothly. You can detect enemies better, have less strain on your eyes, and also gain technical advantages like better input lag.
How Much Does CPU Affect FPS in Games?
Now, let us understand how a system generates FPS. When you play a game, the CPU processes the instructions and passes down the draw calls to the GPU, which then processes it accordingly.
In short, the FPS in games is the result of the performance of both CPU and GPU. If you are using a low-end CPU, your processor won’t be able to send enough instructions to the GPU, which is why your GPU will perform much worse than its optimal performance.
What Affects FPS in CPU?
A processor is not so simple, and it has a lot of components in it that can affect its performance in gaming. We have discussed these components and some other factors below.
CPU Architecture Affect FPS?
The most notable thing you have to keep in mind is that processors with different architectures are not directly comparable with each other. For example, you cannot compare the performance of an AMD and an Intel processor based on their core count and core clocks.
In fact, there is quite a big improvement in architecture each generation, and most of the time, the cores of newer architecture are not directly comparable to the previous-generation cores.
All the components in the processor that we have mentioned below, should be compared with those with the same architecture, or else there will be a difference in performance. For example, the Intel Core i5-12600 is more than 100% faster than AMD Ryzen 5 1600, although both processors have a hexa-core configuration, and the clock rates of the Intel processor are not even close to double.
Does Clock Speed Affect FPS?
The clock speed of a processor gives us a rough idea about the performance in comparison to other processors using the same architecture. Clock speed is the rate of cycles the processor performs execution per second and it is measured in MegaHertz or GigaHertz. Most high-end processors come with clock speeds above 4.0 GHz, going as high as 5.5 GHz.
Impact of CPU Clocks on FPS?
The FPS in games is directly proportional to the clock speed. The faster a processor can perform an execution, the better performance you will get in games. That is why high-end mainstream processors have core clocks above 5.0 GHz, while low-end processors run at around a 4.0 to 4.5 GHz clock rate.
Realtime Example of CPU Clock Speed Impact on FPS
We can discuss a lot of examples where different clock speeds can have an impact on performance. The most prominent example would be Intel Core i5-11600K compared to Intel Core i5-11400T.
The i5-11600K has a high Max Turbo Frequency of 4.9 GHz, while the 11400T has a Max Turbo Frequency of 3.7 GHz. Both processors use a Hexa-core configuration and have Hyper-Threading enabled. The difference in clock rates results in a performance difference of up to 30%, which is not ignorable.
How Many Cores for Gaming
A processor can have more than one part that performs the processing, and that part is known as a core. So, the more the cores are the better the performance will be. However, do note that most games utilize around eight threads. This means that using more cores will give little to no benefit, as the game process cannot utilize those cores. Most high-end CPUs these days come with at least six or eight cores.
Multithreading and its Effect on gaming performance
Another “core” concept of processors is that these cores are logically converted into two cores for multi-threading by the manufacturer so that the cores are utilized to their maximum possible potential.
Intel Hyper-Threading or AMD SMT both improve performance by around 25%, but if the physical cores are already eight or more, there is going to be little to no improvement in gaming. The advantage will be prominently visible when there are four or six cores, especially when you stream online.
Examples of CPUs with different core counts and their impact on FPS
There are many prominent examples when the manufacturer had to increase the core count, as gaming evolved substantially and started using more than six cores. So, you will see processors like the Intel Core i3-13100 performing abysmally in CPU-intensive games despite having Intel Hyper-Threading, while the Core i5-13600 provides much better frame rates.
CPU Cache for Gaming
CPU cache serves as a medium between the faster processor cores and slower memory (RAM). That is why a larger CPU cache can improve performance in scenarios, where data is being fetched again and again.
A CPU cache stores the data from RAM before sending it to the processor, and if the processor asks for the same data again, RAM won’t have to send it, since it is already stored in CPU cache.
Importance of cache in gaming performance
The importance of CPU cache became prominent when AMD launched their 3D-series processors, which came with three times the size of L3 cache compared to non-3D variants. The first processor was the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, and when it was released, Ryzen 7 5800X3D was the fastest gaming processor for this very reason. The legacy continues with the release of Ryzen 7 7800X3D, 7900X3D, and 7950X3D.
Do Bottlenecks Affect FPS?
When we talk about bottleneck, it means that the CPU is unable to keep up with the GPU, which is why the GPU gets a lot of idle time, performing no operations. This results in greatly reduced performance losses and stutters. You can solve this issue by matching the performance of a CPU and GPU before buying.
Factors that can cause CPU bottlenecks?
CPU bottleneck happens when you couple a slow CPU with a relatively powerful graphics card. Other factors can include CPU-intensive applications running in the background, which are juicing the processor, which is why you are getting a high CPU time in the game.
The thing with CPU bottleneck is that it is very arbitrary unlike GPU bottleneck, where you get a constant low fps. In a CPU bottleneck scenario, the FPS fluctuates a lot, and you can have micro-stutters in games too.
GPU and CPU Balance
A GPU is the core component in gaming, and gamers focus a lot on GPU power when purchasing a PC. It is also one of the most expensive components in PCs and can cost as much as 1500 to 2000 bucks when we talk of flagship GPUs. The GPU handles all the graphical load and has its own VRAM, power delivery, and cache.
Importance of balancing GPU and CPU power
When you go purchase a PC, you have to make sure that either the CPU or the GPU won’t bottleneck the other component. For example, you would get very low performance in modern AAA games if you couple the Intel Core i3-13100 with NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4080. Similarly, you cannot use a high-end processor like Intel Core i7-13700K with a graphics card like RTX 3050 without getting a brutal hit on the gaming performance.
Other Factors Affecting FPS
How Does Ram Affect FPS
RAM (Random Access Memory) stores all the data the processor needs to process, so fast RAM can vastly improve the system’s performance. Frequency determines the speed of the RAM, and the latest memory kits have a frequency as high as 7200 MHz, almost twice the frequency of mainstream DDR4 memory kits.
Relationship between CPU and RAM in Affecting FPS
As mentioned above, the CPU works in correlation with the memory, so CPU manufacturers have invented various technologies to improve the link between the processor and the memory. Good-quality motherboards allow the user to overclock the memory, which can yield up to 20% improvements in memory-intensive applications.
The graphics card has the most significant effect on the gaming FPS, so if you want high FPS in games, you should spend a big chunk of your budget on the graphics card.
The graphics card’s performance is heavily tied to the screen resolution, so the higher the resolution is, the better the graphics card needs to be to provide stable FPS. Apart from this, most graphical settings in games are also linked with the graphics card, while a couple of settings affect the CPU performance.
Summary of the relationship between CPU and FPS
A processor is often overclocked when buying a gaming PC, and that is why many people suffer from stutters. Using a low-end CPU can cause a bottleneck in the system, leading to low FPS. That is why you should buy a processor with a high core count and high clock rates. The processor’s cache size is also relevant, but it can be overlooked if you get the above two factors right.
What Matters When Buying CPU
For those using a low-end processor with a high-end GPU, you might have noticed low GPU usage in games, which is a clear indicator of a CPU bottleneck. You should upgrade your processor, and buy one that can fully handle the graphics card’s power.
The FPS is dictated by the CPU and GPU time. If the CPU time is higher than the GPU time, your CPU is having a hard time, processing all the data. So, the FPS can be calculated by the larger one of the CPU and GPU time. For example, if we have 10ms of CPU time and 20 ms of GPU time, you would get around 50 FPS. Similarly, if the CPU time is 20 ms and the GPU time is 10 ms, you would also get 50 FPS, but this time, your graphics card is held back by the CPU.
Consideration of other factors in addition to CPU for maximizing FPS
Apart from the CPU and GPU, you should focus on other components too, such as a quality motherboard for overclocking or high-end RAM kits. These factors might not seem like much, but once stacked, they give a nice boost to the FPS and also make the FPS consistent.