How many CPU cores do you need for games?


— 11:25 AM on July 8, 2010

These days, it's virtually impossible to buy a desktop CPU with fewer than two cores. Dual-core CPUs have become the norm, and quad-core systems are becoming increasingly common thanks to AMD's budget quads. Heck, you can get a six-core Phenom for $200 now. Intel has full range of multi-core products, too, and many of its designs add additional threads via Hyper-Threading.

But how many cores do you actually need? That depends on the sort of applications you run, and Bit-Tech has taken a look at one type in particular: games.

Older games haven't made particularly effective use of more than a couple of cores, but the Bit-Tech piece tackles a number of new titles, including Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat. The verdict? Three cores is about all you need for recent titles, and some games won't even make use of that many.

We shouldn't really be surprised by those results. Today's games are developed primarily with consoles in mind, and the Xbox 360's Xenon CPU only has three cores. This outcome is discouraging for those hoping to see developers take full advantage of the wealth of CPU power available on the PC, but it's potentially good news for budget-conscious gamers looking to save a little cash on their next builds—and sweet vindication for anyone who went out and bought a Phenom X3.

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