One of the age-old questions in PC gaming has pertained to the CPU core count: How many cores do you need for modern games? Before AMD’s Ryzen processors landed, the most common answer was four or in Intel’s language an i5. Back then, that was promptly accepted as the optimal option as there weren’t any hex or octa-core CPUs around (not ones worth buying anyway). Fast forward to the present day and you’ll see that even the $100 Ryzen 3 and Core i3 parts are quad-core designs with the latest variants even featuring SMT.
So in an age of twelve and sixteen core Ryzen CPUs, you’re bound to ask that very question again: How many CPU cores do you need for gaming? Well, let’s find out. We’ll test AMD’s entire Matisse lineup across eleven modern titles and then conclude the optimal core count for gaming. It’ll also give us an idea of how well modern games scale with core counts and what the upper limit is these days.
- Motherboard: ASRock X570 Taichi
- Memory: Trident Z Royal 8GB x 2 @ 1800MHz CL16 (1:1)
- Graphics Card: Zotac GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
- Power Supply: Corsair HX1000i
- All games were tested at 1080p using the highest in-game preset other than Ghost Recon which was benchmarked at the “Very High” preset.
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AMD Ryzen 3 3300X vs R5 3600X vs R7 3700X vs R9 3900X: 1080p Gaming Benchmarks
As you can see from the above benchmarks, the situation hasn’t changed by leaps and bounds. The quad-core Ryzen 3 3300X is still more than enough in most titles. In fact, if you’re looking to play at 60Hz or even 75Hz, the 3300X will easily satisfy your needs. As for scaling, most games show a notable increase in going from the quad-core 3300X to the hex-core 3600X. After that, although, there is a marginal increase, it’s hardly worth it considering the price gap between the various chips. Certain titles like Metro Exodus literally show zero scaling across the four processors.
Therefore, for the vast majority of people, the Ryzen 5 3600X (or the Intel Core i5, if you’re feeling blue) is the optimal option. The gains north of that are very limited and won’t be noticeable. If your workloads are more versatile, then going for a Ryzen 7 3700X or 3800X isn’t a bad idea either, but the twelve-core 3900X is a waste of money in most scenarios. You can spend the money saved on the CPU to buy a better GPU or at the very least, an AIO cooler.