Is a Dual Core Processor Good for Gaming?

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Gaming is one of the most resource heavy task that you can perform on your PC. As such, dual core processors are not the most ideal CPUs for gaming. They are essentially reserved for basic PCs which are not intended to perform much heavily lifting.

With that said, depending upon what your overall budget is and depending what game you intend to play, a dual core processor may or may not be suitable for you.

When we talk about gaming, we often recommend investing in at least a quad core CPU. Your system will perform much more smoothly when gaming on a quad core CPU as compared to on a dual core CPU. Why?

Well, you have to understand that a typical modern system would have a lot of background apps and services running while you play a game. Therefore, you must ensure you have sufficient cores for assigning a thread to each of the task for a smoother experience.

In addition to that, a dual core processor can heavily limit the performance of a high end dedicated GPUs. In other words, it would be very unwise to pair an entry level dual core CPU with a mid-range to high-end dedicated graphics card.

In the following text we will look in depth into whether a dual core processor is good for gaming or not.

Also Read: Is a Quad Core Processor Good for Gaming?

How Many Cores do Popular Games Use?

Best PC Builds for Minecraft
Minecraft is primarily a Single Core game and can work sufficiently well with a dual core processor.

Most of the popular online titles such as Fortnite, Minecraft, Rocket League, have a minimum CPU requirement of 2 cores.

In fact, many popular online games do not even scale well on higher core counts. Fortnite, for instance, does not scale with more than 2 cores as benchmarked by Tomshardware and neither does Minecraft.

The following table mentions some of the popular online games and their corresponding system requirements:

Minimum
Requirements
Recommended
Requirements
Minecraft Intel Core i3-3210
(2 Cores / 4 Threads)
Intel Core i5-4690
(4 Cores / 4 Threads)
Roblox Single Core Single Core
Rocket League 2.5 GHz Dual Core 3.0+ GHz Quad Core
Fortnite Intel Core i3-3225
(2 Cores / 4 Threads)
Intel Core i5-7300U
(2 Cores / 4 Threads)
CS:GO Intel Core 2 Duo E6600
(2 Core / 2 Threads)
League of Legends 3.0 GHz 3.0 GHz Dual Core

You can take note from here that there are plenty of popular gaming titles out there that can work perfectly with a dual core processor.

However, as mentioned earlier, you have to realize that an average PC has a lot of background applications running as well.

Therefore, if a game were to saturate two cores of your CPU completely, there would be little CPU resource left for the smooth operation of the background apps and services.

As such, you may often see lags and bottlenecks caused by the CPU.

Also Read: 

Heavier Games Require more Core Count

Is a Dual Core Processor Good for Gaming
Cities Skylines is a simulation game that can eat through your core count.

Often simulation and strategy games scale very well with a higher core count. Games likes Cities Skylines, Microsoft Flight Simulator and Ashes of Singularity are very popular titles that have a high core count requirement.

Dual Core Processors Available Now

In the current CPU market, dual core CPUs are regarded as very basic entry-level CPUs.

Both Intel and AMD have entry-level dual core CPUs series. AMD has the Athlon series where as Intel has the Celeron and the Pentium series.

Intel Core i3 used to be the flagship line of dual-core processors up until 7th generation in 2017. However, ever since the 8th gen Intel CPUs, the Intel Core i3s have graduated to offering 4 cores and are no longer part of the dual core market. 

AMD Athlon Series

AMD Athlon is the line of entry-level processors that offers two cores and has multithreading enabled.

One of the most popular AMD Athlon processors available right now is the AMD Athlon 3000G with 2 cores and 4 threads.

Also Read: How to Check How Many CPU Threads Do I Have?

Intel Celeron and Pentium

Unlike AMD, Intel has two lines of entry-level CPUs featuring dual cores.

Intel Celeron CPUs are perhaps the weakest processors that you can find for a commercial PC. At the moment, they feature 2 cores WITHOUT multi-threading enabled. So for instance, the popular Intel Celeron G5920 has 2 cores and 2 threads.

Intel Pentium CPUs are a step up from the Celeron series as they feature dual core CPUs WITH multi-threading enabled. The popular Intel Celeron G6400 has 2 cores and 4 threads.

CPU Release
Year
Specs Passmark
Benchmark
Intel Celeron
G5920
(MSRP $42)
2020 2 Cores
2 Threads
3.5 GHz
2846
Intel Pentium
Gold G6400
(MSRP $64)
2020 2 Cores
4 Threads
4.00 GHz
4173
Intel Pentium Gold G6505
(MSRP $75)
2021 2 Cores
4 Threads
4.2 GHz
4378
AMD Athlon
3000G
(MSRP $50)
2019 2 Cores
4 Threads
3.5 GHz
4459

Also Read:

How Dual Core Processors of Today Compare with Older High End CPUs?

In all reality, the dual core processors of today are far more powerful than the older quad core processors.

This goes to show that you cannot simply judge a processor by its core count or the clock speed. One of the important factor is also the transistor size. The smaller the transistor size, the more efficient the CPU is.

All of the dual cores CPUs mentioned above use the 14nm transistor size. The following table lists some of the older CPUs and their price for comparison.

CPU Release
Year
Specs Passmark
Benchmark
Intel Core 2
Quad Q6700
(MSRP $851)
2007
(65nm)
4 Cores
4 Threads
2.66 GHz
2029
Intel Core 2
Extreme
QX9775
(MSRP $1499)
2008
(45nm)
4 Cores
4 Threads
3.2 GHz
2780
Intel Core i3 7100
(MSRP $117)
2017
(14nm)
2 Cores
4 Threads
3.9 GHz
4302
Intel Core i5-3570K ( MSRP $235) 2012
(22nm)
4 Cores
4 Threads
3.8 GHz
4915
Intel Core i7-2600K
(MSRP $317)
2011
(32nm)
4 Cores
8 Threads
3.8 GHz
5455

You can see here that the dual core processors of today far exceed the performance of older high end processors despite them having even quad cores.

Take for instance the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9775. This was THE flagship CPU of 2008 and costed a whopping $1499. Yet today, even the cheapest dual core CPUs i.e the Intel Celeron G5920 which costs a mere $42, can beat it according to benchmarks.

Also as mentioned earlier, 7th Gen Core i3 Intel processors i.e the Core i3 7100, was the final generation to offer dual cores. As such as, it has a comparable performance to dual core processors of today.

Also Read:

How Dual Core Processors Compare with Quad Core CPUs of Today?

I often recommend investing in a atleast a quad core CPU for gaming. The Intel Core i3 latest gen CPUs and the AMD Ryzen 3 CPUs feature four cores and they are highly suitable for a budget gaming desktop.

Dual Core CPUs today are largely intended for light productivity and everyday computing. They are not intended for heavy lifting such as gaming.

As such, if you intend to game, it is recommended that you save up for a quad core CPU from the latest Intel Core i3 or the AMD Ryzen 3 series. In any case, the following table highlights some of the popular quad core CPUs and their performance:

CPU Release
Year
Specs Passmark
Benchmark
AMD Ryzen
3 3200G
(MSRP $99)
2019 4 Cores
4 Threads
4.0 GHz
7226
Intel Core
i3 10100
(MSRP $122)
2020 4 Cores
8 Threads
4.3 GHz
8823
AMD Ryzen
5 3400G
(MSRP $$150)
2019 4 Cores
8 Threads
4.2 GHz
9372
AMD Ryzen
3 3100
(MSRP $$99)
2020 4 Cores
8 Threads
4.0 GHz
11723
AMD Ryzen
3 3300X
(MSRP $120)
2020 4 Cores
8 Threads
4.3 GHz
12739

As expected, the newer Quad Core CPUs are almost twice as good as the dual core CPUs in terms of performance.

Also Read: How Many PCIe Lanes Does Ryzen Have?

Cinebench R15 Benchmark Summary

The following are the single-core and multi-core benchmark scores of dual core CPUs mentioned here.

Cinebench R15 Single Core Benchmark

is dual core processor good singlecore r15

 

When choosing a dual core CPU, aim for getting a processor with the higher single core performance. Most of the popular online games benefit greatly from a CPU with a powerful single-core performance than a higher multi-core performance.

Since most online games are not designed to scale well with a higher core count, single-core performance is the king.

Cinebench R15 Multi-Core Benchmark

is dual core processor good multicore r15

Multi-core performance of a CPU indicates how well it can multitask. If you have background applications and services running, then a CPU with a higher multi-core performance will benefit you tremendously.

Naturally, the higher the core count, the better is the performance of CPU in a given CPU generation.

I recommend striking the right balance between single and multi-core performance of a CPU. For instance, I would NEVER recommend an Intel Celeron CPU such as the Celeron G5920 for gaming. While it has a decent single-core score, it has an abysmal multi-core performance. Hence, it can cause serious bottlenecks and an overall frustrating experience.

Also Read: Is Core i7 Good for Gaming?

Lower End CPUs CAN Bottleneck High End Graphics Card

When building a PC, the key point to remember is to have a parity between components. In others, you should NOT pair an entry-level dual core CPU with a high end graphics card.

Doing so can essentially bottleneck the GPU. Bottlenecks happen when a weaker component restricts the performance of a faster component. Hence, the potential of the faster component is never achieved.

The following video explains this further. Here a weak dual core Intel Pentium G460 is paired with a high end NVIDIa RTX 2080 and then tested on various games.

So Is a Dual Core Processor Good for Gaming?

Personally, I would say no. If I were building a PC remotely intended for gaming today, I would at least invest in a quad core CPU from Intel Core i3 or the Ryzen 3 series.

The modern dual core CPUs are generally intended for light productivity and general computing only, NOT for heavier tasks like gaming.

With that said, if you are seriously tight on budget or if you only intend to play games that have a low core requirement, then you can certainly look into the NEWER Intel Pentium or the AMD Athlon CPUs.

I am putting emphasis on the word NEWER because newer generation CPUs can achieve relatively decent results. I do not recommend the older Intel Pentium or the AMD Athlon series.

Also, I would stay away from the Celeron CPUs entirely.

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Author:

Atif Qazi
Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGuide101. He is a digital nomad who loves everything PC. He is a PC builder, tech enthusiast, engineer, and a lover of single player lore-rich RPG games.

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