Is Core i7 Good for Gaming?

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Intel Core i7s are high end CPUs intended for performance-grade PCs. In the hierarchy for Intel commercial CPUs, i7s are at the top end of the spectrum trailing only behind the more expensive Intel Core i9s.

The hallmark of the Core i7 CPUs is their high core count giving them an excellent multi-core performance score.

However, while a high multi-core score is great for multitasking and for professional editing and simulation software, the real question remains: is Core i7 good for gaming?

Generally the notion is that a Core i7 CAN be an overkill for most games PARTICULARLY if you are buying the latest Gen i7 CPUs that feature 8 cores and 16 threads.

But the actual answer to the question depends upon what games you play as well as whether you have demanding background apps or services, like streaming services, running at the same time or not.

In the following text we will explore the general CPU requirement for games and talk about whether an i7 is good for gaming or not.

The Generation of the Intel Core i7 Matters!

When you ask “is core i7 good for gaming or not?”, you have to get a bit specific in terms of its generation.

There is a vast difference in Core i7 performance as well as specs from generation to generation.

Therefore, while an 11th Gen Core i7 can be an overkill for most games, a 7th or 8th Gen Core i7 may be just right.

The following table shows the flagship desktop Core i7s from different generation and how they compare in terms of specs and scores.

CPU Specs Passmark
Intel Core i7-11700K
11th Gen (Cypress Cove)
8/16 (c/t)
3.6-5.0 GHz
25086
Intel Core i7-10700K
10th Gen (Comet Lake)
8/16 (c/t)
3.8-5.1 GHz
19458
Intel Core i7-9700K
9th Gen (Coffee Lake)
8/8 (c/t)
3.6-4.9 GHz
14556
Intel Core i7-8700K
8th Gen (Coffee Lake)
6/12 (c/t)
3.7-4.7 GHz
13894
Intel Core i7-7700K
7th Gen (Kaby Lake)
4/8 (c/t)
4.2-4.5 GHz
9706
Intel Core i7-6700K
6th Gen (Skylake)
4/8 (c/t)
4.0-4.2 GHz
8973
Intel Core i7-4790K
4th Gen (Haswell)
4/8 (c/t)
4.0-4.4 GHz
8060
Intel Core i7-3770K
3rd Gen (Sandy Bridge)
4/8 (c/t)
3.5-3.9 GHz
6432
Intel Core i7-2700K
2nd Gen (Westmere)
4/8 (c/t)
4.0-4.2 GHz
5629
Intel Core i7-875K
1st Gen (Nehalem)
4/8 (c/t)
4.0-4.2 GHz
3073

Few Points to Note:

  • I have disregarded the “X” series and Extreme processors.
  • I am only considering the first i7 CPU released with its respective generation. I will not regard the models that came with generation refresh such as Broadwell-E and Haswell-E for a better comparison sake.

As you can see, there is a drastic difference between Core i7s CPUs from the newer generations.

The newer 11th generation Core i7 released in 2021 features a whopping 8 cores and 16 threads.

Compare this to the 7th Gen Core i7-7700K released four years earlier in 2017 yet it is only about 40% as powerful as the i7 11700K.

Hence, you have to be specific about the generation you are talking about when you ask if a Core i7 CPU is good for gaming or not.

Benchmarking is Very Important

Benchmarking is a very important to understand how well the CPUs stack up against each other.

There are generally three benchmarks that I recommend:

Single Core vs Multi Core Performance

There is a popular idea that the higher the amount of cores a processor has, the better it is.

While that is generally true, the difference a CPU with a high number of cores makes will only be observed if it is actually being utilized to its full potential.

That depends upon what applications you are running or what game your are playing.

Games are notoriously known to be single-core oriented. Meaning they benefit more from a CPU that offers an excellent single-core performance as compared to multi-core performance.

This is particularly true for the popular online titles such as Fortnite, World of Warcraft etc that are specifically designed to utilize fewer cores as most gamers do not have a high end CPU.

Simply put, if a certain game is designed to use 4 cores at max, it will NOT benefit much from a CPU with 6 cores or more.

Hence, while an Intel Core i7-11700K may have an excellent multi-core performance on paper, it can actually get under-utilized if a certain game doesn’t use it to its full potential.

Intel Core i7 Benchmarks from Latest Gen

The following graphics shows the benchmark scores for Core i7 CPUs for latest and relatively newer generation.

I have also added the Core i5 CPUs into the fray particularly to highlight that fact that the single-performance on Core i5 CPUs can actually be the same, if not better, than Core i7s.

Hence, you can actually choose the Core i5 as a cost-effective solution for your gaming build.

Passmark Score

Is Core i7 Good for Gaming Passmark 2

A few very important observations here. The newer 11th gen Core i5 CPU performs better than the Core i7-10700K overall despite the former having 6 cores and the latter having 8 cores.

The same goes for Intel Core i5-10600K vs Intel Core i7-9700K.

Cinebench R20 Single-Core Score

Core i7 vs Core i5 single core r20

A very important observation to be made here: The 8th gen Core i5-8600K with 6 cores performs worse compared to the 7th Gen Intel Core i5-7600K with 4 cores DESPITE the i5-8600K being newer.

Therefore, often increasing the amount of cores takes a toll on its Single-Core performance.

A similar effect can also be seen when comparing the newer 9th gen Intel Core i7-9700K (8 cores) with the older gen Intel Core i7-8700K (6 cores) – The Core i7-8700K has a better single-core performance.

With the newer 11th Gen CPUs, the Intel has drastically improved the single-core performance of their CPUs. Hence, even an i5 from the 11th gen could be an overkill for most AAA titles.

Cinebench R20 Multi-Core Score

Core i7 vs Core i5 multi core r20 w

As expected, CPUs with a higher core and thread count are the reigning king in multi-core performance.

The Intel Core i7-11700K takes the lead here with its 8 cores and 16 threads. Intel Core i7-10700K (8c/16t) comes at a close second.

The Intel Core i5-11600K does fairly well for a 6 core (12 thread) processor easily beating the 6 core (12 thread) Core i7-8700K as well as the 8 Core (8 thread) Intel Core i7-9700K.

So Is Core i7 Good for Gaming?

Now that we have seen how the Core i7s stack up across generation and against cores i5, it’ll be easier to judge if in fact they are good for gaming or an overkill.

For this let us look at some of the popular titles and their CPU requirements.

Popular Games and Their CPUs Requirements

Let us look at the CPU requirements for popular online game and latest AAA titles separately.

CPU Requirements by Popular Online / Esports Titles

These are very light on the hardware and are often intended to be played by the masses. 

Pay attention to the corresponding Passmark score for each processor.

Minimum
Requirements
Recommended
Requirements
Minecraft Intel Core i3-3210
(2 Cores / 4 Threads)
Passmark: 2061
Intel Core i5-4690
(4 Cores / 4 Threads)
Passmark: 5583
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)
Passmark: 2187
Intel Core i5-7300U
(2 Cores / 4 Threads)
Passmark: 3746
CS:GO Intel Core 2 Duo E6600
(2 Core / 2 Threads)
Passmark: 873
League of Legends 3.0 GHz 3.0 GHz Dual Core

For Popular Online Games Core i7 is an OVERKILL 

If you only want to play online and popular eSport titles, then an Intel Core i7 is an OVERKILL particularly those from 7th gen onward.

CPU Requirement by AAA Titles

AAA titles are demanding and they do tend to push the limits of your hardware. Hence, these games would be a better reflection of whether a Core i7 is needed or not.

Again. note the corresponding Passmark score for each processor for comparison.

Minimum
Requirements
Recommended
Requirements
Cyberpunk 2077 Intel Core i5-3570K
(4 Cores / 4 Threads)
Passmark: 4915
Intel Core i7-4790
(4 Cores / 8 Threads)
Passmark: 7213
Resident Evil Village Intel Core i5-7500
(4 Cores / 4 Threads)
Passmark: 6061
Intel Core i7-8700
(6 Cores / 12 Threads)
Passmark: 13080
Watch Dog Legions Intel Core i5-4460
(4 Cores / 4 Threads)
Passmark: 4796
Intel Core i7-7700
(4 Cores / 8 Threads)
Passmark: 8621
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Intel Core i5-4460
(4 Cores / 4 Threads)
Passmark: 4796
Intel Core i7-6700
(4 Cores / 8 Threads)
Passmark: 8056
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 Intel Core i5-4460
(4 Cores / 4 Threads)
Passmark: 4796
Intel Core i5-8400
(6 Cores / 6 Threads)
Passmark: 9216Ideal Spec Requirements: Intel Core i7-9800X (8c/16t) (Passmark: 18366)

For AAA Games Celeron DOES NOT Meet The CPU Requirements

For AAA games a Core i7 makes more sense. However, the newer gen Core i7s are still excessive.

Most First Person Shooters and Role Playing games do not have a high core count requirement. Therefore, you could be better off saving up and getting an Intel Core i5 and maximizing your budget for a good graphics card instead.

Strategy and simulation games such as Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 are the only hallmark games that can actually immediately benefit from a latest gen Core i7 CPU.

The ideal official requirements for this Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is the 8 core / 16 thread Intel Core i7-9800X.

In addition to that, strategy game like Ashes of Singularity is so notorious for eating up CPU power, it is actually used for benchmarking newer CPUs.

City builder games like Cities:Skylines also fall in the category of games that can readily benefit from a high end and latest Intel Core i7 CPUs.

I highly recommend visiting DSOGaming.com and their PC Performance Analysis section. Here, they analyze the core count and CPU usage, among other things, for every popular new gaming title.

Streaming and Gaming – The Only Time i7 is TRULY Justified

The only time an Intel Core i7 from the latest generation (or better) is truly justified for gaming is when you want to play AND stream your games at the same time on services like Twitch or YouTube.

When streaming your game, you not only have to ensure that your CPU has enough juice to play the game on high graphics, but also make sure that it has the capacity to encode your streams for your online viewers.

Encoding is one of the most taxing task a CPU can perform and a weak CPU can seriously harm your FPS, your streams or both.

Encoding can be taxing on your system. x264 will utilize a lot of your CPU, resulting in lower FPS. – Twitch.tv

The higher the resolution and graphics settings on your game and the higher the encoder quality settings, the more powerful CPU with a higher core count you will need.

Most professional streamers who game at QHD or 4k resolution do not shy away from investing on a Core i9, let alone a Core i7.

Also Read:

FAQ

Is I7 Good For Gaming AND Streaming?

Yes, the newer 10th and 11th gen i7 processors with 8 cores and 16 threads are particularly great for gaming and streaming.

As mentioned earlier, streaming can eat through your core count. Hence a CPU with a high core count can certainly improve the experience.

Which i7 Processor is Good for Gaming?

You have to look at the system requirement of the particular game that you are interested in.

Take its recommended CPU, check its benchmarks scores on Cinebench R20 and Passmark to see what kind of CPU power it requires.

That would point you to the right processor for your gaming standard.

In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

Generally, if you have budget to spare, do not go for CPUs older than a couple of generations. A future proof CPU is better to have than a cheaper older CPU that can go obsolete in a few years.

Are Laptop Core i7s Good for Gaming?

Laptop CPUs are weaker than their desktop counterparts.

For instance, the flagship 11th gen Core i7 for laptops i.e the Core i7-11800H scores 21838 on Passmark.

Compare this to 25086 Passmark score by desktop-based flagship Intel Core i7-11700K 11th gen processor.

Be Wary of Ultra-Low Powered i7 CPUs on Laptops!

With laptops, however, you also have to be wary of the low powered Core i7 variants.

These often have the ‘U” suffix and more recently a “G” in their model name such as the Intel Core i7-1185G7.

These CPUs have a much lower performance compared to the flaghship laptops models.

For instance, Intel Core i7-1185G7 is a 4 Core (8 Thread) CPU with a Passmark score of 10922 only. The flagship Core i7-11800H, as mentioned earlier, is an 8 Core (16 threads) CPU with a Passmark score of 21838.

Also Read: Difference Between Intel Atom vs Intel Celeron vs Intel Pentium

Final Words

So is Core i7 good for gaming? To summarize, the answer to this question depends upon two factors:

  1. Which generation of the Core i7 CPU you are talking about
  2. Which games do you want to play

The newer generation Core i7 CPUs can be an overkill UNLESS you game at very high resolution and stream at the same time.

In addition to that, popular online eSport titles do not require a powerful CPU. In fact, an Intel Core i3 CPU from a relatively newer generation is quite sufficient for a popular online games.

AAA titles also do not require a processor with a high core count either, unless, you are talking about simulation and certain strategy games.

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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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