Is Intel Core i5 Good for Gaming?

Intel Core i5 processors are generally considered the golden standard for gamers. In terms of performance, they sit right in the middle echelon of the Intel’s performance hierarchy, but they have jus the right type of specs that most contemporary AAA games use.

As such, as far as the question of value for money goes for gaming builds, Intel Core i5s are considered the reigning kings. So the answer to question, “is intel core i5 good for gaming?” is a resounding yes.

The reason is simple, they have just the right amount of cores, threads, and clock speed that most contemporary games demand.

Whereas an Intel Core i3 can produce potential bottlenecks for a high end graphics card with its quad core configuration and an Intel Core i7 is an overkill for most games, the Intel Core i5 is positioned perfectly in the gaming market.

In the following article, I will explore this topic in detail and talk about why Intel Core i5 is great for gaming.

Intel Core i5 and Its Position in the Intel Hierarchy

Intel Core i5 sits conveniently right in the middle of the Intel’s performance hierarchy:

  • Intel Celeron – The Weakest
  • Intel Pentium
  • Intel Core i3
  • Intel Core i5
  • Intel Core i7
  • Intel Core i9 – The Strongest

While the Intel Core i7 and Core i9 are often designated for high performance computing for professional work, i5 being in the center offers the best value as well as performance.

It should be noted, however, that the difference between i3, i5, i7 and i9 is often just the number of cores. The performance PER core is generally the same across the series.

Meaning, the multicore performance scales with the number of cores the processors has, which brings us to the following point:

Single-Core vs Multi-Core Performance

Single core and multi core scores are two very important metrics that are used to gauge the performance of a given CPU.

These are generally determined by popular beenchmarks such as the Passmark, or the Cinebench R15, R20, R23.

Core i7 vs Core i5 single core r20
i5 vs i7 Single Core Performance Scores

You can see here that single core performance in any given generation for Intel Core i5 and Core i7 is almost the same indicating that the for application that are highly reliant on single core performance, i5 are almost the same as Core i7s.

Most editing apps, as well as many eSports titles, are highly reliant on Single Core performance of a CPU.

Core i7 vs Core i5 multi core r20 w
i5 vs i7 Multi Core Performance Scores

The i7s have an edge over the i5s obviously due to the fact that i7s have a higher number of cores in any given generation.

Multi-core performance only matters for apps and games that do utilize a high number of cores.

Game streaming on platforms like Twitch and YouTube live is a task that requires a high number of cores.

So unless you are a game streamer, you would not really benefit from a high number of cores.

I talk about how many cores games generally need below but for more detail I recommend a separate article:

Read: Do Games Use Multiple Cores?

How Many Cores Does an Intel Core i5 Have?

The number of cores a CPU isn’t exactly a precise measure of a CPU’s performance. However, it CAN give you an insight into where it stands WITHIN a given generation.

So for instance, when guaging the the performance between an Intel Core i5-12600K and an Intel Core i5-12700K, the number of cores would be deciding factor.

The following table shows the number of cores in the FLAGSHIP CPUs of different Intel series and their generation.

 12th Gen
Cores/Threads
11th Gen
Cores/Threads
10th Gen
Cores/Threads
Intel Celeron2/2NA2/2
Intel Pentium2/4NA2/4
Intel Core i34/8NA4/8
Intel Core i510/166/126/12
Intel Core i712/208/168/16
Intel Core i916/248/1610/20

You can see from the table above that the flagship Intel Core i5 from the 12th Generation, the Core i5 12600K, has a whopping 10 cores and 16 threads.

While lower than the core count on i7 and i9s, the number of cores an i5 is still an overkill for MOST AAA games.

Also Read:

Latest Intel Core i5 Models and Their Performance / Dollar Value

The following table lists the 12th Gen Intel Core i5 CPUs and compares them with the 12th Gen Core i3 and i7 CPUs in terms of their corresponding Passmark scores, their MSRP and their performance/dollar value.

CPU Passmark Score
MSRP
Value
Points/$
Intel Core i3
12100
(4c/8t) | 4.3 GHz
14531 $122 119
Intel Core i3
12300
(4/8t) | 4.4 GHz
14955 $143 104
Intel Core i5
12400
(6c/12t) | 4.9 GHz
19550 $192 101
Intel Core i5
12600K
(10c/16t) | 4.9 GHz
27546 $289 95
Intel Core i7
12700
(12c/20t) | 4.9 GHz
31389 $339 92
Intel Core i7
12700K
(12c/20t) | 5.0 GHz
34450 $419 82

You can see from the table above that Intel Core i5 sits conveniently in the middle in terms of performance as well as value.

Also Read: Is Intel Core i3 Good for Gaming?

Note: The Generation of the i5 Processor Matters At Any Given Time

It should be noted that when considering the question whether Intel Core i5 is good for gaming or not you have to take into account the generation of the CPU as well.

There is a world of difference in performance between a 10th Gen Intel Core i5 and a 12th Gen Intel Core i5 despite them being only generation apart.

For instance, the Intel Core i5 10600K, the flagship i5 CPU from the 1oth Gen, has a Passmark score of 14531, the 12th gen flagship CPU the Intel Core i5 12600K has a score of a whopping 27,546.  

So if you ask me whether Intel Core i5s from the 7th generation or the 8th generation are good for gaming or not, the answer will most probably no, they are not.

Also Read: How is Processor Speed Measured?

So Is Intel Core i5 Good for Gaming?

If talking about the newer generation i.e 10th, 11th and particularly the 12th Core i5 CPUs, then yes, an Intel Core i5 is not just great but far exceeds the current gaming requirements.

I am going to reference some performance analysis charts that detail the amount of cores the latest AAA titles use. These tests are conducted by DSOGaming.com.

God of War

is intel core i5 good for gaming
God of War CPU Core Count Requirement Benchmarks. Source: DSOGaming

God of Wars optimal core requirement is 4 cores/8 threads. So basically, the newer i3. I5 is an overkill for this game.

Halo Infinite Core count benchmark
Halo Infinite Core Count Requirement benchmark. Source: DSOGaming

The same goes for this game. It works optimally at 4 cores / 8 threads and sees diminishing results with any higher core count.

Forza Horizon 5 Core count benchmark
Forza Horizon 5 Core Count Requirement Benchmark. Source: DSOGaming.com

Crysis 3 Remastered

Crysis 3 Remastered Core count benchmark
Crysis 3 Remastered Core Count Requirement Benchmark. Source: DSOGaming.com

Crysis 3 is a heavier game likes original release and demand 6 cores / 6 threads to work optimally.

So on and so forth. You will notice that a majority of the games still use 4 core for optimal performance. They do benefit from 6 cores by a reasonable margin, but anything beyond is excessive and offers diminishing returns.

All this indicates that an i5 is more than just capable of handling the modern games.

The following video also shows how a 6 core CPU can give the best results on various games.

You can see here that 6 cores offer the best FPS on any given game and anything beyond offers diminishing returns.

Does Intel Core i5 Have Sufficient Cores for Gaming?

Yes, as clarified above, an Intel Core i5 has more cores than needed by most AAA games. In fact, given the current trend and gaming generation, the amount of cores a 12th Gen Intel Core i5 should be sufficient for years to come.

Let us look at some of the AAA games and their recommended CPU requirements. Pay attention to the Passmark scores of the CPUs.

  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: 9216 Ideal Spec Requirements: Intel Core i7-9800X (8c/16t) (Passmark: 18366)
Elden Ring Intel Core i5-8400
(6 Cores / 6 Threads)
Passmark: 9220
Intel Core i7-8700K
(6 Cores / 12 Threads)
Passmark: 13867

Of all the games listed above, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 has the most robust Recommended Requirements for a CPU i.e Intel Core i7-9800X with its Passmark score if 18,366.

But the newer 12th Gen Core i5-12600K with its Passmark score of 27,546 beats it with a considerable margin.

Not that recommended requirements are often based around FHD resolution and high settings. For QHD, 4K resolution, higher than 60 FPS, and for Epic graphics settings the requirement would be higher.

Also Read:

A Good CPU is NOT Replacement for a Dedicated Graphics Cards

Take good note of the fact that you DO need to have good dedicated graphics card in order to play most games.

CPUs alone are NOT sufficient for gaming.

FAQ

Can We Play Games With Intel Core i5?

Of course, you can. However, you do need to have a good dedicated graphics card.

The integrated graphics card found in Intel Core i5s are good enough ONLY for the lightest eSports titles such as League of Legends or DOTA.

Should I Buy i5 or i7 for Gaming?

This is a question that never gets old. 

In my opinion an Intel Core i5 from the newer generation is not just sufficient for almost all newer titles but also for many games to come in the future.

I have already established that most games do not even saturate the core count of an Intel Core i5, hence investing on an Intel Core i7 would be a waste of money.

However, if you are a streamer then the answer changes. This is because encoding the game streams live can eat your CPU cores.

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

Hence, if you are a streamer then I would recommend an Intel Core i7.

Also Read: Is Intel Core i7 Good for Gaming?

Final Words

So is Intel Core i5 good for gaming? Well, from the discussion it should be quite clear that Intel Core i5 are just the perfect series for gaming PCs.

Unless you have very specific requirements, i5 are considered the holy grail and generally purpose built for gamers. 

They are NOT as expensive as an i7 nor as under performing as i3s.

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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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