Is Intel Pentium Good for Gaming?

If you are on a tight budget and want to build a gaming PC with limited resources, then you would naturally look into entry level hardware segment. Intel Pentium CPUs are basically entry level CPUs intended for light work, but the question remains “is Intel Pentium good for gaming or not?”.

Simply put, gaming is one of the most strenuous tasks for a PC. This is particularly true for AAA gaming at high graphics. As such, Intel Pentium CPUs are NOT intended or recommended for gamers. For a gaming build you should at least look into an Intel Core i3 from newer generations.

However, there are times and scenarios where you CAN potentially get away with just an Intel Pentium CPU for your gaming PC. 

But in the end, whether the Intel Pentium is good for gaming or not depends upon a few important factors:

  1. The model of the Intel Pentium CPU – Particularly the Generation.
  2. The games you want to play.
  3. The graphics settings and the resolution you want to play at.
  4. What kind of dedicated graphics card you have – a high end GPU demands a relatively powerful CPU to save it from bottlenecking.

Basically, if you are casual or a light gamer and if you often play popular online titles such as DOTA 2, League of Legends, PUBG, Fortnite or MMORPGs, then a newer Intel Pentium CPU can suffice.

However, for AAA gaming single-player or multi-player, particularly at high graphics, you can expect to see serious graphics bottlenecks and frame drops.

In the following text I will take a further look into whether an Intel Pentium CPU is good for gaming or not.

What are Intel Pentium CPUs and How They Compare with Rest?

Intel Pentium CPUs are entry level CPUs that position themselves as being the basic productivity CPUs.

In terms of Intel CPU hierarchy, they stand better in performance compared to Celeron CPUs, but inferior compared to Intel Core i3 CPUs

What essentially separates an Intel Pentium from an Intel Core i3 is the core and the thread count. Intel Pentium CPUs generally have a lower core and thread count compared to Intel i3 CPUs. 

However, as far as, single-core performance (a very important metric for single-core based applications and tasks) Intel Pentium and Intel Core i3 are more or less comparable.

For instance, taking the Intel Pentium G6600 and Intel Core i3 10100 (both from Comet Lake generation), the former has a Single-Core Cinebench R20 score of 422 while the later has a score of 448.

It is only in multi-core processing where the Intel Pentium CPUs seriously falter in comparison to i3s.

More on the benchmarks below.

Also Read:

Latest & Popular Intel Pentium Models for Desktops and Laptops

In order to understand the prowess of Intel Pentium processor, you have to look at the latest models from the current generation.

The following tables lists the flagship Pentium CPUs along with flagship Celeron and Core i3 CPUs for comparison.

I have used the Passmark benchmark score which takes the overall performance score of the CPU in consideration.

Note:

  • Desktop based Intel Pentium CPUs have the ‘G’ Prefix
  • Laptop based Intel Pentium CPUs have the ‘N’ Prefix
CPU Passmark Score
Type
Remarks
Intel Celeron N4020
(2c/2t) | 1.10-2.80 GHz
1606  Laptop/
Mobile
A popular Celeron CPU found on many laptops; released in 2019
Intel Celeron G5905
(2c/2t) | 3.50 GHz
2846 Desktop Flagship and Popular desktop based Celeron CPU
Intel Pentium Gold 6405U
(2c/4t) | 2.4 GHz
2359 Laptop/
Mobile
Flagship and Popular laptop based Intel Pentium CPU
Intel
Pentium Silver
N6005
(4c/4t) | 2.0-3.30 GHz
3224 Laptop/
Mobile
Flagship Intel Pentium Silver CPU.
Intel Pentium G6400
(2c/4t) | 4.0 GHz
4155 Desktop Popular; desktop based Pentium CPU.
Intel Pentium Gold G6600
(2c/4t) | 4.2 GHz
4396 Desktop Flagship; desktop based Pentium CPU.
Intel Core i3-10110U
(2c/4t) | 2.1-4.1 GHz
4064 Laptop/
Mobile
Flagship and Popular laptop based Intel Core i3 CPU
Intel Core i3 10100
(4c/8t) | 3.6-4.3 GHz
8825 Desktop Popular; desktop based Core i3 CPU.

You can see that when comparing the latest Pentiums with Celeron and Core i3 CPUs, the Pentiums are almost in the middle in terms of performance (as per Passmark benchmark) as well as in core and thread count.

Intel Pentium Gold and Intel Pentium Silver – Clarifying the Confusion

To confuse us even more, Intel has bifurcated their Pentium line into two different series i.e Silver and Gold.

While I have talked in depth about the two here. The primary differences and characteristics of the two are as follows:

Intel Pentium Silver:

  • They are basically the powerful version of Celerons.
  • They cannot be bought off-shelf – intended only for OEMs.
  • They are intended for laptop/mobile based systems like laptops as they have a very low TDP.

Intel Pentium Gold:

  • Are the weaker version of the Core i3 – follow the same architecture as Core i3s. 
  • They can be bought off-shelf for building a custom desktop.
  • They can be found on both laptops and desktops.
  • They are more powerful in performance compared to Pentium Silver and thus also have a higher TDP.

So Is Intel Pentium Good for Gaming?

With the introduction out of the way, let us now look at whether Intel Pentium is good for gaming or not.

In order to understand how a Pentium CPU would fare in gaming, we have to understand the CPU requirements of the popular games. 

Gamers would know that there are generally two types of games:

  • Popular Online / Esports Titles – They generally have a lower CPU requirement
  • AAA Titles – They have a robust CPU requirement.

CPU Requirements by Popular Online / Esports Titles

Since online titles are intended to be played by a huge volume of people online, they generally have a lower system requirement.

So much so that some of the titles (i.e League of Legends) can be played even on a potato PC. After all, not everyone can afford a top of the line Core i5 or an i7 for their PC.

In the following table, we have summarized the CPU requirements of some of the popular online titles by taking their Passmark benchmark scores.

  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 Online Titles a Pentium CPU CAN Suffice

We can see from the table above, that in majority of the cases, Pentium CPUs CAN meet the recommended system requirements of the popular online titles.

However, in some rarer instances (i.e Minecraft Recommended Requirements) a Pentium CPU can miss the mark.

The biggest issue with Pentium CPUs is that they are currently only dual core based, whereas, most game engines these days can easily scale with up to four cores.

Lower Core Count = Lower Gaming Performance

The following video shows how lower core count can affect gaming performance.

You will notice that the performance drop is more pronounced when the core count of a CPU is below 6 core count. Whereas, the performance gains from 6 cores and above aren’t phenomenal.

No wonder Core i5 and Ryzen 5 (With their 6 cores) are considered the golden standard for gaming.

Also Read: 

CPU Requirement by AAA Titles

AAA titles obviously have a much greater CPU requirement.

Not only do the games use more cores and raw CPU power, a more powerful CPU is also required to avoid any bottlenecking issues with the dedicated graphics card installed in most gaming PCs.

If you have a powerful graphics card, but the CPU just isn’t powerful enough to parse the information to and from the GPU fast enough, then your GPU will get seriously bottlenecked.

  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

For AAA Games Intel Pentium DOES NOT Meet The CPU Requirements

Just as expected, for AAA games, Intel Pentium CPUs (judging by the Passmark score) does not meet the minimum requirements of most games, let along the recommended requirements.

Hence, for AAA titles, my advice would be to stay away from Intel Pentium CPUs for gaming.

Also Read: Do Games Use Multiple Cores?

Intel Pentium CPU Benchmarks

The following chart shows how Intel Pentium CPUs compare with the rest of the closely related CPUs.

Is Intel Pentium Good for Gaming
Passmark Score comparison of Pentium CPUs

Should You Get Intel Pentium for Gaming Build?

From the discussion above, it should be very clear that Intel Pentium are not entirely intended for gaming enthusiasts, pro gamers or for AAA games.

They are only good enough for very light gaming if you are a casual gamer.

The other important factors that matter are:

  • What model of you Pentium CPU is in question
  • What games do you intend to play
  • Whether you have a dedicated graphics card or not.

The model of the Pentium CPU in question is very important. For instance, if you take the laptop based Intel Pentium G6405U  – laptop based CPU with a Passmark score of a mere 2359 – then that is certainly red line. This is a no go for gaming.

However, if you take the desktop based Pentium CPUs into consideration i.e Pentium G6600, then they seem to be sufficient for light gaming.

Graphics Card is Still the Reigning King

A CPU is important, but in the end, graphics card is still the reigning king for gaming.

Which begs the question: Do you intend to build a PC without a graphics card and solely rely on the iGPU or do you plan to install a dedicated graphics card?

Going with the former case, i.e using the Intel Pentium iGPU for gaming, is certainly a big mistake.

Even the flagship Intel Pentium CPUs i.e the G6600, feature only a weak iGPU i.e the Intel UHD 630 graphics.

While this is better than the UHD 610 or the UHD 600 as found on Celeron CPUs, it is far inferior to a budget dedicated GPU. 

GPUs and their G3D Mark Performance Scores

GPU G3DMark
Year of Release
Remarks
Intel UHD 600 331 2018 As found on Intel Celeron N4020
Intel HD 4000 332 2012 Launched in 2012 with 3rd Ivy Bridge CPUs
Intel UHD 610 732 2018 As found on Intel Celeron G5905
Intel UHD 630
1381 2017 As found on current Gen Pentium CPUs
Intel UHD 750 1688 2021 – As found 11th Gen Intel CPUs
AMD Radeon RX 560 3636 2017 Budget dedicated GPU
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950 5409 2015 Budget dedicated GPU
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 6036 2015 Budget dedicated GPU
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 6329 2016 Budget dedicated GPU
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 9875 2016 Budget dedicated GPU

GPU G3DMark Scores is celeron good for gaming pcg

Compare the iGPU scores of the best Pentium CPUs you can see that they are no where near the performance scores of even the entry level dedicated GPUs such as the NVIDIA GTX 760 released way back in 2013. 

Long story short, you must pair your Pentium with a cheap dedicated GPU for a reasonable gaming experience. DO NOT rely on the iGPU of the Pentium CPU for gaming.

There Must be a Parity Between CPU and GPU

It goes without saying that pairing a budget Intel Pentium CPU with a Mid Range or a High End graphics card would be a big mistake.

The Pentium CPUs can cause bottlenecks for a high end gaming graphics card since it cannot keep up with the data that it can process.

Hence, make sure there is a parity between the CPU and GPU. In other words, pair Intel Pentium CPUs ideally with an entry level dedicated graphics card.

Also Read: Does Your PC Need a Graphics Card If Its Not for Gaming?

Final Words

So the answer to the question is Intel Pentium good for gaming is generally negative. If you are a gamer worth your salt, then an Intel Pentium is not recommended for you.

However, if you are on a tight budget and if the games that you intend to play are only light and popular online titles, and you do not mind playing at lower graphics settings, then sure you can get away with it.

But generally, Intel Pentium CPUs are intended only for productivity for home use and for office work. They are not intended for demanding tasks such as gaming or even editing. 

Also Read:

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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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