If you are on a tight budget and want to build a gaming PC with limited resources, you would naturally look into the entry-level hardware segment. Intel Pentium CPUs are entry-level CPUs intended for light work, but the question remains “is Intel Pentium good for gaming or not?”
Gaming is one of the most strenuous tasks for a PC. This is particularly true for AAA gaming with high graphics. As such, Intel Pentium CPUs are NOT intended or recommended for gamers. It would be best to look into an Intel Core i3 from the newer generation for a gaming build.
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 critical factors:
- The model of the Intel Pentium CPU – Particularly the Generation.
- The games you want to play.
- The graphics settings and the resolution you want to play at.
- What kind of dedicated graphics card do you have – a high-end GPU demands a relatively powerful CPU to save it from bottlenecking.
If you are a casual or a light gamer and 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, you can expect severe graphics bottlenecks and frame drops for AAA gaming single-player or multi-player, particularly at high graphics.
In the following text, I will examine whether an Intel Pentium CPU is good for gaming.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What are Intel Pentium CPUs, and How do They Compare with the Rest?
Intel Pentium CPUs are entry-level CPUs that position themselves as basic productivity CPUs.
Regarding Intel CPU hierarchy, they perform better than Celeron CPUs but are inferior to Intel Core i3.
The core and the thread count essentially separate an Intel Pentium from an Intel Core i3. Intel Pentium CPUs generally have a lower core and thread count than Intel i3 CPUs.
However, regarding single-core performance (a critical 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 latter has a score of 448.
Only in multi-core processing do the Intel Pentium CPUs seriously falter compared to i3s.
More on the benchmarks below.
Latest & Popular Intel Pentium Models for Desktops and Laptops
To understand the prowess of the Intel Pentium processor, you have to look at the latest models from the current generation.
The following tables list the flagship Pentium, Celeron, and Core i3 CPUs for comparison.
I have used the Passmark benchmark score, which considers the CPU’s overall performance score.
- Desktop-based Intel Pentium CPUs have the ‘G’ Prefix
- Laptop-based Intel Pentium CPUs have the ‘N’ Prefix
|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.|
When comparing the latest Pentiums with Celeron and Core i3 CPUs, you can see that 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 the powerful version of Celerons.
- They cannot be bought off-shelf – intended only for OEMs.
- They are designed for laptop/mobile-based systems like laptops as they have a very low TDP.
Intel Pentium Gold:
- They 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 potent in performance compared to Pentium Silver and thus also have a higher TDP.
Also Read: Is AMD Athlon Good for Gaming?
So Is Intel Pentium Good for Gaming?
With the introduction out of the way, let us now consider whether Intel Pentium is good for gaming.
To understand how a Pentium CPU would fare in gaming, we must realize popular games’ CPU requirements.
Gamers would know that there are generally two types of games:
- Popular Online / Esports Titles – They typically 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 massive volume of people online, they generally have a lower system requirement.
So much so that some 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 summarized the CPU requirements of some 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 most cases, Pentium CPUs CAN meet the recommended system requirements of the popular online titles.
However, a Pentium CPU can miss the mark in some rarer instances (i.e., Minecraft Recommended Requirements).
The biggest issue with Pentium CPUs is that they are only dual-core based, whereas most game engines can quickly scale with up to four cores.
Lower Core Count = Lower Gaming Performance
The following video shows how a 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 six core counts. At the same time, the performance gains from 6 cores and above aren’t phenomenal.
No wonder the Core i5 and Ryzen 5 (With their six cores) are considered the golden standard for gaming.
CPU Requirement by AAA Titles
AAA titles have a much greater CPU requirement.
The games use more cores and raw CPU power, and 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 isn’t powerful enough to parse the information to and from the GPU fast enough, 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) do not meet the minimum requirements of most games, let alone the recommended requirements.
Hence, for AAA titles, I advise staying 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.
Should You Get Intel Pentium for Gaming Build?
From the discussion above, it should be evident that Intel Pentium is not entirely intended for gaming enthusiasts, pro gamers, or 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 your 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 critical. For instance, taking the Intel Pentium G6405U laptop-based CPU with a Passmark score of 2359 is undoubtedly a red line. This is a no-go for gaming.
However, if you consider the desktop-based Pentium CPUs, i.e.., Pentium G6600 seems sufficient for light gaming.
Graphics Card is Still the Reigning King
A CPU is essential, but the 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 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|
- Results are taken from videocardbenchmark.net
Comparing the iGPU scores of the best Pentium CPUs, you can see that they are nowhere near the performance scores of even the entry-level dedicated GPUs, such as the NVIDIA GTX 760, released in 2013.
You must pair your Pentium with a cheap dedicated GPU for an excellent gaming experience. DO NOT rely on the iGPU of the Pentium CPU for gaming.
Also Read: Is 1TB SSD Enough for Gaming?
There Must be a Parity Between the CPU and GPU
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 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.
So the answer to whether Intel Pentium is good for gaming is generally negative. If you are a gamer worth your salt, then an Intel Pentium is not recommended.
However, if you are on a tight budget and the games you intend to play are only light and popular online titles, and you do not mind playing at lower graphics settings, you can get away with it.
But Intel Pentium CPUs are generally intended only for productivity for home use and office work. They are not designed for demanding tasks such as gaming or even editing.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. Will upgrading to an Intel Pentium processor enhance my gaming experience?
Upgrading to an Intel Pentium processor may enhance your gaming experience, especially if you are currently using an older or lower-end processor.
However, the extent to which your gaming experience improves will depend on several factors, including the specific Intel Pentium model you choose, the graphics card you are using, and the amount of RAM installed on your system.
2. How much RAM is required for gaming on an Intel Pentium processor?
The amount of RAM required for gaming on an Intel Pentium processor varies depending on the specific game you want to play and the settings you want to use.
As a general rule, 8GB of RAM should be sufficient for most games, although some newer titles may require more.
It’s always a good idea to check the recommended system requirements for your specific game to ensure that you have enough RAM to run it smoothly.
3. Can I use an Intel Pentium processor for virtual reality gaming?
Using an Intel Pentium processor for virtual reality gaming may be possible, but it is not recommended.
Virtual reality gaming requires a lot of processing power, and while the Intel Pentium processor may be able to handle some VR games, it is likely to struggle with more demanding titles.
If you are serious about VR gaming, it’s best to invest in a higher-end processor that is specifically designed for this purpose.
4. Is it worth investing in an Intel Pentium processor for gaming or should I opt for a higher-end CPU?
Whether it’s worth investing in an Intel Pentium processor for gaming will depend on your individual needs and budget.
If you are on a tight budget and only plan to play casual or older games, an Intel Pentium processor may be a good option.
However, if you want to play more demanding games at higher settings, you may want to consider a higher-end CPU, such as an Intel Core i5 or i7.
Ultimately, the decision will come down to your personal preferences and budget.