FPS… the holy grail metric that many gamers get obsessed with and try to improve by any means possible. And because of this obsession, there is a lot of misinformation on how to do it or what components really affect FPS.
This is why I decided to create this article to answer once and for all the question of whether or not your CPU can affect the Frames Per Second (FPS) and, at the same time, bust some myths around it.
If you are in a rush and looking for a yes or no answer, then the answer is yes; the CPU does affect FPS or frame rate in games.
But if you want to know the whole story, keep reading because, in this article, I am going to talk about how much CPU affects FPS, why this happens, what kind of CPU will give you the best performance, and much more. So, let’s get started!
Does the CPU Affect FPS?
Yes, as mentioned, CPU affects FPS, but in order to understand why and how, you need to have a basic understanding of how your computer works.
If you are not a technical person and are afraid it will be difficult to follow, don’t worry; I won’t get too technical (at least I will try :P). I will just give you an overview of how your computer works when gaming without digging much into the geeky details.
As you probably know, the CPU is the “brain” of your computer. Its work is to process all the information and commands you give to it, and it is no different when you are playing a game.
Your CPU is responsible for running all the game calculations and controls. This includes complex stuff, like the physics of the game, the position and the shape of the objects that are rendered in the game, your movements, how much your health and ammo increase or decrease and why, and even the moves of your enemies.
These calculations happen in milliseconds, and your CPU needs to be fast and powerful to process them without any lag.
After these calculations are made, the CPU sends some of this information to your RAM for temporary storage (you can read here if RAM affects FPS), and all the data about the images you will see on your screen to the GPU.
Once the GPU receives the data from the CPU, it renders them and creates the images (frames) that are displayed on your monitor. Then, this process repeats again and again for all the frames in the game, creating your gaming experience.
As you can understand, the CPU does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to gaming performance, and this is why it affects your FPS.
Related Article: Is 75hz Good For Gaming?
So, how much does the CPU affect FPS?
The answer is not that simple, as it greatly depends on the kind of game you are playing and your CPU specs.
The truth is that most games (and especially AAAA games) today are not that CPU intensive, and even a mid-range CPU will be able to handle them without any issues. This happens because, in order to produce a high-quality graphic environment, a lot of the complex calculations have to be done by the GPU. And with the state of GPU technology today, it is more possible to experience GPU bottlenecks than CPU bottlenecks in modern games.
On the other hand, if you are playing simulation games like a flight simulator or sim city, then the CPU becomes a crucial factor. This is because a lot of calculations with many variables need to be done in order to create these complex environments, and you need a very good CPU to handle them.
Now that we have talked about the impact of the CPU on FPS and gaming performance let’s talk about what CPU specs have a bigger impact on FPS.
What CPU Specs affect FPS?
As you know, CPU performance is based on several specs, and some of those specs have a greater impact on the FPS than others, so let’s have a look at them.
1) The number of CPU cores
A CPU core is an “independent processor” inside your processor, and a CPU can have anywhere from 2 to 32 cores. The number of cores mostly affects the multitasking performance of your system as they increase your CPU’s ability to run many tasks at the same time.
When it comes to FPS, the truth is that the number of cores was not something that played a major role, as games are not about multitasking but about speed (however, if you want to stream and play at the same time, the number of cores becomes really important). But as game technologies evolve, the number of cores has become more and more important as the calculations that need to be done from your CPU are more complex, and the number of cores can help speed up the process.
2) The clock speed
The clock speed of a CPU is the number of pulses per second your CPU can execute and is measured in GHz. The higher the GHz, the faster your CPU can process information.
Unlike the number of cores, clock speed always did and still does play a big role in gaming performance. This is because the faster your CPU is, the faster it will process data, which translates into higher FPS.
3) The cache size
The CPU cache is like an ultra-fast memory that stores frequently used information for future use.
The way the CPU cache works is a bit complicated, so I won’t get into much detail. All you need to know is that the bigger the L3 cache, the more data your CPU can store, and this will improve its overall performance, thus the FPS.
To conclude, if I had to list the CPU specs that have the biggest impact on gaming performance, I would say it’s clock speed, followed by cache size, and then the number of cores.
What kind of CPU should you buy for gaming?
The answer to this question depends on your budget and the kind of games you play.
If you like playing simulation games, then you should go for a processor with lots of cores. On the other hand, if you play more GPU-intensive games like AAAA titles, then you will be fine with processors that have more modest specs and allocate more budget to the graphics card.
Generally speaking, a CPU with a base clock of 3GHz and more, 6 cores, and an L3 cache of 16MB+ will be more than enough to handle most games currently on the market.
How to avoid bottlenecks?
Finally, let’s talk about bottlenecks. Do you remember how your computer components work when you are gaming?
Your CPU processes all the information, which then goes to the RAM and the GPU, and then the GPU processes the information and displays it on the screen.
Now, if one of those components can’t keep up with the rest of the system, you will experience a bottleneck.
The easiest thing you can do to avoid bottlenecks is to buy components of the same generation that have similar specs.
For example, if you have a Ryzen 9 5900x processor and a 10-year-old Nvidia graphics card, then it is very likely that your system will suffer from a GPU bottleneck as it won’t be able to keep up rendering with the pace your CPU is feeding it data.
CPU & FPS FAQ
Can a CPU cause low FPS?
Yes, a CPU can cause low FPS. By now, you can probably understand that if your CPU doesn’t process the data quickly enough and can’t keep up with the rest of your components, especially the GPU, then it will cause low FPS.
Do CPU and RAM affect FPS?
Yes, both CPU and RAM affect FPS, but to different degrees.
The CPU affects FPS more than RAM cause it is responsible for executing all the complex calculations and processing the data the game feeds it.
RAM, on the other hand, is responsible for storing all this information, so if it is too slow or doesn’t have enough capacity to store all the data, it will also cause a bottleneck that will low FPS.
Do CPU and GPU affect gaming FPS more?
Generally speaking, GPU affects gaming FPS more than CPU. This happens because, as mentioned, most of the games are GPU intensive, meaning they are designed to utilize the power of a GPU more than the CPU. However, if you are playing a simulation game, then your CPU will have a bigger impact on FPS.
Why do I have a good PC but a low FPS?
Many factors can affect your PC performance. It could be that you are having a CPU bottleneck issue or that the game you are playing is just too demanding for your system.
If you want to know why the FPS is low, please read the game’s requirements and then check your PC’s components to see if there are any subpar- components.
If you can’t find anything wrong with your system, then it might be that the game’s settings are too high for your PC to handle. You can try lowering them to improve the FPS.
Does CPU temperature affect fps?
Yes, CPU temperature affects FPS. CPUs operate safely in certain temperatures; if they go over these temperatures, they will throttle their performance (thermal throttling) in order to prevent damage. This throttle in performance will also cause the FPS performance to drop.
If you have reached this point, then you not only know if CPU affects FPS but also the reason why, what CPU specs are more important when it comes to gaming performance, and what kind of games require more powerful CPUs.
If you are still not sure about what processor best suits your needs, then hit us up in the comments section, and we will do our best to help you.
Nick Ryley is a computer architect and the owner of The Pc Geekz.
His love for playing games got him interested in computers in the first place. He wanted to be able to build a gaming PC that could run all the latest games at max settings, and this has him pursuing a major in computer architecture!
He started this blog to help people out and answer some of the most common questions about computer building