Does CPU Affect FPS in Gaming? (You Need to Know This!)



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Are you building a new PC or your old PC is dropping frames and you need to know if the problem comes from your CPU? Then you are in the right place, we will discuss the subject in detail.

CPU will have a major impact on FPS in games with complex physics, facial animations, and many NPCs. On games with less physics and animations, the CPU will have less of an impact over FPS, the GPU is most important here. The CPU has a great impact when you are gaming at very high refresh rates and a lower resolution.

In this article, I will tell you how the CPU will affect the FPS, we will discuss if an overheated CPU will lower FPS and in the end, I will give you a list of popular games that are CPU intensive.

How Does CPU Affect FPS in Games?

Gamer playing CS GO
CS GO play session

CPU and GPU will have by far the most impact on FPS. They are 2 different types of processors, the CPU is highly efficient in processing serial tasks and the GPU is very efficient in processing parallel tasks. The higher the resolution the more pixels your display shows, and the more parallel processing power you need.

But if what you see on the screen is processed by the GPU then how can the CPU impact the framerate? The answer is simple, while all the parallel processing is handled by your GPU there are still many serial tasks that are required to play the game on which the GPU will be too slow.

Now let us examine which are the main tasks that are processed by the CPU:

  • physics: the CPU will handle all the physics in a game, from collision to destruction to the movement of objects,
  • animations: all the character animations need to be processed by the CPU, from the movement of the mouth to the rise of an eyebrow, practically the more realistic a character behaves the more CPU-heavy a game is,
  • NPCs: the more NPCs you have in a game the more animations and movements your CPU needs to process,
  • autogenerated environment: all the autogenerated environments and maps need to be processed by the CPU, like in Diablo 3 where the map is never the same,
  • game events: there are many games that will have events triggered by different in-game events or some decisions you made, while this is not too demanding for the modern CPU, nonetheless it is a CPU task.

As you can see the more realistic a game will be the more powerful CPU it will need. This is the reason why you can still see capes run true characters, the game developers want their game to run on as many PCs as possible and for this reason, are willing to use less complex physics.

Can a Bad CPU Cause Low FPS?

A bad CPU can cause a GPU bottleneck and will lead to low FPS. If the GPU can render the image quicker than the CPU processes its tasks then you will end up with a lower framerate than your GPU can offer, this problem is common when you want to take advantage of a high refresh rate monitor and you need to run games at a very high FPS.

The good part is that you don’t need the best CPU on the market to take advantage of the powerful GPUs on the market, an i5 CPU will get you a long way and if you get a high-end i5 you most probably are covered.

If you want to get a more in-depth answer to the question: Do You Need a Good CPU for Gaming? I encourage you to read this article!

CPUs With Faster Clock Speeds Increase Frame Rate

The CPU speed is the speed at which a core can process tasks. The higher the clock speed, the faster the CPU is, and this tends to have a positive effect on FPS. Now let us see how much of an improvement you can expect if you get a higher clock CPU.

The upgradeFPS increase
3 GHz to 3.5 GHz11 – 15 %
3.5 GHz to 4 GHz5 – 10 %
4 GHz to 4.5 GHz5 – 10 %
4.5 GHz to 5 GHz2 – 10 %
FPS approximate gains in regard to CPU clock speed

Higher clock speeds are also helpful for pre-generated maps. Additionally, most AAA games take advantage of more than one core in-game and are designed around the concept of using multiple cores.

Another way to increase the frame rate is to upgrade your CPU. There are a few reasons why upgrading is necessary. While you might feel compelled to buy the latest graphics card, it may not be enough to run the latest games. The CPU is a bottleneck for games, so you need to keep it balanced to get the best performance. If the CPU is a bottleneck, it can lead to choppy gameplay.

Why Is a CPU Important for Gaming?

The main reason why the CPU is important for gaming is that it processes different tasks than the GPU and if the CPU isn’t fast enough it can bottleneck the GPU. All the serial tasks are processed by the CPU but these aren’t the tasks why the game looks good and for this reason, many gamers will overlook the CPU.

Yes, the majority of your budget should go to the GPU when you build a gaming PC, but don’t overlook the CPU if you want high FPS. An Intel® Core™ i5-12600K will give you a very smooth gaming experience and will not bottleneck any graphics card on the market by much even if you want to enjoy 144hz gaming.

Does an Overheating CPU Affect FPS in Games?

Overheating CPUs tend to have lower FPS. Besides being inefficient, high-temperature CPUs can cause hardware faults and reduce performance. Minor hardware faults can affect your performance and require a reboot, while major ones may lead to blue screens or data corruption.

So, it is important to check the CPU temperature to maximize performance. But make sure you are not causing harm to your computer by running the game on a CPU with a high temperature. It may also reduce its lifespan.

A better CPU will help your FPS, but higher clock speeds do not guarantee superior performance. Processor frequency only affects FPS below 3 GHz, and above that, other factors become more important. For most modern games, a four-core CPU with two threads per core is sufficient.

Of course, not all games are impacted the same by your CPU, the more complex physics, animation, and procedure-generated textures the game has the more it will rely on the CPU to run smoothly.

Now let us examine which modern games are CPU intensive:

NameCPU intensive level
Grand Theft Auto 5High
Assassin’s Creed: OriginsHigh
Cities: SkylinesHigh
Far Cry 5High
Civilization 5 or 6High
Star CitizenHigh
Total War: Warhammer 2High
No Man’s SkyHigh
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020High
Monster Hunter: WorldHigh
Battlefield VHigh
Cyberpunk 2077High
Call of Duty: WarzoneHigh
Shadow Of The Tomb RaiderHigh
Red Dead Redemption 2High
CS GOMedium
CPU intensive games

As a distinguished Professor of Computer Science, my expertise lies at the intersection of PC hardware, software development, and system troubleshooting. My foray into the realm of computer technology began during my high school years, where I honed my skills in building and repairing PCs. Subsequently, I provided consultancy services to a renowned PC repair establishment, solidifying my reputation in the field. Today, I am the trusted authority among peers and colleagues for insights and solutions related to PC and laptop challenges.

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