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Are Intel Core i5 CPUs Good for Gaming?

Intel processors are one of the best options for computers, especially gaming PCs. They sell a range of different models in the i-series such as the i3, i5, and i7. Because of that, it can be different to make sense of the different metrics used to describe how they perform, so today I will explain how good an Intel Core i5 is for gaming.

The Intel Core i5 is good for gaming. The i3 can barely play graphics-intensive games and requires you to put the graphics to the lowest setting. But, i5 10th, 11th, or 12th generation processors give very well, to amazing performance for the latest graphics-intensive games.

There are different price points for each of the different i5 processors and the generation of each i5 processor also changes how well it will perform for gaming.

Below, I will cover how well each of the different generations of Intel Core i5 processors performs for gaming, whether it’s the best option for the type of gaming you want to do, and how it compares to the other Intel Core processors such as the i3 and the i7.

Is The Intel Core i5 the Best Choice for Gaming?

Gamer playing

When buying computer components such as the processor there’s a trade-off between the price and the performance. You don’t want to spend too much and get something that has far better performance than what you need, but you also want a minimum level of performance so that games play smoothly. With these considerations in mind, the Intel i5 is the best choice for gaming.

The Intel i5 is one of the best choices for gaming, but not the best. It’s not the best performing processor from Intel but it is the best at the mid-range. It will play the latest games smoothly on the medium to highest graphics settings. It’s ideal for a hobbyist gamer but not a pro gamer.

If you don’t play games professionally for a job the i5 is ideal. It’s not too expensive and provides really good game performance. The i5 is about the minimum you would want to really enjoy playing graphics-intensive games. 

Some games have a really low demand for graphics but are still very popular such as Minecraft. For games with low demands for graphics, an i3 will be fine.

On the other hand, very popular games, such as Fortnite, and Dota 2 are graphics intensive. These require at least an i5 processor or the AMD equivalent. As well as, a mid-range graphics card (GPU), and a good amount of RAM, generally about 8GB of RAM is required.

Type of Intel ProcessorHow well do they play the latest gamesPrice
Intel Core i3-10100Just barely and on the lowest graphics setting$130
Intel Core i5-10400Very well provided the other components are decent$180
Intel Core i5-11600You’d be very impressed with the game performance$280
Intel Core i5-12600Amazing game performance$320
Intel Core i7-12700Getting into the top tier of computer performance. Can be a bit overkill for someone who plays games for fun$450
Most renowned Intel CPU for gaming

Here’s a breakdown of what type of games each of the Intel Core i-series processors is good for:

  • Intel Core i3-10100 – Low graphics-intensive games like Minecraft
  • Intel Core i5-10400 – Graphics intensive games – minimum for these types of games
  • Intel Core i5-11600 – Graphics intensive games – very good performance
  • Intel Core i5-12600 – Graphics intensive games – better than the 11600 by a bit
  • Intel Core i7-12700 – Would be a bit spoiled with the graphics performance

Pros & Cons of Using an i5 for Gaming

The i5 is about the middle of the range for graphics performance, older generations are fairly inexpensive. So, I thought I’d summarize the pros and cons of using an i5 for gaming.

The pros of using an i5 for gaming are that they’re reasonably inexpensive, and provide a reasonable level of graphics performance. The cons are they won’t be as smooth on the highest graphics settings for graphics-intensive games where an i7 is far superior.

An Intel Core i5 can easily play graphics-intensive games on medium to medium-high settings, and each subsequent generation 10, 11, and 12 offers increased FPS performance. The generations of Intel processors can be a bit confusing. Here’s a bit more info about what the generations of Intel processors are and how they affect performance.

Does the Generation Matter?

The generation of Intel processors matters. Each subsequent generation offers increased performance. But, this isn’t the case for all games and all situations. In some games and settings, they provide the same FPS, but in other games and certain parts of the game, they provide as much as about a 10% increase in FPS.

The reason is that the way the games are made means that certain parts of the game require more processing power than others due to the models, colors, and effects used.

A good rule of thumb is that the 12th generation processor from on i series processor is equivalent to the 10th generation of the next i series processor up, according to Lenovo, one of the leading computer manufacturers. For example, the 12th generation i3 is roughly equivalent to the 10th generation i5. Here’s a list that shows roughly how they compare:

  • i3 12th generation -> same performance as i5 10th generation
  • i5 12th generation -> same performance as i7 10th generation
  • i7 12th generation -> same performance as i9 10th generation

For more information about how the model and generation numbers work refer to this page on the official Intel website.

What Do the Benchmarks Say

The main metric to see how good a processor is is the frame rate, also called frames per second (FPS). The reason is that if the screen stutters, or is slow this will be reflected in the FPS. When the screen stutters there will be fewer frames and the framerate will drop.

Therefore, people have done various tests to see what the average FPS is over say a minute of playing a game, and then comparing the different Intel Core I series processors. Here are the results from one test done on the same part of the game Grand Theft Auto (GTA):

Intel Core VersionAverage FPS
i369 FPS
i591 FPS
i788 FPS
GTA 5 FPS on Intel CPUs

As you can see the i5 and i7 average FPS is about the same, and peaks out at about 90 FPS. Whereas, both the i5 and i7 are about 10% better than the i3.

With that said parts of a game that are more graphics-intensive will show a more pronounced difference. For example, a part of the game where there are a lot of things happening on the screen compared to a part of the game where not much is happening.

How Does i5 Compare to i7?

The i7 is more expensive than the i5, and with the increased price one would assume that it provides better performance. So, how does the i5 compare to the i7?

As a general rule, the i7 outperforms the i5 for performance. But, it does depend on the generation of each processor. The 12th generation i7 is far superior to the 12th generation i5. But, the 12th generation i5 is roughly equivalent to the 10th generation i7.

Let’s say you want to buy an i7 10th generation processor. The way to get the best deal is to compare the price between the i5 12th generation, and the i7 10th generation and get the one that is cheapest. From time to time, there can be price differences between different Intel Core i-series processors based on the supply and demand for each processor.

Conclusion

The i5 is a good option for a gaming PC. The graphics settings perform really well at 50% to about 75%. But, at the highest graphics settings, they won’t be perfectly smooth. When the graphics settings for graphics-intensive games are set to medium to medium-high they are still very nice to play, and you’ll still be impressed by the graphics.

Sources

I started building and fixing PCs in high school. After a couple of years of offering consultancy to a PC repair shop, I became the goto guy for all my acquaintances for PC/Laptop related buying advice or troubleshooting.