PC Gaming 101: Is Quad-Core Better for Gaming than Dual-Core?

PC Gaming 101 is a recurring feature in which we equip gamers with protective glyphs of knowledge for their first foray into the PC world.

Is a quad-core processor better for gaming than a dual-core processor?

Next week, we’ll be taking a look at the…

All right; it’s a little more complicated than that. At first blush, the answer seems obvious; “Quad” means “more,” and “Core” means “awesome,” right? In terms of raw power, having four cores versus two cores is a clear advantage — assuming all cores are created equal.

However, not all applications or games are built to make use of four cores. Whether a dual-core or a quad-core is right for you largely depends on your needs as a gamer.

A few years ago, it was rare to find a game that made use of four cores. A quad-core processor was overkill — worse yet, a high-end dual-core could outperform a quad-core if its individual cores were more powerful than the quad’s.

For instance, comparing a 3.0 GHz dual-core with a 2.4 GHz quad-core — which were equally priced in 2007 — saw the dual-core emerge as the clear winner. Why? Because most games at the time only used two cores at best, so it was no longer a comparison of two 3.0 GHz cores to four 2.4 GHz cores, but rather two 3.0 GHz cores to two 2.4 GHz cores.

Today, quad-cores have become the standard — and the age of the hexa-core is right around the corner — so there is a shift toward developing games that support four cores.

It should be noted that, even with games that support four cores, a quad-core will not necessarily translate to double the performance of a dual-core. In-game performance is measured in Frames Per Second — the number of times the on-screen image refreshes in one second. A higher FPS results in a smoother image, while an FPS below 30 produces a visibly choppy image. A quad-core may double your FPS, or it may squeeze out only a dozen more FPS — it depends on the game and how well it is optimized to make use of multiple cores.

If you’re aiming to buy a new computer, consider your needs. If you envision yourself playing the latest AAA titles, get a quad-core. If you want a computer that will last you several years, get a quad-core, or invest in a hexa-core if you can afford it.

Quad-cores are dropping in price, and unless you want to build a throwaway PC for running older games and you don’t intend to keep the system for more than a year, a quad-core is presently a sound investment for the average gamer.

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8 Comments on PC Gaming 101: Is Quad-Core Better for Gaming than Dual-Core?


On July 12, 2011 at 9:17 am

Honestly, in many cases it seems to me that the video card itself means more than anything else.

More and more over the years, the bulk of the work has been done by the video card. You could have a fast processor and plenty of ram, but if your vid card wasn’t up to par, everything suffered.

Then later, they came out with physX cards. The idea made sense: Take all the physics processing, and have a seperate device calculate all that stuff to take the strain off the processor. Though it seems that whole bag never really caught on in mass numbers, it was a good idea. (unfortunately, I use AMD/ATI, so no physX for me)

I got the last gen of AMD’s old quad cores; the 965 something something. It was clocked at 3.0ghz, but it could be modestly overclocked without any hardware enhancements to 3.4 safely. A buddy of mine months after this got a Core-Duo, and through much work and watercooling, was able to pull a 4.0 or 4.2ghz out. I think in some cases he may have connected to games a few milliseconds ahead of me.

Ultimately, I don’t think the amount of cores matters too much unless you are making use of programs that actually use the multithreading capabilities of multi-core processors. And while gaming does use multi-core chips, their true purpose seems more into “work” type applications like programming, video editing, graphic design, etc. As long as your processor puts out a decent standard speed, you probably won’t notice a difference between having 2,3,4, or 6 cores.

Now, if you have a motherboard which has TWO chip slots, that’s a whole new territory. However, I stand by the graphics card still being the most important device.


On July 12, 2011 at 8:30 pm

:( i bought this one with a quad core a year ago :P


On July 12, 2011 at 9:29 pm

I agree with SupremeAllah. I have a 3year old dual core 3.0ghz computer.With the video card I have in my computer,there isn’t a game out there that I haven’t been able to play.Which includes the original Crysis. I still use that as a bench mark when I buy new components for my comp. I have had 2 8800gt video cards in my comp. and Crysis still played very choppy. But with the video card I have now, It plays as smooth as any 10yr old game that has much less graphics requirements.My Processor is also water cooled and I’m sure that helps.


On July 12, 2011 at 11:03 pm

As long as the cpu is good enough not to be a bottleneck then the video card is where you wanna drop the cash. The only games that really use the cpu to the extent you need to worry about it is strategy games.Other then that, spend the money on a graphics card.

And don’t buy the hype! AMD/ATI parts perform amazingly at real world gaming for a sh*t-ton less money than Intel and Nvidia.


On July 13, 2011 at 2:35 am

I need to upgrade to a good video card that wont break the bank…
Currently using onboard video 512mb nvidia, just been playing low end games, got caught up in the hybrid-sli sh*t that never took off =o( I have an Asus mobo, amd 3.0 dual core running at 3.2ghz Any suggestions for todays top games? Thanks!


On July 13, 2011 at 8:43 am

Rebel111, I have an Nvidia 550ti in mine and I haven’t found a game yet that I can’t play.( I got it for a little under $200.00 )


On July 13, 2011 at 9:18 am



Best bang for the buck around.

Rich Orange

On November 5, 2011 at 6:56 pm

I’ve an ATI 5770 1gb of gddr5 [£85] or look on ebay??
it gets me into most games faster than anyone else and will keep you good for future games for a few years..
it has the option of eyefinity 3screens with an extra dongle [£30]
nvidia are overpriced as stated i wouldnt buy a 4000ati or the 6000series
unless a 6890 and always try to stay with the gddr5 memory
1gb of gddr5 is better than 2gb of gddr3[4 although rare]. 0range

i’m here as i got into a heated debate about me buying a failed quad and turning the working 3rd core off to pump double power thru the remaining 2cores ..for a superfast dualcore cpu …against a friend buying a q6600quad ..which to me was a chip for programmers [as before wisely stated] ..no true gamer seeking fps or speed into games that realistically belays to..
being first into a vehicle and out of the base towards getting points
or the one spawning into an already abandoned homebase with no wheels !