Your choice on whether to choose CPU gaming or GPU gaming is dependent on the kind of experience that you are looking to get. You need to understand the different roles that each plays in gaming. Pro gamers who are tech-survey are quite well informed on the specific aspects of each and therefore it is much easier for them to choose between CPU and GPU gaming depending on the particular game they want to play.

The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the computer component that does the interpretation and execution of majority of the commands from other software and hardware components. The Graphics Processing Unit on the other hand, just handles image processing. 

So what would be the best choice between the two? While the CPU is necessary, the GPU is the most important aspect of gaming. A basic GPU gives a significant increase in performance and is therefore the workhorse for gaming. Another thing is that the while CPU can handle a single task quite fast, the GPU is capable of processing multiple task if you are not worried about time. 

In addition to being able to handle multiple tasks, a GPU has its own Video Random Access Memory (VRAM) that ensures that your computer’s RAM remains untouched. It is worth noting that while GPU gaming was initially meant for 3D gaming, it has come to earn a reputation for enhancing computing workloads. You can also choose to pair a weak CPU system with a mid-range GPU only that you have to ensure that it does not bottleneck the latter. As you continue to increase your resolution, you will realise that the GPU becomes the only limiting factor. So if you really don’t know which of the two to choose, I would definitely recommend GPU gaming, because what is a good gaming experience with poor graphics. 

1. CPU for Gaming:

What is a CPU?


The Central Processing Unit is the most important part for all computing devices. The CPU handles all the basic commands you input and allocates those that are more complicated to other components of your device. The CPU, is basically your device’s core that enables your device run as expected.

It is a small chip located in your computer’s motherboard/ main circuit board, separate from the devices memory and the graphics chip. It is built by putting together into a single chip billions of microscopic transistors. Recent technology has seen the CPU made to be smaller and smaller which has led to enhanced speeds.

How does a CPU work?

Processing of commands can be divided into three main stages, i.e. fetching, decoding and execution. The component fetches commands from the device’s RAM, decodes/translates the particular command and lastly the command is executed by the relevant components of the CPU. 

These commands include; basic arithmetic, comparison of numbers, calculations, etc. IN a computer, a number hence the simple commands above are the basic equate to the basic functions of the CPU represents every information. 

Read also: Best CPU’s for Gaming 2019

What specifications does CPU for gaming have?

Original CPU models had only a single processing core, however technological advancements has seen this change to multiple cores that have significantly enhanced performance. You will find that majority of the CPU’s being sold now have a minimum of a dual core. There are also others with a quad core, six, eight and even some as high as 12 core. There are those with a multi-threading aspect that is meant to create a virtual processor core.

Another aspect of the CPU is the clock speed. This is usually labelled as GHz, i.e. gigahertz. This component indicates the number of commands your CPU can handle in a second. The clock speed helps you to make a comparison of two devices that are from the same generation and have seemingly similar specifications. Therefore, if two devices have the same aspects, you can make a choice based on the clock speed. However, it is important to note that a 3GHz processor from the year 2012 cannot be as fast as a 2GHz processor manufactured in 2019.

What is the Role of a CPU in gaming?

While many people may argue about the importance of a CPU in gaming, you need to understand that some games are better played with the CPU. CPU handles tasks better compared to the GPU. One of the tasks that requires a good CPU is the aspect of Artificial Intelligence Functionality of Non-player Characters. A good CPU will determine how characters in game react to specific actions.

What type of games utilise CPU?

There are certain games that require a higher core compared to others since they actually need more CPU labour. Fact-moving games that involve first person shooters, open sand box games, multiplayer games, e.tc. Are developed in such a way that they perform better with multiple core CPU’s as well as their multiple threads. 

If you are playing a game requiring competitive players, using a higher refresh rate pc, e.g. 1080p, then an AMD Ryzen 1080X( which basically means 8 core with 16 threads) or Intel 17-8700k (i.e. 6 core with 12 threads) is best recommended to enhance and maximize your CPU gaming experience. The Intel 17-8700k 8th generation boasts of being among the fastest processers with the highest clocking speeds (4.7 GHz). 

For a game such as Grand Theft Auto, I would recommend that you use an Intel i5 3470, i.e. 4-core with 4 threads. The Intel i5, 2.8 GHz, 4-core with 4 threads, is the most suitable for Fortnite Battle Royale. If you are a fan of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, you are likely to get better performance with a CPU that has a quad-core processor at minimum. For this game the AMD Ryzen R5 1600 (6-core with 12 threads) or an Intel i5 2500k (4 core and 4 threads) are the most suitable for excellent performance. 

Factors to consider when sourcing for a processor

Now that you know a little about processors, here are a few factors that you might need to consider before settling on any device.

  • The clocking speed is more important than the core number of your processor. Generally, it is the clocking speed that determines timely performance when it comes to gaming, more cores only help with time consuming workloads
  • Ensure your budget caters for a full system. A strong CPU paired with weak storage and or RAM, will not quite give you the desired effect. Therefore consider having enough money to invest in the whole system for better performance as well as enhancing your gaming experience.
  • AMD and or Intel are your best gambles. With these two devices, it is highly unlikely that you make a wrong choice. Ensure that you go for the current generation components such as the Intel 9th generation.
  • Consider purchasing latest generation components to get value for your money.
  • More expensive devices do not necessary translate to best performance. For example Intel 9900k being highly priced does not offer better performance compared to other models such as the 8700k. The 9900k model does not have the aspect of hyper-threading.
  • Consider whether you want to use your device for both play and work. In the event that you want your device for be multi-purpose, the AMD model is likely to give you a better performance with its extra threads and cores that provide a significant improvement in performance.
  • Consider the Thermal Design Profile (TDP), which is the highest heat amount that is generated by the chip. This will help you get a cooler that is able to handle the heat. Keep in mind that overclocked CPU’s are able to put out more heat compared to those that are not overclocked.

Read also: 10th-gen CPU launched by Intel

Reading model numbers and names:

The first digit that comes after the model number shows the products generation for example an Intel core i7-8700 is an 8th generation model. The other numbers are just indicators of various models in line while the letter K denotes that the device is unlocked for over-clocking while X at the end of AMD models indicate that the model has a higher clocking speed.

With this information you will be able to select the best device model that suit your personal interests in gaming as well as provide you with some insight of what CPU gaming entails. 

We have seen everything we need about CPU for gaming.


Let’s now uncover GPU for gaming.

2. GPU for Gaming:

What is GPU?

The video card also known as the graphics card or the graphics-processing unit is a special electronic circuit that is used to accelerate the creation and rendering of videos, animations and images. It frees the CPU to undertake other tasks by performing fast calculations. A GPU can be integrated and live and either share memory with your device’s CPU or can be discrete with its own memory and card. When it comes to some types of games, the GPU is of more importance than the CPU. It can be simply described as a single chip processor meant for enhancing and managing graphics and video performance. 

As a gamer if you are interested in games that highly demand the kind of processing power that a GPU provides, then it is wiser that you choose it over the CPU. The GPU is developed in such a way that allows multi-tasking since it is comprised of numerous cores that can multi-thread simultaneously.

How does GPU work?

The graphics-processing unit is developed to perform complex geometrical and mathematical calculations that allow the rendering of graphics. Most fast GPU’s have multiple transistors compared to the CPU. Due to its high heat emission, the GPU is placed under a fan or sink heat. 

More to the high processing power, special programming that enable it to analyse data and use it constitutes it.  Images created by the GPU are usually stored in its card’s RAM. Data about the colour, location on the screen and pixel of the images is saved in the RAM.  The RAM also doubles up as a frame buffer, i.e. holds processed images until they are ready to be displayed.  

Video RAMs are dual ported and operate at extremely high speeds and therefore enabling the system to read and write simultaneously. It is directly connected to digital analog converter, otherwise known as DAC or RAMDAC, which translates images into an analog format that can be used by the monitor. Cards with multiple RAMDACs can enhance performance as well as provide support for more than a single monitor.

 What is the role of GPU in gaming?

Once you download your game, it is saved in the hard drive component, while when you upload a game, it goes into the RAM. For games like GTA, it is impossible for all its assets to be saved into the memory all at once due to their size. Every aspect relayed on the screen is saved in the RAM. Therefor the RAM is merely storage. The CPU disseminates information to the GPU.

The process takes place in two steps; graphical components e.g. the textures and model are loaded into the VRAM. Since the GPU is incapable of accessing your device’s memory directly, it usually has its own memory to save the components it requires. Open world games require more VRAM due to their high number of components/assets. The GPU is guided by the CPU on the various objects on your screen. It then converts this information to a complete image. You might assume that the CPU is superior to the GPU, but the latter handles more demanding tasks than the CPU.

The GPU renders your game’s weapon, your character, its effects, shading, texture, ripple effects, and other aspects of the game to your screen. Everything you see on the screen is rendered by the GPU. 

What type of games use GPU?

Due to the aspect of 2D and 3D graphics in most of the games developed, you might need to utilise your GPU more than your CPU. A powerful GPU is required to process 3D and 2D graphics, map textures as well as render polygons among other complex processes. You will get more frames per second depending on how fast your GPU is. 

As a Call of Duty fan, you actually require a mid-range card such as the Radeon R9 390/AMD RX 580, GTX 1060 6GB or the GTX 970 4GB. These GPU models are quite favourable for 1080 Pixels gaming.  For the more competitive player games, the GeForce GTX 1080nor Radeon RX Vega 64 is highly recommendable. These card models are considered high-range and are favourable for resolutions of 1440p Quad HD and or VR headsets as well as high-refresh rate devices. 

Tips for upgrading your GPU

If you decide to upgrade your GPU, it is important that you put some of the factors below into consideration to ensure that you achieve the desired results

  • VR support. Mid-range cards such as the AMD Radeon RX 570/580 are required in the event that you want to use either the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive VR platforms for gaming
  • Memory. For intense gaming, you will need at least 4GB storage space in order to facilitate gaming at 1080P. A minimum of 8GB space is required for 4k mega-gaming. Therefore as you can see, the memory space available in your device matters a lot in how well your GPU process your commands.
  • Refresh rate.
  • A monitor with a relatively low refresh rate does not require you to have a powerful and expensive GPU, however if you have a PC with a high refresh rate such  as 144 Hz, then you will definitely need a graphics card that will match and optimise performance. 
  • The form factor. You will need your graphics card to perfectly fit into tour gaming case, therefore ensure that you check for the girth, length and height.
  • Monitor resolution. Even though majority of the GPUs available meet the minimum threshold for gaming requirements, you will need a high range card to match monitors with a resolution as high as 1440P plus.
  • NVIDIA G-Sync / AMD FreeSync.  In order to eliminate tearing, these two technological components help in synchronising the refresh rate between your monitor and the GPU. While buying a new GPU ensure that you are aware which particular technology is supported by your monitor.


GPU VS CPU:

What are the major differences between the two?

While the GPU and CPU may seem a little similar to you, they do have some very distinct differences some of which may require you to be a little tech-survey to grasp. But, worry not. I will outline some of these differences in the simplest manner possible.

  1. Components:

* The CPU is comprised of:

Arithmetic Logic Unit

This is the digital circuit that is applied in order to execute logic and arithmetic processes. Some of the processes include, measuring values such like AND, OR, AND NOT. It is the base builder block of the CPU

The second component is the control unit.

 The work of this component is to deliver services in the computer’s network. Basically the control unit runs the entire computer while it is run by the ROM and RAM. 

The third component of the CPU is the register. 

This component accepts, stores, and transfers directions and data quickly used by the CPU immediately. It is simply the short-term storage unit that is quickly reachable by the CPU. 

* *  The GPU on the other hand has the following components:

Memory

This is where the complex graphic information and textures are stored. The textures are fetched by the GPU, then processed and sent to the RAM and then to the RAMDAC and finally to your monitor.

Heatsink and fan

These are the cooling components of the GPU. Due to its high heat emission, the GPU needs a proper cooling device that will effectively take away heat from the GPU. Cheaper GPUs may only have the heatsink while higher-range cards have both the heatsink and fan to enhance the cooling process.

HDMI/DVI/VGA Ports

These external components of the GPU connect your screen to your graphics-processing unit using a cable. High range GPUs have both the HDMI and DVI ports unlike the low-range ones. The HDMI carries both the visual and sound signal unlike the DVI. 

Power connectors

These are only found in high and mid-range cards since they require extra power to perform. They are in 6 pin connectors and in the high-range GPUs, you can get two of them being present.

  1. Functions :

* The following are the major functions of a CPU:

  • Fetching instructions
  • Control of data storage
  • Relay commands to other computer components
  • Writing data
  • Interpretation of instructions
  • Control of information flow timing

* *  The major functions of the GPU are:

  • Performing 3D related calculations
  • Performing float point calculations
  • Display functions
  • Rendering of videos, animations and images to your monitor’s screen

Other differences between the GPU and the CPU include:

  • The CPU is ideal for task parallelism while the GPU is best for data parallelism.
  • The CPU is comprised of few complex cores while the GPU has hundreds of simple cores
  • The CPU has low computing density while the GPU has a high computing density
  • The CPU has fast cashes while the GPU involves a lot of maths units
  • The CPU is more flexible unlike the GPU
  • The GPU is mainly developed for image rendering while the CPU is developed to perform various tasks

Choosing between the CPU and the GPU

By now, you understand the basic concepts of both the CPU and the GPU. It is important to note that both components can work together to complement each other. Major differences of the two arise in their functionality but they are quite similar. As a gamer, your personal requirements, device specs as well as interests in particular gaming modes will determine your choice for a processor. 

For a smooth gaming experience, there are a few factors that you should keenly look into in order to make an informed choice.

CPU and GPU bottlenecks

This is defined as the limit on the amount of data that can be processed at a single moment. Bottlenecks occur when there is lower capacity for returning processed data is quite low compared to the amount of data being sent. Be keen on how you pair your GPU and CPU to prevent system failure while gaming. For example pairing a GTX 1080 TI GPU with an AMD A6 5 processor you are likely to experience bottlenecks since the processor is incapable of dealing with speed of the graphics processing card. To enhance your gaming experience ensure you select the right pair.

Budget

Your budget is a huge factor while choosing the best gaming processing model. There are many manufacturers of graphic processing units ranging from high-range to low-range. The difference in price may vary because of the card’s clock speed, features, warranties, etc. Depending on how much you wish to spend, a mid-range to a high-range card is most convenient for gaming

Compatibility 

Ensure that your monitor and entire computer system is compatible with the specific GPU before purchasing to avoid incurring unnecessary losses. Ensure that you check the dimensions of the graphics card. Some cards also require extra expansion slots therefore ensure you have enough room in the motherboard. Various graphic cards come in different sizes, i.e. single-slot, triple-slot, dual-slot, half-length etc. majority of the cards designed for gaming are full-length and may occupy at least two expansion slots. Some of these cards also have a large fan and heatsink that can potentially block adjacent slots. If your motherboard is tiny, then look for a mini-card, 8 inches or less

Verdict

If you are a high-resolution gaming enthusiast, then the graphics-processing unit is the most ideal. For example, a game with 1080 p resolution, the best GPU would be one with a minimum memory space of 3GB, for higher resolutions like 4K, a card with at least 8GB memory plus is the most ideal.

It is also important to check your power consumption and base it on the needs of your card. Ensure that your PSU has the required power connectors to provide sufficient power to your graphics-processing unit so that performance is not interrupted. 

Refresh rate. A monitor with a high refresh rate will require a powerful card in order to bring out the full potential of your monitor. 

Avoid relying on overclocking for performance boost. Graphic processing units do not usually have high levels of overclocking headroom, therefore to enhance the performance of your device, purchase a high-range card instead.

Generally, for the serious gamer the GPU will be the obvious choice for you. The effects and dramatic graphics are the things that make your gaming experience more fun and exciting. While the CPU can easily perform well for most games, the GPU is the ultimate processor that will take your gaming experience to the next level. In conclusion, the biggest considerations when choosing a GPU for gaming is are your budget and the settings of the video games that you would want to play.

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