Question from Eric P.: My dad is going to help me build a gaming PC. He’s already built one before so he knows what he’s doing, but we’re both confused about something.
The money I’ve saved is just enough to buy one of the following:
1 – An Intel Core i5 CPU (#ad) and a discrete video card
2 – A Core i7 CPU (#ad) with no video card
Basically, if I go with the i7 I’ll have to use the motherboard’s integrated video.
My question is which CPU should I buy for the best gaming performance given the fact that if I go with the i5 I’ll be able to add a stand-alone video card?
Rick’s answer: Eric, you didn’t mention the amount of RAM you plan to install or whether you’re going to use a hard drive or an SSD, and those factors make a huge difference in gaming performance as well.
If your budget will allow it, I suggest that you install at least 16GB of RAM, a small SSD for the boot drive and a large spinning hard drive for storing your programs and files.
Now, to answer your question…
Given your choice as you described it, if I were you I would go with the Intel Core i5 CPU and a discrete video card. (#ad)
Very few current games are written to take advantage of the Core i7’s ability to use hyperthreaded virtual cores (which is the primary advantage an i7 has over an i5) but they DO make extensive use of graphics.
Buy the best video card you can afford, but if buying a more expensive video card means you can’t afford an SSD, go with a less expensive video card and add the SSD to your build.
Why? Because virtually any decent discrete video card is likely to perform better than your motherboard’s integrated video circuitry and an SSD is guaranteed to blow the doors off of any hard drive.
Bottom line: All other things being equal, the performance advantage you would gain by using a Core i7 CPU instead of a less expensive Core i5 would be negligible, but a discrete video card will make a world of difference.
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