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Better to go with i5 or i7 for games?

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November 29, 2011 2:39:31 PM

I'm going to buy a laptop, however I've heard that most games today don't use four cores while many people do advise to buy an i7. I'm mostly going to be playing games like Magicka or TF2 but I'd love to be able to play Skyrim too. However I've heard that Skyrim doesn't use more than two cores and runs on an i5 the best.

So when we consider that I'd perhaps like to play some modern games (like Batman:AC) but at the same time Skyrim, should I get an i7? I'm not sure yet what kind of graphics card will I use though, in my country I can go for GeForce 555 or ATI HD 6770. Or in case there is good setup using better graphics cards in UK around 1000 EUR, I'd go with that. Thanks! :) 

More about : games

November 29, 2011 4:50:40 PM

i5 or i7 for gaming is a wash. Just pick one that is within your budget and has a decent clock setting 3.0Ghz+.
November 29, 2011 5:02:34 PM

Today, for games a high-clocked quad-core i5 is better than i7 because i7 has HT which hinders gaming performance and also makes games stutter (no game except bfbc2 support HT and maybe even it stutters too). Also i5 is cheaper.
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November 29, 2011 5:41:05 PM

Games do not use Hyper Threading (Core i7). As pointed above in some cases, it does marginally decrease gaming performance verses the Core i5, but you well need benchmark numbers to see the difference.
November 29, 2011 5:41:34 PM

he also asked for a laptop cpu... regarding the HT hindering games, I'd like to see a benchmark that supports that statement. Regardless, all mobile i series feature HT.


@OP:

3ghz i5 should be plenty for gaming. There's few games that would run better on a quad rather than higher clocked dual core. This might change significantly once new gen consoles hit (dont ask me for the date tho)

November 29, 2011 7:03:43 PM

Thanks for the replies! I came across some CPU benchmarks on notebookcheck.net which showed better results for i7 (like in Dirt 2 and non-game applications), so I wanted to double check that i5 is indeed the best choice for games.

Does it matter though if the i5 is from the 2430 series which comes clocked at 2.4 and can get up to 3ghz by using Turbo boost (and doesn't come clocked at 3 ghz)? The i7 is 2670QM and starts at 2.2 but Turbo boost can get it up to 3.1. I think that the i5 will be better, am I correct?
November 29, 2011 7:07:24 PM

AntiZig said:
he also asked for a laptop cpu... regarding the HT hindering games, I'd like to see a benchmark that supports that statement. Regardless, all mobile i series feature HT.


@OP:

3ghz i5 should be plenty for gaming. There's few games that would run better on a quad rather than higher clocked dual core. This might change significantly once new gen consoles hit (dont ask me for the date tho)


If HT doesn't hinder games, please explain how does i5-2500 scores better than i7-2600 in some games, like in here:
http://www.anandtech.com/show/4083/the-sandy-bridge-rev...

Is it the less 100MHz clock on the 2500 that does it? or maybe it is the less 2mb cache... and I even don't mention the stuttering.
November 29, 2011 7:09:47 PM

that's a bit of a let down that they don't clock them higher. They must want to keep the heat down. i5 is probably cheaper and you won't gain much with the i7.
November 29, 2011 7:35:06 PM

The reason HT "hinders" gaming performance in comparisons between the i5-2500k vs. the i7-2600k for instance, is because hyperthreading increases the CPU's heat and can marginally affect benchmarking tests. The technical act of hyperthreading has no negative impact on gaming itself.

The statement "games don't use hyperthreading" is misleading because it is inaccurately conveying an accurate concept, but I won't get into all that.

All said and done, as far as the desktop versions of the current sandy bridge CPU's go, the i5-2500k is comparable to an i7-2600k purely in terms of how it affects gaming. I cannot speak for the mobility versions of i5 and i7 cpu's, nor can I speak for sub-2500k models of the i5's vs. their i7 counterparts because I have never bothered to compare these.
November 29, 2011 8:02:12 PM

And how do the latest mobile i5 and i7 compare, if you've looked up into these?

That benchmark is interesting, it partially supports results from notebookcheck.net where usually higher fps have rigs with i7, not those with i5. Why are companies chucking in their notebooks the i7s when the i5s are supposed to be better? Especially in gaming rigs? To get more money?
November 29, 2011 8:07:32 PM

People see 7 and say it's bigger than 5 therefore it's better. It's the reason that microsoft named their sequel to the xbox the xbox 360 instead of xbox 2. If you had the choice between ps3 and xbox 2 peope will buy ps3 simply because 3 > 2.
November 29, 2011 8:12:34 PM

FunSurfer said:
If HT doesn't hinder games, please explain how does i5-2500 scores better than i7-2600 in some games, like in here:
http://www.anandtech.com/show/4083/the-sandy-bridge-rev...

Is it the less 100MHz clock on the 2500 that does it? or maybe it is the less 2mb cache... and I even don't mention the stuttering.

lol really? you're trying to tell me that a difference between 111 and 124 fps will cause stutter? the rest differences seem around 1-3 fps no matter which one is on top i5 or i7. Not to mention in all cases it's 80+ frame rate. I'm willing to consider ok, so maybe your system is running marginally right around 60 fps, so in that case a difference between 61 and 58 fps might give you marginal issues if you're using double buffering and no vsync. But all that is showing is your system cannot handle the game settings. you cannot possibly tell me that a difference in 3 fps when it's well above 60 is causing stutter.

oh and if you come back and tell me that fps might not be reflective of stutter issues, then why the hell did you link that bench?
November 30, 2011 3:01:16 AM

AntiZig said:
lol really? you're trying to tell me that a difference between 111 and 124 fps will cause stutter? the rest differences seem around 1-3 fps no matter which one is on top i5 or i7. Not to mention in all cases it's 80+ frame rate. I'm willing to consider ok, so maybe your system is running marginally right around 60 fps, so in that case a difference between 61 and 58 fps might give you marginal issues if you're using double buffering and no vsync. But all that is showing is your system cannot handle the game settings. you cannot possibly tell me that a difference in 3 fps when it's well above 60 is causing stutter.

oh and if you come back and tell me that fps might not be reflective of stutter issues, then why the hell did you link that bench?


Well, in all the other benchmarks on the link I posted except PC gaming the i7-2600 is the clear winner. If that is not a proof that HT hinders gaming than I don't know that to give you.
About the stuttering, I have an i7-2600 and had stuttring issues in BF3 until I turned off HT in the bios, and now the game runs smoothly. And not just for me:
http://www.overclock.net/t/1151970/my-own-bf3-benchmark...

HT is an old technology back from the days of Pentium 4. So I don't understand why it is not implemented in games like the multi-core technology that is newer. i7s could have much better performance gains.
April 26, 2012 6:11:51 PM

Am I the only one who sees that the first link posted with the following settings:

Quote:
We're running with a GeForce GTX 280 at 1680 x 1050 and medium quality defaults. There's no AA/AF enabled.


Those are pretty pathetic settings. I'd like to see the same benchmark ran with current gen hardware and 1920 x 1080 resolution.
April 26, 2012 9:14:24 PM

for a benchmark that is trying to measure CPU performance you want higher res and current gen GPU? I'm sorry but you got this one wrong
April 30, 2012 7:25:06 PM

How are you stressing a CPU with a paltry GTX 280 and low settings/resolution. It's not generating enough bandwidth to force the CPU to think. It's not stress if it's easy to calculate/render.
April 30, 2012 8:00:45 PM

Zephids said:
How are you stressing a CPU with a paltry GTX 280 and low settings/resolution. It's not generating enough bandwidth to force the CPU to think. It's not stress if it's easy to calculate/render.


Agreed. I'd go the opposite direction and fix the resolution at a standard 1920x1080, but then put a top-of-the-line GPU in there so there is no chance of the GPU bottle-necking results. People upgrade GPUs far more often than they do CPUs (I went Radeon 4870/GTX 460/GTX 580 and still on the same CPU) and that could accurately convey the limitation of an older CPU with a more modern GPU.

No one serious about gaming pairs a Sandy Bridge CPU with a GTX 280.
May 1, 2012 5:22:42 AM

i ran bf3 on my 920 and have noticed little difference between ht on and ht off. i certainly had no stutter in either case then again i dont run my games at 30-110 fps i run em at 55-60. your much less likely to notice stutter if your not getting huge fps droop which is more likely the reason for your stutter than hyper threading.

sorry my 30+ years of gaming trumps your benchmark...

May 1, 2012 1:33:57 PM

Zephids said:
Am I the only one who sees that the first link posted with the following settings:

Quote:
We're running with a GeForce GTX 280 at 1680 x 1050 and medium quality defaults. There's no AA/AF enabled.


Those are pretty pathetic settings. I'd like to see the same benchmark ran with current gen hardware and 1920 x 1080 resolution.


Metro 2033. 1920x1200. GTX 580. i5-2500 min FPS 100% better than i7-2600 min FPS. Please explain how is that possible.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/sandy-bridge-core-i...
May 1, 2012 2:46:03 PM

its called bad coding... there you go explained...
actually this is correct. the reason. when you have a cpu that has hyperthreading you reduce its ability to do single threaded tasks by a very small amount less than 1% because the cpu still has to check to see if its using hyperthreading or not.
on a cpu that doesnt have it, it doesnt have to make that check... end result clock for clock a none hyperthreaded cpu will be ever so slightly faster... but as i say its marginal at best...
executing 2 threads on 1 core is not the same as executing 1 thread on 1 core.
the small trade off in performance is gained back when more than 4 threads are used. the 4 core 8 thread cpu will not choke when 6 or 7 threads are used while the 4 core 4 thread will. as a lot of gamers are about t find out with games like max pain that will use all the threads available on todays quads...
yes its a small reduction in performance on 4 threaded or less games but that small performance drop is more than made up for when more threads are used... as gaming gpu's get bigger there will be more threads needed and people with 2600k wont have to upgrade when they arrive unlike the guys sporting 2500k's atm

May 1, 2012 4:32:53 PM

OK. So your answer to the OP is to get i5 (4 cores 4 threads) for games that use 4 cores or less, and to get i7 (4 cores 8 threads) when games will use 5 threads or more.
At the time of my initial post there were no games using more than 4 threads...
Do you actually believe that Max Payne 3 will max out 12 threads (the recommended CPU is i7-3930K)? ...it sure got its name right - MAX payne...
May 4, 2012 10:53:49 AM

i5 2500K is a preety good choice.
May 4, 2012 1:44:27 PM

wow, I cannot believe hardheads are still going at it,

OP was asking for a LAPTOP recommendation, when you find a 2nd gen mobile i5 and i7 without HT, let me know. Otherwise you're arguing an empty spot
May 6, 2012 8:08:25 AM

AntiZig said:
wow, I cannot believe hardheads are still going at it,

OP was asking for a LAPTOP recommendation, when you find a 2nd gen mobile i5 and i7 without HT, let me know. Otherwise you're arguing an empty spot


You are correct. 2nd gen laptops - i3, i5 or i7 - are all 2 cores 4 threads. Only main differance is clock speeds. For gaming, with 2 CPU cores, the highest clock speed will yield the best results.
May 6, 2012 7:09:03 PM

you demonstrate your ignorance once again.

i3 and i5 are dual cores, i7 are quad cores with exception of 2 or 3 models. The differences however are far beyond the simple difference in clocks.
May 7, 2012 12:41:31 AM

AntiZig said:
you demonstrate your ignorance once again.

i3 and i5 are dual cores, i7 are quad cores with exception of 2 or 3 models. The differences however are far beyond the simple difference in clocks.


There's actually more than 2 or 3 (10, to be exact) Sandy Bridge mobile i7s with 2 cores and 4 threads.

2 cores (4 threads) cover the i3-2340UE thru the i7-2640M (29 models). 4 cores (8 threads) are ten i7-QM models and two Extreme i7-XM models.

This is not counting Sandy Bridge Pentium and Celeron models.

Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandy_Bridge#Mobile_platfo...
May 7, 2012 4:00:39 AM

the difference between i3 and i5 isn't big IMO, i7 is different beast. I will pick i5 if I have the budget, sadly I don't so I pick i3 last year:p 
May 7, 2012 9:08:30 AM

AntiZig said:
you demonstrate your ignorance once again.

i3 and i5 are dual cores, i7 are quad cores with exception of 2 or 3 models. The differences however are far beyond the simple difference in clocks.


So, to summarize all the posts, best laptop for games now will be 4-cores i7 with HT disabled in the bios, and when games will handle more than 5 threads - re-enable the HT.
May 7, 2012 10:03:03 AM

+1^ i think the op has his answer now...
May 7, 2012 1:22:54 PM

considering the OP last posted in this thread on 11/29, I think, it's far beyond that point now
!