For years, you could find up to four computer cores in a consumer processor, but for some time now the number of cores has been on the rise. This can be a big advantage for many content creation programmes, but what about games? For a long time, the common wisdom was that four cores were enough, but is that still true in 2018? Or are you nowadays better off with a multi-core monster PC if you don't want to lose frame rate? To provide you with an answer to this question, we ran heaps of benchmarks, and you can read our findings here.
How many processor cores do you need? The last time we asked - and answered - that question was in 2014, four years ago. At the time, we were running the test on an Intel Core i7 4960X, a hexa-core processor with HyperThreading. At the time, this processor was the top model in the consumer segment. We combined it with 16GB DDR3-1600 memory and an ASUS P9X79 Pro motherboard. The whole system was running on Windows 7, the most predominantly used operating system at the time.
The hardware world did not stand still between 2014 and 2018. After a long wait, the hexa-core has found its way to the mainstream segment. For less than 175 pounds / 200 euros you now have a processor with six cores, where in 2014 for the 4960X you could spend more than 800 pounds / 900 euros on average. Today, in the high-end segment, you can choose between 16-core and 32-thread AMD's Ryzen Threadripper 1950X (average 750 pounds / 850 euros), and Intels Core i9 7900X with 10-core and 20-threads (average 790 pounds / 895 euros).
With more money the core count can reach into the extremes. For example, Intel has the Core i9 7980XE, a socket 2066 processor with 18 cores and 36 threads. With the Epyc 7601, AMD expands to 32 cores and 64 threads, and will also offer this configuration on the upcoming Threadripper 2 processors. Such numbers of cores are fun to show off, but to what extent do you, as a PC gamer, benefit from so many cores? According to both Intel and AMD, these top models are the best choice for games, but is that actually true?