How Many Cores Do You Need for Gaming Laptops?

So, how many cores do you need for gaming in 2021?, the simple answer would be, that would depend on the choice of game and what else you plan on doing. There are some games that would benefit from utilizing more CPU cores whereas other games and especially older games, will run just fine with less.

It’s worth noting, a laptop processor with more cores will allow you to complete more tasks at any given time, your laptop will run faster and smoother, with less chance of experiencing stutter or lag in-game.

However, it was only a few years ago a dual-core processor would offer an enjoyable budget gaming experience, but that’s no longer the case. That’s not to say you cannot play games with a two core processor. You can, but with only two cores at your disposal you would struggle to run many of today’s games. They would take an eternity to load and especially if you have other programmes running in the background.

In this post, I will scratch the core count surface and highlight the recommended number of CPU cores required to deliver a good gaming experience. Besides, even with the best mid-range laptops with four cores you will enjoy respectable fps in most of today’s games.

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What is a Central Processing Unit?

How many core you need for the latest games?

A laptops processor is the brain’s behind the wheels. It’s the piece of hardware that executes a sequence of instructions stored inside the laptop’s memory. All processors follow the same process, where they fetch, decode and then execute instructions. Which is called the instruction cycle.

Laptop processors also have several cache’s. Which helps to reduce the time it takes to access frequently used data instead of trapesing all the way over the main memory. The data is stored in the cache until it is requested by the CPU. The latest mobile CPUs will have up to three Cache levels, named, L1, L2, and L3.

Moreover, the speed of the CPU is determined by the clock speed, (measured in Hz) the faster the clock the more instructions can be executed every second. However, as the clock rate increases, more energy is consumed and will generate heat.

That’s why it’s more important than ever for gaming laptops to have decent cooling solutions. Especially now, with clock speeds of the latest 8 core mobile processors now smashing through the 5.0Ghz barrier.

What are Multi-core processors?

We mentioned before the clock speed and the memory cache, which are two of many factors that will determine the performance of the CPU. But, with the release of multi-core processors, the performance and speed at which laptops process data has massively increased.

Multi-core processors consist of two or more processors (called cores) that sit on the same circuit. And to improve the overall efficiency, they use a process called multi-threading, which includes simultaneous multi-threading (SMT) or hyperthreading (Intel CPUs), among others.

This process involves splitting each CPU core into smaller virtual cores, called threads. And the purpose of this is to provide simultaneous execution of two or more parts of a program that can run concurrently.

This means more calculations can be performed together as the system can share the workload between each one. It’s worth noting, Intel states hyperthreading can increase CPU performance by up to 30%.

Moreover, in a multi-threaded application, the threads share the resources of a single or multiple cores. Which allows for multiple threads to be executed simultaneously on one CPU core.

Some programmes and applications do benefit from this process, especially animation and video editing software. Also, Web browsers and Web servers are perfect examples of multi-threaded applications.

Why you need a Multi-Core Processor?

Back in the day, a laptop processor was equipped with only one CPU core, so only one task could be managed at any one time. If you attempted to start up the 2nd programme, your laptop would slow down. And in some cases, it would freeze, which would be highly frustrating.

It was only when dual-core processors were introduced a decent budget gaming laptop experience was possible. It meant more operations could be performed separately from the others. 

One CPU core could look after the game and the other core would take care and worry about anything else running in the background. Making your workflow and your laptop more efficient.

A few short years later, a four-core CPU was born, a luxury item for many and at that time they were the go-to processors for many gaming enthusiasts. However, the games themselves didn’t really take advantage of the extra cores and still don’t to some extent. Although, you could do so much more.

As well as running your game, you could browse the web with many tabs open. Also, run other gaming software, like Discord, or Twitch at the same time as drafting an email or recording your gameplay. And with a multi-core processor all this is possible without affecting your laptops performance.

But like anything in the technology world, it just keeps evolving and improving all the time. We are now treated to laptop processors with six CPU cores called hexa-core processors, and the latest mobile processors from AMD and Intel with eight CPU cores, called octa-core processors.

5 Reasons Why You need A Multi-Core CPU?

  • Run more applications and programmes
  • Better performance in certain games
  • Better for graphic design software
  • Experience ray-tracing in-game
  • Speed up your laptop tasks
  • Utilize multiple threads

A 6 Core CPU, with 12 threads is the sweet spot.

Even though games don’t take full advantage of multi-core processors, it would still be worth investing in one and the bare minimum processor you should consider is one with 4 CPU cores, and eight-threads.

However, a six or eight core processor would be best all-round and would give the tools to run most games, as well as other other software’s and for many years to come.

It is worth noting, unlike a desktop PC, you are not able to switch out a laptop’s processor. So, if you decide a laptop with 4-cores is enough, you will be stuck with that unless you purchase a new laptop.

But it’s not all bad, just as long as it pairs a decent discrete graphics card. Besides, there’s plenty more to think about, like which gaming laptop accessories you might need.

Why Don’t Games Use More Cores?

Why Don't Games Use More Cores

The reason why most games don’t utilize more cores is mainly down to games heavily relying on user input. So, before they can perform the necessary calculations to show on the screen what happens next they need to wait for the gamers next move.

That could be showing an image or starting an animation. Even in a game such as Call of Duty Warzone, calculating the direction of the bullet you fire can not be predicted. All these factors make it difficult for developers as they cannot predict what the gamer will do.

It is only recently game developers have started to take advantage of more CPU cores. By offsetting the tasks that don’t require user input to other threads while the main-core takes care of the users gaming experience.

This is called Multi-threading, which allows games to take full advantage of multi-processing by pre-fetching assets required for the next scene. This could include how your character looks, the background scenery, and even the weather conditions. Which are tasks that don’t require any input from the gamer.

If games could better predict what the user will do, we would get so much more performance out of the processors. As the workload could be spread across more cores and threads with less performance being left on the table.

Moreover, there are only a handful of games that take advantage of multi-core processing. Mainly because in those games certain parts of the scene don’t change which makes it much easier to pre-calculate the scene.

How does Multi-threading work?

Multi-threading is complex, and I would be lying if I said I knew everything about this process. But the basic stuff I do know I will share with you.

As I understand, the most common approach to multi-threading is to have the main thread run the game and dedicate other tasks to other threads. So the tasks that don’t require user input, like the background scenery, weather conditions, or certain character animations can be processed on another CPU Core/thread.

Although, there is another system used by games and also game engines, which is the task-based approach. This way, the main thread is only used to split the workload into smaller tasks (so it doesn’t run the game) and then pass’s those tasks to other cores and threads for processing, a bit like an operations manager.

And when the process is complete, the results are then merged together by the main thread. Though, this approach is in no way full proof, as it will only work well if everything matches up in a timely manner.

I mean, all these smaller jobs would need to finish at the right time, if they don’t I’m sure there will be performance issues. And performance lost because Cores could be sitting idle due to constantly waiting for the results from all the other threads.

However, what is true, multi-threading, or hyper-threading has improved gaming performance and Intel states by as much as 30% with their mobile CPUs. And it can only get better as more and more games are being optimized for this process.

Are More CPU Cores Better for Gaming?

Yes, overall more CPU cores would be better for mainstream gaming. Not because it will mean higher frame rates. There’s only so far more CPU cores will improve your fps. You also need a decent GPU to work alongside your CPU for that.

Although, there was a time when a dual-core CPU would be fine and offer a decent gaming experience. It was one core to look after your game, and the other to worry about other background tasks. But it doesn’t seem to be the case anymore and especially in some of the newer games.

Also, the fact that nowadays, there is so much more going on behind the scenes. Gamers are running many more programmes and applications. Not forgetting, Windows continuously carries out background tasks and constantly knocks on the door, looking to steal your laptop CPU resources.

These days a two-core processor would struggle to cope with the increased workload, and your performance will suffer. You will experience stutter and poor frame rates in today’s games. Although, a dual-core processor would still be ok for light games, such as Minecraft and Roblox.

Just don’t plan on running much else.

So for that reason, a laptop with 4 or more CPU cores would be better for gaming and the very least amount of cores you need for gaming in 2021.

Quad-Core Vs Hexa-Core Laptop CPUs

A laptop with a quad-core CPU would help eliminate any performance issues you experience with your dual-core processor. And it would offer a smoother laptop gaming experience.

Quad-core processors have been the go-to processor for many years and have served us well. Still today, you will find many decent budget laptops equipped with quad-core processors.

One such processor would be an Intel Core i5-9300H which would offer you a reasonably good gaming performance when paired with a decent graphics card. Ideally, one from Nvidia’s GTX 16 series.

The same can be said for the Intel Core i5-10300H mobile CPU. This one has a higher boost and base clock speed, making it slightly faster than the Core i5-9300H above. Also, it supports memory at a much higher frequency, overall, making it a better option and possibly the best Intel mobile 4 Core processor.

As for AMD, you would have to go back to the Ryzen 3000 series to experience quad core gaming and just like the budget Intel Quad-Core processors, they would give you a good gaming experience.

Ok, laptops with quad-core processors may not help to consistently smash the 100 fps barrier. But they will run most of today’s games on medium settings just as long as the graphics card is up to scratch.

How do quad-core laptops compare to six core laptops?

There will be a step up in performance and a jump in price when going from four cores to six. However, it’s not as big as stepping up from dual-core to quad-core laptops where the problems you face with stuttering and interference from background tasks is less likely.

But there is a notable spec difference stepping from four to six-core laptops. For example; take the Razer Blade 15 configuration. It pairs possibly the best 6 Core processor, the Core i7 10750H.

Razer is able to pair this with an impressive ray-tracing Nvidia RTX 3060 GPU. Another example would be the Acer Predator Triton, also pairing the popular i7 10750H 6 core processor, along with an Nvidia RTX 2070 graphics card. 

Manufacturers are able to place fast and powerful RTX 30 series GPUs inside laptops with 6 core processors. Not so much with 4 core CPUs simply because you will experience bottlenecks with them being too slow.

It’s worth noting, choosing a six-core CPU over a 4 core CPU will give you a little more headroom in certain games, the games that take advantage of extra cores/threads. At present there aren’t many but there will come a time when the extra cores will be worth it.

So, if you have the budget, then choosing a gaming laptop with either an Intel or AMD 6 core processor will be worth it’s weight in gold. They would offer more on the side of mid-range gaming and the sweet spot in terms of performance.

But if not, a 4 Core gaming laptop would be ok for most games and offer a decent budget experience. Although, how long would it be before 4 Core processors are made obsolete because of how far games will advance. Maybe that day is not too far away.

Best Six-Core Gaming Laptop Processors

MODELIntel Core i5-11400HAMD Ryzen 5 5600H
Base ClockDepends on the TDP 3.3GHz
Boost Clock4.6GHz4.2GHz
Total L3 Cache12MB16MB
PCI Express version PCIe 4.0 PCIe 3.0
Default TDP45W45W
MemoryDDR4-3200 DDR4-3200
Max Temp100 °C105 °C

As we know both laptop CPUs have 6 Cores with 12 Threads, and the same default 45 W TDP. But the Ryzen chip is slight better in other areas, importantly, the thermal power efficiency. So which six core CPU is best, well, from first look you would think the Intel i5 11400H Tiger lake chip would be faster than the Ryzen 5000 series processor in single threaded operations.

Well, if you take a look at the test results from Notebookcheck it doesn’t seem to be the case, in the multi-core tests the Ryzen processor came out 28% better, and also 4% better in the single-core race.

So, it is true AMD have really closed the gap, did I assume it was just a myth.

Hexa-Core Vs Octa-Core Mobile Processors

Core counts for gaming laptops have reached an all time high with 8 cores and 16 threads. But still short of their Desktop counterparts where core counts are in double figures.

But the question is, how many cores do you need for gaming? and is it better to go for a gaming laptop with a six core processor or one with eight cores?

Firstly, it’s worth pointing out, there isn’t a game out there that can take full advantage of all 8 cores and 16 threads. That’s not to say they will release a game in the future that will. Game developers are finding ways to utilize more threads all the time.

From experience, my current machine has an impressive AMD Ryzen 4800H, so not the latest, but it does have 8 cores and 16 threads. And, previous to that I had an Intel machine with only four cores and eight threads.

And I can only say there is a huge difference to what I can do with my Ryzen machine compared to what I could do before with my old four core machine.

Not only do I play the first person shooter, Call of Duty Warzone, I also use my laptop for video editing, and other heavier workloads. And over the last 6 months there’s been little impact on my gaming performance.

Six core laptops are affordable mid-range machines.

There is a fantastic range of fast 6 core processors that are excellent for gaming like the Intel i7 10750H, 9750H, and also the newer Core i5 11th Gen 11500H and the Core i5 10500H.

As for AMD, the Ryzen 5 4600H and the 4600HS are capable six-core gaming chips that will offer superb gaming performance and are reasonably priced.

With that in mind, which one do you go for?

Well, if gaming is your thing, a budget/mid-range 6 core processor paired with a discrete graphics card will do. Whereas, if you tend to jump from gaming to heavier workloads and back it’s best to grab a laptop with an 8 core processor.

With that (8 Core laptop) you will have an excellent gaming machine, capable of running the current games and games for the future for a few years to come. Just as long as it pairs a decent GPU and has plenty of RAM and storage.

Intel CPU or AMD CPU, who has the best for gaming?

AMD CPU vs Intel CPU for Laptops

For many years Intel has been the number one CPU choice, due to manufacturing CPUs with the highest clock speed and the possible number of instructions per clock, which is important for gaming.

That was the case up until recently, after many failed attempts AMD have finally caught up with their CPU counterparts, if not surpassing them with their new AMD Ryzen Zen 3 mobile processors matching Intel in many areas including the vital instructions per clock count.

In 2021 Intel and AMD released many new speedy mobile CPUs with 4, 6 and 8 core variants. Promising desktop-like performance on gaming laptops.

Intel Tiger Lake H-Series Processors

Intel released their impressive Tiger Lake H-Series processors capable of reaching clock speeds of up to 5.3Ghz with turbo boost. The most powerful one being the Core i9-11980HK, which is overclockable and features as much as 24MB L3 Cache memory and supports up to 64 GB of DDR4 3200 MHz RAM.

AMD ‘Zen 3’ Ryzen CPUs

As for AMD they released their very own possible 5Ghz processors, the new and exciting Ryzen 5000 series processors consisting of at least 14 mobile processors. 

The top laptop processor being the AMD Ryzen 9 5980HX which doesn’t quite reach the 5.0Ghz possible clock speed, but with clock speeds up to 4.8Ghz it isn’t too bad. And the L3 cache memory is a little less with only 16MB compared to Intel’s top mobile chip.

So how do they compare,

By looking at the benchmark results below the top Intel mobile variant beats the Ryzen processor on the Cinebench R20 multicore and it’s the opposite result on the Cinebench single core. The same for the Geekbench 5 scores. Whereas, the Ryzen processor is more energy efficient as it will consume less power. And the FPS results serve up surprising results, check them out below.

Single-threaded and Multi-threaded CPU performance

Intel vs AMD High Performance Benchmark
General Overview Intel H-series Mobile CPU vs AMD Ryzen mobile processor

High Performance Intel vs AMD Gaming Performance

The game benchmark data in the table below is approximate, the results were taken from users who tested the Ryzen 9 5980HX and Intel i9-11980HK laptop processors at different screen resolutions. Had different amounts of RAM and various RTX 30 series graphics card variants.

Clearly from these results although estimated, the Intel i9-11980HK is a better mobile processor but only by a whisker. However. you could look at benchmarks until you are blue in the face, in my opinion, any gaming laptop with either of these two mobile CPUs would be treat and you won’t find many gaming enthusiasts who would disagree.

Also, it would depend what the other components are paired. You only have to look at the New GE76 Raider Titanium Blue 17.3″ FHD 360Hz Gaming Laptop with the RTX 3080 or the new ALIENWARE M15 Ryzen Edition R5 gaming laptop to see the possibilities.

Game TitleIntel Core i9-11980HKAMD Ryzen 9 5980HX
Fortnite103.8 101.3
Cyberpunk 2077117.9115.1
Apex Legends110.9108.2
Call of Duty Warzone88.586.2
Red Dead Redemption 281.479.4
DOOM Eternal5957.5
Assassin’s Creed99.196.7
Approximate Data: Source:

Games that Require Quad Core, or More?

There aren’t many games that require quad core processors with 8 threads for you to play them. And if you didn’t know, games are coded with threads in mind, so it’s also good to look at the thread count as well as the core count. 

Although, most games will run ok with 4 CPU cores and 8 threads at your disposal. But some games will run faster with a 6 core 12 thread processor due to it resulting in better turn times. Let’s not forget some games are more dependent on GPUs performance.

Games such as Cyberpunk 2077, Doom Eternal, Metro Exodus, and Assassins Creed will run just fine with 4 Cores and 8 threads. The same can be said for Tomb Raider. Ok, there will be an increase in performance going from four Cores to six with 12 threads, but nothing too amazing.

But then there are other games like Final Fantasy where this game is better suited to a laptop with 6 Core mobile processors, and GTA works just fine with 4 threads, therefore, a 2 core processor is ok.

As I understand, those with 4 Core laptops are starting to experience stutter and lag in games that used to run fine. This is another reason why investing in a gaming laptop with more cores is better, for gaming longevity more than anything else.

And you will most likely be running other software as well as your games. So the extra resources the game doesn’t need just yet, will get used.

Final thoughts…

So how many cores do you need for gaming in 2021? Well, a laptop with a two core Intel or AMD processor wouldn’t get you very far in today’s games. If modern games continue to evolve as fast as they have been and utilize even more CPU resources it won’t be long until a 4 core gaming laptop becomes obsolete. But for now it would still be ok to enjoy a decent gaming experience.

If you’re serious about gaming, I would recommend you invest in a gaming laptop with a processor that has at least six-cores and with that you are guaranteed an excellent gaming performance with a little headroom for games that use more threads and you can run other programmes without affecting your laptops performance.

The AMD Ryzen 5 5600H or the Intel i7 10750H 6-core processors would offer the best mid-range performance. But the perfect solution would be a laptop CPU with eight-cores/sixteen threads. Offering mid to high-end gaming performance now, and wouldn’t need replacing anytime soon.

And right now you can grab an 8 core gaming laptop that won’t break the bank, or put you into debt. However, if your budget is a bit tight opt for the 8 Core AMD Ryzen 7 4800H or the Intel Core i7 10875 you get with the MSI GS75 Stealth RTX2060.

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Happy Laptop Gaming!

James, Editor for Jimmtech. An avid tech lover since the days of the Sega MasterSystem. Purchased my first gaming laptop in 2006 and have owned many since, including models from MSI, HP, Razer, and Dell. In addition, I have 4 years of experience managing IT and 5 years in Digital Marketing. Until I decided to share my love for gaming. Jimmtech was born.

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