Is the Intel Core i3 Good for Gaming? Choosing the Right Processor

Intel Core i3
Intel Core i3

Many people ask, “Is the Intel Core i3 good for gaming?” and the answer is yes, the Core i3 is good for gaming if it’s being compared against processors like the Intel Pentium and Intel Celeron.

Is Intel Core i3 Good for Gaming

The Core i3 is the kind of processor you consider when you want to step into the performance computing world without spending too much.

In this guide, our experts will walk you through how good the Core i3 really is and whether or not it’s the processor you want to get for your gaming computer.

Is the Intel Core i3 the Best for Gaming?

The Intel Core i3 processor is perfect for gaming if you’re building a light gaming rig. If you decide to use this processor for your computer, you’ll have to make sure to pair it with a mid-range GPU to get optimal results.

Here are some key factors to consider if you’re debating on purchasing this processor for your setup.

– Comparing the i3 to Other Intel Processors

The Core i3 takes the middle position among all Intel CPUs. It is neither too weak nor too strong. The Intel Celeron is the weakest of the bunch and it’s followed by the Intel Pentium which doesn’t offer much of a difference. Then comes the Core i3, which is where you start noticing a change in performance.

Next is the Core i5, which is the ideal middle ground, followed by the Intel Core i7, which provides excellent performance, and the Intel Core i9, which is the top of the entire lineup.

As you can see, the Core i3 sits somewhere in the middle of the performance hierarchy. However, in terms of architecture, this processor variant uses cores that are as powerful as its i5, i7, and i9 brothers.

Take note that if you utilize a high-end graphics card with the Core i3, your GPU may end up experiencing a bottleneck, which would affect its performance. Therefore, you need to make sure there’s a balance between your components when building a custom PC.

– Let’s Talk Cores and Threads

The number of cores a CPU has may not be the most definite way to measure the processor’s speed; however, it gives a hint as to what you should expect from the CPU when you compare it with other processors from the same generation.

Below is a table that depicts the highest number of cores you can expect a processor to have in its generation.

Keep in mind that the exact number of cores a processor can have will depend on the model, but this table gives you an overview of what to expect.

Processor 10th Gen Cores and Threads 11th Gen Cores and Threads 12th Gen Cores and Thread
Intel Core i9 10 Cores, 20 Threads 8 cores, 16 Threads 16 Cores, 24 Threads
Intel Core i7 8 Cores, 16 Threads 8 Cores, 16 Threads 12 Cores, 20 Threads
Intel Core i5 6 Cores, 12 Threads 6 Cores, 12 Threads 10 Cores, 16 Threads
Intel Core i3 4 Cores, 8 Threads Unavailable 4 Cores, 8 Threads
Intel Pentium 2 Cores, 4 Threads Unavailable 2 Cores, 4 Threads
Intel Celeron 2 Cores, 2 Threads Unavailable 2 Cores, 2 Threads


From the table above, you will be able to see that Intel didn’t make 11th Gen Core i3 processors for desktop units and the 10th and 12th Gen i3 processors both have the same number of threads and cores.

Also, the cores and threads of the Core i3 are significantly lower than what is on the Core i7 and Core i9, which simply translates to a significant difference in performance.

On the bright side, the Core i3 processor tends to be cheaper than its i7 and i9 counterparts, which makes it a great option for budget desktop rigs.

– Processor Core Count and its Importance for Gaming

Core count isn’t always the best deciding factor to use when deciding the processor to choose for a gaming computer.

Most game titles tend to utilize four to six cores to provide excellent gaming performance. Buying a Core i9 for games that use a low number of cores would provide you with diminishing returns as there will be many cores left untouched.

Processor Core Count and its Importance for Gaming

The best thing to do when deciding whether or not to use a Core i3 for your gaming PC is to check the requirements provided by the developers of the game you intend to play. Using triple-A game titles as a benchmark will help you make the right choice as the requirements for AAA game titles tend to be more robust than what you’ll need for online games.

Below are some game title requirements for both AAA and online game titles that can help you decide whether or not you should get a Core i3.

– Requirements for Popular Online Titles

Most online and esports games do not require you to have the latest processors.

You’d be able to enjoy playing them with a light setup.

Games Minimum Requirements Recommended Requirements
Roblox Single core Single core
Fortnite Intel Core i3-3225, two cores and four threads. Passmark score of 2187 Intel Core i5-7300U, two Cores and four threads. Passmark score of 3746
Minecraft Intel Core i3-3210, two cores and four threads. Passmark score of 2061 Intel Core i5-4690, four cores and four threads. Passmark score of 5583
League of Legends A 3.0 GHz Dual core CPU 3.0 GHz Dual Core CPU
Rocket League A 2.5 GHz Dual core CPU 2.5 GHz Dual core CPU
CS:GO Intel Core 2 Duo E6600, two cores, four threads. Passmark score of 873  


As you can see from the table above, the Core i3 is more than enough for most online games. It will even be more of an overkill if you get the 12th Gen Core i3 CPU for your online games as this processor’s Passmark score is 14955, which is more than the minimum and recommended requirements for those games.

– Requirements for AAA Games

Unlike online games, AAA game titles require a more robust setup.

Here are some gaming requirements that can give you an overview of what to expect:

Games Minimum Requirements Recommended Requirements
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Intel Core i5-4460, four cores and four threads. Passmark score of 4796 Intel Core i7-6700, four cores and eight threads. Passmark score of 8056
Elden Ring Intel Core i5-8400, six cores and six threads. Passmark score of 9220 Intel Core i7-8700K, six cores and 12 Threads. Passmark score of 13867
Cyberpunk 2077 Intel Core i5-3570K, four cores and four threads. Passmark score of 4915 Intel Core i7-4790, four cores and eight threads. Passmark score of 7213
Watch Dog Legions Intel Core i5-4460, four cores and four threads. Passmark score of 4796 Intel Core i7-7700, four cores and eight threads. Passmark score of 8621
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 Intel Core i5-4460, four cores and four threads. Passmark score of 4796 Intel Core i5-8400, six cores and six threads. Passmark score of  921.


Best Spec Requirements: Intel Core i7-9800X, eight cores and 16 threads. Passmark score of 18366

Resident Evil Village Intel Core i5-7500, four cores and four threads. Passmark score of 6061 Intel Core i7-8700, six cores and 12 threads. Passmark score of 13080


With the table above, you can deduce that Core i3 processors would work for many AAA game titles, especially if it’s a new generation CPU. While the Core i3 typically has fewer cores than the minimum requirements, many of the games don’t use more than four to six cores.

What this means is that while you’d be able to play AAA games with a Core i3 CPU, you may not get the best in terms of performance. There’ll be a significant difference between a six-core CPU and a two or four-core processor, especially if you’re playing CPU-intensive games.

We recommend that you work with a new Gen core i3 CPU if you’re looking to play AAA game titles. Otherwise, use a Core i5 or Ryzen 5 CPU.

How Do You Know if the i3 Is the Right Processor for Your Rig?

Determining the main purpose for the processor is the first step in making a choice for your rig. Do you prioritize the overall gaming experience over budget constraints or vice versa? These questions will help you decide which processor to get.

If you’ve decided that the Core i3 is what you want to work with due to budget constraints or system requirements, the next step is to choose the right processor for you. There are many i3 variants so here’s a guide on which one would be best for your system.

– For An Overall Gaming Experience

The Intel Core i3-10100f is the best i3 variant for an overall gaming experience. It features four cores, eight threads, a turbo frequency of 4.3GHz, and a base clock speed of 3.6GHz.

This processor offers a solid gaming performance, although its performance is a little lower than what you’d get from the Core 17-7700K and the Ryzen 3 3300X.

If paired with the right graphics unit, the Core i3-10100 will provide you with frame rates that are a little over 60FPS, no matter what game you play it with. You can also utilize this gaming CPU for both 1080p and 1440p resolutions; however, do not expect an overly high refresh rate when gaming at these resolutions.

Also, the ideal motherboard for this processor would be the B560 or B460. Getting a Z490 motherboard would simply be a waste of money.

– For Budget Gamers

If all you want is a budget gaming build that doesn’t take too much out of your wallet, the Intel Core i3-9100F is the processor you want to get. It features four cores, four threads, a base clock speed of 3.6GHz, and a turbo frequency of 4.2GHz.

For Budget Gamers

This processor is great for budget builds because you can find killer deals on eBay in the $50 range. We recommend that you purchase a new processor only if the used versions come at a price that is almost as high as the new ones.

– Detecting GPU Bottlenecks

Your Core i3 processor can bottleneck your graphics cards, especially if you’re playing a CPU-intensive game. If you play games like Cyberpunk 2077 with an i3 processor, even if it’s the 12th Gen version, you should expect significant performance bottlenecks.

A good way to know if your processor is causing a GPU bottleneck is by checking your processor’s overall usage with apps like the MSI Afterburner. If the overall usage is close to 100 percent, then you’re likely to experience a GPU bottleneck.

– Core i3 Gaming and Future Proofing

The i3 processors, especially those with four threads and four cores, cannot be considered to be future-proof. The reason is that more modern games are utilizing more cores and leaving higher clocks behind. While i3 processors may be currently good to play esports and some AAA games, they may not be the best options in the future.

However, you could make a future-proof gaming system by pairing a B560 or B460 motherboard with a 10100 processor. And once newer game titles start demanding more than the eight threads and four cores offered by the 10100, you can just swap out the CPU with a non-K Core i9 or i7 and it will be good to go for many years.


Whether you’re looking to play online multiplayer games or AAA titles, using an i3 processor will get you there even though you may not get the best FPS.

Our discussion above has touched on multiple points that answer if the i3 is good for gaming, so here’s a quick recap to make sure you have all you need to make a good buying decision:

  • This processor variant is good for online and esports games as those games don’t have robust requirements.
  • You may not be able to get the best FPS with this CPU if you’re playing AAA games.
  • The 10100 is currently the best i3 variant in terms of overall performance and value for money.
  • The number of processor cores shouldn’t be the only factor you consider when purchasing a processor.
  • While the Core i3 is good for gaming, it isn’t as good a middle-ground as the Core i5 or Ryzen 5.

Factors such as the processor’s model, CPU generation, and the kind of games you intend to play all contribute to whether or not you’d get the best performance for your games.

So make sure to consider these factors before purchasing a processor instead of just looking at your budget.


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