How Many CPU Cores Do I Need? [Necessity vs. Overkill]

Written By Farhan Max

Can you remember the golden time when a single core could achieve every task thrown at it? But as time passes, the one-core CPU became deficient in handling massive workloads. That’s where the idea of multicore jumps in.

As of 2023, a single-core CPU can be considered ancient because moderate work requires multicore, let alone highly intensive work.

But how many CPU cores do you actually need?how-many-cpu-cores-do-i-need

Well, let me give you the answer to clarify the confusion with this article. So, read till the end.

What are CPU Cores: A Short Analogy

A CPUs core is its processor. To simplify it, the CPU is the main package that holds all the processors, and the Core refers to the individual processor under that package. So, a dual-core CPU has two cores. Similarly, quad, hexa, & octa-core CPUs has four, six & eight cores respectively.

However, the single-core CPU was the king of executing workloads once. But due to one processing unit, all the instructions got executed one by one. Therefore, all the games, programs, and OS improved a lot, and with one core, it’s impossible now to accomplish any moderate workloads.

Now, most processors come with multiple processing units, and these processing units are called cores. That means one processor can execute multiple instructions at a time.

Not only that, but now most CPUs come with an advanced tech called multithreading. But what is multithreading exactly?

It’s like typing on the keyboard with two hands instead of one. With two hands, you can achieve faster typing speed. Multithreaded work similarly, by splitting a core into two virtual cores, called threads.

While processing instructions, the core distributes the instruction among the threads and executes all the instructions faster. And that’s why a multithreaded CPU is better at handling multiple instructions than a non-threaded one.

But the CPU threading works only when the OS supports it. Windows, macOS, or Linux now supports multithreading.

Both Intel and AMD processors have multithreading, but the naming is different. Intel calls it Hyper-threading, whereas AMD named it Simultaneous multithreading or SMT.

Along with the cores, the core clock speed, including base and boost clock frequency, increased by a large margin. The clock speed is measured in GHz for a CPU, and it really matters to assess CPU power.

But nothing can beat the physical core of a CPU because the physical core count is a fact while delivering raw performance. So, choose your CPU wisely.

How Many CPU Cores Do You Need?

For moderate users who only perform the day-to-day task, quad-core is a sweet spot for you. Otherwise, a heavy gamer who plays AAA-titled games constantly or does rendering, 3D modeling, and video editing should go for a 6-core or 8-core CPU.

Today we can see CPUs comes with 10-core, 12-core, or even 16-core. Well, there are also 32 cores or even 64 cores of CPUs in the market. But those are mainly used for server-grade workstations.

But can your OS utilize all the cores?

Frankly speaking, the latest Windows 11 Home can handle up to 64 cores, and the Pro version supports up to 128 cores. So, you don’t need to worry about the OS. Instead, focus on what type of work you’re going to do with the CPU. how-many-cpu-cores-do-you-need

Sometimes, a few cores go into the sleep state due to improper utilization by the OS. If that’s happening with your CPU, you can activate all the cores in Windows 11 by applying a few steps.

Still, you are super confused to get the right core-based CPU to build the perfect workstation or gaming rig for you, let me help you with the proper guidance.

Here are the number of cores you should need for different working perspectives:

For Gaming — 4 to 8 Cores

For a decent gamer who plays simple and low CPU-demanding games, such as Valorant, Far Cry 3, HALO, Half-life 2, Fortnite, and so on, a quad-core CPU is enough to play all those mid-range games.

So, for the best quad-core CPU, you must go for i3-13100, the fastest four-core CPU right now. You can also grab the Ryzen 5 3400G, that’s a good option too.

But if you’re an AAA-titled game lover like GTA 5, Resident Evil 7, Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4, or Far Cry 5, you should go for anything like a six-core & more.

Currently, i5-13600K is the best gaming processor because it beats the i9-12900K in terms of gaming performance. However, AMD Ryzen 5 7600X is the perfect competitor for i5-13600K.

Modern games can utilize cores and threads because those are programmed in that way. Hence, more cores will bring you more FPS with buttery smooth gameplay. But to achieve that, you just need a graphics card that works well with the CPU without bottlenecking each other.

For Video Editing & Encoding — 6 Cores & Beyond

Editing videos with high-grade apps like Adobe Premiere Pro, CyberLink PowerDirector 365, and DaVinci Resolve requires a high-end CPU to handle enormous workloads. And these apps will work faster if you have a CPU with multiple cores, like 6-cores and above.

Plus, hyper-threading or SMT (Simultaneous multithreading) enabled processors will boost video editing and encoding performance. So, to grab the sweet spot, you must go for six-core or anything higher like eight-core or more because those will make the working experience buttery smooth.

For Video Rendering & 3D modeling — 8 Cores & Above

Video rending or 3D modeling is highly CPU-intensive work. If you are using such 3D modelings apps like SketchUp, 3D Builder, or AutoCAD, you won’t be able to work with a quad-core processor like i3-13100 or AMD Ryzen 5 3400G.

You must need at least 6-core, but 8-core is a safe zone for rending videos with powerful apps like Blender.

But with this top-tier CPU, you also require a powerful GPU that can utilize the full efficiency of those cores. 8-core CPUs like, intel i9-11900k or AMD Ryzen 7 3700X, can be a good choice for rending or 3D modeling purposes with a RTX-3080 or RX 6800 XT.

For Streaming — 8 Cores & Over

Streaming while gaming becomes a trend, and gamers usually stream their games on YouTube and Twitch. So, you require a high-end CPU for streaming while gaming. Plus, ensure that the CPU has multiple threads.

During streaming, the streaming apps do tons of encoding and decoding plus, you’re also playing games at that time. So, think about the number of processes the CPU handles each second.

It’s out of our imagination, right?

Moreover, GPUs do lots of image processing to render the game as well. In fact, the CPU & GPU both do the same amount of work. That’s why you need a powerful CPU, at least 8-cores, to stream the games easily.

For Daily Normal Usage — 2 to 4 Cores

To use the computer only for browsing the net, watching movies, and word processing like working with MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. shouldn’t need more than a dual-core or quad-core CPU.

In fact, you can also play an average or mid-range game with a 4-core CPU. So, if you are planning to use the PC only for standard usage, I bet a quad-core CPU is a good deal.

So, based on the above guide, now it should be clear to you how many CPU cores you need. Well, there are other factors involved, and I will cover that too.

CPU Core Count Vs. Clock Speed: Which One to Prefer?

If you want to load all the apps and execute the processes faster, you must go for a higher clock speed because more clock speed means a faster CPU. However, if you want to handle multiple apps at a time and switch between those apps with ease, prefer the multicore one.cpu-core-count-vs-clock-speed

But, some user mainly focuses on more cores over the clock speed. However, is it true that more cores mean better performance?

Let me recap the basics in a glimpse, the CPU clock speed also known as a core frequency or clock rate means how many cycles it can execute per second. And the clock speed of a CPU splits into two parts: base clock and boost clock (Intel refers to this as Max Turbo Frequency).

Whereas, cores are the processors of a CPU. In fact, more cores can handle more apps, and you can switch between multiple running apps faster. Multicore can execute all the tasks by splitting all the processes into the cores.

But not all the cores handle all the tasks at a time. The rest of the cores remain idle if the workload is executed by the first two cores. So, it depends on the amount of the workload. cores-remain-idle

Intel’s latest-gen i5-13600K is a 14-core CPU, and its base & max turbo frequency is 3.5GHz & 5.10GHz. But this Intel CPU comes with a twist. The 14-core is divided into six efficiency cores (E-core) & eight performance cores (P-core), and these hybrid cores are the perfect game changer.

However, the intel core-i5 has always been a sweet spot for gamers. But, how good is the intel-i5 for gaming? To know that, you can look for the benchmark of core-i5 with many games.

So, before counting those cores against the clock speed, think twice. But my super tech sense is forcing me that you must go for the multicore one with a decent clock speed to stay in the safe zone.

CPU Cores: Laptop Vs. Desktop

Laptop CPUs are less powerful than desktop ones because laptop CPUs need to be power efficient to draw less power from the battery. But gaming laptops are powerful because they boost the CPUs clock speed when plugged in, and reduce the clock speed when it’s running on the battery.

Also, laptop processors have fewer cores than desktop processors, even though both are of the same generation or series. But there are some exceptions when talking about a laptop processor that is made for gaming or handles immersive workloads.

But desktop processors are more powerful than laptops because those are designed to deliver high performance. Plus, those can draw more power from the PSU to boost up the clock speed among all the cores.

However, if mobility is the number one priority, you should go for a decent laptop equipped with multiple cores and high clock speed. So, choose wisely and read out the specs before buying one.

Apart from these, we have also listed some key differences between a desktop and a laptop CPU. Do check it out.


Is a 4-core CPU enough for daily usage?

For standard usages like multitasking, browsing, word processing, or decent gaming you can count on a 4-core CPU, it’s a good one.

Is a 12-core CPU overkill?

If you look at the current games and applications, you know how advanced those become in the past years. Now, most applications and games can utilize all the cores. So, going for a 12-core isn’t overkill, it’s future-proofed.

Do multiple cores gives better performance?

Multiple cores can handle lots of running applications at the same time. A multicore CPU distributes the entire workload among all the cores so, execution time decreases. So, multicore processors are truly a gem.

Wrapping Up

Now you know how many cores you really need to achieve the work you are planning. So, you can go for 2 to 4 cores for moderate usage, 4 to 6 cores for multitasking, and decent gaming. And for video editing, rendering, and AAA-titled gaming, 8-cores or more won’t let you down.

I hope you got your answer now after reading till the end of this article. If you need more help, the comment box is open, just knock me there. So, best of luck choosing the right number of cores to boost the workload!

About The Author
Farhan Max is a tech geek with a particular interest in computer hardware. He's been fascinated by gaming since childhood and is now completing his undergraduate studies while researching and testing the latest tech innovations. Alongside his love for all things geeky, Farhan is also a skilled photographer.

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