What Is a Good Processor Speed for Gaming?

By Jason Artman

Even as game consoles have become increasingly complex, the PC has remained one of the most popular gaming platforms in the world. The processor is extremely important to consider when purchasing a PC for gaming. However, what you should look for in a processor depends in part on the type of gaming that you intend to do on the computer.

Processor (right) and cooling fan (left)
i "AMD BOX SET" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: Garrette under the Creative Commons Attribution license.

Processor Choices

The majority of desktop and notebook processors are manufactured by Intel and AMD. The primary product lines that you may see by Intel, listed in order from the entry-level to enthusiast offerings, are the Celeron, Pentium, Core 2 and Core i7. AMD's products include the Sempron, Turion, Athlon and Phenom.

Types of Gamers

Before choosing a processor for your computer, it is wise to take a moment to consider the type of gamer that you are. For those who primarily play casual games, such as games that are played through the web browser, processor speed is of little importance because nearly any computer built in the past 5 years is more than sufficient for this type of gaming. This is also true of gamers who prefer vintage games such as emulated console games or classic adventure games. Processor speed is a greater concern for those who prefer to play modern 3D games. For this type of gamer, 2.0 GHz could be thought of as a good "baseline" processor speed. However, clock speed is not the only factor that determines the performance of a processor.


Simulated tests called "benchmarks" are used to compare processor families because they are so different from one another. Benchmark test results are an important part of every processor review, and some websites maintain extensive libraries of test results comparing many different processors. If you are choosing a processor with the goal of achieving the best possible performance in a specific game, it is in your best interest to look for the processor with the best benchmark scores in that game.


Very small laptop computers, called "netbooks," have become quite popular in recent years due to their stylish design and low price. Netbooks are unsuitable for use as gaming computers, and will produce poor results even in many older games.

Expert Insight

It is important not to neglect the video card in a computer that will be used for 3D gaming. Most of the computations necessary to display 3D graphics are performed by the video card rather than the processor, and even the fastest processor available will produce unsatisfactory results in games if it is paired with a video card that is several generations old.