PC Gaming: Intel i5 vs. Intel i7, and GTX 1060 vs. 1070

*Today I decided to post a fun piece on a topic that many new PC builders ask me about. Occasionally I’d like to cover tech/gaming things as a break from all the serious things.*

Many consider PC gaming to be a luxury. It can be costly to play games on ultra settings, and in resolutions over Full HD. However, many would consider the eye-candy to be worth the high price point.

So then what would you need first? First, you need to pick a processor. With dozens of CPU (Central Processing Unit) options to choose from, which one should you spend your hard earned cash on? For now, we’re going to stick with the best Intel options. When narrowing down Intel’s best options for gaming, your choices come down to the Intel Core i5, or Intel Core i7 processors.

First, we need to explain the difference between an i5, and an i7 processor. An i5 has the potential to boost it’s base clock. Picture a person juggling with one hand, who decides to increase the speed of his juggling when he needs to. For example, my Intel i5 4690k has a base clock speed of 3.5 GHz. It has a boost clock of 3.9 GHz. This allows for my processor to finish various tasks at a quicker rate when it activates its boost mode.

Now an i7 also has a boost clock speed. However, i7 processors have the ability to use a technique called hyper-threading. Hyper-threading allows each core of the cpu to have two processing threads. This allows for those extra threads in each core to be treated as another physical core. I’m going to use my juggler analogy again. Now picture the juggler who has boosted the speed of his juggling already. Now if he were an i7 juggler, he would be able to juggle with two hands. This would allow him to theoretically juggle (I lack a Ph.D. in the physics of juggling) double the amount of balls at the same speed! Many i7 processors also have a higher clock rate than their i5 counterparts.

So why does this matter for gaming? In the vast majority of games, you will not notice a difference in frame rates. In most instances, an i5 will be more than suffice in regards to gaming. Very few games can take advantage of hyper-threading properly, if at all. Both types of CPUs will provide you with similar performance regardless of what resolution you’re your games are running at. Graphics performance relies more heavily on your GPU (Graphics Processing Unit).

However, there are instances where an i7 outperforms an i5 by large margins. If you plan on doing anything that requires a significant amount of processing power, an i7 will be worth the extra $100. Video/movie editing and musical engineering are areas of work that an i7 will excel in. This can save lots of time when rendering videos, and other types of applications that have a heavy load on the CPU.

Verdict: If you’re not planning on doing any video editing, or sound engineering, or anything of the sort, most would say that an i5 is more than enough processing power for gaming. You can save $100 that could be put towards a better graphics card, or other hardware.

We’re going to stick with team green for today in regards to graphics cards. More specifically, the GTX 1070, and its little brother, the GTX 1060. While neither of these cards are meant to run well on their own at 4k resolutions, they show a lot of promise at lower resolutions. Using the newest architecture and 16nm technology, Nvidia has been able to achieve immense performance gains compared to last generation’s Maxwell architecture GPUs. The GTX 1070 is one of Pascal’s high-end GPUs. It’s followed by its midranged little brother, the GTX 1060. Now which card is better for what? Well it all depends on what your performance goals are, the resolution you plan on playing at, and your budget. With the atrociously powerful King of GPUs, the GTX 1080, being out of most people’s price range, the 1060, and 1070 are the more viable options.

The GTX 1060 is a behemoth in 1920 x 1080p performance. It achieves amazing frames with the settings on ultra in many different games. Nvidia claims that the GTX 1060 competes with last generation’s flagship graphics card, the GTX 980. In many benchmarks, this claim seems to ring true. You can expect over 90 frames per second in the majority of AAA games when playing in 1080p with all the eye candy settings turned up.

The GTX 1060 can even handle many games in QHD, or 2k HD, at more than playable frame rates. Linus Tech Tips found it to run at 77fps on average in 1440p! However in the PC killer, Crysis 3, the 1060 was only able to maintain an average of 48fps while running in 1440p.

With 6gb of VRAM, you’d be hard pressed to use up all that memory when playing at 1080p, and even at 1440p. The GTX 1060 is meant to shine at Full HD (1080p) resolutions, and if that’s the resolution you plan on gaming at, the 1060 will be more than enough for you! However keep in mind, you cannot add a second 1060 to your build because Nvidia has forbid Sli configurations with a GTX 1060. That being said, at $200–$250 on average you can’t go wrong with Nvidia’s GTX 1060 if you plan on playing in 1080p.

Just make sure you buy a monitor that can handle all the frames that your card is rendering!

Now if you want turn up the resolution, or just want something even better for the sake of it, the GTX 1070 is the next step. And boy is it a step…

The GTX 1070 averages around 30–40% more powerful than the GTX 1060. It also averages at a $150–$200 higher price point than its little sibling. However, the 1440p performance gains are noteworthy. While Nvidia does allow Sli configuration with the GTX 1070, unless you plan on gaming in UHD (4k), it would be very unnecessary. Nvidia claims this to be as powerful as Maxwell’s Titan X, however many benchmarks have the GTX 1070 slightly beating the formerly $1,000, Maxwell Titan X.

Joker Productions does a superb comparison of Pascal’s new GPU trinity. He shows how the GTX 1070 seems to take games with the settings cranked up to ultra, while running at 1440p resolutions, with ease. Out of the 20 games tested, the GTX 1070 achieves a smooth 60fps+ framerate in 17 of them. With 8gb of VRAM, you can easily crank up the resolution to 1440p and not worry about using up all of your memory.

Verdict: Assuming you have the money for both graphics cards, if you decide to stick with a 1080p monitor, the GTX 1060 will provide superb performance! If you want to move up to 1440p resolutions, then the GTX 1070 will be the right pick for your build!

Let me know what you guys think! I’d love to hear from everyone! Any questions regarding PCs, building them, or games, I’d be happy to try and answer them for you! I’d like to do some tech news or guides a few times a month. I’m always open for suggestions!