Importance of Hyper-Threading In Future Games

As developers begin optimizing for more than 4 cores with the advent of new "8 core peasant boxes," how important should it be that I select a CPU to take advantage of this? I know this topic has been hammered to death at this point but I'd like to go a little bit more in depth for my needs. 

At this point, I'm looking to upgrade from my bottle necking POS AMD Athlon II x3 455 to an Intel set up. The current go to for gaming are any of the unlocked i5's. People all over the web have been saying, "An i5 is good enough and it's single threaded performance is so strong that it won't bottleneck for years! Plus you can overclock it so it's a better choice than a locked i7. HT isn't worth it." While this statement is true with current games, will it change with these "next gen" titles looking to use more cores? Will single threaded performance not be as important as developers look to use more/weaker cores? 

I'm currently debating between going with an i5 3570k vs. Xeon E3 1230v2 (i7 3770). They're coming out to the same price so will going with the Xeon for hyper threading be worth sacrificing the overclock ability of a 3570k? Vice versa, would going with the 3570k be an unwise move with games taking advantage of more threads? 

Also, I understand that hyper threading doesn't mean 8-cores and at a basic level just allows cores to perform two actions at once.

*Back up / "I don't feel spending as much money plan" = AMD FX 8320 in an Asus m5a99fx.*

First off, CPU overclocking for more gaming performance, IMO, is overrated. But people will still do it for that extra 5fps. The choice is yours. :)

It used to be that hyperthreading didn't yield much improvement in gaming because most games didn't use enough threads/cores to reap the benefits. That is changing. With AMD's 8 core CPU's and their 8 core APU's in the new consoles, there's no question games are going to start being able to use more threads/cores. That doesn't mean the current i5's will be left in the dust in the very near future. They are still very capable because of their per-core performance. But I can see a time in the future, perhaps in a few years, when i5's may not quite cut it in the newest titles anymore. 

The benchmarks have been showing us more and more that hyperthreading is starting to yield significant benefits in modern titles. IMO, this is going to be an increasing trend. 

Now I wouldn't say everyone should go out and buy i7's instead of i5's. I would say you'll be safe for a good 2-3 years with a high-end i5. However the natural and fore-see-able upgrade path will be the i7's. I'm currently running an i5-4570 and while I've watched it effortlessly chew through anything I throw at it to date, I am planning and fully expecting in about 2 years, to be swapping it out for an i7.

Hyperthreading is essentially more efficient scheduling of the work, allowing more work to be done in less time. 


It might not contribute to games, but it might aid the processing of background tasks. Can't say at this point, before I test my i7 out with the emerging games.

I think you have a valid point, and mostly agree with what your saying but I think you should consider the following before you upgrade your CPU or urge others to do so

Firstly the normal reason a game is CPU intensive is due to physic simulation, a factor that is currently normally single threaded, with game makers looking at running part of the process on the GPU rather than multi-threading in future I think there will be almost 10 years of gaming performance out of a new haswel I5 as long as you keep a good graphics card in it.

I know this sounds a long shot but I'm currently running the notebook version of a Intel core 2 duo (lover clocks than desktop version), I love cpu intensive games, normally load up with lots of mods and to top it all off I recourd using fraps whilst gaming and then edit on render the videos in Adobe premier pro on the same machine. Yet the only bottlenecks I ever get while gaming are graphics. Hence I don't see a modern i5 being too slow for a long long time....

Secondly I'd like to point out that despite having more than one core, most gaming consoles have very weak CPU's, so games written for consoles tend to work around this, thus even if they do end up using hyper threading style technology in the next gen consoles and console games you'll still run these games fine on PC without the need to support it because of the considerably higher CPU to graphics balance compared to the console.

However I doubt technology will jump these platforms as historically the CPU in consols has been very different to that in PCs, one of the many reasons many ports to PC of these games ran so terribly, even though they where not bottle necking the CPU or GPU (think about the FPS on the halo for xbox compared to the PC version on much faster hardware, it was normally still better). This isn't to say that a mantle supporting graphics card isn't going to be a big advantage when the next generations console ports hit, nor that an i is not a faster processor than the i5, but an hyper-threading is not going to be the deciding factor anytime soon.

Thirdly while its not something you mentioned, I would not go K series, its not only costs more money, it actually lacks a few features regarding IO virtualization compared to its non-K brethren. Finally if your wanting to get any benefit out of the unlocked multiplier, you'll need to shell out another $50+ for a decent CPU cooler as well as thermal paste and a fan that's not loud enough to drive you mad if its not already fitted (eg almost anything coolermaster, especially the hyper212 evo and seldion 120v)

Thus my advice to the thread starter its cool to drool about new tech, but when its time to actually buy its surprising how little your money is actually going to make your life easier, going from a $600 build to a $1000 build normally only nets an improvement you'll actually see in one area, the graphics card. As such I believe that you should mainly at that area, with focus on newer technology supporting cards over benchmark speeds if your looking to future-proof.

If you still want to upgrade your CPU then a non-K i5 with stock cooler will be more than enough for years to come, just either ensure you've got enough memory (8gb+) or plan to upgrade in a few years time. Really though you can't keep adding one new part to keep a PC going forever, every 5-10 years your probably better to do a whole new build and get rid of potential problems such as minor power supply instability so if your at that point you may as well spec what you can afford, my preference has already been stated. If not a graphics and clean operating system install (get rid of all your clutter, old drivers ect) may be all you need to get your PC flying again.

PS; sorry for the long post, its far to late here for me to be able to right a shorter one that still hits all the correct ponits and facts, however I feel all the right information is there.


Thanks for the input SheepInACart. Your points do seem very valid except that I currently have an AMD athlon II x3 455 that I successfully unlocked the 4th core on, making it a Phenom II x4 b55 paired with a Gigabyte GTX 760. I can play all the games I own, except the BF4 beta (completely unplayable like 20fps at 720p lowest settings)and  I'm currently experiencing bottlenecks and frame drops in every game I play, which includes: bf3, crysis 3, 2, 1 and warhead, borderlands 2, skyrim, witcher 2, far cry 2, far cry 3, and Sleeping Dogs. In none of these games does my gtx760 ever hit 99% usage. I get dips in every game and my 760's usage varies from 40% to 80% depending on the game, never staying at 60fps at 1080p. This is due to my CPU bottle necking. This is why I'm being very careful with the CPU I select as I would like to get the best bang for my buck while lasting as long as possible without bottleneck. 

I already own a CM hyper 212 evo, so cooling for overclocking is not a cost factor. My motherboard is an 880g+ chipset that doesn't support the FX series so I'm going to have to get a new motherboard with my new CPU so I'm free to change to any socket or brand I please. Just want to make sure I make the right choice. The PC I built for my little bro has an i5 3570k paired with a 7950 (which performs similarly with my 760 in benchmarks). However, he can maxed all the games I can't, and they all run at 60fps 1080p pretty much 100% of the time. Never gets any frame drops and feels super smooth. From this experience I've considered my CPU choice an important factor. 

Probably has less to do with CPU performance, and more to do with thread efficiency. Spreading the workload across threads, allowing for parallels. With regards to low end console hardware/PC comparison in point 2.

This makes me think that it would best to wait for upcoming games like BF4, Watch Dogs, Titanfall and Witcher 3 to come out and see what the benchmarks are like and to see if 8 threads are beneficial at all. We already know the BF4 beta seems like prefers 8 threads but we won't know for sure until the full game is released and bench marked extensively. I can definitely wait haha.


Yeah. I had a PC hiatus, whilst I was at unviersity. I was in desperate need of a PC upon returning home. So I don't regret the purchases that I have made. However, this next-gen transition is raising a lot of questions. I might have done things different on the outcome of many of these developments. The most important thing is being able to play the game(s) that you wish to play. But, in terms of bang for buck, there's a lot on the line. Not just multi-thread performance.

I'm starting to feel more and more that this isn't a great time to upgrade due to such uncertainty. I was hoping on maybe stumbling upon a good deal this year's cyber monday. If such a deal doesn't come along than I will wait until next year to make an upgrade.


Absolutely right, it is a period of uncertainty, which we are not likely to see again until the next possible console release. It seems that AMD are going to get the best of it. But then before you know it, Nvidia will be back on top again. They already have APIs in development to challenge AMD's Mantle, and there are rumoured Nvidia cards for a Q1 or Q2 2014 release.

So my advice is, if you see a good deal, get it. The 7950s or the new equivalent are really good right now. Any given platform will last a while.

Got my 760 this summer, so not looking for a new GPU until the next die shrink :P But yes, the deals on all AMD cards right now are pretty amazing.

It depends how much you're willing to spend, really. If you want your system to last as long as possible without the need to upgrade, you'll have to shell out for an i7. 

If you can't afford an i7, then you can't go wrong with either an i5 or FX-83XX. Both perform roughly the same in gaming and I wouldn't worry about the i5 only being a 4-core simply because their per-core efficiency is so strong. 

We cannot deny, however, the fact that there are some new titles coming out that will be more CPU intensive and will drive demand higher in terms of CPU performance requirements. If the developers don't push the limits, then there's no need for the hardware to improve. 

I was under the impression that hyperthreading will not yield any sort of significant benefit in relation to gaming. Hyperthreading works by helping to utilise the CPU fully, usually at the result of poor coding which is why hyperthreaded CPU's benefit games such as GTA IV, which has a history of being a horrible console port.

Hyperthreading allows for all the CPU power that is due to poor coding to be reclaimed and used again on the threads that are 'queued'. So, only poorly optimised things that even support hyperthreading will benefit. However, for hyperthreading to be supported the game developer would have to lower the quality of the game to allow for hyperthreading to be used to bring the game up to how it should perform, as a result hyperthreading should not provide any meaningful amount of benefit as games are usually coded well already. Only real, physical cores, will benefit upcoming games

That's why I could go for a Xeon e3 1230v2. Basically an i7 3770 for the price of a 3570k.

So then even the fx8320/50 isn't a good option, we need to wait until someone releases a mainstream consumer part with 8 pure cores?

Not necessarily...

Don't forget that a single core that can chew through twice the IPC (instructions per cycle) can chew through the same two-threaded process in the same time it takes two cores that have half the IPC capability. This is why the 4-core i5's are able to keep up with and even still out-perform the 8-core AMD's in heavily multi-threaded processes. While the AMD can eat through all 8 threads simultaneously, the i5 can only eat through 4 threads at a time, but is able to eat through those 4 threads much faster. An i7 which has better process scheduling, will do the same but even faster. 

Many applications still rely on single threaded processes and many processes must be single-threaded as the data calculated from process "A" must first be completed in order to perform process "B" and so on. Such processes cannot be broken up into multiple threads, they have to be performed "in order". So the number of cores is not necessarily what determines how well a CPU will perform.

As others have mentioned, we must also take into account the applications/games them selves and how well they've been optimized for the hardware. A game designed to use 2-4 threads is going to run better on an i5 because the i5's 4 cores have twice the IPC as only 4 of the 8350's 8 cores. A game designed to make use of up to 8 threads will run similar on both CPU's because the i5's 4 cores are approximately equal to the capability of the 8350's 8 cores, in terms of total IPC. Now depending on the actual number of threads being utilized and taking into account the varying clock speeds of each CPU, we see some games favour the i5 and others favour the AMD.  

So there is no real right or wrong choice at this point in time, but my own opinion is that it's more important to choose a CPU with very strong IPC capabilities, even though the number of cores is less. They still maintain the overall edge even among the newest games that have shown they can use more than 4 threads, like BF4 beta. Especially with the help of hyperthreading.


Thanks for the information guys, I'll take this into account if I can find some good deals come cyber Monday. If not, I'll stick with my athlon through the winter and see how new games perform in order to make a more precise, data based decision. Either way, I'm sure I can't go wrong with a e3 1230v2, i5, or fx8320.

If you can get an e3 1230v2 for the same price of the i5, do it.

I fully support this idea, it'll run much cooler at a given load, meaning if you so desire you can build either a quieter or smaller form factor system. On the other hand they don't overclock as well as the i5 or i7 k series and fit onto the older series of motherboards, this means you'll miss out on a couple of the newer features (like faster boot times, faster usb 3 and higher max ram) but it also puts you before inlet split the enthusiast and productivity features onto different chip sets, so you can have the best of both worlds if you buy a more expensive mobo (which as its outgoing tech may actully be cheaper than a z87 1150 socketed board). All in all a Xeon is a price to performance peak and runs cooler, but its a bit older design and not as well supported, all said I do it.... but keep the other in mind.

I'm not doing a new build, just upgrading CPU's. Already have an Fractal Design Arc Midi that I'll probably be using for years and years to come, and a gtx 760 that I'll probably be using for a few years. So I'm not too worried about heat. I would however like low power consumption, that's always nice but my PSU is 750w so I'm not worried. I don't know how much I would get into overclocking so I don't know if it's something I need. I don't currently overclock my ahtlon II x3 because its 4th core is unlocked and that pulls 125w and my mobo is an 880g chipset that is probably under a lot of stress right now. It performs better with the 4th core unlocked versus having 3 with an overclock, can't have both. Anyways, I've pretty much decided to wait it out, but if I find a good deal I'll jump on whatever goes on sale, hopefully it'll be an e3 1230v2 :P