Is Intel Core i3 Good for Gaming? (and Which GPUs Pair Best)

Lindsay Hayes

If you're building a PC and looking to game with an Intel Core i3 CPU, you should get decent gaming performance under the right conditions. The integrated GPU in a Core i3 CPU isn't that great, so beyond basic titles, there's little hope. However, paired with a decent entry-level graphics card like the GTX 1650, running games on low to medium settings will be possible.

Budget is one of the major things that hinders people when they're trying to build a gaming PC. With a smaller budget, an Intel Core i3 processor might seem to be the best choice for you. If you love playing games like one of my friends does and are wondering is Intel Core i3 good for gaming, then you're in the right place. Keep reading to learn more.


How Is the Gaming Performance on an Intel i3 iGPU?

If you want to play games with an Intel Core i3 processor, you might be wondering whether you need to get a graphics card to use with it. Most CPUs in this series have an integrated GPU.

Unless you play the most basic games, you're going to find it hard or even impossible to do any PC gaming using the integrated graphics card.

Woman Playing Computer Games With Headphones

It is important to keep in mind that the GPU in your Intel Core i3 CPU depends on the exact generation and model that you have.

It's unlikely that you're using the early generations, which came with graphics cards like the Intel HD Graphics 2000. These struggled to even run games back in 2011.

However, if you're buying a more modern Core i3, you're going to likely find yourself with either the Intel UHD Graphics 630 or 730.

While these chips are leagues better than their HD Graphics brethren, they shouldn't be thought of as gaming workhorses. If the most modern game you play is something like FIFA 21, you should be able to get by on low settings. Most games made after 2015 likely won't play well, even on low settings.

However, if you want to know which popular games you can get working at least at low settings, I've put together a list below:

How to Know Which Intel Core i3 CPUs Have iGPUs?

If you're going to buy an Intel Core i3 processor for PC gaming, you'll need to make sure that you get the right model.

Although most Core i3 CPUs have an integrated graphics card, some of them do not. If you happen to get one of those, you won't be able to use your computer until you plug in a dedicated graphics card.

To know which Intel Core chips to avoid if you want it to have integrated graphics, any model number that has an F at the end indicates that it doesn't come with a graphics card.

For instance, if you opt for the i3-12100, you get Intel UHD 730 graphics with it, but the similarly-named Intel i3-12100F drops the graphics.

Is the Intel Core i3 Good for Gaming with a Dedicated GPU?

If the graphics card that comes built into the Intel Core i3 CPUs doesn't cut it for the popular games you like to play, you're probably already considering getting a proper dedicated graphics card to go into your rig.

If that's the case, you might be wondering, is the Intel Core i3 a good processor for gaming?

If you're looking to use entry-level computer components to build a PC, the Intel Core i3 series of processors can work quite well for gaming. The most important thing is to match it with a decent graphics card so that it won't end up bottlenecking.

Also, keep in mind that some modern games are CPU-intensive, and the minimum requirement for a processor may be an i5. In these cases, you're bound to get poorer performance, even with the right card handling graphics.

Computer Gaming GPU Graphic Card with Fan

What Does It Mean When a CPU Bottlenecks a Graphics Card?

Think of the biggest and greatest graphics card that comes to mind. The RTX 3080 Super from Nvidia probably comes to mind. Then, let's pair it with a lower-end processor, like the Intel Core i3 that we've been talking about.

PC games are quite CPU-intensive. During gaming, the processor matters a lot. It takes care of calculations for physics, audio, input, positioning, networking, and most importantly, tells the graphics chip what to render.

GPUs are responsible for the actual rendering process. Your CPU sends the instructions to your GPU, which then handles processing graphical information and displaying it on the screen.

Now, let's look back at the components mentioned earlier. Your Intel Core i3 CPU will handle processing and calculating a lot of data, but compared to the RTX 3080 Super, it does so at a relatively slow rate.

Because of this performance difference, your RTX 3080 will not receive its rendering instructions promptly enough. So, despite the performance gain that it has over so many other graphics cards, that headroom is wasted because the data input is significantly lower than the maximum output.

This is what is known as bottlenecking, and it is simply a result of a difference between the maximum performance of two components in your PC.

What Are Good GPUs to Match with a Core i3?

Without a flagship Intel Core processor by your side, the GPUs that you should consider with Core i3 CPUs are limited.

However, there are still some great graphics chips you can consider, and they come at a relatively affordable price too. Let's get into some of the options that can match an i3.

What Makes an Intel Core i3 Different from Other Intel Processors?

The Intel Core i3 CPUs are at the bottom of Intel's CPU hierarchy. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as these are cheaper than most others.

It's hard to pick out a primary difference between the CPU options that Intel has, but if there were to be one, it would probably be the core count. The cores are the part of the CPU responsible for doing the calculations. So the more there are, the better performance you get. Keep in mind that not all applications can utilize more cores though.

The Intel Core i3 processors have just two or four cores, i5 CPUs have a core count of either four or six, and the i7 processors use either six or eight. Finally, at the pinnacle is the Core i9 series, where the chips have a core count of eight or more cores.

Besides the core count, CPUs also have a small cache where they store files that they are about to use. The i3 processors have the smallest cache, while the Core i9 has the largest.

Finally, clock speed is another important metric when assessing the overall performance of the CPUs that Intel makes. The higher you go, the more likely you are to find processors that can hit higher clock speeds and core counts.

CPU Chip Processor

Final Words

If you're planning to build a PC for gaming and you want to put an Intel Core i3 in it, you'll be able to play a lot of games quite decently, but will definitely need to put a discrete graphics chip inside it.

You can pair a Core i3 with Nvidia GPUs like the GTX 1650 Super or 1660 Super, but if you prefer using Radeon cards, the RX 6500 XT is one of the best options that balances price and power.

We hope this article helped you learn more about your Intel i3 CPU and whether it's good for gaming. Take a look at our related articles for more computer information.

Lindsay Hayes

Hi, I’m Lindsay, a techie from Kansas City. That’s right; I’m a born and bred Midwesterner. I learned to take electronics apart at my dad’s GameStop way back when, and I haven’t stopped since. I spend most of my time checking out new gadgets.
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