Have you ever experienced lag or poor performance while gaming? The culprit might be bottlenecking. But what exactly is bottlenecking, and how does it affect your gaming experience?
As technology continues to advance, gaming enthusiasts have higher expectations for graphics, speed, and overall performance. However, even with all the latest hardware and software, there can still be limitations that hinder the optimal gaming experience. Bottlenecking is an issue that many gamers encounter but may not fully understand.
Bottlenecking refers to a situation where a specific component in your gaming system slows down the overall performance, preventing your hardware from reaching its full potential. In order to fully grasp the concept of bottlenecking and how it can impact your gaming, it’s essential to delve deeper into its causes and potential solutions. This article will provide a comprehensive understanding of bottlenecking and help you mitigate its negative effects on your gaming experience.
What Is a PC Bottleneck?
In a computer system, various components, such as the CPU, RAM, GPU, and storage drives, all work together to perform tasks. If one component is slower or less powerful than the others, it can create a bottleneck that hampers overall performance. Different types of bottlenecks can occur, such as CPU bottlenecks and GPU bottlenecks. Identifying a bottleneck requires analyzing the performance of various hardware components, and addressing it involves upgrading or improving the specific component causing the bottleneck. Understanding the specifications and capabilities of these components is essential in optimizing performance.
Finding a Compatible CPU and GPU
Although the CPU and GPU are not the only components that can cause bottlenecks, their interaction shows how a bottleneck can affect a system.
In contemporary PC games, the central processing unit (CPU) handles calculations for physics, audio, netcode, positional data, and an abundance of other systems. Additionally, it provides the graphics processing unit (GPU) with rendering instructions.
Shaders, textures, and other visual data are all included in these CPU-generated instructions, which give the GPU all the information it needs to determine what to render. The image you see onscreen is the result of them being executed by the GPU. The GPU will stay idle until the next set of instructions is ready if it is rendering these instructions more quickly than the CPU is able to process them.
This indicates that the GPU is not performing at its best, which may lead to a decrease in the number of rendered frames per second. This represents a bottleneck since the CPU’s limitations are limiting the GPU’s performance.
In the other direction, the same thing is possible. The slower speeds of the GPU limit the CPU’s capabilities if a powerful CPU sends instructions to the GPU quicker than the GPU can render. A CPU and GPU closely matched in performance capability would improve system performance.
Once more, a bottleneck can be caused by nearly any piece of hardware—not just the CPU and GPU. Hardware in a system should ideally operate at almost peak efficiency, with no single component negatively affecting other components.
Building a Balanced Gaming PC
When preparing a new build, take into consideration not just the games you play and the hardware requirements for them but also the possible effects of each hardware component on the others.
While some games are more CPU-dependent than others and are optimized differently, a powerful processor is still essential for the best possible gaming experience and a great place to start when designing a new build. A person who sometimes plays less hardware-intensive games will have different hardware requirements than someone who plays live streaming a CPU-intensive game. Choose the one that most closely matches your PC usage habits.
After selecting the best CPU for your system to get a balanced build, think about the GPU you want to use with it.
Similar to selecting the CPU, the type of games you play and your intended use of the system will determine which GPU is best.
You can personalize your experience with most PC games by choosing from a wide range of graphics options. As a result, you can usually play more recent games on older or more entry-level GPUs; however, there might be some performance compromises and an effect on the experience’s overall appearance.
If you prioritize higher resolutions, a high-end GPU would be the most appropriate choice. Your options increase significantly if 1080p gaming is good enough.
Your CPU and GPU should work well together rather than just being compatible to guarantee a balanced build. The most recent Intel® CoreTM i5 processor is a great entry-level CPU, but if you pair it with a GeForce* RTX 3090 GPU, your system won’t be appropriately balanced. Similar to this, the most recent Intel® CoreTM i9 gaming processor is an excellent option for a potent gaming CPU; however, its full gaming capabilities will be unnecessarily limited when paired with an entry-level GPU.
In a gaming PC, the CPU and GPU collaborate closely, so it is advisable to avoid giving one priority over the other. Both should make it possible for the other to perform to the best of their abilities.
RAM is typically only a bottleneck when gaming if you need more of it. 8GB of RAM is a decent starting point for the majority of modern games, though 16GB is fast taking the lead. Additionally, it depends on the way you use your computer—if all that you are doing is playing games, you won’t require as much RAM as if you are also streaming videos or engaging in Discord chats.
Generally speaking, quantity matters more in gaming than speed does. Once more, balance is the goal, so 16GB of terribly slow RAM wouldn’t be ideal. However, if you are buying modern memory, 16GB of DDR4 RAM is typically better than 8GB of slightly faster DDR4 RAM.
Both system performance and the overall gaming experience can be hampered by storage. While it might not affect your graphics settings directly, using an outdated hard disk drive (HDD) could cause the game to stutter or take longer to load.
Upgrades to solid state drives (SSDs), which enable much faster data access than conventional HDDs, are the easiest way to solve the problem. Even if you are not quite ready to replace your HDD, Intel® OptaneTM memory can make a big difference in performance by caching frequently used files on your system for quicker access.
You can also use your display as a bottleneck. If you use a 60Hz, 1080p display, you won’t be getting the most out of the newest gaming hardware.
Higher frame rates and resolutions are something you should strive for, so make sure you get a display that can adequately highlight these qualities and a balanced CPU and GPU combination that can render them.
6. Other Hardware
While CPU, GPU, RAM, storage, and display have the biggest effects on gaming performance, a well-balanced build should also take other factors into account.
Although the power supply may not have a direct effect on frame rates, an improperly matched PSU can still shorten the life of your system.
Gaming won’t likely be impacted by a motherboard. Still, it can restrict your hardware choices, make upgrades more challenging in the future, and affect some convenience features like sound and network connectivity.
Each piece of hardware has to be evaluated in light of how it will interact with the rest of the system and contribute to a more harmonious user experience.
How to Balance Your Build
One benefit of pre-built PCs is the fact that they are typically balanced by design. However, if you plan on creating or enhancing your own system, you should purchase hardware that is compatible and performs better than the other.
Think about how to allocate your budget most effectively. Prioritizing your needs is equally important as obtaining the best components. As an illustration, Setting aside money for a high-end graphics card and display with a higher resolution is ideal if you want a better resolution experience. It makes sense to prioritize a high frame rate with an appropriate gaming CPU and a higher refresh rate display if you play fast-paced shooters like Call of Duty: Warzone or VALORANT.
Examples of Balanced Builds
Here are some balanced system examples that could serve as helpful benchmarks when deciding between a custom or pre-built PC.
- CPU: Intel® Core™ i5 10600K
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060
- RAM: 8GB
- Storage: 32GB Intel Optane Memory/1TB HDD
- Display: 1920×1080/144Hz refresh rate
High-End Gaming System
- CPU: Intel® Core™ i7 10700K
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070
- RAM: 16GB
- Storage: 512GB Intel SSD/1TB HDD
- Display: 2560×1440/144Hz refresh rate, or 1920×1080/240Hz refresh rate
Cutting-Edge Gaming System
- CPU: Intel® Core™ i9 10900K
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
- RAM: 32GB
- Storage: 1TB Intel SSD/2TB HDD
- Display: 3840×2160/120Hz refresh rate, 2560×1440/240Hz refresh rate, or 1920×1080/ 360Hz refresh rate
Finding the Right Balance for Your PC
You may have different requirements for a gaming PC, but no matter what hardware you choose, making sure it’s balanced will improve your experience. Remember that you can always upgrade your PC after it’s assembled. Instead of one extremely powerful component slowing down a system that otherwise performs poorly, it is better to have a balanced build that you can upgrade.
A well-balanced build guarantees more than just an improved gameplay experience. It all comes down to building a system that will function optimally no matter how it is used. A better overall experience will come from giving balanced hardware priority, whether creating or gaming.
Through the identification and resolution of bottlenecks, players can significantly improve their gaming experience. Playing games more smoothly and performing better will come from taking the required measures to remove bottlenecks, which may include changing components, balancing the system, optimizing settings, or keeping adequate cooling.