7 Best CPU for Cities Skylines in 2021

Last Updated on May 30, 2021

Cities skylines is one of the most CPU intensive game out there and if you are planning on building a gaming rig dedicated to this game, then getting the right CPU is one of the first steps.

For starters, unlike most of the games out there that are highly reliant on GPU and can do well with a mainstream CPU such as the Ryzen 5 or the Core i5 processors, Cities Skylines is hungry for a powerful.

This has a lot do with the fact that there are literally thousands upon thousands of assets to load and calculation to be made particularly when you city gets larger and the population grows.

Here we look at the best CPU for Cities Skylines from various budget and also talk about what kind of processor to get.

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Processors for Cities Skylines Compared

List of Best CPU for Cities Skylines in 2021

The following processors are divided into three categories, mainstream, high performance and extreme builds.

  1. Intel Core i5-10600K – Recommended Intel Mainstream Gaming Processor for Cities Skylines
  2. AMD Ryzen 5 3600X – Recommended AMD Mainstream Gaming Processors
  3. AMD Ryzen 5 5600X – High Performance Mainstream Processor
  4. Intel Core i7-10700K – For High Performance Intel Builds
  5. AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT – For High Performance AMD Builds
  6. Intel Core i9-10900K – For Extreme Intel Gaming Build
  7. AMD Ryzen 9 3900X – For Extreme AMD Cities Skylines Build

CPU Requirements for Cities Skylines

cities skylines system requirements
Source: Systemrequirementslab.com

The official requirements for the Cities Skylines are more or less outdated. The processors mentioned here are no more in production. After all, the game is quite old and was released back in March, 2015.

On top of that, while the recommended requirements are great for beginner and casual players, for advanced players, the mainstream processors i.e the Core i5, as mentioned above, will not suffice.

And finally, the requirements make no mentioning of whether the processor scales well with multiple cores and whether a higher core count affects the performance.

Let us explore this a bit.

Does Cities Skylines Benefit from a High Core Count?

The video above shows an excellent comparison between a processor with a lower core count but higher single core performance vs a processor with a higher core count but low single core performance.

The CPUs compared are the Intel Core i5-6600K (4 Cores / 4 Threads / 3.90) GHz vs AMD Ryzen 7 1700X (8 Cores / 16 Threads / 3.4 GHz).

The benchmarks here are quite enlightening. The first is that a processor with a higher core count DOES NOT necessarily improve the Frame Per Second. Some scenes show the CPU with lower core count i.e Core i5-6600K perform better, whereas, in another scene the AMD Ryzen 7 1700X seems to perform better.

Overall though, the Frame Per Second performance is generally attributed to a better Single Core performance i.e a higher clock speed.

However, as the author of the video has pointed out, when it comes to the question of Simulation Speed, the processor with higher core count drastically outperforms the processor with a lower core count.

Basically, as your city grows, the game throttles the system resulting in slower simulation speed so that it does not tax the CPU performance much. This has all to do with the calculation happening instantaneously. Large the cities, the more calculation need to be done.

Since a processor with a higher core processor can perform multiple simultaneous calculations, it can maintain a fairly stable simulation speed even for much complex cities.

Key Takeaway

best CPY for cities skylines
Intel Core i5 and AMD Ryzen 5 CPUs are generally regarded as great mainstream processors for gaming. However, for a CPU intensive game like Cities: Skylines, even these may struggle.

So what is the Key takeaway. How many cores and threads should you aim for?

Generally, the opinion is that the game does not benefit much from a processor that has higher than 4 cores / 8 threads. Again, while this may be true for the frame rate, it does not turn out to be true for the simulation speed.

In our opinion, single core performance should be the primary attribute to look for. Meaning, we recommend going for a processor with a higher clock speed as supposed to a higher core count as the primary target.

Fortunately, even the newer mainstream processors these days offer 6 cores and 12 threads. This should help you maintain a good frame rate given that you have a good GPU to accompany and enough RAM to handle all the assets.

On top of that a processor with 8 cores / 8 threads would outperform a processors with 4 cores / 8 threads. In other words, multithreading / hyperthreading is a secondary attribute. While preferable, it is the higher core count you should look for when given a choice.

If you have a higher budget, then you can look into high performance or extreme processors that feature 8 cores or more with multi-threading enabled.

Cities Skylines Recommended Processors Reviewed

1. Intel Core i5-10600K – Recommended Intel Mainstream Gaming Processor for Cities Skylines

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Intel Core i5-10600K

A mainstream Intel processor with 6 cores and 12 threads. Passmark score of 14617.

First up we have one of the most recommended CPU for gaming in general and Cities Skylines in particular.

In most cases and city complexity, this mainstream processor should suffice. It offers 6 cores and 12 threads with 4.8 GHz max clock speed making it far more capable than the Intel Core i5-3470 highlighted in the system requirements.

However, as we have made it clear earlier, Cities Skylines is a very CPU intensive game. Unlike other games such as Shooter or RPG games where the GPU takes the brunt of work involved in maintain frames per second, in Cities Skylines, it is the processor.

As is the case with all simulation, be it professional CAD simulation or a simulation game like Cities: Skylines, there are simply a lot of calculations that need to be performed simultaneously for thousands of assets.

For this, a powerful processor becomes very important. This is one of the best CPU for Cities Skylines because it is reasonably priced, within most gamer’s reach, and offers a great overall specs.

Intel Core i5-10600K Cinebench R20 Benchmark

  • Single Core: 501
  • Multi Core: 3629

2. AMD Ryzen 5 3600X – Recommended AMD Mainstream Gaming Processors

AMD Ryzen 5 3600X

Mainstream AMD Ryzen processor from 3rd Gen has 6 cores and 12 threads. Passmark score of 18325.

Next up we have another very popular mainstream processor. If your next gaming build is centered around an AMD system, then this is one of the best CPU for Cities Skylines.

The fact of the matter is that this processor and the Intel Core i5-10600K above both have comparable performance. You cannot go wrong with either if your intention is to build a mainstream gaming build.

There are certain goodies that in our opinion makes this a better overall processor for some. For starters, it offers PCIe v4 protocol. The Intel i5-10600K does not and still operates the older PCIe v3.0 protocol.

Furthermore, this processor comes with support for 3200 MHz RAM right off the bat, the Intel processor above support 2666Hz RAM – you can overclock the speed however.

The only drawback with this Ryzen 5 3600x in comparison is that it features a lower clock  speed of 4.4 GHz as compared to 4.8 on the Intel above. As for the core and thread count, it offers the same 6 cores and 12 threads as the Intel Core i5-10600K above.

AMD Ryzen 5 3600x Cinebench R20 Benchmark

  • Single Core: 501
  • Multi Core: 3751

3. AMD Ryzen 5 5600X – Recommended AMD Mainstream Gaming Processors

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

Latest mainstream AMD processor with 6 cores and 12 threads. Passmark Score of 22189.

One of the latest and the greatest processors currently available in the market for mainstream gaming industry. While this is still a 6 core and a 12 thread processor like the AMD Ryzen 5 3600X above, it performs phenomenally well in comparison.

It does have a higher price tag though. It uses the same AM4 socket used by the previous Ryzen processors and also features the PCIe v4 support.

AMD Ryzen 5 5600x Cinebench R20 Benchmark

  • Single Core: 604
  • Multi Core: 4562

4. Intel Core i7-10700K – For High Performance Intel Builds

Intel Core i7-10700K

High Performance Intel processor with 8 cores and 16 threads. Passmark Score of 19565.

Next up we have a high performance Intel processor for those who have a decent budget to spend on their build for Cities Skylines.

For starters, this processor has an excellent Single Core performance of 5.1 GHz per core. It features 8 cores and 16 threads. So this is already an overkill for casual Cities gamer.

This is a processor that most pro Cities: Skylines gamer would recommend. The higher clock speed would help maintain excellent frame rate and the higher core count would help in maintaining great simulation speed. Hence for an overall high performance Intel build, this is one of the best CPU for Cities Skylines.

Besides that, high performance processor such as this are also great for professional productivity. If you are video editor, designer, etc, then this again is more recommended that the mainstream processors above.

Intel Core i7-10700K Cinebench R20 Benchmark

  • Since Core: 524
  • Multi Core: 5292

5. AMD Ryzen 7 5800X – For High Performance AMD Builds

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This is AMD’s answer to the Intel Core i7 new gen processors above. Again, both this and the above mentioned processors are great for a high performance builds.

In the end it all falls upon your choice of gaming build. Do you want to go with an AMD setup or an Intel setup.

Like the mainstream processors above, this too comes with PCIe v4 support as well as support for higher frequency 3200 MHz RAM off the bat.

However, it has a lower clock speed of 4.7 GHz max as compared to 5.1 GHz max on the Intel Core i7-10700K above. However, despite having a slower clockspeed, this processor beats the 10th Gen Core i7 processors in single core performance by a long shot both in Cinebench R20 scores as well as in Passmark.

passmark 5800 vs 10700K

All in all, for an AMD high performance build, this is the best CPU for Cities Skylines.

AMD Ryzen 7 5800XT Cinebench R20 Benchmark

  • Since Core: 628
  • Multi Core: 5724

6. Intel Core i9-10900K – For Extreme Intel Gaming Build

Intel Core i9-10900K

Workstation Grade Intel Processor with 10 cores 20 threads. For large scale city simulation. Passmark score of 24066.

With this processor, we enter the realm of extreme gaming or low-level workstation processors. These processors are only second in line to the multi-grand workstation grade processors like the AMD Threadripper or the Intel Xeon.

Basically, if you want the best possible single Core performance for maintaining high frame rate, want to run the game on multiple monitors, perhaps have another app open at the same time, multitask all at once, then this is one of the best CPU for Cities Skylines gamers.

Again, the overall performance would eventually depend upon how complex your city gets, however, the performance would rarely get any better than what this processor can provide.

The processor features a max 5.3 GHz clock speed with 10 cores and 20 threads.

Intel Core i9-10900K Cinebench R20 Benchmark

  • Since Core: 539
  • Multi Core: 6399

7. AMD Ryzen 9 3900X – For Extreme AMD Cities Skylines Build

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AMD Ryzen 9 3900X

Workstation Grade AMD Processor with 12 cores 24 threads. Passmark score of 32846.

This is the AMD counterpart of the Intel Core i9-10900K processor. Again, this is a low-level workstation processor but suitable for extreme gamers.

The processor features a slightly different core configuration as compared to the Intel Core i9-10900K processor. It has a higher core and thread count of 12 cores / 24 threads.

As such it has a much better multi-core performance as compared to the Intel Core i9-10900K processor above.

Unfortunately, it has a lower max clockspeed of 4.6 GHz as compared 5.3 GHz on the Intel counterpart above.

Essentially what this means is that while you may suffer from lower frame per second as compared to the Core i9-10900K, the simulation speed will be better as your city gets complex thanks to the higher core counts.

Again, for extreme gaming, this is one of the best CPU for Cities Skylines.

AMD Ryzen 9 3900X Cinebench R20 Benchmark

  • Since Core: 521
  • Multi Core: 7178

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Final Words

All in all, you have to strike the right balance between multi-core and single-core performance of the CPU for this game. However, in our opinion, a good single-core performance matters more as it can drastically improve the frame rates.

The list of the best CPU for Cities Skylines are all from the latest generation of Intel and AMD processors. You can always go for older gen CPUs if you can find a good overall deal just make sure you look at the benchmarks when choosing.

Atif Qazi

Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGearLab. He is a PC enthusiast as well as engineer with a keen interest in PC hardware and all stuff related to tech and games.

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