Buying a very powerful graphics card will allow us to enjoy demanding games with maximum qualities, and will also give us access to advanced technologies that will improve our experience. However, we must be clear that the performance of a graphics card can be profoundly affected by the processor. If the processor is unable to keep up with the processor, our brand new graphics card will encounter a huge bottleneck.
The balance when assembling or upgrading a PC is essential in order to enjoy a good level of performance. It is no use, for example, to mount a GeForce RTX 4090 on a PC that has an Intel Pentium G 4000 series processor or an AMD Ryzen 3 1200, because we will have a huge bottleneck caused by the processor, and the same would happen even with more powerful models, such as the Core i5-10400F or the Ryzen 5 3600.
A bottleneck occurs when one component ends up limiting the performance of another component.. In this case, it is the processor that negatively affects the performance of the graphics card because it is unable to work fast enough to supply the graphics card with all the data and instructions it needs, causing the graphics card to have too large “idle” phases.
If you are wondering how you can identify a severe bottleneck the answer is very simple, when the CPU utilization rate is very high and the GPU utilization rate is below 85%.. In these cases the processor is “smoking” and the graphics card is overtaxed, so much so that a significant part of its potential is wasted. There may also be less serious bottleneckswhich are those in which the CPU is at full throttle but the GPU remains at a 90% utilization rate, and mild bottlenecks, which occur when the GPU utilization rate remains at least 95%.
Display resolution, graphics quality and processor: an important reflection.
Before going directly into what processor we need for each graphics card, it is necessary to talk about the screen resolution, because this will determine the workload that the graphics card will have to face and the impact that the CPU will have on its performance. The lower the screen resolution, the less workload the GPU will take on and the more weight the processor performance will haveand vice versa.
This is very important because a processor like the Core i5-10400F can make a huge bottleneck to the GeForce RTX 4090 at 1080p, but that bottleneck will be greatly reduced at 4K resolution.. The reason is very simple, in 1080p that graphics card is overclocked and needs the processor to supply as much data and instructions as possible to develop its full potential, while in 4K the GPU has to work with 4 times more pixels, and therefore will be tighter and will not need the CPU to work as fast.
It should also be noted that graphics settings greatly affect the dependency ratio between GPU and CPU.. Reducing the graphics quality will cause the graphics card to take on less workload and increase the weight of the processor, and vice versa. Enabling particularly demanding settings, such as ray tracing, will greatly increase the workload on the graphics card and reduce the weight of the processor.
Everything we have seen is so important that, to this day, it is not uncommon to measure the performance of different processors. in games are set to 720p and low quality.. It is an unrealistic scenario, but it forces such a large reduction in graphics load that it is the processor that ends up making the difference in terms of performance.
Before we finish, we must also remind you that by enabling technologies such as NVIDIA DLSS, Intel XeSS or AMD FSR in games also reduces the graphics load and can cause bottlenecks, because they reduce the resolution at which each frame is rendered and increase the weight of the processor.
Which processor should I choose for my graphics card
We are ready to get right into the heart of the article, which is to determine which processor would be the minimum recommended for each graphics card. We have already said that this will depend on the screen resolution and graphics quality, so we are going to give you a general recommendation that will be the ideal minimum to avoid a serious bottleneck. even at 1080p, and we will take for granted that our goal is to play at maximum quality.
On the other hand, to simplify the guide and make it easier to consult we are going to make broader references only to the most recent generations of graphics cards, otherwise this article would be too long and would lose value. We will leave a section for older modelsbut this will be more generic and brief. However, if you have any doubt you can leave it in the comments and we will help you to solve it.
GeForce GTX 10, Radeon RX Vega and earlier graphics cards
With these generations it is complicated to encounter a bottleneck at CPU level unless we have a very old processor. From a Ryzen 5 1500X or a Core i7-4770 we will be able to move graphics cards such as the GeForce GTX 970, GTX 1060, Radeon R9 390 and Radeon RX 580 without any problems.
In the case of more powerful models, such as the GeForce GTX 1080 and GTX 1080 Ti, and the Radeon RX Vega 56 and 64 and Radeon VII, the minimum recommended would be. Ryzen 5 2500X or a Core i7-6700. so as not to suffer a serious bottleneck.
For much older graphics cards, such as the GeForce GTX 600 or GTX 700, and the Radeon HD 7000, a processor such as the Core i5-2500 or a Ryzen 3 1200. would be more than enough to not have a serious bottleneck, although we must keep in mind that these have become obsolete and unsupported, and that their performance in current games can be quite poor.
GeForce RTX 20 and Radeon RX 5000 Graphics Cards
These are two generations that still offer an excellent level of performanceespecially in the higher ranges, and they need a fairly powerful processor to develop their full potential, especially if we are going to play in 1080p resolutions.
- GeForce RTX 2060, RTX 2060 Super and RTX 2070: we will need at least a Ryzen 5 2500X or a Core i7-6700 to move them without severe bottlenecking.
- Radeon RX 5600 XT, Radeon RX 5700 and Radeon RX 5700 XT: as in the previous case we will need at least a Ryzen 5 2500X or a Core i7-6700 to avoid bottlenecks.
- GeForce RTX 2070 Super, RTX 2080, RTX 2080 Super and RTX 2080 Ti: are very powerful graphics cards, so we’re going to need a processor to match. Having a Ryzen 5 3600 or a Core i7-8700 will be enough to avoid a serious bottleneck, although the ideal in the case of the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti would be to have a Ryzen 5 5600 or a Core i5-11400F.
GeForce RTX 30 and Radeon RX 6000 graphics cards.
We give an important leap in terms of raw powerand this also means that we need a more powerful processor to avoid a serious bottleneck with the graphics cards we are going to see below. In the more powerful models it would be advisable to have a higher CPU to maximize performance if we are going to play in 1080p.
- GeForce RTX 3050 and Radeon RX 6600: with a Ryzen 5 2500X or a Core i7-6700 we will not suffer a serious bottleneck, although if we are going to play in 1080p with DLSS or FSR enabled it is advisable to have a Ryzen 5 3600 or a Core i7-8700.
- GeForce RTX 3060, RTX 3060 Ti, Radeon RX 6600 XT and RX 6700: the jump in power is significant, and therefore it is advisable to have at least a Ryzen 5 3600 or a Core i7-8700. If we are going to play in 1080p with DLSS or FSR enabled a more powerful processor can make a significant difference (Ryzen 5 5600 and Core i5-11400F would be ideal companions in that case).
- GeForce RTX 3070, RTX 3070 Ti, RTX 3080, Radeon RX 6700 XT, RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT: are models that offer a very high level of performance, and even at 1440p need a powerful processor to realize their full potential. From a Ryzen 5 5600 or a Core i5-11400F we would not suffer any serious bottleneck, even at 1080p.
- GeForce RTX 3080 Ti, RTX 3090, RTX 3090 Ti and Radeon RX 6900 XT-6950XT: were the most powerful models of their generation, we can consider them as equivalents of each other and still position them at the top of the industry. In this case we should also accompany them with a Ryzen 5 5600 or an Intel Core i5-11400F to not suffer a serious bottleneck, even in 1080p.
GeForce RTX 40 and Radeon RX 7000 graphics cards.
Newly released new generations from NVIDIA and AMD. have set a new performance ceiling in the graphics industry.in fact the GeForce RTX 4090 is so powerful that even at 4K we can see a certain bottleneck with processors that previously managed quite well at that level.
- GeForce RTX 4070 Ti and Radeon RX 7900 XT: are two models that generally perform at the level of a GeForce RTX 3090 Ti, so we will also need a Ryzen 5 5600 or an Intel Core i5-11400F to avoid serious bottlenecks.
- GeForce RTX 4080 and Radeon RX 7900 XTX: both represent a considerable performance jump over the GeForce RTX 3090 Ti. If we are going to play in 4K a Ryzen 5 5600X or an Intel Core i5-11600 will comply without problems, but when activating DLSS or FSR, or when playing in lower resolutions, it becomes advisable to have a Ryzen 5 7600X or a Core i5-12600.
- GeForce RTX 4090: Is the most powerful graphics card available in the mainstream consumer market. Starting with a Ryzen 5 7600X or an Intel Core i5-12600 we will not suffer serious bottlenecks, but if we activate DLSS or if we play in resolutions below 4K a faster CPU will give us higher performance.
Final notes: the importance of optimization.
To end this article properly it is essential to talk about. the importance of optimization nowadays.and how poorly made some games are, as it is an issue that can produce bottlenecks in perfectly balanced equipment, and in these cases you should not worry because unfortunately you will not be able to do anything.
Most current games only scale well on quad-core, eight-threaded processors, and some do so on six-core, twelve-threaded processors. Having a processor with more than six cores and twelve threads will not make a significant difference in games because they are not optimized to take advantage of them properly. What will make a big difference will be the IPC of the processor and its operating frequencies.
So if your goal is to game and you have to choose between processor with 8 cores and 16 threads with a low IPC, such as the Ryzen 7 1800X, or one with 6 cores and 12 threads and a higher IPC, such as the Ryzen 5 5600, the latter would be the better choice without any doubt, in fact the gaming performance difference between the two is overwhelming in favor of the Ryzen 5 5600.
All in all, you should not get obsessed either with the IPC issue to the point of underestimating the number of cores and threads, since nowadays having less than 4 cores and 8 threads will make us unable to play games with guarantees, and the ideal is to reach a configuration of 6 cores and 12 threads.. Processors with 8 cores and 16 threads only make sense in very specific cases, such as if we are going to play games and do other things at the same time in the background.