If you’re an avid gamer, you know that having the best CPU and GPU for your system is crucial to getting the most out of your gaming experience. The right components can make all the difference in how smoothly games run on your system, how crisp the graphics appear, and more. However, the biggest challenge with choosing the right CPU and GPU setup is deciding between countless options (not all of which are compatible with one another). So what’s the best setup?
Combining the top two brands of AMD and Nvidia, the best CPU to GPU gaming setups include:
|Ryzen 1600 AF
|GTX 1650 Super
|Ryzen 5 3600
|1080p @ 144Hz gaming setup
|RX 5700 XT
|1440p @ 144Hz gaming setup
|Ryzen 7 3700X
|RTX 2080 Super
|1440p gaming on Ultrawide monitors
|Ryzen 9 5900X
|4K @144hz gaming setup
Which setup suits you best will depend on several factors, like budget, the games you play, and your preferred gaming type (ex. 1080p, 1440p, 4K).
In this article, we will review some of the best CPU to GPU setups you can purchase for various budgets and levels of gaming performance. We’ll compare specs for each CPU and GPU as provided by AMD and Nvidia, so you know exactly what you’re getting and how this will affect other components in your build as well as your overall gaming experience.
Why Choosing the Right CPU and GPU Pair First Is Essential to Your Gaming System
Every gamer who’s purchased or built their own PC gaming desktop knows that the first step you should take for this process is deciding what CPU and GPU setup you want.
There are ultimately two reasons for this:
- These components will undoubtedly make up the majority of your build’s cost, and so, knowing your budget beforehand for the pair, as well as the build, as a whole, is a must.
- The specs of your CPU and GPU pair will likely determine other build factors, such as the thermals on your case, the size of your power supply, etc.
Because of these two overarching factors, the last thing you want to do is start slowly acquiring other pieces for your build without knowing what core components they’re supporting.
Using your PC system for gaming isn’t like using it to browse the Internet. While the same components will still run, gaming performance is very GPU-dependent, so you want a graphics card that will handle the high demands of gaming and render its images effectively for a smooth, crisp visual.
Of course, for your GPU to provide the ideal image, it needs support from a compatible CPU with enough processing cores, threads, and other specs to keep things running smoothly and display everything as quickly as possible.
Simply put, you can’t have one without the other in gaming, and if the two aren’t properly paired, elements of your gaming experience will suffer, such as response time, fluidity of motion, and range.
Which CPU to GPU Setup Is Right for You?
The best CPU to GPU setups for gaming is a question many gamers ask themselves when building their next rig. Gaming on PC can be an expensive hobby, and it’s not always easy to know what the best components are. You might find yourself reading countless articles online but never actually buying anything because there are so many opinions out there!
After extensive research, we narrowed down the list of CPU to GPU setups to the top five recommendations listed above and what tasks, equipment, and budget they’re best suited for.
While each of these setups undoubtedly gives you exceptional performance from both the CPU and GPU for optimal gaming, they are not all created equal. Some are definitely more equipped for heavier tasks and better graphics than others (ex. 1080p gaming versus 4K gaming). There’s also the factor of how much each of these setups costs, as this will have a massive influence on your build budget and the other components you purchase.
Let’s briefly discuss each setup in more detail to know exactly what you’re getting and which matches your needs and gaming preferences best.
Ryzen 1600 AF and the GTX 1650 Super
The Ryzen 1600 AF is an extremely popular choice for lower-budget builds, as it offers 6 cores, 12 threads, a wraith spire cooler, and is built on the 12-nanometer process, making it a refresh of the original Ryzen 1600 that was built on the 14-nanometer process. With these specs, the Ryzen 1600 AF is nearly identical to the Ryzen 5 2600 at a greatly reduced cost of $85.
Pairing the Ryzen 1600 AF with the GTX 1650 Super or even the 1660 Super is going to be your optimal choice if you want to create a sub-$600 build and purchase both components for around $250-$350. This is the ideal GPU for 1080p gaming on a budget, as it can handle nearly every game at this level while also offering the potential to reach 144 fps gaming if you lower your settings when playing less-GPU-demanding games like Fortnite and Apex.
Computer Part Shortage Effect on Prices
Before the significant shortage in computer parts, you could snag this CPU to GPU setup for a bargain price. Nowadays, it’s definitely out of the $250-$350 price range, and it’s relatively impossible to purchase any desktop or laptop parts on a low budget.
You’ll find the majority of links we provide won’t match the prices we’re stating because they are inflated prices as a direct result of the shortage versus the original prices.
Therefore, now might not be the time to buy a CPU to GPU setup, especially if you’re on a budget, as you don’t really want to purchase anything below the Ryzen 1600 AF and GTX 1650 Super, or your system will struggle. But, the prices they’re offered at right now aren’t justifiable for their limited 1080p performance. Best to wait until prices drop before investing.
Alternatively, you can look into purchasing the Ryzen 3 3100 paired with the RX 5500 XT 8GB for relatively the same value if you find these options are available when our recommended pair is out of stock or grossly overpriced.
Ryzen 5 3600 and RX 5700
With specs of 6 cores, 12 threads, and a high 4.2 GHz clock speed, the Ryzen 3600 is a popular choice for gaming builds on moderate budgets of around $800, as both components originally would cost about $500 combined. The improved processor speed makes displaying any 1080p gaming graphics a breeze, reliably giving you both 60 fps and 144h Hz and even 165fps at 1080p if you have a 165 Hz monitor.
However, the RX 5700 also has the potential to support 1440p gaming, depending on your settings and monitor. It isn’t quite capable of reaching the 240 Hz gameplay mark, but you’ll get pretty close. This is a quality choice for most gamers if you like to play recreationally and competitively but don’t want to move up to a $1,000 build.
This setup can also support streaming reasonably well for the average gamer. Still, it might underperform for that small percentage of serious streamers with large audiences playing GPU-demanding games.
Ryzen 3600X and RX 5700 XT
Our options from this point onward are really tailored to the gamers who are looking for the best of the best from their build and aren’t too concerned about how much they’re spending on the CPU to GPU setup.
Taking our previous Ryzen 3600 and RX 5700 a step up, we recommend purchasing the Ryzen 3600X paired with an upgraded 5700 XT graphics card. You still get the perks of 6 cores and 12 threads, but the Ryzen 3600X has a better cooler and an increased clock speed of 4.4 GHz. Comparatively, the RX 5700 XT is a faster graphics card than its predecessor and will provide exceptional 1440p @ 144 Hz gaming performance without any concern about bottlenecking.
A vast number of gamers are quickly shifting their sights from 1080p setups to 1440p or even 4K gaming performance, so if you’re interested in following the trends, this CPU and GPU pair will help you fit right in and provide an exceptional gaming experience for the original price of about $600-$650. This makes it a reasonable option for $1,000 builds.
Ryzen 7 3700X and RTX 2080 Super
Don’t worry, for all of you gamers who enjoy your ultrawide PC monitors; we see you. These monitors are a common choice for gamers as they increase the field of view and can make games feel more immersive than on a standard monitor. However, the dimensions of ultrawide monitors mean you need to pay a little extra attention to what CPU and GPU components you purchase in order to have the ideal performance. For this, we recommend the Ryzen 7 3700X and the RTX 2080 Super.
The Ryzen 3700X comes with 8 cores, 16 threads, a clock speed of 4.4 GHz, and is built on a 7-nanometer process. Combined with the RTX 2080 Super, this pair is definitely overkill for a 1080p focused system. At this point, the only people who should be looking at this setup are those who want the epitome of 1440p @ 144 Hz gaming with relatively reliable 4k gaming and don’t mind spending roughly $1,500 on their build.
We will say that while the Ryzen 3700X is an excellent CPU choice to pair with the RTX 2080 Super, once you enter the realm of 1440p and 4k gaming, you’re going to want to focus more on your GPU than your CPU. The reason being that as you move up in resolution, your system is going to become more GPU-bound, taking the pressure off your CPU and significantly closing the CPU gap in performance as you steadily increase your graphics card’s performance.
So while we definitely recommend this setup for your ultrawide monitor, as it can reliably handle the high rendering demands, you’ll notice GPU where you want to focus your time and money.
Ryzen 9 5900X and RTX 3090
At the absolute pinnacle of CPU to GPU setups, we have the Ryzen 9 5900X and the RTX 3090. You’re going to need some seriously deep pockets and a relatively limitless budget for this dream build, as it’ll cost you slightly over $2,000 for both components, requiring a solid $2,500 build at minimum. However, once you have this setup in place, the gaming possibilities are absolutely endless.
Coming in at 12 cores, 24 threads, and a clock speed of 4.8 GHz, the Ryzen 5900X is a monstrous machine that’s going to support your RTX 3090’s 4K capabilities with ease. In fact, many gamers think this setup is even overkill for 4K gaming and better suited for the high demands of VR gaming or other high GPU-intensive productivity tasks instead.
Suppose you don’t find yourself doing either of these with your CPU to GPU setup. In that case, this might be an unreasonably priced pair for you, as you can get ideal 4K results by stepping down to the Ryzen 3700X and RTX 2080 or even upgrading the RTX 2080 to an RTX 2080 Ti for improved performance for an overall cheaper price.
Even if the previously-listed option doesn’t meet your standards, there are several other fantastic CPU to GPU setups that can handle 4K gaming for far less than the Ryzen 5900X and RTX 3090. That being said, if you have money to burn and want the potential to do everything under the gaming sun without any concerns of bottlenecking or other issues, this is the choice for you.
Of all the potential CPU to GPU setups you could purchase for your PC gaming build, these are the top five we recommend that are guaranteed to provide optimal gaming performance, from 1080p to 1440p to 4K and beyond.
While we recommend choosing a setup from this list that suits your needs and gaming preferences, we recognize there are a vast number of CPU and GPU options and combinations out there. So, if these setups don’t work for you, we encourage you to explore alternatives; just make sure your CPU and GPU are compatible before purchasing and do the math of what buying this pair will mean for the rest of your build.