Matching a processor and a graphics card may seem easy, but when you want to maximize your performance at a certain budget, there are ideal pairings to be made. For example, a demanding gamer won’t need a high number of cores, but someone working on video editing or 3D content creation might.
We’ve compiled 4 pairings to match most peoples needs and budget, but note that new CPU lineups from AMD are coming (Ryzen 5000 series), along with new GPUs from Nvidia (RTX 3070, RTX 3060) and AMD (Radeon 6000 series). So if you’re not in a hurry, it can be smarter to wait for them, whether it’s for the generational performance boost or the consequential price drop of the current generation.
Best – CPUs/ GPUs combinations our selections
Entry-level Gaming: Ryzen 3 3100 + Radeon RX 5500 XT
Want a desktop PC that doesn’t break the bank and still holds his ground in e-sports titles and other not too demanding games? Pairing a Ryzen 3 3100 ($99) – a 4 cores/8 threads CPU that rivals with Intel’s i3 lineup—with a RX 5500XT will give you great performance for 1080p gaming
Why not Intel’s own i3-10100 or i3-9100f you ask? While they have similar performance and can often be found for less money, going with AMD Ryzen gives you access to a more future-proof platform: the AM4 socket will support Ryzen 5000 CPUs and an upgrade to those will be more beneficial than Intel’s offerings.
I would have ideally recommended a Ryzen 3 3300X, more powerful for only $20-30 more, but it’s often out of stock and impossible to find at the moment. If you ever find one though, it is totally worth the price increase.
The Radeon RX 5500XT ($199), while not as known as Nvidia GPUs, dominates the low-end like AMD usually do. It offers awesome performance for 1080p gaming, only matched at this price point by the usually more expensive GTX 1660. Be sure to get a 8GB VRAM model though, as games are becoming more and more demanding on memory.
Mid-range Gaming: Ryzen 5 3600 -RTX 2070 Super
A pairing that can satisfy most gamers: the Ryzen 5 3600 is simply the best value CPU out there, offering great gaming performance and even 6 cores/12 threads to please streamers and content creators. For a while gamers wanting to maximize performance had to get CPUs over $400 to max their GPU, but now this $199 value-king won’t limit yourself even at 1440p 144Hz, so that’s more money to put towards a better GPU.
Want more? It only has a TDP of 65W, and includes a Wraith Stealth aircooler, good enough to match most $30 coolers on the market. It’s not the most silent, but unlike Intel’s default cooler it’s actually good.
User considering heavy content creation can opt for the Ryzen 7 3700X ($329). With 8 cores/16 threads, it won’t offer more gaming performance until games get optimized for more cores, but multi-thread workloads will run faster, and its TDP is still 65W.
With a price around $400, the RTX 2070 Super still holds the crown of best mid-range GPUs. For 1080p 144Hz gaming, it’s simple, you don’t need more than that at the moment. If you’re tempted to play at 1440p 144Hz, you might want to upgrade to a RX 5700XT or a RTX 2080 , or wait for the upcoming series from Nvidia and AMD. But with a bit of compromise, a 2060 Super can get you running even at that resolution.
High-end Gaming: i5-10600k + RTX 3080
Users playing e-sports titles at more than 200Hz or heavy AAA titles might be the only ones limited by Ryzen’s current lineup, but Intel has them covered: the i5-10600k ($262) will offer them more single thread performance than a R5-3600, which is enough not to limit the beefiest graphics cards on the market and squeeze every frame out of them.
Intel sadly don’t provide a CPU cooler with this one, so you have to get your own. Make sure it’s good enough to handle its 125W TDP or you could find yourself in throttle territory.
If you’re targeting 4K gaming, even a Ryzen 5 3600 ($199) might actually do the trick. That resolution put less stress on the CPU, and every CPU on the market ends up having similar performance. However if you play on 1440p or 1080p, the gap increases on single-core performance, so Intel’s current lineup is best fitted until we see some Ryzen 5000 CPUs on the market.
The RTX 3080 ($599), if you can get your hands on one, is THE best GPU on the market right now, and will easily handle every game you throw at it at 1440p or 4K with high refresh rates and even provide a decent RayTracing experience (finally) if you’re into that. It has given gamers a once-in-a-decade performance increase over previous generation and makes every previous high-end GPUs irrelevant.
Its 10 GB VRAM are enough for every games on the market in 2020, and there’s a good chance it will be for a long time. It however has a 320W power draw, so make sure your PSU can handle that.
High-end Gaming Workstation: Intel i9-10900kf + RTX 3080
If you want a no compromise machine that allows you to both edit 4K videos and play at high refresh rates, look no further. The Intel i9-10900kf ($472) is a 10 core, 20 threads CPU, or should I say a workstation beast, that will not flinch on the most demanding workloads. While it’s overkill for gaming, it offers a significant gain in most content creation software like the Adobe CS suite or Solidworks.
Intel’s 14nm process, while not as efficient as AMD’s 7nm, is refined to near excellency and provide an appreciated gaming performance boost over AMD’s Ryzen 3900X. It’s hard to cool down though, so make sure you have a proper aircooler or AIO cooler to match.
I however highly recommend waiting for the Ryzen 9 5900X or 5950X, which should release on November 5, to maximize your performance especially if you deal with heavy multi-threaded workloads. But if you need a PC right now that’s extremely powerful in gaming AND content creation, the i9-10900kf is your best bet.
As for the GPU, we again find the RTX 3080 ($599), which has no real competition at the moment. For gaming it has unmatched performance, and for work it outperforms both the Titan RTX and 2080Ti on every rendering benchmark there is. Only the RTX 3090 is more powerful, with roughly a 15 to 20% overhead on rendering (and 140% more VRAM with 24GB), but its price is significantly higher and gaming performance between the two is similar.