How to choose a CPU and a graphics card for a PC? – A practical guide

The choice of a graphics card and CPU is essential for building a PC. These two components have a great effect on the remaining specifications, from power supply through motherboard up to RAM or case.

When you finish reading this piece, you will have complete information for picking the perfect couple for your unique user profile.

What is a bottleneck?

A bottleneck takes place when CPU performance is limited by GPU or vice versa. In video games, the system operation will involve the CPU generating frames and the video card rendering textures and effects on them.

If the video card cannot keep up with the CPU in this rendering process, it becomes a bottleneck. After all, the CPU has some spare frames left and if it had a more powerful graphics card, it could send them to the screen.

If this balance is reversed, CPU will be overloaded and the graphics card will have to wait for it; as a result, the ultimate number of frames delivered to the monitor becomes lower as well.

Unfortunately, a bottleneck effect can be observed in any system. It can only be fully excluded in theoretically unlimited performance components.

When picking a graphics card and a CPU, we should focus on minimizing it, in the perspective of your favorite games.

PC for esports – a powerful CPU and an average video card

Esport games are often based on old engines, scaled effectively with the performance of a single CPU core. A video card is a secondary specification item there, as most semi-professional and fully professional gamers apply low settings to minimize the risk of a cut after a sudden response.

When you watch CS:GO players, you will frequently encounter 800×600 resolutions, which are easily driven by modern age graphics cards.

PUBG scales well with RAM frequency, too, so it is reasonable to reserve at least 3200 MHz, provided that this value is supported by your motherboard.

Today, watercooled i5-9600K overclocked to 5.2 GHz yields noticeably more FPS than AMD items available at comparable prices. The Red team have been bridging this gap year by year, and they have managed to increase the performance of their cores; however, the numerous gains in CS:GO, for example, are driven by pure frequency, which is not yet so high.

As far as graphics cards are concerned, the perfect options would be the RX 5600 XT or RTX 2060, depending on the game you prefer. Based on my personal experience, I can say that Rainbow Six and CS:GO run better on AMD, whereas World of Tanks, Fortnite and PUBG are more effective on NVIDIA. There are no significant differences in League of Legends or Overwatch.

Office PC – CPU with integrated video card

For a PC dedicated to office function, the choice is very simple. You just need to buy an AMD Athlon 3000G, install it on a motherboard to AM4 with HDMI output, and add 2 x 4 GB RAM sticks.

No external graphics card will be necessary, because the one integrated in the CPU can easily handle office tasks, and can even let you play some World of Tanks or League of Legends. In this segment, you can get new, good and affordable hardware all in one, which is probably optimistic.

PC for 3D graphic artist/designer – a powerful CPU and graphics card

PCS for 3D graphic designers and artists must be fitted with powerful CPUs and graphics cards. After all, these professionals will find it easier to work on their projects, and the faster they are rendered, the more jobs can be completed during the same period of time.

Therefore, professional studies focus on precise monitoring of premiering components, as they consider improvements as a source of efficiency and therefore of higher gains.

As of today, the leader of the price/performance ratio in this segment is the consumer AMD Ryzen 9 3950X, with 16 cores and 32 threads. This CPU is hard to beat, as it does not need an expensive environment to deliver the maximum of its power.

Another interesting proposal is the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X, with as many as 64 cores, yielding 128 threads.

This one, however, requires much more costly motherboards to be able to handle this kind of load; instead, they offer more PCI-E lines, including 4.0 for managing very speedy drives. In the more expensive TRX40 motherboards, there are also more USB ports and RAM slots, so the options expand with the price.

There are a few choices available for a graphics card, of which one is quite interesting in terms of price. It turns out that some new RTX 2060 products are based on a chip with RTX 2080, which has given them an almost 50% boost in such software as Blender or MAYA.

It is now verified that some of the RTX 2060 KO models from EVGA incorporate these chips, and their Blender performance brings them close to RTX 2070 SUPER, which is a great achievement.

To take one step ahead, we will enter the territory of the NVIDIA Quadro series, designed specifically for CAD type software. Moreover, NVIDIA delivers special drivers focused on stability in professional software applications. This is very useful because the gaming-specific drivers are not so thoroughly tested in this aspect.

The most advanced model available on the market today costs US$6000 – it is the Quadro RTX 8000. It has 48 GB 14 Gbps GDDR6, and the rated performance is around 130.5 TFLOPS. Interestingly, PNY has recently launched an edition with passive cooling, yet this one needs some serious air circulation in its surroundings for almost 300W TDP emission.

PC for new AAA games – it all depends on the monitor

The setup of a PC dedicated to new AAA games strongly depends on the resolution at which you intend to play until the next advancement of your graphics card. The higher resolution you want, the more powerful graphics card you will need. If you keep in mind the bottleneck section, you can follow this kind of logic easily.

The CPU, with peak settings and high resolution, is still of secondary importance, even though some games will need two powerful components anyway. In Battlefield V multiplayer mode, extra cores and threads are really desired, particularly with 64 players on a map.

But these loads can be easily supported by a nice 6-core, 12-thread product, particularly when you enter 1440p or higher resolution level. You should never disregard CPU power – the higher your resolution, the more pixels and effects your CPU needs to process.

All that I want to teach you in this section is best presented in the table below. My assumption is that you want to use the maximum graphics settings, but not necessarily with Ray Tracing from NVIDIA. This technology changes things a lot, as its optimization is a disaster in some game titles.

Besides, I assume you want one and not two graphics cards.

From the perspective of building complete PCs, these are the approximate trends. Are they accurate? This is hard to say authoritatively, but nevertheless I decided to put the Intel Comet Lake generation CPUs, which have not actually premiered yet. But the 8 cores and 16 threads will excel in the respective segment – hence the i7-10700K.


Now you know something about the perspective of PC building. I believe your next PC will be a perfect match to your sophisticated demands. Before you finally pick your components, you should review your favorite games. You may find that you actually need something bordering on esports and AAA, and then the table below will help you find the right direction.