Upgrading our PC hardware is one of the many reasons why so many of us are drawn to the platform over consoles, and with next-gen consoles around the corner that are about to usher in a new generation of games and graphical fidelity, and Nvidia’s recently announced RTX 30 series graphics cards, now seems like the best time than ever to upgrade.
Unfortunately, upgrading our PC is never straightforward, as more often than not there will be something else that needs upgrading too. Anything from a brand new motherboard, a new PC case, or even a new power supply are all things to consider, but quite possibly the most daunting one is the CPU.
There’s not much worse than buying a brand new GPU that you’ve saved up for only to find that it's not actually that much better than your previous one because your processor is holding you back. Bottlenecks are one of the most talked about topics when it comes to PC hardware, and understanding what processor to get with your new GPU in order to prevent bottlenecks can be quite a daunting challenge. So with the RTX 30 series what is the best CPU to pair with the new GPUs to prevent bottlenecks?
If you’re thinking of getting a brand new RTX 30 series GPU like the RTX 3090, RTX 3080, or RTX 3070, then we’re here to help you find the best CPU for your needs, and make sure that you don’t get bottlenecked by your processor.
RTX 30 series specs
But before we jump straight in, let’s take another quick look at the currently announced RTX 30 series Founders Edition specs:
|Card||Base Clock (GHz)||Boost Clock (GHz)||CUDA Cores||RT Cores||Memory Type||Memory (GB)||TDP (W)||Price (USD)||Launch Date|
|RTX 3090||1.40||1.70||10,496||82||GDDR6X||24||350||$1499||September 24th|
|RTX 3080||1.44||1.71||8,704||68||GDDR6X||10||320||$699||September 17th|
|RTX 3070||1.50||1.73||5,888||46||GDDR6||8||220||$499||October 15th|
The RTX 3080 is still considered the flagship of this generation, whilst the RTX 3070 apparently outperforms the RTX 2080 Ti at less than half the price. The standout entry here is the RTX 3090, which technically replaces the Titan RTX of this generation but allows for much wider distribution and availability. The RTX 3090 is also the world’s first 8K consumer graphics card, which has obviously gotten a lot of people excited.
Of course, getting an 8K-capable GPU is pretty enticing, but that would be hard to reach without the right processor right? Surely we’d need something pretty darn powerful to get the card running at 8K without any form of bottleneck?
Well, actually, it seems like we may not need something too powerful, as the recent 8K performance benchmarks for the RTX 3090 showed the results were recorded with an RTX 3090 paired with an i9-9900K. That’s still a pretty high-end CPU, coming in at nearly $500, but it's at least nothing like a threadripper or a top-end 10th gen Intel CPU.
So with that, we can at least safely say that the i9-9900K is probably going to be the best option in terms of value and performance for the RTX 3090 as it was exactly what Nvidia used to get their 8K benchmark results. Granted, some of the results were with DLSS, but most of the games were actually running above 60fps without DLSS enabled.
What's the best CPU to prevent bottlenecking the RTX 30 series?
Okay, so we’ve established one of the top-end processors needed for the RTX 30 series cards, but what about one of the lowest? Well, this gets a little bit trickier because it will depend on the exact GPU.
There are tonnes of processors out there, and whilst picking out some of the top performing CPUs may be a little easier, picking which is the minimum required one is a bit trickier. In order to make sure you’re not getting bottlenecked at all and future proof your PC setup, a 6-Core CPU is recommended at the minimum.
8 Cores are more preferable and future proof, but usually end up being a bit more expensive, so 6 Cores is perfectly fine as a minimum right now. Once you get the minimum required CPU to prevent bottlenecks, there won’t actually be a huge amount of difference between the top-end CPUs in terms of performance, but sometimes getting an extra 10-20 frames per second can make all the difference in your gameplay, especially when gaming at 8K resolution.
So with that said, here’s our list of best CPUs to pair with the RTX 30 series graphics cards in order to prevent bottlenecks:
|GPU||Recommended CPU||AMD CPU ||Ultimate CPU|
|RTX 3090||i9-9900K (Check prices)||Ryzen 9 3900X (Check prices)||i9-10900K (Check prices)|
|RTX 3080||i7-9700K (Check prices)||Ryzen 7 3700X (Check prices)||i7-10700K (Check prices)|
|RTX 3070||i5-9600K (Check prices)||Ryzen 5 3600 (Check prices)||i5-10600K (Check prices)|
We consider the Recommended CPU bracket to be the best value-for-money processors that you can buy right now in order to prevent bottlenecking the RTX 30 series of cards. There's also a column for AMD equivalent CPUs if you'd rather go with the red team. And of course, there's an Ultimate CPU tier for those who find that money is not a problem, and simply want the best CPU on the market to prevent bottlenecking the RTX 30 series.
Unfortunately, due to the global climate right now, CPUs are starting to run out of stock and some places have even increased their prices. This in turn has seen some Intel processors below 9th Gen turn out to be more expensive than the 9th gen CPUs themselves. Of course, the only way up from there is the 10th gen processors, which are currently some of the best CPUs for PC gaming.
Bear in mind that this is considered for games running at 1080p or 1440p, as running games in 4K or even 8K should see maxing out the GPU utilization more than the CPU, and at these resolutions the graphics card itself will be considered the bottleneck.
It's also worth noting that maybe you should wait to see what AMD has cooking for their own next-gen processors, as the new Zen 3-based CPUs are set to be announced on October 8th. So whilst these CPUs listed are certainly the best options as of now, waiting for a month might prove to bring out even better processors for pairing with the RTX 30 series GPUs in order to prevent bottlenecks and further future-proofing your PC.
As always, if you have any recommendations for the best CPU to pair with the RTX 30 series or if you have any ideas for a better CPU for the price then do please let us know! We’re all in the same boat here and the goal is to make sure we can all have the best experience possible for the price when the RTX 30 series GPUs eventually release.
For a more detailed breakdown on the best CPUs for PC and what the best number of processor cores are needed for modern gaming, you can check out our guide here. For a complete roadmap of all known and upcoming CPUs for Intel and AMD you can check out our CPU roadmap here.
So that’s our recommendations for the best CPUs to pair with the RTX 30 series GPUs like the RTX 3090, RTX 3080, and RTX 3070 in terms of minimizing and preventing bottlenecks. What do you think? Do you have any other recommendations? Is there a better CPU for the money that we haven’t mentioned? Let us know!