Published: January 24, 2021
It was one of the most highly anticipated game launches in history. Whether it delivered or not is subjective based on your own expectations going in. Some are wholeheartedly praising it as amazing, despite the occasional glitches and bugs. Others concede their sky-high expectations were not met. Personally, while I'm nowhere near finishing the game yet, as a fan of sci-fi and GTA-style open-world games, I've been seriously impressed.
In general, my thoughts closely mirror those of the candid, well articulated gameranx and I highly recommend the game to fellow sci-fi fans. On PC that is; as is well publicized, the console versions are too watered-down performance and graphics wise. Cyberpunk 2077 is the perfect example of why PC is the far superior gaming platform, especially for modern titles that push the boundaries as Cyberpunk does in certain regards.
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For one, it's got arguably one of the best implementations of real-time ray tracing in a video game yet, which includes ray traced shadows, reflections, and lighting, all of which can be tweaked in the settings. Simply put, ray tracing looks stunning in Cyberpunk, adding to the realism and immersion factor of the already immersive Night City; many a time I've stopped in awe to fully take in a near-photorealistic scene for a while, thinking of how far 3D graphics has come all these years.
That said, the game still looks just great without ray tracing too, so don't think you absolutely need it, and I have no doubt I would have stopped to smell the rendering roses had ray-tracing been turned off at the time. I've tested RT on vs off extensively, and while the difference is definitely there, without it the game still looks better than most titles on the market (again, only on PC; can't vouch for console versions which have been torn to shreds in many a review).
If you're a fan of either GTA, sci-fi, or the cutting edge of 3D graphics, it's a game really worth checking out. But if you're a fan of all 3? A must buy in my eyes. Yes, it's got issues here and there without a doubt and is far, far from perfect. But in my honest opinion the occasional shortcomings don't detract from the many things this game does well.
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Chances are you're already super aware that Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most graphically demanding games ever released, hence the many memes surrounding its performance such as this internet gold. The long run of But Can It Run Crysis? finally comes to an end, making way for a more suitable modern-day meme that's sure to be echoed internet-wide for the next millennia. For context, Cyberpunk 2077 is generally a little more demanding than Red Dead Redemption 2, an already super demanding title, but slightly less demanding than the notorious hardware-hog that is Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. Which of these 3 titles is most demanding depends on various factors, but crank up all the settings in Cyberpunk including ray tracing and it can most definitely win that battle no problems. Night City looks simply fantastic and screenshots really don't do it justice in my opinion, but that beauty comes at some real performance costs.
The good news is, if you don't have a crazy budget to spend you can still get very decent, more than playable performance at 1080p or 1440p resolution on medium to high settings without breaking the bank. Despite what it may seem after hearing the endless talk of Cyberpunk destroying most hardware configurations, the truth is you don't need a monster rig if you're willing to dial back those graphics settings a little, and especially if you enable DLSS on NVidia cards which works wonders to increase performance (or FidelityFX CAS for AMD cards). But if your ambitions are higher and you're building a PC for the ultimate Cyberpunk experience in order to witness Night City at high resolution, maxed settings, and real-time ray tracing - even with the magic of DLSS (which we'll get to) the game becomes a very, very demanding beast.
Before picking parts, you want an idea of your performance aims. If you want to get a 60FPS frame rate (or thereabouts) to experience the graphical glory of Night City in a flawlessly smooth manner, you're going to need a fairly powerful graphics card and a moderately good CPU. Especially if you want to run the game on higher settings and/or with ray tracing enabled, which is the ultimate way to explore the expansive, futuristic world that CD Projekt Red have crafted. You don't need to have the graphics settings cranked up to the max to enjoy the game fully (nor do you need ray tracing), and the game still looks decent on medium settings. I would definitely pass on low settings though, which is a quite noticeable drop from medium settings.
In certain titles, low settings isn't that much different in appearance compared to medium or high settings, with a good example being Half Life Alyx which looks surprisingly good at low settings. But in Cyberpunk 2077, it's a different story, and the changes in settings are more noticeable, with medium settings being the minimum you want to aim for (in order to not be letdown). Ray tracing also makes a noticeable difference, but not as significantly as say jumping up from low to medium or medium to high general settings, so I personally don't consider it a must-have setting to fully enjoy Cyberpunk as the game still looks fantastic without ray tracing.
But settings aside, what would definitely lower the experience is a poor frame rate, which you want to keep above a certain level otherwise you'll experience visual "lag" or stutters. Though that doesn't mean you need 60FPS or higher - in slower-paced genres like this (it has some fast action, but the pace is generally slower than most action games) an average FPS of over 40FPS or so is going to feel more than acceptable (in terms of smoothness) to most gamers.
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Unlike other genres like competitive shooters (think CSGO or Warzone) where getting 60FPS or higher at all times is crucial to both fully enjoy the game and to play at your best, in Cyberpunk 2077 a super high frame rate is nowhere near important, and an average FPS around 50-60FPS could be considered near flawless for this type of genre. You don't want an average lower than 30-35 FPS though, as that's when things start to become noticeably less smooth to most. Sure, 30FPS is fine for some, and what most consoles have been running for years, but personally I can clearly tell the difference between 30FPS and 40FPS, with the latter being tangibly more enjoyable in my opinion, and the cutoff mark I would shoot for in Cyberpunk.
Like in the majority of demanding modern games, the performance you get in Cyberpunk 2077 is predominantly dependent on which graphics card you choose. However, while Cyberpunk is more GPU intensive than CPU intensive, Night City is a vast, complex open-world with plenty happening at once, and is more taxing on CPUs than most other games. With a weaker processor below a certain threshold of performance (and cores), performance will suffer, and depending on your combination of parts you might even hold back your graphics card from being able to flex its muscle (a phenomenon called bottlenecking).
For the best performance, you want to pick the best gaming CPU you can afford, however not at the expense of your graphics card, which is most important as mentioned. When choosing a CPU for Cyberpunk, a modern quad-core processor will get you by if on a budget, but having a 6 core chip like a Ryzen 5 3600 or Intel Core i5 10400 or equivalent/better is much better to keep both those average and minimum frame rates higher. With slower CPUs, you're more prone to dips in frame rate that can cause noticeable stuttering.
CPU benchmarks have proven that Cyberpunk does benefit from 6 cores vs 4 cores, and on the high-end even 8 cores can be utilized in this game as proven by CPU testing CPU scaling like OC3D did. An 8 core chip is the best case scenario, but most setups need nothing more than a 6-core 3600, 5600X, 10600K etc for excellent performance and the full Cyberpunk experience at any resolution/settings. These are the CPUs I'd be looking at, unless you're opting for a RTX 3080, RX 6800 XT, or better GPU in which case you will want a Ryzen 7 or Core i7 or better to avoid bottlenecks.
As for whether Intel or AMD processors perform better in Cyberpunk 2077, they perform as they normally would, with no clear advantage to either brand. When Cyberpunk first released, Intel did actually have a slight edge in some CPU tiers, however soon after launch came an update that rectified the situation and recent benchmarks following that update showing Intel and AMD performance falling where it normally does, meaning neck and neck right now in terms of price vs performance with AMD currently leading the charts slightly for the time being thanks to their latest Ryzen 5000 series (but at a cost; the 5600X, 5900X and so on are not cheap).
Let's now get into specific hardware recommendations based on resolution and settings, including ray tracing requirements if you want the highest quality graphics. For each category, we'll first list the bare minimum official Cyberpunk 2077 requirements as listed by CD Projekt Red that will give you a playable experience, and then our own recommendations if you want that super smooth 60FPS (or thereabouts).
Starting off, for what it's worth (not much), let's begin at ground zero with the bare minimum specs that CD Projekt Red recommends for 1080p on low settings.
Having these exact specs or the modern equivalents won't get you 60FPS - even at 1080p on low settings. Speaking of which, avoid playing this game on low settings if at all possible, as it is a noticeable drop in image quality in this particular title compared to medium settings (which looks a lot better).
In some games, low settings looks fine and isn't that much of a step down from medium settings, but in Cyberpunk I feel low settings is a waste of a beautiful game. I'd personally much rather have a little lower FPS in Cyberpunk at medium settings (well, as long as you hit 30-40FPS minimum) compared to a flawless 60FPS at low settings.
So, if you want to hit that 60FPS mark on low settings, and more importantly on medium settings as I highly suggest, the modern parts you'll need are a GTX 1660 Super or RX 5600 XT, along with any modern budget quad-core processor like a Ryzen 3 3100 or Core i3-10100.
Any combination of these GPUs and CPUs will get an average frame rate around 50-60FPS on medium - a super smooth experience that won't look too shabby either. You could even run high settings and get a playable 30-40FPS, which as mentioned is plenty of frames for the generally slower-paced nature of Cyberpunk.
As for RAM, you could get away with 8GB of RAM, but in this day and age 16GB is highly recommended if playing demanding AAA games, and 8GB can get in the way slightly. Plus, for all but their 1080p low minimum requirements, CD Projekt Red recommends 12GB-16GB RAM anyway.
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If wondering about the humble GTX 1650 Super or RX 5500 XT, these cheaper GPUs would get around 40FPS at 1080p medium - still very much playable. But the 1660 Super or 5600 XT delivers a much better experience and are my baseline recommendations for anyone building a new PC with Cyberpunk in mind.
The GTX 1660 Ti is also great, and actually a tad faster than the 1660 Super. The RTX 2060 would also be just fine, offering faster performance than the 1660 Super and Ti, but the even faster RTX 2060 Super is the better option with its extra 2GB of VRAM (8GB vs the 6GB of the standard 2060). Which leads us to our recommendations for 1080p on higher settings
If you want to witness Night City on high settings (still at 1080p), which is not as big a jump up from low to medium settings, but a noticeable jump for most people nonetheless, the above is what CD Projekt Red lists as their official requirements, keeping in mind once again these specs are the baseline for a playable experience.
So, building on these base requirements, and based on my own testing of the game and benchmark data around the web, if you want average performance up and around 60FPS on high settings at 1080p, you'll need the likes of a RTX 2060 Super or RX 5700, paired with a modern budget CPU like the Ryzen 3100 or Intel 10100.
Just be aware with these cheaper, quad-core processors, during hectic scenes your frame rate can and will dip further than it would compared to a stronger 6 core CPU like a Ryzen 3600. So while it's not required to hit that 60FPS average, a Ryzen 5 or Core i5 is highly recommended for a fairly CPU-intensive game like Cyberpunk.
If you want to run ultra settings instead of high, you'll want to eye off a stronger card like the new RTX 3060 Ti - the best option - or the older RTX 2070 Super or RX 5700 XT. From my experience testing the game so far, the difference between high and ultra settings in Cyberpunk is more subtle than the more noticeable jumps from low to medium and medium to high. But there is a difference.
Speaking of differences, what about ray tracing? How much of a difference does it make visually, and do you need significantly better hardware to run it? In my own tests, the difference is definitely noticeable. But so is the performance hit, so whether or not ray tracing is worth it in this game is subjective, and comes down to how much you value graphics vs performance. Cyberpunk still looks amazing without ray tracing, especially at high or ultra settings (medium is still fine, but as mentioned, avoid low settings).
Here's the official minimum requirements for the RT Medium preset, which in the game settings is the next preset up from ultra settings. In other words, when you enable RT Medium, the general graphics settings are preset to ultra settings.
This is where things get interesting. DLSS, short for Deep Learning Super Sampling, is a special feature of NVidia RTX cards that can significantly improve performance at little cost to image quality. It uses AI to render your game scenes at lower resolutions and then upscales it in real-time to a higher quality resolution. Don't worry if it's confusing; all you need to know is that it's a little bit of magic that makes ray tracing a lot more accessible, without needing a high-end card. You can also enable DLSS without ray tracing if you wanted to boost performance.
Without DLSS, enabling ray tracing will seriously tank performance, making the above minimum requirement of a RTX 2060 way off the mark in terms of getting a decent frame rate. However, enable DLSS and a mid-range card like a RTX 2060 is all of a sudden playable, so the official requirements above are absolutely assuming you'll keep DLSS enabled (it defaults to on when you enable ray tracing). But even with the magic of DLSS, a RTX 2060 is not enough, and will struggle partly because of its 6GB of VRAM. For ray tracing and high general settings, 8GB is the practical minimum you should shoot for.
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The difference between DLSS off and the highest quality DLSS setting, "DLSS Quality" (which preserves as much image quality as possible), is genuinely hard to tell the difference between unless you really stop and actively look for minute differences in quality. Therefore, it's a must-enable feature if you have a mid-range card, but even for high-end cards if gaming at 1440p or 4K (but we'll get to that).
If you have an AMD card, there's a similar feature called FidelityFX, found down the bottom of the Cyberpunk settings, but it isn't as effective as DLSS in preserving image quality and boosting performance. Besides, you can't enable ray tracing in Cyberpunk with an AMD card - at least not for now (they may add support for AMD cards in a future update).
So, if you do want around a 60FPS average with RT Medium, and with DLSS Quality enabled (the best-looking DLSS setting), here's what you'll need.
An RTX 3060 Ti will also do very well at maximum ray tracing settings at 1080p (the RT Ultra preset), giving roughly 40-50FPS average performance. You can get 60FPS with RT Medium using a cheaper card than a RTX 3060 Ti if you crank the DLSS up to either DLSS Balanced or DLSS Performance though, but at these settings of DLSS the drop in image quality starts to become noticeable to some people. I'd completely avoid the maximum DLSS setting, DLSS Ultra Performance, which is too blurry to be worth it in my opinion.
1440p resolution is where requirements start to get real beefy. Here's what CD Projekt Red suggests as their baseline for 1440p on ultra settings (without ray tracing) for playable performance. You'll notice it's almost exactly the same requirements for 1080p RT Medium from earlier, but with an AMD graphics card added to the mix since ray tracing is currently only supported in Cyberpunk by NVidia RTX cards.
As always, you'll need more than the official baseline specs if you want around 60FPS. Flawless frame rates at 1440p on maxed settings is normally quite demanding as it is, but Cyberpunk is one of the most graphically demanding titles yet, so you'll need some serious firepower for 1440p 60FPS ultra. Anything but a powerful RTX 3070 or RX 6800 is going to fall quite a bit short of 60FPS, as both these cards - when paired with a mid-range CPU - will net roughly 50-60FPS on average based on the multiple benchmarks I've analyzed.
Turn down the settings to high though - which I bet you'll find a little challenging to decipher between - and you'll consistently clear that 60FPS mark if you so desire perfectionist levels of performance (but 50FPS is still great for this game). Or, enable DLSS as mentioned earlier, and you'll get a nice performance boost, with very minimal loss in image quality if you stick with "DLSS Quality" mode. A RTX 3060 Ti would also be absolutely enough for 60FPS at 1440p ultra with DLSS chipping in.
Now let's cover ray tracing requirements at 1440p, where CD Projekt Red lists baseline recommendations for RT Ultra.
A RTX 3070 and a mid-range CPU like a 3600 will deliver around 35-45FPS at 1440p RT Ultra - even with DLSS Quality mode - so if you want that glorious 60FPS your only real choices are the RTX 3080 or 3090, with the former still only getting in the ballpark of 50-60FPS at these settings according to benchmarks I've seen, and the 3090 only just clearing 60FPS. Remember this is all with DLSS Quality turned on; turn off DLSS and frame rate goes bye bye. Thankfully, DLSS, especially the "Quality" setting, still looks just great.
Seeing the tail end of those 1440p specs, it's not hard to imagine that 4K is going to get real serious, real fast in terms of GPU requirements. First to the official minimum requirements for 4K Ultra, where CD Projekt Red have listed a RTX 2080 Super, RTX 3070, and 6800 XT as their recommendation.
If you check benchmarks for these cards, they'll hover around the 20-35FPS mark on ultra settings - a semi-playable frame rate to some people, but safe to say too low for most. But once again it's DLSS to the rescue; turn it on and you'll get significantly better performance, making the aforementioned minimum GPUs more than enough for a decent experience at 4K - especially if you lower things to high settings instead of ultra (which to most gamers will hardly make any noticeable difference).
There are various levels of DLSS, but if you stick to "DLSS Quality", which is the most mild application of the algorithm, image quality will only slightly be lowered to the point where most people wouldn't even notice, and your FPS still gets a nice little must-needed boost. If you increase DLSS to more aggressive settings, that's when image quality starts becoming noticeable, so it's worth tinkering with to balanced quality and performance.
In terms of hitting 60FPS at 4K ultra with DLSS Quality, you're going to need a RTX 3080 or RX 6800 XT, with the former being our top pick as it performs slightly better at 4K.
For ray tracing at 4K using the RT Ultra preset, here's the official requirements that recommend the beefy 3080 as the minimum. Yup, a 3080 as a minimum spec, which shows just how demanding Cyberpunk can be at these higher echelon combinations of resolution and settings.
Modern hardware won't reach 60FPS at 4K on RT Ultra unless you rock a 3090 with aggressive DLSS settings that'll make the game look noticeably worse (ie DLSS Performance or Ultra Performance mode). But with the most desirable DLSS Quality setting, which is personally the one I would always stick to unless I absolutely had to crank DLSS up further, at 4K the best you can get with RT Ultra is up to around 40FPS - with a 3090 that is, the best GPU on the market right now. That's what it's going to take for the ultimate Cyberpunk experience at 4K, but most people would do well just sticking with the 3080 for its vastly superior price vs performance, tweaking some settings and/or disabling ray tracing, using 1440p instead, or just being happy with 30-40FPS which is still totally fine for Cyberpunk.
You'd also do well to bring a strong CPU to the table seeing as Cyberpunk is relatively CPU intensive as well; a 5600X or 10700K is the minimum processor you should pair with a RTX 3090, otherwise you'll be leaving performance on the table and holding back that 3090 somewhat. Stronger CPUs will have diminishing returns on performance though - especially at 4K resolution where differences between high-end CPUs are small - but if building a PC with a 3090 it does make sense to go all-out with a top-tier 5900X or 10900K. That wraps up this Cyberpunk build guide; see our other Cyberpunk guides for more: