Nvidia made massive waves with their announcement of the Ampere generation of GPU’s on the 1st September 2020. Set for release on 17th September the RTX 3080 is their top-flight consumer GPU. Aimed squarely at 4K AAA gaming this GPU promises to eclipse all that has gone before. A suite of improvements has doubled the shader, ray tracing and Tensor performance of this GPU. Tech demos included hyper-real showreels for upcoming games like Cyber Punk 2077. New AI-driven technologies like DLSS 2.0 allow the GPU to apply complex effects and still maintain very high frame rates even at resolutions that saw previous GPU’s struggle. This is truly the next generation in graphics technology, and to experience it at its best you’ll need a CPU that can keep up. If your system cannot support a powerful GPU you’ll notice stutter, lag and poor performance wrecking your enjoyment of this all-powerful graphics card.
To prevent this and ensure that your system is RTX 3080 ready, here are our recommendations for the best CPU’s to pair with Nvidia’s latest flagship gaming GPU.
Best CPUs for RTX 3080 Builds – Our Recommendations
Best Ultimate Gaming CPU for RTX 3080 – i9-10900K
If you want the absolute ultimate in gaming performance there is only one option: Intel’s recently released ‘Comet Lake’ i9-10900K. This CPU has pushed performance boundaries forwards once again with a 5.3 GHz boost clock giving it the highest single-core throughput available at this time. This makes it the fastest gaming CPU currently available and nothing AMD can offer at present can rival it. To extract even more of its potential it is overclockable so you can tweak it to lift clock speeds. This is no small task with the chips running so fast from the factory, and you’ll need a top-flight Z490 chipset motherboard and high-end cooling solution to keep temperatures stable. That said this CPU uses Intel’s own ‘Thermal Velocity Boost’ algorithms to raise boost clocks where temperatures allow: So if you’re not willing to overclock, so long as you’ve got adequate cooling the CPU will do it for you as standard. Because it’s equipped with 10 physical cores and hyperthreading this CPU is well placed to enable multitasking whilst gaming, including software encoding a stream if you want to share your gameplay with others. As the core of an ultra-high end gaming PC the i9-10900K represents the current cutting edge and will handle any game or task you throw at it with ease. It’s the perfect pairing for the RTX 3080.
Best Content creation CPU for RTX 3080 – Ryzen 3950X
Ampere looks like it will herald a new era in the level of rendering and computation power on offer in a single GPU. If you’re a content creator looking to leverage the RTX 3080 for 3D animation, rendering, or video editing and effects then the Ryzen 3950X is the CPU for you. This 16 core 32 thread monster brings the level of CPU grunt previously reserved for HEDT Threadripper CPU’s into the realms of the ‘prosumer’. AMD has been quick to adopt next-generation technologies such as PCIe 4.0 so you can equip your workstation with the latest high-performance NVME SSDs. Meanwhile with 16 cores to bring to bear you will tear through tasks like rendering 3D scenes and videos at unprecedented rates thanks to the combined power of this CPU and the RTX 3080. At just $700 for the GPU and $710 for the CPU, $1500 sees you with the core of a workstation more powerful than we could possibly have anticipated 6 months ago.
Best High-FPS Gaming CPU for RTX 3080 – i7-10700K
If high frame rates shooters are your thing but you baulk at the price of an i9-10900K then the cheaper 8-core i7-10700K should be on your shortlist. This CPU gives away just a few hundred MHz in clock speed but retains all the key advantages of the Comet Lake CPU architecture for gamers. With a solid mid-range Z490 motherboard you’ll be able to enjoy fast and fluid frame rates across all current and forthcoming FPS games. Higher frame rates let you see the action a split second before your competitors, giving you the edge. Pairing this CPU with an RTX 3080 and a 165-240Hz monitor with minimal input lag mean that it’s just your skill on test. Nvidia even announced a 360Hz monitor and lag reduction technology as part of their keynote, highlighting their commitment to giving competitive gamers the best experience possible. Paired with an RTX 3080 you’ll have the ultimate competitive rig.
Best VR Gaming CPU for RTX 3080 – Ryzen 3800X
VR is coming of age on PC, with headsets like the Oculus Rift S opening up the technology to a much wider audience whilst the Valve index is the current cutting edge headset. VR places unique demands on a PC. The GPU needs as much power as possible because it has to render every scene from two viewpoints, one for each eye. This increased rendering demands has the consequence of lowering frame rates. You also need smooth stable frame rates to maintain immersion and combat motion sickness. Finally, there’s the cost aspect: With the additional cost of the top tier GPU and a headset, any CPU needs to be capable, balanced and great value. That’s why our recommendation goes to the Ryzen 7 3800X. This 8 Core 16 thread CPU offers great performance with a 4.5GHz boost clock and whilst it lacks the top end of an Intel Comet Lake CPU the price difference gets you most of a VR headset. It ships with a Wraith Prism cooler further improving the value on offer. AMD’s early adoption of the PCIe 4.0 standard allows you to take advantage of the latest high-speed SSD’s if you do need that speed for content creation or other demanding workloads. Overall the Ryzen 3800X offers the best balance of performance, price and flexibility for a VR gaming rig with an RTX 3080.