AMD has announced the RDNA2 GPU’s and we’re excited about the performance they offer. They will be strong challengers to Nvidia’s recent monopoly of the high-end gaming market and at $579 the RX 5800 is the most competitively priced model.
AMD’s own figures show that the RX6800 is firmly capable of 60fps 4K gaming, whilst at 1440p it shines as a graphics card capable of high FPS and settings. Meanwhile, the 16Gb VRAM lends itself to computational tasks via the Open CL libraries. Putting it to best use requires a CPU that balances great value with high performance with some subtleties depending on exact usage case. In this article, we’ll run you through the best CPU options for the AMD Radeon RX 6800, and explain why in this instance it makes sense to stick with ‘Team Red’.
Compatibility and component choice:
For the record, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using intel CPUs with AMD GPUs or Nvidia GPUs with AMD CPUs for that matter. It’s all about finding the right balance of components for your needs and budget. There are a few nuances owing to proprietary technologies and adoption of new standards and at the forefront of these is PCIe 4.0. Only AMD CPUs currently support this newest and fastest protocol allowing even higher bandwidth communication with high-performance GPUs and SSDs. However, this is a forwards looking standard and in the case of GPUs, in particular, the benefits are yet to be fully realised: A PCIe 4.0 GPU will perform near identically in a PCIe 3.0 system because it is not exceeding the available bandwidth. Ryzen Zen 2 (3000 series) and Zen 3 (5000 series) CPUs all support PCIe 4.0 whilst Intel won’t until their next Generation ‘Rocket Lake CPU’s in early 2021. That brings us to proprietary technologies:
Smart Access Memory: What is it? Do you need it?
AMD has introduced an interesting new technology by combining the Ryzen 5000 series CPU’s with Radeon RX 6000 series GPUs: Smart Access Memory. This uses the PCIe 4.0 protocol to expand the bandwidth between the processor and the GPU VRAM. AMD claim this removes a performance-limiting bottleneck, particularly at 4K resolution. To take advantage of this you’ll need the trio of a Ryzen 5000 series CPU (releasing November 5th), a B550 or X570-chipset motherboard which you can buy already, and a Radeon RX 6000 series GPU. Together these three components enable enhanced GPU performance and AMD claim around 5-10% benefit in many titles at 4K. This is an exciting technology and if you’re planning an entirely new build then it is wise to take advantage of it to get the most out of your GPU. That said it apparently has most gain at 4K resolutions which are particularly reliant on memory access, whilst PCIe 4.0 benefits are only really visible at higher FPS where bandwidth from CPU to GPU becomes imperative.
AMD’s Zen 2 CPUs aren’t able to implement Smart Memory Access and have lower per-core performance, whilst Intel CPU’s lack both Smart Memory Access and PCIe 4.0. Meanwhile Zen 3 CPUs match Intel’s performance at every price point. It’s therefore hard to recommend intel CPUs as a pairing with the Radeon RX 6800 unless prices drop significantly and the lack of those proprietary technologies don’t negatively impact your specific usage intentions. Right now it makes perfect sense to combine the RX 6800 with a Zen 3 CPU to ensure that the GPU is performing optimally.
Best CPUs to Pair With Radeon RX 6800 – Our Recommendations
|Best Value Gaming CPU for RX 6800||Ryzen 5 5600X||Mobo Recommendations for 5600X|
|Best CPU for High-FPS Gaming for RX 6800||Ryzen 7 5800X||Mobo Recommendations for 5800X|
|Best all-rounder CPU for RX 6800||Ryzen 9 5900X||Mobo Recommendations for 5900X|
|Best Productivity CPU for RX 6800||Ryzen 9 5950X||Mobo Recommendations for 5950X|
Best Value Gaming CPU for RX 6800
If you’re looking to maximise the bang for buck particularly in gaming then the $299 Ryzen 5 5600X should be at the top of your shopping list. This Zen 3 CPU allows you to take full advantage of Smart Memory Access, PCIe 4.0 compatibility, and the huge IPC increase of the Zen 3 architecture. It’s this suite of features that prompt us to recommend it over the older and cheaper Zen 2 parts as well as Intel alternatives at around the same price. If we consider the outgoing Ryzen 3700X, we anticipate that owing to the higher core throughput the 5600X will offset the 2 core disadvantage in productivity applications whilst also allowing higher gaming performance. Meanwhile, the Intel i5-10600K is around $25 cheaper but requires a CPU cooler. It also lacks PCIe 4.0 support and smart memory access and will likely lose out to the Ryzen 5600X in pure speed. Whilst $300 may seem expensive for the CPU, paired with a $580 GPU it makes sense to specify an adequate CPU that will support the performance potential of this GPU at 1440p and 4K, forming the core of a very high-performance 5600X gaming rig.
Best CPU for High-FPS Gaming for RX 6800
The Ryzen 7 5800X is AMD’s 8-core offering in the Zen 3 CPUs. What marks it out is the higher base clock than any of the other announced CPUs at 3.8GHz, whilst it boosts to 4.7Ghz, just 200MHz lower than the much more expensive 5950X. This ensures consistent and high frame rates with overall performance able to match any of Intel’s offerings. The 8 cores and multithreading mean that the CPU will remain relevant for years to come whilst also allowing capacity for streaming or multitasking whilst gaming. The high core count also ensures there’s no performance inconsistency due to background tasks or intense in-game action. Again, we’re opening up the options of PCIe 4.0 SSD’s, making the most of PCIe 4.0 GPU communication and leveraging Smart Memory Access technology to ensure you’re extracting the most from your GPU. The Ryzen 5800X is the perfect pairing with a Radeon 6800 GPU for high FPS competitive gaming across a broad range of titles at 1440p but doesn’t incur the additional cost of the Ryzen 5900X or 5950X which offer minimal additional benefit for gamers.
Best all-rounder CPU for RX 6800
If your PC is an all-round workhorse as well as a gaming system, the Ryzen 9 5900X has 12 cores to bring to bear on any task you need to handle. This CPU will retail at $549 and offers unparalleled power at the price point. AMD tout it as their most accomplished gaming CPU despite very few games being able to utilise even 8 let alone 12 cores: Where this CPU will really excel is in heavy multitasking and workstation environments. Equally adept at rendering video, providing a high-performance multi-core environment for music production, or simply as a massively powerful CPU at the core of a multi-monitor workstation with many tasks operating concurrently you won’t want for processing power with a 5900X. The 4.8GHz boost clock, the highest of any Zen 3 CPU yet announced, means that it’s also an exceptionally high-performance gaming CPU when the workday is done. Again it sports Smart Memory Access compatibility and PCIe 4.0 to make the most of the RX 6800 and ensure that the platform lasts well into the future. The 5900X is a CPU that can truly do it all.
Best Productivity CPU for RX 6800
For a high-end productivity PC on a consumer platform, the upcoming Zen 3 Ryzen 5950X is the king of the hill. This 16-core 5950X provides a brutally powerful CPU that will demolish all conceivable desktop PC workloads but avoids the additional expense and complexity of moving to a true HEDT platform. AMD have improved the cache access and reduced memory latency for Zen 3 CPUs and this has resulted in a huge improvement in performance. Pairing it with the Ryzen 6800 gives a GPU with 16Gb VRAM, well suited to computational tasks and other processes that use the open CL libraries for GPU acceleration. Again we gain PCIe 4.0 and Smart Memory Access via the Zen 3 platform. The enhanced speed of PCIe 4.0 SSDs certainly comes into its own in the kind of tasks the Ryzen 5950X excels at such as processing high bitrate footage or running multiple VMs. We’d recommend an X570 motherboard for any Ryzen 5950X build so that you benefit from the wealth of connectivity and expansion options those boards provide. If you want a top tier productivity CPU to pair with the RX 6800 as a cost-effective and capable GPU, the Ryzen 5950X is unsurpassed and will remain so well into 2021.
Conclusion: AMD’s ascendancy continues with the RX 6800
AMD have had an outstanding end to 2020 with enticing announcements of Radeon 6000 series GPUs and Zen 3 CPUs. It’s in the combination of these parts that we find maximum value with improved memory access enhancing Radeon 6000 GPU’s performance, meanwhile Zen 3 PC’s have the core speeds to allow high performance GPU’s t really shine even at higher resolutions. We’re looking at a paradigm shift with AMD now the preferred CPU choice for both gaming and productivity, and finally having choice of competitive AMD GPUs at the very highest levels of performance. With the Radeon RX 6800 AMD have tackled the high end gaming market head on, and all it takes is the appropriate AMD Zen 3 CPU to fully exploit it.