So if you’ve decided on a beastly high-end CPU from AMD, either the 3900X or 3950X, and are excited about that massive core/thread count and putting it to use. Now the question is, which GPU should you pair it with? And the answer depends completely on you, your needs, and what you are planning on using your new rig to do.
The 3900X/3950X are top-of-the-line Zen 2 CPU’s, and their high thread/core counts make them great productivity machines. Many users have a specific need, like video encoding or editing, that require such high core/thread counts. But on top of that, some builders know that they will want to game. And the amount of gaming they plan on doing will be the major factor in how much they want to invest into the GPU.
So whether you are a nearly fully productivity user, light gamer, enthusiast, or hardcore gamer, there is a GPU from both Team Green (Nvidia) and Team Red (AMD) that is right for you. With that in mind, here are our recommendations for best GPUs in each category to pair with the Ryzen 9 3900X and 3950X CPUs:
Best GPU for Productivity/Workstation
For those of you that are thinking of your new machine as a working tool, designed for all of those productivity needs and almost nothing else, you are able to get away with a pretty inexpensive graphics card. We still think a decent GPU is worth it, not only for gaming, but also for some productivity tasks that can take advantage of the GPU, like some types of rendering. And even if you think you might not be a gamer now, you never know when you might want to try out a new release. So for our almost pure productivity user, we recommend either the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super, or AMD Radeon RX 5600XT.
As of today, the 1660 Super is likely the better buy from a price-performance perspective. The increase to GDDR6 RAM has allowed Nvidia to release this ultra-efficient GPU that performs like a 1660 Ti, but is as inexpensive as a 1660. This won’t quite keep up with the power of a 3900X/3950X when gaming, but it will still provide a very satisfying experience. And in terms of specific models, we like the mixture of great cooling, solid build quality, and value of the ASUS TUF GTX 1660 Super at $230.
If you’re a dedicated Team Red player, the RX 5600XT offers slightly more performance (around 5%), but at a steep 20% price increase. The 5600XT has the benefit of being a slightly newer card and some potentially higher overclocking headroom, but costs around $50 more at $280 for our preferred PowerColor RX 5600 XT model. So unless you really need to have an AMD GPU, we think the 1660 Super is a better buy for this category.
Best GPU for Light Gaming
Maybe you don’t plan on gaming regularly or playing the newest, most greedy titles, but you still want to be able to push a consistent 100+ frames at Full HD when you decide to boot up one of your favorites. You are primarily looking for a productivity machine, but still plan on gaming every now and then, and when you do, you want it to look good and play easily. In that case, you might call yourself a light gamer, and we would recommend the 2060 Super from Team Green or the RX 5700 from Team Red to satisfy your gaming needs.
From Nvidia, the 2060 Super is one of the newest generation RTX cards that comes with hardware-accelerated ray tracing and a nice performance boost with the new Turing architecture. The 2060 Super is both very efficient, and also very powerful, easily playing at 1080p @ 144hz on the vast majority of games. The 8GB of GDDR6 RAM on the 2060 Super is a great step up from the 1660 Ti/Super and the vanilla 2060, and should give some future-proofing to make sure you can run even next-gen titles, although maybe at slightly lower settings if you still want a solid 144 frames. Our model of choice for the 2060 Super is the MSI Ventus 2060 Super OC thanks to its solid cooling, simple design, and the usual great MSI quality, for $410 as of writing.
Unlike the category above, the AMD offering in this category competes much more favorably with Team Green. The RX 5700 is a strong card at a great price point. The difference in price is largely related to the lack of hardware-accelerated ray tracing, so if you want the newest tech the 2060 Super might be more interesting. But on the other hand, the lack of ray tracing enabled games means that the similar performance at the lower cost may make the RX 5700 more appealing.
If you do opt for Team Red, our choice would be the absolutely stellar value XFX RADEON RX 5700 DD Ultra. The dual-fan system isn’t the greatest cooler of all the AIB models, but the ridiculous value right now at $300 is impossible to beat. For reference, that’s nearly $50-$60 less than the next dual-fan AIB card and $100 less than the 2060 Super!
Best GPU for Enthusiast Gamer
This category and the next category are where we begin to get into those that plan on gaming more than just every now and then. The 3900X/3950X are more than capable of 1440p 144hz gaming, and these next two categories provide GPUs that can keep up. For a mixed user that wants to balance their GPU to this beastly CPU and plans on gaming regularly, we want a newest generation card that will keep up with the 3900X/3950X, even if it does not quite let it reach its full potential. For these enthusiast level gamers that plan on pushing 1440p on newer games when they aren’t using their rig for productivity loads, we recommend either the Nvidia RTX 2070 Super or the AMD RADEON RX 5700XT.
The 2070 Super is a beautiful card. It has plenty of power, giving it the ability to play 1440p games at 100+ FPS, the hardware accelerated ray tracing that should become more and more useful, and refined drivers that let it just work. Nvidia found a nice mid-high range sweet spot with this card, offering plenty of power and performance at a not unreasonable price. It is still costly, especially when we compare it to the Team Red offering below, but you are getting quite a bit of punch for your buck. Our recommendation for the partner 2070 Super card is going to be familiar: the MSI VENTUS RTX 2070 Super. While there are plenty of great dual-fan cooling options for the 2070 Super, the MSI VENTUS is currently $490, or cheaper than reference, which makes it a great buy.
And to compete at this level, AMD’s current top-of-the-line Navi card (while we wait for Big Navi!) is the RX 5700 XT. The 5700 XT shares many characteristics with its little brother 5700; it has a ton of performance for the price, but does not have ray tracing hardware acceleration. The 5700 XT runs great for most people, but some still complain about the occasional driver issue. The 5700XT can push 1440p almost as well as the 2070 Super (it’s about 10% slower in most benchmarks), but comes at a very attractive 20% discount. If you do choose to go for the better value, minus ray tracing, AMD card, we recommend the XFX RX 5700XT THICC II. Aside from the ridiculous name and the thermals problem that the card had at launch, the updated thermal pads seem to have fixed the issue and the card comes in $40-$50 cheaper than the competition at an astounding $370, or nearly 25% less than the similarly performing 2070 Super.
Best GPU for Hardcore Gamer
Finally, if you’re a gamer through and through and you’re looking to get the absolute most out of your 3900X/3950X, you only really have Team Green as an option. And at the top, the only thing that comes into play is just how much you’re willing to spend. If you have an unlimited budget, the Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti is the best GPU on the consumer market, but it’ll cost you! If you want very nearly top-of-the-line but still have rent to pay at the end of the month, the RTX 2080 Super will still give you plenty of power to let the 3900X/3950X stretch its legs.
If you have the budget, there is no better card than the 2080 Ti. It is simply faster than everything else out there, offering the only card today that can really handle 4K 60+ FPS gaming with high/ultra settings. But even as performance increases with this card, the price increases even more. Our preferred model, due to its affordable cost (for a 2080 Ti!) and amazing EVGA warranty/build quality, the EVGA 2080 Ti Ultra Gaming XC, comes in at a cool $1,180. So as you can see, you better have the budget if you’re looking for the best!
If you don’t have an unlimited budget, but still have considerable funds to spend, the RTX 2080 Super is still an amazing card. At around 75-80% of the performance for 2/3rds (or less!) the price, the 2080 Super is perfect for the hardcore gamer that isn’t ready to spend over a grand on the GPU. Combined with the 3900X/3950X, you will be more than ready for 1440p 144hz and even 4K 60+ FPS with some settings tweakings. Our choice for partner card, the EVGA RTX 2080 Super Black Gaming offers a much better price-performance value at $700 than its bigger 2080 Ti brother, and should still satisfy even the most dedicated gamer when paired with the best Ryzen Zen 2 has to offer.
For all but the highest end, AMD and Nvidia both have interesting offerings that will pair well with the Ryzen 9 3900X/3950X. Depending on just how much gaming you plan on doing, almost any budget will find a GPU that more than satisfies. With the massive core and thread counts of the top Ryzen processors, we expect productivity tasks to be a main part of your use case, but if you are still looking to game on your battlestation, these recommendations should help guide you to the best choice out there for you today.