Cyberpunk 2077 is coming, on November 19. That’s the latest release data, the third and hopefully last time the official launch has been pushed back. Developers CD Projekt Red won’t want to miss launching in 2020 either, considering the source material (i.e., the Cyberpunk 2020 pen-and-paper RPG). But what sort of PC hardware will you need to run the game — what are the Cyberpunk 2077 system requirements? CDPR hasn’t said anything specific yet, but we do know that Cyberpunk 2077 will support ray tracing and DLSS 2.0, which means if you want the full fidelity experience, you’ll want one of the best graphics cards — and by that we mean you’ll want at least a GeForce RTX GPU.
While we can’t guarantee that the following will agree with the official system requirements, we’ve put together a list of hardware that will definitely be able to run Cyberpunk 2077. We also discuss the upcoming hardware launches that we may see by the time the game launches, and how those affect buying considerations. So let’s jack into the matrix, put on a Cyberpunk 2077 Brain Dance, and get ready for the year’s most anticipated game.
Tom’s Hardware Recommended Cyberpunk 2077 PC Build
CD Projekt Red is known for its detailed world building from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. At launch, that game struggled to run well on many PCs, especially at higher quality settings. Even now, five years later, running The Witcher 3 at 4K and maximum quality pushes top-tier GPUs to the limit. An RTX 2080 Ti with a Core i9-9900K coughed up 70 fps in our Novigrad GPU benchmark (see above video), which is great and very playable. However, that’s on a beast of a PC that costs $2,750.
More importantly, our test PC is also more than double the performance of the fastest PC available when The Witcher 3 launched. Actually, if you look at GTX 980 Ti SLI performance in The Witcher 3 — cards that came out months after the game — you’d only manage about 40 fps running 4K ultra. In other words, you don’t want to skimp on your hardware if you expect to run Cyberpunk 2077 at high frame rates with all the bells and whistles enabled.
Cyberpunk 2077 Recommended Hardware
TOTAL PRICE: $1,843
Okay, we know what you’re thinking: Over $1,800 just to play Cyberpunk 2077 is ludicrous! Except, you wouldn’t just be able to play Cyberpunk, and in fact you could do plenty of other PC work besides playing games. This is a high-end PC that handles anything you might want to throw at it. You could get more cores for better multi-threaded performance with a Ryzen 9 3900X, but as we’re mostly focusing on the gaming aspect here, Intel’s new Core i7-10700K is arguably the best choice.
If you’re more interested in the minimum requirements to get Cyberpunk 2077 running, still with ray tracing support, here’s a lesser build. It’s still moderately expensive, and we can’t guarantee high framerates with all the graphics settings turned up, but it should at least deliver a decent gaming experience.
Cyberpunk 2077 ‘Minimum’ Hardware
TOTAL PRICE: $857
That’s less than half the total cost, though in practice it will be around 35% slower in gaming performance. It’s also half the memory and half the storage capacity, which helps keep costs down — you might want to add a secondary drive, or just upgrade to a 1TB SSD for $55 more. This is the type of build we expect to be able to run Cyberpunk 2077 at 1080p and high/ultra settings, while still getting close to 60 fps. However, that’s only a guesstimate as we don’t actually know how demanding the game will be. If you’re not worried about ray tracing, you could also drop down to an RX 5600 XT and save about $30 while getting similar performance.
Cyberpunk 2077 Graphics Card Considerations
You don’t need to buy an entire PC either, naturally. If you already have a decent PC, the main consideration for running Cyberpunk 2077 is your graphics card. You can see how performance stacks up between the various options in our full GPU hierarchy, but we’ve selected the penultimate consumer GPU right now. The RTX 2080 Ti is perhaps 20% faster but costs about 60% more, which is a dubious proposition at the best of times. And these aren’t the best of times when it comes to purchasing a new graphics card.
Despite what we’ve listed above, what we really want to recommend is an RTX 3080 Ampere GPU or an RX 6900 XT Big Navi GPU. Okay, we don’t actually know the final names of either of those, but we expect both AMD and Nvidia to have new GPUs available before the Cyberpunk 2077 launch. Considering Nvidia has been working with CD Projekt Red to get ray tracing effects incorporated into Cyberpunk 2077 for at least the past year, an Nvidia GPU is probably the safer bet. We’ll have to wait for the actual launch of both GPUs to see how they stack up, but DLSS 2.0 at least will require an Nvidia GPU (as far as we’re aware), and based on the other features planned for Cyberpunk 2077, DLSS is going to be very useful.
What features are we referring to? Mostly ray tracing, where Cyberpunk 2077 looks to match and even exceed Control when it comes to using various rendering techniques. Here’s the rundown of what CD Projekt Red currently has planned, courtesy of Nvidia’s blog post:
- Ray-traced ambient occlusion – Ambient occlusion is a shading and rendering technique used to calculate how exposed each point in a scene is to ambient lighting. The result is a diffuse shading effect that darkens enclosed and sheltered areas and enhances the rendered image’s overall tone. In Cyberpunk 2077, ray-traced ambient occlusion additionally can be used with local lights to approximate local shadowing effects where shadows are missing.
- Ray-traced diffuse illumination – This technique is used to capture sky radiance as well as emissive lighting from various surfaces, which is difficult to achieve with traditional rendering techniques.
- Ray-traced reflections – In Cyberpunk 2077, ray-traced reflections are used on all surfaces and can trace ranges for up to several kilometers. They are present on both opaque and transparent objects to simulate the way light reflects from glossy and metal surfaces by tracing a single bounce of reflection rays against the scene. This includes smooth natural mirrors like window glass, but also rougher surfaces like brushed metal. Unlike screen space techniques which can only reflect what’s on screen, ray-traced reflections incorporate the entire scene around the character, and can accurately represent objects outside the camera view or facing away from the camera.
- Ray-traced shadows – Cyberpunk 2077 preview supports directional shadows from the sun and the moon. These shadows aim to be physically accurate and even account for light scattering from clouds. Shadows may be enhanced in the final release to support other types of light sources where it is needed.
If that’s all a bit complicated, let me sum up: At maximum quality settings, you can expect Cyberpunk 2077 to push ray tracing hardware to the limit. Many previous games have only used one of those techniques: RT shadows are in Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare; RT reflections are used in Battlefield V, Control, and Wolfenstein Youngblood; and RT AO and diffuse lighting are used in Metro Exodus. Combine all of those in one game, and we expect framerates to plummet. DLSS 2.0 will help offset that, but perhaps more important than having a GPU that can do ray tracing effects will be having a second generation ray tracing GPU. Which brings us back to the RTX 3080 and Ampere, or AMD’s Big Navi — technically AMD’s hardware will be first generation ray tracing, but maybe AMD learned a thing or two from Nvidia’s initial RTX 20-series launch.
Rumors are swirling that Ampere GPUs could have anywhere from two to four times the ray tracing performance of Turing, thanks to improvements in the architecture. Nvidia has not confirmed those rumors, though it did say that the Tensor cores in its A100 GPUs are four times as efficient as the Turing Tensor cores. Given how new ray tracing hardware is, seeing major improvements in performance with new GPUs is entirely possible. But it also might not happen. Either way, we’d strongly suggest waiting to see how RTX 3080 and RX 6900 XT perform before buying a new graphics card, unless you absolutely have to have something today.
Cyberpunk 2077 CPU Considerations
It’s not just GPUs that could see new models by the time Cyberpunk 2077 rolls out the door. Both AMD and Intel are working on new processors, AMD with Zen 3 / Ryzen 4000 and Intel with Rocket Lake and Tiger Lake. Tiger Lake is the least interesting as it pertains to Cyberpunk 2077, since it will most likely be confined to laptop use and won’t have ray tracing capabilities in its integrated graphics. Zen 3 and Rocket Lake are a different story.
AMD’s Zen 2 architecture brought significant performance improvements to Ryzen 3000 CPUs and also boosted core counts. Zen 3 promises a unified L3 cache that could further reduce memory latencies and improve performance. It might not make it out before Cyberpunk 2077 hits the shelves, but AMD says Zen 3 is still on track to launch in 2020. It will also work in existing AMD socket AM4 motherboards, after a BIOS update, though you may not get all the features (like PCIe Gen4) if you’re not using at least an X570 or B550 board.
Intel’s Rocket Lake will be the first post-Skylake architecture to hit desktops — Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake, the Coffee Lake refresh, and Comet Lake are all Skylake derivatives, just with more cores in the case of the last three, and slightly improved UHD 630 integrated graphics (vs. Skylake’s UHD 530). How much will Rocket Lake improve Intel CPU performance? That’s not clear, and we don’t know core counts either, but it should be better than Comet Lake and will also support PCIe Gen4. It will also work in existing Z490 motherboards, though we’ll probably get new Z590 or whatever boards for the Rocket Lake launch just because.
Once again, the sage advice is to wait for these launches before taking the plunge on new hardware. Games also tend to be more forgiving of older CPUs than of previous generation GPUs, so even a CPU that’s several generations old should still be okay. As far as minimum CPU requirements go, Cyberpunk 2077 will probably still run okay even on a Core i5-5670K or similar. Just don’t plan on a smooth 60 fps or more if you’re sporting an old CPU.
Cyberpunk 2077 System Requirements, Closing Thoughts
The main hurdle for any PC to run Cyberpunk 2077 is undoubtedly going to be the graphics card. If you’re willing to run at minimum quality and a lower resolution, or maybe enable resolution scaling, and if you’re okay with 30 fps, it will probably run just fine on whatever hardware your current gaming PC has. That’s assuming you have a GTX 1060 or RX 570 or better GPU. You might even be able to go to older / slower hardware and still run the game, but no guarantees — and none of the fancy graphics effects.
Judging by The Witcher 3, you’ll also need at least a 6-core CPU to hit a consistent 60 fps or more in the crowds of Night City, and perhaps even that won’t be sufficient. We’ll know more in the coming months, but CD Projekt Red has been doing Cyberpunk 2077 demos for over a year now, and most recently allowed a bunch of gaming press to go hands on for four hours. You can read PC Gamer’s impressions of Cyberpunk 2077, but the important thing is that the demo was running on current hardware — there’s no way Nvidia or AMD would allow such a demonstration on Ampere or Big Navi! And by all accounts, the game ran quite well, though ray tracing effects may not have been enabled.
We’re not suggesting that you run out and buy a new PC or upgrade your existing PC in advance of the game launching. Quite the opposite, as new GPUs and CPUs are right around the corner. And in November (assuming the game hits this release date), there will be other new hardware ‘coming soon,’ so you also want to avoid getting caught up in the perpetual waiting game. If you’re already running an Nvidia RTX graphics card, you should definitely sit back and wait. If not, unless there’s some other games that you can’t currently play at the performance levels you’d like, waiting is still the best advice. But come November, don’t be surprised if you find yourself pining for new hardware to make the most of Cyberpunk 2077‘s detailed world.