There is no doubt about it – Cyberpunk 2077 is a demanding game, heavy on CPU and GPU, while solid-state storage is also recommended for an ideal experience. It may be a game aimed at the computers of the future, but in the here and now, it is still possible to get a fantastic PC experience – a process we hope to help with our optimized settings. Simply put, we tested all the graphics settings on Cyberpunk 2077, measured the cost of performance and judged the overall quality you get from each preset. The idea here is simple: retain everything that makes the game the ‘next generation’ from a visual perspective, but deliver the best ‘return on investment’.
The test equipment we use is hardly conventional – we paired Intel’s Core i9 10900K with an RTX 3090 and 32 GB of 3200 MHz DDR4, and ran the game from an NVMe drive. However, all of our measurements were made in 4K resolution, which means that as you move down the resolution ladder back to 1080p, the video card requirements will be reduced considerably. To put all of this into perspective, our chosen configurations allow an RTX 2060 to run the game without ray tracing at 4K30 resolution using the balanced version of DLSS, or reach 1440p60 (with only small drops in the busiest parts of the city). Interestingly, native 1080p actually looks a bit heavier than DLSS 1440p – and it certainly looks significantly less impressive.
Hopefully, this gives you some idea of how this game looks on the graphics side – yes, it is demanding. The RTX 2060 may well be the least capable Nvidia GPU with the latest generation features, but it is still a relatively powerful piece of kit, relatively speaking. Of course, you can tune down even more and still have a great experience, but at that point, you’ll start to lower the quality level. Our goal here is to set the standard and maintain the game’s “wow” factor, and achieving that with an RTX 2060 is impressive. It has its limits – 6 GB of VRAM takes the lightning streak out of the equation, unless you’re happy with 1080p30 (in which case, you can maximize every single RT effect, even psycho-level lighting) – but it’s still an impressive general view.
First, to understand exactly how we created our optimized settings, I recommend watching the video. To get an idea of the overall victory here, in the RTX 3090 system with 4K resolution without ray tracing or DLSS in use, going from ultra fully to optimized settings offers a 35 percent improvement in performance, recovering 5 ms of rendering time . When a 60fps experience essentially requires a rendering budget of 16ms per frame, it is an impressive phrase for no appreciable impact on visual quality.
Note that we recommend DLSS quality mode in 1080p, balanced at 1440p and 4K performance – if you’re using an RTX card, of course. For optimized ray stroke settings, I recommend turning off ray stroke shadows, running RT lighting in the middle, and turning on reflections. An alternative ‘light’ mode would turn off reflections too, leaning towards the rasterized versions of the screen space. As you can imagine, if the standard non-RT version is demanding, the use of ray-traced graphics can only significantly increase the load. As you can imagine, using DLSS is essential to maintaining good performance. At the moment, RT appears to work only on Nvidia cards, despite using the DXR API which should allow AMD’s RDNA 2 offerings to operate – but with Team Red’s Super Resolution DLSS alternative not currently available, we can predict good performance of RT being difficult for AMD new cards.
I can predict the heavy system requirements by improving here because it is clear that the game has some technical problems. To begin with, as you may have noticed in the video, driving around the city is CPU intensive – and it looks like SMT or ‘hyper threading’ isn’t working properly on Ryzen processors, which means the mainstream favorite – the Ryzen 5 3600 – suffers unduly, especially when driving at high speed through the city. A user mod apparently solves the problem, but we didn’t find any improvement in performance linked to the CPU, and we hope to see the CD Projekt Red resolve this situation with some urgency. Second, some settings just don’t seem to be working. We can imagine that setting the level of detail has implications for both the CPU and GPU, but adjusting it made no difference to presentation or performance. This, along with many other things, needs to be fixed.
While we expect developer optimizations to arrive in due course, our time spent with the game confirms our claim that this is a title aimed at the next generation of hardware, especially if you are looking to hit 60 frames per second, or something close to this without compromising graphic equality.
Yes, there is some scalability on the graphical side of the equation, but less in front of the CPU – I would dare to suggest that the recommended CDPR specifications are aimed at a 30 frames per second experience, where four core processors / eight threads would be the minimum. Those still using legacy i5s with four cores and four threads will struggle. Based on how demanding the game is, we can predict Cyberpunk 2077 by encouraging many people to upgrade their PCs, especially if RTX 2060-level hardware cannot sustain native 1080p60 in our optimized configurations (DLSS provides a remarkable exit from the free card prison here ).
There is one final purchase that I recommend on the list of potential updates: a variable update rate monitor. Reaching 60 frames per second is one thing, but sustaining it is quite another. A G-Sync or FreeSync display allows you to reach a performance ‘window’ – say 50 to 60fps – which allows for more flexibility and ambition in your settings. On a standard screen, achieving consistency means adjusting the presets to accommodate the worst-case scenarios – which is much, much more complicated. This process also means that you are taking into account a certain degree of overhead, which means that your GPU can be underutilized for most of the game time. Variable refresh rate technology solves many problems here.
The end result is immense. The PC version of Cyberpunk 2077 really looks like a generation beyond console versions, and it will be fascinating to see how CD Projekt Red chooses to exploit the graphics and CPU power of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles, and whether system resources are there to implement any of the lightning tracking effects. This is something to be expected in 2021, but here and now there is no doubt: the PC is the best place to play if you have the necessary hardware to do the job. Hopefully, our optimized configurations bring many more graphics cards in contention, but it will require more work from the CD Projekt Red to provide significant increases on the CPU side of the equation.