Best Graphics Card for Star Citizen (2023)

Star Citizen is a very demanding game. It’s supposed to be visual masterpiece (a space opera if you will) and so far, it’s been living up to that at least in the graphics department. That is exactly what most of what signed up for when Chris promised us a high-fidelity PC space sim.

The challenge though is that it can take a monster PC to run it at optimal settings. Some improvements will come from the developers as they fine tune the netcode, asset streaming and other programming stuff. But it will still need all the horsepower you can throw at it.

Before you buy a new graphics card or CPU, know that Star Citizen’s full release is still some years away.  So whatever you buy today, will probably not hold up a few years from now. Whatever you are buying, is for the next 2-3 years only or maybe a bit more.

Personally, I am fine with that. I used to play a lot of Arena Commander way back in 2014 and I bought top of the line stuff for Star Citizen even back then. It’s not like you can’t use it for other games. And the PU looks pretty good even right now.

Based on my own experience with SC, RSI’s user telemetry data, hours on the forums/ reddit and my experience with other very demanding VR sims, here are my top GPU recommendations.

1. Best Premium GPU

Sale
Gigabyte GeForce RTX 4090 Gaming OC 24G Graphics Card, 3X WINDFORCE...
  • NVIDIA Ada Lovelace Streaming Multiprocessors: Up to 2x performance and power efficiency
  • 4th Generation Tensor Cores: Up to 2x AI performance

When it comes to the best GPU, the Nvidia 4090 clearly dominates. Not only is it a beast on paper, but actual RSI data shows that it dominates over all others when it comes to actual in-game performance. I was lucky enough to snag myself one for a fair price and its a beast of a GPU. It actually is not even that power hungry since I have decided not to overclock it and it uses less power than my previous 3090 and even 3080! The 4090 is a beast and performs well even without overclocking and has 24 GB of GDDR6X memory which means it should future proof you for several years (in fact, it is overkill). It also has Ray Tracing support which a lot of games use nowadays although Star Citizen isn’t one of them, for now.

In terms of brands, feel free to get whatever version is in stock. ASUS, MSI, Nvidia FE, Gigabyte, Zotac, Palit are all viable options. I persoanlly have the Founder’s Edition but its quite difficult to get a hold of.

Runner up:

The AMD 7900XTX is the second best option. It performs well below the 4090 (~20% difference in SC) but the price difference is massive. Which is why I feel comfortable recommending it without hesitation to anyone who doesn’t have excess cash to burn.  The performance difference shouldn’t be a deal breaker at 1440P resolutions. But if you are on 4K or some ultrawide resolution like me, then that 20% can lead to a noticeable difference in FPS.  Although VRAM is the same, there are some other differences in architecture, compute cores and bandwidth. It’s up to you to decide if the extra price is worth it. The real problem is that it is even harder to find in stock.

2. Best Mid-Range

The 7900XT is the best mid-range option right now. Its a bit on the pricier side given the low supply which is why I was a bit hesitant putting it in the mid-range category. But this is the reality of the world we have been living in for the last 2-3 years. But hey, you are getting 3090 levels of performance for a much lower price so its not all bad. There is plenty of VRAM and performance is so close to the premium cards that 90% of the time you probably won’t even notice. The point is that its DEFINITELY a better buy than the 4080 which should have been its main competitor.

Sale
MSI Gaming GeForce RTX 3080 LHR 12GB GDRR6X 384-Bit HDMI/DP Nvlink...
  • Memory Speed:19 Gbps.Digital Max Resolution:7680x4320
  • Chipset: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 LHR

The 3080 is still one of the best mid-range option. I got one of these (Founder’s Edition) and to be completely honest, I could hardly tell the difference between this and the 3090.  There are actually a lot of good cards in this price range and the difference between them is not too great. But I think the 3080 hits the sweet spot for the mid-tier budget segment. Again, there are a lot of manufacturers that offer this card from ASUS to ZOTAC and Gigabyte to MSI and they are all good.  There is not much difference in cooling performance between them as they all have a dual fan design. So pick the one that is available or cheaper and a brand that you trust. There are newer cards out there but you can probably get a good deal on a 3080 and that is why I highly recommend it.

3. Best Budget/ Entry Level

Sale
ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1660 6GB GDDR5 192-bit Gaming Graphics Card, Super...
  • New turing architecture
  • Classic and modern games at 1080p at 60 fps. Supported os windows 10 / 8 / 7
Sale
MSI Gaming GeForce GTX 1660 Super 192-bit HDMI/DP 6GB GDRR6 HDCP...
  • Memory Speed:14 Gbps.Digital Max Resolution:7680x4320
  • Chipset: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Super

The 1660 is fairly old at this point and it is the minimum I recommend for Star Citizen. Anything below and the game may not be playable. This card can hold its own in Star Citizen and it’s the lowest I recommend you go. It is actually a pretty decent card for most other games but Star Citizen is just too demanding right now, being Alpha and all. This card punches above its weight when it comes to price/ performance. In fact, it may actually be the price/ performance champion.

There is not much else to say about this card and its biggest strength is clearly its price. You can even get it for lower on the second hand market if you so inclined.

4. Best second hand/ used GPU

Sale
MSI Gaming GeForce RTX 3080 LHR 12GB GDRR6X 384-Bit HDMI/DP Nvlink...
  • Memory Speed:19 Gbps.Digital Max Resolution:7680x4320
  • Chipset: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 LHR
ZOTAC GeForce RTX™ 3080 Trinity OC LHR 10GB GDDR6X 320-bit 19 Gbps...
  • Memory Speed:19 Gbps
  • NVIDIA Ampere architecture, 2nd Gen Ray Tracing Cores, 3rd Gen Tensor Cores

The 3080 is the best option in this category. The market is flooded with used 3080 and you really can’t go wrong with it. It may not be able to go toe to toe with the 400 series cards but it is so much better value. Besides, it does have Ray Tracing even though it uses slightly older architecture. Graphic card prices are still all over the place so if you can get a good deal on one of these bad boys, you should go for it right away. Just make sure the card is in good condition. It will perform better than most of the newer budget/ entry level options out there and you can use use it till the market supply of graphics cards improves.

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About the Author

Gary (Flanker)

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Gary has been "hard landing" into runways and driving his Mitsubishi Evo off of cliffs since the early 2000s. These days, he spends most of his precious hobby time with his favorite flight, racing and space simulations in VR.He also has an Engineering Degree in Computer Science which helps a lot with his obsession with optimizing PC hardware like CPUs, Graphics Cards, VR Headsets, HOTAS, Racing Wheels etc. for high end sims.