Star Citizen PC Build

Star Citizen – Best PC Build & Setup (2023)

I have analyzed Star Citizen’s performance in great detail and it is indeed a demanding game. Object details are much higher compared to other games while at the same time rendering massive space ships and entire planets further adds to the load. There are several techniques that CIG uses to address these issues. Object Container Streaming (OCS) both on the client and server side, Bind Culling, Server Meshing etc. are all tools in CIG’s arsenal and are at various levels of development.

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Before we dig deeper, let’s understand a few important points first:

  1. Star Citizen is still in Alpha so if you build a PC for it now, it may be outdated by the time the game finally releases. However, I personally have been playing Star Citizen since 2014 (Hangar module at first, then Arena Commander and then the PU) and I think it already has more content than many AAA games.
  2. A lot of performance issues are on the server side. Your PC can only do so much if the bottleneck is on the server. However, I do get 60 FPS on my system at max settings. It dips to 30 or so in some un-optimized areas but it is still playable. That is just the price you pay for playing an Alpha.

I have used advanced tools to analyze CPU usage, RAM usage (not just allocation) and other metrics. Tools like Windows Task Manager are very misleading since they average out the load over the tick period. Only by using advanced tools that can show CPU usage down to the micro-second do you see the real picture:

You will notice in the above graph that CPU usage is maxing out. However, Task Manager or other tools will only show ~20% usage for this core because they will average it out. Anyway, there is no point getting too technical about this. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter much because there are only 2-3 top end CPUs and GPUs in the market anyway. So let’s get down to it.

1. CPU

Intel Core i9-12900K Desktop Processor 16 (8P+8E) Cores up to 5.2 GHz...
  • The processor features Socket LGA-1700 socket for installation on the PCB
  • 30 MB of L3 cache memory provides excellent hit rate in short access time enabling improved system...
AMD Ryzen™ 7 5800X3D 8-core, 16-Thread Desktop Processor with AMD 3D...
  • The world's fastest gaming desktop processor and first gaming processor with 3D stacking technology
  • 8 Cores and 16 processing threads with AMD 3D V-Cache technology

The 12900K is my top pick for SC and it is what is leading the charts. Star Citizen does use a lot of cores and the 12900K’s plentiful core plus high single core performance is perfect for its use case. While AMD does pretty well in other games, it is still a bit behind in Star Citizen for a variety of reasons. I have tested out AMD chips like the top end, specialized gaming chip 5800X3D  and the multi purpose RyZen 5950X  but the 12900K beats both of them.

For midrange options, I recommend the Intel 12600K  or the Ryzen 5600X . They are not the best of the best, but they offer far better price performance than the top end chips. The difference isn’t even that much to pony up for the flagships unless you are an enthusiast.

2. Graphics Card

EVGA GeForce RTX 3090 FTW3 Ultra Gaming, 24GB GDDR6X, iCX3 Technology,...
  • Digital Max Resolution:7680 x 4320.590.4GT/s Texture Fill Rate
  • Real boost clock: 1800 MHz; Memory detail: 24576 MB GDDR6X.

The 3090 still blows everything out of the water for Star Citizen. The 3090 Ti   is an even beefier options but the performance difference is minor at only 3%-5% that comes at a significant price increase. At the end of the day, its all about which oen you can grab at a decent cost since prices have been all over the place for these cards.

The 3080   and 3080 Ti  are decent options but they have very limited VRAM which is a bit of an issue for Star Citizen’s unoptimized VRAM gobbling alpha builds . 10 GB of VRAM may be sufficient for normal gaming or even 4K gaming. But Star Citizen and other flight sims can easily use 70% more VRAM than that so you may see stutters. I am talking about actual VRAM usage here, not just allocation. Which is why 3090 is still your best option for Star Citizen if you want the absolute best.

We do have some decent options from AMD as well. They have a couple of cards that give you enough VRAM to run the game decently but they are not as good as the 3090. The difference though is minor, 10% or so depending on resolution and settings. The Radeon 6950 XT   with 16 GB VRAM can get the job done quite well. This will be better than a 3080 but nbot quite up to 3090 or 3090 Ti. As always, it boils down to your budget.

For more details, you can check this article that dives deeper into GPUs for Star Citizen.

3. RAM

Corsair Vengeance LPX 32GB (2x16GB) 3200MHz C16 DDR4 DRAM Memory Kit...
  • Hand-sorted memory chips ensure high performance with generous overclocking headroom
  • VENGEANCE LPX is optimized for wide compatibility with the latest Intel motherboards

Star Citizen is very very RAM hungry. In fact, I can’t think of any other game that needs this much RAM, even flight sims in 8K VR! Its not just about the amount of RAM either. RAM speed has a significant impact on performance in Star Citizen. This is is because so many assets have to be streamed in and out of Star Citizen so frequently.

I recommend a minimum of 3200 MHz RAM. I personally use 3600 MHz and you cant go wrong with that either. However, remember to look at the latency as well. Sometimes, memory makers only display the frequency as most games only look at that while it may actually have a higher latency.

4. SSD

Samsung 970 EVO Plus SSD 2TB NVMe M.2 Internal Solid State Hard Drive,...
  • ALWAYS EVOLVING SSD: Faster than the 970 EVO, the 970 EVO Plus is powered by the latest V-NAND...
  • LEVEL UP PERFORMANCE: The 970 EVO Plus reaches sequential read/write speeds up to 3,500/3,300 MB/s,*...

SSD is another component that you should not skip on with Star Citizen. As I mentioned earlier, Star Citizen swaps a lot of assets in and out of memory on a continuous basis. What do you think happens when you approach Area 18? All those buildings are loaded in from your SSD. When you quantum jump from Microtech to Hurston, all those assets have to be swapped out. The faster your SSD, the better performance you will get.

I personally upgraded from a STAA SSD to a NVMe and noticed a nice bump. If you already have a SATA SSD, its not super important to upgrade to a NVMe. But if you yet to buy one, just go all in and future proof yourself. These things last for a decade easily if oyu buy the right one. My first Samsung SSD has been running flawlessly for 8 years now. Thats the type of products I like to recommend here.

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5. Joysticks/ HOTAS/ Controllers

Logitech G X56 H.O.T.A.S Throttle and Joystick Flight Simulator Game...
  • Military-grade Space and Flight Sim Precision. Customizable options including all the control...
  • New Mini Analog Stick Control Surfaces: Control pitch, roll, yaw, backwards, forwards, up, down,...

The Logitech X56 is my top pick for Star Citizen. Its been purpose built for space sims and has plenty of buttons and enough quality to last you a long time without costing thousands of dollars. Dual sticks is also a viable option if you tend to dogfight a lot. This article goes really in-depth on Star Citizen joysticks and HOTAS including dual sticks so please to give it a read if you need more details.

6. Monitor

Alienware 120Hz UltraWide Gaming 34 Inch Curved Monitor with WQHD...
  • Experience breathtaking views with a combination of immersive features
  • Aspect Ratio is 21:9; Viewing Angle is 178º (H) / 178º (V); Brightness is 350 cd/m²(typical)

You have some choices to make when you are about to buy a monitor:

  1. An 34 or 38 inch curved ultrawide monitor (my top pick)
  2. A 4k monitor
  3. Multi-monitor setup
  4. VR headset (in the future)

I am a massive VR fan but that’s still some ways off for Star Citizen. Well, you can technically get it running using my VR guide here, but the performance leaves much to be desired. Your best bet right now is an Ultrawide monitor!

Once you go Ultrawide, you don’t go back. I really can’t stress how awesome it is not just for Star Citizen, but all games and especially browsing and work. I researched monitors in-depth for Microsoft Flight Simulator and its the same logic with Star Citizen. I have listed the one I like to use above or you can read the in-depth article here.

7. Steering Wheel for ground vehicles

Logitech G920 Driving Force Racing Wheel + G Driving Force Shifter...
  • Wheel: The definitive sim racing wheel for Xbox One: Realistic steering and pedal action for the...
  • Wheel: Responsive floor pedal unit: Accelerate, brake and change gears with the feel of an actual...

Ground vehicle physics are still pretty wonky in Star Citizen. But CIG seems committed to them with over a dozen vehicles  announced (and most of them already in-game) including the Tonk, Cyclone, Cyclone, Ursa, X1, Nox, G12, ROC and others. A good steering wheel is highly recommended for the discerning Citizen and its the best way to drive around in style. I have a ton of fun with steering wheels in racing sims and I can’t wait for improved vehicle physics in Star Citizen.

The best option is the Logitech G920 which I have owned for close to half a decade now without issues.  Check out this link if you need a more detailed review of this wheel.

Razer Wolverine V2 Chroma Wired Gaming Pro Controller for Xbox Series...
  • One of the best Xbox controllers money can buy. Gives you a noticeable advantage in competitive...
  • Power by Razer Chroma RGB: Enjoy greater immersion and customize with 16.8 million colors and...

I also use a Razer Wolverine V2 Chroma (Xbox controller) when driving ground vehicles like the Tumbril Cyclone, Nox, etc. Its a decent option if you don’t want a steering wheel. The gamepad is miles better than the keyboard, so it has become my mainstay when I am too lazy to use the wheel. I just keep it on my desk and grab it when it’s time to roam around on the desolated moons of the Stanton system.

The right trigger is the accelerator, the left trigger is the brakes and the left thumb stick is used for steering. The Gamepad is much better than using a joystick or a keyboard and is especially comfortable for couch gaming. Not the most accurate, but certainly the most comfortable.

Still on the fence about Star Citizen? Here’s my comprehensive state-of-the-game review as of 2021.

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About the Author

Gary (Flanker)


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.