Star Citizen PC Build

Star Citizen – Best PC Build & Setup (2022)

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 Star Citizen is still in Alpha so if you build a PC for it now, it may be outdated by the time the game finally releases.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 doesnt 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

The 10900K is my top pick for SC and it is what I use. Star Citizen does use a lot of cores and the 10900K’s plentiful core plus high single core performance is perfect for its use case. I have tested out other newer chips like the 11900K  and the Ryzen 5900X  but the 10900K beats both of them. I am yet to test out the Intel 12900K   but early benchmarks suggest that it performs very similar in flight sims so might not be worth the upgrade.

For midrange options, I recommend the Intel 9600K  or the Ryzen 5600X .

2. Graphics Card

Sale
EVGA GeForce RTX 3090 FTW3 Ultra Gaming, 24GB GDDR6X, iCX3 Technology,...
  • Real boost clock: 1800 MHz; Memory detail: 24576 MB GDDR6X.
  • Real-time ray tracing in games for cutting-edge, hyper-realistic graphics.

The 3090 still blows everything out of the water. The 3080Ti   is the only card that comes close and honestly, the performance difference is minor at only 3%-5%. However, the 3080Ti’s very limited VRAM is a major issue for flight sims. 10GB 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. I am talking about actual usage here, not just allocation.

Which is why 3090 is still your best option for Star Citizen if you want the absolute best. The 3080Ti or even the 3080   are still fine though and you probably won’t notice the difference in the real world.  For more details, you can check this article that dives deeper into GPUs for Star Citizen.

3. RAM

Sale
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

Sale
SAMSUNG (MZ-V7E1T0BW) 970 EVO SSD 1TB - M.2 NVMe Interface Internal...
  • INNOVATIVE V NAND TECHNOLOGY: Powered by Samsung V NAND Technology, the 970 EVO SSD’s NVMe...
  • BREAKTHROUGH READ WRITE SPEEDS: Sequential read and write performance levels of up to 3,500MB/s and...
Sale
Samsung SSD 860 EVO 1TB 2.5 Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-76E1T0B/AM)
  • Innovative V-Nand Technology: Powered by Samsung V-Nand Technology, the 860 Evo SSD offers optimized...
  • Continuity tester/Wire tracer

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

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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 1900R 34.1", Curved Gaming Monitor LED-Lit, WQHD 3440 x...
  • The 34 inches curved monitor with 21: 9 ratio and 1900 radius maximizes your field of view. The new...
  • Fast 120 hertz refresh rate (overclocked) combined with 4 millisecond response time delivers buttery...
Asus ROG Swift PG349Q 34” Curved G-Sync Gaming Monitor 120Hz 3440 X...
  • 34 inch UWQHD (3440x1440) 1900R curved IPS panel with an overclocked refresh rate up to 120 Hertz...
  • Nvidia G SYNC technology features NVIDIA G SYNC Processor to ensure smooth game play by eliminating...

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

  1. 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 dont 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 my top picks above or you can read the in-depth article here.

7. Steering Wheel for ground vehicles

Logitech G920 Driving Force Racing Wheel + Logitech G Driving Force...
  • 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.

Sale
Logitech F710 Wireless Gamepad, 2.4 GHz Wireless with USB...
  • 2.4 ghz wireless connectivity
  • Customizable controls with profiler software (requires software installation)

I also use a Logitech F710 (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.