What is the better upgrade, CPU or GPU

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audibleeye Trainee

I'm new to MSFS and my existing system has a Ryzen 7 3700x CPU and a Radeon 580X along with 32GB RAM. I understand this is playable, but if I want to upgrade to get the best out of the system without creating a bottleneck and can only upgrade one item, CPU or GPU what would provide the best bang for the buck. Thanks.

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Pro Member Captain
Ian Stephens (ianstephens) Captain
Ian Stephens is an expert on this topic. Read his bio here.

Hello there,

You pose a very good question. It's a common conundrum many flight sim enthusiasts, particularly those newly dabbling in Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS), often find themselves pondering. To best address your inquiry, we need to delve into some fundamentals of PC hardware.

Let's start by understanding what CPU (Central Processing Unit) and GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) do in the context of flight simulation. The CPU, considered the "brain" of the computer, takes care of the simulation's logic, physics, and general systems calculations. On the other hand, the GPU's primary role is to handle graphics rendering, crucial for creating the immersive, realistic visual environments we all love.

Your current setup with the Ryzen 7 3700X CPU and Radeon RX 580X GPU should provide you with a fairly satisfying MSFS experience. However, the desire to further enhance that experience is understandable. From my knowledge, here's what you should consider:

  1. MSFS performance dependency: Primarily, MSFS depends more heavily on the CPU due to the multitude of background calculations (physics, AI, weather, etc.). Yet, graphics rendering is also significant, particularly if you are aiming for higher resolutions, more complex scenery, or better weather effects.
  2. Current hardware capabilities: The Ryzen 7 3700X is a strong CPU, boasting 8 cores and 16 threads, suitable for tackling MSFS's demands. Meanwhile, the Radeon RX 580X, although a capable mid-range card, may fall a bit short if you wish to push the boundaries of visual detail and resolution.

Weighing these factors, if you had to choose just one component to upgrade, I'd lean towards the GPU. A stronger GPU will empower you to not only boost your graphical settings but also venture into higher resolution territories, providing a significantly more immersive experience.

Consider looking into something in the Radeon RX 6000 series or Nvidia's RTX 3000 series. These GPUs deliver excellent performance in flight simulators. Remember to match your GPU's power with a suitable monitor to fully enjoy the benefits.

However, bear in mind that the most efficient solution is always a balanced system. There's no point in having a top-end GPU if the CPU can't keep pace, and vice versa. You might want to plan for a balanced upgrade over time.

I hope this helps you make an informed decision. Enjoy the skies!


Thanks Ian for your timely response. Taking your insightful information I went ahead and ordered an RX 6700 tx with 12GB. My 580 will be relegated to another system. I'll see how this performs and decide if I need to upgrade my CPU later. As mentioned I'm not a gamer  so I have no need for super fps (hopefully).

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