Zwift on PC: The Ultimate Guide to Running Zwift at Its Very Best

Zwift on PC: The Ultimate Guide to Running Zwift at Its Very Best

Whilst many people happily run Zwift on their mobile phone, tablet, AppleTV, or laptop, there are also lots of Zwifters using PCs who may be considering upgrades or building/buying something new to improve their experience. This article is not intended to provide a comparison between the pros and cons of the various platforms, but rather offer advice to those who wish to run Zwift at its very best – that is to say, on a PC at the highest detail level and at a high frame rate of 60fps or more.

There are a lot of misconceptions about the amount of processing power needed that I will try to address – the main ones being that great Zwift performance is all about the graphics card (not strictly true), that CPU doesn’t matter (not true) and that you need an ‘expensive gaming rig’ (definitely not true).

Warning: if you’re already content with a lower level of detail and/or a low frame rate, this article is not for you! A better-looking, smoother Zwift will not make you faster (unless it gets you on the bike more often). It’s just nicer.

It’s important to note that almost all of what follows is NOT particularly good advice for PC gaming in general, because Zwift has its own bottlenecks and quirks and there are hugely diminishing returns beyond a certain point of investment. This guide is aimed at people who want to use their PC solely or mainly for Zwift and want great results without wasting money unnecessarily. At current UK prices, it’s easy to build a fantastic Zwift PC for under £400.

TL;DR – Key components to buy for best performance/value ratio (February 2020):

  • You need a CPU with high clock speed and strong single-thread performance. More cores are essentially irrelevant, so don’t waste your money. Whilst AMD Ryzen CPUs are excellent value and offer a fantastic future upgrade path, in general Intel CPUs are better suited to Zwift. Good examples: Intel Core i3-9100F, or Core i5-9400F if streaming or multitasking is your thing.
  • Buy an Nvidia graphics card of series 10xx or newer, with 4GB of VRAM or greater. Don’t go too far though because you’ll see the same bottlenecks no matter what, so don’t waste your money. I’m not even convinced Zwift uses more than 4GB. Good examples: Nvidia GTX 1660, GTX 1650 Super, or GTX 1060 6GB.
  • Unless you are dead set on a big 4K TV, look to buy a Freesync monitor with a wide adaptive sync range; ideally enough to allow for Low Framerate Compensation (LFC). Good examples: Pixio PX275h (branded ElectriQ in the UK) or virtually any 144Hz gaming monitor with DisplayPort input (important!)
  • 8GB of system RAM is plenty, and adding it in dual channel configuration (i.e. two sticks) is best practice. More capacity won’t improve anything, so don’t waste your money. Good example: 2 x 4GB 2400Mhz DDR4.
  • Zwift can take a while to update and load worlds, so have your system running on an SSD. If it’s just for installing Windows and running Zwift, even a 120GB SSD is easily big enough.
  • Note: AMD graphics cards don’t perform as well in Zwift, so they should generally be avoided.

Settings

Before we move onto specifications, it’s important to know that beyond manually tweaking the configuration files (there’s a brilliant guide here on Zwiftinsider.com) there are only two graphics settings in Zwift and only one is determined by the user. The actual detail levels – depth of field, lighting/shadow effects, and environmental elements such as water effects and wildlife seen – are chosen automatically by Zwift HQ. They determine what you see based on your computer’s graphical ability. For computers using integrated graphics (i.e. no dedicated/discrete graphics card), you will always see the Basic detail profile. Almost exactly the same as phones, tablets, and Apple TV.

This increases through Medium and High up to Ultra for mid-range graphics cards and above. HQ identify and account for every graphics card on the market and decide on a profile for it, hence the reason why some people with newly released graphics cards sometimes see less detail than they are expecting. It’s worth noting that whilst AMD graphics cards offer really good value for normal gaming, they perform relatively poorly in Zwift because Zwift uses the OpenGL API, and AMD’s OpenGL drivers are much less optimized than those offered by Nvidia.

The only graphics option Zwifters have control over is the display resolution of the game, which is accessed via the in-game settings menu. This ranges from 576p to 2160p (4K). Rather unhelpfully, these options are also named Basic, Ultra, etc so it’s understandable why some people get confused. Selecting the higher options and hoping to maintain 60fps+ will obviously require a stronger graphics card, but it won’t increase what you see – that’s based on the automatically-set profile set by HQ. Higher-resolution options are just increasingly sharper and cleaner. Note that you’re not limited to the resolution of your display – it’s possible to choose a higher setting for a nice anti-aliasing effect – just be aware that it will also have a performance impact.

To recap, in order to see the Ultra PROFILE you will simply need any decent Nvidia graphics card from the last five years or so. If you want to run the High RESOLUTION (1080p) or above nicely, expect the demand on your graphics card to increase.

The Problem

But here’s where it gets more complicated. In a solo ride, in a relatively quiet area of Watopia, any decent graphics card will be able to do Ultra profile, 1080p resolution at 60fps without any bother at all. However in a busy group ride, or in areas like the most common spawn point in New York (at the bottom of a hill!), you will probably find that your frame rate tanks. The impact can vary in significance, from just losing a few frames right down to making Zwift an expensive slideshow.

The unfortunate truth is that as things stand this behaviour cannot be completely avoided, almost no matter what your computer specs are. Through my own testing and observing the many posts, logs and diagnosis on the various Zwift groups and forums over the past couple of years I’m convinced that all PC builds drop frames in this way. This even applies to those with £500+ graphics cards and £500+ CPUs which is patently ridiculous when you consider what these extremely high-end components can achieve! Zwift doesn’t look bad, but it’s miles behind the visuals of modern games. There’s simply no logical reason why you should need to spend so much on a PC to run Zwift well, but I am not a programmer so I cannot say why this is.

What certainly seems to help is not a stronger graphics card, but a CPU with better single-thread performance. This is almost always an Intel CPU. Whilst AMD’s Ryzen series of CPUs are a better value in general and provide a much better upgrade path – because all three generations released to date can normally be installed in the same motherboard – up until the most recent 3000 series CPUs, their single-thread performance trailed behind the Intel equivalents. Additionally, some people have experienced graphical anomalies with the 3000 series Ryzen CPUs, so at present it’s hard to recommend them for Zwift.

Because Zwift doesn’t appear to benefit in any way from extra cores, there’s little point going above a quad core. This combination means the Intel Core i3-9100F is a perfect option. It’s laughably cheap and should do the job nicely if Zwift is all you’ll be doing. If you also want to stream, multitask, encode video or use the PC for other things, a step up to the six-core i5-9400F is a good idea. I’m a big fan of Ryzen CPUs and virtually everything you’ll see online will recommend them for builds, but for Zwift it’s easier to just stick with Intel.

With analysis courtesy of the excellent Zwiftalizer.com, here are two examples of solo ride warmups in Watopia followed by races in other worlds:

In both cases the frame rate is perfect until I join the race, when the frame rate drops hugely until the field becomes suitably stretched. I believe it’s down to how Zwift is programmed, and potentially due to how slowly data gets to us from their servers. The user’s computer must visualise the live positions, speeds and drafting physics of potentially thousands of other riders (although only the nearest 100 riders are actually rendered on screen) and it appears lots of these calculations are done at the client end. Graphics cards are severely under-utilised, and the frame rate drops.

It may seem counterintuitive but it’s preferable for a graphics card to be working at a high utilisation in games, that way you’re getting the maximum out of it. Utilisation being low means it’s being stopped from working to its best by some other aspect of the system – a bottleneck. Or to put it the other way around, if utilisation was pegged at 100% and frames were being dropped it would be easy to see that a stronger graphics card would improve performance, but that’s not the case in Zwift. Likewise, reducing the resolution setting should see a substantial improvement in frame rate in the most problematic situations but this is rarely the case. It’s further proof that you needn’t spend more and more on a graphics card, because it’s clear that’s not where the major bottleneck is.

Unless this behaviour changes – and bear in mind Zwift HQ openly state that their focus is low-end/low power platforms due to user base demographics – then spending more and more money on processing power hoping to eliminate the frame rate drops isn’t really an answer. It can certainly help of course, as can overclocking to push your components more. But none of this gets away from the fundamental issue which is out of our control.

Mitigation

So yep, you could buy an RTX 2080Ti and an i9-9900KS and overclock everything within an inch of its life. Or you could buy/keep good quality mid-range components and accept that the performance will always suffer in certain circumstances.

If you want to display Zwift on a big TV this is where the story ends. But if you want to mitigate the drops, that’s where adaptive sync comes in very handy. Fortunately, Nvidia made this much easier to obtain in early 2019 by announcing Freesync support for its 10xx series graphics cards and newer. Previously you needed to buy an expensive GSync monitor but this is no longer the case. Adaptive sync allows you to simply smooth out the frame rate drops at the other end of your system. I realise lots of Zwifters like to use a TV to display the game, but as with normal fixed refresh rate monitors that normally means you can’t use adaptive sync. With a normal TV or monitor, you are stuck with two options for Zwift:

  1. Vsync on: brilliantly smooth when your computer can maintain 60fps*, but causes stuttering and drops to 30fps** when it cannot.
  2. Vsync off: your computer just outputs whatever it can, causing screen tearing at everything other than exactly 60fps*.

*your display’s refresh rate
**half of your display’s refresh rate

Adaptive Sync

With adaptive sync, a display changes refresh rate in real-time to match your frame rate – smoothing out all the fluctuations within a range determined as part of the monitor’s specifications. For example, the specs of my monitor show the Freesync range is 48-75Hz so whenever I’m in that frame rate range I don’t see any tearing or stuttering. It’s perfect for a game ‘on rails’ like Zwift. Ideally you want enough adaptive sync range to allow for every eventuality you will encounter. On 144Hz gaming monitors you’re basically covered no matter what, because even below the adaptive sync range, Low Framerate Compensation (LFC) kicks in to avoid stuttering.

Whilst Freesync now works with Nvidia graphics cards, bear in mind it’s only available over DisplayPort (it won’t work over HDMI) and with the exception of the few officially-certified models on the market, you won’t know if any particular monitor will work perfectly until you try it. Check reviews or Reddit and the likes to see how other people got on, you’ll normally find someone somewhere has tried it and reported back.

There have been some Freesync TVs on the market for the last couple of years but aside from the newest LG OLED models, they require an AMD graphics card which as mentioned don’t perform very well in Zwift. So whilst it is feasible to obtain adaptive sync on a very big screen this way, you’d essentially be knowingly buying a component that doesn’t work very well, in order to mitigate it with another. Otherwise a big TV is great, but you should be aware that you’ll need a stronger CPU to ensure your frame rate stays at or around 60fps as often as possible.

Here’s an example of a solo ride around the newly refreshed Richmond, with lots of riders nearby at all times:

A screenshot of a social media post

Description automatically generated

Thanks to adaptive sync, my experience was great because my frame rate stayed within the adaptive sync range of my monitor for almost the entire time no matter what was going on, with just a couple of very brief dips below 48fps which weren’t noticeable. No tearing, no stutter, just perfectly smooth Zwifting. See also the graphs from my races above; once my frame rate was back above 48fps everything was back to being great.

Summary

  • As things stand you can’t really avoid frame rate drops on Zwift.
  • How severe they are is dependent on your components, but don’t expect them to disappear completely.
  • You DO NOT need to spend mega money on a gaming PC to get a great experience in Zwift, so don’t!
  • Spend your money in the right places if you want to focus on mitigating the issues.
  • This is much easier with an adaptive sync monitor but is also possible with a select number of TVs.

Bonus addendum: Doing all this on a tighter budget

Buy an ex-office SFF desktop PC with a CPU like a i5-3470 or similar. There are tons available on the likes of eBay. Install a GTX 1650 low profile which fits, runs from the PCIe slot alone and can normally be accommodated by the power supply in this class of computer. Ensure you have good ventilation and be sure to change the Nvidia power management mode to ‘Prefer maximum performance’. Upgrade the DDR3 RAM to 8GB, it’s dirt cheap on eBay or CeX in the UK. Whack in an SSD and install Windows from a USB stick. You should be able to achieve 60fps in Ultra detail at 1080p in normal circumstances for under £250. All the same principles and caveats above still apply though.

Good Resources

Acknowledgments

Thanks to J.Levie, M.Hanney, S.Louvet and M.Wozniak for their input and help when compiling this article. Ride On!

About The Author

Dave Higgins

Dave is a relatively recent convert to road cycling after developing shin splints from running too much, and since discovering Zwift has turned into a complete fanboy. Self-confessed data analysis dweeb. Made of pipe cleaners.

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Stéphane Louvet
Stéphane Louvet
1 year ago

Yeah ! Happy to read this article ! 🙂

I think to have a better, smoother experience, ping time is the biggest culprit.
As a start, Zwift should host important events (Pro-Am / Nationals) on dedicated servers/clusters which are physically closer to the end user.
Starter list is known, it’s then easy for the launcher to redirect those player to another IP, on specific server entirely dedicated to run this important event.

Jay
Jay
1 year ago

Running Zwift off of a system I built back in 2010. AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition (overclocked) with 8GB of RAM and a Sapphire Radeon HD 5770 (1 GB). Yes both AMD, and far from new and nowhere near the latest spec’s. But it more than does the job. I only run Zwift on it now but the level of detail is great. I can see jersey’s flapping in the wind and lots of detail like individual flowers on the side of the road. I’ve rode (raced) the TDZ this winter and have had no issues until I… Read more »

Michal Wozniak
Super Member
Michal Wozniak (@michwoz)
1 year ago

Well written Dave 👍 As of CPU I would add that 3rd gen Ryzens (3600 and higher) are almost as good as Intels in single thread performance, so those will perform great too. I personally have no reasons to complain using Ryzen 5 1600AF (2600) so I wouldn’t write off Zen+ chips either. Never heard about those graphical anomalies you mentioned. The problem with AMD graphics cards is its Windows OpengGL Driver which sucks. Their GPUs perform much better on MacOS devices, which has better driver. So yeah, when on budget Nvidia is the way to go.

Michal Wozniak
Super Member
Michal Wozniak (@michwoz)
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Higgins

For now 9100F is surely the best price/performance pick for Zwift-specific machine. As of today there is no cheap 4-core Zen 2 7nm desktop CPU offered by AMD (3200g is Zen+). In future something like Ryzen 4200/4400G may change that (which may offer quite good integrated graphics as well).

Todd
Todd (@bombertodd)
1 year ago
Reply to  Michal Wozniak

Fwiw… I have a ryzen 3600 and 1060 gpu. Computer works fantastic. Never had a problem in the many hours of zwifting.

Stéphane Louvet
Stéphane Louvet
1 year ago

I’m happy to read this article ! 🙂 Thank you. Yes, I’m convinced the network is the biggest Zwift bottleneck at the moment. As a start, they should try to host big events (Pro-Am, Nationals, ETc ….) on dedicated servers physically located closer to the end users. For those events, the starter list is known, it’s then easy with the launcher to have them connecting to this specific server. As this event is “private” they don’t have to interact with the whole “world” anyway. And the next time they reconnect after this race, they are back to normal. The end… Read more »

fabio Mux
fabio Mux (@fabio-mussi)
1 year ago

Great Article Dave ! I run zwift on a ryzen 1300x with a 1060 GPu ( builded in late 2017) and what has always impressed me is that when frame drops occour my CPU and my GPU have the same load they have when i’m in the desert riding solo. It’ seems they are limited to a a 50/60% maxium load. Another odd things that i noticed is that drops don’t stop even if i ride in the head of the group.. so when there are only 5 or 6 riders on screen (but with a lot of riders behind… Read more »

Michal Wozniak
Super Member
Michal Wozniak (@michwoz)
1 year ago
Reply to  fabio Mux

You’re frame rate is affected by all the riders in close proximity, either you see them or not. It’s not graphics related. 1060 can run Zwift on Ultra details ~90fps if CPU is able to provide frames to it. And obviously in big groups it is not able to do that because single core is getting jammed.

Fabio Mux
Fabio Mux (@fabio-mussi)
1 year ago
Reply to  Michal Wozniak

It is what i ve written above…but my cpu load still remain very very low, for all thr 4 cores. Ok it s a thing for single core…but that single core is about at 40% load.

Stéphane Louvet
Stéphane Louvet
1 year ago
Reply to  Fabio Mux

I firmly believe at some point, the network/ server lag is still the biggest bottleneck and slows down everything.
Un plug your network cable and look at happens to your framerate, CPU & GPU load 😉

Stéphane Louvet
Stéphane Louvet
1 year ago
Reply to  Fabio Mux

And I’ve seen one case where all of a sudden my fps raised over 60fps even if the other 100 where closed to me. It was during a 3R 100 ride, pacjk was around 140 people. I’m a keeper during this ride and I was a bit behind the group, not far, maybe 50 meters. Framerate was low but ok, around 30fps (i5 3570 / GTX970) Then comes a U turn up the volcano. I was still climbing but the main group was passed the U turn. In front of me, there was nobody to display but the groups was… Read more »

Dave
Dave
1 year ago

Zwift runs fine on my old i5-4460 3.2Ghz, Intel HD540 Graphics, 8Gb Ram. Yes it takes a minute to load up but after than runs fine so you don’t need a very powerful rig to run it.

Michal Wozniak
Super Member
Michal Wozniak (@michwoz)
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave

Fine is broad term. Add discrete graphics card to that system (if possible) and you’ll get premium experience. HD540 (you sure it isn’t HD4600?) runs Zwift on the lowest details with rather poor frame rate. Of course it’s usable but nothing more than that.

Kevin
Kevin
1 year ago

Thanks for the article – some interesting points. I’m running a reasonably spec’ed machine (i7-9700, 1660Ti, 2 x 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD) with V-Sync and Triple Buffering. For most of the rides I get a solid 60fps @ 4k (Ultra). However, like you, I find parts of NYC can cause dips in frame rates. Same story for a few sections of Titans Grove where screen tearing is present.

It sounds like you’re giving me justification to get the 55″ Alienware OLED so I can run Adaptive 😉

James Eastwood
1 year ago

I bought a 2nd hand gaming PC for £180 – 1050TI (which I overclocked). 60fps at 1440p unless crowded as explained above, the worst it ever drops to is about 35fps.. i7 2600 but as you mention, I think it happens for everyone. I spent more on a curved philips monitor with adaptivesync. Experience is incredible compared to Apple TV.

Edit: I’ve just noticed who wrote this article. We’ve already discussed this at length. Nice one Dave!

Michal Wozniak
Super Member
Michal Wozniak (@michwoz)
1 year ago

Mobile devices crowd (iOS, Android, weak laptops) would be surprised how good Zwift can actually look 😉

Gerrie Delport
Gerrie Delport (@gerriedelport)
1 year ago

Thanks for the write-up, it is very informative and nice to have all the information on one page. I just started looking at options to upgrade my Screen to a wide curved monitor, I am running Core i5-3570 @ 3.40GHz with a GeForce GTX 1060 6GB/PCIe/SSE2

Stéphane Louvet
Stéphane Louvet
1 year ago
Reply to  Gerrie Delport

I have the same CPU with a 4GB gaming GTX970.
I’m Zwifting on QHD resolution and Ultra profile.
During my tests, I tried a 6GB 1060 in order to see if VRAM quantity was a potential weakness, I barely see a difference.
To me your video card is far enough, upgrading only your CPU will improve.
Tell us to what extend ! I’m curious to know !

Rick
Rick
1 year ago

Thnx, had a good laugh about this. PC warming to take AMD, what a load of bull. A 10 year old pc of any kind with any graphic card Will do the trick for Zwift.
How much did they pay you to promote intell and Nvidia?

Michal Wozniak
Super Member
Michal Wozniak (@michwoz)
1 year ago
Reply to  Rick

Read the whole article mate. There is budget option mentioned in it. Also I don’t agree. 10 year old pc with “any” graphic card will be subpar experience compared to more modern systems. And this article is about something better than low level graphics provided by mobile devices. For good level of details and frame rate I wouldn’t go for anything below i3-2xxx and GTX 750Ti/Radeon HD7850 level. Also AMD CPU’s other than Ryzens are horrible for Zwift with their poor IPC and single core performance.

Robert
Robert
1 year ago

It doesn’t take a lot of comparisons to other PC games to see that a) Zwift graphics, even in Ultra mode, are not very good, b) they are clearly optimized for small mobile devices, with level-of-detail changes with distance being very visible, many issues with flickering polygons and the like, and c) most of the stutters are not graphics-related, they are related to transmission and calculation delays of other players’ status. In many cases, frame rate may remain reasonable, but you still get position stutters. In other words – the graphic engine is rendering correctly, but its inputs are stuttering.

Michal Wozniak
Super Member
Michal Wozniak (@michwoz)
1 year ago
Reply to  Robert

It’s certainly not AAA game graphics, but did you actually compared Zwift in Ultra mode vs Basic mode? And by Ultra I mean details level, not resolution which bares the same name and can be set manually in Zwift settings (details levels can’t be changed without tweaking config files). For me personally it’s day and night difference.

Fabio
Fabio (@fabio-mussi)
1 year ago
Reply to  Michal Wozniak

Zwift graphics, even at ultra details is nothing more that ‘good’. IN some details (Riders) it is similar to “second life”… But high end graphics is not in their plane …I’m on ultra details now but still something like a good xbox 360 gaming.

Laura Young
Laura Young (@laura-young-9191)
1 year ago
Reply to  Michal Wozniak

Where is the detail profile that the game is currently using specified? My system meets all the recommendations, (i7z4790, Gtx 1650 4 GB, 16 GB system ram), but the graphics are still sub-par, not as nice as your screenshot in the comparison in the article. I do use a 1080 tv as the display.

Stéphane Louvet
Stéphane Louvet
1 year ago
Reply to  Robert

I agree with your c) point. That was also my conclusion after all my tests.

Proof is rendering rate is top nocth when you network cable is unplugged.
And players closer to the server, (with low ping time), have a better framerate.

Our machines are just waiting for data for being able to deliver the next frame.

Adrian
Adrian
1 year ago

Great article! I currently run Zwift on an Apple TV 4K connected to an Epson 2100 1080p HD projector, which projects on to a 100″ screen. It’s a nice immersive setup, but I’m curious how much better it would be with a decent PC and graphics card setup connected to the same projector?

D.J.Hunter
D.J.Hunter
1 year ago

People who haven’t tried Zwift on a proper setup don’t realise what they’re missing. Especially the realistic directional full shadows of pedalling (and chain and derailleur shadows), sunrises, snow flurries etc. My GPU on my old setup had an issue and it felt like a 90s arcade game when I used onboard graphics for a Zwift.

Mike Kauspedas
Trusted Member
Mike Kauspedas (@mike)
1 year ago

This article is chock full of great information, and covers everything. For those about to use pc part picker here is a list of computers Ihave ran Zwift on and numbers I’ve seen. I run Zwift primarily off a Dell XPS 9560 (i7-7700HQ + GTX 1050) which I would consider similar to a budget build (albeit a laptop and the XPS was not cheap). I get 60FPS @ 1080p and with graphics tweaks in the profile configs I can get 60FPS @ 1440p as well. I also use throttle stop and afterburner to keep throttling to a minimum (heat +… Read more »

Marty
Marty
1 year ago

Great article. Recently built a pc with a ryzen 2 2700x cpu for zwift with a leftover gtx 2060 I had kicking around. Main observation is that it looks great and runs at well over 90 fps right up till the point I join a group ride. There’s something seriously off in Zwift’s netcode that is absolutely tanking performance. GPU never reports more than 38% utilization. CPU has one core pegged.

Milan
Milan
1 year ago

Thanks for this article.
I made exactly what you recommend for tighter budget – Nvidia GTX 1650 Low Profile.
Had about 25 fps with an old GT 730, now constantly 60 fps.
But there is no Ultra Profile for this GC – see
https://forums.zwift.com/t/add-gtx-1650-to-4k-ultra-profile-list/155425

Stéphane Louvet
Stéphane Louvet
1 year ago
Reply to  Milan

You can force the Ultra profile yourself by editing the config files.
Give it a try 😉

J Crume
J Crume
10 months ago

What files do you edit and what entries do you edit?

Dan Nicolescu
Dan Nicolescu (@dan-nicolescu)
1 year ago

I play Zwift on a 2008 Q6600, 8Gb RAM, 500Gb SSD and GTX970 graphics. I use a 1080p projector.
The game chooses ultra profile and I get around 30fps with the default settings which is acceptable.
I didn’t want to get over budget and I resurrected and old computer with new SSD and a second hand graphic card. I am pretty happy with the setup.

Colin Peerman
Colin Peerman
1 year ago

Dave, great article. Shame the comments have been filled with the “I run it on a ZX81 and it’s fine…” brigade. FWIW, running it with an i7 and a RTX2080Ti, I don’t see any of the bottlenecks in the busy environment scenarios (framerate always above 60fps), but then my rig is an edge case. YMMV

Stéphane Louvet
Stéphane Louvet
1 year ago
Reply to  Colin Peerman

Where are you located ?
West coast US ?

Colin Peerman
Colin Peerman
1 year ago

North London

Daniel Wilcox
Daniel Wilcox
1 year ago

Gosh Dave – you’ve written such a detailed and useful article here – thanks so much for taking the time to pull all this info together!

Andrew
Andrew
1 year ago

Great article. Quick question. I’d rather not get a special monitor. Soooo, if we were to use the Zwiftalizer and find a configuration that maintained at least 60fps even at the worst of times in Ultra 2160 then we could hook up this computer via hdmi to a 4k tv and be able to get a smooth 4k experience which would be quite a bit better than my internal graphics on my laptop with a i5-8250U???

Andrew
Andrew
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Higgins

Thanks for the reply Dave. You mentioned the core i3-9100F (or perhaps using this mark or higher on the single thread benchmark site you mentioned) perhaps paired with a GPU that Zwift has listed for 4k capable (would these include the 1660, 1660 super, 1660 ti, 1070, 1070 ti, 2060, 2060 super, 1080 etc??). Does the motherboard matter much or just as long as it is compatible with the aforementioned parts? Then I was just going to get 8GB or 16GB of DDR$-3000 RAM? Along with 128 SATA III SSD and the necessary power supply (500 Watts 80+ Bronze??) and… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Higgins

Good stuff. Yep, that was me. I left you a facebook message.

Edwin
Edwin
1 year ago

Hi. First a big compliment for this article. And my question is what are your settings in Nvidia panel? For example had bad quality from the antialiasing gamma correction. Now it’s off and much beter. Also the fps performance is beter and my Specs are gtx1070 And i5 4690k
greetz edwin

Eric
Eric
1 year ago

Dave, thanks. This is useful and has changed my thinking about my next build. As it turns out, I AM hell bent on a 4k TV. That aside good to know about the processing power vs threads. I am currently running on i7 7700 w GPX 1050 and routinely run around 3.2 GB of video memory, but frame rate drops to 20-30 on 1080 or 1440 display. I’m going to focus on clock speed and see if I can find a 16xx GPU which I will upgrade to RTX when the time comes for ray tracing (ie never). In other… Read more »

charlie horse
charlie horse
1 year ago

Do you think a used desktop with i7-940, GTX 960 2GB, 8GB RAM, 120GB SSD would be enough for zwift on a 1080p tv? I am using a laptop right now that is so below specs i’m surprised zwift even works.

charlie horse
charlie horse
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Higgins

Thanks for the help, will look for an office sff instead!

charlie horse
charlie horse
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Higgins

I ended up finding a great deal on a used computer, an hp prodesk that someone upgraded for their kids to play games. It has an i5-4570 and came with a full-size gtx 1650, 1TB SSD and 16gig of ram, looks like 4 sticks in the box. It’s nice to have usb ports on the front too, I don’t even need an extension cable for the ant+ dongle. Thanks again for this article and your help, I am blown away by how much better the game is with perfectly smooth animation and brighter, sharper colours. Whole thing was 450$, the… Read more »

Steve Hooper
Steve Hooper
1 year ago

Great article

What’s not clear does the PC connect Zwift to your Kickr trainer, HR monitor, cadence, via Bluetooth? Do the older ex-office PCs support BT?

Donald Hall
Donald Hall
1 year ago

Thank you, Dave! That was super helpful. The computer I had been using just fried, and I bought a new PC for my entertainment/bike room based on the specs you recommended. I just ordered an MSI Trident 3 with a Core i5-9400F, Nvidia GTX 1660, 8gb ram (1 stick for now, though), and a 500GB SSD for $750 at PC Richards online. Comes this week, and I’m stoked. Somebody please shout if I’m missing anything, but it seems like that fits the bill for running Zwift in Ultra. Thought I’d pass it along as a fully-built option in case it’s… Read more »

Donald Hall
Donald Hall
1 year ago
Reply to  Donald Hall

For anyone who wants it, here’s a link to the PC.

Donald Hall
Donald Hall
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Higgins

Thanks, Dave! I really appreciate the initial guidance and then the subsequent confirmation that I’m good to go! See you on the road.

Barry
Barry
2 months ago
Reply to  Donald Hall

Hi Donald,

How did the MSI Trident 3 work out for Zwift? I just ordered the Trident 3 Intel Core i7-10700F|GTX 1660. All I am going to use it for is Zwift.

sven
sven
1 year ago

Dave,
Thanks for the article! After reading the article I enlisted my teenage son to build me a computer for zwift, based on your advice. I cannot believe how much better zwift looks compared to running on my laptop (my shadow, front bike light in the dark (which lights up the riders legs in front of me), dirty windows on Alpe de Zwift, ….). I would not have known any better without you and zwiftinsider!

Drew Anson
Drew Anson (@andrew_anson4)
1 year ago

A very useful article thanks as i am about to replace a FHD monitor with either a 2K or 4K one for Zwift. 9400F CPU with a 1660 Ti GPU. I am interested in why the recommended monitor is a 2K instead of a 4K? Shops are stearing me to 2K also, but they don’t know what Zwift is and are looking at it from a point of view of traditional gaming i think

Russell
Russell
1 year ago

This is a great article and very helpful – thank you.

Just a quick note – the 1650 card you link to on Amazon has a bunch of reviews saying that it doesn’t have a DisplayPort output! So you may want to link to a different brand…

I’m off to eBay now to look for a cheap ex-office i5-3470 PC! Currently running Zwift on ATV on a 32″ monitor – good frame rate for the price, but Basic detail (+ some shadows) is getting annoying. Keen to experience it in Ultra…

Makla
Makla
1 year ago

Nvidia gpu might be better than AMD for Zwift but the cpu absolutely does not matter if it’s Intel or AMD.

Ben
Ben
1 year ago

Great article Dave. I’m currently running Zwift on a 2016 15″ MacBook Pro (16GB 2.2 GHz Intel Core i7, Intel Iris Pro 1536 MB). I’m looking to upgrade my setup and like the sound of using a SFF PC with a monitor. Can you make any suggestions for a budget of ~£500?

Ben
Ben
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Higgins

Thanks for the info Dave, I’m not on Facebook, are the examples of SFF builds available elsewhere?

Ben
Ben
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Higgins

Many thanks for the info Dave that’s super helpful!

Ben
Ben
1 month ago
Reply to  Ben

Hi Dave, I’m finally in a position to put a build together. Have requested access to ZPCMR on FB as I’m guessing the most up-to-date data is available there? Thanks Ben

Ben
Ben
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave

Hi Dave, just submitted another request to join group https://www.facebook.com/groups/zpcmr

Rob
Rob
1 year ago

well, I’m going to be trying Zwift today on the first thing ‘resembling’ a real system I’ve ever had.

I used to run at the lowest detail settings/resolution (576 or something). I built up a new system with an nVidia GeForce1660 Super so I’m going to have a go at the Ultra resolution settings. Should be interesting to see the change.

Jon
Jon
1 year ago

I have built a Zwift only PC- i3 9100F, GTX 1660 Super, 16GB ram, W10 on NVME. The question is the monitor as I don’t want to spend more than I have to for a 27″. What is the priority- high Hz refresh rate, 4K, ms response, G-sync? The monitor will be VESA mounted on a tripod directly in front of a bike desk. Very helpful article! Thanks

Jon
Jon
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Higgins

Thanks, that helps a lot!

Amir
Amir
1 year ago

Zwift works fine with amd processors and even AMD gpu’s. I really do not know why you would say that it does. It isn’t even a demanding simulation in terms of system resources. As long if you buy a fast enough recent processor from Intel or AMD you will be totally fine. It won’t matter which manufacturer you choose. There maybe is a few % single thread difference between them and to be honest Zwift isn’t a game where you would be able to notice

Wally
Wally
11 months ago

What are the chances of Zwift updating (or tweaking) their graphics in the (near) future, making it rational to slightly overspec a build to make it future proof?

Just ordered a 3300x with a 1660super, btw, based on your advice here. Thanks for the write up! Very informative.

Rai
Rai
11 months ago

Hi Dave, Great article, and in line with what I see. However, are you aware of any system settings that can help improve frame rates? Thinking bios level or otherwise? I have played with disabling Intel speedstep to force the cpu to sit at full clock speed, but still have issues with fps. Typically Zwift will run 35-60 fps, but when busy it will drop to single figures which is a waste of time. This is not consistent though. Example during the virtual Etape: I started at the back so constantly had a lot of people around me all the time.… Read more »

Rai
Rai
11 months ago
Reply to  Dave Higgins

Hi, Thanks I will take a look at the nVidia settings, take another look at CPU settings, and report back if I find any improvement. From recollection the CPU usage for Zwift varied also. It’s almost as if Zwift isn’t getting priority.

R Bhizzle
R Bhizzle
11 months ago

Thank you Dave … pandemic time is a good time for a LOT of Zwifting, and a good time to build one’s first PC too. This article was exactly what I needed to guide my build.
https://pcpartpicker.com/list/FJ93TC
Be safe, all!
RBhz

Neil Martin
Neil Martin
10 months ago

Great article, Dave! After logging 5,000km on Zwift on an iPad and a 2017 MacBook Pro, I decided to test a sesktop PC with a decent Graphics Card. I was able to get a good deal on a ‘display model’ computer with an I5-9600 and GTX 1660 Super. Wow, what a difference! I don’t think I will be returning it! My only concern is that I Zwift in my un-airconditoned garage and the ambient temperature reaches >90 degrees in the summer afternoons which puts my GPU at the high end of its workable temperature range. I have plenty of air… Read more »

Keith Nichol
Keith Nichol
8 months ago

You mention having a display as being very important but no explanation as to why.
Can you expand on this please?
Great article. Really helpful.

Keith Nichol
Keith Nichol
8 months ago
Reply to  Dave Higgins

Oooops. Missed the word port!

David Treadwell
David Treadwell
7 months ago

The new AMD Ryzen 3 processors have consistently benchmarked above Intel for single-thread perf. I suspect that the 5600X would be an ideal CPU for Zwift: super fast and reasonable price.

David Treadwell
David Treadwell
7 months ago
Reply to  Dave Higgins

Makes sense Dave. A lot has changed since March. I really appreciated your effort on this post. It has many useful insights.

Lennie
Lennie
7 months ago

Hi Dave,

UK based here. Is there any links you can provide for E-bay/Amazon or otherwise for off the shelf budget PC buy that will run Zwift optimally on 4k TV…will be the only thing run on the PC. Have zero experience with PCs so would really just appreciate plug and play option if its available?!

Thanks pal

Sam Handelman
Sam Handelman
6 months ago

Thanks Dave for your helpful article. I used your advise when updating my 11 year old i7 desktop that averaged 9 fps in Zwift! With all the focus on Ryzen and Nvidia 20xx and 30xx gpus I was able to score a Lenovo i5/1660s/16G desktop and a G-sync compatible 1080/1444hz Acer monitor all for $850. I’ve read your other articles and using the Nvidia CP, have turned on triple-bypass, vertical-sync to fast, and g-sync on. While everything is way better than my old rig, I think it could/should be better than an avg 60fps. Here area typical group ride stat… Read more »

Screenshot 2020-12-02 102654.png
Frank Wilkes
Frank Wilkes
6 months ago

Hello, I’m in the market for a new PC and was wondering if this information is up to date. Since October, many of us have been experiencing some drafting issues, so it appears the demands have increased since this was written. Is this still the best setup?

Frank Wilkes
Frank Wilkes
6 months ago
Reply to  Frank Wilkes

Here is the link to the forum article that explains the issue. Personally, the visual is less important to me than the drafting/sticky issue when riding in large groups. Group rides seem more difficult since update – General Discussion – Zwift Forums

Tanya
Tanya
5 months ago

Thanks for this article! I was wondering if anyone could help as my brain is getting a bit fried with all the info! I’m looking to buy a new pc on a budget as I’m running zwift on a rather old all-in-one with integrated graphics…..it works, but just, I would actually like to see some detail while cycling! I’ve found a Lenovo V530S-071CB for £279.Spec is 4GB ram (I will add another 4GB), 128GB SSD, [email protected] (looking on the list it doesn’t seem bad for single thread performance). I was going to add GeForce GT710 graphics card. I know it… Read more »

Tanya
Tanya
5 months ago
Reply to  Tanya

3.60GHz for the processor..not john!

Tanya
Tanya
5 months ago
Reply to  Dave Higgins

Thanks, that is very helpful

Tanya
Tanya
5 months ago
Reply to  Dave Higgins

Thanks, very helpful 🙂

Gary Jaz
Gary Jaz
4 months ago

Thank you for this article Dave. Coming late to the discussion, and a Mac user, I wonder if you could evaluate these options (from Costco) for use with a 42 inch 4K tv? https://www.costco.com/gaming-computers.html

Gary Jaz
Gary Jaz
4 months ago
Reply to  Gary Jaz

Apple TV 4k user to be more specific.

Gary Jaz
Gary Jaz
4 months ago
Reply to  Gary Jaz

So being the impatient character that I am, I purchased the Ibuypower one, with an i7-10700F 8-core 2.9 GHz cpu and an RTX 2060 6GB card. Looks better than my Apple TV, but cannot judge whether it’s been worth it yet.

John Boyle
John Boyle
4 months ago

I came across a Dell M6800 and looks like i can upgrade the GPU to the NVIDIA 980M. Would that be enough to run 1080p on Ultra? (16GB RAM, 256GB SSD in the mSATA, 4th Gen i5)

m long
m long
3 months ago

Right now I run my on Mac book. But thinking a pic might b better
but I’m not going to build. What would b the best PC for me to buy for the best zwifting?

David Velenovsky
David Velenovsky
3 months ago

I am trying to run Zwift successfully using an old Alienware Area 51desktop system. It has an intel i7 960 processor @ 3.2 GHz quad core/8 threads. It has 12 GB ram, a seagate SATA 2 HD, 2 TB @ 7200 RPM. The graphics card is an AMD radeon HD 5975. I am using a new LG 26″ freesync monitor. The smartrainer is a Kurt Kinetic 6300. As per Zwift’s instructions, I am using the companion app with my iPhone. The graphics are a bit fuzzy, but the worst thing is that even when the program indicates that the trainer… Read more »

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