Building the Best PC for Grand Theft Auto V
Last updated: August 2018
Grand Theft Auto V is one of the best-selling video games of all time. Developed by Rockstar North, it was initially released on last generation consoles way back in 2013, and only made its way to PC in April 2015. PC gamers had to wait, but our version of the game released with an entirely new first person mode, along with a more fleshed-out online mode.
This guide will take an in-depth look at GTA V’s graphical demands, and what type of PC hardware you need to play the game to your satisfaction. If you just want to know what to buy without all the in-depth analysis, you can skip to the recommendations sections.
GTA V runs on the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE), the engine that Rockstar has been using in one form or another since 2006. The game contains a lot of advanced settings, including levels of shadow detail and antialiasing that are getting more common in newer PC releases.
The game is quite tough on PC hardware. You will require a very solid build in order to play GTA V on its highest settings, especially with full anti-aliasing. With that said, the game is still playable on mid-tier machines.
Let us take a look at what Logical Increments tier you should build to play Grand Theft Auto V.
What to Buy
We recommend PC builds in "tiers," with each tier containing the most powerful, most reliable, and least expensive combination of parts for that price. We don't list the individual parts in this guide because they change frequently based on local prices and new releases. You can see the latest individual part choices for each tier at the main guide page, which is updated regularly. Open it in a new tab to compare: Logical Increments PC Parts Guide.
These benchmarks assume that all of the graphical settings in the game are set to their logical maximum, which is a way of saying High, but not Maximum settings for a few especially demanding settings. GTA V is an extremely demanding game if you turn all the settings to their aboslute maximum. You can get even better performance out of your PC if you further adjust some of the graphical settings, but we explain that in more detail below.
|Fair ($550)||Very Smooth||Smooth||Borderline||Unplayable|
|Good ($650)||Very Smooth||Smooth||Playable||Borderline|
|Very Good ($800)||Silky Smooth||Very Smooth||Playable||Borderline|
|Great ($900)||Silky Smooth||Very Smooth||Playable||Borderline|
|Superb ($1100)||Silky Smooth||Very Smooth||Smooth||Playable|
|Excellent ($1300)||Silky Smooth||Silky Smooth||Smooth||Playable|
|Outstanding ($1500)||Silky Smooth||Silky Smooth||Very Smooth||Playable|
|Exceptional ($1750)||Silky Smooth||Silky Smooth||Very Smooth||Playable|
|Enthusiast ($2500)||Silky Smooth||Silky Smooth||Very Smooth||Playable|
|Extremist ($3300)||Silky Smooth||Silky Smooth||Very Smooth||Playable|
|Monstrous ($5000+)||Silky Smooth||Silky Smooth||Silky Smooth||Very Smooth|
|Below 20 FPS||Unplayable||Jerky animation, "lag" and "stutter".|
|20-30 FPS||Borderline||Ok for some, too "laggy" for others. AKA "Cinematic".|
|30-45 FPS||Playable||Acceptable to most people. Not very good though!|
|45-60 FPS||Smooth||Fluid animation, no "lag".|
|60-90 FPS||Very Smooth||Very smooth is very smooth to almost everyone.|
|Above 90 FPS||Silky Smooth||Criminally smooth. For hardcore and professional players.|
A Note About Frame Rate (FPS)
Frames per second (FPS) measures the number of images your computer can produce every second. Higher frame rates mean that your screen will show more images per second, which means that you will see a smoother animation. Lower frame rates cause a game to appear to stutter, which is generally not enjoyable for the player.
For the purposes of our PC build guides, we recommend computers that will achieve 60 FPS in your game of choice. Some gamers are satisfied with frame rates as low as 30, but that depends largely on the gamer and the game.
For more information and animations explaining frame rate, please check out our Frame Rate page.
Higher Resolution for Better Gaming
Resolution refers to the number of pixels on a screen. High resolution means more pixels and generally more space and detail, while low resolution means fewer pixels, and often less space. If you are using a typical (not high-end) laptop or an old screen, you likely have a low resolution. When comparing screens with a similar aspect ratio, it is always better to get a higher resolution screen. Higher resolution will always looks better, as you have more real estate and a sharper picture. The image below shows the difference in real estate between common resolutions.
For more information on resolutions, check our Screen Resolution page.
GTA V Hardware Requirements and Performance
Before discussing how various PC components influence your performance with GTA V, let’s take a look at the game’s Minimum and Recommended system requirements, according to Rockstar Games:
Official Minimum System Requirements:
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Q6600 @ 2.40GHz or AMD Phenom 9850 @ 2.5GHz
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Hard Drive: 40 GB free HDD space
- Graphics Card (NVIDIA): NVIDIA 9800 GT 1GB
- Graphics Card (AMD): AMD HD 4870 1GB
Official Recommended System Specifications:
- Processor: Intel Core i5-3470 or AMD X8 FX-8350
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Hard Drive: 40 GB free HDD space
- Graphics Card (NVIDIA): NVIDIA GTX 660 2GB
- Graphics Card (AMD): AMD Radeon HD 7870 2GB
Now let’s take a look at how each component influences the game’s performance on your PC.
GTA V GPU Requirements
As with most games, your graphics card will have the greatest impact on performance in GTA V. And while the game doesn’t quite look as aesthetically strong as other modern PC games (because it was created with consoles in mind), the fact that it’s an open-world game means that the draw distance is quite long (i.e. the game renders objects that are far away from the player), which requires significant graphical power.
According to our own testing, in order to run the game on maximum settings at 1080p, the in-game counter recommends that your GPU have 4061 MB of VRAM. This is the game basically saying that you would need a GPU with at least 4GB VRAM at 1080P. It is still possible to play the game on high settings with less VRAM than this, as even Rockstar games recommends graphics cards with 2 GB of VRAM.
Note: Playing GTA V at maximum settings, compared to high or even very high, requires significantly more graphical power. Particularly, anti-aliasing settings require an extreme amount of computing power. For the following recommendations, we assume you're on high or very high settings, but not maximum.
For 60 FPS at 4K resolution, you'll need 2 GTX 1080s.
GTA V CPU Requirements
Your CPU plays a role in how well GTA V performs, but not nearly as much as your GPU. However, the CPU does play a larger role in running GTA V than it does in most other games. It is possible to notice a huge performance difference between a budget CPU and a higher-end one when it comes to playing GTA V, more so than in other games. For example, upgrading from an i3 to an i5 can provide up to a 20% performance bump. For this reason, we would recommend at least an i5-8400 for best performance at 900p or 1080p.
GTA V RAM Requirements
Rockstar’s minimum specification calls for 4 GB of RAM while the recommended specification calls for 8, which is reasonable. We recommend 8 GB for most gaming PC builds.
GTA V Game Settings
GTA V's PC version has a remarkably large amount of settings which the user can tweak. Here we will list what each does and the impact that they can have on each user’s frame rate and performance.
Texture Quality affects the amount of detail that is shown on each model. This is very VRAM intensive. There is an 802 MB difference between the highest and lowest settings, so if you are planning on using the “very high” setting then it is a good idea to have a card with a minimum of 3GB of VRAM. The change is 662 MB from normal to high. One of the most noticeable differences between the settings, as demonstrated in the screenshots, is the quality of the tile road.
Anti-aliasing, in general, is meant to smooth out the “jaggies” in images. To be slightly more specific, it is typical to see the edges of objects looking rough in game. Anti-aliasing helps to smooth these out, making it look significantly less pixelated than it otherwise would.
GTA V has three major forms of anti-aliasing. One, TXAA, is specific to NVIDIA graphics cards. The other two, FXAA and MSAA, are not. Let’s discuss the function of each of these anti-aliasing settings and the effect it has on game performance and visuals.
FXAA: FXAA, also known as Fast Approximate Anti-Aliasing, is a form of anti-aliasing that does not require a ton of computational power. There is no increase in VRAM usage with this settings on, however it does create a slight frame rate hit (about a 6% change in FPS). The reason this doesn’t have a huge performance hit is because this form of AA smooths the appearance of models based on how they appear on the screen, rather than doing an analysis of the models themselves. With this setting enabled you can expect to see slightly smoother-looking models, and the edges of objects like cars should look more realistic.
MSAA: Multisample Anti-Aliasing renders the game at a higher resolution before then proceeding to downscale it to the resolution of your monitor. This leads to a much crisper image, but it does sacrifice performance in the process. This is very systematically demanding setting that requires a lot of VRAM to work properly. With MSAA x2 on, VRAM usage increases by 133 MB, while it increases by 315 MB on x4. Finally, MSAA x8 increases usable by 678 MB, and can have up to a 60% frame rate performance hit depending on the system. Using high-level MSAA is sure to cause a change in performance, but the result will be very pretty.
TXAA: TXAA is an NVIDIA-specific form of anti-aliasing. It aims to reduce temporal anti-aliasing (flickering of objects in games). It is especially noticeable when the game is in motion or while looking at detailed, smaller objects such as trees or fences. The performance hit is almost non-existent, with only a 2% cost in terms of frame rate and no change in VRAM usage. However, it is hard to truly see the result with screenshots since this form of AA is mainly used with regards to objects in motion.
This setting is made to render more accurate environments during the game’s dusk and dawn, along with slightly increasing the shadow quality overall. It is a very difficult setting to notice, even in a side-by-side comparison. It does not cause a particularly noticeable performance hit in terms of frame rate or VRAM usage.
High Resolution Shadows
A relatively self-explanatory setting, this increases the detail level of shadows. It is most noticeable when paired with the “Sharp” Soft Shadows setting. It is a quite noticeable difference as compared to long shadows. In the screenshots, the edges of the car’s shadows is much crisper than it was before. It has a minimal frame rate hit, however it does increase VRAM usage by 384 MB.
Extended Distance Scaling
Increasing the Extended Distance Scaling Slider means that objects that are further away from the player are rendered at a higher resolution/quality than they would be if the slider were on a lower setting. In the screenshots, the buildings and foliage behind the player are of higher quality with the slider maxed out then they would otherwise be. It has an average of a 12% frame rate impact between the minimum and maximum setting, though this does differ depending on what is being rendered in the distance. This increases VRAM usage by 218 MB.
Extended Shadow Distance
Extended Shadow Distance increases the quality of shadows rendered at a higher distance from the player. Additionally, it increases the quality of the shadows at all given distances and the general accuracy of the rendering. This setting causes no noticeable performance hit with either VRAM or frame rate.
VSync, short for “Vertical Synchronization,” synchronizes your in-game frame rate with your monitor’s refresh rate. So, for example, if you have a 60 Hz monitor, your game will always try and render at the at that frame rate (60 FPS in this instance), even if it could possibly go higher. This is meant to reduce screen tearing, which is when the top and bottom of the screen are showing slightly different images.
Pause Game on Focus Loss
This setting is designed to automatically pause the game when the user switches to another application or goes to desktop. However, it can sometimes cause random pausing in player’s games, and it is generally recommended to set this to “off.”
This is one of the more self-explanatory settings. The “population density” slider simply affects how populated the streets are. This means that the higher the slider is, the more people that will be on the sidewalks and cars on the streets. The effect it has on frame rate varies greatly with location, though in more populated areas frame rate may decrease by up to 20%.
This is another one that makes sense. Increasing this slider means that there will be more variety in the vehicles and human models seen in the game. If you have this slider halfway full, your game will utilize half of the available models. Increasing it will increase the percentage of models used, therefore decreasing the odds that you will see repeated models in the games. There is neglgible FPS impact, but it does increase VRAM usage by up to 230 MB.
Distance scaling affects the amount of detail rendered at any given time, specifically in regard to the distant detail of people, textures, models, and various other things present in the background. It has no VRAM impact, but can have around a 6% hit on frame rate depending where you are in the game.
This setting affects the fidelity of the lighting in the game along with the overall quality of effects used. This is best seen when it comes to water and foliage in-game. The water appears far more shiny and realistic with this setting turned up. Grass also appears to have a lot more detail, as turning up this setting affects shading, anisotropic filtering, and fine-detail texturing. This is a very important setting when it comes to making your game look as realistic as possible. It increases VRAM usage by 12 MB on it highest setting, but has around a 8-12% FPS impact.
This setting is one of the two (along with High Resolution Shadows) that is most important when it comes to the visuals of the game’s shadows. It affects the accuracy of the shadows presented, along with the resolution and definition seen in said shadows. It has a 177 MB increase in VRAM usage on very high, while it is only 81 on high. There is a 2-9% impact on frame rate, depending where you are in the game.
As the name implies, this setting improves the reflections found on all surfaces in the game. This is noticeable on vehicles, windows, water, and other shiny surfaces such as the occasional wall or floor. This is especially noticeable in the game when it is raining. VRAM usage can increase by either 7, 33, or 135 MB, depending on how high of a setting you pick. The frame rate impact generally is about 18% in our testing, though it varies with location.
Reflection MSAA (short for Multisample Anti-Aliasing) reduces reflection aliasing. It is hardly noticeable, but does change reflections slightly. It has a 22, 57, or 89 MB increase in VRAM depending on how high you go, and around a 6% impact on frame rate.
Water quality is a graphical setting that is extremely important to making the game look as visually impressive as possible. At its most basic, this setting helps the water look better. Extrapolating on this, it adds more depth of color to the water, as well as increasing the quantity and visual fidelity of water particles. It is not an extremely demanding setting, and in our testing, frame rate only decreased by 5-7% while on the beach. Additionally, it only requires 8MB of VRAM to run properly, so it should be able to be used in many low-memory cards.
This setting mainly affects explosions, which are randomized to begin with. Even ignoring outside factors such as physics, weather, and location, it is hard to get a solid baseline of comparison. However, this setting affects the particles rendered in the explosion and the fidelity of them. It has virtually no FPS impact (only a small one during the explosions, naturally) and uses no additional VRAM.
This setting is generally not noticeable in terms of what it changes. However, it is very noticeable while in forests. This setting increases/adds additional foliage in certain scenes (including bushes, flowers, etc.) and improves what is already present (such as the quality of bark on trees). Generally, it has a non-existent FPS hit, however it can be gigantic when in forests, to a point where very expensive systems will chug a bit. At these points, it is actually the most difficult setting to run on ultra in the entire game, with up to a 40% FPS hit. Regardless, it uses no VRAM.
Soft Shadows is a setting that aims to make the game look more realistic. Light has a tendency to leave soft edges on shadows in real life, and this setting makes it look similarly in the game. PCSS (NVIDIA Percentage Closer Soft Shadows) is an NVIDIA-exclusive setting in soft shadows that is meant to progressively soften them as distance increases. The change from softest to sharpest has about a 5% frame rate hit, though this does increase in areas with lots of shadows, and it has no change in VRAM usage.
Post FX is a setting that encompasses a lot of features that help to make the game look prettier. These include lens flare, glare, God rays, depth of field, dynamic lighting, and more. It increases VRAM usage by 8 MB by turning on high and 51 MB with either ultra or very high enabled. It is a quite demanding setting, with a roughly 20% FPS drop with ultra enabled.
Motion Blur Strength
This setting has no real graphical impact and is mainly turned on due to personal preference. It makes objects/models appear to streak when passing them with rapid movement or while turning the character’s field of vision relatively quickly. It has no FPS or VRAM hit.
In-Game Depth of Field Effects
This is another setting that really doesn’t have any graphical impact and should be turned on/off based on whether you like what it does. It blurs parts of the screen when looking down a scope, getting into cars, and looking around object. It has no VRAM impact but can have up to about a 5% impact in terms of frame rate.
Anisotropic filtering sharpens textures that are viewed on an angle. Additionally, it makes textures that are in the distance appear more clear than they otherwise would. It has a very small impact, with no change in VRAM usage and only a minimal FPS impact.
This setting impacts shadows that are formed when two objects or surfaces meet. It is additionally seen when an object is blocking another from getting light. It adds a good ammount of detail with regards to accenting details and adding soft shadows. It is not a particularly demanding, and only uses 3 MB of VRAM on its highest setting and has minimal frame rate impact.
Tessellation adds extra geometric detail to various models in the game, including characters, objects, and general surfaces. It is a relatively important setting, and is noticeable in terms of the overall visual quality. It has no VRAM impact and actually has only a negligible impact on frame rate.
High Detail Streaming While Flying
This setting is effectively a detail setting for while you are flying. It affects how much is rendered while in the air, and can help to decrease pop-in while flying. Regardless, however, there will be some degree of pop-in that is noticeable regardless of the setting used. It causes a frame rate hit of about 8-10% and does not increase VRAM usage.
Choosing the Best Settings for GTA V
Grand Theft Auto V is a very demanding game. If your computer can manage to get at least a steady 60 FPS with all settings at their maximum, we recommend that you keep those settings. If you are getting below 60 FPS, though, you can try lowering some of the game settings.
Unfortunately, lowering multiple settings will not have a cumulative effect on framerate: If a setting give 10% improvement, and another gives 10%, lowering both will not give 20%, but between 10-12%.
To improve your framerate, try the following steps, ordered by how they affect the game's visuals.
Anti-aliasing: This has some of the largest impact on performance. If you want to get higher FPS in GTA V, we recommend turning down your anti-aliasing settings, as long as you don't mind the effect on visuals.
Improve FPS (slightly) with little to no impact on visuals:
- Distance Scaling: Lower this to under 30%.
- Shadow Quality: Lower this to either High or Normal.
- Reflection MSAA: Lower this from 8x MSAA to at least 4x MSAA.
- Water Quality: Lower this to Normal.
Improve FPS (moderately) with a small impact on visuals, in addition to the above:
- Extended Distance Scaling: Lower this to under 30%.
- Shader Quality: Lower this to Normal.
- Reflection Quality: Lower this to either High or Normal.
Improve FPS (by a large amount) with a moderate impact on visuals, in addition to the above:
- Population Density: Lower this to between 25 and 0%.
- Grass Quality: This makes the biggest difference if you are getting frame rate drops in heavily forested areas. Lower this to normal.
- Post FX: Lower this to normal or high.
- Turn MSAA off.
Very last resort:
- Set everything as low as you can tolerate.
If you try all of the above and still can’t run the game as smoothly as you would like, you may need to upgrade your hardware.
Logical Increments Tiers and How They Fare
To determine how your PC will perform GTA V, you’ll need to consider three things:
- The resolution you want to play at (usually your screen’s native resolution)
- How much graphical detail you want
- How smoothly you want the gameplay to run
For our purposes, we aim for a very smooth 60+ FPS with the graphical settings turned all the way up. If you’re willing to lower any graphical settings, or you’re happy with frame rates lower than 60 FPS, you can get by with an even lower-tier PC.
Below, we list the the tiers on our parts list that would achieve that 60 FPS baseline with GTA V at a range of progressively more demanding screen resolutions. If you are satisfied with lower than 60 FPS, you can get away with getting lower-quality hardware than what we recommend here.
You’ll likely need our Extremist tier PC, with 2 GTX 1080s and the TR 1920X, to get 60 FPS with maximum settings on a 4K monitor. That PC will cost you roughly $3300. (Note: You would be fine getting a cheaper CPU, such as the i7-8700K.)
Once again: With GTA V, you want to make sure your GPU packs a punch. You should also make sure your CPU can handle the game's open world.
We hope this guide has helped you determine the hardware you’ll need to play GTA V to your satisfaction, and what settings to use to help strike a balance between good visuals and good performance. If you want to do any more research on PC hardware, visit our homepage.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matthew Zehner is a contributing writer for Logical Increments
Logical Increments helps more than a million PC builders each year with hardware recommendations for any budget.