Building the Best PC for Mass Effect: Andromeda


Last updated: August 2018

Mass Effect: Andromeda is a story-driven action game with a few additional multiplayer modes. It is the 4th entry in the Mass Effect series, with a story set apart from the original Mass Effect Trilogy. In the game, players are tasked with ensuring the survival of humanity by finding a new home in the Andromeda galaxy.

This guide takes a close look at Andromeda’s graphical settings and the impact they have on the game. We'll also give you a good idea of the kind of PC hardware you'll need to run Mass Effect: Andromeda to your own personal satisfaction. If you just want to know what to buy without all the in-depth analysis, you can skip to the Recommendations Section.

If you already have a PC but want to know what settings to use for best performance, check out the Graphical Settings section.

Mass Effect: Andromeda is built on EA’s Frostbite 3 engine, the same engine used for Battlefield 1 and Star Wars: Battlefront. Considering how visually impressive the gameplay is, Andromeda runs very well on the average modern PC gaming setup.

To get started, let's take a look at what Logical Increments tiers are best for playing Mass Effect: Andromeda.

What to Buy

At Logical Increments, 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.

The following performance metrics are based on playing the game at Ultra, also known as maximum settings:

Tier 1600x900 1920x1080 2560x1440 3840x2160
Destitute ($175) Unplayable Unplayable Unplayable Unplayable
Poor ($250) Unplayable Unplayable Unplayable Unplayable
Minimum ($330) Unplayable Unplayable Unplayable Unplayable
Entry ($400) Borderline Borderline Unplayable Unplayable
Modest ($500) Playable Playable Unplayable Unplayable
Fair ($550) Playable Playable Borderline Unplayable
Good ($650) Smooth Smooth Playable Unplayable
Very Good ($800) Very Smooth Smooth Playable Unplayable
Great ($900) Very Smooth Smooth Playable Unplayable
Superb ($1100) Silky Smooth Very Smooth Smooth Borderline
Excellent ($1300) Silky Smooth Very Smooth Smooth Borderline
Outstanding ($1400) 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 Silky Smooth Playable
Monstrous ($5000+) Buttery Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Smooth
Explanation
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.
90-144 FPS Silky Smooth Criminally smooth. For hardcore and professional players.
144+ FPS Buttery Smooth The smoothest of smooth. When you need a constant framerate on the fastest monitors available (144Hz).

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 not enjoyable.

A comparison of 50, 25, and 12.5 FPS.

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

A comparison of several common resolutions.

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.


Mass Effect: Andromeda Hardware Requirements and Performance

Before discussing how various PC components influence Andromeda's performance, let’s take a look at the game’s minimum and recommended specifications, according to EA:

Official Minimum System Requirements:

  • GPU: NVIDIA GTX 660 or AMD HD 7850 (modern equivalent: RX 560)
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-6600K or AMD FX-6350 (modern equivalent: i5-8400)
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM

Official Recommended System Specifications:

These official specifications are relatively intense for a modern PC game. However, as other Frostbite 3 games have shown us, you can still play Andromeda fairly well with computer specs below the minimum. Particularly when it comes to the CPU requirements, the game runs quite well on CPUs weaker than the i5-6600K

That said, if you are looking to build a PC that roughly matches the minimum requirements detailed here, we would recommend our Modest tier at logicalincrements.com, priced at roughly $550. To match the recommended specs, we’d turn to the Great tier, with the i5-8600K.

Recommended CPUs for Mass Effect: Andromeda

The Frostbite 3 engine is one of the best on the market when it comes to multi-thread performance and will take advantage of more than 4 cores. Those of you who have recently purchased new Ryzen processors will particularly be happy with the performance you will get for the price when playing Andromeda.

For gaming on Ultra settings at 1080p with 60 FPS, we would recommend at least a dual-core hyperthreaded Intel CPU, such as the Pentium G4560. That said, you will get better performance with a recent quad-core-or-more CPU, such as the i5-8400.

For gaming at Ultra on resolutions above 1080p (i.e. 1440p or 4K), we recommend at least the i5-8400—or even better, the i5-8600K.

For the very best high-resolution performance on the market, go for the Intel i7-8700K or the R7 2700X.

Recommended GPUs for Mass Effect: Andromeda

For how impressive the game looks, we must give BioWare a nod for the impressive optimization on the game. Because of this, you can take advantage of some very impressive graphics settings to improve your experience without requiring huge amounts of power from your graphics card.

For gaming on Ultra settings at 1080p with 60 FPS, we recommend at least the GTX 1060 3GB or the RX 570.

For Ultra settings at 1440p with 60 FPS, we recommend the GTX 1060 6GB or the RX 580.

To get close to 60 FPS on Ultra at 4K resolution, you’ll need the GTX 1080 or even the GTX 1080 Ti.


Mass Effect: Andromeda Graphical Settings

Andromeda's graphical settings influence the game’s appearance and, by extension, affect how the game performs on your system. The game also includes a Resolution Scale setting that adjusts the game’s rendering resolution, meaning that you can render the game at a higher or lower resolution than your native resolution.

In this section, we’ll examine how each graphical setting affects the game’s visuals and performance.

Graphics Quality Presets

Along with a number of general modes, Mass Effect Andromeda also comes with an auto-detect feature which so far seems to be pretty accurate to what people's PCs can handle. The quality presets are ideal for those who don't want to touch individual settings, allowing you to change multiple settings at once.

From testing, going straight from Ultra preset down to Low results in a 70-75% performance improvement, although this obviously has a significant impact in the game's visuals.

In general, we’ve found that you’re better off adjusting the individual settings to cater your performance and visuals to your particular needs and tastes.

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Drag the cursor to compare all settings on Low and on Ultra.

Chromatic Aberration

This is a post-process effect that simulates a more natural diffusion of light. Generally speaking, this is a very subtle effect in the game and only really shows off as part of the overall lighting effect. If you are running on lower qualities, this will be turned off by default.

Performance impact: ~2-4% between Off and On.

Texture Filtering

This setting relates to how the textures are applied to 3D models. In Andromeda, it applies to the overall texture shape and blocking on the models. It does not impact the quality of the textures used overall, as BioWare has provided separate settings for those in this game.

Performance impact: ~3-5% between Low and Ultra.

Resolution Scaling

Resolution Scale downsamples or supersamples the rendering resolution of the game. Lowering the setting will make the game look more blurry, but will improve performance dramatically. Bioware have included a number of set resolution presets or you can adjust the scale manually. Anything below 1 will downscale relative to your game resolution, with going above it will start to supersample the game.

Performance impact: ~65% performance loss when increasing from 0.42 to 1.

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Drag the cursor to compare Resolution Scaling at 0.42 and at 1.0.

Antialiasing

Antialiasing smooths out edges of geometric objects in the game, eliminating jaggedness. Turning it off can give your PC a much easier time but expect your visual experience to drop accordingly.

Performance impact: ~10-12% between Off and TAA

Ambient Occlusion

This setting affects the shading of the game’s environment. Turning it up can add a lot of detail and depth to the game’s visuals, but at a fairly significant performance cost.

Performance impact: ~10-15% between Off and HBAO

Shadow Quality

One of the more painfully obvious settings in the game is the overall shadow quality. In a game such as Andromeda, with a large number of people, objects, and light sources, turning the shadows down to low has a very noticeable impact on the quality of the shadows in the game.

Performance impact: ~10-15% between Low and Ultra.

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Drag the cursor to compare Shadow Quality on Low and on Ultra.

Texture Quality

This affects the appearance of the game’s textures, which cover the game’s characters and environment. Higher-quality textures eat up VRAM, which can affect performance on lower-end graphics cards.

Performance impact: ~2-3% between Low and Ultra.

Effects Quality

The Effects Quality setting in Andromeda covers a few things. Like in other games, it includes explosions, yet this setting (along with things like lighting quality) also impacts the look of biotic skills in the game. That being said, even the low quality explosions look pretty good. Their short-lasting nature gives a whole 'blink and you miss it' feel to them at first, yet later on in the game with bigger effects for improved skills, this could have a larger impact on your performance.

Performance impact: ~3-4% between Low and Ultra.

Terrain Quality

This setting influences the appearance of the ground. Going from Ultra to Low will make the terrain look more two dimensional (flat) and less detailed overall.

Performance impact: ~10-12% between Low and Ultra. Can vary depending on the planet you are on and the size of the area loaded.

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Drag the cursor to compare Terrain Quality on Low and on Ultra.

Lighting Quality

The lighting quality setting primarily affects the game’s lighting effects. This impacts both the light source quality in the game, as well as other sources of light, like biotic skills. On low, lighting is not as detailed, yet still doesn't look awful if you're looking to save on performance.

Performance impact: ~5-8% between Low and Ultra.

Mesh Quality

This setting affects the model detail of objects far away from the player. By itself it doesn't have a huge impact, but when you combine it with settings, it can have a greater overall impact on visuals.

Performance impact: ~5% between Low and Ultra.

Vegetation Quality

To have vegetation or not to have it, that is the question. This setting directly impacts the volume of the various vegetation in the game, resulting in there simply being less of it on low compared to ultra. This is a planet specific change, so on some you might not miss it as much as others.

Performance impact: ~5% between Low and Ultra.

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Drag the cursor to compare Vegetation Quality on Low and on Ultra.

Post Process Quality

This setting influences certain effects after their initial rendering, such as light blooms, depth of field, and color correction. Expect this to have a moderate performance cost, mainly due to the various visual processes this impacts. On the Frostbite engine, you can expect to be dazzled by the visuals if you're running this on ultra.

Performance impact: ~10-12% between Low and Ultra.

Choosing the Best Settings for Mass Effect: Andromeda

So long as your PC can handle a stable 60 FPS with all the settings turned up at your desired resolution, then to get the best in-game experience we recommend just leaving them as they are. As noted earlier in this guide, the automatic detection does a great job at adjusting the game settings to suit what your PC can handle, so if you're unsure we would recommend leaving this by default.

However, if you’re not reaching 60 FPS, or if you have a specialized monitor with a higher refresh rate and want to get even better performance, there are certain settings you can lower to improve your framerate without sacrificing too much in the way of visuals.

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 possibly between 10-15%.

Improve FPS considerably with little to no impact on visuals

  • Set Post Process Quality to Medium or Low
  • Set Terrain Quality to Medium or Low

Improve FPS by larger amounts with moderate impact to visuals

  • Set Effects Quality to Medium or Low
  • Set Lighting Quality to Medium or Low

Last Resorts

If doing all of the steps above still does not achieve your desired framerate, try some of the following:

  • Lower Antialiasing
  • Set Ambient Occlusion to Off
  • Very last resort: Lower the Resolution Scale to 30 or even 20. Lowering the Resolution Scale will make the game look more pixelated, but it will significantly improve performance.

If you try all of the above and still can’t run the game, you need to set the game to the Low preset, or upgrade your hardware.


Logical Increments Tiers and How They Fare

To determine how your PC will perform with Mass Effect: Andromeda, you’ll need to consider three things:

  1. The resolution you want to play at (usually your screen’s native resolution)
  2. How much graphical detail you want
  3. How smoothly you want the gameplay to run

For our purposes, we aim for a very smooth 60+ FPS with the graphical settings turned to High. If you’re willing to lower any graphical settings, or you’re happy with framerates 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 on maximum graphical settings at a range of progressively more demanding screen resolutions.

1600 x 900

The Good tier, featuring the GTX 1060 3GB and the R5 2600, will get you very smooth performance in Andromeda at 1600x900. At this resolution, you can downgrade the CPU to the G4560 to save $100, and get almost as much performance.

1920 x 1080 (1080p)

The Superb tier, featuring the GTX 1070 and the R7 2700, will get very smooth performance at 1080p.

2560 x 1440 (1440p)

The Outstanding tier, featuring the GTX 1080 and the i7-8700K, will get very smooth performance at 1440p.

3840 x 2160 (4K)

To get close to 60 FPS at 4K in Mass Effect Andromeda, you’ll need a Monstrous tier PC, which features 2x GTX 1080 Tis.


Conclusion

To play Mass Effect Andromeda to its full potential, you need a fairly powerful PC. Like other Frostbite games before it, BioWare have made Mass Effect Andromeda look visually impressive. However, considering its AAA-quality looks, the game is pretty well optimised. Players who are running multiple CPU cores and a decent graphics card will find themselves having the best time here. But even less powerful PCs can manage to play the game with lower graphical settings, which still results in a game that is visually appealing.

We hope this guide has helped you understand the necessary PC hardware for running Mass Effect Andromeda to your satisfaction. If you want to do further research on PC hardware, please visit our main PC parts list on our homepage.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below, or email us at contact@logicalincrements.com.

About Us

Chris is a contributing writer for Logical Increments, and has worked in the gaming and technology industries as a community manager for many years, as well as a live streamer. He has been building PC's for over 11 years.

When Chris is not here creating builds and guides, he can be found at University, studying for a BSc in Video Production as he makes the transition over to the film industry from gaming. You can read more about his journey on his website.

Thanks to low latency (FTL) streaming, Chris can respond to viewers plus they can interact with him and the stream in nearly real time. Simply come down to his channel Monday - Friday, 3-6pm and 8-11pm (UK time) to see for yourself!

Logical Increments helps more than a million PC builders each year with hardware recommendations for any budget.

Sources

  1. Source used for making the image comparison slider
  2. Mass Effect Andromeda System Requirements
  3. Kotaku Mass Effect Andromeda GPU Benchmarks
  4. Digital Trends Mass Effect Andromeda Performance Guide