Graphics card and building Zwift PC

After seeing various YouTube videos of Zwift I’m a bit jealous of the better graphics and smoother video than what I get on the Apple TV. I’m not jealous enough to spend $1000s, but I have an old asus intel i5-3330 3ghz desktop with 8gb ram I could reuse. I’ve installed Zwift on it and just watched (no Bluetooth or ant+) and it looks pretty similar to the Apple TV, but is a bit jerky in 1080P. There is no dedicated graphics card so I was expecting that.

If I buy a graphics card can I expect the ultra quality and will it be smooth? Unfortunately the most recommended card for Zwift seems to be the Nvidia gtx 1650 is currently not available, but would have been $250 (all prices CAD). What is available is the GT 1030 2gb ($130) which according to some articles I read on Zwift insider not be enough and then there is the GTX 1050Ti 4gb ($350) which I think will be good enough.

Can anyone confirm if the cheaper or more expensive of those cards will be enough to get to the ultra level of graphics on Zwift? Or if my base system just isn’t really up to it and I should just stick with the Apple TV?

This is what you are looking for.

A gtx1060 will get ultra an should not be more than $200

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Unfortunately locally the 1060 isn’t available, even on Amazon it is closer to $500 and ships from the US. Not sure if this is pandemic supply chain issues and if it is temporary or permanent.

The GTX 1060 is out of production, you’d be looking for it used. It’s fine for the 4K resolution setting.

The 960 2GB gets Ultra profile and can do 60fps in most solo ride situations on the 1440p resolution setting. They’re quite reasonably priced (relatively speaking) on the used market in the UK at present. The 1050/1050 Ti also gets Ultra and is also fine for 1440p, but that price is ridiculous. Performance in busy areas, in group events, with pace partners etc is determined by your CPU. The i5-3330 is pretty slow unfortunately so you’ll get quite a significant reduction in frame rate in those circumstances.

For reference since you mentioned it, the GT 1030 gets Medium profile at up to 1080p resolution. It’s capable of 60fps in many places (same rules apply about the CPU though) and with rider shadows is still a massive step up from Basic profile - Apple TV, phones, tablets, integrated graphics etc.

Consider joining the group if you want more information. :+1:


I just saw a 960 fot $100 on fb.

Thanks for all the info. Unfortunately it looks like pandemic pricing is in effect for graphics cards! I’ll have a look through the second hand market, but I’m not keen on buying throngs like this used.

I don’t tend to do large group rides/races so I think I’ll be ok with the lowly processor.

Chip shortage

And crypto mining crims …

I think you should be happy with the 1050 Ti - it will get you the ultra detail setting. Probably 30-50 fps with that CPU?

1050 Ti easily does 60fps in 1440p resolution when the CPU isn’t holding it back, with the exception of the usual places with tons of foliage (Watopia jungle, parts of New York and France, almost all of Makuri Islands etc). In those spots you need far more firepower - Makuri laughably so.

1050TI also doesn’t use a ton of power, so you can use your old crappy stock 350w power supply. :slight_smile: (like i did!)

sigh. i bought a 1050TI 3 years ago at $160USD and thought i was getting price gouged at the time…!


Thanks for all the info again. I joined the FB group and found the gt1030 available locally is the rubbish version (ddr4) so I won’t bother with that.

My local store has a few of the GTX 1050Ti in stock at $340. I’ll think about it today, but I’m siding with not getting gouged and sticking with what I have for now and keep an eye on the used market or if the new prices come back down.

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Look for a used 960 2GB, there’s not much in it performance wise. This is assuming you have a PSU with external PCIe power.

some 1050ti’s can draw all their power directly from the motherboard port they are plugged into - that’s probably the best bet on an old mass-produced motherboard.

if you don’t have a 6-pin PCIe power cable, i would never recommend converting a SATA cable to PCIe with this:

i repeat: don’t do that, it’s risky and stupid to mess around with power. but i would also tell you that i did it and it’s been working for 3 years…

Almost all of them, though there still some models with an external power requirement. :+1: MSI Gaming X being one. But yeah I wouldn’t personally recommend adapters even though many people have no issues with such things.

I took a closer look at the internals of the computer, specifically the power supply and the motherboard and indeed I don’t have any 6 pin power plugs on the power supply and the pci-e 16 slot appears to be version 1 so even though it should work I may not get the high quality.

I did find some used cards advertised within a 45 min drive (gt 1030 $80, gtx 960 $120 and $150), but with the stuff the computer I think I’ll leave it for now. I think I’ll wait until prices return to normal and look at building a PC without the constraints of the cheap old PC I happen to have. In the meantime I may try my work laptop (MacBook Pro) at the weekends and try see how much I value the upgraded graphics.

Thanks again for all your help. I’m definitely aware now of what I need if I do want to get a dedicated Zwift setup in the future.

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This seem like a good deal.

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Agreed, but the 960 always requires external power which needs considering and factoring into the cost either with a replacement PSU or the kind of adapter Dan mentioned.

@David_Stark The PCI x16 slot will be fine, don’t worry about that. Even with the limitations from your CPU (and don’t get me wrong, everyone has the same problem; just to different degrees) the difference in experience is still massive over integrated graphics. Remember that what you actually see doesn’t get higher than Ultra, only the resolution setting and frame rate are affected by spending more money - a lot more if 60fps is the target in all situations.

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I upgraded a desktop PC I had with the MSI GTX1050 TI ($279) and a Lenovo C32Q-20 monitor using the display port. Zwift look so much better versus my older laptop and iPad setup. You’ll enjoy it once you upgrade.

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I hope you’re using adaptive sync with that combo. :slight_smile: