Best Workstation Computer for 3D Modeling and Rendering

CG Director Author Alex  by Alex   ⋮   ⋮   909 comments
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Best Workstation Computer for 3D Modeling and Rendering

The most interesting thing about looking for a Computer or Workstation for 3D Modeling and Rendering, is the fact that 3D Modeling and (CPU) Rendering are two very different use cases.

Both use the Hardware of a Computer in very different ways!

Before we dive into it, take a quick look at the Table of contents here, in case you prefer to skip the theory and want to know my recommendations immediately:

CPU Rendering

CPU Rendering uses all cores of your CPU, 100% of the time while rendering.

This means, if you’ll use your Workstation just for 3D Rendering Images and Animations, or encoding Videos for that matter, you would be looking for a Computer with a CPU, that has as many cores as possible

Even if these cores are clocked relatively low.

This is because the render engine assigns a so-called “bucket” to each core in your CPU. Each individual core will render its bucket and then get a new bucket once it’s finished rendering the old one.

Perfect for Multi-Core CPUs.

CPU Rendering CPU Cores Buckets

3D Modeling

Contrary to rendering, 3D modeling is an active working process.

You (usually) sit in front of your computer and interact with the 3D Software.

Actively using a Software utilizes the Hardware it is running on in entirely different ways.

Take this example: I am modeling a car. That Car consists of Polygons that will have modifiers and Deformers applied to it, such as Mirroring, Cloning, Bending Objects and so on.

Your computer has to go through some serious calculations to process all this, but the key here is that these calculations are mainly done on only a SINGLE CPU Core.

Why? Because the Scene is built according to a certain hierarchy. A CPU has to work its way through this hierarchy step by step.

It can’t skip or off-load certain steps to other cores, because most of the steps depend on each other!

hierarhcyOrderOfExecution

What does this mean?

It means quite frankly that having lots of CPU-Cores will do nothing towards speeding up your modeling and does not usually make your Viewport faster.

Long explanation short:

For Modeling and actively working in your 3D Scene,  you would need to get a CPU that has the highest Clock Speed possible.

It doesn’t matter if it only has a few Cores, as most of these Cores won’t be used for modeling.

Take a look at this page to find the highest clocking CPUs currently available.

Same is also valid for working on Computer Animations or for running a CAD Workstation. A high-Clocking CPU will almost always outperform a high-Core-count CPU.

If you had to pick one: Which do you consider your main 3D Software?
  • Blender 29%, 1897 votes
    1897 votes 29%
    1897 votes - 29% of all votes
  • 3ds Max 23%, 1492 votes
    1492 votes 23%
    1492 votes - 23% of all votes
  • Maya 16%, 1028 votes
    1028 votes 16%
    1028 votes - 16% of all votes
  • Cinema 4D 13%, 829 votes
    829 votes 13%
    829 votes - 13% of all votes
  • Revit 7%, 429 votes
    429 votes 7%
    429 votes - 7% of all votes
  • Zbrush 5%, 344 votes
    344 votes 5%
    344 votes - 5% of all votes
  • Other 4%, 274 votes
    274 votes 4%
    274 votes - 4% of all votes
  • Houdini 3%, 175 votes
    175 votes 3%
    175 votes - 3% of all votes
  • Modo 1%, 60 votes
    60 votes 1%
    60 votes - 1% of all votes
  • Artlantis 0%, 22 votes
    22 votes
    22 votes - 0% of all votes
  • Katana 0%, 12 votes
    12 votes
    12 votes - 0% of all votes
Total Votes: 6562
10. Apr, 2019

The more Cores and the higher the clock speed, the better, right?

It’s now tempting to think you should get a CPU with lots of cores AND high clock speeds. After all, then we’ll have a workstation on which we can work fast AND which can render fast, right?

Unfortunately, because of power consumption and heat limits, there usually is a proportional trade-off between the number of CPU-cores and clock-speeds.

This means the more Cores the CPU has, the lower it will usually clock and vice versa.

The faster the Cores are clocked, the fewer cores there usually are on the CPU.

Many Cores need lots of Power and lots of Power produces lots of heat. CPUs have thermal regulations that need to be adhered to. The same applies to higher clocked cores that will be hotter than lower clocked cores.

This is quite a bummer, but it’s 2019 and the major CPU Manufacturers wouldn’t be all that major if they hadn’t found a way to improve upon this.

AMD and Intel have thought of a nice way of compensating for some of these trade-offs.

Enter Turbo-Boost.

Turbo-Boost (Turbo-Core)

Turbo-Boost is a feature that automatically overclocks Cores until thermal and power limits are reached. Depending on the Quality of cooling, duration can vary.

Say we are currently modeling and are only really using 1-2 Cores, the rest of the Cores are idle.

What Turbo boost does now is overclock these 1-2 Cores as far as specified by the manufacturer and as long as the Power Consumption and Temperature stays within the predefined limit.

As soon as these limits are reached, the Turbo-Boost will clock these two cores back down.

turboBoost

Image-Source: Intel

This way, to a certain degree, we can get CPUs with more Cores (and a low base-clock), that clock higher on limited cores, when needed and not all cores are being used.

CPU vs GPU Rendering

There are currently two popular methods of Rendering Images and Animations in 3D Software: CPU Rendering and GPU Rendering.

Are you mainly rendering on the GPU or CPU?
  • Mainly GPU 56%, 2333 votes
    2333 votes 56%
    2333 votes - 56% of all votes
  • Mainly CPU 44%, 1809 votes
    1809 votes 44%
    1809 votes - 44% of all votes
Total Votes: 4142
12. Apr, 2019

As you probably guessed, CPU Rendering utilizes the Processor for calculating the Image, and GPU Rendering utilizes the Graphics Card.

There are some differences in GPU and CPU rendering that you want to be aware of when choosing a new Computer or Workstation for 3D Rendering and Modeling:

First of all, almost every popular 3D Software comes with an inbuilt CPU Render Engine nowadays.

Only recently have GPU Render Engines such as Octane, Redshift,  V-RAY RT or FurryBall become mature enough to slowly but surely overtake CPU Render Engines in popularity.

In popularity, because GPU Render Engines are much faster in many cases and allow for extremely interactive preview Renderers.

This can improve and accelerate a 3D-Artists Workflow by a tenfold as you are able to iterate more often before finishing a project.

Furryball

Image-Source: furryball.aaa-studio.eu

Beginners are often told to start with 3D Rendering on the CPU and later switch to (often) costly 3rd Party GPU Render Engines when they have learned enough to properly utilize them.

I think this is about to change.

Just look at Blenders in-built Cycles GPU Render Engine and Cinema 4Ds new ProRender GPU Render Engine.  Both GPU render engines are built into the software itself and don’t rely on third-party plugins.

If you had to pick one: Which do you consider your main Render Engine?

Best individual Hardware Parts for 3D Modeling and Rendering explained

But enough talk! Let’s take a look at what specific Computer Parts you’ll need for the best Computer or Workstation for 3D Modeling and Rendering:

Best Processor (CPU) for 3D Modeling and Rendering

For Active Work: Intel i9 9900K

As explained above, you’ll have to make a decision depending on what you will use your computer most for.

Do you use it mainly to Model, Sculpt, Texture, Light, Animate and you spend much more time actively on it, than rendering on it?

Then you’ll want a CPU that is clocked as high as possible!

Good choices here are:

  • Intel i9 9900K, 8-Cores, Clocked at 3,6 GHz Base, 5 GHz TurboBoost
  • Intel i7 9700K, 8-Cores, Clocked at 3,6 GHz Base, 4,9 GHz TurboBoost (No Hyperthreading)
  • AMD Ryzen 9 3900X, 12-Cores, Clocked at 3,8 GHz Base, 4,6 GHz TurboBoost (Turbo Core)
  • AMD Ryzen 7 3700X, 8-Cores, Clocked at 3,6 GHz Base, 4,4 GHz TurboBoost (Turbo Core)
AMD Ryzen vs i7 8700K

Image-Source: AMD/Intel

A great benchmark for finding CPUs that are the snappiest is the Cinebench Single Core Benchmark.

Take a look at this page with Cinebench R20 Benchmarks and sort the Table on the “Cinebench Single” column to find the CPU that will give your workstation the best performance when you’re actively working on it.

What CPU Core-Feature is more valuable / important to you?

If you have the budget for an AMD Ryzen 9 3900X, this CPU is currently the best CPU for active Work such as Modeling and Animation. It also sports 12 Cores which gives you nice multi-core rendering performance.

Texturing 3D Models and painting or sculpting, too, need a high-clocking CPU. So if you consider yourself a Graphic Designer, the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X is an excellent choice.

For Render Work? AMD Threadripper CPUs such as the Threadripper 2950X!

Do you use this Workstation less for active work and more to Render out your Projects? Do you spend more time on Rendering than on actually sitting in front of it?

You should consider going into a high core-count direction which are the best CPUs for Rendering (Or if you want a second Computer just for Rendering on).

Good choices here are:

  • AMD Threadripper 2920X, 2950X, 2970WX, 2990WX – 12-32 Cores – Highly Recommended!
  • Intel i9 9900X, 9920X, 9960X, 9980XE – 10-18 Cores (quite expensive)

If you want to use VRAY, as it is one of the most popular Render Engines available, have a look at the following page to get an overview of the VRAY CPU Benchmarks Results.

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3D Rendering

Image-Source: overclock.net

Which CPU are you planning on Buying?

Best Graphics Card (GPU) for 3D Modeling and Rendering

Best GPU for GPU Rendering: GPU Rendering is becoming more popular as we speak and is likely to overtake CPU Rendering in the near future.

Some of the most popular modern GPU Render Engines are Octane, Redshift, VRAY-RT, and Cycles. The first two only support NVIDIA GPUs, while the latter also support AMD (OpenCL) GPUs.

Personally, I prefer recommending GPUs that work with any of the above Render Engines (CUDA Support), so here are a few NVIDIA GPUs in order of Performance that will give you excellent GPU Rendering Speed:

The Nvidia Graphics Card List could go on, but I think you get the gist.

The higher the number, the faster and the more expensive they get.

Nvidia GPUs 3D Modeling and Rendering

Image-Source: gamespot.com

Here is a GPU Render Benchmark overview if you’d like to compare the cost to performance in a bit more detail.

Other great GPU Benchmarks to take a look at are the VRAY-RT, Octane, and Redshift benchmarks.

Best GPU for Viewport performance

As the Processor is usually the bottleneck in having a snappy Viewport, Graphics Cards shouldn’t usually make a noticeable difference, if you buy good enough.

All the GPUs listed above will perform roughly the same in Viewport performance.

This is because there are rarely features in 3D Applications, that the GPU computes slower than it takes the CPU to update Meshes, Deformers and the like.

In other words: The GPU usually has to wait for the CPU to finish its tasks to continue working.

This being said, if you rely heavily on In-Viewport SSAO, Reflections, AO, Anti-Aliasing and the like, you might want to lean towards the top of the above GPU list for a snappy Viewport.

But for most, a high clocked-CPU will make a much larger difference.

Let’s pick the Nvidia RTX 2070 for our Best Computer for 3D Modeling and Rendering, as it has excellent GPU-Render value and is fast enough for any kind of Viewport challenges.

A quick heads-up:

In rare cases if you only use a few extremely high-poly RAW meshes (such as a CAD-Converted Car with 40 Million Polygons) and you don’t have any modifiers on this mesh, then the GPU will probably be the bottleneck as your workstation only has to update the viewing angle of the Car and not the meshes underlying structure.

How much and what Type of RAM (Memory) do you need for 3D Modeling and Rendering?

Similar to the CPU, the amount and type of memory (RAM) you’ll need will depend on your use case.

If you work on models with extremely high polygon counts, you will want more RAM than if you usually only do lightweight 3D work with simpler scenes.

I recommend 32GB of RAM for most 3D Artists.

If you sculpt or work on high-poly meshes, use lots of large textures or have complex scenes with thousands of objects in them, you might want to go with 64GB of RAM.

16 GB of RAM can be enough for many starting out with 3D, but usually, you outgrow this quite quickly.

Corsair RAM for Computer for 3D Modeling and Rendering

Image-Source: gskill

RAM speeds & timing can normally be ignored, as these don’t make much of a difference performance-wise.

Getting DDR4-4166 RAM won’t be noticeably faster than DDR4-2666 RAM.

That said, AMD Threadripper does benefit more from higher clocked RAM than Intel CPUs do. This is due to the fact, that some components on Threadripper CPUs are linked to the Memory Clock speed.

So having Quad Channel Memory that is clocked at 2933Mhz might give you a few percents more performance on Threadripper CPUs.

If you do like to optimize your hardware as much as possible, the rule is usually:

The lower the CL and higher the Clock Speed, the better. So a DDR4-3200 CL15 would be slightly faster than a DDR4-2800 CL16 for example.

The new 3rd gen AMD Ryzen CPUs too, benefit from higher clocked RAM.

A note on RAM Kits

When buying RAM, buy the full amount in a single RAM kit. RAM Kits (which are RAM Modules packaged together) are pre-tested in the Factory and will work well together.

Although people often say you can buy some RAM now and add some more laterRAM modules sometimes don’t work well together.

So if you are getting entirely new RAM for your PC, be sure to get (for example) 4x8GB in a KIT and not 2x8GB + 2x8GB in two separate KITs.

Why should RAM in different KITs be different from each other?

The reason why RAM in different kits differ from each other is because they can be manufactured in different factories and different factory lines that use slightly different silicon, or because one RAM module might have been manufactured in 2017, while the other module was manufactured in 2019. You don’t know for sure that the timing on the RAM will be exactly the same between modules from different factories or different manufacturing dates.

My point is: get a kit that’s pre-tested.

Good RAM Brands are G.Skill, ADATA, Crucial and Corsair such as the Corsair 16GB Vengeance LPX Ram Kit or this 32GB Corsair RAM Kit.

Best Motherboard for 3D Modeling and Rendering

The Motherboard or Mainboard is the Hub that connects all of your hardware components together.

It’s unlikely to impact performance all that much, but you should make sure it has all the features you need. Some important things to take note of are:

  • CPU Socket type: Different CPUs need different Sockets. Make sure your motherboard has the right socket for your CPU.
  • Memory Maximum: Some Motherboards/Chipsets can only support a certain amount of RAM and only have a certain number of RAM slots. Make sure it supports the amount of RAM you want.
  • Max # of GPUs: Motherboards support a certain number of GPUs and have a certain amount of PCIe slots and lanes that your GPU will use. Make sure you have enough for the number of GPUs you want.
  • Support for M.2 (NVME Drives): If you want an M.2 PCIe drive, make sure your motherboard supports this kind of drive (the motherboard’s manual is your friend).
  • Size of the Motherboard: Motherboards comes in different sizes. Make sure your motherboard fits inside your computer case (and vice versa too, of course).

I understand this might start to sound a bit complicated, and perhaps a bit too much to handle, particularly if you’re a first-time PC builder.

This is why I have built a few workstations for you, so you won’t have to figure out every detail on your own.

If you are leaning towards a 3rd gen Ryzen build, do check out this Article on what Motherboards are best for Ryzen 3000 Series CPUs.

Best Storage for 3D Modeling and Rendering

The speed of the storage is responsible for a few things:

  • Saving and loading your scene Files
  • Storing and loading your Textures, Assets, References
  • Swapping to disk if your RAM is full
  • Launching your Software

If you want to load your scenes quickly, you’ll need a fast disk.

A feature like autosave (which I highly recommend you always have ON) will save your scene faster if you have a fast disk. On the other hand, a blazingly fast disk won’t do much for your performance once your scene is loaded into RAM.

I recommend going for at least a SATA SSD such as the Samsung 860 EVO for your OS and your Scene Files.

Consider a PCI-E M.2 SSD such as the Samsung 970 EVO if you want even faster Performance and don’t mind spending the extra money.

samsung_970_evo

Fortunately, flash-based SSDs have become quite cheap recently and prices continue to drop.

Just have a look at the price decrease of the Samsung 860 EVO 1TB over the last six months:

Samsung 860 EVO Price Drop

Image-Source: geizhals.de

It usually is a good Idea to get a larger HDD to be able to periodically backup your Data in case your main Discs brake down out of unforeseeable reasons. As they tend to do in the middle of the most important Project.

About PCI-E-Lanes

This section is a bit more advanced, but I get this question often enough that I want to explain it. Feel free to skip this part.

Here’s the Question: If the i7 8700K, i7 9700K, i9 9900K CPUs only offer 16 PCIe-Lanes, how can you use NVME SSDs (that already need 4 PCIe-lanes) or SATA Drives, if your GPU already uses up all of the 16 PCIe-Lanes to the CPU?

Answer: While the CPU-GPU PCIe-Lane interconnect is 16 PCIe Lanes wide, the Chipset itself can create 24 additional PCIe Lanes if required (on the Z370/Z390 Chipset).

The chipset lanes are connected to the CPU through a DMI link that’s only 4 PCIe lanes wide (which is roughly 4GB/s).

There could be a bottleneck in the unlikely scenario that you continuously copy huge amounts of data (like 50GB) from one of your NVMe SSDs to your second NVMe SSD and if your NVMe SSD can read and write faster than 2GB/s.

While that type of sequential read/write is possible (with the 970 EVO it is), it’s extremely rare that you’ll continuously be reading and writing sequentially for files that are of such size. If anything, you’ll be reading/writing randomly and on much smaller files.

Everything except for the RAM and the GPU is connected to those 24 chipset PCIe lanes, which are themselves connected to the CPU through the DMI link that’s 4 PCIe lanes wide. This includes LAN, USB, and everything else you plug into the motherboard.

The PCIe lanes from the chipset to the CPU are not used from the moment you plug in a new component. Instead, think of these PCIe lanes like highway tunnels: they’re always there and let traffic through if it has to.

So you can attach up to 24 PCIe lanes worth of components to the chipset (SATA SSDs, HDDs, USBs, Ethernet cables, etc…) but they will only connect to the CPU and use Bandwidth when needed.

If you use all those components at maximum speed at the same time, then you would bottleneck. In such a scenario, you would need to turn towards the HEDT platform (such as the LGA 2066 or TR4) and not mainstream (1151, AM4).

Best Monitor for 3D Modeling and Rendering

It’s usually better to go for a monitor with an IPS panel instead of a TN panel. IPS display panels have better color and better contrast.

If you’ll spend many hours a day staring at your monitor, you’ll want a non-glare (matte) monitor. This will avoid hard reflections that could otherwise distract you.

You also want at least a Full HD 1920×1080 monitor that nicely fits the viewport and all your software. You might even want to consider higher-resolution monitors with a 2560×1440 or even a 4K (3840×2160) resolution, so you can fit more of your footage, references, and software windows.

This is particularly true if you’re working on 4K advertising and films, or on hi-res images.

I’ve had great experiences working on the Asus IPS monitors, such as the Asus ProArt PA329Q, but you might prefer a different brand.

How many Monitors do you use?

Check out this in-depth Guide to buying the best Monitors for visually demanding work, which has all the information you need for getting the best Monitor for your specific kind of work.

Best Power Supply (PSU) for 3D Modeling and Rendering

While an expensive PSU won’t increase your performance, it’s wise to get more than enough wattage.

Usually, you’ll want around 400-500 Watt for a regular build, with an additional 250W for every additional GPU.

Good PSU brands are Corsair, Seasonic, and beQuiet.

Here’s a PSU calculator that will tell you how many watts your PSU will need depending on the hardware you choose.

Build your own Computer!

The best computer for 3D modeling and rendering is a computer that’s fast, makes you spend less time on it, avoids you wanting to punch through your monitor, and shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg.

I get tremendous joy from building my own computers for 3D modeling, rendering, and many other use cases.

If you don’t build your own PCs yet, I’m sure you’ll learn to love it too.

Do you assemble your PC yourself or buy Pre-Built?

Building your own computer teaches you the inner working of the various hardware components while allowing you to gradually upgrade parts if so required and helping you find potential problems easier.

But the best part? It’s a lot cheaper than buying pre-configured computers, and it only takes an hour or two to assemble!

If you want to learn how to assemble a PC and how a computer actually works, I have an excellent book for you. It blew my mind a few years ago. You might’ve already read it, but for those of you who haven’t: prepare to be leveled up 🙂!

But How Do It Know – J. Clark Scott

I can’t stress it enough: assembling your own computer is not difficult. You more or less just plug different parts needed to build a PC into one another and tighten some screws. The hardest part seems to be adding a bit of thermal paste to the CPU. That’s it!

Here’s a nice tutorial video for you to follow along as you build:

Whew! That was quite a lot of theory. Let’s actually take a look at some functional PC builds.

Here are some Pre-Selected Builds in different Price Tiers:

Best full PC-Build Recommendations at different Price points

Best Computer for 3D Modeling and Rendering, AMD at roughly ~700$

Some Build notes:

This very low-budget Build can be made even cheaper if you use the CPU Cooler that comes with the CPU. It doesn’t have as great a Cooling Power as the CoolerMaster Hyper 212, but this is not entirely necessary with such a CPU.

Some CPU upgrades include the Ryzen 7 2700 or 2700X if you have some extra cash.

Best Computer for 3D Modeling and Rendering, AMD at roughly ~2000$

Some Build notes:

This is a basic AMD build that you can begin with. The Case is professional, minimalistic and quiet. There is room for 3 Optical drives in case you want to add some DVD/CD Drives.

The AMD Ryzen 9 3900X is the fastest of the third Generation Ryzen CPUs. It has excellent Multi-Core and great Single Core performance. Be sure to take a look at this article on the best motherboards for Ryzen 3rd Gen CPUs, to see which one exactly you will need.

I added a Samsung 970 EVO PLUS M.2 NVMe Drive in this build that will give you extreme Storage Performance. The Nvidia RTX 2070 will get you great performance at a good price.

Best Computer for 3D Modeling and Rendering, Intel at roughly ~2000$

Some Build notes:

Just like the AMD Build, this is a basic build that you can build upon. The Case is professional, minimalistic and quiet.

The Intel i9-9900K is the currently leading CPU in single-core performance, meaning your viewport and active-work speed will not get any faster than with this CPU.

If you are planning on some more extreme overclocking, you might want to consider an AiO CPU cooling solution.

Best Computer for CPU Rendering, AMD at roughly ~3000$

This is an excellent Build that leans towards CPU Rendering Performance and slightly less towards active-working performance in tasks such as 3D Modeling or Animating.


Some notes on this build:

As this build is focused on CPU Rendering, the other parts such as storage and GPU are proportionally low-end compared to the 32-Core Threadripper CPU. This build has an absolutely fantastic CPU Rendering Performance.

64GB of RAM is a lot. It should be more than enough for nearly all scenes. You can save some cash by downgrading to 32GB though.

Best Computer for GPU Rendering, AMD at roughly ~7100$

This is an excellent Build that will bring you the maximum plug & play GPU Rendering Performance (on a single Consumer Mainboard) combined with an excellent CPU for good Workstation performance. But it comes at a steep price.

Some notes on this Build:

4 GPUs need a Motherboard with 4 PCIE Slots that are spaced far enough from each other to allow for 4 dual-Slot GPUs. This is possible with the Gigabyte X399 Designare EX Motherboard.

At ~$1,200 each, RTX 2080TIs are expensive.  If you’re okay with slightly slower performance, but want to save a decent chunk of money, I recommend going with 4x RTX 2070, as these come in at around $550 each. You’ll only have 8GBs of VRAM per card, but the GPU rendering performance/price is much better.

The Case is big. It has room for 8 single-slot (or 4 dual slot) Cards. The Power Supply should provide at least 1250W and I added some headroom here with the excellent 1600W Corsair Titanium Power Supply.

Threadripper CPUs are excellent for multi-GPU setups, as these CPUs have 64 PCIE-Lanes to drive all of those GPUs in 16x and 8x Mode.

– All of these builds will of course need a Keyboard, Mouse, Monitor and Operating System to be complete, but I’ll let you figure those out on your own. –

Custom PC-Builder

If you want to get the best parts within your budget you should definitely have a look at the Web-Based PC-Builder Tool that I’ve created.

Select the main purpose that you’ll use the computer for and adjust your budget to create the perfect PC with part recommendations that will fit within your budget.

Be sure to check it out and please feel free to send feedback my way!

CGDirector PC-Builder Tool

CGDirector.com PC-Builder Title Image

If you are not quite sure yet what general kind of Computer, Desktop, Workstation or Laptop you need and you are still looking for some beginners help, check out this Article on finding exactly what kind of Computer you need.

Best Laptop for 3D Modeling and Rendering

Just a quick reminder for anyone who would like to get a Laptop instead of a Desktop PC or Workstation.

I have written an Article about what’s important in a Laptop for Animation or Laptops for Video Editing, if that’s a direction that interests you too. Go check it out!

A lot of the specs from 3D Animation will be exactly the same as for 3D Modeling. For CPU rendering, this article on the best CPU for rendering can help you out.

What kind of Computer or Workstation are you building?

Alex from CGDirector - post author

Hi, I'm Alex, a Freelance 3D Generalist, Motion Designer and Compositor.

I've built a multitude of Computers, Workstations and Renderfarms and love to optimize them as much as possible.

Feel free to comment and ask for suggestions on your PC-Build or 3D-related Problem, I'll do my best to help out!

909
Comments

Mehmet

Hi Alex, Can you recommend a cpu for the 7100 $ Gpu Render pc set up for simulations that also keep the render performance same?

Jason

Thanks for this great article! I work at a planning and civil engineering firm and I am part of a small team that does in-house 3d architectural visualization animations for our projects. With the volume of rendering we are doing now, we are at the point to where using a render farm is no longer the most cost effective solution (I believe). I am putting together a proposal for setting up our own in-house render station. I have been researching building a mini render farm using a little collection of networked computers that work together to render a sequence. Our tech guy likes the model you are proposing better (the $7100.00 setup). My question is how would the render speed stack up compared with sending an animation to a render farm? I don’t want to convince my boss to pull the trigger on this project and it come back top bite me in the you-know-what if it is significantly slower than a render farm. Any knowledge you can give would be greatly appreciated as mine is very limited in the area of rendering.
Thanks!
Jason

Will Curnow

Hi Alex,

Amazing article and a real inspiration for myself as I really want to now build my own HEDT.

I currently own already a Threadripper 2990WX which is a beast for rendering, but, I’m finding it a bit slow when coming to single core use like modelling, texturing, and Photoshop work, and I’m thinking of just now using it for rendering and having another workstation for core modelling and post work.

I’ve got a healthy budget and a real drive to build my own workstation with a good single core processor, but I really can’t decide on which chip to go for, for me it’s either the Ryzen 3950X or Intel’s i9-9900KS as their price differences are not that different and the reviews seem great on both.

The Ryzen would help with some of the rendering side if things as it’s got more CPU’s, so teamed up with the threadripper would be awesome, but the 9900KS has a more reliable clock speed and is overclocked out of the box (which would help as I’m not a fan of manually overclocking), and Intel do have that reputation of being slightly reliable (but I might be wrong on this as times have changed).

I would really appreciate your input please, but I understand your a busy man, and I’m sorry if this question has already been answered already.

Big thanks,

Will

Mike

Hey Alex, amazing eye opener article, thanks so much for sharing your knowledge!
Could I ask for your advice on building a workstation for 3d dmp, therefore a bit of 3d modelling, some dynamic simulations, lookdev and rendering then 2d painting and then comp. Softwares I will be using are houdini, clarisse, maya, substance, photoshop, nuke, arnold and vray.
I am thinking about either stationary or mobile workstations (leaning perhaps a bit more towards mobile, to use it whenever on the move)., but don’t mind statiinary for increased power at a lower cost.
I am thinking in range up to $3k.
Thanks!

Hey Mike,

Thanks for the comment and thank you for the kind words!

If you’re going for a desktop or what you call a stationary workstation, a budget of around $2,750 will get you a powerful and future-proof build with specs like the below:

Parts List:

CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X 3.8GHz 12-Core Processor ($493.84)
CPU Cooler: be quiet! Dark Rock 4 AM4 ($74.90)
Motherboard: ASUS TUF Gaming x570-Plus (Wifi) ATX AM4 ($189.99)
GPU: NVIDIA RTX 2080 TI 11GB – MSI Gaming X ($1249.00)
Memory: 64GB (4 x 16GB) Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3200 CL16 ($309.99)
Storage PCIe-SSD: Samsung 970 EVO PLUS 1TB M.2 Solid State Drive ($199.99)
Power Supply: Corsair RMx Series RM650x 650W ATX 2.4 Power Supply ($109.99)
Case: Corsair Carbide Series 275Q ATX Mid Tower Case ($89.98)

The total of the build comes up to around $2717.68 but this is a high-end build that is more than capable enough of handling whatever modeling and/or rendering task you throw at it.

Now, if you want to go for a laptop or what you mentioned as a mobile workstation, you might be forced to spend more. Given your budget, the best option for a laptop is the MSI GS75 Stealth-480 Gaming Laptop priced at $2,798.36. Below are its specs:

CPU Intel Core i9-9880H 2.30GHz 8-Core Processor
Graphics Card NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q 8GB
Memory(RAM) 32GB DDR4-2666
SSD 1TB NVMe Solid State Drive
HDD –
Weight 3.8 kg (~8.36pounds)
Display 17.3″, 1920×1080

As mentioned, the MSI GS75 Stealth-480 Gaming Laptop is priced at around $2,798.36 but this laptop gives you an i9-9880H CPU with 32GB of RAM to ensure that you always have a fast and smooth workflow. This laptop is also a good option for both CPU and GPU rendering given its high core count CPU that handles CPU rendering well while the RTX 2070 GPU supports CUDA core acceleration for better GPU rendering performance.

Either way, whether you go for my suggested desktop build or choose the laptop above, you can be assured that you’d have a very capable workstation that will easily handle whatever task you throw at it!

Cheers,
Alex

Mike

Thanks for taking time to reply Alex, the specs you have sent is pretty amazing. I am sure that this build will last for a good while! Seems it is worth to go for desktop as price difference is not so big, yet specs is way better! The only thing I did not mention in my post is RAID config to secure data. But I guess some good old velociraptors will do, while Evo 970 will remain a primary operational drive.

Thanks again and all the best,
Mike

Kevin

Hi Alex. Thanks for the amazing article. I have two question
1. I need to run Sketchup, ACAD and Photoshop on my computer. Any suggestion regarding the configuration ( considering Photoshop) ?
2. Is separated parts have warranty when I’m buying from Amazon?

Thanks

Hey Kevin,

Thanks for dropping a comment!

Here are the answers to your questions:

1. I need to run Sketchup, ACAD and Photoshop on my computer. Any suggestion regarding the configuration ( considering Photoshop) ?
– If I may ask, how much are you willing to spend for this build? Please let me know so I can give you the best recommendations based on your budget.

Also, you might want to check out the site’s PC Builder Tool. It’s a web-based tool that allows you to specify your budget and use case and gives you the best recommendations based on your input. You can find the tool here: https://www.cgdirector.com/pc-builder/

2. Is separated parts have warranty when I’m buying from Amazon?
– Buying separate parts from Amazon still entitles you to warranty support for EACH component you buy unless otherwise specified. I suggest you check the Warranty & Support part for each product prior to purchase so you’d have an idea what kind of warranty comes with the product. Also, manufacturer’s warranty can also be requested via Amazon Customer Service. More details about this can be found on the Warranty & Support page.

Cheers,
Alex

Manav Jethani

Hi Alex, I just read the whole article and it’s amazing, wasn’t able to find a better one. I just have one question in my mind. I’m going to start my ME undergrad from fall 2020 and I was wondering whether I should buy a gaming laptop or workstation laptop( with Quadro and xeon ). I was initially leaning towards gaming laptop as they are cheaper and powerful but I came to know that my university will be using Solidworks which doesn’t support GeForce GPU completely. So I searched for workstation but they tend to be expensive and quite heavy. As a future engineering student should I go for gaming laptop ( MSI GS65, RTX 2070, 16 RAM, I7 9750H AND 512 SSD ) or any workstation?

PS. I want to play some heavy games and 300~400 parts CAD assembly as an hobby to render and model some automobiles and motorcycles.

Hope you can help me out, Thank you.

Hi Manav,

Thanks for asking!

Actually, Solidworks supports NVIDIA GeForce GPUs even the RTX Turing cards as long as they have a driver version of 430.86 or newer so you shouldn’t have any issues in the event that you buy a gaming laptop. Solidworks does have a few features though such as RealView, that will only work on Quadro. Check this post here: https://www.cgdirector.com/best-gpu-for-editing-rendering/#Whats_the_difference_Pro_GPU_vs_Consumer_GPU

If I may ask, how much are you willing to spend?

Alternatively, you can have a look at the site’s PC Builder Tool at https://www.cgdirector.com/pc-builder/. It’s a web-based tool that let’s you put in your budget and use case and gives you the best desktop/laptop recommendations based on your inputs.

Cheers,
Alex

Manav Jethani

Hi Alex, thanks for replying, my budget is 2000~2500 dollars (USD) and I will prefer thin and light as I have to take it to classes sometimes, also realview isn’t that important to me so as you said I probably won’t need a workstation. I have also mentioned a laptop above, how’s that for me, if you can suggest a better one then please do.

Regards,
Manav.

Hi Manav,

The MSI GS65 you mentioned with an i7-9750H CPU, 16GB of RAM, and RTX 2070 GPU is actually a good option for your use case. The i7-9750H CPU will work nicely with the laptop’s 16GB of RAM to give a fast and smooth workflow. The RTX 2070 GPU on the other hand brings the best price to performance ratio at the moment and supports CUDA core acceleration should you need to use the GPU render engines. As mentioned earlier, the MSI GS65 is a good choice. I see no issues so you should go for it!

Cheers,
Alex

Manav Jethani

Thanks so much for your help, I really appreciate it, have good day!

Regards,
Manav Jethani.

Spikey

Stuggling to decide on a few elements of a content creation both rendering/encoding and editing/CAD/3D Animation/3D Modelling/Podcasting system

the more set components will be

3960x processor (the 3970x somewhat well over budget)

Quadro 8gb RTX4000 or GEForce RTX 11 gb 2080 ti (This is one of the hardest decisions and cant really afford the Quadro RTX 5000)

1tb corsair force 4 gen SSD
Raid 1 pair Seagate Ironwolf 4tb drives
64g corsair vengence ram
Asus DVD drive
Not 100sure on cooler where to go for the Dark Roc Air cooler or an AIO cooler like :

Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML360 RGB TR4 Edition, 360mm All-in-One Hydro CPU Cooler,

CORSAIR H150I PRO CPU COOLER

Its which

Graphics Card thats one of the hardest decsions

I understand in most the GEForce RTX 11 gb 2080 ti should beat the Quadro 4000x speed snd power wise and for many of the software should be ok but would be using Solidworks which appears to be very Quadro fussy certification wise asnd their forums push fears of bugs and problems with the geforce card.

Which TRX40 motherboard (Know anything about TRX 80 motherboards?)

Any preference both features and things like bios and reliabilty. Between

MSI TRX40 Creator
ASUS TRX40 Zeneth Extreme II
These seem close spec wise.

One difference is the MSI has more M.2 slots due to its PCIe 4.0 4x M.2 addon card totalling 7 (3 on board). But has only 6 Sata ports.

Zeneth Extreme II has 5x M.2 slots but the full 8 Sata slots.

Both have all their PCIe 16 slots full 16 lane speed and 10gb internet. Lots of usb connection.

Is the zeneth more of a games mb as the Creator board lists some sort of content creator feautres or mode and this would be for a media, video and CAD creation system.

How reliable, issue free, quality bios (ie the stuff not listed in feature lists and comparisons) are both and their brands

Interestingly

The Gigabyte Designare has a Thunderbolt and a M.2 x 4 ssd addon card. But not only has 2 full 16 lane PCIe 16x slots, 1 PCIe x1 slot and 2x 16x 8 lane slots

How valuable would the thunderbolt be , enough to choose it over the others?

Software Likely to include:

Solidworks
Vectorworks
Google Sketchup
Rhino

Cinema 4D
Maya
3d Stuio Max
Mari
Modo

Premier, After Effects Nuke

Stetch
Adobe Audtion
Encode
Vray
Keyshot
Photoshop
Indesign

Whilst Photoshop and Indesign are used the most what Im really lookign for is something good for Solidworks & Keyshot, After Effects and Premier, Rhino & Vray, Vecotrworks and looking to lear the rest

Also the case seems to be a toss up between the Corsair Graphite Series 780T white Full Size, the Fractal Design R6 White with window or (the custom cofiguratiosn seem to push the All metal black version with no window

Any preference on those?

Advice please on the Graphics Card, Motherboard and case in particular.

Also the best and cheapest Microsoft Office solution as heard gettign a offical trial down load and paying about £30 for an official and legal product key could be the way to go.

Also, was wonderrig if a better strategy woud be to go with a Ryzen 3950x with Quadro 16 gb rtx 5000 system factoring in the much smaller PCIe lane situation 24 vs 64 is it as opposed to a Threadripper 3960x with a Quadro 4000x system?

Eric

Hi Alex,

Thanks for this amazing resource! Learned a ton about the technical side of all the hardware! I’m a total beginner when it comes to PC building and I have 3 questions:

1. For a mainly 2D concept artist that want’s to incorporate some 3D in their workflow, would 1 high preforming liquid-cooled Gigabyte 2080 Ti 11 GB AORUS XTREME WATERFORCE be good enough? Or would 2 or 4 video cards still be necessary for a decent 3D experience.?

2. Should I get 2 SSD’s for memory when I already plan to get a beefy “2TB NVMe Gen4 M.2-2280”? If so, what would it be good for?

3. would a “be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 TR4” be enough for a Ryzen 9 3950X if I want to overclock it?

Right now, with a $4000-$5000 budget i’m thinking of getting this potential build (still not sure what/how many GPU’s to get)

AMD Ryzen 9 3950X
Fractal Design Celsius S36 87.6 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler
Gigabyte X570 AORUS MASTER ATX AM4 Motherboard
G.Skill Trident Z Neo 64 GB (4 x 16 GB) DDR4-3600 Memory
Gigabyte AORUS NVMe Gen4 2 TB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive
Lian Li PC-O11DX 011 Dynamic mId tower
Corsair HX Platinum 1000 W 80+ Platinum Certified Fully Modular ATX Power Supply
GPU: TBD ($2,700 budget)

marquis m

Hey there, Alex.
I’m curious to understand this one thing:
1. I have Maya 2020.
2. My main focus are toon shaded animations [not Arnold’s CPU-reliant but one that’s GPU reliant called EnoguToon from Gumroad. Also, Arnold’s new GPU in Maya doesn’t include their Toon anyways. So I maybe stuck with Hardware Render unless Vray Next can accept it].
I was curious, with the new aspects available, will it be best suited in my case to focus on GPU than CPU? Even though my main focus is 3D animation [my style is basically like Dragon Ball FighterZ]? To this day, cel-shading is a tricky subject for software.
3. Will CPU or GPU upgrades really do better for me in viewport and motion/cloth simulation? I can worry a bit less about rendering. I simply need real-time efficiency and can render when I’m finished with a scene. [Of course I can’t wait 50 years for it to be ready for post-production in after effects lol]

Currently I’m working with a 1060 with a i5-8400 Core CPU @2.8GHz, 16GB ram. “Po man’s specs” lol.. Recommended to me by Xidax though.

I’m split over the correct decision, and would love some thorough advice.

Jana

Hi Alex,

Thank you very much for you site. Its a great help to build my first own windows workstation, which is very exciting!

The biggest question for me is the cpu and what the sweet spot would be for both rendering and modeling.
I am thinking of going with your suggested setup of 4x NVIDIA RTX 2080TI 11GB – Asus Turbo (2x cards now, the other two in summer).

a) In your guide you suggest the AMD Threadripper 1900X 3.8GHz 8-Core Processor. How does it perform as a workstation CPU for modeling etc?

b) To still use your suggested Gigabyte X399 Designare EX ATX TR4, I am thinking of updating the CPU to something like the Threadripper 2920x which performed solid on the Sincel Score (Cinebench R20) but isnt as pricy as the Threadripper 3900x. Would that be something you would say makes sense? Or is it not really worth it?

c) Looking at Intel, would the i9 9900k even work with a Quad-GPUs setup? It reads like the Threadripper are the best for Quad-GPUs setup, yet sometimes you see builds with Quad-GPU and the i9 9900k. If it works, it feels like a nice setup to combine the best of both worlds, but do I miss something here?

Thank you again for this amazing site and all your work!