Best Workstation Computer for 3D Modeling and Rendering

Best Workstation Computer for 3D Modeling and Rendering

CG Director Author Alex  by Alex   ⋮   ⋮   662 comments
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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 28%, 1542 votes
    1542 votes 28%
    1542 votes - 28% of all votes
  • 3ds Max 23%, 1280 votes
    1280 votes 23%
    1280 votes - 23% of all votes
  • Maya 16%, 868 votes
    868 votes 16%
    868 votes - 16% of all votes
  • Cinema 4D 13%, 703 votes
    703 votes 13%
    703 votes - 13% of all votes
  • Revit 6%, 353 votes
    353 votes 6%
    353 votes - 6% of all votes
  • Zbrush 5%, 290 votes
    290 votes 5%
    290 votes - 5% of all votes
  • Other 4%, 219 votes
    219 votes 4%
    219 votes - 4% of all votes
  • Houdini 3%, 146 votes
    146 votes 3%
    146 votes - 3% of all votes
  • Modo 1%, 57 votes
    57 votes 1%
    57 votes - 1% of all votes
  • Artlantis 0%, 20 votes
    20 votes
    20 votes - 0% of all votes
  • Katana 0%, 10 votes
    10 votes
    10 votes - 0% of all votes
Total Votes: 5488
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%, 1792 votes
    1792 votes 56%
    1792 votes - 56% of all votes
  • Mainly CPU 44%, 1423 votes
    1423 votes 44%
    1423 votes - 44% of all votes
Total Votes: 3215
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?
  • V-Ray 41%, 1456 votes
    1456 votes 41%
    1456 votes - 41% of all votes
  • Cycles 19%, 685 votes
    685 votes 19%
    685 votes - 19% of all votes
  • Arnold 11%, 378 votes
    378 votes 11%
    378 votes - 11% of all votes
  • Octane 9%, 309 votes
    309 votes 9%
    309 votes - 9% of all votes
  • Redshift 8%, 270 votes
    270 votes 8%
    270 votes - 8% of all votes
  • Corona 5%, 174 votes
    174 votes 5%
    174 votes - 5% of all votes
  • Other 5%, 165 votes
    165 votes 5%
    165 votes - 5% of all votes
  • Mental Ray 3%, 100 votes
    100 votes 3%
    100 votes - 3% of all votes
  • Maxwell 2%, 55 votes
    55 votes 2%
    55 votes - 2% of all votes
Total Votes: 3592
10. Apr, 2019

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.

Just FYI, we've got some awesome Social Channels! 🙂

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?
  • Having High Core-Clocks for fast active work (e.g. i9 9900K) 56%, 890 votes
    890 votes 56%
    890 votes - 56% of all votes
  • Having a lot of Cores for fast Multi-Processing (e.g. TR 2990WX) 44%, 705 votes
    705 votes 44%
    705 votes - 44% of all votes
Total Votes: 1595
12. Apr, 2019

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?
  • AMD Ryzen (e.g. 2700X, 3700X, 3900X...) 41%, 832 votes
    832 votes 41%
    832 votes - 41% of all votes
  • Intel LGA 1151 Series CPU (e.g. i7 8700K, i9 9900K...) 33%, 673 votes
    673 votes 33%
    673 votes - 33% of all votes
  • AMD Threadripper (e.g. 2950X...) 20%, 401 vote
    401 vote 20%
    401 vote - 20% of all votes
  • Intel 2066 (HEDT) X-Series CPU (e.g. i9 9980XE...) 6%, 113 votes
    113 votes 6%
    113 votes - 6% of all votes
Total Votes: 2019
10. Apr, 2019

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.

Just FYI, we've got some awesome Social Channels! 🙂

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?
  • Two Monitors 56%, 890 votes
    890 votes 56%
    890 votes - 56% of all votes
  • Just one Monitor 32%, 507 votes
    507 votes 32%
    507 votes - 32% of all votes
  • Three Monitors 10%, 167 votes
    167 votes 10%
    167 votes - 10% of all votes
  • More than 3 Monitors 2%, 37 votes
    37 votes 2%
    37 votes - 2% of all votes
Total Votes: 1601
10. Apr, 2019

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?
  • I assemble myself 69%, 964 votes
    964 votes 69%
    964 votes - 69% of all votes
  • I buy Pre-Built / Let others assemble my PC 31%, 426 votes
    426 votes 31%
    426 votes - 31% of all votes
Total Votes: 1390
10. Apr, 2019

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!

662
Comments

Edwin

Hi Alex,

We use a lot of 3ds max with vray to do rendering. I’ve gone ahead and built the following CPU rendering PC based on your custom builder tool:

Parts List:
CPU: AMD Threadripper 2970WX 32-Core Processor
CPU Cooler: be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 TR4
Motherboard: Gigabyte X399 Designare EX ATX TR4
GPU: NVIDIA GTX 1660TI 6GB – Gigabyte Windforce
Memory: 64GB (4 x 16GB) Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3200
Storage PCIe-SSD: Samsung 970 EVO Plus 1TB M.2 Solid State Drive
Storage SSD: Crucial MX1000 1TB 2.5″ Solid State Drive
Power Supply: Corsair HX Series Platinum HX850 850W Power Supply
Case: Fractal Design Define XL R2 Titanium Big Tower Case

I haven’t over clocked anything at this points since the built is only a week old, but rendering of 2500×2500 pxl takes about 7hrs . I wasn’t sure if this is normal or adjustments needs to be made to speed up the rendering time?

I’d highly appreciate your feedback.

Hey Edwin,

There is normally only little relation between the resolution of a rendered image and the time it takes to render. It all depends on how complex the scene is and if it is optimized and how low the noise (DMC) settings are set (or the render settings in general). As a 3D artist my usual path is to start deactivating lots of stuff and see what part of the scene causes the render times to go up.

If I may ask, do you have an old computer where the same image rendered faster? If that’s the case, there has to be a hardware error somewhere in your new workstation.

For comparison: Pixar movie frames can take days or even weeks to render, so 7 hours for a 2500 x 2500 pixel resolution, although long, is still within the possible. 🙂

Cheers,
Alex

Dalia

Hi Alex,
Thanks for your articles and videos it helps me a lot. It’s my first time to build a computer and I’m not really understanding a lot about the inner parts of computer but I decided to build my own one (sorry for the long talk) so, now I’m building a computer for 3D modeling and rendering I decided to choose an AMD Ryzen 9 3900X I think it’s perfect for my needs and the other parts are:
GPU: NVIDIA RTX 2080
Motherboard: MSI MPG X570 Gaming Edge WiFi Motherboard
Memory: 32GB (2 x 16GB) Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3200 CL16
Storage PCIe-SSD: Samsung 970 EVO 1TB M.2 Solid State Drive
Now, Is this parts really compatible?, what power supply suits it the best?, Do I really need a CPU cooler?, And if there is any changes or improvements or suggestions it will be really great,
Thanks a lot,
Dalia

Hey Dalia,

Thanks for asking!

The build you put together for a 3D modeling and rendering workstation is just excellent! All the components you selected are compatible with each other so no worries on that. Also, choosing the Ryzen 9 3900X is great because it has high clock speeds that will help with task responsiveness when you actively work inside the software while your rendering tasks will benefit from the CPU’s high core count.

By the way, no need for you to get a separate CPU cooler as the stock Wraith Prism cooler that comes with the Ryzen 9 3900X is more than capable enough to handle its CPU cooling tasks. As for the PSU, an expensive PSU won’t increase the performance of your workstation but it’s better to have a PSU with more than enough wattage. A good starting point is to get a PSU with at least 750w from some of the good PSU brands such Seaonsic, beQuiet, and Corsair.

Cheers,
Alex

Dalia

Hey Alex,
Thank you very much, you helped me a lot and I appreciate your effort for replying and helping everyone.
Thanks,
Dalia

Edmund

Hi Alex,
I’m using 3ds max vray gpu rendering. I have a budget concern, I going to buy x1 RTX2070 for my work station, but I plan to add another 2 RTX2070 in the future. What power supply should I buy? I have a few questions about:
1) Does CPU will affect the speed of multiples of GPU? For example: 1900x compare to 2920x.
2) Does RAM will affect the speed of multiples of GPU? Can I use 4x8gb instead of 8x8gb?
3) Can I use basic Apacer 8gb 2666 RAM instead Corsair Vengeance? Will it affect the speed of the GPU rendering?
4) What Threadripper motherboard do you prefer for 4x8gb + 4xGPU?

Sorry for my bad English. Looking forward to your reply, thanks!

Hey Edmund,

Thanks for dropping a line!

If you will be using the GPU render engines, your CPU will have little effect to the rendering speed. The CPU is still being used even when you’re using the GPU to render because the CPU pre-processes all data and animations, exports the scene into the memory of your graphics card, and also does all the rendering work your GPU cannot do. However, the tasks of the CPU is a lot less demanding compared to the actual task of rendering and will likely have smaller impact on the your overall rendering speed. That said though, a high clocking CPU can improve your GPU render time by a few percent.

As for the RAM, it doesn’t affect your GPU as much as it does your CPU. The RAM basically helps the CPU to work more efficiently. The more room the CPU has to store data in that temporary memory, the more things your workstation can do at once. GPUs on the other hand come with memory of their own so they don’t usually have to share memory with the rest of your system. A good rule of thumb, though is to have twice the amount of RAM as you have (combined) VRAM.

In terms of what RAM to use, I suggest that you go for G.Skill, ADATA, Crucial and Corsair. Also, get a RAM kit that has speeds of at least 2933 MHz. Threadripper benefits from slightly higher clocked RAM, so you will see maybe a 1-2% difference in goign 3200Mhz over 2400Mhz.

If you are planning on using 4 x 8GB RAM and putting 4 GPUs on your motherboard, you would need to have a motherboard with at least 4 PCIe slots that are 2 slots apart like the ASRock Fatal1ty X399 or the GIGABYTE X399 Designare EX. Also, if you plan on using 4 GPUs, you need to choose a graphics card that has a blower style design and dual slot height in order to fit the motherboard. You also need a case that’s big enough with enough expansion slots in the back. (The case should have 8 single slot pcie expansion slots in the back).

In terms of power supply, you need around 400-500 watts for a regular build and just add 250 watts for every additional GPU you use. With 4 GPUs you should go for a PSU that has at least 1200 watts. The PSU brands I usually recommend are beQuiet, Seasonic, and Corsair.

Also read this article, which goes in-depth on the GPU rendering Hardware topic: https://www.cgdirector.com/best-hardware-for-gpu-rendering-in-octane-redshift-vray/

Cheers,
Alex

Justin

Hi Alex,

I have just graduated and am working in the Urban Design field. I’d like to build a machine to be able to work at home. Our multi-disciplined design field uses quite a few programs.

For active designing we use Adobe Suite, AutoCAD, Rhino, and Sketchup, LandF/X, Revit, Lumion and After Effects. We are constantly in and out of viewport, rendering to check the outcome of our designs, and then re-rendering to check the changes.

It looks like these programs are starting to utilize GPU rendering or even have dual rendering options. My thought is to go with the Intel i9 9900k paired with the NVIDIA 2080 or 2070 and 64gb of RAM.

but….

We also use GIS which utilizes large data sets, hopefully you are familiar with this program. In school, GIS was known for crashing computers. I’m not familiar with the specs of the machines the school had so I can’t really speak to why that was. Nevertheless, I’d like to be able to run this software as well.

All in all, I’d like to keep the build under 2k (sans monitor, keyboard, mouse…) Fingers crossed closer to $1500 but that might be wishful thinking.

I gather from a few other questions answered here the Intel processor isn’t ideal for upgrades over the next few years. Could you shed some light as to why? Also, to fit into budget, could I have a build that will get me up and running without crashing that I could update in the future?

Thanks for all the great info and help!

Hey Justin,

Thanks for asking!

Before we get into my recommendation, let’s first talk about upgrade path. AMD promised back in 2017 that the AM4 platform socket will be supported until 2021. That includes the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation of Ryzen processors. Intel’s roadmap on the other hand is very frustrating to consumers because of the switch to the new 1151 V2 socket for chipset power distribution. Sad to say, no news yet from Intel as to what the platform choice will be for their upcoming 10nm CPUs. So, going for an i9-9900K build requires you to get a Z390 motherboard which could be a dead end for your upgrade path in case a new platform choice is announced by Intel.

So, if you want something that you can upgrade in the future, I suggest that you go for a Ryzen build. You’re right – a $1500 budget may not cut it for your needs so I took the liberty of using $2000 as your budget. Please see below for my parts suggestions:

Parts List:
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3800X 3.9GHz 8-Core Processor ($399.00)
CPU Cooler: be quiet! Dark Rock 4 AM4 ($74.90)
Motherboard: Gigabyte X570 Aorus Elite ATX AM4 ($228.00)
GPU: NVIDIA RTX 2080 8GB – Asus Turbo ($749.99)
Memory: 32GB (2 x 16GB) Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3200 CL16 ($152.99)
Storage PCIe-SSD: Samsung 970 EVO 1TB M.2 Solid State Drive ($169.99)
Power Supply: Corsair CX Series CX550 550W ATX 2.4 Power Supply ($64.99)
Case: Phanteks Enthoo Pro ATX Mid Tower Case ($91.00)

The total comes up to around $1930.86. If you want a slightly faster and slightly more powerful processor, you can take out the RTX 2080 GPU on the list and get an RTX 2070 instead. No worries on the switch though as the RTX 2070 GPU brings the best price to performance ratio at the moment. In addition to that, the RTX 2070 also comes with CUDA core acceleration that will be useful should you plan on using the GPU render engines. The price difference can then be used to get a Ryzen 9 3900X CPU. You can also opt to drop the CPU cooler on the list as the Wraith Prism stock cooler that comes with the Ryzen 9 3900X is more than capable enough for CPU cooling purposes. The money intended for the CPU cooler can then be used on other parts of your build.

I’m not too familiar with most GIS software but I did get to play around with an early version of ArcGIS back in the day. In terms of hardware requirement, I’m pretty sure the build we put together will be able to handle GIS software for that matter.

Cheers,
Alex

Conor

Hi im looking to build a PC the main use of it would be for 3D modeling and 3D rendering and occasional playing games. I want to use programs like 3Dsmax/Maya and Sculptris, i will be rendering and modeling in equal measure.
I have a couple of items picked out but still not sure about them so any advice or suggestions would be incredibly helpful.
CPU
– Ryzen 7 3700X

CPU Cooler
– Dark Rock Pro 4 – possible option

Motherboard
– MSI B450 Pro Carbon AC

GUP
– GTX 1660Ti

RAM
– Corsair CMZ32GX3M4X1600C10 Vengeance 32 GB (4 x 8 GB) DDR3 1600 Mhz C9 XMP Performance Memory Kit – Black

I be looking to spend between £1500 or £2000 I have decided to use Ryzen 7 3700x but the rest is changeable.
If you have any suggestions please comment i would realy appreciate it.

Thanks Conor

Hey Conor,

Thanks for dropping a line!

Since you will be doing rendering and modeling in equal measure, a CPU with high clock speed AND high core count should be at the heart of your system. Your choice of the Ryzen 7 3700X is good but given your budget, you still have the option of going for the Ryzen 7 3800X with 8 cores and 3.9 GHz base clock and 4.5 GHz Max Boost which is slightly faster than the 8-core Ryzen 7 3700X with a 3.6 GHz base clock and 4.4 GHz Max Boost. Also, your choice of Corsair CMZ32GX3M4X1600C10 Vengeance 32 GB (4 x 8 GB) DDR3 1600 Mhz C9 XMP is incompatible with your build as the new B450 motherboards now support DDR4 memory.

That said, please take a look at the build I came up with for you:

Parts List:
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3800X 3.9GHz 8-Core Processor ($399.00)
CPU Cooler: be quiet! Dark Rock 4 AM4 ($74.90)
Motherboard: MSI MPG x570 Gaming Plus ATX AM4 ($169.99)
GPU: NVIDIA RTX 2070 8GB – MSI Gaming ($499.00)
Memory: 32GB (2 x 16GB) Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3200 CL16 ($157.99)
Storage PCIe-SSD: Samsung 970 PRO 512GB M.2 Solid State Drive ($149.99)
Power Supply: Corsair CX Series CX550 550W ATX 2.4 Power Supply ($64.99)
Case: Phanteks Enthoo Pro ATX Mid Tower Case ($91.00)

The total comes up to around $1606.86. This is around 1293.17 GBP which is still within your budget. Aside from getting a slightly faster CPU, you also get an RTX 2070 graphics card which supports CUDA core acceleration and will definitely help in case you plan on using the GPU render engines.

By the way, you have the option of dropping the be quiet! Dark Rock 4 AM4 CPU cooler as the stock cooler (Wraith Prism) that comes with the Ryzen 7 3800X is more than enough to handle the CPU cooling tasks. You can then use the money intended for the CPU cooler on other parts of your build.

You can also stick with the B450 Mainboard if you don’t need pcie4, but beware that you will need to do a bios upgrade to support the 3rd gen ryzen cpus.

You may also want to check the site’s PC Builder Tool at https://www.cgdirector.com/pc-builder/ for other recommendations based on your budget and use case scenario.

Cheers,
Alex

conor

Hi Alex
Thank you so much for repaying iv just been looking at your reply and incredibly detailed and shows your level of skills int his area , your suggested list of parts looks amazing and has convinced me to make some changes to my original part list.
I probably going to drop the Be Quiet Dark Rock 4AM4 cooler as like you said the Wraith Prism looks more than capable and match the Ryzen 7 38ooX.
Thanks for putting in the time to help me. I always recommend this site to anyone looking to build a PC for the information offered on the site and for the supportive community keep up the great work.

Thanks Again Conor

Gerrit

Hi Alex,
many thanks for all your efforts and time you have spent on articles for building workstations for 3D rendering, modeling and VFX. As 3D modeler, compositor etc. I highly appreciate all the time and knowledge you commit to the cg community.
As others stated before: there is no better resource than your’s on the web.
Regards 🙂
Gerrit

Manoj

Hi, I am planning to buy this one:

CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X 3.8GHz 12-Core Processor
CPU Cooler: be quiet! Dark Rock 4 AM4
Motherboard: Gigabyte X570 Aorus Elite ATX AM4
GPU: NVIDIA RTX 2080 Super
Memory: 32GB (2 x 16GB) Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3200 CL16
Storage PCIe-SSD: Samsung 970 EVO PLUS 1TB M.2 Solid State Drive
Power Supply: Corsair RMx Series RM650x 650W ATX 2.4 Power Supply

I’ve few of questions.

1. Is Nvidia RTX 2080 Super compatible with the mother board and
2. As the CPU comes with “Thermal Solution (PIB) Wraith Prism with RGB LED”. Do I still need to buy the CPU Cooler you suggested i.e Be quiet! Dark Rock 4 AM4
3. What WIFI options should I go with?

Thanks for the help. You are awesome. I’ve not read a better article than this.

Hi Manoj,

Thanks for dropping a line and thank you for the kind words!

The build you put together is excellent! Your choice of the Ryzen 9 3900X CPU with its high clock speed and high core count will help a lot whether you actively work inside the software or do some rendering. In addition to that, the RTX 2080 graphics card comes with CUDA core acceleration should you plan on using the GPU render engines.

To answer your question, yes, the NVIDIA RTX 2080 Super is compatible with the Gigabyte X570 Aorus Elite ATX AM4. Also, the stock cooler (Wraith Prism) that comes with the Ryzen 9 3900X is more than capable enough to handle its CPU cooling tasks so you can opt not to buy the be quiet! Dark Rock 4 AM4 CPU Cooler and use the money instead for other parts of your build.

By the way, what exactly do you mean by Wi-Fi options you should go with?

Cheers,
Alex

Frank

Heya,

Just started a new comment, so you can ignore my previous replies below. After shopping and consulting on the Polycount forums and checking compatibility on PCPartPicker, the below is the system I have configured thus far. As you are very knowledgeable about what is needed, what do you think about this configuration?

===== Goals for the system =====
Purpose: 3D Modeling/Sculpting/Texturing
Software: Maya LT, Zbrush, Substance Painter, Photoshop CS6
Budget: $2,600 CDN (before taxes and shipping)

(Pricing for parts is in USD)

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X 8-core, 16-thread processor with Wraith Prism LED Cooler ($329.00)
CPU Cooler: be quiet! Pure Rock AM4 ($35.99) —- Should I choose a different Cooler? —-
Motherboard: ASUS TUF Gaming x570-Plus (Wifi) ATX AM4 ($199.99)
GPU: MSI GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER 8 GB GAMING X TRIO Video Card ($539.99)
Memory: 32GB (2 x 16GB) Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3200 CL16 ($154.99)
Storage PCIe-SSD: Samsung 970 Evo Plus 1 TB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive ($219.95)
Corsair RM (2019) 650 W 80+ Gold Certified Fully Modular ATX Power Supply ($99.98)
Case: Phanteks Enthoo Pro PH-ES614PC_BK Full Tower Chassis Without Window – Black ($139.99)

Monitor: Looking for suggestions. I noticed the new video cards use the Display 1.4 and my monitor is from 2011 so it only has DVI and HDMI.

Total before taxes and shipping/handling:
Total USD: 1719.88 (monitor not included)
Total CDN: 2286.32 (monitor not included)

Hey Frank,

Thanks for asking!

The build you put together is excellent! Your choice of the Ryzen 7 3700X is really great with the type of work you do and the software you use. Since you mostly do a lot of active work inside the software, you need a high-clocking CPU to help with task responsiveness and the 3700X with its 3.6 GHz base clock and 4.4 GHz Max Boost clock ticks this box. The MSI GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER 8 GB GAMING X TRIO is also an excellent choice as the RTX 2070 boasts of the best price to performance ratio at the moment.

Be advised though that the stock cooler (Wraith Prism) that comes with the Ryzen 7 3700X is more than capable enough of handling its CPU cooling tasks so you have the option of dropping the be quiet! Pure Rock AM4 and spend the money intended for that CPU cooler on other components of your build.

As for monitor recommendations, you can check out my suggestions for the best monitors in this article: https://www.cgdirector.com/best-monitor-graphic-design-video-editing-3d/

Cheers,
Alex

Elias Mayer

Just wanted to say thank you. Amazing what u put up on this website.
Greetings

Toni

Hi Alex,

Your article was really informative and easy to understand – even for a nubie like me who does not build her own computers.
I am an interior architecture and design student and I have Revit, AutoCad, 3ds Max w/ Vray, Adobe Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator all loaded on my HP Spectre laptop. She can’t take anymore. She is slowing down, and at times shuts down because “an error has been detected.” I’m looking for a large screen desktop PC. For a max budget of $3,000 what computer would you suggest for me. I build projects in Revit and want to render them in 3ds Max and use the Adobe programs to create a portfolio. Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance,
Toni

Hey Toni,

Thanks for dropping a comment and I’m sorry to hear about your Spectre laptop!

Since you will be working actively inside the software like AutoCAD, Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator a high-clocking CPU should be at the heart of your system. In this case, an i9-9900K is what I recommend. For rendering on 3ds Max, an NVIDIA GPU such as an RTX 2080 with CUDA Cores acceleration is a must. That said, please take a look at the build I put together for you:

Parts List:
CPU: Intel i9 9900k 3.6GHz 8-Core Processor ($494.99)
CPU Cooler: be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 1151 ($89.90)
Motherboard: ASUS Prime Z390-A ATX 1151 ($179.99)
GPU: NVIDIA RTX 2080 8GB – Asus Turbo ($799.99)
Memory: 64GB (4 x 16GB) Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3200 CL16 ($319.99)
Storage PCIe-SSD: Samsung 970 EVO PLUS 1TB M.2 Solid State Drive ($219.95)
Power Supply: Corsair HX Series Platinum HX850 850W Power Supply ($169.99)
Case: Corsair Carbide Series 275Q ATX Mid Tower Case ($80.97)

Total: $2355.77

The total comes up to around $2355.77 which leaves you around $640 and change for a nice monitor. For monitor recommendations, please check this article: https://www.cgdirector.com/best-monitor-graphic-design-video-editing-3d/

Cheers,
Alex