Best Workstation Computer For After Effects (Updated)

CG Director Author Alex  by Alex   ⋮   ⋮   115 comments
CGDirector is Reader-supported. When you buy through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Best Workstation Computer For After Effects (Updated)

There are quite some factors to consider when building a new PC that is mainly targeted at After Effects use.

This article is about building the best bang-for-the-buck Adobe After Effects Workstation and what hardware components are the best picks for your intended use:

Let’s start out with identifying some of the workloads you might want to run when working in After Effects.

There are two main categories of workloads that we should take a closer look at:

  1. Active work: Active After Effects work is when you sit at your desk and are actively using your workstation. This might involve animating layers, editing your footage, adding effects, scrolling the timeline and navigating the User Interface through menus and buttons.
  2. Passive Work: Passive After Effects work is done when the Program executes tasks itself without you having to interact with it. Such workloads include Rendering out your Projects and Effect Processing Tasks such as Footage Stabilization.

Let’s take a look at how the CPU handles the above tasks.

Best Processor (CPU) for After Effects

1. Actively Working in After Effects

If you are planning on actively working heavily with this Computer I recommend a maximum single Core-Clock CPU such as the Intel i9 9900K or AMD Ryzen 9 3900X.

The 12-Core AMD Ryzen 9 3900X clocks at 3,8 GHz base and has a 4,6 GHz single-core turbo-clock and the i9 9900K even boosts up to 5GHz but only sports 8 Cores total.

User Interface and frame updates in After Effects heavily benefit from high core clocks.

Take a look at these benchmarks from Pugetsystems, where it becomes clear very quickly how superior high-clocking CPUs are in After Effects CC.

CPU NameCoresGhzAfter Effects ScorePriceValue
AMD Ryzen 7 3800X83.9983399
AMD Ryzen 5 3600X63.8922249
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X123.81019499
Intel i9 9800X83.8885589
AMD Ryzen 7 2700X83.7850251
Intel i5 9600K63.7882262
AMD Ryzen 5 2600X63.6816149
AMD Ryzen 5 360063.6912199
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X83.6970329
Intel i9 9900K83.61047488
Intel i9 9700K83.6926362
AMD Threadripper 2950X163.5900729
Intel i9 9900X103.5909989
AMD Threadripper 2920X123.5876369
Intel i9 9920X123.59391189
Intel i9 9940X143.39311387
Intel i9 9820X103.3871889
Intel i9 9960X163.19441684
AMD Threadripper 2990WX323.08181699
AMD Threadripper 2970WX243.07971300
Intel i9 9980XE183.09481979
CPU NameCoresGHzAfter Effects ScorePriceValue

This is true for lots of other Creative Tasks such as 3D Modeling and Animation or Video Editing too, having high Core-Clocks will make your Computer or Laptop much more responsive and snappy.

2. Passive tasks or using the Machine mainly as a Render-Node

Now if you are using this Computer mainly to render out projects that you have already set-up on a different workstation, you would want to go “max CPU-core count” x “CPU-core clock” or in other words max CPU-Multi-Core Performance (similar as for 3D Rendering).

This means the more cores you have and the higher those cores are clocked, the better.

Unfortunately, there are no CPUs with more than 8 cores that have Turbo-Boost frequencies as high as an i9 9900K, meaning you will have to trade clock speeds for core-count.

Excellent options here are:

The above recommendations don’t clock quite as high as an Intel i9 9900K Processor but because of the higher number of cores they are a lot faster in tasks that make good use of multi-threading, such as rendering.

After Effects used to make full use of all of your Cores, but Adobe refactored the renderer a few Versions back, making it much less powerful.

To still be able to make use of high-core-count CPUs though, check out the BGRenderer Plugin.

The overall best After Effects Performance Value currently is offered by AMD with its mid-range Ryzen CPUs such as the Ryzen 5 3600 or Ryzen 7 3700X.

How much Memory (RAM) do you need for After Effects?

You can never have enough RAM for After Effects. If you thought Chrome was RAM hungry, think again.

The amount of RAM you will need depends a lot on what type of projects you are working on, what other programs you have opened at the same time and how many Cores your CPU has and if you are using plugins like BGRenderer.

If you are using After Effects for lower-res projects that don’t go above 1280×720 and you work in 8Bit Color and your timeline isn’t too complex or long, you might get away with 16GB of RAM without noticing any slowdowns.

I wholeheartedly recommend at least 32GB of RAM for serious After Effects use though, better 64GB if your projects are in FullHD or above and in 16 or 32Bit Color and your Footage consists of multiLayer EXRs or similar heavy footage.

After Effects will take it all, and be sure you limit the RAM usage of After Effects in your preferences, otherwise your System might crawl to a halt.

Best RAM specs for After Effects

Be sure the RAM you chose is decently clocked, with 3200Mhz or 3600Mhz usually being the sweet spot of performance to price. Look out for lower latency RAM such as CL14 or CL16 if your budget allows this.

Having at least two RAM modules makes sure they run in Dual Channel mode, giving you double the potential bandwidth for accessing your Memory. On HEDT Motherboards with chipsets such as x399, TRX40 or x299, you can double that bandwidth again if you have at least 4 RAM Modules hooked up.

Be sure to buy RAM Modules in Kits. The modules within a Kit are factory tested and guaranteed to run smoothly within that configuration of modules.

If you buy multiple kits or even modules from different manufacturers, the possibility of them not working together smoothly is much higher.

Best Graphics Card (GPU) for After Effects

Most After Effects workloads are much more dependent on CPU Performance than on GPU Performance.

It is only when using certain effects or plugins, that a strong GPU will show you noticeable speed-ups – Or if you are working on 3D-Projects and are using the After Effects Raytracing engine.

The most important features in a GPU for After Effects are the number of Compute Units (on AMD Cards) or CUDA Cores (on Nvidia’s GPUs) since After Effects can make use of these in 3D viewport rendering, as well as in speeding up some effects-calculations that might be applied to your footage.

Great choices here are the Nvidia 2070 RTX and 2080 RTX since these have a great price/performance ratio. If you have some cash left over, consider the Nvidia RTX 2080 TI for that extra bit of performance.

After Effects GPU Performance

As you can see in the above Benchmark Rankings by Pugetsystems, it almost doesn’t matter if you buy a GPU for 150$ or one that costs 10 times that.

If After Effects is the only Content Creation Tool you are using, and you know you won’t use the Raytracing Engine or specific Effects that make use of GPU accelleration, then feel free to get a lower-tier GPU such as the Nvidia GTX 1660 or AMD Radeon Vega 64.

Also, After Effects doesn’t natively make use of Multiple GPUs, but if you also use your PC for 3D-Animation in tasks such as GPU rendering in Octane or Redshift, having Multiple GPUs will greatly increase your performance.

Best Hard-Drive (HDD/SSD) for After Effects

When working on projects in After Effects, often-times you’ll be using Footage, which is high-res and high-bit-depth. Multiple Layers of 32Bit EXRs or RED Files come to mind here, and these are huge.

You’ll greatly benefit from having a fast drive to read all this footage from, to make previews and rendering as fast as possible.

The new M.2 SSD Drives such as the Samsung 970 EVO PLUS or PRO have excellent performance and outperform any SATA SSD by far. Highly recommended for Footage, Cache and Software Drives.

Drive Speed Comparisons SSD vs HDD vs NVME

The above Chart shows you how superior an nvme SSD is to HDDs or traditional SATA SSDs. Of course this is sequential performance, but random read / write and higher cue-depths too are faster on most nvme Drives.

Best Monitor for After Effects

Buying Monitors is an extremely interesting area in itself.

You might want to check out this in-depth Guide to buying the best Monitors for visually demanding work, which should have all the information you’ll need for getting the best Monitor for After Effects.

After Effects Custom Computer Builds

Head on over to the Web-Based CG-Director PC-Builder Tool, that will let you configure a Motion-Design & After Effects build in less than 4 clicks.

An excellent Build, that I recommend often, would consist of the following parts:

 

What kind of Computer for After Effects 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!

115
Comments

Ivanov

Hello Alex,
first of all… many many many thanks for such good info you’ve written here. I have a question for 4 configurations, would you like to help me, please. Which one is better for Adobe After Effects? I am really confused… There are some people who told me Ryzen is better than Intel for Adobe, but some people told me Intel is better than Ryzen from those configurations. Please help me. Thank you in advance.

PC 1

CPU: Ryzen 7 3700x 16 threads
Motherboard: GB B450 AORUS Pro /AM4
RAM: 2X8G DDR4 3000 ADATA XPG D10
GPU: MSI 1070Ti Gaming 8GB
Disk: ADATA GAMMIX S5 512GB M2 PCIE
Box: FD CORE 2500 ATX MID TWR BLACK
Power: be quiet! Straight Power 10 800W Gold
—————–

PC 2

CPU: Intel Xeon E5-2689 CPU 2.6 LGA 2011
GPU: Nvidia ASUS Cerberus GeForce® GTX 1070 Ti Advanced Edition 8GB GDDR5
FAN: 2х Corsair HD120 RGB LED 120x120x25mm 1725rpm (CO-9050066)
2хCorsair HD120 RGB LED 120x120x25mm 1725rpm (CO-9050065)
Deepcool Maelstrom 240 RGB 2x120mm
POWER: Corsair AX760 760W Platinum
DISK: SSD: SAMSUNG M.2 PM981 1TB
RAM: HYNIX server memory DDR3 32GB 1866mhz
Motherboard: LGA 2011
—————–

PC3

CPU: Ryzen 7 2700 16 threads
Motherboard: GB B450 AORUS Pro /AM4
RAM: 2X8G DDR4 3000 ADATA XPG D10
GPU: MSI 1060 Gaming X 6GB
Disk: Kingston 256GB m2 NVME
Box: FD CORE 2500 ATX MID TWR BLACK
Power: Fortron Hyper 700W
—————–

PC4

CPU: Intel i7-6700
GPU: Gtx 1060 6gb ddr5
RAM: Corsair 8gb ddr4
FAN: Cooler Master
DISK: Ssd 240gb

Steve

I note speed of ram often mentioned. 3000, 3200 3600 etc. What should also should be considered is
A. latency eg cl14, cl16 cl19 Smaller latency usually better.

B. Quality of memory a good Samsung B die cl16 may be more stable and able to be overclocked compared to a – just at the edge of it capability -micron E die memory at cl16. This an issue at the popular 3200 cl16 range where retailers sell poorer quality memory at the same price as the better stuff as not everyone checks the full specs.

C. Built in memory controllers for different generations of cpu/motherboards. Eg. Ryzen 3000 + x570 combo can support faster & lower latency memory than prior generation .

D. Ram prices/brand not indicative of quality of ram. Check specs carefully and do research. Poor memory choice can lead to instability or lower performance.

E. As Always when really pushing for the best there is the diminishing returns issue. Edit:in regards to specs eg cl16-16-16-34 would generally be better than cl16-19-19-38, always check full specs not just the first number.

F. Motherboard manufacturer support, Not all boards created equal, check motherboards QVL to see what memory is officially supported. If not on the list you can have issues. Some manufacturers bios & support can be flaky. If buying new expensive system review forums for that board to see if there are any known issues.

Alex

Hi,
thanks for the article. I’m planning to build an AE rig this year and I have a question.
I was planning on using a 9900K, 64GB RAM in 2×32 so I could expand to 128 at some point, going to use my old 1070Ti until I upgrade at some point, but I’m not sure about the Mainboard.

Does it make sense to get a mainboard with 3xm.2 ports so I could use three Evo Plus, 500 GB for software, 500GB for scratch disk and 1TB for video storage? (plus 1-2 SATA data graves)
If not, which of the drives (system, scratchdisk, footage) should I prioritize? I’m guessing the system drive has the least work once the system and programs are loaded?

Andrei

This article is like an commercial for all top cards and CPU’s. You just simply took all last version of CPU’s and newest and best video-cards and listed them here. This page looks like an e-shop commercial of best parts. And I have just read a ton of other articles that are telling exactly the opposite: more exactly that difference is just marginally from upgrading from an older processor to these newer versions and also for video cards where difference from 4 or 6 gigs and 11 won’t bring a huge difference in performance but in costs.

So, it is easy to copy/paste a list of latest tech and recommend only the last versions and the best parts. Even I could do this by taking the most expensive parts of an e-shop and making an article. In my opinion, this is not the way to build a system. Of course it would be best to always have the latest and best technology .but in the end it’s all about the balance not having the most expensive parts.

Matteo

GPU choice
Hi Alex,
I really appreciate your work and your post.
About GPU I can’t figure out, for After Effects purposes, if it is better a 1080Ti or an RTX 2080 Super.
I suppose that Ae doesn’t use all the new features of the new generation, so instead of choose a new RTX, it’s a better choice a 1080Ti with a 9900K.
In other software like Resolve, a dual 1080Ti will be an advantage? I’m thinking about the 16 PCI lanes Limit.
Thank you from Italy

Hi Matteo,

Thanks for dropping a line!

After Effects benchmarks show that a 1080 Ti is slightly better than the RTX 2080 so if you don’t need the 11GB VRAM of the 1080 Ti, going for the RTX 2080 or the RTX 2080 Super might give you a better price to performance ratio. As for DaVinci Resolve, the best GPU you can get is still the RTX 2080 Ti followed closely by the RTX 2080. In fact, an RTX 2080 performs better in benchmarks compared to the 1080 Ti. In terms of a multiple GPU setup, adding a second GPU delivers a performance gain of up to 75% if you are using DaVinci Resolve Studio. However, DaVinci Resolve does not scale perfectly with multiple cards and there are times when a single GPU like an RTX 2080 TI will be faster and cheaper compared to having a dual RTX 2080 or dual 1080 Ti configuration.

A 2080Ti just barely exceeds the bandwidth of pcie x8, so I’d say it’s safe to go with 2x gpus running at x8. Especially if your are only going with 1080Ti or 2080.

Cheers,
Alex

MiK

Hi Alex, thank you for your informations here. I am not sure which CPU to buy for my Adobe applications.
Working with After Effects, Photoshop and Premiere Pro. Here is my configuration :

32 GB Ram
GTX 1660 , 6GB
500 GB Kingston M.2

And now the big question :

I7 9700K or Ryzen 7 3700X ?

Can you recommend a CPU? Thanks in advance!

Hey Mik,

Thanks for dropping a line!

The 3700X scores above the 9700k in both photoshop and after effects benchmarks and is about on par in premiere pro, so I recommend going with the 3rd gen ryzen. Go check out some of the benchmark scores here:

Photoshop: https://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/articles/Photoshop-CPU-Roundup-AMD-Ryzen-3rd-Gen-AMD-Threadripper-2-Intel-9th-Gen-Intel-X-series-1529/
After Effects: https://www.cgdirector.com/best-computer-for-after-effects/#tablepress-23-scroll-wrapper
Premiere Pro: https://www.cgdirector.com/best-computer-for-video-editing/#The_Processor_Best_performing_CPU_for_Video_Editing_Intel_i9_9980XE_Best_CPU_for_Video_Editing_under_500_AMD_Ryzen_9_3900X

The great thing about 3rd gen ryzen also is that you are much more future proof than with intel. AM4 Socket will likely be upgradeable for much longer than the current intel lga 1151 socket.

Cheers,
Alex

Gus

Hi Alex, thanks for your recommendations! very useful! I’m a motion grapher too and I work a lot with AE, adobe products in general and starting a bit with Blender and Unity…. my point.. I am looking to upgrade my old FX 8350 to Ryzen 3000 but my budget is very low, then according to your recommendations I can go for a 3600, but my question is: it’s worth paying the difference for a 3700X, does it feel any real difference? (I work everyday with AE, maybe I can note this kind of things 😉

And the other dilemma I have is about MOBOs, what do you think about the new chipset X570? Do they have any extra effect on Ryzen CPUs for applications of this type? I do not intend to use RAID or PCIe 4.0 right now, maybe in the future but not closely…… so I think a mid-range X470 is enough to handle an R5, R7 even an R9… what do you think?, should I go for a low-range X570 or go for a mid-range X470 (prices are very similar)

To complete the setup:
-GTX1070 MSI GamingX (I’m going to skip this generation, the next one I’ll update)
-Cooler master 650W
-RAM 16GB (2×8) Corsair 3600 CL18 (I already bought them)
-Generics SSDs (looking to buy M.2 soon too)

Budget max for Mobo+CPU: 500€

Thanks in advance!!

Hi Gus,

Thanks for dropping a line!

With the type of work you do, you want to invest in a high-clocking CPU. If you have the budget for it, I suggest that you go for the Ryzen 7 3700X. You mentioned that you are starting a bit with Blender and the 3700X gets the better of the 3600 based on our Blender Benchmark Results and our AE Benchmark results.

In addition to that, the 3700X has 2 more cores and a slightly higher Max Boost Clock than the 3600. While others may not feel the difference between the performance of the two, you may be able to note this as you said you work everyday with AE. Especially as AE’s GUI is so dependent on high single core clocks, the extra bit in the 3700X will make a difference.

In terms of Motherboards, if you don’t need pcie4 or any kind of overclocking I’d recommend to even go with a b450 Chipset and save some more money. The MSI Tomahawk MAX b450 is an excellent board that also supports all 3rd gen ryzen cpus out of the box.

If going with the 3700X means you’ll have to get low clocking RAM though, I’d opt to get the R5 3600 with high clocking RAM instead of the 3700X with low clocking RAM. The Ryzen series performs much better with 3200mhz or 3600mhz RAM and is usually worth the investment.

Hope this helps.

Cheers,
Alex

Gus

Hi Alex! thanks for your help!, I will definitely make an effort to buy the 3700X, I think it’s worth those 2 extra cores for the 3d and especially rendering (at the end I use the same computer for everything, including as an entertainment center, gaming etc.)

About the MOBO… I understand and I know that a B450 like Tomahawk is a great option for the price, but I think I can afford to spend a little more for something more current like the X470 or the X570, Especially planning to buy in the next Black Friday where I can find better deals in the high-end X470 or even on Mid-range X570 (but I don’t have much hope on those)

the thing is I’m a little overclock enthusiast, nothing extreme, just for gaming and I really appreciate the extra USB ports and fans connectors, have at least one CMOS button and maybe bluetooth 4-5…. the truth is difficult to find a mobo in the low ranges that meets all your needs, so I try to find the balance between features, good ram support and price (maybe in that order)

That’s why I think that Black Friday is a good opportunity to acquire those products that normally have an excessive price for a fairer price, that’s all, we’ll see 😉

Thank you very much for your advices!

Hey Gus,

If you have the means for it and have the opportunity to get a high-end X470 or even a mid-range X570 on sale, I say go for it! The maxim “You get what you pay for” applies to a motherboard purchase so if you want to strike a balance between features, good RAM support, and price, you may need to cough up more dough, so to speak.

Anyway, good luck on your build and let me know how it turns out!

Cheers,
Alex

VFX Meda Production

hi all

i use AE increasingly and the preview ram sometimes is slow (FULL/HALF/THird/quarter) very slow

my pc

AMD RYZEN 2700x
64 GB ram hyperx fury 3200
Rogstrix x470f motherboard
Corsair M.2 256GB
Cooler master power supply 500w
GTX 1070 ti windforce 8GB
plz help? How to fix this lag and slow preview on timeline

thnx:)

Hi VFX Meda Production,

Thanks for dropping a line!

Your hardware seems fine for After Effects but the lag and slow preview could depend on your project setup and complexity. If I may ask, how complex your project is? How many effects and what type of effects are used? What’s the resolution and bit depth? Also, what exactly do you mean by lag? How large is the lag and when does it lag?

Cheers,
Alex

Alexandra

Hi Alex,
What would be the best build for DaVinci Resolve studio 16 and Fusion ?
Thank you!

Hi Alexandra,

Thanks for dropping a line!

If you will be using DaVinci Resolve Studio 16 and Fusion, you want a build with a high-clocking CPU at the heart of your system. Also, you might want to have multiple hard drives to serve as storage space for the files you will be working on.

If I may ask, how much is your budget?

Say foor example, you are working on a $1,500 budget, you can get a build like the one I put together below:

Parts List:
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X 3.6GHz 8-Core Processor ($327.98)
CPU Cooler: be quiet! Pure Rock AM4 ($36.90)
Motherboard: Gigabyte X570 Gaming X ATX AM4 ($169.99)
GPU: NVIDIA GTX 1660TI 6GB – Gigabyte Windforce ($279.99)
Memory: 32GB (2 x 16GB) Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2666 CL16 ($129.99)
Storage SSD: Samsung 860 EVO 1TB 2.5″ Solid State Drive ($129.99)
Storage PCIe-SSD: Samsung 970 EVO PLUS 500GB M.2 Solid State Drive ($119.98)
Storage HDD: Western Digital 4TB Blue, 3.5″ ($87.37)
Power Supply: Corsair CX Series CX550 550W ATX 2.4 Power Supply ($64.99)
Case: Phanteks Enthoo Pro ATX Full Tower Case ($148.50)

The total of the build comes up to around $1495.68. With this build, you get a high-clocking Ryzen 7 3700X CPU. With its 3.6 GHz base clock and Max Boost of up to 4.4 GHz, you can expect the 3700X to deliver task responsiveness when you’re working actively inside the software. You also get three separate hard drives for your files. You can use the 2.5-inch SATA SSD for your OS and commonly used software while the M.2 SSD and 4TB HDD can be used for your files and backing up your data and you’re good to go.

If you haven’t done so, please check the site’s PC Builder Tool at https://www.cgdirector.com/pc-builder/ for build recommendations based on budget and use case scenario.

Cheers,
Alex

Alexandra

Thank you Alex! Would I get a much better performance if I get an AMD Ryzen 9 3900X and Nvidia RTX 2080? Budget around $2,200

Hi Alexandra,

There will definitely be an increase in performance if you go for Ryzen 9 3900X CPU and an RTX 2080 GPU.

For a $2,200 budget, you can get something like the below:

Parts List:
CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X 3.8GHz 12-Core Processor ($499.99)
CPU Cooler: be quiet! Dark Rock 4 AM4 ($74.90)
Motherboard: ASUS TUF Gaming x570-Plus (Wifi) ATX AM4 ($199.99)
GPU: NVIDIA RTX 2070 8GB – MSI Gaming ($481.99)
Memory: 32GB (2 x 16GB) Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3200 CL16 ($143.99)
Storage SSD: Crucial MX500 2TB 2.5″ Solid State Drive ($223.48)
Storage PCIe-SSD: Samsung 970 EVO 1TB M.2 Solid State Drive ($169.99)
Storage HDD: Seagate BarraCuda Compute 6TB, 3.5″ ($138.00)
Power Supply: Corsair CX Series CX550 550W ATX 2.4 Power Supply ($64.99)
Case: Phanteks Enthoo Pro ATX Full Tower Case ($148.50)

The total comes up to around $2145.82 but this build now comes with a snappier Ryzen 9 3900X CPU with 12 cores and 3.8 GHz base clock and up to 4.6 GHz Max Boost. I chose the RTX 2070 GPU for this build to fit your $2,200 budget but no worries if it’s a step down from the RTX 2080. The RTX 2070 brings the best price to performance ratio among GPUs at the moment and, like the RTX 2080, it also comes with CUDA core acceleration for better render speeds should you plan on using the GPU render engines.

Cheers,
Alex

Anos

Hi Alex.
I use proffesionally adobe suite and especially Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects and InDesign.
I use this pc build for 3 years but i use AE increasingly and the preview sometimes is slow.
Could you please tell me if i could upgrade something in my build or should i buy a new pc? Thank you in advance for your time.

CPU: Intel Core i7-6700
RAM: Kingston KHX2400C15/8G KHX2400C15D4/8G KHX2400C15/8G KHX2400C15D4/8G 32GB
GPU: Nvidia GTX 750-Ti
SSD: Corsair Force MP300 NVMe PCIe M.2 240GB
MBD: Gigabyte Z170X-GAMING 3
HDD: Toshiba DT01ACA100 1TB
HDD: Intenso External USB 3.0 1TB
OS: Windows 10