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Best CPU For Rendering [2021 Guide]

CG Director Author Alex Glawionby Alex Glawion   ⋮  Updated   ⋮   434 comments
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Best CPU For Rendering [2021 Guide]

Have you ever wondered what Processor (CPU) is best for rendering?

Finding the best CPU For Rendering, which is also as cheap as possible, is something you will want to do before building a new Computer for 3D Rendering, or a dedicated Render node/ Renderfarm.

3ds Max, Maya, Cinema 4D, Blender, and many other 3D Software packages have in-built and 3rd-party CPU Render Engines that all rely on maximum CPU multi-Core Performance.

Since there are so many CPUs with all kinds of clock-speeds, core-counts, hyperthreading, and brand, it can be difficult to select the right platform to go with.

AMD Ryzen, Threadripper, Intel i5, i7, i9, XEON, Pentium, some with lots of Cores and others with high Core-Clocks.

In the end, it all comes down to raw CPU Rendering performance, that I will be measuring with Cinebench, the currently leading Benchmarking Software for CPU Rendering Performance.

Of course, there are lots of lists online to check cinebench points, but more important than scores, is how well the Performance / Dollar ($) ratio is, as spending an unnecessary amount on a CPU is something we want to avoid.

This is why I have created a Performance/Dollar ($) Table that you can sort to your liking.

This will show you the best Rendering CPU for the Money:

Best CPU for 3D Rendering

Performance / Dollar ($): Higher is better.

= AMD   |    = Intel

CPU NameCoresGHzCinebench R15Price($)Performance/Dollar
AMD Ryzen 5 260063.4130711511.26
AMD Ryzen 5 2600X63.6137312610.89
AMD Ryzen 7 2700X83.7178316510.80
AMD Ryzen 7 270083.2152614510.52
AMD Threadripper 1920X123.5243124010.12
AMD Threadripper 1900X83.817112008.55
AMD Ryzen 5 360063.615811997.94
AMD Ryzen 7 1700X83.415402157.16
AMD Ryzen 7 170083.014262096.80
AMD Ryzen 7 1800X83.616132396.74
AMD Ryzen 5 160063.211471696.71
AMD Ryzen 9 5900X123.736785496.69
AMD Ryzen 5 140043.27871196.61
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X63.719632996.56
AMD Threadripper 2920X123.526044006.51
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X83.621163296.43
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X123.831684996.34
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X83.826074495.80
AMD Ryzen 5 1500X43.58031395.77
AMD Ryzen 9 5950X163.445637995.71
AMD Ryzen 5 1600X63.312502195.71
AMD Threadripper 1950X163.430625505.56
AMD Ryzen 3950X163.540707505.42
AMD Ryzen 7 3800X83.921663995.42
Intel i5 840062.89661795.39
Intel i7 870063.213892894.80
Intel i7 9700K83.615423604.28
AMD Threadripper 3960X243.8593313994.24
AMD Threadripper 2970WX243.0432310254.21
Intel i9 9900K83.620775004.15
AMD Threadripper 2950X163.532107954.04
Intel i7 8700K63.714283593.98
Intel i9 9940X143.331738293.82
Intel i9 10980XE183.037999993.80
AMD Threadripper 3970X323.7739819993.70
Intel i7 7800X63.513333693.62
Intel i9 9980XE183.0379910493.62
Intel i9 9920X123.524387193.45
Intel i9 9960X163.132119293.45
Intel i7 8086K63.713864253.26
Intel i7 7700K44.29963103.21
Intel i7 7740X44.39863292.99
Intel i5 9600K63.710683602.96
Intel i5 7600K43.87012392.93
AMD Threadripper 2990WX323.0522417992.90
Intel i7 7820X83.617345992.89
Intel i7 7820X83.617345992.89
AMD Threadripper 3990X642.91044939902.61
Intel i7 6800K63.410964192.61
Intel XEON E5-2620 v482.110964202.60
Intel i9 7900X103.321699992.17
Intel i7 6850K63.612355702.16
Intel i9 7920X122.9243812002.03
Intel i9 7940X143.1284914501.96
Intel i9 7960X162.8316117001.89
Intel i9 7980XE182.6345519001.81
Intel i7 6900K83.2156210491.48
Intel XEON E5-2650 v4122.2158912001.32
Intel i7 5960X83.0132410691.23
Intel i7 6950X103.0178816491.08
Intel XEON E5-2687W v4123.0186024440.76
Intel XEON E5-2699 v4222.2246045000.54
CPU NameCoresGHzCinebench R15Price($)Performance/Dollar

 

Now you know the best Performance / Price ratio of different CPUs.

Keep in mind, to truly find not just the best performing CPU for Rendering, but the best overall system for your rendering needs, you should also consider:

  • Power consumption: Does the CPU need lots of power and drive up your power bill?
  • Single vs Multi-Socket Systems: What is the overall system price per CPU? Many Intel Xeons, for example, are available as 2 socket systems, that might make an overall system price per CPU cheaper
  • Heat: Does the CPU get very hot? Will you need a loud and expensive Cooling Solution? Ryzen and Threadripper CPUs tend to be easily cooled
  • CPU-Cooler Price: Some CPUs such as the AMD Ryzen CPUs have a CPU Cooler included in the package already
  • Motherboard price: A cheap CPU might not be such a great deal if you need an expensive Motherboard for it
  • Number of Cores (Performance) per System: A Ryzen 5 3600 might have extremely high CPU Rendering Value but you will also need multiple of those CPUs (and therefore multiple Systems) to get to the performance of a single Threadripper 3990X

If your rendering demands are high and a single PC might not be enough, be sure to check our Guide on building your own Renderfarm.

AMD Ryzen 9 3900X vs Intel i9 10900K

I have been asked this several times as these CPUs are both extremely popular. 3900X vs 9900K. Which one is better for rendering?

So let’s do a quick comparison:

  • AMD Ryzen 9 3900X: 12 Cores, Cheaper, Faster at Rendering, Included Cooler, Stays cooler – 3168 Cinebench (R15) Points
  • Intel Core-i9 10900K: 10 Cores, Slightly snappier active Working, needs extra Cooler, can get very hot – 2677 Cinebench (R15) Points

If you put everything but performance aside it usually comes down to:

  • Are you rendering a lot (get a 3900X)
  • or actively work on this PC a lot (get an i9 10900K).

One of these two CPUs is usually what you would choose when building a Computer for Animation or a Computer for 3D Modeling, as they are some of the highest-clocking CPUs out there.

High Core-Counts vs. high Core-Clock

Both, high core-counts and high core-clocks will improve your rendering speeds. Having more cores is usually the best price/performance way of increasing 3D CPU Rendering Speed.

Of course, Rendering alone isn’t what you usually do on a typical Workstation. When actively working on it, be it in 3D, Photo Editing, Graphic Design, or Video Editing, having high core-clocks will benefit you much more than having lots of cores.

This means it would be best to both have lots of Cores and high core-clocks. Since CPUs usually trade off cores for clocks (because of thermal limits and power limits) you usually have to find a middle-ground between the Number of cores and clock-speed, though.

Best CPU for Rendering on a Laptop

Now, all of the above are CPUs that would be built into a 3D Rendering Computer or Workstation. If you are interested in using something more mobile, say, a Laptop for Animation and would also like great CPU Rendering Speed on this, then the following list is for you:

= AMD   |    = Intel

CPU NameCoresGHzCinebench R15
Intel Core i9-8950HK62.91269
Intel Core i7-8850H62.61023
Intel Core i7-9750H62.61152
Intel Core i7-8750H62.21063
Intel Core i5-8400H42.5819
Intel Core i5-8300H42.3795
AMD Ryzen 7 2700U42.2662
AMD Ryzen 5 2500U42.0584
Intel Core i7-7820HK42.9784
Intel Core i7-6820HK42.7694
AMD Ryzen 7 3700U42.3701
AMD Ryzen 5 3500U42.1620
Intel Core i9-9980HK82.41740
Intel Core i9-9880H82.31650
Intel Core i9-10980HK82.41800
AMD Ryzen 9 4900H83.31937
AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS83.01918
AMD Ryzen 7 4800H82.91820
Intel Core i7-10875H82.31716
Intel Core i7-10750H82.61431
AMD Ryzen 5 4600H63.01570
AMD Ryzen 5 4700U82.01170
AMD Ryzen 5 4500U62.3830
Intel Core i5-10300H42.5920
Intel Core i7-10710U61.11080
Intel Core i7-10510U41.8758
Intel Core i5-10210U41.6567
AMD Ryzen 7 4800U81.81302
AMD Ryzen 9 4900U82.01384
CPU NameCoresGHzCinebench

Benchmarks vs. Real World

One should be aware that benchmarks are usually not representative of all types of real-world workloads.

A Threadripper 3990WX (Review), for example, is extremely fast at rendering Scenes that would otherwise spend a huge amount of time in the bucket-rendering phase (The phase that is parallelized most easily).

CPU Rendering CPU Cores Buckets

When rendering frames that don’t take very long (< 1 min), having multiple lower-end CPUs instead of one very powerful CPU is usually better. This is because you can’t perfectly parallelize the entire rendering process! 

There are lots of steps involved in Rendering:

  • Preparation time
  • Mesh exporting
  • Texture loading time
  • Cache building time
  • Ray-Tracing Tree-building time
  • Light-Cache and other GI-Caching times

.. to only name a few. These are all rendering steps that are done before the more well-known bucket rendering stage even starts.

Some of these stages might even be restricted to single Cores. And when you have 64 Cores (as in the Threadripper 3990X), 63 of those Cores will have to wait idly, until these preparation steps are done.

Lots of these Benchmarks, such as Cinebench, mainly measure the Bucket Rendering Phase where a Multi-Core CPU with many Cores pulls ahead easily, as the underlying scenes are usually not all that complex (Read as: there is almost no “single-core” preparation-time involved in benchmarks).

Long story short:

Make sure to analyze the type of scenes you are planning on rendering. Measure what rendering stage usually takes up the most time in one of your typical scenes. Keep an eye on the CPU-utilization in your Task Manager to see if the current rendering phase uses all CPU Cores or only a few to find out what has to be improved.

Most CPU Render Engines nowadays show the current rendering stage somewhere in the render window like in the example below from the Cinema 4D Picture Viewer [Updating Geometry]:

Cinema 4D Render Stages - CPU Rendering

Be sure to also check our guide on How to Render faster. It’s quite in-depth and might save you from buying expensive components.

Custom PC-Builder

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

Select “CPU Rendering” as your main purpose and adjust your budget to create the perfect PC with part recommendations that will fit within your budget.

PC-Builder Facebook Title Image

What kind of Computer are you building? Feel free to ask for help in the comments.


Find a new friend on the CGDirector Forum! Expert Advice & PC-Build Planning with a warm and friendly Community! :)

Alex Glawion - 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!

434
Comments
Also check out our Forum for feedback from our Expert Community.

Rozario

Hi Alex
Im a Architecture visualizer im currently planning to build a Workstation. The software i work on are 3ds max and vray. Can you suggest which graphic card should i go for Quadro RTX 4000 or RTX 3070

J R

This forum is a great help. Thanks a lot. I am looking to buy a new desktop specifically for heavy rendering in Adobe after effects. I see you have recommended the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X over the Intel i9 10900K as the cpu for my application, is this still the case? I like the price range for either of these, but i am curious if you have recommendations to what would be a good cpu a step below and above these 2 options so i can try to understand a bit more about this choice. Also do you know a good website to buy computers from?
Thanks for your help
Regards

kartik malviya

Hi Alex

I am Kartik. I am a student and want to learn animation please help me with choosing the right processor and graphics card. my budget is between 350 to 400 dollars.

thanks

Mr K

Hi Alex..

Thanks for great and informative article. Its help me a lot..
I am Architectural Project Designer. I am planning for buying new pc. I using Autocad, Vray, Lumion, Sketchup, Revit, Rhino, Photoshop, illustrator, After Effect and Premier pro in big scale project.
Would you please suggest pc spec for rendering/heavy working purpose and gaming.
I am suggesting for my new pc because i already buy lian li o11 mini case.

– Processor : intel i7 10700k or AMD ryzen 7 5800x (can you recommend witch one is the best for me)
– Motherboard : Asus ROG Strix Z490-G gaming(wifi) matx-intel / TUF GAMING B550M-PLUS WIFI-AMD
– Graphic card : MSI GEFORCE® RTX3070 VENTUS 3X OC
– RAM : 3200ghz 32gb
– SSD : M.2 PCIE NVME 1tb
– SSD : 1 tb
– HDD : 1 tb
– PSU : Cooler Master V-SFX 750w
– AIO Cooler : Cooler Master Masterliquid
– Fan : 120mm x 4
– Case : Lian li O11 mini
Is this good or you can give another option around 2000$.

Thank You.

Roniel Srougo

Hello Alex! First of all, I want to thank you for all the work you put into these guides, it’s really amazing and I learned so much in just a couple of hours.

I do have a question, I’m a 3d artist and looking to upgrade my cpu to a Ryzen 9 5900X to get a high active performance, I don’t do much rendering, so multi core processing is not a priority.

The thing is that I have 16gb DDR4 3200mhz of ram and a nvidia gtx 1070, I don’t know if the ram or gpu will bottleneck the cpu performance. I will be very grateful if you could give me an advice on the matter. Thank you very very much for all the love you put into this!