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Best CPU For Rendering [2020 Guide]

CG Director Author Alex Glawion  by Alex Glawion   ⋮   ⋮   381 comments
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Best CPU For Rendering [2020 Guide]

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

Finding the best CPU For Rendering, that is also as cheap as possible, is something you will want to do before building a new Computer for 3D Rendering, or a dedicated Rendernode/ 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 R15, the currently leading Benchmarking Software for CPU Rendering Performance.

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

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

So lets 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 9900K: 8 Cores, Slightly snappier active Working, needs extra Cooler, can get very hot – 2077 Cinebench (R15) Points

So 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 9900K).

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 regulations) you usually have to find a middle ground between 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 of course not always 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 wait idly, until these preparation phases are done.

Lots of these Benchmarks, such as Cinebench, mainly measure the Bucket Rendering Phase where a Multi-Core CPU with lots of 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).

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 your Task Manager to see if the current stage uses all 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:

Cinema 4D Render Stages - CPU Rendering

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.


Join the New 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!

381
Comments
Also check out our Forum for feedback from our Expert Community.

Mujeeb

Hello Alex – now that it is established that we need CPU based rendering, Through PC Build section of yours we got a parts list based on budget of $2,000.00, it works super.
It has suggested
AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 3.5 GHz 16 core (great)
MSI X570 Tomahawk ATX AM4 (great) &

AMD Radeon RX 5600XT-XFX Thicc Pro
Question – is it ok if we replace above with
EVGA GeForce RTX2060 KO P4-2068-KR, 6GB GDDR6, Dual Fans

Thanks / Mujeeb

Chris

Hi – I have a MacPro 2013 with a 3Ghz 8-core Intel Xeon E5. I have the opportunity to upgrade with deeply discounted 3GHz 10-core Intel Xeon E5-2690 v2 or 2.7GHz 12-core Intel Xeon E5-2697 v2.

I edit primarily with FCPX/Motion and have been building 3D multi-light/multi-sets in Motion. I also use Photoshop and Lightroom.

Is it worth the upgrade and if so, which processor should I choose?

Thanks for the help.

Mujeeb

Hello Alex
i am on the verge of buying a PC for office.
Main objective is to get high end 3ds max ‘Lighting’ renderings done quickly for Architectural Building and Towers etc. For Lighting we use Photometrical ‘ies’ files, which tends to make the files very heavy and takes a lot of time to render (when compared to simple v ray renders).

We are thinking of the following specifications..
Intel i9 9900K Coffelake LG1151 UHD 630 in preferance to
Ryzen Threadripper 3950x ( as we think Intel will be more value for money).

RAM DDR4 32 GB PC3200 GSKILL (2x16GB) RIPJAWS x 2 nos – Total 64GB ie

500GB SSD Samsung 860 EVO +
WD 2TB SATA HDD 3.5

HP NVIDIA Quadro P5000 16GB or should it be
PNY Quadro RTX 5000 16GB (is there a major difference in price and which do you recommend)

Casing – Corsair Case 570xMirror RGB Lianli PCO 11-Dynamic Mid Tower
Power Supply – Corsair RM850x
Cooler – Thermal Take Water 3.0/360 ARGB AIO Liquid Cooler
CL-W234-PL125W-A

Of the above specs one vendor has quoted USD 3,700.00 without vat (with RTX 5000 GPU)
and 2nd Vendor USD 4,000.00 (with P5000 GPU)..

what are your recommendations ? anything which we should specifically change.
Also reading in your blog the Light Cache (that is our photometric lighting rendering) happens before bucket rendering – so does that imply more cores in our case is not a major advantage ?

Apologies for the detailed description – await keenly your reply.
Thanks so much in advance.

Mujeeb

Arfaath

Hi Alex,
I am an Architect by profession,
I’m in the beginner stage of learning computational 3d software’s which has incredible meshes and poly lines and also the rendering software’s which dose hybrid rendering. In future i believe that the architecture projects with V.R coding would be a proof.
As on Average I use my pc more than 12 hours a day. I believe in durability and performance
Please suggest me a pc configuration for 2000-2500$ build or do i have to spend more on configuring pc.
thanks

Sundos

Hey Alex,

Thank you so much for this post!! Honestly, I’ve read through it multiple times!! Really great source of information! What I’ve really been stuck on is the CPU. I am a look dev artist and my focus is shading/grooming. I recently graduated from college so I’m looking to get a build going so I can continue to work on projects at home.

I do some 3D modeling in Maya and a little bit of sculpting in Zbrush, but I mainly work with texturing 3D assets and creating grooms (although I will be getting more into modeling). I do work in scene a lot when I’m texturing, grooming, and sometimes lighting. I work with a lot of texture maps and am often doing small quick renders to see how textures are looking in a scene, same with Xgen grooms and lighting set-ups. So a lot of rendering then tweaking until I get to a point where I’m ready to send a final render off. I often have a lot of programs open at the same time, programs like Maya, Substance Painter/Designer, Mari, and Photoshop.

I know that:
Modeling/actively working in 3D Scene = higher clocking speeds
3D rendering images/animations = as many cores as possible

So I’m just not sure which CPU to go with since I do a bit of both. I’ve been looking at the AMD Ryzen 9 3950 x and the Intel i9 9900k. I was wondering if you had any suggestions or advice for me!! I have a parts list that I’d love your opinion on (https://pcpartpicker.com/list/sxdPZf) or if you have a build recommendation in the $2000-$2500 range I’d greatly appreciate that too.

Thanks in advance!

Aaron

Hi Alex!
Thank you for the very informative article! Good thing I found this article, because for almost a year, I’m still searching parts for my build. I’m too hesitant to commit on something i will later regret on.

Do you have any recommendation on a mid-level build config? something that I can use for mild rendering softwares, good for photo and video editing, for 3DS, and I’m also hardcore on gaming. but I’m on a tight budget, around $1000 – $1200. Please drop any good suggestion for my budget. Thank you

Karen Moss

Hi Alex, I would like to know what would you suggest for someone who can’t build a computer what would be a great PC for 3D animation, rendering and motion graphics? THE programs I use are Cinema 4D, Realillusion iClone 7, and Unity. My budget is no more than $2,000. I was looking at the Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 but if there is something better I would like to know. Purchased one that just was too slow. Thanks in advance for your advice.

Matt

Hey Alex,
Do you have any suggestions on a build config that would be able to run both gaming and rendering capabilities efficiently? I work with 3ds Max/ Corona renderer. Budget $2500-$3000

Darren

Hey Alex. Awesome article and very informative. I haven’t built a computer in almost a decade and have been trying to ramp myself up with all this new tech. I need some parts advice as I am in dire need of an upgrade especially as a professional Video Game 3D Artist. I have a 2.5-3K (CA currency) budget and I want to put something together real nice. So far I’ve lined myself up for the Lian Li XL dynamic case with those ever so popular RGB corsair fans and ram. I’d like to stick with an Asus board as I’ve heard good reviews about it but not sure what type, however I am open to other recommendations. I’m also on the PCbuilder site, but a little overwhelmed with the choices of parts and which is good to pair up with. PS. I also use substance, photoshop, unity and unreal engines to do level design stuff. I am an avid gamer here and there as well 🙂 Thank you so much.

Sandeep singh

Hi alex

I want to bulid cpu for 3d max rendering. Plz suggest me good configration. My budget is 1200$ to 1700$.plz suggest me both configration

Hi Sandeep,

Thanks for dropping a line!

Here’s a build for a $1,200 budget:

CGDirector.com Parts List: https://www.cgdirector.com/pc-builder/?=zq1xd0n0lka

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3800X 3.9GHz 8-Core Processor ($328.98)
CPU Cooler: AMD Wraith Prism Cooler (Included with CPU) (-)
Motherboard: MSI MPG x570 Gaming Pro Carbon Wifi ATX AM4 ($258.87)
GPU: NVIDIA GTX 1660TI 6GB – Gigabyte Windforce ($258.71)
Memory: 16GB (2 x 8GB) Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2666 CL16 ($69.99)
Storage PCIe-SSD: WD Black 500GB M.2 Solid State Drive ($79.99)
Power Supply: Corsair CX Series CX550 550W ATX 2.4 Power Supply ($69.99)
Case: Corsair Carbide Series 200R ATX Mid Tower Case ($74.99)
Total: $1141.52

And here’s a build if you increase your budget to $1,700:

CGDirector.com Parts List: https://www.cgdirector.com/pc-builder/?=yb1Dg0b0lka

CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X 3.8GHz 12-Core Processor ($415.00)
CPU Cooler: be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 AM4 ($89.90)
Motherboard: ASUS TUF Gaming x570-Plus (Wifi) ATX AM4 ($343.68)
GPU: NVIDIA RTX 2060 SUPER 8GB – MSI Gaming X ($431.67)
Memory: 32GB (2 x 16GB) Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3200 CL16 ($129.99)
Storage PCIe-SSD: Samsung 970 EVO 500GB M.2 Solid State Drive ($99.99)
Power Supply: Corsair CX Series CX550 550W ATX 2.4 Power Supply ($69.99)
Case: Corsair Carbide Series 200R ATX Mid Tower Case ($74.99)
Total: $1655.21

In case there will be changes in your budget, feel free to use the site’s PC Builder Tool found at https://www.cgdirector.com/pc-builder/. You just need to specify how much your budget is and what your use case is and the tool will give you the best recommendations based on your inputs.

Cheers,
Alex

Sandeep singh

Hello Alex

Sir i m confused for rtx 2060 or quardro series graphic card. Becoz somebody suggest me quadro graphic card for 3d max vray rendering. So i m so confuse for it. Plz suggest me for best graphic card for high speed rendering.