Best Computer for 3D Modeling and Rendering in 2020


What is CPU rendering?

When rendering on a CPU, all of your CPU cores are 100% utilized for almost the entire process. In practical terms, this means that when choosing a computer exclusively for 3D rendering of images and videos, we always prefer the computer with the largest number of cores, even if the frequency of the processor cores is relatively low.

During rendering, the engine divides the image into parts - buckets and assigns each a core, each of which processes its own task in parallel, then receives a new one, and so on until the entire image is rendered.

What is the difference between 3d modeling?

When we work with graphics, this is an active workflow that uses hardware in a different way than rendering. For example, we create a model of a car that consists of polygons with modifiers, deformers, reflections, clones, curves, etc. The computer also performs a lot of calculations during this process, but almost all of them are carried out exclusively on one processor core.

Why is that? Because the scene is built with a certain hierarchy and the processor needs to process this entire structure step by step. The CPU cannot parallelize most of the stages into separate cores, since almost all stages are related and dependent on each other.

In practical terms, this means that even if you have a top-end processor with a bunch of cores, the modeling will not go faster and the viewport will not work faster. For the best performance in modeling and active work with the scene, the processor with the highest clock speed of a single core will be preferable, rather than their number.

Best CPU - Maximum Cores at Maximum Clock Speed?

It is quite a logical conclusion, because then we will be able to render and work as quickly as possible, thanks to such a processor. In general, yes, but practically it does not happen.

Due to the high power consumption and, as a result, the heat release, there are a number of limitations that prevent the creation of a miracle processor, which is equally good in both aspects. There is a relationship between the number of CPU cores and the maximum clock speed, and the more cores a particular processor has, the lower the limit values ​​for the clock frequency of these cores. Conversely, if the processor has fewer cores, it can be made faster.

However, technologies are not standing still, and processor manufacturers Intel and AMD have found a solution to this problem - turbo boost.

Turbo boost and turbo cores.

Imagine that we again use a computer for simulation and load 1-2 cores, the rest in idle time. Turbo boost technology overclocks these cores within safe limits for power consumption and heat dissipation for maximum performance. Technology from the manufacturer, there is nothing to be afraid of. After reaching the temperature limit, the clock frequency will be reduced to standard so as not to harm the processor itself.

Thus, in essence, we get a multi-core processor with medium frequencies, which, however, can produce more performance on 1-2 cores when needed, while the rest is idle.

This concludes the overview and moves on to the selection of components for the best computer for 3D modeling and rendering.

For active work

As we discussed above, you need to proceed from the main scenario of using the computer. If most of the time we model, sculpt, texture or animate, i.e. we are actively working at the computer, and we render the smaller part, then we need a processor with a maximum clock frequency:

Intel i9 9900K, 8 cores, base frequency 3.6 GHz, 5 GHz Turboboost
Intel i7 9700K, 8 cores, base frequency 3.6 GHz, 4.9 GHz Turbo boost (no hyperthreading)
AMD Ryzen 9 3950X, 16 cores, base frequency 3.5 GHz, 4.7 GHz Turbo boost
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X, 12 cores, 3.8 GHz base frequency, 4.6 GHz Turbo boost
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X, 8 cores, base frequency 3.6 GHz, 4.4 GHz Turbo boost

At the moment, I think the best processor for active work is the AMD Ryzen 3900X and if the budget allows, take it, you will not regret it. In addition to top-of-the-line performance in active work, the processor has 12 cores / 24 threads, which will give tremendous performance in rendering, without the need to mess with more specific AMD Threadripper. I believe that even with the release of new lines of processors, the 3900X will be relevant for a long time due to the balance of its characteristics.

Of the cheaper options from Intel, the i7-7700K 4.2 Ghz standard frequency is notable, up to 4.5 Ghz in boost. We cannot consider all processors for all budgets, but when choosing within the limits of the money that you have at your disposal, you can rely on the approach itself - it is the maximum frequency of cores that is needed, not their number. Benchmarks showing the performance of 1 thread mode to help.

For rendering

If your situation is the opposite and more time is spent on rendering on a computer, and not on active work with graphics, or we are talking about assembling a separate machine that will be used only for rendering projects, we are looking for processors with the maximum number of cores.

AMD Threadripper 3960X, 3970X, and 3990X with 24-64 cores are the best choices on the market.
You can look at Intel i9 9900X, 9920X, 9960X, 9980XE with 10-18 cores, but the price will be unreasonably high with comparable or even lower performance.

Viewport video card

Since it is usually the processor that is the bottleneck in the performance of the viewport, the choice of a video card, as a rule, will not make much difference, provided that you choose from the current and sufficiently productive ones.
It rarely happens in 3d applications for the video card to process data slower than the CPU refreshes meshes, deformers and other elements. Simply put, it is usually the video card that has to wait for the processor, and not vice versa. The exceptions include projects with heavy reflections, anti-alliance and similar things in the viewport - then you should take a more powerful GPU. Or if you have high-poly RAW meshes of 50 million polygons with a minimum of modifiers - then yes, the system will run into the maximum performance of the video card before the processor.

How much and what kind of random access memory (RAM) do you need for 3D modeling and rendering?
As with choosing a CPU, the amount and type of RAM memory is largely determined by the main usage scenarios and is quite individual. There can be small and light scenes that require very little memory and huge projects with a bunch of high-poly models, which, on the contrary, requires significant investments in RAM for comfortable work.

On average in a hospital, at the moment it is good to have 32 Gb of RAM for working with graphics. This covers the needs of an overwhelming number of renderers. If you are working with high poly meshes, using large textures and working with complex scenes with thousands of objects, then you should probably think about 64 Gb RAM.
16 Gb RAM will be enough for beginners and amateurs at the start, but if you do the graphics professionally, it will very quickly turn out that this amount of memory is no longer enough.

You shouldn't pay much attention to the frequency and timings of RAM, in our tasks the choice between different options does not give a significant performance gain. And even buying the more expensive DDR4-4166 will not make a noticeable difference over DDR4-2666. Take DDR4-2666 and don't bother yourself.

There really is a slight difference, but for the current review, we will omit the gain by a couple of percent, so as not to complicate. I will only note that a high memory frequency is much more important for AMD Threadripper than for Intel processors. If you have a Threadripper, then buying a four-channel memory with a frequency of 2933 Mhz will really give a few percent of the performance.

Should you buy RAM kits?

In my opinion, this is the preferable option and it is better that the entire amount of memory is purchased with one set. The RAM kits are already factory tested and are guaranteed to work together perfectly.
Often, visualizers save on buying a sufficient amount of memory in the calculation of buying additional memory later, which leads to the appearance of different memory modules in the system and even from different manufacturers, which can cause a drop in performance.

In general, if you need, for example, 32 Gb RAM - take a set of 4x8Gb or 2x16, but not two DIFFERENT sets of 2x8 Gb RAM. Why is it important? Different modules, even under the same brand and model, can be produced at different factories, different lines, from different silicon, at different times and timings may differ. Take a single set - a similar scenario is excluded there, everything is tested by the manufacturer.

Great reviews of RAM from ADATA, G.Skill, Crucial and Corsair - choose any manufacturer, you won't miss.

The best motherboard for 3d modeling and rendering

The motherboard affects the final performance of the computer when rendering and working in 3d applications much less than other components, but it is important to make sure that the chosen mother supports everything you need:
• Support for the correct CPU socket: different processors have different connection sockets, so it is important to ensure that the selected motherboard has the correct processor slot.
• Support for the maximum amount of memory: different motherboards have limitations on the amount of total RAM that can be in the system and on the number of slots for it. It is worth making sure that there are enough slots for the set of RAM you are about to install.
• Support for M.2 (NVME drives): if you are going to install an M.2 drive, the motherboard must support this type of drives. We will tell you more about disks a little later.
• Motherboard size: motherboards come in different sizes and it is worth making sure that the motherboard and case form factor are compatible.

Best Disc for 3D Modeling and Rendering

The performance of the drive when working with graphics affects the following points:
• Saving and loading scene files
• Storing and loading textures, assets and more
• Swap file (swap file) if there is not enough RAM
• Launching the software itself

It's simple enough: if you want to load scenes and save scenes quickly, let's take a fast drive. On the other hand, even the fastest disk has little value after the scene is loaded and spins in RAM.

For most visualizers, the option with a productive SSD for the operating system and the installation of graphics software, storing the actual scene in work is suitable. For this option, choose a 500 Gb - 1 Tb SSD, since the prices for large-capacity SSDs have dropped significantly recently. And for storing assets, archives, backups and other goodness, you can take an additional hard drive HDD for 1-2 Tb.

If you want even more performance from a disk system and have some extra money, you can consider PCI-E M.2 SSD drives, which are several times faster than conventional SSDs, but also bite at the price.

So we touched on all the major components that determine the performance of the best computer for 3d graphics and rendering.

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