What Hardware do you Need for 3D Rendering?


The hardware you need for 3D rendering varies based on your rendering needs. 3D rendering can do a number on your processor, not to mention it can take forever to complete if you don’t have the correct components. What are the most important components, though?

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Figuring out what you need can feel overwhelming. Whether you are using a laptop or desktop workstation, your hardware affects your rendering speed and capabilities. No need to worry, though, below we have laid out the various aspects of hardware in detail based on your specific needs.

Here are the items you need to focus on:

  • CPU (Central Processing Unit)
  • GPU (Graphics Processing Unit)
  • RAM (Random-Access Memory)
  • Storage
  • PSU (Power Supply Unit)

 

CPU (Central Processing Unit)

Is Core i5 Good For 3D Rendering?

The CPU, central processing unit, is easily one of the most important components when it comes to 3D rendering. CPUs are made up of multiple processors called cores. These cores impact how fast you can render.

The Intel Core i5 can be used for 3D rendering. It is not the best option price wise or performance wise, but it will get the job done.  

Core i5 is a processor available at different speeds with different numbers of cores. Most come with 4 cores and are commonly used for everyday tasks on laptop and desktop computers. Below we have laid out various CPU options that may be better suited for you.

Intel’s Core i5s

The Core i5 comes in various versions. Dependent upon your rendering needs, here are a few to consider.

 

Intel Core i5 Version Comparisons

CPU Number of Cores GHz Cinebench R15
Intel Core i5- 8400 6 2.8 966
Intel Core i5-10300H 4 2.5 920

 

The Core i5 can be used in both desktop and laptop computers. If you’re looking to get the best bang out of your buck, the Core i5- 8400 with 6 cores and 2.8 GHz is your best option.

GHz (gigahertz) is the measurement of clock speed. The higher the clock speed, the faster your rendering.

However, just because the Core i5-8400 has a lower clock speed, it doesn’t mean it performs slowly. Intel’s Turbo boost technology allows for the GHz to increase above the base frequency when workloads don’t require the use of all the cores. Therefore, the Core i5-8400 can get up to 4.0 GHz when rendering light workloads.

This is important to keep in mind when you look at all of Intel’s processors. The GHz are based on the base frequency. You most likely will not be using your CPU at 100% at all times and will therefore experience a higher GHz than listed most of the time.

If you plan on rendering solely on your laptop, Intel Core i5-10300H is the best Core i5 for you. With 4 cores and 2.5 GHz, it has a Cinebench R15 score of 920 compared to the Core i5-8400 with a score of 966. However, this processor is best suited for bigger laptops with good cooling systems due to its power consumption.

The Cinebench R15 tells you how fast the CPU is with completing tasks. For 3D Rendering, you should shoot for a Cinebench R15 number up near 2,000. The Core i5 doesn’t even come close. So even though it can get the job done, it won’t do so very quickly or as well as other processors.

Other Intel Cores to Consider

Intel has other CPUs for you to consider, including the Intel Core i7 and the Intel Core i9. Here are a few to consider.

 

Intel CPU Comparisons

CPU Number of Cores GHz Cinebench R15
Intel Xeon Platinum 8180 28 2.5 4,335
Intel Core i9-10980HK 8 2.4 1,800
Intel Core i7- 8700K 6 3.2 1,428
 Intel i7-7740X 4 4.3 986
Intel Core-i9 9900K 8 3.6 2,166

 

If you’re looking for the highest Cinebench R15, The Intel Xeon Platinum 8180 scores the highest for Intel at 4,355 with 28 cores and 2.5 GHz. Depending on your rendering needs, this may be overkill. Costing around $7,000, this is for very serious rendering.

We recommend the Intel Core i9-10980HK with 8 cores and 2.4 GHz and a Cinebench R15 of 1,800 as a great option for laptop renderers at around $500. It is well-binned but needs a better cooling system, so it’s not suitable for lighter laptops.

Looking for only 6 cores? The Intel Core i7- 8700K with a Cinebench R15 of 1,428 for about $400 is a good option for you. It has low impact overclocking and great hyperthreading. However, it may require getting a new motherboard that supports this CPU.

Looking for a high number of GHz? The Intel i7-7740X with 4 cores and 4.3 GHz for around $300 is for you. Remember however that number of cores is important as well, and 4 cores even at 4.3 GHz may not be as fast as you desire.

One of the most popular Intels is the Intel Core-i9 9900K. With a score of 2,081, 8 cores, and 3.6 GHz, it gets the job done. However, it can get very hot and will likely require an extra Cooler.

AMD Processors

Whether you’re looking for the highest Cinebench R15 score or highest performance per dollar score, AMD beats Intel every time when it comes to 3D rendering.

 

AMD CPU Comparisons

CPU Number of Cores GHz Cinebench R15
AMD Ryzen 5-2600 6 3.4 1,373
AMD Threadripper 3990X 64 2.9 10,449
AMD Ryzen 7-3800X 8 3.9 2,166

 

Looking for the best bang for your buck? The AMD Ryzen 5-2600 with 6 cores, 3.4 GHz, and a Cinebench R15 of 1,373 for around $140 is the one for you. With a performance per dollar ratio of 9.8, it outcompetes the Intel i5-8400 that has a ratio of 5.39 as Intel’s highest scoring CPU in the performance per dollar category.

The CPU with the highest Cinebench R15 score is the AMD Threadripper 3990X. With 64 cores, 2.9 GHz and a score of 10,449, this is one hard working processor. Regular 3D rendering does not require a CPU of this magnitude, but it’s interesting to see just how powerful these CPUs can be.

The AMD with the highest level of GHz is the AMD Ryzen 7-3800X with 8 cores, 3.9 GHz, and a score of 2,166. For around $400 with impressive power efficiency and a bundled cooler, this is a great option for 3D rendering.

Consider Your Processing Needs

Before deciding which CPU to purchase, think about your rendering needs. Are you an entry-level renderer, so a CPU close to a Cinebench R15 score of 2,000 will be enough, or are you more advanced and need something more powerful?

The more cores you have, the faster your rendering time but make sure you are choosing cores with higher GHz. A high number of cores with a low GHz is slowed down by the GHzs.  A happy medium between the two is the sweet spot.

Also, consider your budget and whether the cores meet or exceed your needs. No need to buy the most powerful CPU if you do not need to. Look at your present and future rendering needs and then decide how much money you are willing to put towards the CPU.

Overall, the Core-i5 will get the job done, but it is meant for more basic tasks. Consider the AMD Ryzen 5-2600, or if you want to stick with Intel, the Core-i9 9900K is a popular option.

 

GPU (Graphics Processing Unit)

What Should I Use to GPU Render?

GPU (graphics processing unit) rendering is becoming more popular because it can be faster than CPU rendering. One GPU is equivalent to anywhere between five to twenty CPUs.

To GPU render, you should use a graphic card with memory of at least 6GB, preferably higher. An Octanebench score of at least 100 is adequate.

The Octanebench is a rendering benchmark most popularly used to scale GPUs. Vram (video memory) is the amount of memory of the card in GB. Below we have laid out a few options of GPUs to consider that will meet your specific needs.

 

GPU Comparison

GPU VramIn GB Octanebench Score
NVIDIA 8x RTX 2080 Ti 11 2733
VIDIA RTX 2070 Super 8 210
NVIDIA RTX 2060 6 188

 

If you’re looking for the GPU with the highest Octanebench score, the NVIDIA 8x RTX 2080 Ti with 11 GB or Vram, and a score of 2,733 is the one for you. Stop and consider if you need this high score, though, because you most likely do not.

The best GPU for your money is the NVIDIA RTX 2070 Super with 8GB of VRAM. With a performance per dollar ratio of 0.381, this GPU stays cool while clocking with a boost clock of 1620 MHz. At an Octanebench of 210, it works great for your rendering needs.

If you’re looking for the cheapest GPU that will still get the job done, opt for the NVIDIA RTX 2060. With a Vram of 6GB and a score of 188, this GPU also runs cool, so no overheating. This is good for renderers who may just be starting out and are not doing too complex of scenes.

GPU Vs CPU Rendering

You may be asking yourself, “should GPU be a main hardware component for your 3D rendering?” This is dependent upon your needs. Are you looking for speed, quality, or best of both?

Although GPU is faster, CPU is more likely to deliver a higher quality image than GPU. CPUs have more instruction sets available to them allowing them to be more flexible in task types than GPUs.

The reason GPUs are faster is because they have more cores than a CPU, but these cores run slower than CPUs cores. The fact that there are more is why the rendering time is decreased by using GPUs. However, since CPUs have high clock speeds than GPUs, under certain conditions they can be faster.

So, if you can see the difference in quality between a CPU rendered image and a GPU rendered one, you may opt for the CPU rendering process.

However, if your 3D rendering is not too complex, and you need a quick turnaround time on your projects, GPU rendering might be better for you.

 

RAM (Random-Access Memory)

How Much RAM Do You Need For 3D Rendering?

RAM (Random-Access Memory) is your device’s short-term memory. How much you need is dependent on what level of 3D rendering you are doing. The more complex your scenes are, the more Ram you will need.

For 3D rendering, the majority of the time, you need 32 GB of RAM. People doing simple scenes can start with 16 GB of RAM. Complex scenes can require up to 64 Gb of RAM.

Choosing different RAM brands and figuring out what RAM will work best for you can be challenging. Luckily for you, we’ve compiled information on different RAM kits so that you can figure out what will work best.

Is RAM Speed Important?

RAM speed is not usually important when it comes to 3D rendering. The CPU and GPU are the main factors that affect your render time. However, there are exceptions to this.

Dependent upon the processor you use, some do benefit from higher RAM clock speed. For example, the AMD Threadripper and 3rd gen AMD Ryzen CPUs have components that are linked to the Memory Clock Speed, and therefore perform faster when this speed is higher.

Intel CPUs do not benefit from a faster RAM. Neither do most AMDs besides the ones above. So generally, you do not have to worry about the speed of your RAM.

Should I Buy A RAM Kit?

RAM Modules don’t always work well together due to factory differences from different batches and years. Therefore, buying them in a kit is preferable because you are guaranteed that they will work well together.

Kits are pre-tested, so you are not wasting your money on something that may potentially not work. Look for brands like:

  • Corsair
  • Skill
  • Kingston.

 

Be sure that your RAM fits with your Motherboard as well. Certain Motherboards can only support a limited number of RAMs, so be sure to keep this in mind when choosing your RAM.

 

Storage

How Important Is Storage When 3D Rendering?

Your storage plays an important role when it comes to 3D rendering, so picking the right one is important. Storage does things like:

  • Saving your scene files
  • Loading your scene files
  • Storing textures
  • Loading textures
  • Launching Software

Speed of storage does not actually affect render time but can decrease time when it comes to loading.

Should I Use An SSD?

An SSD (Solid State Drive) is faster and more power efficient than an HDD (Hard Disk Drive). They are also more durable than HDD but are of higher cost because they are newer technology. They cannot hold as much storage as HDD either.

You should use an SSD as storage because they do outperform HDDs. 3D rendering doesn’t require massive amounts of storage, so HDD’s high capacity isn’t needed. Here is a list of good SSDs to consider.

  • Viper VPN100 512GB NVMe
  • Crucial P1 1TB
  • Corsair 480 GB
  • Samsung 860 EVO
  • Samsung SSD 970

 

PSU (Power Supply Unit)

What PSU Should I Use?

PSU (power supply unit) is important to keep all your components powered and running efficiently. You risk damaging your components if they are not supplied with stable, reliable power. Figuring out the wattage and type that is best for you is important.

You should use a PSU with a wattage of about 750 watts. This ensures you have enough to keep everything powered now and in the future. Use 80+ Gold or Platinum certified PSUs to ensure reliability and safety to the rest of your system.

The EVGA – 750W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply for about $100 is a good option for your 3D rendering needs. Other brands to consider include:

  • Corsair
  • beQuiet
  • Seasonic

 

Laptop Vs Desktop Workstations

Now that you know all the hardware components you need to 3D render, you might be wondering if it’s better to render on a laptop or a desktop. We have given you the best components for each, but which one of these is better suited for you?

Laptops allow you the freedom of mobility. For most people, they offer enough power to complete their 3D rendering tasks. However, laptops are not as customizable as desktops, and they are not meant for high-level intricate designs. They are too limited by weight, size, and power supply to support higher level rendering.

Desktops are extremely customizable when it comes to hardware to meet your specific needs. They cost a lot upfront, but if you are looking to do some serious high level rendering, you may want to consider this option that can allow you to build a fast and powerful machine.

So, if you’re just starting out in the 3D rendering world and don’t think you will be doing complex scenes, here’s a list of laptops to consider.

  • HP Omen
    • Core i7-9750H
    • Around $1,300
  • Acer Predator Triton 700
    • Core i7-7700HQ
    • Around $2,000
  • Asus Rog G703 17.3
    • Core i9-8950HK
    • Around $3,000
  • Lenovo Yoga A940
    • Core i7-8700
    • Around $2,000

 

If you are a more advanced 3D renderer and looking for the best  desktop, here’s a few to consider.

  • Microsoft Surface Studio 2
    • Core i7-7820HQ
    • Around $5,000
  • Acer Predator Orion 9000
    • Core i9-9980XE
    • Around $7,000

Of course, you can optimize workstation hardware with the various components we have discussed. Make sure to review each component so that it works efficiently with each aspect of your workstation to meet your specific 3D rendering needs.

Below is a video that includes some more information about hardware for 3D rendering:

 

I hope this was a helpful article.

Click the following link to learn the details about rendering using GPU vs CPU.

Dr. J

Dr. J has worked in biology all his life and holds several advanced degrees and certificates in biology, anatomy, scientific illustration, 3d animation and motion graphics. He has always had an interest in teaching others the wonders of biology using the latest advances in graphics, including visualization, digital microscopy, animation, illustration, VR and interactive media.

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