CPU vs GPU Rendering: The Future in GPUs
Before diving into the best 3D workstation build of 2023, let’s shed some light on the ongoing difference in CPU and GPU render engines. In short, while CPU render engines are still in use, the GPU, especially with its accelerated parallel processing power, is rapidly becoming the future of rendering. It allows for quicker and more efficient renders. So, if you're deciding where to place your biggest investment for a 3D workstation, a top-tier GPU (or even multiple GPUs) should be at the top of your list.
Who This Build Is For
The workstation we've outlined below caters specifically to users of Cinema 4D, Blender, Houdini, Maya, 3ds Max, and other prevalent 3D software. Drawing from our extensive experience as a professional render farm, we’ve designed countless workstations for our users. Over the years, we've honed our understanding of the specific needs and demands of a powerful 3D animation PC.
Here is our recommended Workstation Build: Optimal Performance Without Over-spending
Nvidia remains the leading choice for 3D rendering, largely due to its CUDA cores, which continue to outpace OpenCL. The RTX 4090 stands out as the crown jewel in the current market. All 4090 cards are good but The Inno3D GeForce RTX 4090 iCHILL X3, with its 3-slot model, allows the possibility of a dual-GPU setup without resorting to risers for most motherboards. 3D render engines scale very well with multiple GPU cards and it will give a huge boost to your performance to add multiple cards. So if you have this option we would strongly recommend it!
Inno3D GeForce RTX 4090 iCHILL X3 This model allow for an easy dual setup.
If you are on a smaller budget you can go for a 4080,4070 or 4060 card. All still very good GPUs for 3D Rendering.
If you like to go even further, you can add 4 GPU’s or more to your workstation if you make use of water-cooling. To do this you need a Water Block for a RTX 4090 card. If you like to go this route there are plenty of good tutorials online on water-cooling your RTX cards.
For performance comparisons with the RTX 4070 and 4060 and many others, consider checking benchmark scores to compare cost vs. performance.
While GPU rendering has taken center stage for 3D rendering, don't underestimate the importance of a powerful CPU. Many programs can use multiprocessing for tasks like caching simulations, or pre-calculations for rendering. Post-production tasks still benefit from robust multicore processing.
It's a tad disappointing that AMD raised the prices of the Threadripper series with the introduction of the Pro line. If you manage to find a Ryzen Threadripper 3960X or Ryzen Threadripper 3970X at a competitive price, those are stellar choices. However, their availability has been dwindling. Given this, our top recommendation is the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X.
AMD Ryzen 9 7950X - A harmonious blend of performance and affordability.
AMD Ryzen 9 5950X or Intel i7 13700K - Both CPUs are equipped with a substantial number of cores, making them compatible with powerhouses like the 4090 card.
For those who prioritize CPU rendering, the Intel Xeon w9-3495X or AMD Ryzen Threadripper PRO 5995W* are hard to beat. Boasting a staggering 64 cores, they're tailor-made for rendering engines such as Vray and Corona.
To compare over 250 workstation scores, check out our Cinebench scores. This is a very good benchmark to see how good your CPU is for rendering. BENCHMARK LIST
Since we are going for the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X we need to find a fitting motherboard. The MSI PRO X670-P WiFi is a good choice, it has enough PCI slots, ensuring compatibility with multi-GPU setups. Its I/O, although lacking 10GB LAN, offers a substantial 2.5GB LAN and it has all the features you need for a high end motherboard.
MSI PRO X670-P WiFi
Gigabyte B650 Aorus Elite AX If you are looking for a more affordable motherboard. Don’t use this for a multi GPU setup.
ASUS ROG Maximus Z790 Hero DDR5 This board is easier to overclock and it able to handle higher ram speed. It also has more PCI slots.
For GPU rendering, having enough RAM is crucial, especially when handling large assets that exceed VRAM capacities. While 64GB can suffice for many tasks, 128GB offers a more future-proof solution. A speed of 5600MHz is plenty. For the brand you can go for any you like. We like the Corsair Vengeance lineup.
128 GB of DDR5 5600MHz Memory
64 GB of DDR5 5600MHz Memory
256GB of DDR5-6400MHz Memory. It may not make rendering significantly faster, but your system will feel more responsive, and tasks like texture loading will be quicker. And having 256GB makes it so you can have massive and complex scenes and don’t worry about the memory limit.
Storage options really depend on your workflow and needs, but having a fast primary drive for your operating system is a must. For your storage of your projects add more drives inside your system or have an external system. Like a NAS, or fast external drives.
- Primary Drive (for OS and software): NVMe SSD, 1TB or larger (e.g., Samsung 980 Pro). this will give you super fast loading times and a snappy feel in your OS.
- Secondary Drive (for projects and assets): NVMe SSD or SATA SSD, 2TB or larger.
- Tertiary Drive (for archiving): HDD, 4TB or larger.
With the increasing power draw of modern GPUs, a robust PSU becomes essential. A good option would be the EVGA SUPERNOVA G+ 1600W. It provides ample power and comes from a reputable brand.
If you go for 1 GPU you can also use a 1200 watt power supply.
There are two ways to go about this: water cooling or air cooling. For the most hardcore systems, water cooling will give you that extra few percent, but for our system, we will use air cooling for several reasons. When done right, it offers excellent performance without the potential hazards of leaks. It's also easier in terms of maintenance and assembly.
Prioritize direct cooling for GPUs with Noctua 120mm fans, and for instance, use a Noctua NH-U14S TR4-SP3 for your CPU. Add at least 7 fans inside your case, and you should have nothing to worry about.
Choose a case that provides good airflow and has enough space for all components. Some popular options include the Fractal Design Meshify C, NZXT H510, and the Phanteks P500A.
- Monitors: For 3D work, color accuracy is crucial. Consider monitors that are calibrated for accurate color representation, preferably 4K resolution or higher.
- Backup Solution: Consider a NAS (Network Attached Storage) for automatic backups and versioning.
- Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS): Protect your work and hardware from power outages and surges.
In conclusion, while building a workstation for 3D animation in 2023, the focus should be on achieving a balance between price and performance. Prioritizing the GPU, ensuring robust multicore CPU performance, and not compromising on storage and RAM are the keys to a smooth and efficient 3D animation experience.