If you’re a graphics designer or an architect, you’ll need a powerful CPU for rendering in your system to get your work done efficiently and seamlessly.
There’s a considerable difference in the way the processor is utilized for modeling and 3D rendering, but if you get the right CPU for rendering it will perform both functions incredibly well.
Best CPUs for Rendering Reviewed
Rendering can take a huge toll on your computer, and usually utilizes all your CPU’s cores at 100%. It’s one of those kinds of computational functions that require heavy hardware investment, and it’s paramount that you do invest if you’re a professional.
We’ve listed the 5 best CPUs for rendering available on the market right now. From Threadrippers to 9th Generation Intel processors, each one has been briefly reviewed with their respective pros and cons. To aid you in your purchase, there’s also a buyer’s guide after the reviews.
Our Top Pick
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X
Monster CPU with Incredible Performance
The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X offers fantastic multi-core performance with its 16 cores / 32 threads, 64 PCIe channels, and 32MB L3 cache.
The 2950X is not the most powerful Threadripper out there, but it’s sitting at the perfect price and performance point that makes it the best overall CPU for rendering out there.
AMD Ryzen R5 2600
Great Performance/Price Ratio CPU
The Ryzen R5 2600 costs less than $200 yet offers incredible performance. This is a mid to high-end CPU that can be used for everything from daily tasks, rendering, and video games. The 6 cores / 12 threads CPU has enough power in it to perform as a great allrounder CPU.
Ryzen builds are popular because of how cost-effective and reliable they are. The R5 2600 is one of the most popular Ryzen CPUs because it’s available for a great price and performances exceptionally well for what you pay for it.
The Ryzen Threadripper 2950X isn’t the most powerful CPU for rendering out there. It also isn’t cheap either. However, it is simply an incredible allrounder that does just about everything well without costing nearly $2000 like the 2990WX.
It sits at the sweet spot of the ultra high-end desktop CPUs for rendering, and it’s our favorite one for the intensive computing task. It packs 16 Cores with double the amount of threads. These cores run at a base clock of 3.5GHz, which can be turbo-boosted for each individual core up to 4.3GHz.
The processor also has 32 MB L3 Cache and a whopping 64 PCIe lanes. It is rated at a TDP of 180 watts.
It’s the kind of multi-core power that the most intensive rendering tasks will require. You can only convincingly beat the Threadripper 2950X in rendering performance by buying its biggest brother, the 2990WX, and considering it’s more than twice the price, we don’t think it’s worth it unless you’re working for NASA.
The Threadripper 2950X thus is, by far, the best CPU for rendering out there.
- Incredible power and speed
- A whopping 64 PCIe channels
- Great performance/price ratio
- Still expensive
The Ryzen Threadripper 1920X may be a little old, but for its price, it still offers phenomenal performance for processor intensive tasks like rendering. Thanks to the backward compatibility of the AMD chipsets, you can still install a Threadripper 1920X on newer motherboards and upgrade later if and when you need.
The Threadripper 1920X features 12 cores and 24 threads at a base clock speed of 3.5GHz. This can be further boosted to 4GHz. The 1920X features 32MB L3 cache and is unlocked, so it can be further overclocked provided you have capable cooling and a quality motherboard.
A whopping 64 PCIe lanes allow you to connect multiple GPUs and m.2 PCIe NVMe drives for the ultimate computing rig, in addition to its quad-channel DDR4 support.
It’s a year old, but the 1920X Threadripper is still a force to be reckoned with. It’s one of the best offers for anyone looking to buy a powerful CPU for rendering tasks without spending nearly $1000 for one.
- Great performance/price ratio
- Offers all the perks of a Threadripper at a more reasonable price
- Lots of PCIe lanes
- Slightly outdated
If rendering isn’t the only reason you’re buying a new CPU and would like to perform other tasks such as video editing, gaming, and general work, there isn’t quite anything that can beat the performance/price ratio of the Ryzen R5 2600. Yes, we’re talking about the regular 2600, not the 2600X.
For under $200, this CPU is simply an incredible bargain. Powered by 6 cores / 12 threads, this is an unlocked processor by AMD with a base clock speed of 3.4GHz that can run at a max boost speed of 3.9GHz. With a decent cooling system and the right motherboard, you can easily overclock the processor up to 4.3GHz for additional power.
For 3D rendering, it can’t quite match the speed of the Threadrippers or even some of the mainstream Intel models, but it blows all competition out of the water in the performance/price department. Rendering also requires a powerful GPU, so you could save up a considerable amount by choosing the R5 2600 over more expensive options and investing the bulk of the budget on a super-powerful rendering GPU. We highly recommend the Ryzen R5 2600 as a great mainstream CPU for rendering.
- Fantastic performance/price ratio
- Great for all computer tasks
- Plenty of compatible motherboards to choose from
- Can’t quite match competitors in pure performance
Many individuals will be hesitant in creating an entirely new Threadripper build for rendering purposes and would rather have a more accessible solution that would serve them well in other computing needs too.
The newly introduced Core i9 9900K should solve all problems with its powerful offering. Perhaps the most powerful mainstream CPU, this is an LGA1151 socket CPU, meaning it runs with the regular Z390 and Z370 chipsets which can power the 9th and 8th generation Intel processors.
This powerful mainstream processor features 8 cores / 16 threads at a base speed of 3.60GHz. These speeds can be further boosted to a whopping 5.00GHz with Turbo Boost technology, allowing for powerful single-core speeds ideal for gaming and other tasks.
For rendering, the 8 cores should be more than enough for all but the most intensive rendering tasks. It won’t match any Threadripper when it comes to rendering, and it costs more than the 1920X, but it’s a powerful all-rounder designed to handle most activities. In fact, it is the most powerful all-rounder out there.
- Incredibly powerful for all computing tasks
- Fantastic overclocking potential
- 300 chipset compatibility allows for easy processor upgrade
- Expensive for a mainstream CPU
If you’ve been given a blank check by your boss to get the most powerful CPU to have ever existed for rendering and computer-intensive tasks, you’d be naïve to go for anything other than the Threadripper 2990WX.
It’ll set you back nearly 2 grands, but it’s the most powerful CPU for rendering money can buy. It beasts the (more expensive) Core i9 9980XE, its main competitor, in rendering benchmarks such as Cinebench.
A whopping 32 cores power this behemoth CPU, and they provide a mindboggling 64 threads. The base clock of this monster is kept at a low 3.0GHz to ensure it doesn’t heat up so easily, but it can be boosted up to 4.2GHz for individual cores.
All that comes with a jaw-dropping 80M total cache memory and support for quad-channel DDR4 RAM. It’s simply unparalleled in both specs and performance. But the price also makes it a processor reserved only for the extreme renderers and professional users.
Additionally, the Threadripper 2990WX’s next-gen level specs make it ridiculously power hungry, with a TDP of 250W. You’ll easily need a 1200+ watts power supply at the very least to run this with any capable graphics card and convincing thermal solutions.
- The most powerful CPU for rendering out there
- Unparalleled multi-processing capability
- 64 PCIe channels
- Mind-numbingly expensive
- Will require a massive PSU
For rendering, a higher number of cores is preferred above all else. Don’t get this mixed up with modeling though; modeling and rendering are two different things and utilize the CPU power in a different way.
Rendering requires more cores as the rendering engine assigns a “bucket” to render to each core. Therefore, the more cores there are, the more buckets can be assigned, and the rendering overall will take a much slower process. We thus recommend more cores in your CPU for rendering.
The same is true for rendering simulations on advanced engineering programs such as ANSYS Fluent. You need to emphasize on core count.
Your budget will go a long in determining which CPU you can afford. A dedicated rendering machine will that is built specifically for that purpose will cost you a lot. Thankfully, that machine will be able to perform all other functions incredibly fast as well.
We highly recommend you allot a budget of at least $2000 for a Threadripper 2950X build. You can get away with building a fantastic rendering machine for $1500 or less if you opt for the older 1920X. If you’re not willing to spend more than $1000, then we suggest going down the Ryzen R5 2600 route instead.
Any PC below $1000 will likely not be as efficient at 3D rendering as you’d want.
CPU is obviously the most important part of your rig, but you need to build your budget and choose your processor in accordance with everything else. A powerful CPU won’t function well if it’s paired with flimsy, low speed RAM, a poor cooler, and a below average graphics card.
For the best rendering experience, you want to combine your highly quality CPU with a good GPU, high-quality multi-channel RAM, and an NVMe SSD for ultimate read/write speeds.
A rendering PC was never going to come cheap, so you’ll have to keep a generous budget and ensure you’re not compromising on other components to acquire a beefy CPU for rendering.
Yes, you can do 3D rendering with mainstream Ryzen and Intel CPUs. Ryzen CPUs generally tend to perform better in rendering tasks.
However, to get the best overall performance, you want a multi-core high-end processor that can handle large data with ease. That is why we highly recommend the Threadripper series for rendering over mainstream CPUs.
Should I buy an AIO liquid cooler or an air cooler for my Threadripper?
This largely depends on how you’ll run your CPU and which one you’re using. If you’re running a 2990WX, then we highly recommend a liquid cooling solution for it even if you don’t intend to overclock the CPU.
Threadripper 2950X or 1920X can function perfectly well with an aftermarket air cooler. However, if you plan to overclock any Threadripper CPU, we highly recommend you consider an AIO liquid cooling solution.
Can the Z370 chipset support 9th Generation Intel CPUs?
Many motherboard manufacturers such as Asus and MSI have launched BIOS updates for their Z370 and other 300 series motherboards that adds support for 9th Generation Intel CPUs. So yes, you can do a BIOS upgrade and swap out your older 8th Generation processor for a 9th Generation one.