Best CPU for Rendering & Video Encoding: Spring 2021

AMD Ryzen and Intel Core Product Packaging
by Rob Williams on March 10, 2021 in Processors

We’re taking a fresh look at workstation performance revolving (almost) entirely around the CPU. With many encoding and rendering tests in-hand, we’re exploring different performance angles with the help of our CPU collection which includes models ranging from six- to 64-cores. What matters more; core-count or clock speeds?

Page 1 – Introduction

It’s been a little while since we last dove into CPU workstation testing in a meaningful way, so we’re going to get things up to speed here, and see where things stand in early 2021. With Intel’s 11th-gen Core processors set to land soon, we’ll follow-up on this article after that series’ release to see where Intel’s latest fits into the mix.

In this article, we’re going to take an in-depth look at CPU performance revolving around many different workloads, with encoding- and rendering-type tests representing the bulk. If you’ve read through our CPU performance evaluations before, you’ll recognize many of the tests, but as always, all of our software was updated to the latest versions before getting down to retesting.

For those interested in CPU performance in Linux, we’re planning to follow-up on this article in the near-future with comprehensive tests there. As this article focuses on workstation performance, gamers can check out our semi-recent look at performance on four platforms. We’ve been feeling an itch lately to do more comprehensive game tests, so we plan to revisit that soon, as well.

AMD and Intel Processor Boxes

The tables below give a quick run-down of both AMD’s and Intel’s current line-ups. Bear in mind that not all models are listed in every case, but the most crucial ones are.

AMD’s Ryzen & Ryzen Threadripper Lineup
Cores Clock (Turbo) Cache Memory IGP TDP Price
Ryzen Threadripper
3990X 64 (128T) 2.9 GHz (4.3) 288MB Quad No 280W $3990
3970X 32 (64T) 3.7 GHz (4.5) 144MB Quad No 280W $1999
3960X 24 (48T) 3.8 GHz (4.5) 140MB Quad No 280W $1399
Ryzen 9
R9 5950X 16 (32T) 3.4 GHz (4.9) 72MB Dual No 105W $799
R9 5900X 12 (24T) 3.7 GHz (4.8) 70MB Dual No 105W $549
Ryzen 7
R7 5800X 8 (16T) 3.8 GHz (4.7) 36MB Dual No 105W $449
Ryzen 5
R5 5600X 6 (12T) 3.7 GHz (4.6) 35MB Dual No 65W $299
Ryzen 3
R3 3300X 4 (8T) 3.8 GHz (4.3) 18MB Dual No 65W $120
R3 3100 4 (8T) 3.6 GHz (3.9) 18MB Dual No 65W $99
Ryzen w/ Radeon Vega Graphics
R5 3400G 4 (8T) 3.7 GHz (4.2) 0.5+4MB Dual Yes 65W $149
R3 3200G 4 (4T) 3.6 GHz (4.0) 0.5+4MB Dual Yes 65W $99
Intel Core & Core X Processor Lineup
Cores Clock (Turbo) Cache Memory IGP TDP Price
Core X-Series
i9-10980XE 18 (36T) 3.0 GHz (4.8) 24.75MB Quad No 165W $979
i9-10940X 14 (28T) 3.3 GHz (4.8) 19.25MB Quad No 165W $784
i9-10920X 12 (24T) 3.5 GHz (4.8) 19.25MB Quad No 165W $689
i9-10900X 10 (20T) 3.7 GHz (4.7) 19.25MB Quad No 165W $590
Core Series
i9-10900K 10 (20T) 3.7 GHz (5.3) 20MB Dual Yes 125W $488
i9-10900 10 (20T) 2.8 GHz (5.2) 20MB Dual Yes 65W $439
i7-10700K 8 (16T) 3.8 GHz (5.1) 16MB Dual Yes 125W $374
i7-10700 8 (16T) 2.9 GHz (4.8) 16MB Dual Yes 65W $323
i5-10600K 6 (12T) 4.1 GHz (4.8) 12MB Dual Yes 125W $262
i5-10600 6 (12T) 3.3 GHz (4.8) 12MB Dual Yes 65W $213
i5-10500 6 (12T) 3.1 GHz (4.5) 12MB Dual Yes 65W $192
i5-10400 6 (12T) 2.9 GHz (4.3) 12MB Dual Yes 65W $182
i3-10320 4 (8T) 3.8 GHz (4.6) 8MB Dual Yes 65W $154
i3-10300 4 (8T) 3.7 GHz (4.4) 8MB Dual Yes 65W $143
i3-10100 4 (8T) 3.6 GHz (4.3) 6MB Dual Yes 65W $122

While this article will focus on the overall performance to be derived from our tested CPUs, it’s really difficult to sum-up a single chip and have those thoughts apply to everyone. Our workloads are all different, so you need to analyze yours to some extent to gauge what exactly is important to you.

As more rendering workloads have become so darn fast on our GPUs, many will be best-suited with a smaller core-count CPU that has great clocks over a many core-count CPU with modest clocks. The better or more efficient a CPU’s clock speed, IPC (instructions-per-clock), and general single-threaded performance is, the faster responsiveness will be – from the OS to the software within.

If you’re in need of many cores, either because of heavy rendering, encoding, or perhaps even the tendency to run many virtual machines, it will be worth sacrificing a bit of clock speed just to gain plenty of breathing room. Or, in the case of Core X or Ryzen Threadripper, users would also gain the advantage of a quad-channel memory controller for greatly improved bandwidth.

We have a lot to cover, so we’ll dive straight into things on the next page. First up is a look at our testing methodology, as well as detailed configuration specs. If you don’t care about the methods to our madness, you can skip right to page three to kick things off with a look at rendering performance.

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Rob Williams

Rob founded Techgage in 2005 to be an 'Advocate of the consumer', focusing on fair reviews and keeping people apprised of news in the tech world. Catering to both enthusiasts and businesses alike; from desktop gaming to professional workstations, and all the supporting software.

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