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Blender 2.80 Viewport & Rendering Performance

Blender 2.80 Spring Project Thumbnail

Date: August 15, 2019
Author(s): Rob Williams

With Blender 2.80 now launched, we’re taking a fresh look at performance across the latest hardware, including AMD’s latest Ryzen 3000-series CPUs and Navi GPUs, as well as NVIDIA SUPER cards. That includes both CPU and GPU testing with the Cycles renderer, GPU testing with Eevee, and viewport performance with LookDev.



Blender 2.80 CPU, GPU & Hybrid Rendering Performance

Since Blender 2.80 came out of beta a couple of weeks ago, we’ve been working on wrapping-up some performance testing with the help of a dozen or so CPUs and GPUs. As with our look at beta performance a few months ago, we want to find out what hardware gets the job done the quickest, and also figure out which hardware will offer the best value for the dollar overall.

Blender 2.80 might be a minor version bump over 2.79, but the reality is that this is such a massive update, it could have been called 3.0. From a performance perspective, what we care about for our testing is that the Cycles renderer has been given lots of polish, and the new GPU-focused Eevee renderer makes its debut. We will be testing both for our render tests here, in CPU-only, GPU-only, and hybrid tests.

Blender 2.8 'Spring' Scene

Rendering is just part of the design equation, though. The vast majority of your time spent in Blender will involve staring at the viewport, the big box where all of the visual feedback takes place. The better the performance, the smoother models and scenes will spin. While Solid and Wireframe modes won’t prove too much of a problem for anyone, Blender 2.80’s new LookDev shading mode will make GPUs work hard. We’re taking a look at this performance on the next page.

Here’s the full list of hardware being tested for this article:

CPUs & GPUs Tested in Blender 2.80
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX (32-core; 3.0 GHz; $1,799)
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2970WX (24-core; 3.0 GHz; $1,299)
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X (16-core; 3.5 GHz; $899)
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2920X (12-core; 3.5 GHz; $649)
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X (12-core; 3.8 GHz; $499)
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X (8-core; 3.6 GHz; $329)
AMD Ryzen 7 2700X (8-core; 3.7 GHz; $329)
AMD Ryzen 5 3600X (6-core; 3.8 GHz; $249)
AMD Ryzen 5 2600X (6-core; 3.6 GHz; $219)
AMD Ryzen 5 3400G (4-core; 3.7 GHz; $149)
Intel Core i9-9980XE (18-core; 3.0 GHz; $1,799)
Intel Core i9-7900X (10-core; 3.3 GHz; $999)
Intel Core i9-9900K (8-core; 3.6 GHz; $499)
AMD Radeon VII (16GB; $699)
AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT (8GB; $399)
AMD Radeon RX 5700 (8GB; $349)
AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 (8GB; $EOL)
AMD Radeon RX 590 (8GB; $279)
AMD Radeon Pro WX 8200 (8GB; $999)
NVIDIA TITAN RTX (24GB; $2,499)
NVIDIA TITAN Xp (12GB; $1,200)
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti (11GB; $1,199)
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER (8GB, $699)
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER (8GB; $499)
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER (6GB; $399)
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 (6GB; $349)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti (11GB; $EOL)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti (6GB; $279)
NVIDIA Quadro RTX 4000 (8GB; $899)
All GPU-specific testing was conducted on our Intel Core i9-9980XE workstation.
All product links in this table are affiliated, and support the website.
AMD Radeon Driver: Adrenaline 19.7.5
AMD Radeon Pro Driver: Enterprise 19.Q2.1
NVIDIA GeForce & TITAN Driver: GeForce 431.56
NVIDIA Quadro Driver: Quadro 431.02

Most major Blender releases come with a new scene that helps show off what the new version can do, and with 2.80 being as massive a release as it is, it truly warranted one. This time, the related project is called Spring, and its assets can be found for download here.

We had thought about adopting the scene in our testing, but the first 30 seconds or so of the render process is pre-processing that doesn’t use the CPU or GPU to any significant degree (it just bloats the end result time). Our current projects will still portray accurate scaling with either Cycles or Eevee, but it would have been nice to adopt the latest official project.

When we tackled 2.80 beta performance months ago, we used many more GPUs and CPUs than have been used here, largely because most of the models end up just being noise, and not very helpful. This is especially true when many workstation and gaming cards are counterparts, and overlap in performance (but not always feature sets). We’re keeping it simpler here. For CPUs, we wanted to get the Intel Core i7-8700K in, but our Intel Z390 motherboard died before we could get to it.

If after reading, you are still not sure about what hardware you should go with, please feel free to leave a comment. In time, we hope to add an animation-type test to Blender, as well as NVIDIA RTX-related tests. RTX features were announced a couple of weeks ago at SIGGRAPH, but are not currently included in the stable build. We’ll explore testing that soon, but for now, it’s not relevant to the current Blender.

CPU Rendering

At least with our chosen projects, we’ve found that faster GPUs will prove more beneficial than faster CPUs, but having fast of both is going to produce even better rewards. If the only thing you ever do on your PC is work in Blender, you may not need to splurge on a high-end CPU; otherwise, you’ll want to take other workloads into consideration when choosing a new CPU.

Blender 2.80 CPU Rendering Testing - BMW Project
Blender 2.80 CPU Rendering Testing - Classroom Project

What’s immediately clear from these results is that you don’t want to go too low-end when you’re doing creative work. On the flip-side, it’s nice to see that Blender scales as well as it does across the entire stack. We’ve seen Threadripper give us the odd scaling issues in certain applications before (not as common today), but it scales Cycles beautifully. Just how beautifully?

At AMD’s EPYC Horizon event held in San Francisco last week, we spotted a Blender demo showcasing the use of 256 threads being used on an AMD server to render frames from the Spring project. It’s good to know that if you use Cycles, it’s going to take great advantage of your CPU.

Just as we wrap-up performance testing @blender_org 2.80 on up to 64-thread CPUs, an @AMDServer EPYC Rome demo using 256 threads (w/Cycles) comes along to tease us! It’s great that a 100% open-source and free 3D design suite has no problem using every single core you give it. pic.twitter.com/79o1qOJR2Z

— Techgage (@Techgage) August 7, 2019

We’re going to see later that a smaller CPU like the quad-core 3400G can allow the GPU to do good work, but ultimately, we’d never in our right minds recommend going with such a chip for creator work. We lightly consider eight-core to be a bare minimum nowadays, because as workloads grow bigger, anyone who can’t take advantage of eight+ cores today will find that changing in the future. Even a bump to a six-core from the quad-core makes a huge difference.

Buuuut, as mentioned before, we’ve found GPUs to make a bigger performance impact than CPUs, when rendering the same exact scene using the same settings (save for tile size changes). So let’s jump into a look at that testing:

GPU Rendering

Blender Performance - BMW Cycles Render
Blender Performance - Classroom Cycles Render

Let’s kick things off here with a focus on Cycles, using the same BMW and Classroom renders as in the CPU testing. While the end result might differ slightly due to subtle differences in render paths, we can see that a $349 RTX 2060 renders the BMW scene in the same amount of time as the $1,799 32-core Threadripper 2990WX. You might be able to see what we mean by the GPU being a bit more important than the CPU for this kind of rendering.

We need to be clear, though; we can’t say that this performance is going to be representative of every possible Blender scenario. It could be that in some cases, the CPU ends up mattering a lot more. But in our tests, and with these official Blender projects, we see the GPU as being more important. That said, thanks to the fact that Cycles can render to multiple devices at once, the CPU can still provide valuable work, as we’ll see in a few moments.

Overall, the GPU scaling isn’t as interesting as the CPU scaling, as there are more points where two models end up syncing up. The 2080S performing 1s worse than the 2070S in the BMW scene is a byproduct of benchmark variance, and highlights that it doesn’t always pay to splurge extra for beefier hardware. In the Classroom scene, the 2080S manages to be 2 seconds faster than 2070S, but is that worth the extra $200? Both have the same 8GB framebuffer, so it’d be hard justifying the bigger model if Blender is your bag.

That is unless Eevee happens to grab you, because it shows slightly more interesting scaling:

Blender Performance - The White Room Eevee Render

Whereas the 2080S and 2070S sat close to each other in the Cycles test, the faster card pulls ahead here as expected, with both the 2080 Ti and TITAN RTX running far ahead of that. Throughout all of these results, it’s clear that NVIDIA’s latest Turing architecture brings upgrades that ends up benefiting Blender performance, as the overall performance is hard to beat. Oddly, the Radeon VII performed amazingly in the Classroom test, but sat in the middle of the pack for the others.

Other models flip-flop their strengths like that also. Ultimately, we’d say the Classroom test is more representative of a proper project for Cycles, whereas BMW is more of an actual benchmark at this point. As for Eevee, that’s important for viewport performance, as well as animation – so if you are after the latter, you should pay particularly close attention to that performance.

Heterogeneous Rendering

At the moment, Eevee’s rendering is done on the GPU, but Cycles is able to use both the CPU and GPU without any issues, whether you’re using CUDA or OpenCL. And, when you render that way, you can really see some huge speed-ups. For this testing, we paired seven CPUs with four GPUs each, to see if we could find a sweet-spot, or at worst, just see how things scale.

Blender 2.80 Heterogeneous Rendering Testing - BMW Project
Blender 2.80 Heterogeneous Rendering Testing - Classroom Project

It’s immediately clear that even a modest GPU will outperform even the biggest CPU (in this chart), but when you combine their efforts, great gains can be seen. No one in their right mind is going to pair a 3400G with an RTX 2080 Ti, but, it’s nice to see that the smaller CPU won’t be holding the GPU back.

3600X + RTX 2060S, at a combined price point of $650, however, beats out the 3900X + Radeon VII, which has a combined price point of $1,200. Even with Blender, it pays to “know your workload” and hardware.

That all said, if money isn’t much of a concern to you, your top-of-the-line rig will still deliver notable advantages, but less so when your GPU is extremely fast. In this testing, the RTX 2080 Ti delivered the same hybrid result on the top three CPUs. Among all of these results, the 2060S ends up coming out looking like a bit of a champion.

It’s worth pointing out though, that as scenes become more complex, and more memory is required to render, then the focus will shift away from GPUs back to CPUs again. This is because of the framebuffer on the GPU being exceeded and Blender is forced to use the CPU, so keep that in mind as your project develops.

With rendering performance all covered, we’ll tackle viewport performance next:

Blender 2.80 Viewport Performance

Good rendering performance is imperative in an efficient workflow, but equally (or more so) important is viewport performance – you know, the window where all of your work is done. If performance there is lacking, you’re going to get an actual headache. You don’t necessarily need 60 FPS, mind you, but you definitely want to avoid jerky movement.

For the default Solid and Wireframe modes, you generally won’t need to worry at all as to whether or not you’re going to get suitable performance. If you’re building a PC today, you’re undoubtedly going to get quality performance with those modes at 1080p at the very least (most often you will be able to do more). It’s with Eevee’s new LookDev mode when GPUs start to get nervous.

LookDev loads a scene’s assets and enhances the lighting effects to deliver a result that’s much closer to a final render than what you will see in the Solid mode. You can see an example of LookDev in action here:

Blender - Techgage LookDev Viewport Test

This scene might not look too demanding, but for LookDev viewport tests, it’s actually very grueling. We’ve tested many free scenes around the web, and ultimately found this one provided by Blender (authored by Pokedstudio) provides a realistically grueling test, and one that doesn’t go into overkill territory (one scene tested hit single digit frame rates on top-end hardware, so it was a bit aggressive.)

Blender 2.80 1080p Viewport - Minimum FPS Performance
Blender 2.80 1080p Viewport - Average FPS Performance

At 1080p, we have a number of GPUs that perform quite well. The RX 5700 XT didn’t particularly grab our attention in the render tests, but it performs very well here, keeping up with some of the best of them. NVIDIA’s Turing-based GPUs seem to have the ultimate advantage, but it’s not bad for AMD that it takes a $500 GeForce to beat out its $400 5700 XT.

To be clear, performance in LookDev doesn’t need to be as fast as it should be for gaming. 30 FPS here is completely suitable. You don’t need extreme fluidity; you just need it to not give you a headache, and be “good enough”. If 30 FPS is good enough for Destiny 2 on console, it’s probably enough for your design work. Of course, if you can afford better, you wouldn’t regret it.

How do things change with a slightly higher 1440p resolution?

Blender 2.80 1440p Viewport - Minimum FPS Performance
Blender 2.80 1440p Viewport - Average FPS Performance

With 1440p, the pain increases to the point where some previously acceptable cards should almost be ignored. Granted, this is a rather hardcore scene (in terms of complexity) we’re using for our viewport tests, so your projects may not prove to be quite as grueling on hardware. But, when the going gets tough, there is definitely some separation between the top and bottom SKUs going on.

NVIDIA’s Turing architecture once again leaps to the top of these charts. The RX 5700 XT also performs quite well, but NVIDIA has a huge advantage with its higher-end parts. Still – the 5700 XT even manages to beat out the Radeon VII here, something that carries over to our 4K test. And speaking of:

Blender 2.80 2160p Viewport - Minimum FPS Performance
Blender 2.80 2160p Viewport - Average FPS Performance

4K resolution might be common nowadays, but for Blender / LookDev work, you are going to need some serious GPU horsepower to enjoy working with complex scenes. Even the top-end TITAN RTX struggles to get much past 30 FPS. That’s still suitable enough, but lower means you will be using LookDev on occasion rather than regularly.

To be clear about one thing, though: all of this testing represents a full-screen viewport. If your viewport only takes up a portion of your overall UI, then its resolution is the effective resolution. So, even if you run 4K, but the viewport itself is scaled much smaller, you won’t see this same performance. The smaller the viewport window, the better the performance, effectively. It’s not Blender Rocket science, but it’s important to note.

Wrapping Up

With all of the charts found in this article, we hope that we’ve helped you figure out what hardware you should be looking at going forward. Your choices will largely depend on your budget constraints, but fortunately, getting good performance out of Blender 2.80 won’t have to be expensive. We saw modest CPUs and GPUs perform spectacularly well.

NVIDIA’s new Turing architecture seems to bring optimizations with it, while AMD’s RX 5700 XT performed well, too. On the CPU side, the more cores you have, the faster either straight CPU or hybrid rendering will be – though you will definitely reach a point of diminishing returns before long with top-end GPUs.

Blender 2.80 'Made By You'

A couple of weeks ago, Blender and NVIDIA jointly announced that RTX ray tracing and denoising support would be coming to Blender. Currently, this is in more of an alpha than a beta, requiring some hands-on work to get it up and running. Once things stabilize a bit, or we catch a whiff that it’s nearing beta testing or the stable branch, we’ll dive in and generate some performance results.

Another thing to note is that we didn’t conduct multi-GPU testing in this article, but our previous testing with dual TITAN Xps showed a great uplift. If you have multiple GPUs at all of the same vendor (AMD or NVIDIA), you should consider retaining the second one in your machine after an upgrade to see if it improves performance further. You don’t need identical GPUs to take advantage of multi-GPU rendering, but the level of benefit will certainly be best if you have duplicate hardware. Similarly, if you are interested in how tile sizes impact Cycles performance, you can hit-up the same link.

If you are still left with questions, please feel free to post them below.

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