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3ds Max 2021 CPU Roundup: Intel vs AMD

Written on July 8, 2020 by Kelly Shipman

TL;DR: Intel vs AMD for 3ds Max 2021

When it comes to modeling tasks, the high clock speed of Intel’s i9-10900K makes it the best choice for people that do not do any CPU rendering.

AMD’s Threadripper CPUs are by far the best CPUs for rendering, including baking textures and using an Activeshade viewport, offering up to double the performance of any Intel-based CPU.

AMD’s Ryzen 9 3950X earns a nod as being a good all-around performer without the cost of stepping up to a Threadripper.


With the release of 3ds Max 2021, as well as new CPUs from Intel and AMD, it was time for a new round of hardware testing. AMD has become a strong contender in the CPU space by offering a large number of cores at very competitive prices. As a response, Intel has begun increasing the number of cores in its CPUs. While they still don’t offer as many cores as you can find on AMD, they do have a higher clock speed. This new competition has resulted in CPUs that range from 10 cores/20 threads to 64 cores/128 threads.

For this article, we’ll be taking a look at how the most recent CPUs compare to each other and the previous-generation Intel i9-9900K. The focus will be on CPU performance using a benchmark suite that we developed internally. More details of that benchmark are below.

If you would prefer to skip over our test setup and various benchmark results, feel free to jump straight to the conclusion.

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Test Setup

Here are the detailed specs of the test platforms we used:

AMD Ryzen Test Platform
CPU AMD Ryzen 9 3950X
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12S
Motherboard Gigabyte X570 AORUS ULTRA
RAM 4x DDR4-2933 16GB (64GB total)
AMD Threadripper 3rd Gen Test Platform
AMD TR 3970X
AMD TR 3960X
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U14S TR4-SP3
Motherboard Gigabyte TRX40 AORUS PRO WIFI
RAM 4x DDR4-2933 16GB (64GB total)
Intel 10th Gen Test Platform
CPU Intel Core i9 10900K
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12S
Motherboard Gigabyte Z490 Vision D
RAM 4x DDR4-2933 16GB (64GB total)
Intel X-10000Test Platform
CPU Intel Core i9 10980XE
Intel Core i9 10940X
Intel Core i9 10920X
Intel Core i9 10900X
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12DX i4
Motherboard Gigabyte X299 Designare EX
RAM 4x DDR4-2933 16GB (64GB total)
Intel 9th Gen Test Platform
CPU Intel Core i9 9900K
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12S
Motherboard Gigabyte Z390 Designare
RAM 4x DDR4-2666 16GB (64GB total)
Shared Hardware
Video Card NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB
Hard Drive Samsung 960 Pro 1TB
Software Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
Autodesk 3ds Max 2021

Benchmark Details

This version of the 3ds Max benchmark suite was created by myself and runs mostly within 3ds Max using MAXscript. Thankfully, Autodesk has built a very strong scripting language within 3ds Max. AutoIt was used as a wrapper to handle things like remotely starting the benchmark, uploading results, and cleaning up any temporary files left behind after each pass.

The tests are grouped into three categories: Rendering, Simulation, and General Use. This should make it easier for people to see the results that are specific to their own workflows, and then in turn make the best decision for their needs. I’ll break down the specifics of each test below.

These tests were run multiple times on each CPU and averaged. We saw very little variance between runs, except for a couple system errors, in which case the results were tossed and re-run. For the scores, I used the 10900K as a baseline and the scores represent a percentage faster or slower than that CPU. Let's get into the results.

Rendering Results

When it comes to CPU Rendering, nothing comes close to the performance of AMD’s Threadripper. We tested Arnold, ART, and Scanline, and in all three tests the Threadripper CPUs place in the top spots. Arnold specifically has been highly optimized for multicore CPUs. The 3990X manages to finish the render almost 4.5x faster than the 10900K and over 2.5x faster than Intel’s flagship 10980XE. With ART and Scanline the margin narrows, but the Threadrippers are still much faster than anything else. In both of these cases, the 3970X actually takes the lead from the 3990X. We have seen other applications here in Labs with similar results. Even AMD’s Ryzen 9 3950X manages to outperform every Intel CPU in every test, making it a fantastic budget option.

Simulation Results

For simulations, we have two tests: a cloth simulation and a Bifrost fluid simulation. These are opposite ends of the spectrum. In 3ds Max, cloth simulations really prefer higher clock speed, so we see the Intel 10900K taking the lead. The Fluid Simulation on the other hand is a bit mixed. The AMD Threadripper 3970X and 3960X take the top spot with nearly identical times, while the 3990X comes in near the bottom. Most notable with the Fluid Simulation test is now narrow the gap is. Also, do note that both of these tests are using built-in simulation methods. If you are using a 3rd party plug-in such as RealFlow, FumeFX or Phoenix FD, your experience may be different.

General Actions Results

This series of tests is more applicable to every user. They cover tasks such as loading a large scene (4GB max file), saving scene, and performing a series of extrusions, tessellations, and MeshSmooths. This is to represent the basis of what anyone uses 3ds Max for modeling. The extrude, tessellate, and MeshSmooth tests are exaggerated a little beyond what the average user would perform to make it easier to measure differences. A lot of this will relate to what a user would view as “snappiness.” When you click on an action, sometimes there is a delay of a couple of seconds before the action takes place. Each time this happens it is only a brief moment, but over the course of a project it adds up to some real frustration.

As you can see from the charts, the clock speed of the 10900K takes the lead in all of these tests. If your workflow is often slowed while performing basic modeling tasks, a higher clock speed CPU - even if it has fewer cores - may help you speed things up.

What is the best CPU for 3ds Max 2021?

The right CPU choice for 3ds Max is going to depend heavily on what you care about - general modeling performance, simulations, or rendering. For most users, performance, while they are sitting at the system (modeling and simulations), are most important which makes the Intel Core i9-10900K a terrific choice as it is easily the fastest CPU for general performance, and a hair faster than AMD for simulations, though that may depend heavily on the specific simulation.

If rendering is a significant bottleneck in your workflow, the best CPU is one of AMD's Threadripper series of CPUs as all three models far outperform any Intel CPU by a large margin. Even AMD’s Ryzen 9 3950X will outperform the top Intel processor while being almost half the cost.

If you need a more all-around performer, the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X is a great choice. While it is not quite as fast as the 10900K in modeling tasks, it’s rendering performance may offset any minor slowdowns you’d experience.

Looking for a 3ds Max Workstation?

Puget Systems offers a range of poweful and reliable systems that are tailor-made for your unique workflow.

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Labs Consultation Service

Our Labs team is available to provide in-depth hardware recommendations based on your workflow.

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Tags: AMD Ryzen 3rd Gen, AMD Threadripper 3rd Gen, Intel vs AMD, Intel, Intel 10th Gen, Autodesk, 3ds Max, AMD, Rendering, Performance, Systemes

Thanks for these tests. I have a question. If I am using a CPU renderer, where does my graphics card come into play?

Posted on 2020-07-28 05:27:47
Kelly Shipman

GPU comes into play when you have scenes with a lot of triangles or a lot of large textures. This really becomes noticeable when playing an animation, or dragging objects around the viewport. If playing an animation, Max will either skip frames to maintain the timing, or play at a lower framerate depending on what setting you have enabled. If you aren't playing an animation, you will notice some lag when trying to drag objects around in the viewport or while moving the camera.

Posted on 2020-07-28 17:28:19

Now I know.

Posted on 2021-08-25 02:33:05

What would rendering tests with 3dsMax and V-Ray be similar to? Arnold?

Posted on 2020-09-30 14:31:45
Kelly Shipman

yes, V-Ray and Arnold use your hardware in very similar ways. you can see our V-Ray recommendations here: https://www.pugetsystems.co...

Posted on 2020-09-30 15:54:17

For V-Ray IPR, is it faster to have higher GHz, or more cores?

Posted on 2020-10-01 14:17:53

The interactive production renderer should perform similarly to what we observe in our V-Ray benchmark testing... which is to say that both core count and clock speed make a difference. However, most CPUs these days operate in a rough band from 3 to 5GHz on clock speed (under load), while core count varies much more widely (from 4 to 64 cores). Opting for much higher core counts, at the cost of only a little bit of clock speed, is very much worthwhile for CPU based rendering engines.

However, I should note that this *specifically* applies to the CPU rendering pipeline in V-Ray. There is also V-Ray GPU, which utilizes the video card(s) instead... and, honestly, may be a better approach for an interactive renderer. I suppose it depends in the end on whether your CPU or GPU(s) are more powerful in the particular workstation you are using, but it is easier to scale the GPU side up higher with modern hardware.

Posted on 2020-10-01 15:57:41

Are there any statistics for CPU performance with Phoenix and tyFlow? I'm thinking of a system primarily for GPU rendering but want to have something capable of handling simulation work as I want to get into that more. (not sure if GPU is capable for that or not). It sounds like Threadripper may not be the way to go and that something like the Ryzen 9 3950 might be because of higher clock speeds? I have a 4-node CPU farm setup to handle rendering jobs if I went with a lower-core processor.

Posted on 2020-10-02 01:58:11
Kelly Shipman

we dont typically test plugins because there are so many we wouldn't be able to cover them all. According to tyFlow's website, "Yes, every part of tyFlow is designed to make use of as many available CPU cores as possible." however Phoenix's site says "Processor speed is more important than core count." Because they are at odds with each other, you'll have to decide if one is more important than the other, or if you want to split the difference and go with a 3950.

Posted on 2020-10-02 15:33:57

hello Kelly,we have a plan to update zen3 data? i fell 5900x will be new champion

Posted on 2020-11-08 10:42:40
Kelly Shipman

yes, i'll be looking into it shortly. And I agree, given the performance gains we've seen across the board, I would expect the 5900X and 5950X will be amazing performers.

Posted on 2020-11-08 21:13:56

Any news about the article update with the AMD 5000 series, Kelly?

Posted on 2021-03-23 21:47:22
Kelly Shipman

for the time being, we've put Max and Maya testing on hold. Rendering and simulations are the main CPU bottlenecks, both lean heavily on multiple cores. However more and more are going to GPU acceleration. I'm still keeping an eye on Autodesk products and will see if we return in the future.

Posted on 2021-03-23 22:46:11

Not particularly interested in multi-core performance but rather single-core performance on Max. Things like your General Actions Results graph are interesting as a lot of us use renderfarms to off-load multi-core tasks and are more interested in overall snapiness on Max. I think it's safe to assume that AMD 5000 series takes the 10900K throne but seeing numbers is much more compelling.

Posted on 2021-03-24 18:10:10

Hey Kelly! Thanks for the article. Really interesting! I'm curious to know if there will be a followup/update on it with the Zen3 Ryzen 5000 added? Thanks!

Posted on 2020-12-18 11:30:34

Radeon Pro W6000 support Viewport Boost,in Autodesk 3ds Max、Autodesk Revit、Epic Twinmotion can fast43%、114%、39% Maybe be if somebody build the model in pc and offline render in server,W6000 will be new best choose?

Posted on 2021-06-08 15:52:50

long time no see miss you bro^_^

Posted on 2021-06-08 15:53:44