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Adobe After Effects CC 2015.3 CPU Comparison

Written on September 6, 2016 by Matt Bach


When configuring a workstation for After Effects, there is a huge variety of components that you need to choose from. Everything from what CPU, what video card, and even how many and how fast of a hard drive you need all needs to be taken into consideration. In this article, we will be tackling the question of what CPU you should use by looking at six different CPU options that you might consider in an AE workstation. The CPUs we will be looking at are the Intel Core i7 6700K (the highest end option from the standard Intel Core i7 line), the Intel Core i7 6850K/6900K/6950X (from Intel's "High End Desktop" Core i7 line), and even a pair of dual Xeon CPU configurations - 2x Xeon E5-2643 V4 and 2x Xeon E5-2690 V4.

In this article, we will be dividing our testing into three categories: 2D animation, video editing (working with video files), and motion tracking. In addition, for the first two categories we will be specifically testing both rendering and playing live with RAM preview in case there happens to be one CPU option that is particularly good (or bad) for either task. If you want to skip over our individual benchmark results and simply view our conclusions, feel free to jump ahead to the conclusion section.

Update 1/19/2016: Jerry in the comments pointed out that the testing we had labeled "scrubbing" is in fact actually testing RAM Preview performance. We've updated the text in this article to be accurate to the testing we did although the charts do still say scrubbing.

Test Setup

To benchmark After Effects, we used the following configurations:

These configurations include three different platforms along with six different CPU models. For After Effects, we typically would recommend an X99 system as it allows for CPUs that have a good mix of a moderately high core count and high frequency as well as being able to handle high amounts of RAM. However, to ensure that we are thorough in our testing we will also be including a Core i7 6700K (which can only handle a maximum of 64GB of RAM, but has extremely good single-threaded performance) and two different dual CPU setups. While our multi core performance testing indicated that there should be no benefit to using two CPUs instead of just one, this will let us show how much performance you may be giving up if you happen to already have a dual CPU workstation or if you need/want a dual CPU workstation due to other applications you use in your workflow.

In order to accurately benchmark the different CPUs, we tested the performance when rendering and playing 2D animation projects as well as working with 1080p and RED 4K video files (using both the newly GPU accelerated effects and performing motion tracking). This won't test absolutely everything you could possibly do in After Effects, but by testing a variety of projects from different sources we hope to find a number of trends that will help us decide what CPU is the best for AE.

The projects we used (along with their source) are:

2D Animation Projects Length Source
The People's Template
~12 seconds
(30 FPS - 383 frames)
Grunge Frames
~30 seconds
(24 FPS - 469 frames)
Free AE Templates
Fiber Particles
10 seconds
(24 FPS - 190 frames)
Video CoPilot
Pop Out Book
30 seconds
(29.97 FPS - 901 frames)
Flux VFX
Simple Rings
~10 seconds
(24 FPS - 150 frames)
Free AE Templates
5K Subscribers
~11 seconds
(30 FPS - 307 frames)
FX Channel House
Video Editing Projects Length Source Tested Effects
H.264 1080p 15 seconds
(59.94 FPS - 900 frames)
Provided by: Jerry Berg
Barnacules Nerdgasm - YouTube

-Lumetri Color Correction

-Gaussian Blur


RED 4K 20 seconds
(23.976 FPS - 480 frames)
Provided by: Mike Pecci
Director & Photographer
Motion Tracking Projects Length Source
H.264 1080p 5 seconds
(59.94 FPS - 300 frames)
Provided by: Jerry Berg
Barnacules Nerdgasm - YouTube
RED 4K 10 seconds
(23.976 FPS -  240 frames)
Provided by: Mike Pecci
Director & Photographer

2D Animation

After Effects 2015.3 CPU Comparison

Individual Rendering Results


Individual Timeline RAM Preview Results
(Full Resolution)


Unless you have already read our After Effects 2015.3 Multi Core Performance article, you may be a bit surprised that the Core i7 6700K with only four CPU cores ended up on average being the fastest CPU for 2D animation work in After Effects. In the past, having more cores has been better for After Effects, but with this latest version (and the latest hardware) it appears that having more cores is no longer always the correct approach.

While the individual tests gave widely varying results (the fastest CPU for one test is at times the slowest on another), compared to the Core i7 6700K the Core i7 6850K was on average about 2.7% slower, the Core i7 6900K about 3.4% slower, and the Core i7 6950X about 9.5% slower. In addition, if you happen to have a system with dual CPUs expect to see an even greater reduction in performance - we saw on average 13% lower performance with two E5-2643 V4 CPUs and 16% lower performance with a pair of expensive E5-2690 V4 CPUs.

Keep in mind that this is only the average from all twelve of our 2D animation tests. In some cases (such as rendering "The People's Template" project) the Core i7 6950X was actually almost 25% faster than the Core i7 6700K. So while we wish we could give a hard "this CPU is better", it will often come down to your exact project and how well AE is able to make use of the individual cores within the CPU.

Video Editing

After Effects Video Editing CPU Benchmark

Individual Rendering Results


Individual Timeline RAM Preview Results
(Full Resolution)


Moving on to our video editing benchmarks, this time the Core i7 6900K was the fastest CPU, beating the Core i7 6700K and Core i7 6850K by about 2.2-2.4%. While the individual results once again widely vary based on the individual project, taken as a whole all four Core i7 CPUs actually performed pretty similarly. In fact, the difference between the fastest and slowest Core i7 CPU was only about 5% which is much smaller than we anticipated.

Once again, the dual CPU configurations were quite a bit slower than the normal Core i7 CPUs. The difference was less than we saw when working with 2D animations, but they were still around 12-15% slower than the Core i7 6900K.

Motion Tracking

After Effects Motion Tracking Benchmark

H.264 1080p Results


RED 4K Results


Rounding out our testing is the performance with each CPU while performing a motion tracking analysis. In our Multi Core Performance article we saw very poor scaling while motion tracking, so it is no surprise that the Core i7 6700K (with the highest frequency and latest architecture) is once again the fastest. However, the results for the other Core i7 CPUs are not at all what we expected. Given the scaling alone, the Core i7 6950X should be noticeably worse than the i7 6900K and 6850K, but our testing actually shows it as being faster than those CPUs. We can't really give a concrete reason for why these results don't match what we saw in our multi core scaling article, although it likely has something to do with the fact that the higher core count Core i7 CPUs have more Smart Cache than the lower core count CPUs.

On the other hand, the even higher amount of cache available on the dual CPU configurations is not enough to overcome the poor scaling in After Effects. As a result, both of the dual Xeon setups were significantly slower (about 23%) than the Core i7 6700K.


After Effects has always been a tough piece of software for us to offer conclusions on because the results often vary so widely based on the individual project. Unfortunately, this trend continues in this article - what was by far the worst CPU for one project was at times the best CPU in another! Even the dual CPU configurations (which overall were the worst by a wide margin) ended up being the fastest option in one of our test projects.

What this means is that we can't give an absolutely firm "this CPU is the best" type of recommendation for which CPU to use. The best we can do is to give a recommendation based on an average along with a caveat that your results may vary. With that said, here is the summary of our testing:

After Effects Core i7 Xeon Benchmarks

Looking at the chart above, the Intel Core i7 6700K is a very strong contender for the "best" AE CPU. On average, it was the top performing processor both for 2D animation and motion tracking, and only 2.4% slower than the fastest CPU for video editing tasks. Unfortunately, this CPU has one major downside: the platform it uses only allows for a maximum of 64GB of RAM. This should be adequate if you are learning AE or only use it for relatively simple projects, but if you spend a good amount of your time in After Effects then this limitation is more important than the performance gains you might see with a Core i7 6700K.

So if the fastest CPU isn't what we recommend for most professional users, which CPU should you use in your After Effects workstation? If you mostly work with animations, the Intel Core i7 6850K is an excellent choice as it is the fastest CPU for 2D animations that also allows for high amount of system RAM. It is a few percent slower than the fastest CPU when working with video files, but only by a fairly small 2.2%.

If you work with a lot video files, we would recommend the Intel Core i7 6900K. It is a bit more expensive than the Core i7 6850K, but it should be around 2% faster when playing live with RAM Preview or rendering video files. However, it should be just under 5% faster for motion tracking which for many users may be very significant. You could use the Core i7 6950X if you really want the best performance for motion tracking, but the less than 2% gain over the Core i7 6900K will usually be more than offset by the more than 5% loss in performance when working with video footage.

  Recommended CPUs for After Effets CC 2015.3
2D Animation: Intel Core i7 6850K 3.6GHz (3.7-4.0GHz Turbo) Six Core
Video Editing &
Motion Tracking:
Intel Core i7 6900K 3.2GHz (3.5-4.GHz Turbo) Eight Core

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Tags: Adobe, After Effects, CPU, Processor
Eric Perry

I would really like to see comparison to older generation processors if that is at all possible. I've been comparing specs to my intel 3930K six core, 12 threads processor which runs between 3.2 and 4.2 overclocked, and I would really like to know if it holds up with the newer generation. I've considered upgrading, but the specs of the newer generation just don't show that big of a jump to make me think I need them to improve my workflow. Comparing the results of these tests to the older processor would really show what kind of improvements are made with newer generation processors.

Posted on 2016-09-13 23:19:37

That is something we have been considering doing for a while now. Not just for After Effects, but for a range of programs include Premiere, Photoshop, Lightroom, SOLIDWORKS, AutoCAD, etc. The thought currently is that when a major new hardware revision (whether it is CPU or GPU) is released, we would not only test the different models of CPUs or GPUs against each other, but also include a comparison to a couple of systems with one, two, or maybe even three generation old hardware. Right now, however, we are barely keeping up testing the latest hardware to ensure that we are selling the right model CPU/GPU to our customers so we unfortunately just don't have the time.

The good news is that we are putting quite a bit of work into automating our testing - not quite to the point that it would be something we could offer as a download, but enough that it will hopefully take a lot less labor time. So the more we do this kind of testing, the easier it gets for us. At some point, I really hope to expand our testing to include exactly what you are asking for.

Posted on 2016-09-13 23:40:27
Eric Perry

Hey Matt thanks for the reply. That's excellent to hear, especially after I've read about 5 of your articles relating to Adobe products. If you get as far as a downloadable benchmark script that would auto run everything, I'd be happy to run it. It's nice to know someone is running up to date tests.

If I may, I would like to suggest an additional benchmark showing playback (unrendered previews) via the hardware. This could be done with using the dropped frames indicator as your value. That's one of my pain points with 4K especially at 59.94 frame rates. I've been testing different codecs and their performance on my machine, different flavors of cineform and DNxHR being the main two. I've found the CPU being a bottleneck in cineform and any codec that uses 12bit 444 color.

You don't happen to have any articles on codec testing do you?

Posted on 2016-09-14 01:45:35

Live playback is also on the "to-do" list, I'm just not quite sure yet the best way to do it. I'm getting started on some storage testing in Premiere pro with the plan to test how many video streams we can play at the same time from different speeds of drives without dropping any frames, but I'm not sure if would be a good test for the CPU. I might just have to create a couple different timelines and load them up with different amounts of effects to create a worst-case scenario. However, I don't like doing things that way because it doesn't feel realistic there is little fine-tuning that can be used to compare different CPUs without having to do a huge amount testing. Maybe a mix of multiple video streams with some basic effects on each stream - just color correction and some transitions - then see how many streams each CPU can handle? Once I figure out the best way to do it, I should be able to use the same method in After Effects.

The other issue I've had with the drop frames indicator in particular is that it doesn't seem to be completely consistent. Sometimes, I can play things back just fine dozens of times, then randomly I will get a couple dropped frames. Also, if I do start getting dropped frames, the number of dropped frames varies widely from one playback run to the next. I'd like to get that figured out before I add live playback to our testing.

As for codecs, we do try to use a variety in our testing (more so in Premiere than After Effects), but we don't have plans at the moment to do any sort of in-depth codec comparison. Perhaps in the future, but likely not for a while (if ever).

Thanks for the suggests you have had so far, this kind of feedback really helps me ensure that our testing focuses on things that end users care about!

Posted on 2016-09-14 17:46:51
Anthony Ojo

What if i am using both AE and Premiere Pro? Can i get the i7-6950X add an AIO water cooler overclock it to 4.2GHz and adjusting the Affinity for AE to 4 cores?

Posted on 2016-09-26 22:00:51

Overclocking one of the higher core count processors is one approach, and our Deluge Pro provides that option with proper cooling. I tend not to recommend overclocking for professionals because of the potential for system instability over the long term, but if performance is your driving factor then I could certainly see going that direction. Please note that the cost will be higher once overclocking and the extra cooling needed is factored in, and noise levels will be higher as well.

Posted on 2016-09-26 22:06:06

can't wait for the AE 2017 benchmarks... seems fast within the timeline... but insanely slow at rendering.

Posted on 2016-12-23 02:44:35

Ok, so I stumbled upon this and tried out some of the AE tests that I could find using AE CC 2017 (I don't have 15.3 on my system ATM) on 6950x OC to 4.4 GHZ w/ 128 GB 2133 RAM DDR4. I'm not sure how you did the scrub tests, but for most of them I just set it to full resolution at final quality and just scrubbed the timeline start to finish w/ a stopwatch. My results: 5K Scrub - 6-7 seconds. 5k render was 22 seconds (BTW it's not listed on your renders, you put the 5k scrub chart twice). Render of Pop Out Book - 1408 seconds. Scrub w/ Adaptive 50% size was 18 seconds w/ full at 100% size was 104. Fiber Scrub - 23 seconds. Fiber Render was 52 seconds. Peoples Temple Scrub was 22 seconds, Peoples Render was 386 seconds. Basically I did these test to prove that an OC'd big multicore can function just as good if not better than a lower core w/ high frequency. It would be interesting to see how a OC'd 6700k (or kaby Lake) would do vs a OC'd 6950x. ALso wonder how much the version od AE affects the results. I did this build to to try to have my cake and eat it too. Have a fast AE design/render rig and a fast C4D rig that can render and do look dev. It's not perfect, but it's really close to hitting the mark for both AE & C4D.

Posted on 2017-01-19 22:01:30

Those render times sound about right, but the scrub are quite a bit different from ours. All we did was set the resolution to full, hit spacebar, and time how long it took to play from the start of the composition to the end. Your times are faster than I would expect so there must be some other quality setting that is different. We do all our testing on completely fresh installs of AE, so you most likely have something that isn't at default.

Generally, the difference between two overclocked CPUs is roughly the same as those same two CPUs at stock. I think the 6950X you can get a higher overclock relative to the stock speeds, but not by enough to drastically change the relative performance difference.

Thanks for pointing out the missing chart, I got that fixed.

Posted on 2017-01-19 23:29:39

I did the scrubbing test wrong! No wonder. That's not really scrubbing what you guys are doing, that's a RAM Preview. Scrubbing is taking the playhead and dragging it across the timeline w/ AE playing back a kind of scattered preview. I was wondering how you did that consistently. Thanks for the info on the OC debate! Also, I was wondering where do you think the Kaby Lake processor would sit among them? I'm assuming it would be better than Skylake. So do these tests just rely on the clockspeed and core optimization? Or is there a difference in architecture between them that's contributing as well?

Posted on 2017-01-20 01:12:07

Oh man, you are completely right. I think when I first started working on benchmarking AE, I was trying to find a way to test scrubbing but ended up testing RAM preview instead and the term "scrubbing" just stuck in my head. Thanks for calling me out on that, I'll correct some of the wording in this article to use the correct term.

Kaby Lake should be somewhere around 7-10% faster than Skylake. We've done testing in Premiere, Photoshop, Lightroom, and a few others already (they are currently 3 of the latest 4 articles https://www.pugetsystems.co... but haven't done AE yet. Honestly, due to the 64GB limit of the Z170/Z270 platform in general, we tend to not sell those CPUs for AE since most users need as much RAM as they can get. They definitely are times when it makes sense though, so at some point I do want to do the testing for those people.

Between the 6700K and the 6850K/6900K/6950X, its a combination of clock speed and architecture. The 6-10 core CPUs are one generation older than the 6700K which should account for about 10% of the performance difference. The majority of the rest of it is clock speed differences with a little bit coming from other things like the use of Reg. ECC memory (which is needed to achieve the large RAM capacities).

Posted on 2017-01-20 03:49:13
Luan Ott

Sorry, I think i didn't understand. Overall, it means that 6700k is better?

Posted on 2017-01-20 13:45:23

The 6700k is really good from a preformance standpoint, but it is limited to just 64GB of RAM. For most computer users, 64GB is plenty but AE really benefits from having more RAM. For most of the AE workstations we sell, 64GB is really just the entry point which means using the 6700k leaves no room for future system improvements.

Posted on 2017-01-20 17:12:50