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After Effects CC 2017.2 CPU Comparison: Skylake-X, Kaby Lake-X, Broadwell-E, Kaby Lake, Ryzen 7

Written on July 6, 2017 by Matt Bach
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Introduction

AMD's launch of Ryzen in March marked the first time in years that Intel was seriously challenged in the enthusiast CPU market. Now, with the Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X CPUs officially launched, we get our first taste of Intel's response. It is really just a taste, however, since Intel has only released their 4, 6, 8, and 10 core CPUs so far. According to Intel's E3 press release, there will be a 12 core CPU available in August along with 14, 16, and 18 core CPUs in October. However, one thing to keep in mind is that After Effects is one of those applications where a higher core count tends to have little to no impact on performance, so these higher core count CPUs are actually unlikely to be any good for After Effects.

Because of this, we won't be able to look at the entire Skylake-X line-up today, but what we can do is see how the CPUs that are currently available compare to Intel's previous generation CPUs as well as AMD's Ryzen 7 CPUs.

There are a wide variety of tasks we could test in After Effects to see how these new CPUs perform, but in this article we will specifically be looking at RAM Preview and Final Render performance. Since Adobe has been adding more and more support for GPU acceleration since AE 2015.3, we are specifically going to be testing both standard projects as well as projects that make heavy use of accelerated effects including Lumetri Color, Sharpen, and Gaussian Blur. If you would like to skip over our test setup and analysis of the individual benchmarks, feel free to jump right to the conclusion section.

Test Setup

Since the new processors include two different CPU architectures, our testing platform is less straightforward than normal. Most of the new CPUs support DDR4-2666 RAM, although the Intel Core i7 7740X (Kaby Lake-X) CPU only supports four sticks of RAM rather than eight. In addition, the Intel Core i7 7800X (Skylake-X) only supports DDR4-2400 RAM for some odd reason. We opted to test with the highest officially supported RAM configuration for each CPU, so components used in our X299 test platform requires an entire table just for itself:

To act as a comparison to the new CPUs, we will also be testing AMD's Ryzen 7 1700X/1800X CPUs as well as the Intel Core i7 7700K (Kaby Lake) and Intel Core i7 6850K/6900K/6950X (Broadwell-E) CPUs. Again, we will be testing with the best officially supported RAM configuration for each CPU.

Inconsistent RAM aside, one thing we do want to point out is how much more affordable the Skylake-X CPUs are compared to the previous generation Broadwell-E CPUs. Where a six core CPU from Intel used to cost over $600, you can now purchase an eight core CPU for roughly the same cost. In fact, the i7 7800X is even a hair less expensive than AMD's Ryzen 7 CPUs. This means that regardless of any performance gains we may see, Skylake-X is at the very least a big deal in terms of cost.

Before getting into our testing, we also want to point out is that while our test platforms are using a single hard drive, that is not actually what we would typically recommend to our customers. A two (or more) drive configuration with the cache files on a secondary drive can make a big impact when scrubbing through complex timelines. However, since we will not be testing anything that would befit from multiple drives in this article, we opted to use a single drive simply to cut down on the number of variables.

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:

Standard Projects Length Source
The People's Template
(1920x1080)
~12 seconds
(30 FPS - 383 frames)
BlueFX
Grunge Frames
(1920x1080)
~30 seconds
(24 FPS - 469 frames)
Free AE Templates
Fiber Particles
(960x360)
10 seconds
(24 FPS - 190 frames)
Video CoPilot
Simple Rings
(1920x1080)
~10 seconds
(24 FPS - 150 frames)
Free AE Templates
5K Subscribers
(1920x1080)
~11 seconds
(30 FPS - 307 frames)
FX Channel House
Heavy GPU Projects Length Source Tested Effects
RED 4K ~16 seconds
(23.976 FPS - 394 frames)

EPIC DRAGON
4K HD (3840x2160)
REDCODE 11:1
R3D Sample Files

-Lumetri Color Correction

-Gaussian Blur

-Sharpen

RAM Preview

Performance while playing back a sequence (RAM Preview) is one of the most important aspect of an After Effects workstation. The faster you can play through your project, the more productive you can be.

AFter Effects Skylake-X 7900X 7820X 7800X Kaby Lake-X 7740X RAM Preview Benchmark

[+] Show Raw Results

Since we are comparing 10 different CPUs across 8 different projects, it would take us a long time to go through the results one by one. Because of this, we decided to compile all the results into an overall average for each CPU compared to the Intel Core i7 6850K. Since After Effects does not scale particularly well with a high number of cores, this CPU has long been our primary recommendation for most After Effects workstations since it both performs well and supports a high amount of system RAM. If you wish to examine the raw results for each project yourself, you can do so by clicking on the "Show Raw Results" link under the chart.

In case you were wondering, the results above are completely accurate to our testing - we really didn't see much of difference in performance across the majority of the CPUs we tested. From a $499 CPU to a $1723, the performance between each CPU was within a few percent. The only CPU within this range that was noticeably better than the others was the Intel Core i7 7820X which was ~4% better than the others.

After Effects runs best with a CPU that operates at a high frequency, so the only processors that were truly better than the others were the i7 7700K and 7740X 4 core CPUs. Between these two, the new Core i7 7740X was about 3% faster due to it's slightly higher base clock frequency.

Final Render

After Effects Skylake-X 7900X 7820X 7800X Kaby Lake-X 7740X Final Render Benchmark

[+] Show Raw Results

Just like in the previous section, since we are comparing 10 different CPUs across 8 different projects, we decided to compile all the results into an overall average for each CPU compared to the Intel Core i7 6850K. If you have the time and will, feel free to examine the raw results yourself by clicking on the "Show Raw Results" link below the chart.

Once again, there was not much of a performance difference between the higher-end CPUs with the exception of the Core i7 7820X where we saw about a 9% performance gain over the Core i7 6850K. The Core i7 7700K and 7740X were again faster than the higher core count CPUs, coming in at 20% and 26% faster than the Core i7 6850K respectively.

Conclusion

After Effects is always an interesting application for us to test since it used to scale extremely well with a higher number of CPU cores. However, in After Effects 2015 Adobe began adding GPU acceleration and as a result multi core performance dropped heavily, throwing much of the "common wisdom" for choosing a CPU completely out the window.

After Effects Skylake-X 7900X 7820X 7800X Kaby Lake-X 7740X Overall Benchmark Results

Overall, it is remarkable how similar the majority of the CPUs we tested performed. The only truly great CPUs were the Intel Core i7 7700K and the new i7 7740X. The problem with both of these CPUs is that they only support a maximum of 64GB of RAM. This may be fine for relatively simple projects in After Effects, but the longer and more complex the project the more noticeable this limitation will be. The reason is that as you play through a sequence in After Effects, each individual frame is cached into RAM. If you jump around your sequence, any frame that is still cached will not have to be re-rendered saving you a huge amount of time. However, if you run out of RAM After Effects starts overwriting old frames which will force your system to have to re-render any frames that got deleted. In other words, having more RAM means you can store a higher number of frames in the RAM cache.

It is worth noting that the AMD Ryzen 7 CPUs also have this 64GB RAM limit. So while the Ryzen 7 1800X performed well compared to the 6-10 core Intel CPUs, there is really little reason to use it over the much faster and more affordable Intel Core i7 7700K or i7 7740X.

For professional After Effects users that need more than 64GB of RAM, the Intel Core i7 7820X is the primary CPU we would recommend. The i7 7800X is also fairly decent (especially for it's price) but a 8% performance gain for a $210 higher price is actually pretty good for After Effects. In addition, since the i7 7800X does not support Turbo Boost 3.0, the i7 7820X should be significantly faster for motion tracking, warp stabilize, or when you simply need to throw something together real quick in Photoshop.

The bottom line is that, just like in previous generations, the majority of the new Intel CPUs are not all that useful for After Effects. The Core i7 7820X is the only CPU that supports more than 64GB and is faster than the previous generation - and even then only by about 6%. If you are already using a previous generation Broadwell-E CPU there is likely not much of a reason to upgrade. On the other hand, if you are already in the market for a new workstation this is a 6% gain in performance gain over the Core i7 6850K for a few dollars less, so there really isn't much of a reason to not use the newer Intel Core i7 7820X.

After Effects Workstations

Tags: After Effects, Skylake-X, Ryzen 7, Broadwell-E, Kaby Lake-X
Pedro Ramos

I think a 7700k is still a pretty solid choice for many of us. Personally, I work on projects with lots of assets created in Illustrator and After Effects shapes, so no extra video layers. A fast CPU should be better than a CPU with 6 or 8 slower cores.
Us professionals pay too much attention to render time over "actively working time". A CPU that generates fast previews is better than one that renders faster but doesn't allow fast viewports, purely because the fast one allows the artist to make those micro-adjustments that elevate a piece quicker.

I think the 7700k is top-notch for an After Effects build and, for 3D stuff in C4D, GPU rendering is becoming the next big thing, so a fast CPU combined with a couple of fast GPUs (thinking 1080ti) is killer.

Any thoughts?

Posted on 2017-07-25 14:05:33

For pure performance, the i7 7700K is a terrific CPU for After Effects. The i7 7740X is technically a hair faster, but it is on a newer platform (newer tends to mean more bugs) and the X299 platform as a whole is a bit more expensive than the Z270 platform for the i7 7700K. The main issue with both of these CPUs is that they are limited to 64GB of RAM. For After Effects, not having enough RAM can make a big difference when scrubbing through your project since each frame you render gets stored into RAM. If you have more rendered frames than what can fit into RAM, AE will simply overwrite the oldest stored frame. So if you go back and try to play that frame again, AE has to re-render it rather than just pulling the already rendered frame from RAM.

Having a fast drive for cache helps quite a bit, but from what I've seen it is not a perfect alternative to simply having the right amount of RAM. Unfortunately, I haven't found any good way to estimate the amount of RAM you need so it can be difficult to know if 64GB of RAM would be OK for you or not. The best way I know of is to simply delete any previews or pre-rendered frames, play through the entire project, and keep an eye on RAM usage during playback. For most projects, it should be pretty linear so if your system only has 16GB of RAM and you use it all up before you make it 1/8 of the way through your project, you probably want more than 64GB of RAM. On the other hand, if you get most of the way through it before using the 16GB of RAM, you are probably just fine with 64GB (or maybe even 32GB) of RAM.

This is what makes After Effects a tough piece of software for us as a workstation manufacturer. The i7 7700K may be one of the fastest CPUs in benchmarks, but the 64GB limitation is a major consideration for a large portion of our customers so it is hard for us to recommend as a go-to option. Like you mentioned, just because it is the best for the final export or RAM preview generation, it might not be the best for actual editing since the performance gain is not always enough to offset the limited RAM capability which can dramatically lower scrubbing performance.

Posted on 2017-07-25 19:21:44
Pedro Ramos

Thanks for your answer, Matt.
I understand AE eats as much RAM as you throw at it, but I know many professionals who work on less than 128GB perfectly (many of them only 32GB). It's a matter of finding balance between performance and cost, as always. But yes, I understand you have to offer the best and recommend maximising such an important component for AE.

Posted on 2017-07-26 11:56:12
keem

You can always purge the memory and cache memory inside after effects, if you have cache disk thats a plus to bump your read/write assets. I still don't know why AE engineers don't optimize the frames inside the GPU, to help the RAM and DISK usage

Posted on 2017-11-02 06:01:19
Lars Passic

"In fact, the i7 7820X is even a hair less expensive than AMD's Ryzen 7 CPUs." Which Ryzen CPU is the 7820X less expensive than?

Posted on 2017-08-02 16:54:18
Ryuhoshi

Only it isn't less expensive. It's about 50% more expensive than Ryzen 1700, also the cheapest s2066 motherboard cost twice what decent AM4 mobo costs.

Posted on 2017-08-04 12:18:47

Thanks for pointing out that typo, we've corrected it to say "7800X" instead of "7820X".

Posted on 2017-08-04 16:12:13
Josh O'Connor

I went for the Ryzen 1700x and ... as written here, AE doesn't take advantage of the multi-threading. (I bought before this article was published!) I guess I need more RAM if I want better performance. Luckily I planned for that and can double my 32Gb just by buying another 32Gb. Though I would rather find an alternative to AfterEffects! Or do more work in Premiere which DOES support Multi-thread -- IS THAT RIGHT?

OTOH, the other CPU I was weighing was the 6900k which doesn't fare any better than the 1700x, really. Wish I'd known the cheaper but faster Intel chips were the way to go!

Posted on 2017-08-08 01:16:44

Premiere Pro is better at using more cores than After Effects, but I wouldn't call it perfect by any means. We have an almost identical article to this one for Premiere Pro you can check out at https://www.pugetsystems.co... . Very roughly, you are looking at about a 5-10% performance gain for every two cores you add. So not as good as something like 3D rendering, but much better than After Effects.

Posted on 2017-08-08 15:59:54
Josh O'Connor

Also is the 1080ti being utilized at all? I have one and it doesn't get taxed at all in AE as far as I can tell.

Posted on 2017-08-08 01:25:17

GPU acceleration is still relatively new to After Effects, so there are only a handful of things that can take advantage of it right now. We have a full list in our hardware recommendations page that we are keeping up to date with each update at https://www.pugetsystems.co... or you can read our GPU performance article for After Effects at https://www.pugetsystems.co... . On the accelerated effects we tested, we saw anywhere from a 50% to 6x increase in performance when using a GPU over just the CPU, but even a low/mid-range GPU like the GTX 1060 was pretty much on par with the much more expensive options. So having a GPU is really important if you use any of those accelerated effects, but you don't really need anything too high-end like a GTX 1080 Ti.

Posted on 2017-08-08 16:06:20
CobaltGamer

So if you need less than 64GB than get i7-7700k and if you need more than 64 get a Skylake-X CPU

Posted on 2017-10-01 02:51:07

Yep, that is pretty much what we recommend. i7 7700K for general AE with less than 64GB and i7 7820X if you need mroee than 64GB. Pretty much the only other CPU we tend to recommend for After Effects is the AMD Threadripper 1950X for those that utilize the "Cinema 4D" 3D Renderer heavily. That CPU can handle up to 128GB of RAM so it can be used for the higher RAM capacity if needed, but the i7 7820X is cheaper and faster for everything in AE besides 3D Rendering so it tends to be the better choice for most users.

Posted on 2017-10-02 17:40:54
Mena Malak

I work on after effect And Maya 3D
So I want to buy a device which will give the best performance at them both ... I decided to buy ryzen 1700x but after I read that Ae depends on single core I am so confused ... Someone told me that to choose i7-8700k but i don't know if i can offer it or not
what can I do and what is the best choice with best price ??

Posted on 2017-12-28 11:22:39
Mohammad Basel

So basically the Core i7 7820X is the best option for 512 GB ram? or is the Intel Core i9 Extreme better?
My goal is to work in real time full resolution on RAM preview

Posted on 2018-01-14 18:02:29

The Core i7 7820X is definitely the fastest CPU you can get currently if you need more than 64GB of RAM. The higher-end Core i9 CPUs are really only better if you do a lot of 3D rendering.

Posted on 2018-01-15 18:50:44
Mohammad Basel

The rendering isnt my biggest issue, my issue is some projects i work on take a lot of time to render frame by frame on RAM preview and i am using 32GB RAM and Core i7 7700

If invest in the 512 GB RAM and core i7 7820 will the real time ram preview render be significantly faster? can working in Full resolution be possible?

Posted on 2018-01-15 18:56:43

Take a look at the RAM preview results, that is pretty much exactly what you are asking about: https://www.pugetsystems.co... . Basically, a Core i7 7820X will be slower than your currently Core i7 7700K in terms of how long it takes to render each frame. Having more RAM simply allows you to store more frames in RAM preview so that you don't have to re-render as many frames if/when you run out of RAM.

If that is a major issue for you right now than it may be worth giving up a bit of raw performance in exchange for more RAM so you don't end up re-rendering frames. However, if you want to get as close to real-time as possible then more RAM isn't going to help - only a faster CPU like the Core i7 8700K can do that. Even then, you are only looking at a small ~3% increase in FPS with that CPU over your current i7 7700K.

Your best bet might actually be to invest in a NVMe drive like the Samsung 960 Pro and use that as a disk cache drive. The biggest issue with disk caching in AE is that it seems to take a relatively long time to write each frame to the cache so the faster write performance of a NVMe drive makes a significant difference. It might not be as good as simply having more RAM, but it could be a good compromise.

Posted on 2018-01-15 19:05:51
Mohammad Basel

Thank you very much for clearing that up... i was about to invest around 14k thinking that jumping up to 512 GB's of RAM will make the preview rendering faster, it appears that the processor is responsible for both RAM preview render and the final render and that the RAM it self is only for storing more not rendering... did i understand correctly?

I hope Adobe does something about multi Core use so that the new i9's become useful..
Once again thank you very very much for sharing your research results with the public and if you come across anything near real time performance in AE plz let me know i will be more than glad to purchase it.

Posted on 2018-01-15 19:30:57

Yep, you got it right.

Honestly, I don't think higher core counts are going to get more useful anytime soon. Adobe is making a pretty big push into GPU acceleration so having a more powerful GPU is going to become more and more important while on the CPU side having faster cores rather than more cores will be important. This is mostly because GPUs are really good at tasks that are highly parallel, so anything that might have been able to use more CPU cores will simply get moved over to the GPU.

The end result should be much better performance at much lower hardware costs, but After Effects is in a bit of a weird spot right now. They have moved over a decent number of effects to use the GPU, but not everything quite yet so you won't always be able to leverage the power of the GPU, but also can't leverage a more powerful CPU. They are being pretty transparent about what effects they have added GPU support for, however, which you can find in the "New Features Summary" they publish or we have been keeping a list in our After Effects "Recommended Hardware": https://www.pugetsystems.co...

Posted on 2018-01-15 19:39:13
Jason McWhorter

Do these measurements and recommendations still hold true for the latest After Effects release (15.0 from October 2017)?

I've had a hard time finding solid documentation regarding changes from 14.2 to 15.0 -- but it seems some things like the RAM preview have undergone a pretty serious overhaul. Does that impact the decision making on CPU for the new version?

Posted on 2018-01-22 15:26:42

The best documentation I know of for the version 15 update is: https://helpx.adobe.com/aft... . I haven't had a chance to benchmark the new version yet, but I don't see anything that should significantly change the results of this article or our other slightly newer one that includes the Coffee Lake CPUs: https://www.pugetsystems.co...

It looks to me like Adobe is simply continuing to move more effects over to the GPU. If anything, this means that the lower core CPUs are going to be even better than shown in our articles since GPU acceleration often takes over the tasks that run well on higher core count CPUs.

Posted on 2018-01-22 18:41:47
Mohammad Basel

How about the core i7 7820 HK? It's the only one close to 7820x on a laptop which is the MSI gt73VR 7RF.
Would really appriciate a fast answer as I need to buy the right laptop for after effects at the soonest

Posted on 2018-08-26 08:12:24