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After Effects CC 2018: Core i7 9700K & i9 9900K Performance

Written on October 19, 2018 by Matt Bach
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Introduction

In old versions of After Effects, it was extremely good at utilizing a high number of cores - but things changed when Adobe started adding support for GPU acceleration. Being able to utilize the GPU typically results in much higher overall performance for most AE users, but unfortunately (or fortunate if you consider your wallet) it meant that AE was no longer able to make effective use of a high number of CPU cores. Core count can still make a difference if you utilize the Cinema 4D 3D Renderer, but for most tasks the performance of each individual core is more important.

With the new 9th Gen Intel Core Processors, there are a number of improvements including a small frequency bump and an increase in core count. Where the current top-end consumer Core i7 CPU (the Core i7 8700K) has only 6 cores and a max Turbo of 4.7 GHz, the Core i7 9700K and i9 9900K both have 8 cores and a 4.9-5.0 GHz max Turbo frequency. Because of this blend of both a higher core count and a higher operating frequency, these CPUs should fare very well in After Effects but the only way to know for sure is to put them through our After Effects benchmark suite.

If you would like to skip over our test setup and benchmark result/analysis sections, feel free to jump right to the Conclusion section.

Test Hardware & Methodology

Listed below are the systems we will be using in our testing:

While benchmarking the i7 9700K and i9 9900K against the i7 8700K is likely the most direct comparison we could make, we also wanted to see how these new CPUs stack up against a number of other processors. AMD vs Intel is always a popular discussion, so we included the Ryzen 7 2700X - which tends to be cheaper than either of these new CPUs - as well as the Threadripper 1920X which is similar in price to the i9 9900K. To get an idea of whether or not purchasing a more expensive Intel CPU would give you a notable increase in performance, we also include the i7 7820X and the i9 7900X.

In order to accurately benchmark the different systems, we used a range of After Effects projects that are mostly publicly available for download. The projects we used (along with their source) are:

Project Name Comp Name Tested Frames Notes
Countdown
by Rocketstock

(1920x1080)
Example Composition 0-40 (40 total frames)  
Electric FX
by Video Copilot

(1920x1080)
CloseCity
PlainSmoke
212-238 (26 total frames)
0-97 (97 total frames)
 
Animated Polygon
by Video Copilot

(1280x720)
Green Polygon 0-78 (78 total frames)  
GPU Stress
(3840x2160)
  32610-32710 (100 total frames)

4K H.264 video with:

  • Find Edges
  • Glow
  • Brightness/Contrast
  • Transform
  • Sharpen
  • Directional Blur
  • Lumetri Color
Cineware Party
by Cineversity

(1920x1080)
Party-Lite-004Full 0-169 (169 total frames)

"Video Wall" and "*.mov" layers
removed. Tested with C4D Renderer:

  • OpenGL
  • Standard (Draft)
  • Standard (Final)

RAM Preview - Raw Benchmark Data

RAM Preview - Benchmark Analysis

In After Effects, there is a big difference between standard projects and those that utilize the Cinema 4D CPU renderer. Since not everyone uses this feature, we decided to separate out our testing results between "standard" projects and those utilizing the C4D renderer.


Before we get into the results themselves, we want to explain the scoring system used in this test. In essence, a score of "20" would mean that on average that processor was able to play our projects at 20% of the project's defined FPS. A perfect score would be "100" which would mean that the system was able to play it back in real time, although with the difficult projects we use this should never actually occur.

Starting with the standard projects (shown in blue), the i7 9700k and i9 9900K are faster than any other CPU we tested, but that only works out to being 4-7% faster than the Core i7 8700K. This certainly isn't nothing, but it will be hard to notice in the real world.

If you use the C4D rendering engine, however, these new CPUs are really good. The Core i7 9700K is about 10% faster than the i7 8700K which puts it right in line with the more expensive Core i7 7820X. At the top-end, the Core i9 9900K is about 37% faster than the i7 8700K. We didn't test the full range of Intel and AMD CPUs in this article, but if you compare it to the results in our recent After Effects CC 2018: AMD Threadripper 2990WX & 2950X Performance article, the i9 9900K is actually about the same as the Core i9 7940X which was the top performer for C4D projects.

Final Render - Raw Benchmark Data

Final Render - Benchmark Analysis

Once again, since the results will vary based on whether or not you utilize the Cinema 4D CPU renderer, we have separated our testing results between "standard" projects and those utilizing the C4D renderer:

For the final render (or export), the results are fairly similar to the RAM Preview test. With standard projects the i7 9700K and i9 9900K are about 3% and 8% faster than the i7 8700K respectively. With C4D projects, the i7 9700K is about 11% faster than the i7 8700K which is in line with the more expensive i7 7820X. The i9 9900K was once again excellent, coming in at 37% faster than the i7 8700K which is only a hair behind the more powerful CPUs tested in our previous After Effects CPU roundup article.

Are the 9th Gen Intel Core Processors good for After Effects?

Yes! The i7 9700K is roughly the same price as the i7 8700K, but scores about 6% higher in our After Effects Benchmark. The i9 9900K is a bit more expensive, but in return we saw a 17% higher score over the i7 8700K. In fact, even when using the C4D renderer, the i9 9900K is able to match much higher core count CPUs.

9th Gen Intel Core i7 9700K & i9 9900K After Effects Benchmark
The score in the chart above is a weighted average of our testing based on what our customers tend to be the most concerned about. RAM Preview of standard projects makes up 40% of the overall score while the Ram Preview (C4D Renderer), Final Render (Standard), and Final Render (C4D Renderer) tests each contribute 20% towards the score.

Overall, the new 9th Gen CPUs from Intel are great for After Effects. The i9 9900K in particular is terrific as it is not only the best for standard projects, but it actually matches the much more expensive Intel X-series CPUs when using the Cinema 4D rendering engine. The biggest issue with these CPUs is not their performance, but rather the 64GB RAM limitation of the Z370/Z390 platform they use. Many AE users benefit greatly from having more system RAM which is the only reason we may still recommend an Intel X-series CPU in some situations. It has been reported by Anandtech that the i9 9900K may support 128GB of RAM in the future, but we will have to see if it ends up being stable or if the 32GB RAM modules will be at all cost effective.

Core i7 9700K vs Core i7 8700K for After Effects

For standard projects, the Core i7 9700K is about 4% faster that the Core i7 8700K but that rises to 10% faster if you use the C4D rendering engine. While this is likely not worth a straight upgrade from the i7 8700K, if you are already in the market for a new AE workstation the i7 9700K is a solid choice.

Core i9 9900K vs Core i7 8700K for After Effects

The Core i9 9900K is more expensive than the i7 8700K, but in exchange we saw an 8% performance increase with standard projects and a massive 37% performance increase when using the C4D rendering engine. This makes the i9 9900K an incredibly versatile CPU for After Effects as it is not only the best for standard projects, but also stands toe to toe with much more expensive CPUs when using the C4D renderer.

If you are interested in how the 9th Gen Intel Core Processors perform in other applications, be sure to check out our recent Processor articles as we have a number of other articles for looking at the i7 9700K and i9 9900K.

Tags: After Effects, 9700K, 9900K, 8700K, 7820X, 7900X, 2700X, 1920X
Mike Xirouchakis

Thank you so much for this! It is so rare to find tests like these and are extremely helpful.

Posted on 2018-10-21 15:00:33
JM

GPU acceleration only works for specific effects. Does not improve overall performance. Adobe has remove Multi-threaded performance since AE CC2014. Redo your tests with AE 2014 and results will change. Adobe is silent on the issue despite growing users anger.

Posted on 2018-10-24 18:05:39

Yep, that is exactly correct. We didn't go into it in detail in this article, but we mentioned in the Intro that Ae is no longer able to make effective use of a high number of CPU cores since they started adding GPU acceleration in Ae 2015. It would be interesting to do a head-to-head between Ae 2014 and Ae 2019 (since that just released), but I don't think we are going to double our testing for every Ae article we publish. That simply isn't feasible since a lot of the testing we are doing now won't even work on older versions of Ae since it is missing all the features found in newer versions like C4D integration.

Posted on 2018-10-24 18:19:33
Jean-Marc San Marco

Thanks for your reply. I didn't mean for you to actually do the testing and actually I don't think users should be using a version that is now almost 5 years old. I appreciate all the testing you are doing but ultimately Adobe is really letting us down. The only you could mention is that using a higher CPU count is worth it if you are using a third party render like RenderBoss or RenderGarden since multiple frames will be rendered simultaneously, kind of what we had with CC2014. The BIG problem for me, and I work with AE all day is the RAM preview. I could live with slower final export but RAM preview is crucial to the workflow. It is therefore a shame that in 2019 when users have access to such incredible rendering power that Adobe saw fit to remove multi-threading performance 5 years ago and still do not seem to adress the issue.

Posted on 2018-10-24 19:04:34

Third party plugins and utilities are typically things we don't get too much into simply because it changes everything. We've had it on our to-do list to add server node configurations in order to take advantage of things like RenderGarden, but I'm not sure when we'll have the time to get into that. If/when we do, however, you are absolutely right that it would tweak our testing in many ways. At that point, we can divide our testing between local workstation performance and performance if it is being used as a render node.

Posted on 2018-10-24 19:15:41
Blizaine

This just baffles me. AE editing is more of a hobby for me so I don't get to do it as much as I'd like. It had been a few years since I had really done anything with a lot of special effects. However, this weekend I did a 4 min video with some 3D elements, I was thinking it would smoke through the render at recorder pace, and it took 9 hours to render (1080p). This surprised me because my machine has pretty decent specs. i7-8700K. M.2 SSD. 32GB RAM, RTX-2080ti. What's frustrating is that my CPU only ever hit about 15-20% and GPU never got above 5% during the render and that was using the CUDA render. This was all done on the AE 2019 (Creative Cloud) version.

Posted on 2018-11-12 19:46:46

Are you looking at total CPU load, or per-core load? Most of the time, you will only be using a couple of CPU cores when rendering in Ae, so if you are seeing 20% total CPU load that could mean that Ae is just using a single core.

Posted on 2018-11-12 20:32:59