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After Effects CC 2019 CPU Roundup: Intel vs AMD vs Mac

Written on December 5, 2018 by Matt Bach


Choosing the right hardware for your new After Effects workstation can often be overwhelming with hundreds or thousands of different hardware components to choose from. Even if you are just trying to decide on a CPU, it can still be daunting to find one that not only fits your budget, but will also give you the best performance for your dollar.

In this article, we are going to be benchmarking - using our newly released Puget Systems After Effects CC Benchmark - a wide range of processors from Intel and AMD including the Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series, AMD Ryzen 2nd Gen, and AMD Threadripper 2nd Gen CPU lines. In addition, we will be comparing them to a current Mac Pro 12 Core and iMac Pro 14 Core for those that are curious about how much faster a PC workstation can be compared to a Mac.

One thing to note is that we will not be including results for any previous-gen CPUs in this article. At first, we were going to include them but the charts and tables soon got out of hand. Instead, if you want to know how these CPUs compare to previous generations, we recommend checking out the following articles:

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 Setup & Methodology

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

Shared PC Hardware/Software
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB
Hard Drive: Samsung 960 Pro 1TB M.2 PCI-E x4 NVMe SSD
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (version 1803)
Mac-based PC Test Hardware  
System: Apple Mac Pro (12 Core) Apple iMac Pro (14 Core)
CPU: 12-core
2.7GHz 30MB of L3 cache
14-core Intel Xeon W
2.5GHz Turbo Boost up to 4.3GHz
RAM: 64GB 1866MHz DDR3 ECC 64GB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC
Video Card: Dual AMD FirePro D700, 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM Radeon Pro Vega 64, 16GB of HBM2 memory
Hard Drive: 1TB PCIe-based SSD 1TB SSD
OS: MacOS Mojave (10.14.1)

For the testing itself, we will be using After Effects CC 2019 (ver. 16.0) along with our recently released Puget Systems After Effects CC Benchmark which is now available for public download. This benchmark tests RAM Preview, Rendering, and Tracking in a wide range of compositions. Full details on the benchmark are available on the benchmark download page.

Benchmark Results

While our benchmark presents various scores based on the performance of each type of task, we also wanted to provide the individual results in case there is a specific task someone may be interested in. Feel free to skip to the next section for our analysis of these results.

Benchmark Analysis

After Effects CC 2019 Benchmark CPU Roundup - Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series, AMD Threadripper 2nd Gen, AMD Ryzen 2nd Gen, Apple Mac Pro, Apple iMac Pro

Our After Effects benchmark (which is available for public download) tests a range of compositions looking at performance for RAM Preview, Final Render, and Tracking. These results all combine into a single "Overall Score" that represents the overall performance of the system in After Effects.

If we sort by the overall score, you can see that the Intel 9th Gen CPUs like the Core i9 9900K and Core i7 9700K are currently the top performers even though they are much less expensive than the Intel X-series or AMD Threadripper CPUs. This is really to be expected since most of After Effects is only able to use a handful of CPU cores.

After the Intel 9th Gen, the next fastest processors are those in the Intel X-series line that was recently updated. These X-series CPUs are around 6-20% slower than the Intel Core i9 9900K depending on which model you choose, but the big advantage of these CPUs is that they support up to 128GB of RAM where the Intel 9th Gen CPUs only support 64GB max. This doesn't show up in our benchmarks, but if your projects tend to be complex and you rely on RAM Preview caching to stay sane, then you may want to use an X-series CPU to get the higher RAM capacity.

Below the Intel X-series are the iMac Pro 14 core, AMD Threadripper, and AMD Ryzen 2700X which are all roughly 25% slower than the Intel Core i9 9900K. At the very bottom of the chart is the old (but somehow still current) Mac Pro which is about 40% slower than the i9 9900K. That doesn't make a PC with the i9 9900K twice as fast as the (much) more expensive Mac Pro, but it is getting close.

Intel vs AMD vs Mac for After Effects CC 2019

For After Effects CC 2019, the Intel 9th Gen CPUs like the i9 9900K are currently the fastest processors available. The Intel X-series are close behind and are anywhere from 6-20% slower than the i9 9900K depending on the model - although they do allow for much higher RAM capacities than the Intel 9th Gen CPUs.

Compared to an Intel-based system, AMD falls short at the moment. Whether you are looking for the best possible performance or the best performance for your dollar, using an Intel CPU is a pretty clear choice for a workstation that is primarily geared for After Effects. Likewise, if Ae performance is your primary concern, the iMac Pro (and especially the Mac Pro) are well behind an Intel-based PC. Compared to a PC with a i9 9900K, the iMac Pro 14 core used in our testing is about 20% slower even though it costs nearly twice as much. Even if you decide to go with an X-series CPU in order to get the higher RAM capacity, the iMac Pro was still ~15% slower even though it would cost roughly 25% more expensive.

If you are curious how your current system compares to any of these processors, we recommend downloading and running our After Effects CC Benchmark which is the exact benchmark used in our hardware articles. And if you are interested in how the latest Intel and AMD processors perform in other applications, be sure to check out our recent Processor articles as we have a number of articles looking at CPU performance in Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve, and many other software packages.

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Tags: After Effects, Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series, AMD Threadripper 2nd Gen, AMD Ryzen 2nd Gen, Apple Mac Pro, Apple iMac Pro, 9900K, 9700K, 9600K, 9980XE, 9960X, 9940X, 9920X, 9900X, 9980X, 9800X, 2990WX, 2970WX, 2950X, 2920X, 2700X