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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.

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

I just tested your benchmark through After effects using 9940x and gtx 1080ti. ANd I got an extremely bad score, because C4D rendering scored 35. I also noticed it was rendering C4D scenes very slow. . Do you know if there's any particular setting that lacks or reason for this, something obvious ?

Posted on 2018-12-19 21:56:56

If I had to guess, it might be some preference that got changed regarding the cinema 4d renderer. Not sure what it could be exactly, but you could try resetting your AE preferences (backing them up first if you have anything custom) and running it again.

Posted on 2018-12-19 22:04:49

thanks I will try that. It seems when I preview the ballon tracking scene, it plays it realtime if I hide the c4d model, but if I only have the balloon model visible and hit play its super slow and some time it takes long pauses.

Posted on 2018-12-19 22:13:13

Hi Matt, I found your articles and test very useful! but I would like to ask you.. 8700 or 8700k? the difference between both is worth the price?
What motherboard do you recommend?
About ram, I'm considring the Corsair 32gb 2666MHz, should I buy the 3200's?
thx!! great 2019.

Posted on 2019-01-02 08:58:30

It's been a while since we tested the 8700, but in https://www.pugetsystems.co... it looks like they are going to be pretty much the same for Ae. The 8700K may be a percent or two faster, but that is probably not going to be noticeable.

For motherboards, I'm a pretty big fan of the Gigabyte AORUS line at the moment. And definitely stick with 2666MHz RAM since that is what the 8700(K) is rated for. Higher frequency RAM doesn't improve performance much on Intel CPUs, but from what we have seen it is much more likely to cause system stability problems.

Posted on 2019-01-02 20:29:44

Thank Mat for your time

Posted on 2019-01-03 08:12:36

It depends on what is going into the system and what the power draw of each component it. I generally add up all the rated wattage for CPU/GPU/storage, add about 50% on top of that to account for Turbo, then toss on an additional 50W or so for things like the motherboard. Ideally you want to be at about 80% of the PSU capacity for maximum efficiency, so if the total system wattage is ~500W stick with a 650W PSU, but if it is higher use a 750W.

Posted on 2019-01-03 17:57:56

I used a page that does the calculation, 436 W.. I'll go for the 650w! thx matt!

Posted on 2019-01-04 05:26:19

Mat, sorry to return the conversation to the processor

Posted on 2019-01-05 18:39:54

Mat, I was watching the i7-9700K that is not much more expensive than the 8700...you suggest me go for that?

Posted on 2019-01-07 18:58:34

Definitely. THe 9700K is about 7% faster than the 8700K and it will be a percent or two more than that compared to the 8700. https://www.pugetsystems.co...

Posted on 2019-01-07 19:00:02

Thanks once again! I'm curious about the overclock.. so you recommend it? I mean, does it mean a lot of difference in programs like after effects?

Posted on 2019-01-10 21:16:09

That is really hard to say, and depends on the kind of overclock you are going for. If you are trying to push all the cores as high as they can go, it probably won't be that much faster in Ae since you are likely only going to hit frequencies that are not that much higher than the single core Turbo. If you just push one or two cores and leave the rest at stock, you would get a bit more performance in Ae. Maybe another 10-15% performance I would guess.

The thing is, if you overclock to any meaningful amount, your system will be less stable. So keep in mind whether an extra ~10% performance is worth the chance that some time (or times) in the future, Ae or Windows may crash at the worst possible moment. It seems like right at the end of an hour long export is exactly the time Murphy's Law likes to rear it's head. At least if you are doing the overclock yourself you will understand how to address any issues that come up over time and tweak the frequency/voltages, but overclocks definitely are not "set it and forget it" unless you are being very conservative.

That is really why we don't get into overclocking on our systems and in our testing - most of our customers are not the kind of people who want to fiddle in the BIOS. They just want it to work and keep working reliably.

Posted on 2019-01-10 21:26:27

Thanks for taking the time to explain, I never overclocked but for work I do not think it means much.
I think it's more to win some frames in games or get better punctuation in the benchmarks, thx Matt!

Posted on 2019-01-11 04:32:37

Thanks for this comparison! I'm curious why you didn't include the iMac Pro 8 or 10 core. They have a higher single clock speed so I'd really like to know where these end up in this test.

Posted on 2019-01-14 00:07:00

We have to purchase the Mac systems we have just like any other user, so getting multiple systems would quickly get past the point where we can justify the cost. The testing we do is primarily to help us configure the best possible workstations for our customer, and including Mac is really just something we do every once in a while to show how much faster a PC can be at the same (or much lower) cost.

If we had unlimited budget and time, I would love to include a bunch of other Macs, MacBooks, PC laptops, etc. But that just isn't feasible unfortunately.

Posted on 2019-01-14 01:31:13

Thanks for your reaction. I can understand buying all these iMacs would be very expensive. The 8-core is a lot cheaper than the 14 core though :-) I hope to run your benchmark on an 8-core in the near future. If they approach the i9 I'm sticking with MacOS. Otherwise I'm going back to Windows.

Posted on 2019-01-16 11:33:36

I'm gonna still wait for Ryzen 3xxx series. Probably will be cheaper than 9900K or 9700K and would give even better results. But we'll see.

Posted on 2019-03-28 05:01:27
Mark Harris

I love how your evaluation is based on ZERO evidence, only blind brand loyalty lol

Posted on 2019-03-30 04:18:09

Waiting to see what's the future performance of soon to be ann/launched product = blind brand loyalty?
Zero evidence?

Sure, rumours are not to be trusted and are not an evidence, but at CES 2019 they beat the 9900k with the same core count part on lower-powered early engineering sample. This shows very promising IPC and/or frequency gains (we don't know) and considering the current pricing of 9900k system vs 2700x (ouch), it makes total sense to WAIT to everybody who's not blindly loyal to some company, which is ironically your problem.

I wish both companies would constantly leapfrog each other with new architecture and I will always buy one that has more value at the time. Next few years looks to be AMD dominated, but Intel snapped the lead Zen architect and I'm very excited what his team comes out with in few years. Try to spin that into how I'm "blindly loyal" or whatever.

Posted on 2019-04-11 03:29:17