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After Effects CC 2019: Intel X-series 2018 Refresh Performance

Written on November 13, 2018 by Matt Bach


After Effects is an interesting application to do CPU testing on since to many users, it appears to be going in the opposite direction of computer technology. While Intel and AMD have been steadily adding more and more cores to their processor lineup, After Effects actually moved from being very efficient at using multiple CPU cores back in 2014 to... not. There were many reasons for this - including the addition of GPU acceleration which drastically increased performance for many tasks - but the end result is that it became extremely easy to spend more money on hardware that actually ended up being slower than a less expensive option.

What is different with the new X-series CPUs is that they break the trend by having the same core counts as the previous generation. Instead of a core count increase, these CPUs just have a slight bump in frequency as well as a few other minor architecture updates. At first glance, these processors are underwhelming, but in many ways these small changes are more likely to increase performance in After Effects than if they had continued down the "more cores!" path.

One thing we will note is that we currently only have access to the i7 9800X, i9 9900X, i9 9920X, and i9 9980XE models. Because of this, we will be focusing on how much faster these new models are compared to the previous generation. Once we get the full lineup, we will publish a more in-depth roundup article include all the X-series models as well as other CPUs like AMD Threadripper.

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:

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
Electric FX
by Video Copilot

212-238 (26 total frames)
0-97 (97 total frames)
Animated Polygon
by Video Copilot

Green Polygon 0-78 (78 total frames)  
GPU Stress
  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

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

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

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

Raw Benchmark Data

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 our tests. In essence, a score of "20" would mean that, on average, the system 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, the new Intel X-series CPUs did OK, but were not spectacular. The i7 9800X and i9 9900X were not much faster than the previous generation, while the i9 9920X and i9 9980XE were around 8% and 6% faster respectively. This is a pretty moderate gain, but understandable since projects that do not use the C4D renderer tend to be limited by the per-core performance of the CPU. Because of this, the small performance gain is not enough for any of the Intel X-series to quite catch up to the Intel 9th Gen i9 9900K which is almost 20% faster than the fastest X-series CPU.

When using the C4D rendering engine, the new X-series CPUs fare a bit better. Here, the i7 9800X and i9 9900X were about 4% faster than the previous generation while the i9 9920X and i9 9980XE were about 7-8% faster. This still isn't anything terribly great, but it does allow the i9 9980XE - and in some cases the i9 9920X - to pull ahead of the less expensive i9 9900K. Even the i9 9980XE is only 3-13% faster than the i9 9900K, however, so you likely have to be working on extremely tight deadlines to justify the cost of the i9 9980XE over the i9 9900K.

Are the 2018 Intel Core X-series Processors good for After Effects?

Depending on what you are doing, the new X-series CPUs are not bad for After Effects, but they typically won't be faster than the more moderately priced Intel Core i9 9900K. Compared to the previous generation X-series CPUs, the new models can be anywhere from no faster to about 8% faster depending on the processor model and type of After Effects project you are working with.

Intel Core X-series 2018 refresh i7 9800X, i9 9900X, i9 9920X, i9 9980XE After Effects Benchmark Performance
Overall, the new 2018 X-series CPUs from Intel are certainly faster than the previous generation, but it isn't by much. At most we saw an 8% performance gain with the new processors, but on average the difference was closer to around 5%.

Core i7 9800X vs Core i7 7820X for After Effects

For most users, the new i7 9800X will not be noticeably faster than the previous generation i7 7820X in After Effects. The only time we saw a performance gain was when using the C4D renderer, but even then, the i9 9800X was only ~4% faster.

Core i9 9900X vs Core i9 7900X for After Effects

Whether you use the C4D renderer or are just doing 2D projects, the i9 9900X was only about 3.5% faster than the previous generation i9 7900X. Unless you use a stopwatch, this is a small enough difference that you are unlikely to notice the difference.

Core i9 9920X vs Core i9 7920X for After Effects

Across our testing, the i9 9920X saw a very reasonably 7-8% performance gain over the i9 7920X. This improvement also makes the i9 9920X the lowest-end Intel X-series model that is able to compete with the less expensive Intel 9th Gen i9 9900K - as long as you are using the C4D renderer.

Core i9 9980XE vs Core i9 7980XE for After Effects

At the top of the Intel X-series stack, the i9 9980XE is about 6-8% faster than the previous generation i9 7980XE in After Effects. However, both of these models scored near the bottom of our standard project benchmarks so we only recommend them if the majority of your projects use the C4D renderer.

One thing we want to point out is that since After Effects is more about per-core performance than having a large number of cores, this is actually one of the weakest software packages for the X-series line. Because of this, the less expensive Intel 9th Gen Core i9 9990K is in most cases faster than even the newer Intel X-series CPUs.

In fact, there are really only two reasons to use the Intel X-series CPUs for After Effects: if you need more system RAM, or if you heavily utilize the C4D renderer. If you need more RAM, the Intel X-series CPUs like the i7 9800X will allow you to use up to 128GB of RAM - although they will be about 20% slower than the i9 9900K for standard projects. The more you utilize the C4D renderer, however, the better the X-series CPUs get. The Core i9 9920X and below never quite manage to catch up to the Intel 9th Gen i9 9900K, but if you have the budget for it, the Intel Core i9 9980X can be up to ~13% faster.

If you are interested in how these new Intel Core X-series Processors perform in other applications, be sure to check out our recent Processor articles as we have a number of articles for Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve, and many other software packages.

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Tags: After Effects, 9900K, 8700K, 7820X, 7900X, 7920X, 7980XE, 9800X, 9900X, 9920X, 9980XE

thank you very nice! I t would have been great if you also tested 9940X and 9960X thought they probably perform something in betewen 9900X and 9980X.
Also, for those considering these CPU's they it mostly is when 3d rendering or other high CPU core is wanted, so comparing them against AMD's counterpart would be as useful as vs 9900K

Posted on 2018-11-13 18:26:12

We mention that in the intro:
"One thing we will note is that we currently only have access to the i7 9800X, i9 9900X, i9 9920X, and i9 9980XE models. Because of this, we will be focusing on how much faster these new models are compared to the previous generation. Once we get the full lineup, we will publish a more in-depth roundup article include all the X-series models as well as other CPUs like AMD Threadripper."

Posted on 2018-11-13 18:31:34

ah ok thanks! :)

Posted on 2018-11-13 19:11:31

Nice review, I was really looking forward to read it (as I want to update to either 9900k or 9800x for AE/PP workstation) !

Still, I think something really important is missing in the article, especially for workstation on this plateform.
More than just the limit of 64GB, the 9900k will be limited to 16 PCI-E lanes and that is a big problem for those who use Ethernet cards, Raid cards or any cards that would benefit from those PCI-E lanes.

Also, I am not sure how the chipset would handle fast USB devices, a couple of SSD (and maybe other drives) and other peripherals

Isn't there serious risk of PCI-E bottleneck on this plateform ?

Thanks for you article and keep up the good work !

Posted on 2018-11-17 14:40:38

It completely depends on what you are going to need. You have 16+4 (CPU+chipset) in most cases which should be fine for a GPU (x8 is honestly just fine, especially for Ae), 10g ethernet (x4), and a couple other x4 devices. SSD's don't use PCIe lanes directly, and usually even m.2 Nvme drives use some of the other lanes reserved for things like the onboard USB, SATA, network, etc. controllers.

I know it comes up every once in a while in our systems, but it is pretty rare that it is a real issue. Heavy GPU workloads that can use 2-4 GPUs is where you typically run out of lanes, and that is where we push customers to x299/x399.

Posted on 2018-11-17 14:48:07
Jacob Pawloski

What do you think the performance difference is between a 6900k and 9900k? How much does a GPU affect the rendering? I have a secondary computer with a 6900k and GTX 1050 TI in it. Watching the GPU, its barely used during rendering.

Posted on 2018-12-02 07:04:24

Answering the GPU question first, we have a number of articles covering that: https://www.pugetsystems.co... . Overall, I think updating from a GTX 1050 Ti to something higher-end is only going to get you at most about a 10% bump in FPS. However, that depends on how many GPU accelerated effects you use (marked in the effects panel with three dashes and a play symbol). After Effects is much more CPU-based of an application, so even getting GPU with 2-3x higher theoretical performance is only going to result in a relatively small performance bump since most of the time, Ae is waiting on the CPU to finish it's calculations rather than waiting on the CPU.

For the CPU question, going back to our older articles it looks like the 6900K is about the same as the 7900X which is about 20% slower than the 9900K. So somewhere around there is what I would expect.

Posted on 2018-12-03 17:27:13
Farhan Afsar

Thanks you for writing this in such detail. Coupled with the article on Premier Pro, the amount of testing sounds massive.
I only wanted a word of advice; I want to build a system that will use both AE and Pr. No financial constraints as such. The 9980XE, 9920X and 9900K are top three for both softwares as per your charts. Given that higher clock speed is best for AE (ideal 9900K), and high core number for Pr (9980XE performs best) (the 9920X comes second everywhere). Which processor would you say is the best trade off for a system that uses both softwares? And what core number do you think starts the point of diminishing returns?

Posted on 2018-12-04 08:52:11

Honestly, that question is one of the main reasons we encourage all of our customers to talk with one of our consultants before purchasing a system. It completely changes depending on a number of factors such as whether you want an even balance between Ae/Pr, or care more about better performance (and how much) in either of the applications.

That said, there are a couple things that I think make the answer a bit easier (especially since i have most of the benchmark data for all the X-series CPUs for a handful of upcoming articles). First, in After Effects the X-series CPUs with 10+ cores all perform close enough to each other that it would be hard to tell the difference in your daily work. However, the i9 9900K is about ~13% than any of the X-series CPUs. In Premiere Pro, there is a small performance gain as you go up the X-series stack but only starting at the 14 core (i9 9940X) with the performance be measurably better than the i9 9900K - coming in at 10% faster. At the highest-end, the i9 9980XE is about 15% faster than the i9 9900K.

So I think you really have a couple choices: i9 9900K if you want to prioritize raw Ae performance (~13% faster in Ae) or i9 9940X/9960X/9980XE if you want to prioritize Pr (~10-15% faster in Pr). I think for most people one of the X-series CPUs is the best choice since 13% lower performance in Ae is likely to be offset by the ability to have 128GB of RAM versus the 64GB you can have with the i9 9900K.

Posted on 2018-12-04 17:17:51
Farhan Afsar

Thanks for the response. I think I will be using equal amounts of both softwares. But going above 64 GBs might be overkill for my line of work (3 minute or below length news videos for the web), so the advantage might not apply to me. A constant point of confusion (one of many) is that even in a balanced system shouldn't one favor the more demanding software (AE) in this case.

Also In the article above you didn't include the overall score for 9940X and 9960X. I guess you didn't have them at that point. Same for the Premier article. But can you give the numbers so I can compare them to the 214.1 that 9900K scored.

Also how does the 9960X and 9940X compare against their previous generation models?

Posted on 2018-12-04 18:31:06

If Ae is where your more demanding work is and where you spend the most time, then I definitely would go with the i9 9900K since you don't need more than 64GB of RAM.

The 9940X and 9960X results are going to be in articles coming out sometime later this week. It is actually using a new benchmark than what is in this article, however, so the results are not directly comparable, but they really perform pretty much the same as the i9 9920X. So if we ran this benchmark, they would get around a score of 193. Versus the previous generation, they are looking to be about 5-7% faster in Ae, but only a few percent faster in Pr.

Posted on 2018-12-04 19:17:38
Farhan Afsar

So one last question. Between 9940X and 9920X which is better? As you said they perform very close in AE but what about Pr. And do you think these below 10% differences amount to anything in actual work?

Posted on 2018-12-05 07:15:16

I'll have full results in a few days (maybe early next week) in an article about that, but it looks like the 9940X is about 5% faster than the 9920X in Premiere Pro and almost all of that is in the form of faster export performance. So if live playback is what you care about, you really won't notice a difference between those two CPUs.

Posted on 2018-12-05 17:24:25