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AutoDesk 3ds Max 2017 CPU Performance

Written on August 3, 2016 by Matt Bach


If you are looking for a 3ds Max workstation, there is a huge variety of components that you need to choose from. Everything from what CPU, what video card, even how fast of a hard drive you need should all to be taken into consideration. In this article, we will be tackling the question of what CPU you need by looking at five different CPU options that you might find in a workstation. These CPUs cover the highest end option from the standard Core i7 line, three of the "High End Desktop" Intel CPUs, and even a dual Xeon setup with a total of 28 physical cores.

While there are a huge amount of tasks we could test in 3ds Max, we are going to primarily focus on animation, viewport FPS, and scanline rendering. Most of 3ds Max (and 3d Design software in general) is single threaded, and we feel that these three tasks should at least give us a general idea of how the different CPUs we will be testing should compare in the real world. If you are more concerned about final rendering performance, we suggest viewing our Mental Ray, Keyshot, Iray, or Octane Render articles.

Test Setup

For our testing, we are going to use three different test systems with the following hardware:

These CPU choices cover the spectrum of what we might consider selling in a 3Ds Max workstation. The Core i7 6700K is the highest-end standard Core i7 CPU from Intel and has among the fastest single-core performance of any CPU currently available. The three other Core i7 CPUs (6850K, 6900K, and 6950X) are all from Intel's "High End Desktop" line and have a higher core count than the standard Core i7 CPUs (between six and ten cores). In addition, these CPUs are capable of running a single core at speeds up to 4.0GHz which should give them close to the single-core speed of the 6700K. However, since they are technically one architecture older than the Core i7 6700K (Broadwell vs Skylake), the 6700K should theoretically still be about 10-15% faster for single-threaded tasks.

The one somewhat odd processor we will be testing is a pair of Xeon E5-2690 V4 CPUs. Most 3D design software is single threaded (where the 28 physical cores from this dual Xeon setup is largely useless), but if you often render using Mental Ray, Keyshot, V-ray, or any other CPU-based rendering engine the higher core count can net you tremendous gains in performance. The reason we wanted to include at least one dual Xeon configuration is to determine how much general 3ds Max performance you may be giving up by using a setup that is geared more towards rendering rather than general design and animation.

To help with consistency - and since the benchmarks we performed ran for several days - we programmed a custom script using AutoIt to start 3ds Max, load the relevant project, change the view mode (wireframe, shaded, shaded w/ edged faces), then run a MAXScript to perform the different tests. We will be testing with a variety of scenes and models that should give us a range of different poly and vert counts, along with features such as animations, high resolution textures, and simulations:


Character Animation
(Copied 24 times)
206k Poly, 198k Verts
3ds Max 2016 Tutorial Files

100 Papers Particle Flow Example
17k Poly, 16k Verts

3ds Max 2017 Sample Files

Retail District Populated
610k Poly, 365k Verts

3ds Max 2016 Tutorial Files

Viewport FPS

Woman 003 (Copied 25 times)
172k Poly, 90k Verts

3ds Max 2017 Sample Files

P47 (Copied 252/504 times)
8.6/17mil Poly, 4.3/8.6mil Verts

3ds Max 2016 Tutorial Files

Benchmark Graphics
1.9mil Poly, 1.2mil Verts

Ze da Tripa on CGArchitect Forum

Scanline Rendering

Character Animation
(Copied 24 times)
206k Poly, 198k Verts
3ds Max 2016 Tutorial Files

Woman 003 (Copied 25 times)
172k Poly, 90k Verts

3ds Max 2017 Sample Files

Benchmark Graphics
1.9mil Poly, 1.2mil Verts

Ze da Tripa on CGArchitect Forum

Results - Animation

Individual Results

Starting with our animation testing, we used three scenes taken from the 3ds Max 2016 Tutorial files and 3ds Max 2017 samples files. These scenes cover basic character animation, particle flow, and animations with population simulations.

While the exact difference between each CPU varies based on the scene and the view mode, the two things that are very clear is that the Core i7 6700K is by far the fastest CPU - about 32% faster than the dual Xeon E5-2690 V4 CPUs. Interestingly, even though the other Core i7 CPUs all have the same maximum Turbo frequency, the 10 core i7 6950X was actually a bit slower than the 6 and 8 core Core i7 CPU. This suggests that while animations can't take advantage of a large number of CPU cores, it can still use a handful of them which is why the lower core count i7s (which have a higher minimum Turbo Boost frequency) were the fastest.

Results - Viewport FPS

Individual Results

Unlike the results for animations in the previous section, when we measured the viewport FPS (the frames per second when rotating and viewing a model/scene), there was a wide variety to the results. In fact, it was so inconsistent that at times the fastest CPU for one scene ended up being the slowest in another scene! In some ways this makes sense as the viewport in 3ds Max is not always CPU-limited, but could be limited by the performance of the video card instead. This means that depending on whether the scene is more CPU or GPU-intensive can greatly affect the results.

Since there was no single CPU that was consistently the slowest, it makes our conclusion for this section a bit less clear than we would like. However, if we look at the results from a very broad overview, there are a few generalizations we can make. First, both the dual Xeon E5-2690 V4, Core i7 6700K, and Core i7 6850K all performed very similarly to each other. The Core i7 6900K, however, was on average about 13.5% faster than the slowest CPU, while the Core i7 6950X was on average about 15.5% faster.

These results are a bit unusual for us to see as the Core i7 6700K tends to do better on FPS benchmarks due to it's newer architecture. But for whatever reason, the Core i7 6950X (which was the second worst performing CPU for animations) handily takes the crown for being the best for viewport FPS.

Results - Scanline Rendering

Individual Results



For testing scanline rendering, we wanted to both test a variety of scenes as well as testing at higher render resolutions. What we wanted to determine is if at higher resolutions (where each individual frame takes longer to render relative to the total render time) a CPU with more cores would be useful or not.

Interestingly, while rendering is typically very well threaded (which means it is very good at using more CPU cores), the dual Xeon with 48 physical cores was once again the worst performing CPU. In fact, the Core i7 6700K with only 4 cores was by far the fastest, beating out the dual Xeon by about 50% on average. The other Core i7 CPUs (with between 6 and 10 cores) all performed roughly the same - almost exactly halfway between the dual Xeon and the Core i7 6700K.


Summarizing all our results, we saw the following average performance gains over the slowest CPU (which changed depending on the scene) for each of the CPUs we tested:

Average % faster than slowest CPU Core i7 6700K
(4 core, 4-4.2GHz)
Core i7 6850K
(6 core, 3.7-4GHz)
Core i7 6900K
(8 core, 3.5-4GHz)
Core i7 6950X
(10 core, 3.4-4GHz)
2x Xeon E5-2690 V4
(28 core, 3.2-3.5GHz)
Animation 32.1% (fastest) 18.5% 18.6% 14.7% 0% (slowest)
Viewport FPS 6.4% 6.9% 13.4% 15.5% (fastest) 6.2% (slowest)
Scanline Rendering 48.2% (fastest) 22.9% 23.7% 20.8% .2% (slowest)

The most obvious trend is that the dual Xeon E5-2690 V4 was easily the worst performing CPU in 3ds Max for the three aspects we tested. To be fair, that setup is really going to shine when using Mental Ray, Keyshot, V-ray, or any other multi-threaded rendering engine and isn't really intended to be used for the tasks we tested. If you want more information on how good a CPU like that can be for rendering, we recommend checking out our Mental Ray and Keyshot Multi Core Performance articles.

Looking at the other CPUs, the results for both animation and scanline rendering were pretty much what we expected. These tasks greatly value a CPU with a high frequency, so the faster single-core performance of the Core i7 6700K and it's overall newer architecture gives it a great performance boost over the other CPUs. Interestingly, the 6 and 8 core i7 CPUs (6850K and 6900K) were faster than the 10 core i7 (6950X) even though all three of these CPUs have a maximum Turbo Boost frequency of 4.0GHz when only a single core is in use. This suggests that animation and rendering are able to utilize more than a single core, although it is obvious that they cannot effectively use more than 4 cores since the i7 6700K quad core CPU was the best.

The FPS in the viewport was the one oddity in our testing. We are fairly certain that this task is single threaded as well as when we watch the CPU loads it appears to prioritize only a single thread. Strangely, however, we saw significant performance gains as we increase the number of cores. This doesn't hold true for the dual Xeon configuration, although that is likely more due to the overhead associated with dual CPUs in general. One thing we will mention, however, is that if you need a higher FPS in the viewport it is likely more effective to upgrade your video card rather than use an 8 or 10 core CPU. Not only should it be less expensive, but it will allow you to keep the high animation and scanline rendering performance of the Core i7 6700K as well.

Overall, while the results were a bit of a mix, but in our opinion the Core i7 6700K is currently the best CPU for general design work in 3ds Max. The vast majority of 3ds Max values a CPU with a high frequency (just like our animation and scanline rendering tests) which is where our testing has shown significant performance advantages to using this CPU. On the other hand, final production rendering (using Mental Ray, Keyshot, V-ray, Maxwell, or any other CPU-based engine) is a very important aspect for many Max users, in which case one of the higher core count CPUs may be a better choice depending on how much time you spend waiting on renders to complete.

We hate to end an article with such a open-ended conclusion, but each of the CPUs we tested can actually be a legitimate choice for 3ds Max. It all depends on what you value more - general design and animation or final production rendering. You simply have to decide which is more important for your workflow.

Tags: CPU, Intel, Core, Xeon, 3ds Max, Performance
Richard Sher

The is the best article ever for determining a system config for MAX.
Thank you, your the best!

Richard Sher


Posted on 2017-01-14 22:47:59
Adisak Karnboon

Can you test different render time with Bus RAM something like DDR4 32GB 2133MHz Vs DDR4 3200MHz
Srry for my english

Posted on 2017-02-11 20:07:31
hasan deniz

Can you add another comparison of CPUs this time including Ryzen? Especially with 1080ti if possible. I would like to see how it performs as compared to i7 series in terms of viewport performance

Posted on 2017-06-03 02:12:01

Hi, can you do the same analysis in cinema 4D, Thank you for sharing this knowledge and more power!

Posted on 2017-11-13 14:05:01