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When configuring a workstation for DaVinci Resolve, most people focus very heavily on the GPU since Resolve is known industry-wide for how well its GPU-acceleration capabilities. Even so, your choice of CPU is still an extremely important factor and can make a big impact on performance in many areas – especially since tasks like generating optimized media or doing very basic grades utilize the CPU more than the GPU.
In our Photoshop and After Effects testing we have already seen that AMD has almost entirely closed the gap with Intel when it comes to lightly threaded applications, and trades blows with Intel in Premiere Pro depending on what codec you are working with. Resolve tends to behave very different than Adobe applications, however, so we are very interested to see how these new AMD Ryzen CPUs (which feature both an increase in core count and IPC improvements) perform.
In this article, we will be looking at exactly how well the new Ryzen 3600, 3700X, 3800X, and 3900X perform in DaVinci Resolve Studio 16 beta4. Since we expect these CPUs to shake up the market quite a bit, we also took this opportunity to do a full CPU roundup. Not only will we include results for a few of the previous generation Ryzen CPUs, but also the latest AMD Threadripper, Intel 9th Gen, and Intel X-series CPUs. And for good measure, we will throw in a 14-core iMac Pro and a current (for the moment) 2013 Mac Pro 12-core as well.
If you would like to skip over our test setup and benchmark sections, feel free to jump right to the Conclusion.
Test Setup & Methodology
Listed below are the specifications of the systems we will be using for our testing:
|AMD Ryzen Test Platform|
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
AMD Ryzen 7 3800X
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X
AMD Ryzen 5 3600
AMD Ryzen 7 2700X
AMD Ryzen 5 2600X
|CPU Cooler||AMD Wraith PRISM|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte X570 AORUS ULTRA|
|RAM||4x DDR4-3000 16GB (64GB total)|
|AMD Threadripper Test Platform|
|CPU||AMD TR 2990WX (DLM on)
AMD TR 2970WX (DLM on)
AMD TR 2950X
AMD TR 2920X
|CPU Cooler||Corsair Hydro Series H80i v2|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte X399 AORUS Xtreme|
|RAM||8x DDR4-2666 16GB (128GB total)|
|Shared PC Hardware/Software|
|Video Card||1-2x NVIDIA Titan RTX 24GB|
|Hard Drive||Samsung 960 Pro 1TB|
|Software||Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (version 1903)
DaVinci Resolve Studio 16 Beta4
Puget Systems D.R. Benchmark V0.5 BETA
|Mac Test Platforms|
|iMac Pro||14-core Intel Xeon W
64GB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC
Radeon Pro Vega 64 16GB
|Mac Pro (2013)||12-core, 2.7GHz
64GB 1866MHz DDR3 ECC
Dual AMD FirePro D700 6GB
1TB PCIe-based SSD
*All the latest drivers, OS updates, BIOS, and firmware applied as of July 2nd, 2019
Note that while most of our PC test platforms are using DDR4-2666 memory, we did switch up to DDR4-3000 for the AMD Ryzen platform. AMD CPUs can be more sensitive to RAM speed than Intel CPUs, although in our Does RAM speed affect video editing performance? testing, we found that the new Ryzen CPUs only saw modest performance gains in video editing applications when going from DDR4-2666 to even DDR4-3600 RAM.
For each platform, we used the maximum amount of RAM that is both officially supported and actually available at the frequency we tested. This does mean that the Ryzen platform ended up with only 64GB of RAM while the other platforms had 128GB, but since our DaVinci Resolve benchmark doesn't need more than 32GB of RAM to run, this does not actually affect performance at all.
However, keep in mind that this is technically overclocking since the AMD Ryzen 3rd Gen CPUs support different RAM speeds depending on how many sticks you use and whether they are single or dual rank:
Ryzen 3rd Gen supported RAM:
- 2x DIMM: DDR4-3200
- 4x single rank DIMM: DDR4-2933
- 4x dual rank DIMM: DDR4-2667
Since we are using four sticks of dual rank RAM (almost every 16GB module available will be dual rank), we technically should limit our RAM speed to DDR4-2666 if we wanted to stay fully in spec. However, since many end users may end up using a RAM configuration that supports higher speeds, we decided to do our testing with DDR4-3000, which right in the middle of what AMD supports.
The benchmarks we will be using are the latest release of our upcoming DaVinci Resolve Studio benchmark. Full details on the benchmarks and a link to download (coming soon!) and run it yourself are available at:
While our benchmark presents various scores based on the performance of each test, we also wanted to provide the individual results. If there is a specific task that is a hindrance to your workflow, or a specific codec you use, examining the raw results is going to be much more applicable than our overall scores. Feel free to skip to the next section for our analysis of these results if you rather get a wider view of how each CPU performs in DaVinci Resolve Studio.
Single GPU – Color Grading Benchmark Analysis
While we have both 4K and 8K scores in the two charts above, for now we are primarily going to talk about the performance with 4K media. Not too many people are working with 8K media quite yet, and the relative performance between the different CPUs really isn't all that much different with a single Titan RTX. So, in order to keep our article from being longer than necessary, we are going to focus on the 4K results.
Looking at the 4K Overall Score with a single Titan RTX 24GB GPU, there are a couple very interesting things to point out. First of all, if you are looking for the best performance, the Intel X-series processors are clearly the top dog here. The Intel Core i9 9920X in particular is a great balance of price and high-end performance, and while the more expensive models are certainly faster, the performance benefit gets less and less as you get to the higher-end models.
Below the i9 X-series CPUs, there is a bit of a traffic jam where a large portion of the CPUs we tested sit right around the 100 score mark. However, what is really interesting is what we find when we look beyond the overall score and break down the results according to the type of test:
In the four charts above, we are again separating out the 4K and 8K results, but also pulling out the tests that are more CPU-heavy (optimized media and basic grade tests) from the ones that are more GPU-heavy (OpenFX and Temporal NR tests).
We did this because there is a very interesting dynamic between the new AMD Ryzen CPUs and the Intel 9th Gen CPUs when we look at the individual tasks. Starting with the CPU-heavy tasks, the AMD Ryzen CPUs are simply better than Intel, and it isn't by a small amount either. At the top-end of each product line (Ryzen 3900X vs Core i9 9900K), AMD is around 15% faster. As you drop down to the mid/low-end models, however, this increases to around a 35% performance lead for AMD.
Once the GPU is a more significant part of the performance equation, things change slightly. Here, the Intel Core i9 9900K is actually ~8% faster than the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X, although on the other models AMD continues to maintain a small ~5% lead.
If you work with 8K footage, this largely still holds true. The only exception is that AMD doesn't have quite as large of a lead for the CPU-heavy tasks, while their lead with the mid-range models on GPU-heavy tasks actually increases to ~15%.
Dual GPU – Color Grading Benchmark Analysis
When we add a second Titan RTX to the mix, the results start to shift a bit. Here, the relative performance with the new AMD Ryzen CPUs is even better than it was with a single GPU, although they still can't catch up with most of the more expensive Intel X-series CPUs.
Once again, however, we really want to look at the breakdown by task in order to determine which mainstream CPU line (AMD Ryzen or Intel 9th Gen) is the better option.
Interestingly, with two NVIDIA Titan RTX video cards the relative performance between those two CPU lines changes quite a bit between 4K and 8K media, so we will address both resolutions this time around.
Starting with 4K media, the AMD Ryzen CPUs are again quite a bit faster than the Intel 9th Gen CPUs. For the CPU-heavy tasks, the difference is about 30-40% in favor of AMD on the low/mid-range models, and drops a bit to (only) a 20% advantage for the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X over the Intel Core i9 9900K. On the GPU-heavy tasks, however, there is very little difference between AMD and Intel, although AMD keeps a very slight lead in some cases.
Moving up to 8K media, the AMD Ryzen CPUs continue to maintain a lead over the Intel 9th Gen on CPU-heavy tasks, but it is only by about 15% – which is still impressive, just not quite as much as the other tests. Looking at the GPU-heavy tasks, the lead is about the same, although it is slightly lower (closer to 10%) when comparing the Ryzen 9 3900X to the Core i9 9900K.
Fusion Benchmark Analysis
Before we discuss performance in Fusion, we do want to point out that we will only look at performance with a single GPU. For whatever reason, we consistently see lower performance in the Fusion tab with dual GPUs than we do with just one. Fusion is still fairly new to Resolve, and it looks like there is simply a few bugs that still need to be worked out when it comes to GPU acceleration. We included the Fusion scores with dual GPUs in our raw benchmark data, but since it really doesn't make sense to use two GPUs for Fusion (for now at least), we decided to not spend time analyzing those results.
Overall, in Fusion the Intel 9th Gen CPUs have a slight lead, but it really isn't by much. The Core i9 9900K is 5% faster than the Ryzen 9 3900X, the i7 9700K is on par with the Ryzen 7 3800X, and the i5 9600K is only ~3% faster than the Ryzen 5 3600. In the real world, this means that you really won't notice much of a difference between the AMD Ryzen and Intel 9th Gen CPUs.
Are the Ryzen 3rd generation CPUs good for DaVinci Resolve Studio?
If you are looking for an overall winner between the new AMD Ryzen CPUs and the Intel 9th Gen CPUs, AMD is clearly the better choice for DaVinci Resolve – and often by a very large margin. Neither product line can keep up with Intel's X-series processors, but if you are looking for a more budget-firendly CPU for Resolve, the AMD Ryzen 3rd generation CPUs are an obvious choice.
Getting into the details, at the $400 and below price range (AMD Ryzen 5/7 and Intel Core i5/i7), AMD is simply better. The difference is more pronounced on tasks that are not as GPU-intensive like creating optimized media or doing very basic grades, but it is very significant – AMD is on average around 15-40% faster than the equivalent Intel processor. Once the GPU becomes a larger part of the picture, the difference is less stark, but AMD still maintains a 5-20% lead.
Choosing between the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X and the Intel Core i9 9900K is tougher, however. The 3900X still maintains a very healthy 15-25% performance lead when the GPU isn't used much, but the i9 9900K takes a small ~8% lead on GPU heavy tasks when using a single high-end GPU (which should also apply if you use two mid-range GPUs instead). This is still very much an overall win for AMD, but if you tend to use a lot of OpenFX or noise reduction, the 9900K may be a bit better of a choice.
As always, keep in mind that performance is only part of the question – there are a number of other considerations that you may want to keep in mind:
On the Intel side, the Z390 (and X299) platform has been available for quite some time which means that most of the bugs and issues have been worked out. In our experience over recent years, Intel also simply tends to be more stable overall than AMD and is the only way to get Thunderbolt support that actually works. Thunderbolt can be a bad time on PC, and there are only a few motherboard brands (like Gigabyte) where we have had it actually work properly.
For AMD, the X570 platform is very new and there will be a period of time where bugs will need to be ironed out. However, AMD is much better about allowing you to use newer CPUs in older motherboards, so if upgrading your CPU is something you will likely do in the next few years, AMD is the stronger choice. In addition, X570 is currently the only platform with support for PCI-E 4.0. This won't directly affect performance in most cases, but it will open up the option to use insanely fast storage drives as they become available.
Keep in mind that the benchmark results in this article are strictly for DaVinci Resolve Studio. If your workflow includes other software packages (We have articles for Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere Pro, etc.), you need to consider how the processor will perform in all those applications. Be sure to check our list of Hardware Articles for the latest information on how these CPUs perform with a variety of software packages.