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KeyShot 7 CPU Comparison: New 14, 16, and 18-core Skylake-X Processors

Written on September 25, 2017 by William George


KeyShot is widely used for creating 3D visuals and animations. When rendering those graphics, the performance of the central processor (CPU) in a computer is of paramount importance. CPU-based rendering generally scales well with both clock speed and core count, but those specifications cannot be directly compared across different brand or generations of processor. Here at Puget Systems we do real-world testing to ensure we provide our customers with the right computer for their needs.

Intel has just released a trio of new Core X series processors, with higher core counts than anything they have offered in this line to date: the Core i9 7940X, 7960X, and 7980XE - with 14, 16, and 18 cores respectively. We ran these chips through a few tests in Keyshot 7 to see how they perform with rendering both stills and animations. We had recently put out an article on this same software that covered a wider range of processors, and at the time AMD's Threadripper CPUs were found to be the fastest single-CPU option. This time we will focus just on the Core X series in comparison to Threadripper, to see if the new models can take the performance title back for Intel. For reference we included a dual Xeon system as well, to show how it compares to these single chip configurations.

Test Setup

To see how these different CPUs perform in KeyShot 7, we ran the time-limited trial version on the following configurations:

The main focus here is on the three new Core X (formerly code named Skylake X) processors, and specifically how they compare to AMD's Threadripper models. In our last round of testing we found that the 16-core 1950X took the lead in single-CPU performance with Keyshot, as well as many other CPU-based rendering engines. Here are some details about how we conducted our testing, but if you just want to skip straight to the results then feel free to scroll past this section.

The results presented below are from KeyShot 7, the current version as of this writing. It is available for a short, fully-functional trial - and while there is no dedicated benchmark mode, several test files are included. We used two of these: the "camera benchmark" to measure FPS (frames per second) while viewing real-time performance in the viewport ;and the cube-like "animation" file to test rendering several images in sequence for a video. We also tested a third file from the KeyShot website, "Bathroom Interior", to check multi-pass rendering on a still image. The results from each of these three tests are broken down and discussed in the next section.

It is also worth noting that there are some differences in the amount and speed of RAM across the various test platforms. We prefer to use the speed of memory that each CPU is rated for, according to its manufacturer. For the current crop of Core X and Threadripper processors that is DDR4-2666, while the older Xeon uses slightly slower 2400MHz memory. Some of these platforms could be run with even faster RAM modules, but that is pushing the memory controller built into the CPU past its rated speed - overclocking it, effectively. That may lead to slightly increased performance but we have also found it to lead to stability issues and higher rates of memory failure. For that reason we stick with the manufacturer specs when it comes to selecting RAM for our systems.

Benchmark Results

Here are the results for the various CPUs and files we tested in KeyShot 7:

KeyShot 7 Camera Viewport FPS Results with New Skylake X Processors

What is tested here is the frames per second (FPS) of the continuous render mode available in KeyShot's viewport. Using the included "camera benchmark" file is recommended on the KeyShot forum as a way to measure system performance. Higher numbers are better.

KeyShot 7 Render Time Results with New Skylake X Processors

This second test measures the time taken to render a single image with higher quality (128 passes). Shorter times = faster performance.

Since rendering in KeyShot is a heavily threaded application, there is a clear spread between the different processors based on core count. The dual Xeon, with a total of 28 cores, definitely wins out - but that is a much more expensive system and is really just included here as a point of reference. Among the single CPU workstations, the new 14, 16, and 18-core Intel chips (shown in light blue) are the fastest performers, followed by AMD's 16-core 1950X which is neck-and-neck with the previously-released 12-core i9 7920X. This means that Threadripper is no longer the top dog in this application, though it does come in at a lower price point than the Intel options.

KeyShot 7 Animation Time Results with New Skylake X Processors

Our final KeyShot test looks at the time taken to render over a hundred images of a cube revolving and moving into a single video clip. The results here appear to be a little less spread out, likely meaning that more of the overall workflow is single-threaded, but the new Intel processors do edge out AMD's Threadripper by a hair.

It is also worth noting that AMD and Intel both have server-class processors with even more cores as well: up to 32 on AMD's EPYC and up to 28 from Intel's latest Xeon Platinum line. With their focus on the multi-CPU server segment those may not come into play for KeyShot, or other CPU-based renderers, but if a manufacturer puts out a single-socket workstation motherboard that is compatible with either of those platforms then they may be worth a look.


Based on these results, it looks like the tables have turned since our last Keyshot performance article. Intel took back the lead, but their new Core X processors are also substantially more expensive than AMD's Threadripper. If you want the absolute fastest single-CPU rendering speeds then go for the i9 7980XE - but if you want a great value, the 1950X has strong performance while costing $1000 less.

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Tags: CPU, Rendering, KeyShot, 3D, Performance, Processor, Intel, AMD, Core, i9, Threadripper