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TL;DR: 12th Gen Intel Core vs AMD Ryzen 5000 Series Processors for V-Ray
For CPU-based rendering, the number of cores is the primary concern. Intel jumped from 8 cores/16 threads as their top-end CPU of the last generation to 16 cores/24 threads as the top CPU of this generation. That upgrade gives the new CPU a 65% increase in rendering speed over that last generation. This still trails AMDs Ryzen 9 5950X and Threadripper lines.
However, this only represents CPU rendering performance. Many V-Ray users have moved to GPU rendering. For users that are looking for a high-performance modeling/animation workstation, these new CPUs make for a tantalizing solution. Not only do you get great single-core speeds to help with modeling/animation, but the system will also be ready with PCIe 5.0 once video cards become available.
Last week, Intel announced their new 12th Gen Intel Core desktop processors (code-named "Alder Lake") with the most notable feature being their hybrid architecture which utilizes a mix of Performance and Efficient-cores. The Performance-cores (P-cores) are what you typically would think of when it comes to a CPU core, and are designed to maximize performance for heavier workloads. The Efficient-cores (E-cores), on the other hand, are intended either for tasks that can be run in parallel, or for background tasks where higher performance isn't necessary.
Another new feature of this new architecture is that the Performance-cores feature Hyper-threading, while the Efficient-cores do not. This allows for unique combinations of Performance and Efficient cores to meet the targets Intel sets. For example, the Intel Core i9 12900K, and i7 12700k have the same number of Performance cores, but a different number of Efficient cores.
The difficulty with using mixed cores is that the operating system needs to be able to dynamically decide what processes are run on each core. For example, it would be less than ideal if V-Ray was to run on an E-core because your web browser decided to take up all the P-cores. Luckily, Intel has a technology called "Thread Director" to handle this in the background, working with the OS in order to dynamically adjust what processes are run on each core.
This new hybrid architecture should, in theory, allow the 12th Gen Intel CPUs to excel at both lightly and highly threaded tasks, but that is not the only update Intel made to these CPUs. Among various architecture improvements, the 12th Gen CPUs also have support for both DDR4 and DDR5 RAM, as well as 16 lanes of PCIe 5.0. Both DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 likely won't have much of an impact at launch since they are very new technologies that need time to evolve before we will see their full potential, but all of these improvements together should help give the 12th Gen CPUs a big boost over previous generations.
If you want to read about what sets these CPUs apart in more detail, we recommend checking out our landing page for the 12th Gen Intel Core Processors.
Because of how many things have changed, we were not quite sure how these CPUs would end up performing. If everything goes as planned, the performance should be terrific, but there is a lot of new technology that could potentially cause problems if something does not work right.
In this article, we will be examining the performance of the new Intel Core i9 12900K, i7 12700K, and i5 12600K in V-Ray compared to a range of CPUs including the Intel 11th Gen and AMD Ryzen 5000 Series processors. If you are interested in how these processors compare in other applications, we also have other articles for Cinema 4D, Unreal Engine, and several other applications available on our article listing page.
Listed below are the specifications of the systems we will be using for our testing:
|12th Gen Intel Core Test Platform
|Intel Core i9 12900K ($589)
Intel Core i7 12700K ($409)
Intel Core i5 12600K ($289)
|Gigabyte Z690 UD AX DDR4
|4x DDR4-3200 16GB (64GB total)
|AMD Ryzen 5000 Series Test Platform
|AMD Ryzen 9 5950X ($799)
AMD Ryzen 9 5900X ($549)
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X ($449)
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X ($299)
|Gigabyte X570 AORUS ULTRA
|4x DDR4-3200 16GB (64GB total)
*All the latest drivers, OS updates, BIOS, and firmware applied as of October 27th, 2021
In order to see how the new 12th Gen Intel Core processors perform in V-Ray, we will be comparing them not only to the previous 11th Gen Intel Core CPUs but also to AMD's Ryzen 5000 series. For the test itself, we will be using the V-Ray 5.01 benchmark.
As for the test platforms we will be using, there are a number of things we want to point out:
First, you will note that we are using Windows 11 rather than Windows 10. Windows 11 includes features that work closely with the Intel Thread Scheduler, which may be necessary to get the full performance possible from the 12th Gen Intel CPUs. VBS was left disabled, and all chipset and Windows updates were applied to fix a number of AMD performance issues.
Windows 11 had a rocky start with AMD CPUs and processors with more than 32 cores, but with the latest updates, we found the difference between Windows 10 and Windows 11 with these Ryzen CPUs to be negligible for V-Ray. We will have those results, and similar testing examining Intel 12th Gen performance on Windows 10, in an upcoming "12th Gen Intel Core – Windows 11 vs Windows 10" article.
Beyond the OS, we will be primarily using DDR4 RAM because, at least for the immediate future, DDR5 is expected to be largely unavailable. We did get in a set of Kingston DDR5-4800 16GB sticks early enough that allowed us to get some initial numbers, however, which we will include in the results. Note that while the RAM itself is rated for 4800MHz, the 12th Gen platform only officially supports that speed on motherboards that have just two physical RAM slots. In the cases where four sticks are being used, the supported RAM speed is 4400MHz, which is what the Gigabyte board we used defaulted to when we left the RAM speed on Auto.
The DDR5 RAM we are using is very much intended for stability over raw speed, and has fairly loose CL40 timings. However, we tend to be fairly conservative on RAM speed, so this is actually a good comparison to use against the DDR4-3200 CL22 RAM we are using for the rest of our tests.
Like any early launch content, keep in mind that performance is likely to change over time. Especially in this case where there is still work to be done for Windows 11, the thread scheduler, and DDR5, performance is likely to increase slightly as the technology is developed.
Analysis & Conclusion
The improvements over the last generation are quite impressive. The 12900K paired with DDR4 is 65% faster than the last generation’s 11900K, and while using DDR5 RAM and motherboard, it is 78% faster. Even the lowest tier we tested, the Core i5 12600K, manages to beat out the previous flagship CPU. Compared to the competition from AMD’s Ryzen CPUs, things get much closer. The Intel 12900K with DDR4 and AMD 5900X are very close in both performance and in cost, while the newer DDR5 extends the lead even further. A step lower, and the 12700K is both faster and cheaper than the 5800X. However, the 5950X is still the top performer in this category, with its 32 threads of computing power.
Are the 12th Gen Intel Core Processors Good for V-Ray?
For CPU-based rendering, the number of cores is the primary concern. Intel jumped from 8 cores/16 threads as their top-end CPU of the last generation to 16 cores/24 threads as the top CPU of this generation. That upgrade gives the new CPU a 65% increase in rendering speed over that last generation. The improvements to clock speeds also allow for a slight lead over the similarly priced, 12 core/24 thread AMD Ryzen 9 5900X. When matched with DDR4 RAM and compatible motherboard, they look to perform even better. As far as total rendering performance, AMD’s Ryzen 9 5950X and its 16 cores/32 threads, is still the fastest CPU in this class.
However, this only represents CPU rendering performance, a field dominated by Threadripper which offers up to 64 cores and 128 threads. Many V-Ray users have moved to GPU rendering. For users that are looking for GPU rendering, but also need a high-performance modeling/animation workstation, these new CPUs make for a tantalizing solution. Not only do you get great single-core speeds to help with modeling/animation, but the system will also be ready with PCIe 5.0 once video cards become available.
Keep in mind that the benchmark results in this article are strictly for V-Ray and that performance will vary widely in different applications. If your workflow includes other software packages (we have similar articles for Unreal Engine, After Effects, DaVinci Resolve, and more), you need to consider how the system will perform in those applications as well. Be sure to check our list of Hardware Articles to keep up to date on how all of these software packages – and more – perform with the latest CPUs.