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V-Ray CPU Rendering Performance: AMD Threadripper 3990X 64 Core

Written on February 7, 2020 by William George


AMD has launched a new top-end CPU in its Threadripper product line, equipped with a whopping 64 cores. We are putting this new 3990X chip to the test in one of the applications where its high core count should shine: CPU based rendering with V-Ray. Keep reading to find out how it stacks up to the other Threadripper models as well as Intel and AMD's various other desktop processors.

AMD Threadripper 3990X Tested in V-Ray Next Benchmark

For this article, we are focusing on just how this new AMD Threadripper 3990X compares to other current-generation processors. We want to measure CPU-based rendering performance in V-Ray, so we are using both Chaos Group's V-Ray Benchmark as well the newer V-Ray Next Benchmark. More info about these tools and how we use them are available in the Benchmark Details.

If you would prefer to skip over our test setup and benchmark sections, feel free to jump straight to the Conclusion.

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Test Hardware

Here are the specifications of the different platforms we used for our testing:

AMD Threadripper 3rd Gen Test Platform
CPU AMD TR 3990X ($3,990)
AMD TR 3970X ($1,999)
AMD TR 3960X ($1,399)
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12S TR4-SP3
Motherboard Gigabyte TRX40 AORUS Pro WiFi
RAM 4x DDR4-2933 16GB (64GB total)
Intel X-10000 Series Test Platform
CPU Intel Core i9 10980XE ($979)
Intel Core i9 10940X ($784)
Intel Core i9 10920X ($689)​​​​​​​
Intel Core i9 10900X ($590)​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12DX i4
Motherboard Gigabyte X299 Designare EX
RAM 4x DDR4-2933 16GB (64GB total)
AMD Ryzen Test Platform
CPU AMD Ryzen 9 3950X ($749)
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X ($499)
AMD Ryzen 7 3800X ($399)
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12S
Motherboard Gigabyte X570 AORUS ULTRA
RAM 4x DDR4-2933 16GB (64GB total)
Intel 9th Gen Test Platform
CPU Intel Core i9 9900K ($499)
Intel Core i7 9700K ($385)
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12S
Motherboard Gigabyte Z390 Designare
RAM 4x DDR4-2666 16GB (64GB total)
Shared Hardware/Software
Video Card NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB
Hard Drive Samsung 960 Pro 1TB
Software Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (version 1909)
V-Ray Benchmark 1.0.8
V-Ray Next Benchmark 4.10.06

A quick note about memory specifications: the latest CPUs from AMD and Intel support varying speeds of RAM depending on how many modules are installed. In past articles, we've sometimes tested at multiple speeds, but to help keep things more uniform going forward we are standardizing on the speed that each processor/platform supports when all memory slots are used (even if we aren't filling them completely for our testing). Along with using the same total RAM capacity, that should help to keep results fair and consistent.

Additionally, it is worth pointing out that the CPU cooler we used for testing the new TR 3990X is somewhat borderline for how much heat this processor can potentially put out. In the systems we build with this chip going forward, we will be utilizing a larger heatsink and fan to ensure maximum performance even under extended loads - but in the open-air testbeds we use here in our lab, we found that the cooler we used did not lead to throttling.

Benchmark Details

As previously mentioned, we used two versions of Chaos Group's V-Ray Benchmark for this comparison:

  1. V-Ray Benchmark 1.0.8 is older, but some folks may still be utilizing V-Ray plug-ins from a year or two ago - and the test is short enough that we decided to go ahead and run it this time around to have an extra data point. It includes both CPU and GPU tests, but we are only listing the CPU score here since GPU performance is not our focus nor is it impacted by the CPU in this version.
  2. V-Ray Next Benchmark includes tests for both CPU-only and GPU+CPU rendering. This is somewhat novel, as most GPU rendering engines do not use the CPU at all, but in V-Ray Next Chaos Group has implemented CUDA emulation on the CPU to improve performance a bit. Up until recently, even the fastest CPU we had tested didn't add as much performance in this mode as a single high-end video card... but the 3990X's 64 cores may have changed things.

Benchmark Results

With the information we have gathered, then, we have put together three charts. The first is the CPU's native performance when V-Ray Next is running in CPU mode, while the second is CPU performance when running in V-Ray Next GPU mode. The GeForce RTX 2080 Ti card in the test systems has been excluded from that result, so you can see just the contribution that the processors provide in this mode. And finally, the third chart shows CPU render time, in seconds, from the older V-Ray Benchmark 1.0.8.

There is a lot going on in the charts below, so before getting into it here is a reference key for the color scheme:

  • Light blue = Intel consumer CPUs (9th Gen Core series)
  • Dark blue = Intel HEDT CPUs (X series)
  • Light red = AMD consumer CPUs (Ryzen)
  • Dark red = AMD HEDT CPUs (Threadripper)
  • Dark red with glow - NEW AMD Threadripper 3990X

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Unsurprisingly, AMD's new Threadripper 3990X took the top performance spot across the board in V-Ray. CPU rendering scales very well with lots of CPU cores, as long as clock speed doesn't suffer too much, and AMD has done a fantastic job of combining those two aspects of performance in their 3rd generation of Threadripper processors. The only alternatives that can provide anything close to the same performance are multi-socket systems with AMD Epyc or Intel Xeon CPUs, but those would cost far more to get similar results.

Moreover, the 3990X is the first processor we've tested that can exceed the performance of a high-end video card when used in V-Ray Next's GPU mode. For reference, a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti scores around 330-340 mpaths in that benchmark, while the 3990X pulled off 438! Of course, the 2080 Ti costs far less money as well - so real video cards still offer the best value for increasing performance in V-Ray Next GPU. If you want to max out your render speed, though, pairing multiple GPUs with a high-end CPU like the 3990X is great!

Is AMD's Threadripper 3990X Good for V-Ray rendering?

Yes: the new AMD TR 3990X offers the best CPU-based rendering performance currently available from a single-socket workstation! Only dual- or quad-socket configurations can outperform it, and those would cost far more money even just to reach the same speed.

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Tags: Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series, Intel vs AMD, AMD Ryzen 3rd Gen, AMD Threadripper 3rd Gen, Threadripper, V-Ray, CPU, Rendering, Threadripper 3990X, Intel X-10000