Recommended Hardware for V-Ray:
Chaos Group posts basic system requirements for each version of their V-Ray rendering plugin on their official website, as well as the standalone variant. However, the focus in each case is on minimum requirements - not what performs the best. Moreover, there are actually two parts of V-Ray: Adv and RT, which each use different hardware in a computer. Because of this situation, we have taken the time here at Puget Systems to perform our own testing to determine what hardware runs V-Ray the best. Based on this testing, we have come up with our own list of recommendations.
V-Ray Adv is the 'normal' version of V-Ray, and it uses the CPU to perform ray tracing and rendering. It scales very well with both clock speed and core count, and even across multiple physical CPUs in a single workstation. If Adv is the version you plan to use, you will want to spend the bulk of your funds on a powerful CPU - or two, if you have room for a large tower workstation and a big budget. Theoretically this should scale well to even a quad CPU workstation, but if you need that sort of horsepower (and can afford it) you might be better off with multiple computers running in a networked rendering configuration.
On the other hand, V-Ray RT began its life as a GPU-based rendering engine. We talk more about that in the next section, but it is worth mentioning that as of V-Ray 3.6 the CPU can now be used alongside the GPU(s) if you wish. Before this, only a basic CPU was needed for V-Ray RT - but now there is a good argument for getting a more powerful processor, especially if you first max-out the number of video cards. We have articles looking at how CPU performance scales alongside GPUs in V-Ray RT, if you want more information.
- Threadripper 2990WX 3.0GHz (4.2 Turbo) 32 Core - With 32 cores, AMD's latest Threadripper has taken the single-CPU rendering performance crown away from Intel... and they beat Intel on raw CPU price, too. Moreover, AMD's platform for this CPU is a good choice for multiple GPUs - so if you are looking for a V-Ray system that can excel with both CPU and GPU rendering, the 2990WX is a great option.
- Intel Core i9 9980XE 3.0GHz (4.5GHz Turbo) 18 Core - The 9980XE is Intel's fastest single-CPU processor for rendering, and thanks to high single-core turbo speeds it is also very good for single-threaded workloads like modeling and animation. It can't beat AMD's Threadripper for pure render speed, but if you also need high performance in single-threaded workloads then it will take the lead from AMD in that situation. There are also a wider range of motherboards available for this processor's X299 platform.
- Dual Xeon Platinum 8180 2.5GHz (3.8GHz Turbo) 28 Core - If you need the absolute fastest CPU rendering in V-Ray, and don't mind spending several times the price of the CPUs above for a moderate increase in speed, then these top-of-the-line Xeons will get you the fastest render times possible without crossing over to massive quad-socket towers or rackmounts.
- CPU Comparison - Intel X-series Refresh
- Threadripper 2990WX Takes V-Ray Performance Crown
- V-Ray CPU Comparison: Xeon Scalable vs Core i7 8700K, Core X, and Threadripper
- V-Ray RT 3.6 Hybrid Mode: Combining CPU and GPUs for Rendering
- V-Ray CPU Comparison: New 14, 16, and 18-core Skylake-X Processors
- V-Ray CPU Comparison: Skylake-X vs Threadripper
As with the CPU recommendation above, the choice here depends heavily on which version of V-Ray you plan to use. For V-Ray Adv, nothing special is needed from the video card. Your best bet there would be to select a card that is appropriate for whatever other software you plan to run alongside: Cinema 4D, Maya, 3ds Max, etc.
However, for V-Ray RT the video card selection is the biggest single factor in rendering speed / performance. RT has a couple of different modes, though not all plugin versions support both. An OpenGL mode exists in some versions for use with AMD graphics cards, but the main focus is on the CUDA mode for NVIDIA cards. We have tested that with up to four GPUs and found the scaling to be quite good. Faster cards also perform better, of course, so it really is a balancing act to find the combination of cards that best fit your budget.
- GeForce RTX 2070 8GB - Generally speaking, the RTX 2070 is a solid starting point - as fast as the older 1080 Ti, but for a lower price. It is also more forward-thinking, thanks to the included ray tracing cores which may be utilized in future versions of V-Ray.
- GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB - Our go-to recommendation for most GPU rendering customers, the RTX 2080 Ti provides the best performance before moving up to the Titan series - while also having the RT cores that are emblematic of this GPU generation. It also has nearly as much VRAM: 11GB vs 12GB on the Titan V.
- Titan V 12GB - Even though it is a little older, the best performance for V-Ray RT - outside of a maybe a Tesla V100 or Quadro GV100 - is the found in the Volta-based Titan V. It is over 30% faster than the Titan Xp, though that comes with a much higher price tag, and also outpaces the RTX 2080 Ti. However, that could change in future versions of V-Ray: if RT cores are utilized at some point, the RTX generation may surpass this card (since it lacks RT cores).
As alluded to above, there are situations where four lower-cost cards will actually be faster than two more expensive cards - but the trade off with more GPUs is a physically larger chassis. Other factors can come into play as well, like the cost of a bigger case, motherboard, and power supply. Still, if you want the best performance with V-Ray RT (or Next GPU) then multiple cards is the way to go. We have a variety of system sizes and form factors to choose from, so that you can match both your budget and location requirements.
Another consideration is the amount of video RAM you will need. Larger, more complex scenes need more memory on each card in order to render properly. NVIDIA's Quadro graphics cards tend to have more memory than the mainstream GeForce series, giving the Quadro RTX 5000 (16GB) and RTX 6000 (24GB) an advantage in terms of the size of scenes that can be worked on. GeForce cards provide more raw speed for their price, though, so if you aren't working on massive scenes, or don't have a massive budget, they are our standard recommendation.
- GeForce RTX GPU Comparison
- V-Ray GPU Rendering Platform Comparison: Skylake X, Xeon W, and Threadripper
- V-Ray RT 3.6 Hybrid Mode with AMD Threadripper 1950X and NVIDIA Titan Xp
While the exact amount of RAM you need is going to depend on your particular projects, for V-Ray RT (and GPU rendering in general) we generally recommend 32GB. V-Ray Adv is more likely to use additional memory, but in the end it comes down to how large and complex your scenes are. RAM is comparatively cheap, so erring on the side of caution with 64GB or even more is not a bad idea if you are unsure just how much you will need.
With the falling costs associated with SSDs, we almost always recommend using an SSD for the primary drive that will host your OS and the installation of V-Ray and other software. The high speed of SSDs allows your system to boot, launch applications, and load files many times faster than any traditional hard drive. If your budget allows, it is also a very good idea to have a second SSD that can be used to store your active projects to further decrease load and save times.
Since SSDs are still more expensive (per GB) than magnetic drives, we advise using traditional hard drives for long-term or rarely-accessed storage. Using a SSD can be useful in some situations, but most of the time the high performance of an SSD is simply not required for a storage drive.