Hardware Recommendations for V-Ray
At Puget Systems, we have performed extensive testing to determine what hardware gives the fastest render times in V-Ray. Based on this research we have put together this list of recommendations.
V-Ray System Requirements and Benchmarks
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 multiple parts of V-Ray: CUDA, RTX, and CPU, 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.
How does V-Ray utilize the CPU?
V-Ray CPU (formerly called 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 that is the version you plan to use, you will want to spend the bulk of your funds on a powerful CPU. This should scale well to a dual CPU workstation, but if you need that sort of horsepower (and can afford it), you might be better off with multiple computers or rendering servers running in a networked rendering configuration.
On the other hand, V-Ray CUDA 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 – 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, if you want more information. Keep in mind that the Hybrid CPU+GPU mode uses CUDA, therefor you do not get the benefit of the RT cores available in modern GPUs to accelerate ray tracing.
What is the best CPU for V-Ray?
If you are planning to use the traditional CPU rendering capabilities of V-Ray, then you will want a high core count processor. The top workstation option for that is currently AMD’s Threadripper PRO line, and specifically the biggest model they offer: the Threadripper PRO 7995WX 96 Core. With 96 cores and greatly improved per-core performance, AMD has taken an even further lead over Intel in workstation processor performance – especially with well threaded applications like rendering. Because of its fairly high turbo speeds, this CPU also does well with modeling and animation.
If your focus is more on the GPU rendering side of things, then any high PCI-Express lane count processor will do well. If you are going to use V-Ray GPU, then packing in as many video cards as possible is the name of the game. To that end, processors which support a lot of PCI-Express lanes are the way to go… and things like core count matter a lot less. PCI-E lanes is another strong point of AMD’s Threadripper PRO end EPYC lines, but you likely wouldn’t need the highest core count model. Chaos Group does recommend 6 cores per video card, though, and keeping the clock speed high helps too.
Do I need a Xeon CPU for V-Ray?
In the past, Intel’s Xeon CPUs were more robust than their Core series counterparts and didn’t really have a direct competitor. Today, however, AMD’s Threadripper PRO line offers similar or even superior features in terms of core count, PCI-Express lanes, and memory bandwidth – so we prefer that CPU platform for our rendering-focused workstations and server nodes.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of a dual CPU workstation for V-Ray?
The main advantage of a dual CPU workstation was that it allowed you to have an extremely high number of CPU cores, which in pure CPU rendering engines (like older versions of V-Ray) substantially impacted performance. In years past, it could give you anywhere from two to three times the render performance compared to a single CPU workstation. However, since the individual cores in most dual Xeon CPUs run at relatively modest speeds this meant that you would have much lower performance for other, non-rendering tasks compared to a single CPU workstation at a lower cost.
AMD now offers single CPUs which have nearly as many cores as a dual Xeon configuration, but at a lower price. These Threadripper PRO processors, as AMD brands them, are a great choice for heavily threaded CPU applications like rendering – especially if you aren’t doing work that is single-threaded (which like Xeons is their weak spot, with lower per-core clock speeds). They also offer a lot of PCI-Express lanes, making them ideal for GPU-based rendering with multiple video cards.
Where should I prioritize my budget to get the best rendering performance in V-Ray?
Chaos Group has two different versions of their rendering engine: V-Ray CPU and V-Ray GPU (previously V-Ray Adv and V-Ray RT, respectively). The first is a CPU-based rendering engine that benefits greatly from having a high number of CPU cores. In fact, it scales well with more cores which makes a high core count CPU excellent for performance. For that version we strongly recommend a Threadripper Pro platform, which we offer in both tower and rackmount form factors.
On the other hand, V-Ray GPU uses GPUs – as the name indicates – to perform the rendering calculations. If that is your focus, we recommend maxing-out the speed and quantity of video cards – within your budget and available space – before worrying about the CPU. However, starting in V-Ray 3.6 the CPU can be used alongside the GPUs to further boost rendering speed. Chaos Group calls this Hybrid Rendering, so if you are using 3.6 or higher the CPU should still be a factor in your purchasing decision. Check out this article for more information.
Recent V-Ray CPU Articles:
Video Card (GPU)
As with the CPU recommendation above, the choice here depends heavily on which version of V-Ray you plan to use. For V-Ray, nothing special is needed from the video card other than it must be an NVIDIA 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. 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 fits your budget.
What are the best video cards (GPUs) for V-Ray?
- GeForce RTX 4080 16GB – A great choice if you want just one or two video cards and don’t work with overly complex scenes.
- GeForce RTX 4090 24GB – Our go-to recommendation for most GPU rendering customers, the RTX 4090 provides the best performance in V-Ray while also having a tremendous 24GB of memory.
- NVIDIA RTX A5000 24GB – For those who want to stack several video cards in the same system, NVIDIA’s professional GPUs are a solid option. The RTX A5000 is the top-end card that can be installed in a set of four in large tower and rackmount chassis within the limits of a 1600W power supply. If you need even more memory, the RTX 6000 Ada Generation has 48GB of VRAM but is far more expensive and may be limited to two or three GPUs or require a higher-wattage PSU.
Do I need to use a Quadro card for V-Ray or is GeForce okay?
V-Ray technically does not care which type of video card you have in your system, so either a “professional” (formerly Quadro) or a GeForce card should work just fine. However, there are certain times where you may want to use a Quadro card. First, they are slightly more reliable since they are designed to operate under heavy load for extended periods of time and tend to have more stable drivers. Second, Quadro cards tend to have more onboard memory. The amount of video RAM will limit how complex of a scene can be rendered in V-Ray, so for extremely detailed rendering you may need the additional VRAM on high-end Quadro cards. Finally, companies like Autodesk (Revit/3ds Max/Maya) tend to heavily favor the use of Quadro cards. So if you plan on also using one of these applications on this system then using a Quadro card is likely a good idea.
Should I use a professional video card for V-Ray?
It is also important to remember NVIDIA’s professional-grade video cards, as they can be a better choice than GeForce cards for some users. They do cost more, but for that increased price you get several benefits:
- Higher VRAM options – up to 48GB on the RTX A6000 and 6000 Ada
- Better multi-GPU support – thanks to the use of blower-style cooling systems and more constrained power consumption
- ECC memory on higher-end models – for increased stability
Does V-Ray support multiple GPUs? Do they need to be in SLI?
The GPU-accelerated version of V-Ray is able to utilize multiple GPUs and does so very effectively. It will not be a perfect “4 GPUs is 4x faster”, but you can expect significant performance improvements with every card you add. However, since V-Ray is using the cards for compute purposes they do not need to be in SLI mode. In fact, SLI can sometimes cause problems so we recommend leaving it disabled if possible.
How well does V-Ray scale across multiple video cards (GPUs)?
V-Ray scales very well across multiple video cards, but the cooling systems on most GeForce models are not designed with multiple GPUs in mind. For the best overall performance, variants with a single fan that exhausts heat out the back (commonly called “blower” cards) are ideal – and most NVIDIA “professional” cards use such cooling systems. Stacking a few of those will give fantastic rendering performance, though it does require a larger chassis, a strong power supply, and plenty of airflow from the case fans.
Recent V-Ray GPU Articles:
How much system memory (RAM) does V-Ray need?
While the exact amount of RAM you need is going to depend on your particular projects, for V-Ray GPU (and GPU rendering in general) we recommend double the amount of VRAM on the cards. So if you have four 8GB cards, totaling 32GB, we would advise 64GB of system memory.
V-Ray CPU is more likely to use additional memory, but in the end it comes down to how large and complex your scenes are. RAM is relatively cheap, so erring on the side of caution with 128GB or more is not a bad idea if you are unsure just how much you will need.
Storage (Hard Drives)
What is the best type of drive to use for V-Ray?
Thanks to their speed and relatively affordable price, we strongly recommend solid-state drives (SSDs) for the primary drive that will host your OS and the installation of V-Ray itself – along with any other software you use. The high speed of SSDs allows your system to boot, launch applications, and load files many times faster than any traditional hard drive. In particular, the newer NVMe type of SSDs utilize the latest connections like M.2 and offer the fastest transfer rates.
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. We highly recommend using an OS drive with a capacity of at least 500GB to ensure you do not need to upgrade your primary drive (which is often a complicated process) in the near future.
Should I use a solid-state drive (SSD) for V-Ray?
Yes! SSDs are much faster than traditional hard drives and in many cases can give a noticeable decrease in the time it takes to open and save files – not to mention simply starting Windows and launching programs much faster.
What sort of drive is best for data storage and backup?
Since SSDs are still more expensive than platter drives per GB, for long-term storage and backup we recommend using a traditional hard drive or even an external drive array. Network attached storage systems are a great way to go for that, as they can be shared between multiple workstations and usually offer features to provide some level of data redundancy (protection against losing files if one of the drives dies).
How does Network Rendering work in V-Ray? Do I need special licenses?
Network Rendering (typically referred to as “Distributed Networking” in V-Ray) allows you to use the power of other workstations or servers on your network to make your renders complete faster than you could ever achieve on a single system. Chaos Group offers render node licenses that are required for each render node.
For more information on network rendering, we recommend visiting V-Ray’s Render Node information page. For installation and configuration instructions, there is excellent documentation for 3ds Max, Maya, Cinema 4D and various other applications. We recommend checking with Chaos Group directly before purchasing a workstation/server to use as a render node for V-Ray to ensure the software integration is able to do what you need.
Do I need a Maya or 3ds Max license for each V-Ray server node?
While V-Ray does need 3ds Max or Maya installed on each server node, you do not need a separate license for each. As long as you are just using it as a render node, Autodesk allows you to use your normal license for up to 999 render nodes provided you are not using the actual 3ds Max or Maya GUI.
Can I mix Mac, Linux, and Windows PCs for V-Ray Distributed Rendering?
You can technically make this work, but due to the different file architectures we highly recommend matching the OS of your nodes to your main client workstation. Otherwise, you can run into issues transferring textures and materials to the render nodes.