Building a Computer for 3D Rendering

Updated on April 6, 2017 in Architecture Tutorials

Update: Personally, I believe building a super fast computer for rendering is outdated. Today’s computing power is more than enough to render a really good rendering. Think about it, if 3D artists are able to create awesome realistic 3D rendering 10 years ago, what about today’s computing powers at your disposable? I prefer buying a ready made gaming station, here are 5 gaming desktop:

Not all desktops are made to perform the same, obviously the more RAM and processing speed the faster it is. Here are a few technical items you will have to look out:

  • Dual or Quad Graphic Cards, avoid Single Graphic Card.
  • If possible, go for dual channel 16GB or 32GB RAM. Avoid single channel RAM.
  • Processor is now used to run the application, but rendering with 4 graphic card is the way to render now.
  • Use SSD Hard Disk, avoid SATA Hard Disk. SSD is way faster.

dual graphic card

Previous Article (Outdated)

Just like all those hardcore gamers, the hunger for processing power is never enough for any architecture student when it comes to 3d rendering. My boss wants to buy the best computer in the market and asked me is Intel Xeon better or Pentium Core 2 Duo? Will a good graphic card speed up the rendering time?

I was speechless for a moment, no one asked me about this before and the truth is, I don’t know. So, like my usual self, I searched on the mountain and in the valleys; neither in the heights nor in the depths… I questioned the scholars and philosophers, but he was beyond their understanding….Well, not really. What I did was simply launch my msn and chat with Mr.J from – Ex-lecturer of Limkokwing University.

Q: Which is the best processor for 3D rendering?
A: The most expensive in the market.

Q: Will a good graphic card speed up the rendering time?
A: What is a graphic card?

Q: Are you gay and lonely?
A: Am I?

Okay, was joking about those Q&A thing. I did ask him about processor and graphic cards, now according to him Xeon is better than Pentium and a good graphic card will not speed up the rendering time but speed up the preview time during modeling. So I went and do some research online for more information, and went to my usual favorite computer website – Toms Hardware.

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Building a Computer for 3D Rendering

According to the benchmark (kind of old already), Xeon outperform all the other processor and what really make this Xeon so powerful? What is the technology behind it? Xeon is a 64bit processor, and comes with a 16M L3 cache. Pentium on the other hand is 32bit (newer models now comes with 64bit) and spot a 2MB – 4MB L1 and L2 cache. A lot of people are confuse about what makes a processor fast, most the buyers tend to go for faster processing speed thinking that a faster processor means that its better, which turn out to be wrong. Do you know that the current Core 2 Duo has a 1.86 GHz processor but able to out perform a single core 3 GHz processor by 70% and consume 50% less watt.

When it comes to processor, watch out for the FSB (Front Side Bus), 32 bit or 64bit and the L2 cache. Measuring a computer speed by looking at the GHZ is dead. Now we know that Xeon is the better processor for rendering, go and get one if you happen to have the money – and remember that Xeon processor uses a different type of motherboard and might require high end RAM that will further burn a hole in your wallet.

quad core processor graphic nvidia ati

Talk about graphic cards, do you know that they have these workstation CAD graphic cards for CAD operators? A comparison between mainstream graphic cards and workstation cards, let see, graphic cards nowadays are focused on only being clocked higher to give higher fps scores in demanding games, they are designed ground up focusing on direct3d applications like 90% of the games. However workstation graphic cards are clocked slower for stability reason and focus heavily on OpenGL applications. Some of them are optimized and carry special plug-in for 3dsmax and Maya. The bottom line is do you need a USD1000 graphic card just for rendering? If you’re not so sure about these Workstation graphic cards then go and get a SLi graphic card.

I’m not so concern about all these processing speed and so on, you can get the best computer money can buy, the real question is do you have the expertise to fully utilize the equipment?

The author is not a CAD expert nor a web genius. Just another guy spending too much time online. The tutorials featured here are meant for basic level understanding.


  1. is this cpu good for rendering???

    type : Intel® Core 2 Extreme Processor X9100
    clock speed : 3.06 GHz
    Front Side Bus : 1066 MHz
    2nd level cache : 6 MB

  2. The best for 3d rendering:
    Processor: Intel Core i7 Extreme Edition
    Motherboard: Intel DX58SO
    Memory: Kingston KVR1333D3N9K2/4G (This Motherboard support 4 memories. total 16GB)
    Graphic Card: NVIDIA QUADRO FX570
    (This Motherboard support 2 cards. total 4GB).
    Install extra coolers in your CPU.

  3. I am looking for a new computer. I am an editor of video content, 3D animator/modeler and graphic artist. Programs I curently use: Pinnacle, Premiere, After Effects, Lightwave 3D and Acid. I would like to move into Avids higher end editing software and other 3D programs. I have been researching my options but have gotten woefully behind on computer tech ie: dual/quad core, L1, extreme, mother boards, 32/64 bit etc. I am looking at Dells computer with L1 processor but have been stuck before with being limited to software/hardware compatability (Matrox)so I am gun shy. Trouble is I am a user with only some tech skills. I need a computer that meets these needs: editing, animation and music creation. A tall order as I am discovering.
    Can you lead me to sites that talk in not to technical language or specific equipment that you can recommend. Of course cost is an issue but have put this off to long and must buy now. Thanks for help.

  4. Thanks a lot for this article, it was really helpful answering my FAQs on rendering/visualization processes: Which are the main components involved in 3D Rendering (not real-time visualization)? Etc.

    I’m an industrial designer focused on product design (advanced surface modelling with Alias software) and high-end photorealistic rendering (i’m currently trying Maxwell render). It’s a shame Core 2 Extreme and Xeon chips arent standard on mobile workstations, so I’ll have to make my best on core 2 duo processors.

  5. the more cores doesnt necessarily mean that it will render faster, you also hav to consider the speed say for example 3.0,3.2 etc. 2core cpu with 1.8 ghz speed is just = to 3.6 singl core. the higher the memory the better you can manipulate and the more objects you can put in your 3d. those benchmarks are biassed, ive already tried using intel and amd,(i use mental ray for my renderer) but ive always been having problems with intel, during final rendering where you have to use high settings like setting its indirect illumination to high and applying diffuse bounces,fatal error always occurs on intel processors.

  6. @eliboi

    I don’t understand what are you talking about?! “2core cpu with 1.8 ghz speed is just = to 3.6 singl core”… What is this? That’s not true.

    My CPU is Core2Quad Q9550 2,83GHz so my processor speed is 2,83×4=11,32GHz? So not true. It’s still 2,83GHz CPU with 4 cores, and each one of them can do some prosesses, and if you working with some rendering program you will notice the diference. Even if you have 1core CPU overclocked at 15Ghz with same arcitecture and bus speed it’s not faster than this C2Q.

    If you want I’ll prove this to you.

    I’m an arcitect, but my hoby are electronics, especially computers, so believe me, I know.



  8. i’m using AMD Phenom(tm) II X4 955 Processor and my OS is windows seven 64 bit,is this cpu and OS usefull for v-ray rendering?

  9. Who can help me? I want to buy video card Matrox RT.X2 SD. It will be help me for video or 3D renderings? I’ll wait answer for my question. Thank you.

  10. Required Best configuration P.C for operating cad,max,photoshop & revit (Rendring)
    Plz suggest me the best configuration as soon as possible.


  11. I’m an architecture student looking to purchase a new computer (preferably a Mac product b/c of longevity and durability). I plan to run windows 7 on bootcamp and complete task such as 3d modeling with various software and particularly rendering using Vray. Can anyone recommend specs with what is current on the market today that can help me get this done well??

  12. been faceing this prob 4 along time, thanks for this, will provide serious food for thought for future procurement. I have heard of thechies who use more than 4 processors at same time and even seen one dude join two desktops to render in 3ds max but in vain. whats your take on this, otherwise am stack with Archicad and Artlantis for a long time

  13. Hi,
    I am using Chief Architect x2, I have many problem for ray trace a project, my pc have the following futures,
    1- Processor Intel i5–750(2.66 GHz)
    2- 6 GB DDR3 SD RAM
    3-Windows 7 64 bit
    4- Video Card 1024 GB nVidia Geforce Gt220

    what is the reason and what should I do, if any one can help I will be most appreciate.

  14. I am using Intel Desktop Board DP55WG Media Series. My processor is Corei7 and graphics Processor is GEForce Series GT240 and I use 2GB DDR3 RAM. I Want to buy a Render Card for Rendering in 3DS Max Animation for quick Rendering. I feel bore when i want to make a animated video scene.

    Please help me for give information of a Render card, model, price for highest performance.

    Thank you Sir for read my Comment.

  15. I currently use the AMD 1090T with 16gbs of DDR3 1600mhz Ram. I dont have any problems with it, I use 3d max 2011 with VRAY and I do this on the daily bases since its my job. I use a Nvidia Graphic Card wich supports 2 monitors but doenst need to be a real expensive one. If you use 3dmax like me ill go with 2 Intel Xeon 5690 with atleast 16gbs of ram. We have one at work and its beastly but the price is not too nice. It will run you about 7 grand but its cheap for what this machine does.

  16. I am using x3chiefarchitect. I am planning to a new computer. Need help configuring new computer to render 3d drawings with software.

  17. Hi
    I am a architectural visualizer
    I am using 3rd max design and vRay 12gb off ram
    I have problem with my graphic card my vCard is fx 1800 and I want to bay new graphic card
    Witch graphic card is the best for me
    Quadro FX
    I want to go with Quadro FX 5000
    Is this is best for me

    Or geforce is the best



  19. I am looking for a new computer. I am an editor of video content, 3D animator/modeler and graphic artist.

    Trouble is I am a user with only some tech skills. I need a computer that meets these needs: editing, animation and music creation. A tall order as I am discovering.
    Can you lead me to sites that talk in not to technical language or specific equipment that you can recommend. Of course cost is an issue but have put this off to long and must buy now. Thanks for help.

  20. hi i am architecture and i buying DESKTOP PC for 3D Rendering . me wich configration pc buy? if i buy i7/intel original 67cl mother board/8 gb ram/ its ok?! if no ple.sugess me – Thanku

  21. I find even my i7 with 12gb ram incredibly slow with even quite simple 3D models and visualisations once the lighting and shadows have become complex

  22. Hi, i AM 3D Visualiser and buying i7 (2600) 3.40 Mhz, 16 gb RAM DDR3(1333) and Motherboard “intel dh67” but currently not buy Graphic Card.which graphic card batter for my system???? Plz.. Help Me

  23. Hi Guys Im really confusing all these configurations for best rendering computers. What is the best rendering computer to render 3D Architecture or Maya Fluids and Large Scale Real flow Fluids. .Explain easy in order. Processor( i7 or Xeon Which is Best?), supported Mother Board, Ram, HDD, Graphic Card( NVidia Quadro ****:). If Possible Bench Marks results too. .Plz Dnt Confuse.:)

  24. Hi,
    I am a 3d modeling,texturing and lighting student,my sistem is. – intel core2 Duo procssor E7400 @2.80GHz 2.80GHz
    and 2 GB ram , NVIDIA Gforce 210 graphic card, i wants to know which sistem requirement are best for me.
    please help and suggest me.

  25. hi i am architecture and i buying DESKTOP PC for 3D Rendering . me wich configration pc buy? if i buy i7/intel original 67cl mother board/8 gb ram/ its ok?! if no ple.sugess me – Thanku

  26. Hi – I’m an industrial design student working in solidworks, rhino 3D, 3DS Max, and Adobe cs5. What computer / processor is the best for opening multiple programs and rendering? Thank you!

  27. hi everyone have a good day, i wanna ask what is the best of this 2 processors? AMD A8 or Intel Core-i7, what is the CPU’s for 3D animation. . please help me Guys. . tnx and God Bless

  28. For laptop graphic cards – check here to see performance benchmarks.

    They obviously they make a huge impact for real time rendering etc.

  29. I just wanted to say that from my experience no computer is ever fast enough. At work my computer is a levonon d20 with 2 x xeon e5620 processors (hyperthreaded, 16 cores), 24 gigs of ram, and an ati firepro v7800 graphics card. I work on 3 24″ monitors in various programs from autodesk infrastructure. I have been working in 3ds max design 2013 lately… And my computer still doesn’t seem fast enough. Rendering just EATS resources. Hiting go for rendering pins 16 cores at 100%, yet the minutes still tick by slow waiting for something to finish. MY ONE PIECE OF ADVICE IS BUY A NVIDIA QUADRO graphics card if your debating between ati and nvidia! They just work better from my experience. My ati just doesn’t seem to run as smooth as a similar computer with a nvidia quadro 2000.

  30. I run windows 7 on a MAC 8-core, Best of both worlds. The Xeon CPU’s are fantastic for rendering and cause it is a MAC, it’s quiet and cost’s far less than an equivalent PC.With the money you save a nice quadro will do good!

  31. hello.. plez help me.. can i upgarde my pc to be more better.. what can i do to maximum upgrade my pc..?
    now im use intel pentium 4 (3.00ghz), ati x1150 256mb ddr3, ram 3gb ddr2..
    i hope you can help me..

  32. Hi
    I am looking for a new computer. I am an editor of video content, 3D animator/modeler and graphic artist. Programs I curently use: Pinnacle, Premiere, Photoshopcs6, Illustrator cs6 After Effects,3D Max2012 and Acid. I would like to move into Avids higher end editing software and other 3D programs. plz ple.sugess me( I7- AmD- Workstation Intel Dual Xeon) Graphic Card

  33. Now if you want really, really fast rendering is a necessity to have a high-end graphic card. GPU rendering is a nowadays a common feature for renderers , see Vray RT, Octane , Indigo RT, Cycles from Blender, Luxrender, and so on. Processor now is relegated to a second place, to do the control of hardware and software that because graphic cards can render several times faster than processors.

  34. hi
    am 3d visualizer
    am using 3rd max design 2013 and vRay 2.3
    AMD FX 8350 ,16gb of ram ,asus GTX660ti graphic card but not gud quality

    pls help
    using render settings and increase rendering speed plzzzz help :(

    • @suhail

      I suggest network rendering. Linking a few computers to harvest all the processor speed, this can only be done if you own genuine 3D max serial number on all the computers linked together. A high quality rendering will probably take less than 30 minutes if you have 10 computers.

  35. hi , this is vinaykumar
    i have a laptop lenovog580, i3 processor with 4gb ram ,, and intel onboard grafics , can i use it for architectural rendering ? if no can i upgrade my laptop’s gpu? or to buy a new system, please comment

  36. hello sir,
    I want best rendering PC for 3d max
    what about think this system
    intel xeon E5 2667 v3 ( 3.3 GHT )
    Nvidia quadra 5 GB
    which board support for E5 2667 v3
    SSD 256 GB
    DDR5 32 GB

    • Why not buy Alienware Area 51? It comes with 3 Graphic Card. The good thing with branded PC is stability, whereas custom white box if build incorrectly will have stability issues if the various components do not work seamlessly.

  37. Hi! I am Anirudha, a motion designer from Belgaum.
    I am planning on buying a powerful workstation with faster rendering and which is best suitable for software like Maya, Cinema 4d, Adobe Creative Suite, 3DS Max.
    I have a budget of 1 lakh to 1.5lakh ($2000 to $2400) which includes the entire setup (2 monitors, keyboard, mouse etc). Please help me with the best configuration possible within the above budget. I greatly appreciate your help. Looking forward.


    • Motherboard LGA 2011(AsROCK Z99 W/S) – 25000
      Processor (XEON-E5 2600) – 35000
      Graphics Card QUADRO-2200 – 32000
      Cabinate – 3000
      SSD SAMSUNG 850 PRO (256 GB) – 8000
      Corsair RM750 750 Watts PSU – 8000
      Corsair H100i Cooler – 8000
      Corsair Vengeance 4 X 8GB – 16000
      Monitor x 2 – 17000
      2 X 1TB Hard Disk – 7000
      RAID BOARD – 400
      Wireless Card – 800
      UPS 1 KVA – 5000
      Thermal Grease – 200
      Keyboard – 800
      Mouse+Pad – 600
      Extension Board – 1000
      DVD Drive – 1000
      Card Reader Inbuild – 800
      TOTAL = 165000 approx.(Indian Rupee)

  38. Why has anyone not commented on the fact that rendering is CPU based and not GPU based. Buying a beefy graphics cards and expecting your renders time to decrease would be as useful as installing a 2000w sound system in your car expecting your car to go faster. THE MORE CORES THE BETTER. Each core has two threads, each thread is another render bucket. The more buckets, the faster the lower the render times. A faster quad core could easily render slower than a slower speed 8 core Xeon. Sorry, just has to throw that out there…

    • Rendering is CPU based. The more cores and casche memory you have in the CPU is where you should spend your money. Exept if you use a GPU rendering software like Octane, Furryball and so on, then you would want as many graphic cards as possible on your rig.

      Top of the line PC’s at the moment (2015) is HP Z840 with the Xeon E5-2699 v3 (2.3 GHz, 45 MB cache, 18 cores) and 2 terra byte. These specs are priced beyond 10.000 USD.
      The HP Z800 price starts at 2400 USD.

      Note the 45 MB cache in the CPU! (don’t confuse CPU cache memory with the ordinary memory).

  39. Hi guys,
    I am planning to buy a assembled system for basic 3ds Max use, I have a budget constraint.

    My specs are as below,please suggest whether this will be sufficient for me.

    CPU: Intel i3 6100 3.7GHz LGA 1151
    Motherboard: Asus H110M-K
    RAM: G.skill Ripjaws V 16GB (2 x 8GB)
    HDD: Seagate Barracuda 1 TB
    Graphics Card: Zotac nVidia GT 730 2GB DDR5

  40. Hi, please suggest whether this configuration will work fine ??

    Core i5-6400 CPU (Warranty : 3 years)
    Gigabyte B150MD3H Motherboard (Warranty : 3 years) Price :
    8 GB DDR4 2133 Corsair Value Ram (Warranty : 3 years) –
    1 TB Seagate Sata HDD (Warranty : 2 years) –
    Zotac NVidia Chipset GT730 2 GB DDR5 Graphic Card (Warranty : 3 years) –

    I Ball Majestic Cabinet with 400W SMPS (Warranty : 3 years on SMPS) –

  41. I currently only have access to a very basic laptop. Acer4738G. core i3-380M, 4GB DDR3, 500GB HDD.
    I know this is a very old and quite weak computer, however it works well.. I don’t have the funds to buy a new computer anytime soon, however I would like to learn more about 3D modeling and rendering. Is there any software that I could download that would be compatible with the laptop that I’m using?
    I’m only a beginner so I will only be learning the basics in the forthcoming months.

  42. You do know that SATA and SSD are two different things? One is a hard drive and the other is the port you connect the hard drive to.

    Also quad graphics cards is a bad advice. There aren’t many applications that can even use that configuration let alone optimize their renders for it. Better off spending money on another dedication render box.

    • Yes I know, SATA is a port. There are two ports for SSD, SATA and PCIe, PCIe is way faster. That is why I did not mention SATA SSD or PCIe in the article, it is subjective. Almost all… almost… Hard Disk are SATA, thus I mention SATA Hard Disk.

      Yes, not many application understand Quad Graphic command/instruction. If you are into gaming and rendering, then a GeForce is a better choice, however if you are into building a proper work station, then Quad is the better choice, limited Yes, universal? no.

  43. You may have to dig – for your best – in the ebay servers. I got my self 2 dual E5520 32Go RAM (16threads total) for around 350$ that I first dedicated to website hosting and community rendering,
    and recently got my hands on a dual E5-2650 for around 350$ each too.

    Each one of those has a 2x to 5x better price/performance ratio than the new setups.

    Knowingly that those servers are AIO, and are ready to run your favorite renderer, as long as there is no or few viewport weight. Some of them can handle a GPU and even be converted in a workstation.

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