Picking out the best possible hardware for your workstation is no easy task. You have to do a lot of research on the components to find ones perfect for architectural rendering. There are countless processors (CPUs) and even more graphics cards (GPUs), which can be very confusing and overwhelming.
However, finding what you need can become much easier once you learn what to look for.
Today, we will primarily discuss GPUs and show you how to choose the best one for your rendering needs. Choosing the right GPU will depend on what you do when rendering, your rendering applications, and your budget.
Be prepared to venture into the technical specifications world of buying hardware and choosing the best component for your workstation. Bear in mind that this article uses prices that were active at the end of 2022. Doing your research and checking prices for yourself is encouraged.
Before deciding what GPU to pick up and get for your rendering machine, you should go over the tips outlined below. We’ve written them to ensure you get the best bang for your buck and to help you pick the right GPU for your purposes. Read ahead to see what you need to consider.
The first and most important thing when buying a GPU is your budget. Although a good GPU is a once-in-5-years investment, it would be useless running around and looking at cards that cost several thousand dollars if you can’t afford one. That’s why setting a firm budget from the start will be important when buying a GPU.
Yes, it would be ideal if you could stretch your budget a bit more, but that will always be the case. Once you see the next-tier GPU, you will want to stretch it repeatedly until you completely run out of money. So, the best thing to do is allow your budget to have +/- 5 or 10% wiggle room. For example, if it’s $500, then the most you should be willing to spend is $550 if you settle on 10%.
Although most cards now come with plenty of video memory (VRAM) and fast memory at that, some applications will always require more VRAM. You shouldn’t be facing any problems regarding the lack of VRAM if you’re planning on buying any GPU from the past five years, but looking at exactly how much VRAM it has can be significant.
An application you use for rendering might be using a bit more VRAM. Consider what you will be doing and what applications you’ll use before choosing the GPU. Depending on the VRAM needed, you might want to look at some older cards with more memory instead of buying new ones if they have less memory.
In simple terms, the better the GPU, the more power-hungry it will be. It’s one of the things to keep in mind when shopping for a new graphics card. If you’re creating a new PC for rendering and don’t know or care about any of these things, you can always pay a professional to pick the right components for you and build the PC.
However, if you already have a PC and you’re just upgrading the GPU, it’s a different story. Considering the power usage of a card can help prevent breaking components or frying your entire PC. Take a look at your power supply unit (PSU). See how capable it is. If you’re getting a beefy graphics card, you might also need to upgrade your PSU.
Even though you can mostly fix this problem with various adapters, it’s not something you want to do if you don’t have to. Instead, before choosing the GPU for you, look at your displays, whether a TV or multiple monitors. Figure out what connection these displays use, and pick a GPU that naturally has these ports as well.
For this part, you can take a look at benchmark numbers. However, that might not tell you the full story. Bear in mind that there are others with the same card as well. You can always search online and see how each card will play with the specific software you’re using. That way, you can see whether a certain card will be a good choice for your rendering needs.
Both AMD and Nvidia, the two competing graphics card companies, offer two sets of cards. One is made for the general public, the gamers, and the streamers, while the other set is aimed at professionals, such as video editors, architects, designers, etc.
However, both sets of cards are quite capable, and you can use each of them for just about anything. You can use a consumer card for a workstation and a professional card for gaming.
These cards are intended for the general public and not professionals per se. However, they’re quite capable of handling professional workloads as well and might even be a better investment. With a powerful consumer card, you will be able to do everything, which includes 3D rendering, too.
On the other hand, professional GPUs might be too focused on a certain type of workload that they struggle with other everyday tasks. You’ll also notice that some price ranges lack, and that’s not a mistake. Both Nvidia and AMD simply lack video cards for some price ranges.
In this price range, team green (Nvidia) can offer you the older RTX 2060 or the newer RTX 3050. These are great cards and come with either 6GB or 8GB of GDDR6 VRAM, respectively. They’re capable of dealing with rendering, but it might take more time.
On the other hand, at this price point, AMD can offer its RX 6600. With a 128-bit memory interface, the RX 6600 is the direct competitor to Nvidia’s RTX 3050. It also offers the same amount of VRAM as the 3050. Both team red (AMD) and team green have solid GPUs in this price range.
On AMD’s side of things, you can get something like an RX 6750 XT in the lower part of the range or an RX 6800 in the higher part. They offer 12 and 16GB of GDDR6 VRAM, respectively, and are both made to handle everything you throw at them, rendering included.
Team green has the RTX 3060Ti on the lower end and the RTX 3070 on the higher end. Of course, the more expensive cards will be better, and if you can afford them, go for those. If you can’t, know that you’re still getting a capable card either way.
The higher-end cards in this range will last you a few years before you have to upgrade again. Team green has the RTX 3080 here. Although it is a card from the previous generation, it can handle anything you throw at it. The RTX sports 10GB of GDDR6X VRAM, uses the PCIe 4.0 connection, and has a 320-bit interface.
Team red can offer you an RX 7900 XT for around $900 or an RX 7900 XTX for $1200. Yes, that little extra letter at the end raises the price by around 33%. Moreover, the XTX has 24GB of VRAM, compared to XT’s 20. It offers a 384-bit interface instead of the 320-bit that is on XT.
With the current price of around $2300, the GeForce RTX 4090 is the performance king. And with 24GB of GDDR6X VRAM and a 384-bit memory interface, it fully deserves the crown. If you want to save some money in this tier, you can also look at the previous generation RTX 3090, which has the same specifications as the RTX 4090.
However, if we’re already in such a high price range, it might be better to look at professional cards instead. For example, AMD’s entire current lineup of professional GPUs is under $2000. Nonetheless, the RTX 4090 is worth mentioning as it will easily crush everything you throw at it, whether we’re talking about the latest games or a professional workload.
When it comes to professional cards, there’s a wider choice on the Nvidia side, as they make around ten cards each generation to fill every price range from $250 to $4500. However, AMD is nothing to throw away, either. Their professional cards offer a 3-year warranty with the option of extending it to 7 years. That’s how sure they are of their cards’ quality and reliability.
When it comes to entry-level cards, we firmly believe that anything under $200 is simply not worth buying. Countless tech reviewers and tech YouTube channels will tell you the same thing. Investing in an older GPU will always be better than buying a new one in the sub-$200 price range.
However, if we’re talking about $200 and up, you have plenty of options. Radeon PRO W6400 is one of your options. It will set you back around $230. On the Nvidia side, you can get something like an Nvidia T400 for around $250.
In this tier, GPUs can cost anywhere from $400 to $1300, and there will be a lot of cards to pick from in this tier. However, to keep it fair, we will further split this tier into two price groups – the $400 to $850 tier and the $850 to $1300 tier.
In the first tier of mid-range professional cards, you can purchase an AMD W6600. With a price tag of around $600 and 8GB of GDDR6 VRAM, it’s the card to look for when building a mid-range rendering PC. It was engineered for 3D graphics rendering and medium to high workloads.
The second tier of $850 to $1300 has both Nvidia’s RTX A4000 and A4500 to offer. With prices of $950 and $1300, respectively, these cards differ in the amount of VRAM they offer. The A4000 has 16GB of VRAM, while the A4500 has 20. Both have error-correction code (ECC) memory as well.
In this segment, on the AMD side, you’re looking at a card that costs around $1900. We’re talking about Radeon PRO W6800. 32GB of GDDR6 memory and incredible performance in any 3D rendering software, W6800 is an excellent choice in the price range.
On the Nvidia side, there’s the Quadro RTX A5000, which you can find for around the same price as its AMD counterpart. However, it offers 24GB of GDDR6 memory and utilizes the newer PCIe 4.0 x16, but it only has four display ports compared to AMD’s 6.
When money isn’t an issue, you can easily get a card that will make rendering a breeze. In this segment, Nvidia is the clear winner, so you won’t see any AMD cards here. You’re looking at prices of $4000-$4500 and up, and for that, you can get an RTX A6000. With 48GB of GDDR6 ECC memory, it’s the crème de la crème. The A6000 is the best professional card money can get.
Choosing the right graphics card for your rendering needs takes a lot of work. It can be a bit overwhelming when you consider all the things you need to look out for and the more technical details you will have to consider. Hopefully, this guide has cleared some things up for you and will help you make an informed decision when buying your next graphics card for rendering.
Remember that rendering performance will suffer if you throw a high-end GPU into a low-end system. It will feel like a waste of money to spend so much on a GPU and not see the desired results. That’s why your whole system is important, and you should carefully consider all the abovementioned points to ensure you are building the perfect rendering PC.