3D Applications – More Cores or More Ghz?

Neil ChavezBlog

more cores or more ghz
3D Applications - More Core or More GHZ?

When working with 3D applications, such as 3DS Max, Maya, SolidWorks, etc., is more cores or more Ghz better? Unfortunately, the answer is not so straight forward as many factors need to be taken into consideration.  Your workload and the applications that you use play a big part.  

Before we delve more into this article let’s first define what the terms “cores” and “clock speed” mean.  

CPU cores, or Cores for short, refers a CPU’s processor. In the early days of computers every processor only had one core. This meant that the physical CPU had a single central processing unit on it, which could only process one task at a time. As times changed and demands increased, manufacturers added additional cores to CPUs for increase performance.  Today, CPUs can have anywhere between two and even 128 cores! The more cores a CPU has the faster your system becomes, because your PC can work on multiple tasks at once. 

A CPU’s clock speed, also referred to as clock rate, measures the number of cycles your CPU executes per second. This is measured in GHz (gigahertz) which refers to billions of pulses per second. For example, a CPU with a clock speed of 3.2 GHz executes 3.2 billion cycles per second. A PC’s clock speed is an indicator of its performance and how rapidly a CPU can process data (move individual bits). One thing to note with Clock speed, is that not all CPUs are the same. Different CPUs often use different architectures. For example, one processor may require more clock cycles to complete a multiplication instruction than another processor. If a 1.8 GHz CPU can complete a multiplication instruction in 4 cycles, while the 900 GHz CPU takes 6 cycles, the 1.8 GHz processor will perform the operation more than twice as fast as the 900 MHz processor. Conversely, if the 1.8 GHz processor takes more cycles to perform the same instruction, it will be less than 2x as fast as the 900 GHz processor. Therefore, it’s important to compare processors from the same brand and generation. 

OK, now that we have a better understanding of Cores and clock speed, let’s talk about 3D applications. Generally, most 3D applications will be rendering heavy. However, there are applications where the focus is CAD design or CAD work as opposed to rendering.   

Rendering is a multi-threaded operation, meaning it can utilize more than one processor core at a time. As such, when rendering, you want as many cores as possible to get faster render times as opposed to higher clock speeds. Some modern rendering programs can utilize higher end graphics cards for rendering, such as 3DS Max which allows for both CPU and GPU rendering. The most notable difference between CPU and GPU rendering is that CPU rendering is more accurate, but GPU is faster. When accuracy is important it is better to go with CPU rendering. A general rule with rendering 3D applications is that more cores is better than more Ghz. 

As for 3D applications for CAD modeling, CAD tasks are primarily a single threaded operation. This means it will only use one CPU core at a time. When doing CAD modeling and common CAD tasks, generally the higher the clock speed, the better the performance. However, a caveat to this is that although most CAD functions are single threaded, there are a few CAD tasks that can utilize multi-threaded operations. For CAD focused 3D applications, the solution, in my opinion, is to choose a processor with a good balance of clock speed and core count. 

To summarize, the answer as to more cores or more Ghz depends on your work situation. In general, if your work consists of more rendering heavy tasks then more cores should be considered as rendering is a multi-threaded operation, which can utilize more than one processor core at a time. If your work is more CAD design related, a processor with a good balance of clock speed and core count should be considered, as although most CAD tasks are primarily a single threaded operation, there are a few CAD tasks that can utilize multi-threaded operations. 

These are just some general guidelines for selecting a CPU. Feel free to reach out for a more in depth analysis of your requirements and specific recommendation.