As a graphics designer, animator, architect, or 3D artist, you need a powerful computer to carry out certain tasks. But how powerful your PC needs to be depends on the kind of workload you’re carrying out. For 3D animation or 2D animation, you need something beefier. And animation computers are usually not cheap.
If we want to build a desktop for animation, we’d need something potent, powerful, and within the price range that we want. But can we really meet all those criteria?
We’ll find out in this article as we show you how to build a desktop computer meant for 3D animation and modeling.
Starting from Scratch: Building a Computer for Animation
Believe it or not, it’s possible to build a desktop for animation that’s affordable but powerful at the same time. When we say powerful, we are referring to a PC that can carry out animation tasks without difficulty.
Here’s a short cheat sheet of the kind of hardware components you need for building a decent desktop for animation. This also applies to window shopping for a laptop for animation too.
CPU and RAM Combination
CPU and RAM need to be fast enough to power through all the animation software, 3D modeling software, and other software support for animation projects.
You’ll need at least 32GB DDR4 RAM sticks with a frequency of 3600MHz up to 4000MHz. For processors, you’ll need at least an Intel Core i7 9th generation or 10th generation, or an AMD Ryzen processor equivalent to the Intel Core i7,
GPU or Graphics Card
Building a computer for animation requires a dedicated graphics card. While you could power through 3D animation projects with an integrated graphics card, it will be relatively slower than having a dedicated graphics card.
Popular software such as Adobe After Effects have yet to fully take advantage of GPU rendering, but it doesn’t mean you should be ignoring your GPU. Nvidia graphics cards have better Adobe After Effects support than AMD graphics card, so we recommend getting an Nvidia Geforce RTX 3060 at the very least.
Animators, modelers, and graphic designers need a lot of storage space. Period.
Not only are you dealing with renders, but you also have to store project files, assets, and other resources. These take up a sizeable amount of your hard drive, especially when you’re doing major projects.
You’ll need at least two storage drives. One of them should be an SSD or solid state drive to host your software and operating system, and the other should be a traditional HDD to house all the files and renders.
Your combination would probably be at 1TB NVMe SSD and 2TB/4TB HDD. Of course, if you can afford more capacity for SSD, then go for more.
While the motherboard doesn’t really affect the overall build, you’re here to consider how the motherboard supports all the other hardware components listed above.
An Intense Debate: Mac or PC?
Between getting a desktop computer for animation and a Macbook, which one’s actually better for 3D animation, modeling, and graphics design?
The practical answer here is this: it depends.
It depends on:
How big is your budget?
Apple products are always going to be expensive but you’re getting premium pieces of hardware. The specs of the current generation Macbook Air and Macbook Pro can easily compete against gaming PCs that run old graphics cards or CPUs.
Gaming laptops are similarly priced as Macbooks, depending on their GPU and CPU. Laptops running RTX 3000-series or their AMD equivalent combined with an Intel Core i7 or i9 processor or their AMD equivalent will cost the same, if not more, as a Macbook.
A gaming PC will slightly be more affordable than the two, but you don’t really have mobility. Unless you plan on working when you’re traveling, then your best option is to get a desktop PC for 3D animation and more.
How big are your projects?
The best computer that you need for animation and modeling depends on how big your projects are. Even if you’re just starting out, you should be future-proofing your build by thinking about the size of your animation work.
Your own computer should be prepared to handle the biggest animation workloads possible even if you’re just not there yet.
How mobile do you have to be?
Mobility is something to consider when you’re doing animation work outside of your home. A portable laptop is the answer for mobility issues, or an Apple Macbook. You’ll need a laptop with dedicated GPU, a decent battery life, and a processor capable of CPU rendering.
You will never get the right answer from places like Reddit because you’ll only hear biased inputs from their proponents.
Fact of the matter is, a desktop computer will always be more powerful than a Macbook. There’s just no denying that. Apple may be proud of their CPUs and iGPUs, and they’re just as capable of running the heaviest animation software possible, but the power is just limited.
Think of it this way. It’s like arguing who defeats who: Batman or Superman?
However, if your desktop computer for animation has lower specs than a Macbook, then the latter is going to be better.
Most people would often go for a gaming PC or a laptop as their go-to system for their animation workstation computer. But a gaming PC just offers the most flexibility and versatility. An animation PC can be built and upgraded on a whim without difficulty. Laptops can’t be upgraded, save for their RAMs and storage but even then it’s not that much.
Sample Builds From The Internet
The following builds were curated from the Internet and come in various price ranges. This is how you’d probably assemble your desktop computer for 3D animation and more.
These builds are more than capable of doing other tasks such as video editing, graphics design, and other animation tasks.
Having said that, let’s go over what makes a decent computer for animation and how much you’re more likely to spend with each build.
Uncapped Budget a.k.a Money Is Not An Issue
Estimated cost: About $4,500 to $5,000
Ideal for: Established professionals in the industry who need a powerful animation workstation computer at home
- CPU: AMD R9 7950X
- Graphics Card: ASUS TUF GeForce RTX 4090
- Motherboard: Asus Prime X670-P
- RAM: G.Skill Trident Z5 64GB RAM Kit
- Storage 1: 1TB Samsung 970 Pro M.2 SSD
- Storage 2: 2x 10TB Seagate IronWolf HDDs (for RAID-1 redundancy)
All righty, first up we have this insanely powerful computer if budget is not an issue. We’re talking about having enough disposable income that you have no second thoughts when buying any of the hardware components above.
You’re getting an AMD Ryzen 9 7950X with 16-cores and 32-threads. Unlike the other CPUs down the line, the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X runs at full speed and on max power. You’re also getting the beastly RTX 4090 and 64GB of RAM.
1TB SSD and up to 20TB of HDD storage to house all the files for your animation projects. The CPU and GPU cost more than half of the entire rig. Of course, every other component can still be tweaked, like the casing, cooling system, and power supply. But even then,
Estimated cost: $700+ at the very least
Ideal for: animators who’re just starting or those who just want a decent computer for animation without breaking the bank
- CPU: AMD R5 5600G
- Graphics Card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1650 D6 OC
- Motherboard: ASRock B550M PRO4
- RAM: Patriot Viper Steel DDR4 16GB (2 x 8GB) 3200MHz
- Storage: Western Digital 500GB WD Blue SA510 SATA
Above, we have an all-out computer build if you’re not concerned about the budget. This next build is for people on the other side of the coin. The budget starts off at the $700 mark, so there’s enough room for a couple of upgrades down the line.
The build that we have takes advantage of the AMD processors, a steady amount of RAM, and a mid-tier graphics card, and a decent storage capacity. This is already a powerful gaming PC as it stands, and it’s more than capable of running most animation software and video editing software.
A Balanced Mid-Range Build
Estimated cost: $1,200+
Ideal for: People who want the best computer with competitive hardware components without the risk of overspending.
- CPU: AMD R5 7600X
- Graphics Card:MSI Gaming GeForce GTX 1660 Super
- Motherboard: MSI PRO X670-P WiFi ProSeries Motherboard
- RAM: G.Skill Trident Z5 RGB Series
- Storage 1: Western Digital 500GB WD Blue SA510 SATA
- Storage 2: Seagate IronWolf Pro 4TB NAS Internal Hard Drive HDD
Right here is what we’d consider the Goldilocks build. Not too expensive but not too cheap, but just right.
We have a decent combination of AMD CPU, a high-end GPU, and enough storage capacity for bigger animation projects. The SSD can be upgraded to 1TB when you have more budget, and you can expand the HDD storage.
This desktop PC will roughly cost you about $1,200 at least, making it a solid animation PC and gaming PC at the same time.
How to Choose the Best Laptop for Animation
Choosing the best laptop as an alternative for animation PC or animation desktop PC is ideal if you’re constantly traveling or if your office doesn’t have a spare computer for animation.
Majority of the gaming laptops you see in the market are more than capable of running any animation software, but they’ll probably be more expensive than building a gaming PC.
Your only point of concern here would be battery life. Now it’s not recommended to render animation projects when you’re running on battery life since the laptop switches to the integrated GPU for rendering. You’ll blow through the entire battery in 30 minutes or less, and it’s not ideal.
The best laptops for gaming and doing animation work are those with at least an Intel Core i7 processor and at least an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 to carry out complex animations. You could also go down in budget if you go for the RTX 2000-series laptops.