Maya Rendering: Best CPUs, GPUs & External Render Engines

by hakoda

April 30, 2023

If you want to achieve high-quality, photorealistic results with Maya, you might be wondering how powerful your workstation’s hardware needs to be. In this article, we will cover the impact that the CPU and GPU have on Maya’s rendering performance and provide recommendations for hardware brands and models that can help you get the most out of your renders.

How Does the CPU Affect Maya’s Rendering Performance?

Maya is a rendering software that operates on a single thread; hence, it requires only one core from the CPU to process images. However, the recent versions of the program and the addition of the Arnold render engine require multiple cores to achieve high-quality models and photorealistic results.

Currently, the minimum system requirements in terms of CPU are a high-frequency CPU and a multicore processor. Although core counts were said to decrease rendering clock speed, new Intel technology now allows increasing the speed with the TurboBoost modality incorporated in their processors.

TurboBoost technology controls the clock speed, increasing it when handling massive workloads and decreasing it when carrying out simple tasks. Rendering long and complex scenes in Maya usually requires the CPU to complete more cycles per minute, which translates to more energy needed. Therefore, the computer used in this process must have an appropriate cooling system.

Best CPUs for Autodesk Maya

The following three CPUs are capable of handling Maya’s complex rendering and processing demands with ease.

Processor Intel Core i7-13700K Intel Core i9-13900K AMD Threadripper PRO 5995WX
Cores 16 24 64
TurboBoost Technology Yes Yes Yes
Single-core Performance High High High
Multicore Clock Speed Moderate High High
Render Engine Compatibility Maya Arnold Designed for rendering
Additional Features Simultaneous GPU usage

Intel Core i7-13700K 16 Core processor contains TurboBoost technology and high performance in single-core usage required for Maya rendering.

  • Intel Core i9-13900K 24 Core processor is similar to the Intel Core i7 but with additional cores for increased efficiency and higher clock speeds that are required for rendering with the Arnold render engine.
  • AMD Threadripper PRO 5995WX 64 Core processor is specially designed for rendering purposes with high single-core performance and high multicore clock speed. It can also work simultaneously with multiple graphics cards for those who prefer GPU rendering. It costs more than a standard Intel CPU, but it offers superior characteristics.

Is the Intel Xeon CPU Suitable for Rendering in Maya?

Xeon CPUs are quite similar to the standard Intel processors and are manufactured by the same company. Although Xeon processors were developed for workstations and handling a heavy workload, there is no substantial benefit from using them for Maya rendering. The main difference between Xeon processors and Core i7 and Core i9 is the core count.

Since Maya renders with a single core at a time, Xeon’s higher count and dual-modality will not increase the efficiency of the rendering process. Moreover, since Xeon processors are more robust, they tend to cost more than other Intel processors.

How Does the GPU Impact Maya’s Rendering Performance?

GPU performance directly affects the number of frames per second (FPS) the software can display while creating a model. A higher FPS results in better animation and simulations. A higher frame count allows for smoother movement, as the more still images a sequence has, the more realistic and detailed the rendering will be.

The GPU is responsible for performing the geometric calculations related to adding and modifying visuals such as lighting, textures, shades, etc. As a minimum requirement, a GPU should render at 60 FPS to obtain photorealistic models and high-quality renders.

Particularly in the case of Maya, multiple GPUs will not increase rendering speed or the quality of renders (contrary to common belief). The software structure is not compatible with dual or multiple GPUs, and the program’s performance relies more on the CPU than the GPU. However, if you want to increase the rendering efficiency even more, there are external render engines such as Octane, FurryBall, Redshift, and others that can work with multiple GPUs and support cloud rendering.

Best GPUs for Autodesk Maya

The most popular GPU manufacturers in the market are AMD, NVIDIA, and Intel. These brands are leading the graphics card market and offer different technologies to carry out rendering. The main differences between them are programming languages and the rendering methods they use to generate models.

Here’s a brief list of recommended GPUs to render in Maya.

Brand Model
AMD Radeon Pro W6600
Radeon RX 5700 XT
Radeon RX 6000
NVIDIA / GeForce ASUS GeForce RTX 3060
EVGA GeForce RTX 3070
Intel Arc Pro A30, A40, A50
Broadwell Iris Pro P6300
Sky Lake HD Graphics P530

If you’re looking for more alternatives, Autodesk’s website provides a complete list of graphics cards compatible with Maya software.

Does Arnold Support Multiple GPUs?

The Arnold render engine can render with up to eight graphics cards and can work with Maya as well as 3ds Max to render complex scenes and animations. Arnold is an Autodesk plugin, so it works separately and has a different architecture than Maya’s software.

Cloud Rendering for Autodesk Maya

Maya is not compatible with multi-GPU rendering, but external GPU acceleration programs can still benefit from using multiple graphics cards to increase rendering efficiency. As the demand for high-performance GPUs increases, so does the need for acceleration programs. More complex renders and animations require more time to process, and acceleration programs can combine the GPU and CPU to speed up the processing time and carry out complex operations faster.

Most acceleration GPU programs rely on render farms and cloud rendering to provide powerful hardware access to users through the internet. To render in Maya, these programs typically provide strong CPU hardware combined with high-performance GPUs, with an emphasis on CPU and RAM capacities in each rendering node, since Maya relies more on the CPU than the GPU.

The most popular external render farms that are compatible with Maya and the Arnold render engine are Redshift, Octane, FurryBall, and Render Pool. Maya doesn’t have an in-house render farm, making an external render farm essential for efficient cloud rendering.

Which Is Better for Maya: GPU or CPU Rendering?

Whether you choose CPU or GPU rendering depends on the render engine you use to create your models and animations and the available budget. Although Maya software benefits more from high-performance CPUs, render farms and external engines are more suitable at a professional level if you have short deadlines and large workloads.

Also, some render engines are CPU-based (such as Arnold), while others are GPU-based (such as Octane and Redshift). In general, multi-GPUs and render farms are more expensive for the common Maya user. However, relying solely on the CPU would require additional maintenance and installation costs (to build render workstations) if you want to render professionally.