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Best computer for animation: 5 options for 3D animation

We Pick Out The Best PCs & Macs For Animators Currently Available

Updated: Dec 8, 2022 5:43 pm
best computer for animation

The creativity of animators from all over the globe is what brings us some of the most entertaining, moving, and memorable movies and shows. There is no modern world without all kinds of animation — but do you have the right kind of prebuilt PC for it?

We have come a long way from the days of old, hand-drawn cartoons. These days, the majority of the animation is done by skilled professionals with the help of the latest software, but none of that can take place without a very powerful machine to run it.

A computer suited for animation is going to rank high amongst the most powerful PCs. The reason for that is simple: you need a powerhouse capable of creating complex 2D and 3D animations, and then rendering at full power without slowing you down. This means that you’ll be looking for something with an amazing CPU, a lot of hard drive space, a considerable amount of RAM, and a good GPU.

Building a desktop may seem like a challenging task regardless of what you’re going to use it for. Gamers, casual users, animators, and others often struggle to build the best machine they possibly can. All the different specs and choices make shopping for your new computer seem almost daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.

We want to save you time and let you enjoy your new machine sooner. For that reason, we’ve tested several pre-built desktops that offer everything you need in a PC for animation. Regardless of your budget or expectations, we’re confident that you’ll be able to find something to match your exact needs.

Let’s get right to it and talk about some of the best computers for animation!

Our Top Picks

A Powerful Computer With Keyboard And Mouse
iBUYPOWER Element 9260 Gaming PC
iBUYPOWER Gaming PC Computer Desktop Element 9260
Powerful Machine For A Decent Price
Skytech Blaze 3.0 Gaming PC Desktop
Skytech Blaze 3.0 (3700X)
Comes With A Terrific 5K Display
Apple iMac Pro
Apple iMac Pro

How We Choose

Before we choose to recommend any particular product, be it a pre-built PC or a list of components to build one with, we make sure to put it all through some rather extensive testing.

We strongly believe that everyone deserves to get the best bang for their buck, and we know that this may be hard to do without knowing the specs inside-out. It’s easy to fall prey to colorful advertisements that promise supreme performance. However, the only way to truly know what you’re getting is to do a whole lot of research before pressing that exciting “order now” button.

We only recommend a product once we’re satisfied with our picks and confident that they will never disappoint. The point is to let us do all the research for you, sit back, and wait for your new dream-machine to arrive — it’s that simple!

How We Test

Testing plays a key part in our choosing a particular product over another. Not many users are able to test-drive their new computer before bringing it home, and testing is often where the most valuable information comes from.

While manufacturers do provide us with a vast array of information, not only can it be confusing, it can also at times be misleading. That’s why we focus on not just testing but also researching the feedback that comes from other users.

The main part of our job is to spend countless hours searching for the best options, comparing prices, components, and user reviews. Once that is done, we like to take the machine for a spin. This involves benchmarking and testing under heavy loads, which are very typical when it comes to animation. The ideal PC will be able to handle nearly everything you throw at it — and it will do so without breaking a sweat.

Once we push the machine to the very limit, we consider other things such as component quality, which is an important factor in pre-built PCs. We also compare the pricing to the actual value of what you’re getting — no one likes to get ripped off!

With all the information we manage to gather from our testing, we can then, at the end of the day, truly say that the products on our list are among the best of the best.

Things To Consider

You already know that you want to buy a brand new PC for animation, and you’ve had a quick look at our favorite options. We will introduce them to you properly below, but before we do, we want to make sure you know exactly what type of PC you need.

Let’s take a look at some of the things to consider before making your choice.

What Specs Do I Need For Animation?

Whether you’re a budding animator on a quest for your first PC or a pro with years of experience under your belt, this is a question you probably ask yourself: what kind of specs does my future PC need to have?

It’s easy to be led to believe that you need the absolute best of everything, but that is not always the case. However, we freely admit that when it comes to animation, you need to be looking for a really strong computer. Below we will describe the most important components in a pre-built PC.

Processor (CPU)

The processor is the most important part of any PC, be it a gaming computer or an animation powerhouse. During rendering, your CPU is going to be running at 100% for the entire time. On top of that, it needs to be fast in order to not slow you down as you’re working.

The type of CPU will depend on your budget. The latest builds include either an Intel i9 or an AMD Ryzen 9 processor. These CPUs can be overclocked to up to a showstopping 5 GHz. Of course, using this type of processor is not a necessity, but the general rule of thumb is the stronger the better.

Memory (RAM)

As your computer is going to be performing a lot of tasks at once, and all of them rather heavy-duty, we recommend picking a model that has a good amount of RAM. Nearly every modern PC has at least 8 GB, but it’s better to aim higher.

For smooth performance and seamless rendering, you’ll want to look at 16 GB RAM at the minimum, with 24-32 being the recommended amount.

Graphics Card (GPU)

A strong GPU is crucial in an animator’s desktop, especially if you are looking to do 3D animation. The right graphics card will allow your PC to perform tasks such as mapping, modeling, and animation in both 2D and 3D, and it will do so without any issues.

While some pre-built PCs come with integrated graphic cards, all of our recommendations have dedicated GPUs. These are known to be way more powerful and capable of aiding your animation work.

Storage (SSD and HDD)

High-quality animation projects take up a whole lot of space on your hard drive, and this is why you will need quite a bit of storage. Especially if you’re a professional that does a lot of animation, you will find that the more the better is also true for your HDD or SSD space.

An SSD is almost a must these days, as it ensures that your most important programs, including your operating system, run seamlessly and at near-light speed. However, if you don’t want to invest in a massive 1 TB SSD, it’s okay to pick a model with a smaller SSD and a huge HDD.

What Else Do I Need?

The PCs on our list all meet the above recommendations, but a desktop alone will not suffice. As an animator, you will also need to invest in a couple more things to set you off on the right foot.

If the thought of having to empty your wallet is scary, don’t worry. Cheaper options are absolutely possible and well within your reach! Before we discuss the various prices and how they fit within your budget, let’s take a look at what else you’ll need other than just your new beast of a PC.

  • An animating tablet – this is something most animators use to create and bring their works to life. When it comes to tablets, you will find that there is a full range of options, starting from fairly cheap all the way to premium products. In general, it’s good to buy a tablet of a similar tier to your PC — you don’t want to go cheap if your PC is capable of doing so much more.
  • Operating system – whether you’re a fan of Windows, Mac or Linux, most animating software is adapted to all three. It’s best to go with what you’re comfortable with.
  • Dual monitors – there is almost no way around this as an animator. You can splurge and invest in huge IPS screens, which are known for their true-to-life colors, or you can save and pick something else. However, you will most likely need two for efficient work.

What Kind of a Budget Do I Need for a Computer for Animation?

No matter if you’re looking for a massive powerhouse or a good starting point, your budget will always play a role in your final decision. When it comes to pre-built PCs, the price difference between different models may be staggering and reach up to thousands of dollars.

If you’re a professional, it’s likely that this will not be your first desktop for animation. For those that perform heavy rendering, especially in 3D, the prices may seem a little steep. However, keep in mind that for every dollar you invest, you are receiving a range of features that stand out from the competition.

On the other hand, if you know you won’t need the absolute best specs on the market, you can still achieve fantastic results without paying for the latest builds.

To make things easier for you, we’ve prepared an approximate price range for different pre-built desktops for animation.

  • Low-end PC for animation – $600-1000
  • Low-end PC for 3D animation – $750-1200
  • Mid-range PC for animation (2D and 3D) – $1200-1800
  • High-end PC for animation (2D and 3D) – $2000+

It’s worth noting that some of the top models on the market can cost upwards of $4000. While this certainly is not cheap, don’t forget that you will get an incredible machine in return for your investment, and it will definitely last you years.

The The 5 Best Computers For Animation In 2020 & 2021

iBUYPOWER Element 9260 Gaming PC
iBUYPOWER Gaming PC Computer Desktop Element 9260
Skytech Blaze 3.0 Gaming PC Desktop
Skytech Blaze 3.0 (3700X)
CUK Aegis
CUK Aegis R Gaming Desktop
OMEN by HP Desktop Computer
OMEN by HP Desktop Computer

In-depth Review

A Powerful Computer With Keyboard And Mouse
iBUYPOWER Gaming PC Computer Desktop Element 9260
iBUYPOWER Element 9260 Gaming PC
CPU Intel Core i7-9700F
GPU GTX 1660 Ti 6GB
Storage 240GB SSD & 1TB HDD
  • Excellent performance in animation, video editing, graphic work
  • Comes with a keyboard and mouse
  • Great cost-to-performance ratio
  • Exciting RGB design
  • The colored lights within the case do not come with a remote

The iBUYPOWER 9260 may not be the monster of a PC that you would find in the $5000 price range, but it still manages to blow many of its competitors out of the water. Thanks to its sheer power and performance, it has truly earned its spot at the very top of our list.

This is a versatile and well-designed desktop PC that will suit both animators and gamers alike, providing superior results in both of those activities. It sports a wide range of features that most PC users aim for and it delivers excellent results in all of its benchmarks. However, before we get down to the details, let’s talk about the design.

While not the most important part of any computer, the case in this model follows the latest trends and is sure to shine in every office space. Circular RGB lights adorn the front of the case and also light up the inside of it, allowing you to see the components in all of their glory — and they’re truly nothing to turn your nose up at.

This desktop features, among others, an i7-9700F CPU with 8 cores and a maximum overclocking capability of 4.70GHz in turbo mode. This makes it very well suited to animation, as a lot of the things you do will rely on the power of your processor.

Aside from 16GB RAM, you will also find an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB dedicated graphics card, which is yet another staple for animation computers. As far as disk space goes, this model has enough for most people: a 1TB HDD for storage and a 240GB SSD for the operating system and your essential programs.

If you’re looking for a PC that is powerful on its own, capable of aiding you in every single task, and also has room for expansion — we firmly believe that you can’t go wrong with iBUYPOWER 9260.

Powerful Machine For A Decent Price
Skytech Blaze 3.0 (3700X)
Skytech Blaze 3.0 Gaming PC Desktop
CPU AMD Ryzen 7 3700X
Storage 1TB SSD
  • Incredible Ryzen 7 CPU
  • 8GB graphics card
  • Large SSD
  • Capable of performing multiple demanding tasks at once
  • No HDD, only an SSD

This eye-catching pre-built SkyTech Blaze PC has impressed us not just with its unique look but also with its performance. Made with some of the latest components, we believe that it is an investment worth making.

Just as the iBUYPOWER model described above, SkyTech makes sure that your desktop will not blend in. White cases are unusual enough on their own these days, but if you combine them with vibrant RGB lighting inside the case, you get yourself a powerhouse disguised as true eye candy.

When we say powerhouse, we mean nothing less than that. Just a quick glance at the specs of SkyTech will tell you as much. It features one of the latest Ryzen 7 CPUs, the 5800X, which can successfully be overclocked to 4.7GHz in turbo mode. The processor is one of the best in today’s market, offering up 8 cores combined with 16 threads. For animation, where a good CPU is crucial, this is truly outstanding.

SkyTech does not fall behind in terms of its graphics card: the RTX 3070 that is included in this build has a whopping 8GB of memory, which also means that this will do well even with 3D animation.

While the lack of a regular hard drive can be a bit of a downside, SkyTech has decked this PC out with a massive 1TB SSD. The RAM, on the other hand, is an acceptable 16GB and can be upgraded.

If you want to make sure that your money goes towards something that will not be obsolete in a year or two, we recommend checking this PC out.

Comes With A Terrific 5K Display
Apple iMac Pro
Apple iMac Pro
CPU Intel i7 3.8GHz
GPU Radeon Pro 5500XT
Storage Space 512GB SSD
Screen Size 27”
Weight 9.7kg
  • Comes with an amazing 27-inch Retina 5k display
  • Smooth and reliable performance
  • Effortlessly handles video editing, streaming, animation, 3D modeling
  • It's not a budget option

Whether you like Apple’s Mac computers or not, it’s hard to deny that they come with their fair share of merits. There’s a reason why many graphic designers or animators choose to work with Macs. If you’re not against trying one out, take a look at this particular model.

The first thing you’re going to love about iMac is the fact that it comes with a 27-inch diagonal Retina 5K display. It’s an impressive screen with a whopping 5120×2880 resolution and support for one billion colors. That alone makes this a solid pick for animators and other creative users.

The 3.2GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W processor doesn’t break a sweat as it renders, streams, and plays multiple things at once. Macs are often praised for their reliable performance and we found that to be true here, as the CPU did not falter even during heavy testing. This is further improved by the massive amount of RAM: 32GB with the possibility to add up to 128GB.

When it comes to the Radeon Pro Vega 56 GPU, we believe that this is what makes this PC more of a workstation than a gaming PC. The GPU has a lot of memory (8GB) but is not one of the latest models, so it may not shine in every game. However, it can still handle most AAA titles!

If you’re not on a tight budget and you’re a fan of Apple, this computer will definitely serve you well for both work and play alike!

Comes With A Powerful CPU And Plenty Of Storage Space
CUK Aegis R Gaming Desktop
CUK Aegis
CPU Intel Core i9 10900KF
GPU RTX 3070
Storage 1TB NVMe SSD & 2TB HDD
  • Lots of dual storage
  • Can handle 4 monitors with an ease
  • Silky smooth performance
  • The graphics card is not the newest model

AMD has its share of fans just as Intel does, and oftentimes, those fans are very loyal to their preferred brand. If this is you and you would rather try out an AMD processor for your animation needs, you don’t need to look any further.

A lot of things make this PC stand out from the crowd, but the massive dual storage is sure to be one of its best perks. A combination of a 1TB SSD and a 2TB HDD is quite rare. It ensures that even if you do a lot of space-consuming work, you won’t run out of room on your drive. What’s more, having such a huge SSD promises swift performance in every program you may want to run.

CUK’s Intel i9 CPU runs an impressive 3.7GHz but can be overclocked up to 5.3GHz, making it a strong contender for animators. It’s admired for its seamless performance that doesn’t stutter even under stress.

We mentioned that most animators tend to use at least a dual-screen setup — with this PC, you can make that up to four. Thanks to the great CPU and the solid graphics card, Dell Inspiron is able to handle as many as four screens at once without drops in speed or framerates.

It’s true that this desktop doesn’t have the absolute latest processor or GPU, but don’t let that put you off. It’s a very strong choice for fans of Intel and due to the high-quality of its components, it’s certainly not going to disappoint.

A Premium PC WIth Water Cooling
OMEN by HP Desktop Computer
OMEN by HP Desktop Computer
CPU Intel i7-9700K
RAM 16GB DDR4-2666
  • Exceptional water cooling
  • High performance
  • Suited for both casual and demanding users
  • Only one HDMI video output

What does this PC not have? That’s easier to say than to list all of the features that make it a solid pick for an animator. If budget is not your main concern, we recommend taking a closer look at this particular build.

Much like the first two models on our best computers for animation list, the OMEN stands out from the get-go thanks to the incredibly sleek and elegant modern design. The case is somewhat muted and will not overpower your setup, but it’s clear to see that this is a high-end machine built from top-quality components.

The same is true for what’s inside. The i7-9700K is an 8-core processor that runs at 3.60GHz. While it can’t be overclocked as much as some other models can, it’s powerful enough to not require it at all. It also promises great stability thanks to its liquid cooling system.

The fantastic processor is paired with an equally good graphics card. RTX 2080 with 8 GB of memory is a card that will not falter even during rendering or 3D modeling. If you’re also a gamer after hours, you’ll be pleased to know that this card can run practically every game at ultra settings. It still remains among some of the best on the market, even months after its release.

16GB RAM is the cherry on top of this high-end PC. Many users recommend picking up another 16GB stick to make it even faster, but it’s not a necessity. This is a computer that can stand on its own two legs without any additional expenses. If you’re looking for a long-term investment, OMEN might just be the desktop for you.

The 5 Best Computers For Animation In 2020 & 2021 frequently asked questions

What Computers Do Pixar Animators Use?

Animators at Pixar use a variety of different computers to create their amazing movies. Which computer is preferred depends on the department. Employees that don’t work on 3D art and focus on preliminary aspects of the design process like concept art are likely to use high-powered Apple Macs.

Those heavily involved in the 3D art pipeline use Linux-based computers loaded with Pixar’s patented Presto animation software. Some of these Linux-operated computers at the core of Pixar’s animation process will also feature Windows software, so they have access to important Windows-only programs.

When the design work is complete and the time comes to render the final sequence, no one computer is responsible. They’ll use what is known as a render farm. These are full arrays of server-grade computers with the sole task of rendering.

Is Intel or AMD Better for Animation?

Both Intel and AMD make awesome CPUs for animation. Their high-end models all feature a wealth of multithreaded (hyperthreaded in Intel tongue) cores, which exactly what the doctor ordered for bringing your creations to life.

Even though the top picks at the minute are largely Intel creations, if we had to pick just one champion of the animation world, it’d have to be AMD.

Whereas most Intel CPUs are fractionally faster for gaming due to their snappy single-core speeds, AMD chips tend to hold the premium on cores, making them the best for handling creative workflows.

It’s not just animation AMD CPUs excel at, but any sort of computational multitasking, so if you like to listen to music or hoarding tabs while you work on your animations, they’re probably the way to go.

That’s not to say that Intel CPUs aren’t capable of similar performance. It’s just that their best won’t be quite as efficient as AMD’s best for animation.

What Computers Do Disney Animators Use?

As far as anyone knows, Disney has been using Hewlett-Packard Workstations since 2002, and just like Pixar, they rely heavily on Linux as an operating system.

Being that Disney bought Pixar in 2006, it wouldn’t surprise us if they had identical tech. What has been established is that Disney uses the Pixar-developed Presto animation software for the bulk of their productions.

Having decided against developing proprietary CPU and GPU technologies, the specifics of Disney computer builds are probably not all that dissimilar to our own standard high-end systems.

Final Word

Navigating the jungle of pre-built PCs is hard enough when you just need something to run MS Office, and this task is only made harder by adding animation into the mix.

Computers built for animation are true powerhouses that will not just help you with animating and rendering. They will run practically any game at the highest settings and suit most other uses one could possibly think of.

We hope that our article has helped you make your decision. Now that you know everything there is to know, all that remains is to make your final choice, and then, at long last, enjoy your brand new PC.

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