Home > GPU > GPU Buyer's Guide

Best GPUs for 3D animation 2024 – our top budget and high-end graphics cards

Here's why the RTX 4090 needs to be top-of-the-list for those serious about animation
Last Updated on April 15, 2024
An Asus ROG Strix GeForce RTX 4090 graphics card box, one of the best workstation GPUs, on a desk with colorful lighting in the background.

Finding the right graphics card (GPU) for animation can be a pretty daunting task. Whatever level you’re at, you’re going to need to invest a high-quality GPU and ensure it’s paired with a multi-core CPU to maximise multi-tasking potential. That means you’re going to need to spend a bit of cash if you’re wanting to get a cutting-edge workstation. The good news is that there are plenty of options available.

Here, we’ll guide you through some of the top GPUs that are typically favored by professionals in the animation industry for their reliability and performance.

Products at a Glance

Nvidia’s GPUs have carved out a niche in the animation and creative fields thanks to their robust architecture and CUDA core technology, which accelerates rendering tasks that are essential in animation workflows. Animators often lean towards the best graphics cards from Nvidia not only for the raw power but also for features like RTX ray tracing, which can render lifelike lighting and shadows, and AI-assisted tools that can simplify and enhance the creative process.

How we picked the best GPUs for computer animation

When pinpointing the best GPUs for computer animation, our approach involves an in-depth analysis of benchmarks and user feedback focused specifically on creative and animation tasks. We acknowledge that a GPU’s prowess in gaming does not necessarily equate to superior performance in animation applications, which often leverage different aspects of the GPU’s architecture and technology. We’ve also stress-tested a majority of the latest GPUs in our own in-house testing facility. This involves putting them through benchmarks against a handful of demanding AAA games, as well as synthetic benchmarks such as Fire Strike Ultra and Cinebench.

Our selection process also gives weight to the broader ecosystem surrounding the GPU, including the quality of driver support, the frequency of updates, and the manufacturer’s track record with creative applications. If this guide isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, we also have a broader guide to the best GPUs, and the best graphics cards under $200 for budget picks. Let’s kick off.

Our Recommended

Product Reviews

  • Unmatched power in single-GPU performance - the best card on the market right now
  • Surpisingly efficient power consumption for its class
  • High-quality build and effective cooling in the model we tested
  • Simply massive 24GB of GDDR6X memory
  • Potential to bottleneck with some CPUs, so ensure you're pairing it with a top-level chip
  • Extremely large, challenging to fit in standard builds - very much a workstation card
  • Premium price point - the 4080 Super offers near 4090 performance for cheaper

The ASUS TUF Gaming NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 OC is a titan in the realm of graphics cards, offering ferocious power that sets new benchmarks for single-GPU performance. In our hands-on review of the RTX 4090, we awarded the card a stunning 4.5 out of five, thanks to its class-leading performance across all of our benchmarks. Under the hood there’s a colossal 24 GB of GDDR6X memory and a boost clock of 2595 MHz. In short, this GPU is nothing short of a powerhouse.

Designed with NVIDIA’s latest Ada Lovelace Streaming Multiprocessors, it offers a performance and energy efficiency that’s twice as formidable as its predecessors, making it a highly sought-after component for professional animators and game developers. What truly sets the RTX 4090 OC apart are its 4th Generation Tensor Cores and 3rd Generation RT Cores, which significantly enhance AI performance and ray tracing capabilities. This results in breathtakingly realistic animations and graphics, allowing creatives to push the boundaries of visual storytelling. The powerful graphics card also maintains ASUS’s reputation for quality, with exceptional Founders Edition build quality and Axial Tech fans that provide increased airflow for better cooling. Opt for the ASUS TUF Gaming variant if you’re looking for similar performance to what we found – just make sure you have a poweful enough Power Supply Unit (PSU) and CPU.

  • Fantastic all-rounder for those wanting a work and play GPU
  • Stunning looks and near-best-in-class benchmarking performance
  • Outperforms the original RTX 4080 - but not enough to upgrade
  • Still expensive although we should see prices drop this year
  • Potential to be overkill so make sure you assess exactly what you need it for
  • Pair with a strong CPU to avoid bottlenecks

The ASUS TUF Gaming NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 OC may be the champion in our list, the RTX 4080 Super is’t too far behind. In our RTX 4080 Super review, we scored it a commendable 4/5 – highlighting its versatility as both a top-end, 4K gaming beast as well as a GPU more than happy to gets its hand dirty with editing. Across our benchamrks, the 4080 Super unsurprisingly outperformed the original RTX 4080 it replaced, even managing to give the RTX 4090 a run for its money. Of note here is the 4080 Super’s performance across both 3D Mark and Blender 4.0, which yielded impressive results.

It’s cheaper than the 4090, too, and with a substantial 16GB GDDR6X VRAM on a 256-bit memory bus, you’ve got plenty of horsepower for both animation and gaming. This makes the 4080 Super a decent choice for those wanting a powerful rig, but not wanting to pay the RTX 4090’s premium price tag. Still, at around $999, the Super is far from cheap. This, combined with the fact you’re going to probably want an i9 CPU (or AMD equiavlent), and you could be spending a decent chunk on getting the right rig.

  • Robust performance for animation tasks makes it a decent performer for the price
  • Generous 12GB GDDR6X memory - so plenty of headroom
  • Prices are coming down as they have been replaced by the Super cards
  • Outperformed by RTX 4070 Ti Super - a better, newer card
  • Not the ideal choice for those wanting a powerful workstation with serious animation potential

The RTX 4070 Ti is a formidable contender in the mid-range graphics card segment, boasting strong performance credentials with 12GB of GDDR6X VRAM and a boost clock speed of 2625 MHz. Awarding it a 3/5 in our RTX 4070 Ti review, we foud the card did especially well in our synthetic performance tests. In fact, itt made light work of 3DMark’s various suites of benchmarking tools including Fire Strike, Time Spy, and Port Royal. Sure, the results were not to the level of the RTX 4080 / Super and the RTX 4090, but considering its specs and price point, we can conclude the 4070Ti’s productivity capabilities remain solid. Add to the mix NVIDIA’s Ada Lovelace architecture and DLSS 3, and you’ve got a well-rounded package perfect for animators who require high performance in their rendering and real-time graphics work.

  • Massive 24GB VRAM for demanding projects - and can be picked up far cheaper in 2024 than when it launched
  • Efficient cooling with iCX3 technology - and built on the solid Ampere architecture
  • Strong build quality and performance - making it a strong rival to mid-range 40 Series cards
  • Large size may be an issue for some setups
  • Outpaced by newer models - especially the RTX 4090
  • Can be expensive for budget-conscious users, so be sure to shop around

The EVGA GeForce RTX 3090 FTW3 stands tall as a runner-up choice for animators, offering an impressive 24GB of GDDR6X VRAM and a GPU clock speed that can reach 1800 MHz. This card’s raw power and substantial memory make it ideal for handling the most demanding animation and rendering workloads with ease.

Equipped with EVGA’s iCX3 technology, the RTX 3090 FTW3 is built to manage heat effectively, ensuring stable performance even during extended rendering tasks. The card’s design is tailored for durability, featuring a solid metal backplate that adds rigidity and helps dissipate heat. Animators can expect smooth frame rates and rapid rendering times, which are crucial for a streamlined creative process. Despite its powerhouse status, the RTX 3090 FTW3 does come with considerations, such as its size, which may not fit comfortably in all cases. It’s also important to note that for some users, the performance gains might not justify the cost when compared to newer models with similar specs. Nevertheless, for animation professionals looking for a card that can keep up with their intensive workflows, the EVGA RTX 3090 FTW3 is a compelling option – even with the 40 Series cards now well into their lifespan.

Features and considerations

When it comes to selecting a GPU that’s tailor-made for the rigors of computer animation, it’s essential to look beyond the standard metrics like clock speeds and gaming performance benchmarks. Animators need a GPU that is adept at rendering complex 3D scenes, with ample VRAM to handle high-resolution textures and models, and a multitude of CUDA cores to expedite the rendering process. Ray tracing capabilities are a bonus, as they bring a new level of realism to lighting and shadows, which can be a game-changer for animation quality. Compatibility is another crucial factor; ensuring that the GPU you choose works harmoniously with industry-standard software can streamline your creative process significantly, resulting in excellent performance.

Our Verdict

The ASUS TUF Gaming NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 OC is our absolute no-brainer when it comes to wanting the best gpu for your animation needs. Not only do you get a huge 24GB of  GDDR6X memory, but you’re getting the latest Ada architecture and the Tensor cores to match. Add to the mix DLSS 3.0 and industry-leading benchmarking performance across both gaming and synthetic benchmarks and you have an ideal choice for animators demanding high-quality renders and real-time graphics processing. Just make sure both your CPU and RAM is up to scratch, as opting for lower-end tech here will seriously limit your workstation.

For those on a budget, the last-gen RTX 3090 or even the 4070Ti remain solid choices – both of which have been replaced by newer models so expect prices to continue to fall. If you’re still on the fence, make sure to check out our best GPUs, where you’ll see our very favorite graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia.