Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)

The Best GPU for Rendering: Updated for New Releases


Updated 10/13/2020

The best GPUs for rendering and gaming—taking into account the new NVIDIA 30-series lineup and AMD’s new releases—are:

  1. NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 is the best overall GPU.

  2. NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 is best for someone on a budget.

  3. NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 is best for rendering in 3D.

  4. NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 is best for 4K gaming.

As you can see, all of our top picks are NVIDIA GeForce RTX graphic cards. There’s a reason for this. NVIDIA revolutionized the PC gaming market with the invention of the GPU way back in 1999, and has been continuing to innovate ever since. You simply can’t be disappointed when you choose one of their GPUs, no matter your specific needs.

We can’t forget about AMD, and we don’t. With roots going back to the company’s origins at the very beginning of computing in 1969, AMD is now focused on developing high-performance computing and visualization products. Their graphics solutions have transformed the way we work and game. Below, you’ll read more about their new 2020 graphics cards, some of which may rival NVIDIA’s top line. 


What’s the Difference Between a CPU and a GPU?

The difference between a CPU (central processing unit) and a GPU (graphics processing unit) when it comes to rendering and simulating, is the speed at which they can complete it. A GPU is much faster at this process than a CPU.

Here’s why.

A GPU Doesn’t Share Processes

From your operating system to your browser, all of your computer programs are run through your CPU. You can open up your Task Manager and go to the Processes tab to see a list of the things your CPU is processing right now. It’s probably a lot.

When you tell your 3D program to render or crank out a simulation through your CPU, the system has to balance the processing of the render alongside all of the other programs that are running. 

Since other programs don’t run in the GPU when you’re rendering or simulating through it, it’s able to focus all of its power on the task at hand without other programs needing to be processed at the same time.

A GPU Has Dedicated Memory

Another reason your GPU can help speed up your workflow is because the RAM on your graphics card is typically dedicated solely to anything you’re rendering out on your GPU. This is a lot like not having to share processes—your 3D program doesn’t have to share system RAM with other applications when it’s rendering on the GPU.

Keeping both the processing and RAM dedicated to calculating your renders, simulations, or whatever else you’re calculating on the GPU, will also free up your CPU and system RAM for running the other programs on your system.

GPU Cores are Designed to Optimize the Rendering Process

If you’ve looked into buying CPUs, you’ll know they generally have multiple cores. For example, Intel processors feature up to 18 cores that are great for extreme gaming and high-end content creation. These cores are optimized for sequential serial processing, which maximizes the performance of a single task. 

However, most current-generation graphics cards have thousands of cores, meaning GPUs can complete tasks 50-100 times faster when those tasks require multiple parallel processes. 

Such tasks include:

  • Rotating CAD drawings

  • Rendering and simulation in 3D

  • Deep machine learning

  • Processing millions of high-resolution images

  • Big data analysis

  • Massive calculations


The Best GPU for Rendering 3D, VFX, Game Development, or Active Gaming

Whether you need a graphics card for VFX, a video card for game development, or a GPU for gaming, Pluralsight has gathered our top picks, including some of the latest and greatest. You can’t be disappointed in any of these choices. In fact, you’ll be absolutely thrilled. You can trust us on that.

Check them out!

The Best GPU Overall: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080

CUDA Cores: 8704

Core Clock: 1.71 GHz boost


Power Connectors: 2x PCIe 8-pin (1x 12-pin For FE Edition)

Outputs: HDMI 2.1, 3x DisplayPort 1.4a

MSRP: $699.00

With the amount of computing power that the RTX 3080 pumps out and the relatively affordable price it commands, the 3080 makes a very strong case for the best GPU on the market. 

Between its ability to bring 4k gaming into the mainstream and its overall speed being sufficient for average creative users, we feel very confident in naming this our best GPU overall. 

Best GPU for People on a Budget: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 (Releasing October 2020)

CUDA Cores: 5888

Base / Boost Clock: 1.5GHz / 1.73GHz


Power Connectors: 1x PCIe 8-pin

Outputs: HDMI 2.1, 3x DisplayPort 1.4a

MSRP: $499.00

Yes, we know we are naming an unreleased GPU on this list, but it’s just a few weeks away from being launched. Since we can guess its performance based on its big brothers, we are confident that the RTX 3070 will be the best budget GPU you can get. 

There is technically a cheaper RTX 3060 scheduled for release, but those have historically been true budget GPUs and sometimes don’t offer the same value. The 3070 will be the sweet spot for average GPU needs. 

The Best GPU for Rendering in 3D: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090

CUDA Cores: 10496

Core Clock: 1.40 GHz (1,70 GHz boost)


Power Connectors: 2x PCIe 8-pin

Outputs: HDMI 2.1, 3x DisplayPort 1.4a

MSRP: $1499.00

Where do we start with this behemoth? The RTX 3090 is the current heavyweight champion of the GPU market. It sports a whopping 24GBs of super-fast GDDR6X VRAM and has over 10k CUDA cores. It is a beast at gaming and creative tasks.


The only downside is that the 3090 is pretty pricey, sitting at $1499, but when you consider that the RTX Titan was $2500, people operating in this price range will likely be happy to see this performance at this price. 

The Best GPU for 4K Gaming: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080

CUDA Cores: 8704

Core Clock: 1.71 GHz boost


Power Connectors: 2x PCIe 8-pin (1x 12-pin For FE Edition)

Outputs: HDMI 2.1, 3x DisplayPort 1.4a

MSRP: $699.00

As we said above, the RTX 3080 is a truly great gaming GPU. It can handle almost any game at native 4k while delivering a steady 60 FPS. With NVIDIA’s DLSS 2.1, these numbers are often enhanced even further. DOOM Eternal can operate at over 100 FPS at native 4k, for example, with NVIDIA’s Ray Tracing feature turned on. 

The reason we don’t put the RTX 3090 in this spot is for one simple reason: You only get about 10-15% more performance with the RTX 3090 compared to the 3080, but you would pay more than double the price of the 3080.  


A Word About AMD

While AMD is known to play second fiddle to NVIDIA, the improvements made for their newest graphics cards for VFX are worthy of a mention.

The AMD RX 6000 Series that is aiming to rival NVIDIA’s top-of-the-line Ampere options is on its way, but here’s what you can expect to see from the AMD Ryzen 5000 series:

  • New architecture that uses TSMC’s 7nm Enhanced process node. 

  • A 10-15% IPC improvement.

  • A 50% performance p/watt increase compared to their other offerings.

  • Discrete graphics will also have ray tracing.

  • A similar, effective pricing structure as the Ryzen 3000 CPUs.

Note that the RDNA 2 is also going to be used in the next-gen consoles, such as those from Microsoft and Sony.


Which GPU Are You Considering?

Deciding which GPU you use for your projects or gaming is a very important choice. It can mean the difference between a render taking hours or minutes. This difference in time can determine a project’s success or failure, or being able to effectively play a game or not.

Considering all of the information and recommendations above, which GPU are you considering for your projects? Do you have a favorite GPU that isn’t on the list? Let us know what you think!

If you want to learn more about 3D modeling, VFX, or game development, check out all the resources offered by Pluralsight!