Best Computer for Animation (For Improved Workflows) in 2021


Animation brings virtual worlds to reality, it brings our wild imagination into the real world. When searching for the best computer for animation, you need to pick well and carefully. In this post, I have put together the Best Computer for Animation on the market currently. 

Best Computer for Animation

1. Lenovo Thinkstation p520c (Best Animation Computer)

2. HP Z6 Workstation (Runner up #1)

3. ASUS Pro Art PA90 Mini PC (Runner up #2)

4. iMac Pro (Notable Mention)

5. Microsoft Surface Studio 2 (Best touchscreen Computer)

1. Lenovo Thinkstation p520c (Best Computer for Animation)

The Lenovo Thinkstation p520c is our winner for this round-up as it has the best price to performance ratio. This machine pushes out the power you may need for your animation tasks on demand. It comes featured with an Intel Xeon W-series processor which can iterate through tasks swiftly. 

The Lenovo Thinkstation comes with an option to pick between 2 graphics processors. The NVIDIA Quadro RTX 4000 and the NVIDIA Quadro P5000. You also get to add one or 2 of any given GPUs. You get 4 4‐CH DIMM Slots and you can have up to 128GBs of RAM installed. The storage upgradability on the other hand is great. You get up to 12 installed hard drives and up to 4 internal storage bays. You can have up to 60TBs of HDD Memory and up to 20 TB of solid-state memory. This works well for those super huge scenes you may encounter.

The connectivity is profound as well. You get 2x USB-C and USB 3.1 Gen Type-A on the front panel. 4 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A, and 2 x USB 2.0 Type-A on the rear. There are optional slots for thunderbolt 3 connections and an eSATA connection. The motherboard comes with multiple PCI-e slots for upgrades. This is the machine that may work you wonders in the animation world. Is featured on the NVIDIA website for Quadro workstations. And, it comes at a reasonable price for such a profound machine compared to the others.

PROS

  • Silent Machine
  • Simple component servicing
  • Nvidia Quadro GPU’s
  • Excellent performance and scalability
  • ISV certified
  • Three-year warranty

CONS

  • No Intel Core X-Series option
  • Drive bays aren’t accessible from outside
  • No removable dust filters

2. HP Z6 Workstation (Runner up #1)

The Z6 is a profound machine for animation as it comes equipped with 2x NVIDIA Quadro RTX 6000 Graphics cards. It is ideal for VFX and rendering and it leaves room for upgradability. In most circumstances, this may not be necessary. With the HP Z6 workstation, you get up to 384GBs of RAM which is the most memory on the animation computer on this list. You get up to 36TBs of Storage with 4 storage bays for your HHDs and 2 M.2 slots for your SSDs, Storage for days!

This machine is future-proofed as it comes with a CPU and memory riser connector that enables you to add a second CPU and more DIMM slots. You get 6 PCIe slots for added graphics cards and memory. It comes featured with Intel Optane memory support built to enable faster computation. 

The HP Z6 is created with massive upgradability in mind. It is future-proofed and powerful for your animation needs. The company that produced the Peter Rabbit movie (Animal Logic) used the HP Z workstations to render the film. This is by far the most powerful machine on the list which is why it gets second place.

PROS

  • Nvidia Quadro GPU’s
  • Great upgradability

CONS

  • Big Case

3. ASUS Pro Art PA90 Mini PC (Runner up #2)

The Asus Pro Art PA90 Mini is one of the best computers for animation if you are working in a small work area. It comes with NVIDIA’s Quadro P4000 GPU which is dedicated to output great performance on demand. 

This machine may be considered a “mini” machine but it’s an immaculate work of art. With intel’s 9th Gen Core processors you have the processing power to take on any task that comes your way. You have up to 64GB pre-installed RAM which may be enough to keep your machine snappy under heavy workloads.

You get 2x USB 3.1 Gen 2 on the front panel and 2x on the back panel. Onboard you get 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD however, this is upgradable to 512GB if you need the extra storage. It comes with 4 display ports which are ideal for the additional screens that may convenience your workflow. And, you get 2 thunderbolt ports.

 This machine is ideal if you plan on moving or changing work areas as it lessens the load you need to carry. A convenient animator desktop computer

PROS

  • Some upgradability built-in
  • Category-leading performance
  • Good vertical design with dynamic airflow and water cooling

CONS

  • No HDMI Ports
  • Quite tall for a mini-computer

4. Apple iMac Pro (Notable Mention)

The iMac Pro has been around for a while now and it has been a profound machine for professionals alike. Although it doesn’t come with NVIDIA graphics cards, it features great graphics from AMD. You can pick between the Radeon Pro Vega 56, the Radeon Pro Vega 64, and the Radeon Pro Vega 64X graphics processor. These produce enough power for most of your workflow needs.

The iMac Pro is configurable with a processor of up to 18 cores in the Intel Xeon which produces 2.3GHz and 4.3GHz when turbo-boosted. You can view your models on a stunning 27” 5K retina display with support for over 1 billion colors. Off the bat, the iMac Pro comes with 32GB of 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory (RAM). It is configurable to up to 256GB of 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory which is a boatload and enough to handle heavy tasks.

The pre-installed memory is quite impressive as well. It comes featured with 1TB of SSD storage but it is configurable to up to 4TB of SSD Storage. 

When talking connectivity for the iMac Pro, the machine comes 10G Ethernet Port for lightning speed connection. Although a little outdated, it comes featured with four USB-A ports. These may be compatible with most of the external devices you use in your workflow. 

This is a prestigious machine with a hefty price to it. If you arent concerned about the price then this is a machine I’d recommend for your animation endeavors.

PROS

  • Very Powerful
  • Stays cool
  • Stunning space grey color
  • Excellent design

CONS

  • Very expensive
  • Not upgradable by user

5. Microsoft Surface Studio 2 (Best touchscreen Computer)

For our only touchscreen workstation machine. We have the Microsoft Surface Studio 2 workstation computer. This compact machine comes with a sleek irresistible high-quality design. But, that doesn’t serve the purpose of a good workstation PC. As an animator or a modeler or a concept artist, you need to have a Wacom tablet. Well, when you are equipped with the Surface Studio 2 there is no need to have an external drawing tablet. The 28” PixelSense Display works as a drawing tablet so the added costs aren’t considered. 

The screen is a 10 point multi-touch screen that comes with a Surface Pen with tilt activation and a Zero Gravity Hinge. It also comes with a surface dial for added features like color correction. You can get up to 32GB of DDR4 memory which is enough for a lot of the animation and rigging tasks. You have the option of either 1TB or 2TB of solid-state memory pre-installed. 

Speaking of graphics, you get an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB GDDR5 or an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 8GB GDDR5. These Graphics cards may be beneficial for dealing with the large scene but there may be a ceiling with these GeForce GPUs. You can add a single 4K UHD display (@60Hz) or two 4K UHD displays (@30Hz). This is a good machine for people who do rigging, doing animation keyframes, concept art, or Zbrush modeling. This computer is a good candidate for the best computer for animation. 

PROS

  • Good bright display
  • PCIe SSDs
  • Higher contrast ratio
  • Performance improvements compared to the previous version

CONS

  • Not all parts are next generation
  • Pricey

What do you need to consider when picking out a Pre-built Animation Computer?

Is the Graphics Processor the right one?

Most pros will tell you that any gaming graphics card will do when considering graphics cards for animation. Although, I recently learned that there are graphics cards that are geared towards 3D software. The graphics cards geared towards 3D animation are more expensive and there is a reason for that. In some benchmark tests, they don’t outperform the gaming GPUs. The Animation graphics cards (i.e NVIDIA’s Quadro & Titan cards) have features that aren’t available on the GeForce graphics cards. These features are specific to 3D software and workstation computers in general. They speed up rendering and simplify your workflow. So when picking a computer you want to rely on for years to come, consider that!

Is the Processor Fast enough for your animator computer?

In the world of 3D animation, the more speed you have the better the experience, that’s a no-brainer. In most circumstances, you don’t need 5GHz clock speeds but higher clocks speed up your workflow. As an animator, you deal with a ton of deadlines so speedy renders are beneficial. There is a multitude of CPUs out there but generally, anything with 3.5GHz and 8 to 10 Cores will work well for animation. The GPUs are your biggest concern as they do most of the heavy lifting.

RAM Capacity

When looking at buying a new workspace computer for 3D work, considering the RAM capacity is vital as it plays a role in the computer speed. A good place to start is at 16GB of RAM. Anything above that will be better. 

Connectivity on your animator computer

Connectivity is a big one! As an artist in the animation space, having enough ports will ease the workflow and save you money on buying external USB ports. You need to consider ports that are compatible with your devices. Luckily, most of the computers mentioned in this roundup are next-generation. This means they are compatible with most Wacom devices and other external devices you might have.

Best Computer for Animation
Photo by Patrick Campanale on Unsplash

SSD Speed and Storage?

As you know, 3D scene files can take up a lot of space. Preparing the files for compositing can only mean larger files as everyone wants to work in 8K these days. The demand for output is only increasing and our computers need to keep up. You don’t need 3 Terabytes of M.2 storage (SSD) pre-installed on your PC because you can get an external SSD. But, you need fast storage drives for quick file transfers from software to software. All the computers mentioned have a good amount of storage pre-installed so you are good to go there.

Design of your workspace

Based on our preferences, we all have different workstation setups. What’s comfortable for one person isn’t for the other. Take into account the size of your workroom and the setup you are going for. If you have a compact area then the ASUS P90 will work magic. If you aren’t so worried about the space then anything goes. 

Best computers for animation
Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

Final Words

When picking your computer you need to consider the tasks that you will be performing. We went with the Lenovo Thinkstation p520c as the winner because it is a powerful PC that can handle most processors you may encounter. And, the price is quite generous. It is a machine that falls between compact and industry size. This makes it good for upgradability while leaving with a little room to work with on your desk. 

As always shoot me an email if you have any questions or hiccups. I’m here to get things moving.