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Building a Computer for Unreal Engine 5 for VFX and Digital Filmmaking

By Filmmaker Team / Updated: January 30, 2024 / 35 min read

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In recent years, Unreal Engine has emerged as a powerful tool for filmmakers in many ways. It can be used to create photo-real digital films; equally, it can be used as a VFX tool in a traditional VFX pipeline, as well as an engine to drive virtual production environments and real-time VFX.

With its high-end material system and powerful rendering, it’s no wonder why filmmakers all around the world are flocking to Unreal Engine 5 for their projects. However, if you want to get the most out of this amazing software, you need to have a computer that is up to the task. Here, we present our guide on building the perfect computer for Unreal Engine 5.

To be clear, this is a guide for making a computer that will be used for Unreal Engine development, not to play games – although it will be plenty capable of playing games if you wish.

Overview

Here are our top picks broken down by price range. Full component-level breakdowns and details are available below.

PartLink
CPU: Intel Core i9-13900KCheck Price
GPU: GeForce RTX 4090Check Price
Memory: SABRENT DDR5 128GBCheck Price
Motherboard: ASUS ROG Maximus Z790 HeroCheck Price
Storage 1: SABRENT 1TB Rocket NVMeCheck Price
Storage 2: WD_BLACK 4TB NVMeCheck Price
Power: Cooler Master MWE 1250 Gold V2Check Price
Case: Antec Performance 1 FTCheck Price

Ultimate Build

PartLink
CPU: AMD Threadripper PRO 5965WXCheck Price
GPU: Quadro RTX 6000Check Price
Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX 256GB (8x32GB)Check Price
Motherboard: ASUS Pro WS WRX80E-SAGECheck Price
Storage 1: SABRENT 2TB Rocket NVMeCheck Price
Storage 2: WD_BLACK 4TB NVMeCheck Price
Power: Cooler Master MWE 1250 Gold V2Check Price
Case: be quiet! Dark Base 900 BlackCheck Price

Budget Build

PartLink
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3DCheck Price
GPU: GeForce RTX 4060 TiCheck Price
Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX 64GB (2x32GB)Check Price
Motherboard: ASUS TUF GAMING X570-PLUSCheck Price
Storage 1: SanDisk Ultra 3D NAND 4TBCheck Price
Power: Thermaltake Toughpower GF1 850W 80+ GoldCheck Price
Case: Antec Performance 1 FTCheck Price

Also, if you’d prefer to buy a prebuilt computer, we have a guide covering the best workstation options available. Alternatively, if you’re in need of a laptop, check out our guide on the best laptops for Unreal Engine 5.

Getting started

When building the best computer for UE5, it’s important to consider five primary components:

  • CPU (Processor)
  • GPU (Graphics Card)
  • Memory (RAM)
  • Storage (hard drives)
  • Motherboard

While Unreal Engine will run on a Mac, as this is a computer build, we’re going to be focusing on Windows as our OS.

Most Unreal Engine build guides will focus on game development, whereas our guide is focused on creating digital cinema and VFX.

CPU (Processor)

The processor is the heart of your computer and determines how powerful it is. Unreal Engine 5 requires a minimum of an Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7 processor. For optimum performance, we recommend an 8th gen Intel Core i9-9900K or above. However, if you’re looking for the best performance, we suggest an Intel Core i9-13900KF or above.

Intel Core

Best FPS

PRICE: MSRP $629.99

The Intel i9-13900K is a beast of a CPU with a 5.8 GHz clock speed and 24 cores. It is the best CPU for Unreal Engine 5 for most users and ranks near the top of most gaming benchmarks. Technically, the Core i9-13900KS is slightly faster, but we feel that the tiny boost in speed doesn’t warrant a nearly 20% price increase. Another great alternative is the Core i7-13700K at 5.4 GHz with 16 cores, but it is about $200 cheaper.

AMD Threadripper Pro

Best For Rendering

PRICE: MSRP $6,499

The AMD Threadripper Pro 5995WX boasts a ridiculous 64 cores and 128 threads! It will tear through even the longest of sequences in no time at all, but that performance comes at a premium price point. A reasonable alternative at half the price (and half the number of cores) is the Threadripper Pro 5975WX.

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D Box

Best Bargain

PRICE: MSRP $449

The AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D is a more reasonable option compared to its Threadripper Pro big brothers listed above. It is an 8-core, 16-thread 4.5 GHz processor that is more than capable of playing games and developing with UE5. While the list price is $449, we found the actual price to be below $350 at the time of writing.

Why a high-end processor is essential for Unreal Engine 5

The processor determines how quickly your computer can process data and commands. Unreal Engine 5 is a very demanding program and requires a powerful processor to keep up with its needs. A high-end processor will ensure you have the peak performance needed for rendering realistic visuals, making sure you get smooth playback and interaction when building your scenes.

Higher Clock Speed vs. Number of Cores?

Which is more important? Both actually. The higher clock speed will allow for smoother playback with higher FPS, which can be important when navigating and building your scenes/levels. However, having more cores is going to pay off when it’s time to start rending your sequence.

Should I buy an Intel Xeon Processor for UE5?

Probably not. While Intel Xeon processors have been a staple of high-end 3D workstations, and they can be suitable for certain scenarios, there isn’t much benefit when using Unreal Engine.

The primary benefit of Xeon processors is that they are extremely reliable for 24/7 operation. For example, they support Error Correction Code (ECC) memory which helps to prevent data corruption. These are wonderful features, but they come at an extreme cost that usually isn’t worth it for the Unreal Engine developer.

Not to mention Xeon processors and ECC memory is usually a little slower than their consumer-grade counterparts. Stick to a high-end consumer processor from the Core i9 or Ryzen 9 range, and you will be more than fine.


GPU (Graphics Card)

The graphics card is perhaps the most important component when building a gaming PC, and when working in UE5, it’s also extremely important. We recommend an Nvidia RTX 3060 or above, as this will provide enough horsepower for UE5’s ray-tracing capabilities and give you smooth playback for interactive real-time rendering.

If you’re looking for the best performance and have a larger budget, then an Nvidia Quadro RTX 6000 or above is the best graphics card for Unreal Engine 5 and will give you the highest possible performance but at a premium cost.

What is the best GPU for Unreal Engine 5?

When purchasing a graphics card for Unreal Engine (or other 3D applications), there are a few things you need to take into consideration.

The first is the amount of graphics memory (VRAM) the card has. Unreal Engine 5 can take advantage of as much VRAM as you have available. A minimum of 8GB is advised, but 16GB or more is highly recommended.

Secondly, it’s important to consider the clock speed of the graphics card; this is often called the base clock speed and boost clock speed and is measured in MHz. The higher the number, the faster the card.

Raytracing is also important to consider when selecting your graphics card. Unreal Engine 5 makes full use of ray-tracing, so you want to ensure your card supports the latest raytracing technology, such as DXR (DirectX Raytracing).

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind your computer’s overall specs. Make sure that your computer has enough processing power and memory to take advantage of your graphics card fully. There’s no reason to buy a top-of-the-line graphics card if your CPU and RAM are not up to the task.

GeForce RTX 3060

Best Overall

PRICE: MSRP $1599

The GeForce RTX 4090 is the current GPU king, featuring a staggering 24GB of memory. This card wins in virtually all benchmarks and is fully capable of running UE5 and a host of over 3D and post-production applications.

Radeon RX 7900 XTX

Best AMD Option

PRICE: MSRP $1000

The Radeon RX 7900 XTX is the best-performing non-Nvidia GPU. There are a number of compatibility-related reasons why you might want to go with an AMD graphics card over Nvidia, but this is a solid choice regardless.

With 24GB of memory, this card is a beast capable of running much more than just Unreal Engine.

GeForce RTX 3060

Best Budget Option

PRICE: MSRP $450

The 16GB version of the GeForce RTX 4060 Ti is a great budget graphics card for UE5 and all 3D software. However, please note that there are 8GB versions of the 4060 available that you’ll want to avoid. When it comes to Unreal Engine, you’ll benefit from having the extra 8GB of memory in the 16GB option.

Another cheap option is the GeForce RTX 3060 with 12GB of memory. Like with the RTX 4060, there are 8GB versions of this card that should be avoided. Remember that when it comes to UE5 you always want to get the most video memory (VRAM) you can afford.


Memory (RAM)

For Unreal Engine 5 to have smooth performance and run at its optimum levels, we recommend 32GB of RAM as an absolute minimum. However, because you’ll likely be using film quality (large) textures and photo-real lighting setups, you will want to look at a 64GB of RAM or more.

We’d recommend 128GB as a good baseline for running UE5. For demanding workflows and heavy scenes, 256GB or more may be necessary.

Things to keep in mind when buying Memory:

  • Pay attention to the speed of the memory – DDR# and MHz. At the time of this writing, DDR5 is currently the fastest memory available. Depending on the motherboard and processor you choose, you’ll want to purchase memory that is as fast as possible while remaining compatible with your setup.
  • Buy once, not in stages.  It’s best to buy all the RAM you need in one go rather than buying bits at a time. Even if you plan to buy the same brand and speed, buying in stages can produce unexpected results.
GeForce RTX 3060

Best Performance

PRICE: about $790

This SABRENT Rocket DDR5 128GB RAM option is an example that represents the ideal amount and speed of RAM that will give you great performance. The actual RAM speed (MHz) and specs will need to match your CPU and Motherboard, so be careful to choose a compatible option.

GeForce RTX 3060

Best Budget Option

PRICE: about $130

This Corsair Vengeance DDR5 is an example that represents the minimum amount and speed of RAM that you’ll likely want to purchase. The actual RAM speed (MHz) and specs will need to match your CPU and Motherboard, so be careful to choose a compatible option.

GeForce RTX 3060

Best DDR4 Option

PRICE: about $600

This Corsair Vengeance DDR4 is an excellent option for systems that are not compatible with DDR5 memory.

The importance of memory for Unreal Engine 5

One of the most important features of Unreal Engine 5 is its ability to manage memory automatically. The engine monitors the game’s memory usage and makes changes to ensure that the game remains playable. This includes dynamic memory allocation, which allows the engine to allocate more or less memory as needed.

Another important feature of Unreal Engine 5 is its ability to stream assets from disk. This allows the engine to load only the assets that are currently needed, which reduces the amount of memory used by the game. The engine also supports compressed textures, which reduces the amount of data that needs to be stored in memory.


Motherboard

When choosing a motherboard, you’ll want to make sure that it supports the processor and graphics card you’ve chosen. Many motherboards support multiple GPUs, so if you plan on using two (or more) GPUs in your setup, look for one that will accommodate them. You should also make sure that the motherboard has enough USB ports for your accessories, such as external hard drives.

Finally, make sure the motherboard you choose has an appropriate form factor for your case and the correct socket type for your processor. Different processors require different sockets so you want to make sure that your motherboard supports the one you’ve chosen.

GeForce RTX 3060

Best for Threadripper Pro

PRICE: about $1000

The best motherboard for Unreal Engine 5 for Threadripper Pro is the Asus Pro WS WRX80E-SAGE SE WIFI II. It is a full-featured motherboard that includes a ridiculous array of connectivity, including USB Type-C, M.2 PCIe 4.0, WiFi 6E, and 10Gb Ethernet, just to mention a few. It supports multiple GPUs and 8 memory slots for up to 2048GB of RAM!

GeForce RTX 3060

Best for Intel i9

PRICE: about $580

The best motherboard for Unreal Engine that supports Intel processors is the ASUS ROG Maximus Z790 Hero. It was designed for the Intel i9 (LGA 1700) chipset and boasts an impressive specs list. It features both Thunderbolt and USB Type-C ports, multiple M.2 slots, 2.5Gb Ethernet, WiFi 6E, 4 DIMM slots for a maximum of 192GB of memory, and more.

GeForce RTX 3060

Best Budget Option for AMD Ryzen

PRICE: about $190

The ASUS TUF GAMING X570-PLUS (WI-FI) is a great budget option for AMD AM4 socket CPUs. It features 4 DIMM slots for a 128GB maximum memory configuration, an M.2 slot for NVMe storage, USB 3.2 ports, Bluetooth, and WiFi built-in.


Storage (Hard Drives)

For Unreal Engine 5, you’ll need some high-speed storage. Buying a top-of-the-line CPU, motherboard, and RAM won’t matter if you create a bottleneck with the storage.

Primary Drive for your OS

For maximum performance, we recommend an M.2 SSD for your operating system and applications (including UE5) and additional large-capacity hard drives for your project files. This drive should be a minimum of 500GB; anything under that size will fill up too quickly and isn’t a good value. Ideally, you’ll want a 1TB or 2TB drive so that you never really have to worry about running out of space.

GeForce RTX 3060

Best for Operating System

PRICE: about $70

The SABRENT 1TB Rocket NVMe is a great option for your operating system (probably Windows) and related system files. At 1TB of capacity, it provides plenty of space, so you shouldn’t need to upgrade anytime soon. That said, If you know that you’ll need more space, there’s a 2TB option available as well.

Secondary Drive for Projects

If you can afford multiple M.2 SSD drives, you’ll absolutely want to utilize that speed for storing your project files. If an M.2 isn’t in your budget, look for a standard 2.5″ (SATA) SSD. Either way, you’ll want a drive in the 2TB to 4TB size range.

GeForce RTX 3060

Best for Projects

PRICE: about $299

The WD_BLACK 4TB SN850X NVMe is a great option, offering tons of storage capacity and blazing-fast speeds. It’s built with the latest 3D NAND technology and has a maximum read speed of up to 7GB/s.

GeForce RTX 3060

Best Budget Option

PRICE: about $260

The SanDisk Ultra 3D NAND 4TB is a great option if your system doesn’t support two m.2 drives or you need to save a little money.

Backup Drive

Finally, it’s always a good idea to have a backup drive in case of data loss. This drive doesn’t need to be as fast as the others but should focus on storage space instead. Look for an external hard drive with at least 8TB of storage, but if you can manage 12TB or more, that would be ideal.

GeForce RTX 3060

Best Backup Storage

PRICE: about $200

The WD 12TB Elements Desktop External Hard Drive is perfect as a backup hard drive. At 12TB, it offers ample storage capacity to back up tons of projects and assets, and currently, 12TB is the sweet spot for the cheapest price-per-gigabyte. The drive features USB 3.0 for high-speed data transfer and is compatible with PC, Mac, and Linux systems. The fact that it is an external drive is also a plus because that gives you the ability to easily take your backups to a new system if/when needed.

Solid State Drives, or SSDs, are one of the best upgrades you can make to your computer. They offer much faster speeds than traditional hard drives, and they’re more reliable and durable. Here are some of the reasons why SSDs are recommended:

Speed: One of the biggest advantages of SSDs is their speed. Traditional hard drives are much slower than SSDs, which can cause a significant slowdown in your computer. With an SSD, you can expect faster boot times, faster application launches, and faster file transfers.

Reliability: SSDs are also more reliable than traditional hard drives. They have no moving parts, which means they’re less likely to fail. They also don’t generate as much heat as traditional hard drives, which makes them less likely to overheat.

Durability: SSDs are also more durable than traditional hard drives. They can withstand more shocks and vibrations, and they’re less likely to fail if they’re dropped or hit.

If you’re looking for a way to speed up your computer, increase its reliability, and make it more durable, then an SSD is the solution for you.


Case

When it comes to a computer case, there are 3 primary concerns:

  • Size: Does this case fit my motherboard and various components?
  • Performance: The case will dictate airflow, which can greatly affect performance.
  • Style: Do you want a low-key professional box or an LED-illuminated showpiece?

Size

The case needs to be able to support the size of your motherboard (ATX, E-ATX, Mini-ITX, etc.) and provide enough cooling for all your component parts. You should also ensure it has plenty of room for cable management and possibly space for multiple GPUs, extra hard drives, and other components.

Performance

The design of the case can greatly impact airflow, which in turn will impact overall performance. Perhaps ironically, cases with a more open design will actually tend to be quieter. The increased airflow will lead to lower fan speeds and less air turbulence. So, having a large sealed computer case might seem like a good idea and a quieter solution, but actually, a mesh paneled case can help keep your system running cooler and quieter.

Style

This one is simple: choose the case that fits your personal style. Almost all cases made today are available in solid black or white with solid side panels or with the option for clear side panels that can show off your components inside.

GeForce RTX 3060

Best Performance Case

PRICE: about $150

The Antec Performance 1 FT is a modern case with a focus on performance. It provides ample space for a large EATX motherboard as well as an RTX 4090 graphics card.

GeForce RTX 3060

Best For Extra Space

PRICE: about $245

The Corsair 7000D AIRFLOW is a full-tower case providing plenty of space for all your components, easy cable management, and room for large (quiet) fans to keep everything cool and performance-optimized.

GeForce RTX 3060

Best Professional Option

PRICE: about $215

Be quiet, as its name implies, is a company that has built its reputation on quality and quiet operation. The Dark Base 900 Black is a large and spacious case with a modular and professional design. It’s the perfect option for those looking for optimal performance with a low-key and simple aesthetic.


Other Considerations

When building a computer for Unreal Engine 5, there are a few other things you should consider.

Power Supply

How to choose a power supply unit

When it comes to power supplies, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. The first is that not all power supplies are created equal. You need to make sure you get a quality power supply that can handle the load of your system. You want to make sure that the wattage is high enough to support your system. If it’s not, then you might experience problems such as crashes or system failures.

You also need to make sure that the power supply is compatible with your motherboard and other components.

Peripherals

Finally, you’ll need to think about the peripherals you plan on using with your system. This includes keyboards, mice, monitors, etc. Having a good quality mouse and keyboard can make hours at the computer much more enjoyable and comfortable. Not only that, it can actually prevent fatigue and even injuries such as RSI.

Wrapping Up

Building a computer for Unreal Engine 5 is no small task. You need to make sure that your components are compatible with each other and that you have the right power supply and case to accommodate them. It’s important to consider all of these factors when building a system for this powerful 3D software in order to get the most out of it. With careful consideration and planning, you can build an amazing gaming machine capable of delivering incredible performance with Unreal Engine 5.

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