What are the top 10 Rendering programs for SketchUp?

I’m just starting to investigate the best Rendering programs to use with SketchUp, and would like some opinions/reviews from the experienced forum community. I’m currently running an iMac 5K 27" 4 Ghz i7, 32 GB, AMD Radeon R9 M395X 4 GB.
My budget is somewhat flexible, but I’d like to keep it under $300 (total, not any yearly subscription).
What is your top 10 (or less) list?
Listing Pros and Cons would be most appreciated.
I’d also like to know the relative ease of learning, how steep is the curve? (I have reasonable patience).
So, cost, limitations, difficulty, and quality of output …

How long is a piece of string? So many options and answers.

Sorry … My apologies if the scope of my question(s) is too broad. Perhaps too big an ask?
Too long a piece of string?

Justin has some good videos on this subject.

Twilight Render has a totally free version. Start there and see how it goes?


Well, a number of rendering programs are Windows only, so that helps shorten the list. I’ve been using SU Podium for a while, but still interested in other alternatives.


Different needs and such. You’re going to have to see which one works best for you.
I like Simlab Composer but I also like Ambient Occlusion.

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To many variables for anyone to say what render program is best. Take into account what type of rendering your going to do, how much your willing to pay , expected results etc etc . I’m a longtime Twilight Pro user . Very reasonable price, shallow learning curve to start turning out “decent” renders. They have a good forum and excellent getting started videos.


I am in a similar pre-purchase phase to you. I am just about to replace my late 2012 iMac with something close to what you have so that I can sensibly consider using a render program. The two I have been looking at most recently are Podium and VRay. Podium looks to be neatly integrated with SU and is appears to have a relatively gentle learning curve. VRay is a bigger and more expensive beast but those who know how to use it can produce some awesome results.

I suspect Top 10 is ambitious. Maybe reduce it to people’s top 3 and see what floats to the top.

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Thanks Much Simon,
I realize I did ask for too big a bite! I appreciate your considerate response!

On another subject, since we have corresponded before on our similar iMac upgrade dilemmas, have you seen the new iMac offerings (today)?
Looks like one more (probably the last) version of the old form factor iMac is on offer, with the new 10th generation Intel 10-core with a 3.8 GHz base clock speed and Turbo Boost up to 5.0GHz, and AMD Radeon Pro 5000 series graphics w/ a 16GB option. Attractive, but …
Problem is … this still has the OLD, single (small) fan thermal cooling system, now coupled with a potentially even hotter CPU chip, not to mention the added load of a bigger GPU processor!
This combination, in this little box, may trigger “thermal throttling” on the performance of (at least) the CPU?

The continuing dilemma for me is that the iMac Pro’s thermal cooling system design is FAR superior … but it cost a fortune! (about $2K more from my “apples to apples” (pun intended) comparison).
Plus … the new iMac can give you a 3.8 GHz processor (remember the importance of SINGLE core speed for Su), but the latest iMac Pro still only offers a 3.0 GHz max processor.
As a result, I’m STILL waiting to upgrade, and waiting, and waiting …
I wonder what the new Apple ARM chip architecture will offer pro and con re SU performance?

Yes, I was going to jump in a few weeks ago but was advised to wait because of an expected upgrade. So it will be one of those.

Your question about overheating is way beyond my pay grade. It would surprise and disappoint me if Apple had not foreseen this kind of problem.

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At the moment, the thermals look good. Certainly on the 8 core with 5500, little to negligible throttling.

The 10 core with the 5700xt has a short lead time so no-one’s got one yet to put through its paces.

I’m considering getting one instead of the 16” MBP with 5600M, it’s a lot of bang for less buck.

Which looking at the title of the thread nicely segues into - have you considered a real-time Renderer rather than an off-line Renderer? I have been using Twinmotion 2020 for a while (As well as being a long time Vray user) and am very impressed with the results - and it uses the hardware present in these macs as it uses Unreal Engine under the hood ( and therefore benefits from Metal acceration)

There are other real-time options Enscape and Lumion etc but I Cannot speak to the Mac compatibility

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Right, they are both Windows only IIRC.

I started making a list a while ago, but the work isn’t complete. Maybe a group effort can fill it in more.

Win Mac
Lumion X
SketchUp Podium
Enscape X
Raylectron X
Luxcore Alpha
Maxwell Render
Twilight Render
Brighter3D X

I once had a $2000 iMac die, just out of warranty, when the graphics card melted due to poor heat management. Last purchase from Apple for me.

Apple knows all about these heat issues, as they are well documented. They don’t care. That’s the problem.

Well, no, actually we are the problem, as we keep falling for their snazzy sales pitches.

“The new Whatever Mac is one billionth of an inch thinner than any Mac ever before sold!!! Amazing!!! Incredible!!! Blah, blah, blah!!!”

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Win and Mac


I dunno, I suppose I’m simple minded but my vote is, start with the free options and proceed from there. That said, I’ll admit the TwinMotion promo had me drooling all over my keyboard.

Wouldn’t it be AWESOME if you could JUST replace the graphics card when you wanted to?
Come on Apple, a consumer tower with replaceable graphics and 4 ram slots. How hard could that be?
Alas for them it’s impossible :wink:

I agree. That’s my biggest complaint about Apple’s lineup. You could buy such a machine from them n the '90’s, but not any more. In fact, 1995 was the last time I bought a desktop machine. Nothing but laptops since doubling as a desktop machine with an external monitor.

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Thanks for this BIG list! I had not found this … much appreciated!

bifterx, thanks for your insights!
Being new to the Rendering world, I wasn’t aware of the distinction between real-time and off-line rendering … so, are you are saying, on an iMac, Twinmotion is a competitive choice?

Thanks RTCool, good start on a list!