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From my experience AE does not get the same performance naively with Xeon as i7s. I work on both workstations and with the improved rendering updates in 2015.3 the i7's interactivity and final render times are significantly faster when compared 1:1 when dealing with ProRes 4k and DPX and Tiff sequences. But you can't always compare 1:1
The real power of Xeon comes into play when you have very efficient proxy workflows where you can be rendering in the background and continue to work in the foreground. Or when you use scripts like BGrenderer from AE scripts to force AE to use multiple instances of AE render in the background, as well as allowing you to work in the foreground.
So, in my opinion it really depends. For quick comps, simple text animations, etc the i7 would be "faster". But with highly complicated, in depth compositing, and not having access to a render farm.... the Xeon can become an integrated self contained render farm if you treat it that way. I use my i7 when I have access to the render farm at the studio. But use the Xeon when the farm isn't available, as I can background process a lot of data while working in the foreground.
If I have a choice, I prefer the i7, it "feels" faster.
Thank you for the input. I used to think of Xeon processors as just for servers, not graphical home based, but I guess things change.
My biggest headache with performance (even with the new 2015.3) is the very slow response time scrolling through the time line when I have many effects in use. Sometimes it is painfully slow to see the results. My current system is a stand alone desktop running an i7 overclocked to 4.3 ghz, with an SSD and 16 gig ram and it is too slow sometimes using effects.
Rendering is less of a concern because I just start the render and then go watch TV for 1/2 hour! 8-)