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The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Computer for Blender


Andrew Price sends us this guide to buy a computer for Blender. I just asked someone in IRC like 3 days ago for this and you just saved my life, thanks Andrew!

Andrew Price writes:

This handy guide will help demystify the process of buying a new computer. I myself have been a victim of poor hardware purchases in the past and want to help others not make the same mistakes I did.

In this guide I explain how each component effects your render times within Blender and which components are worth spending the extra cash on.

Read the full article:

The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Computer for Blender


  1. This guide was somewhat disinforming. It is true that a decent cpu is essential and the amount of ram too. Otherwise you can save your money in many ways. You don't need Windows and programs trying to keep it secure. If 90+ % of the rendering power is a good bargain if you can get it while saving 30 + % compared to another platform, then you might question the guide as an "ultimate solution".

  2. This was quite helpful to me. I am not quite ready to buy a new one yet, but this will help me with picking the right Graphics Card, as I had previously thought I heard something bad about Nvidia and Blender and had been leaning toward ATI. Apparently Nvidia is the better choice after all.

  3. Even the thing about RAM was disinformation. Blender shouldn't crash even if it goes over the memory limit. It's up to the OS to carefully handle paging - this is slow, but programs don't crash because of not enough memory these days. The article probably mentioned the problems with 32bit OSes, which is there no matter how much RAM you have.

  4. I also found article very depth-less, not much really explained and said in detail. Points i think could be mentioned also:

    1. A platform can be 32 or 64 bit. Where 64 is of course more powerful because it can calculate more information for each second. But 64 bit platform can be a pain in the ass for installing other programs.

    2. It easier said to make 16Gb RAM than done. I've tried making it and I was told that my motherboard couldn't handle it. A good motherboard is essential for the rest of the components. So decide how much RAM you need before buying it. (p.s. you can have 4 slots with 2gb RAM in each, but your motherboard won't handle it, and will use only limited amount)

    3. If you think think you can use your old RAM from old PC for the new motherboard, that's very double, there are a lot of different RAM types, and not every type can be used for a particular motherboard. Consider that.

    4. A graphics card is important also: look at it carefully as a hardware, it should have outputs for two monitors and a TV. It is much cooler and more comfortable to work with two monitors or a big TV screen. Also the resolution your card can handle comes handy when using very big monitors for a good quality.

    5. Your power supply should also be with protection. If there's a sudden power cut in the building, you might lose your power supply or any other equipment you have. So make sure you've got that.

    6. Good monitor with good depth, refresh rate per pixel and true colors and protective screen against direct light from the sun and any other reflections.

    7. Andrew said about good cooling. Well I advise to add as much as you can, in hot summer, it will come in handy.

    8. Also a good cooling unit above your CPU on the motherboard, a bad cooling unit is a no to go.

    9. I might go nuts, but, I'd advise a UPS as a source of your power supply (if you have that, than perhaps having a good inside power supply isn't so important (point 5)). Just don't forget to switch it off when you go away, because it will eat your power.

    10. A good designer mouse, it may look like being silly, but having a good mouse is like being in heaven. 100% guarantee from frustrations. I have Logitech MX510. I found that mouses like mine are a bit heavier but that is also a reason why it's more comfortable. I move my mouse 3cm left and right to get from one side of the screen to another. Of course some can say that you need to adjust the sensitivity and it will be good, but sensitivity is directly effected by your mouse. For example, don't advise Microsoft mouses.

    A very good point by Andrew about ATI cards, I had two before my Nvidia card, both broke when I launched Crysis game, I had my money returned. The guy at the service told me, a lot of people come in with their broken ATI cards, so yeah those a freaking defective.

  5. @imbusy: I even did a 1024-Grid-Watersimulation in Blender. It took a while, but it worked, and i only had 2GB RAM in my PC at this time. It´s always about good Memory-Managment. And i think Blender could be better at this, because on heavy scenes it often crashes, even if there is more Memory availiable...

  6. Actually that guide is partly misleading. It does not cover any of the possible pitfalls and hardly any background info. Also the part about Linux stupid. When you buy hardware and want Linux, you need to investigate wether your hardware works fine with Linux before you buy it, not the other way round.

  7. Choosing Nvidia and not Ati is quite logical due to the know issues . But choosing and recomending Windows cause you don't know how to use Linux is quite stupid. And Ubuntu is not the only Linux distro. If you have money to waste in a 64 bits Windows version go ahead , cause I don't. I thought we're speaking of hardware, and Microsoft has his own market department.

  8. Quoting the article:
    "Everyone has their own preferences in terms of usablity and stability, but for me the winner is Linux. In the past I’ve used blender on both Windows and Linux, and I found that Linux crashes less, handles memory better and generally runs more smoothly than a windows operating system.


    A technical savvy person may say that Linux is a piece of cake, but to me it was an absolute nightmare. Go figure.

    So for that reason I actually recommend Windows 7. It’s fast, easy to use and comes with 99% less headaches than Linux."

    In this, Andrew is entirely correct. For less savvy users, the relatively minor performance improvements you can get from Linux is not worth the headache involved with setting it up. True, the Linux distro's are improving and if all goes well, it's fairly painless. When things don't go well, particularly if you have driver issues, it's a screaming nightmare.

    "Less savvy" kind of implies someone who can't be expected to understand the wonders of hardware compatibility lists!

  9. For the record, I cut a bit out the quote to clarify my point, but the comment system swallowed it (and the broken "Click to Edit" system wan't let me edit it - c'mon BN, that issues been around for months! Fix it already!)

  10. Just whatever you do, don't buy an older Macbook with GMA X3100 integrated graphics. Haven't been able to use blender for >5 minutes at a time in over 2 years...

  11. Thanks for the plug Bart! Glad it was useful :)

    In regards to the 'Linux bashing'. Let me say, that I don't hate Linux. In fact I use Linux on one of my machines! All I'm saying is that if you aren't technical savvy enough to understand Linux jargon then the minor improvements on memory usage are not worth the hassle in the long run.

    Just my opinion of course :)

  12. Well, you posted the "ultimate" guide to buying a computer for Blender but don't mention that you need to do the same for Linux?

    "So for that reason I actually recommend Cinema 4D. It’s fast, easy to use and comes with 99% less headaches than Blender." ;)

  13. I find the title "The ultimate guide" a bit presumptuous. Because in my view it's not. So I would say, don't present it as such. Recommending windows7 over linux on the basis of a bad experience is bad practice, as is recommending nvidia over ati. What I've read, to me reflects more his personal view on what hardware and os to use. There are no real arguments outlining the choices made outside some generalizations.

    Andrew's commitment to help, his tutorials and his artistic work are great, but the hardware/os side of things is clearly not (yet) his field of expertise.

  14. Nothing special, he just says what everybody knows:
    Buy the best of the best and you got the best machine for Blender!
    btw. I use Windows 7 but had no problems with Ubuntu or Kubuntu on my other machine - I had not to type a single command to connect to wlan or to install blender ;)
    This guide isnt the "ultimate" guide, but it's kinda fun to read,
    thanks mr Price!

  15. Nice article. I'm on a budget and bought some hardware- motherboard, processor and RAM -a couple of months ago with Blender in mind. At first I reinstalled Win XP Home but decided I could get better render times with a 64 bit OS. The most obvious choice for me was Ubuntu-AMD64 Linux. Sorry, I just don't have the money to actually pay for software. ;)

    That said, I had no problem with Ubuntu recognizing my hardware. It even downloaded and installed ATI Catalyst drivers for me. Wired ethernet worked on startup. (Wireless worked fine on my old laptop too.) Ubuntu works, but there are other distros out there which may not be as friendly. For example, I tried out Debian on my old laptop but couldn't get any kind of network connection working. Not knocking Debian, though, since it is a solid OS for those who know what they're doing.

    What did cause me headaches in Ubuntu was installing my Wacom Bamboo Pen tablet. Google is your friend! Then there was a display issue with Blender menus. Solution: turn off desktop compositing effects (System>Preferences>Appearance>Visual Effects>"None"). The eye candy apparently interferes with Blender's OpenGL output.

  16. CorsairX: If your Blender runs without an OS than it's fine, but usually people will need an OS to run software like Blender ;)

    And there are differences in performance, memory management, drivers etc. between different OSes. Just telling "Use OS Y 'cause I had a bad experience with OS Z." is simply misleading and shouldn't be in something that calls itself a 'guide'.

  17. Hey my message is deleted or not accepted? Why? A word count is too big (well make a word count maximum)? Did I say something bad, because I didn't? I made some nice points and you deleted it and I was just trying to help people not to get mislead by Andrew's post. I made 10 points additionally to what Andrew wrote. Why bother writing if I don't even get a notification via e-mail why my post is deleted?! Very offensive post reply or non accepting deletion.

  18. Ultimate guide which does not cover:

    RAM types and memory transfer
    CPU types and design differences and impact
    CPU RAM and Cache access important for rendering
    3D card slot design and power consumption
    Motherboard designs with possible bottlenecks

    I have nothing against Andrew but this is again a post were big words
    are being used for a to be honest very Swizz cheese like article.

    I would then to be honest rather promote the threads on Blendernation where
    Philbo and NurbNerd posted very decent component lists which all work together
    for 8 core or 12 core cpus, among all the other posters who listed complete sets.

  19. I love this site.
    On your can log on everyday and you have got some news
    about Blender here and there.
    Of course today the Mighty Andrew Price post a very useful article...
    Yes he did it again.

    Thanks for that one more time,

  20. Andrew, looking over your guide again, I was wondering why you didn't talk more about the monitor. Next to my pen tablet and keyboard, my monitor is the most important part of my interface with Blender. Larger is better, and if you're serious about rendering to HD video eventually, you need a monitor that can display at that resolution, if not more. Big Buck Bunny looks awesome in 1080p and the difference in quality is very noticeable over 720p. Perhaps you can update your guide with a few monitor specs that new Blender users should look out for.

  21. Linux may be hard to get used to, but in the long-run, it can be a lot more stable. If you know how to search something with Google, you'll be able to live with Ubuntu quite well. I've found installing Ubuntu a LOT easier than dealing with windows, ESPECIALLY with winXP. Linux is really under-rated here. Before Vista, Linux, BSD, etc was A LOT easier to set up. Linux can be a LOT faster, and hey, it's FREE! Don't you think a small possibility of headache is worth $100+?? Frankly, windows is really only useful for people who aren't tech-savvy for games.
    Just be sure you can get drivers in Linux, and you'll skip all, or most headache. The main part on that point is not to buy ATI. They don't hardly support Linux at all, and they even have problems in windows. NVidea is the way to go. Also, don't forget to mention speed of RAM. The faster, the better. A really fast CPU doesn't help really slow RAM. As far as Hard-drives go, you should know that Linux uses an amazing filesystem that almost NEVER gets fragmented, whereas windows uses NTFS, which just throws everything on the disk as fast as possible, hoping you'll use the defragmenting program to clean up after it. Linux may sound hard, but it has really gotten easy in the past few years, and there are plenty of people who are very willing to help you out if you get stuck. If you aren't tech-savvy, it doesn't hurt to learn. :)

  22. So much FUD about ATI. If you have a recent card, such as one in the 4000 or 5000 line, you will have no problem. Drivers are great in both Windows and Linux. ATI used to have lots of trouble, but things have really turned since AMD bought them. Linux is very much supported by ATI and in some distros, such as Ubuntu, the user can easily install the proprietary drivers.

    Out of all of the people that say ATI sucks, how many of them have actually had an ATI card in the last couple years? Or more specifically, one that a person building/buying a new computer would get.

  23. Hmm this is far from an 'ultimate guide' it gives extremely poor guidance on any of the topics, just really weak generalities that are fairly obvious.

  24. I agree with Trevin, i have an ATI Readeon HD 4250 running on Ubuntu 10.10. Ubuntu found the card for my system and asked if i wanted to install the drivers for it, it installed and runs perfectly, maybe the older cards might be a bit of trouble but not the newer ones.

  25. He shoulda mentioned that for the price of one of the I7 8cores one would be able to buy two amd 6cores,
    coupled with some proper mainboards and decent ram this might be a better solution when it comes to crunching larger animations...
    Also I'm no fan of buy the fastest and latest, usually the price gap of highend hardware and the generation below doesnt match with the ammount of performance one gets. So to say often 10% increase of speed/ power/ magic whatever comes with a 40-60% of additional cost. IMO this doesnt make sense just to be state of the art for about one or two months. I'd prefer buiding another not so expensive system as a backup fo what i already got so I could spread my animations across multiple comps.

    After all still an interesting list of things to keep in mind. Assuming that people that use free software often also have to watch the buck they can spend, I'd always suggest to keep in mind that hardware drops in cost pretty fast and drasticly as time progresses so always compare performance and price difference. Might be u have the chance to upgrade your comp much more often for the same investment and get redundance as a byproduct.

    Take good care fo proper (huge) cooling, hard disks wich are certified for longtime use (24hr) and a cool joystick or stering wheel for blender. Someone should develop a COIN-OP blender arcade cabinet!

  26. Hi Andrew, this is reasonable set up info for beginners. You might have mentioned the advantages of dual monitors. You've got 8 render threads with your system, not just four - check out performance in the task manager. Just to be picky, its "affects", not "effects". I guess a pretty ultimate desktop today would include dual Xeon 5680's with 128Gb of fast RAM, but this won't be commonplace until next year. Probably fairly late in the year.

  27. Hey Nixon

    I compared quite many AMD and Intel rigs recently and cannot say that AMD comes close to Intel.
    A more core AMD is slower or equal then a less core Intel both at the same price tag and roughly
    same Ghz.

    I was intrigued by the statement that AMD is a better bang for the buck but found out that this
    is not really the case to be honest.

    Double cpu mainboards can also be quickly be more expensive compared to a single CPU board.

    You get i7 chips with 4 cores at the same computation power of AMD 6 cores.

    There is no big price difference.

    Also when AMD comes out with a new chip there is a price increase
    and later it drops. Same with Intel.

    Just a visit at BestBuy can verify that already ;)

  28. Ultimate guide which does not cover:

    RAM types and memory transfer
    CPU types and design differences and impact
    CPU RAM and Cache access important for rendering
    3D card slot design and power consumption
    Motherboard designs with possible bottlenecks

    I have nothing against Andrew but this is again a post were big words
    are being used for a to be honest very Swizz cheese like article.

    I would then to be honest rather promote the threads on Blendernation where
    Philbo and NurbNerd posted very decent component lists which all work together
    for 8 core or 12 core cpus, among all the other posters who listed complete sets.

  29. @daas
    guess amd and intel always will be one of these questions :D
    I agree that high paced quads will outrun lower ghz. 6core especially in games, wich is sort of a preffered benchmark for hotness.I can'T exactly evaluate if this holds true still when you focus on numbercrunching mainly.
    I tend to believe that highly paralel things like rendering might profit from additional cores. But then again I'm no expert so i just wanted to mention that AMD might be an option to consider.

    The leader in the top 500 list of supercomputers ( runs on opteron 6cores, with a total of 224 162 cores that can do some nice flops per second. Maybe the bargain really only makes sense if you buy that much cpu's :D

    Lately Intel handed out some nice 48cores for research so I'm looking forward for the next years anyway:)

  30. A nice list of suggestion but I would not say that this is the ultimate guide. The advice are sound but too general and almost common sense. It also fails to mention many things important when buying a pc (like motherboard, monitor, mouse, tablet) and the consequences of your choices.

    There are also other options, like using a computer cluster, that might prove more helpful in certain cases, but adds more complexity.

    Well, almost any of those over the shelf desktops is adequate for many Blender users, which I think mostly are hobbyist, otherwise their budget will enable them to buy several great computer plus help from a good technician.

    I also think that the specs of the author's computer are totally way high for most Blender users around.

  31. @Raub: Andrew made the recommendation for Windows based on ease of use as the performance difference Linux and Windows 7 is minor enough that the ease of use (particularly for users who are not computer savvy) is more important. The rest of the article was focused on what hardware components are actually important to Blender and that's basically OS neutral.

    Sorry if I came off as a bit testy! I'm afraid the predictable reaction from the Linux camp colour my reaction.

  32. That guide is not SO ultimate, I think.
    Most of the things in there are pretty much known already if you are using blender longer than 5 days - if you're familliar with 3D art in general then chances you kow all of that are even higher.

    The only thing to really know if you're blender specific is: ATI might give you problems - keep that in mind.
    Skimming over the article I found MacOS was not mentioned - but only Win and Linux. With Mac being Unix but not so much of a pain to setup - why not use f'in Mac?
    I use both Win and Mac - and don't see a difference. Linux only limts you in commercial apps - so maybe that's a MUCH more important thing to consider.

    All in all - it's a nice guide to start with but far, far, far from ultimate. 3D Workstations need mostly the same - so I don't see a reason why to be blender specific, as well. Yeah - it's Blendernation ... but still. Meh.

    I rarely comment that bad on articles but in this case: making a buing decission over maybe a few thousand dollars should be considered a little more in-depth than what this article covers. Also maybe a little less biased towards personal preferences. :)

    - just my 2 cents

  33. hey nixon

    you missed my point

    First AMD is good with the server grade chips - no question.
    But their consumer chips are not up to snuff like Intel.

    I tested a same speed and price AMD 6 core against an Intel i7 4 core
    and AMD was a tick slower with 2 more cores.

    This clearly shows that AMDs technology is not as strong as Intel in that
    chip segment.

    Even some i5 which cannot do hyperthreading reach the AMD 6 core and
    that is quite embarrassing.

    Since the system were same price to argument AMD with 6 core is cheaper
    to reach the i7 4 core output is wrong.

  34. Thanks for all your comments guys!

    I agree that the word "Ultimate", is misleading and for that I apologise. I thought I had most things covered but on a second glace I now realise I didn't include RAM types, clusters etc. So yes, very far from ultimate ;)

    I'll be more careful over that word in the future.
    Thanks for your feedback, it's very much appreciated :)

  35. As to the AMD vs Intel argument...

    There are many cases in which a 'quad core' AMD CPU performs slower than a 'quad core' Intel CPU. But the actual reasons and pricing have not really been covered.

    My own AMD Phenom II X4 925 is not the sharpest chip in the bag, but it's not that bad. I have a friend, however, that has a 'seemingly similar Intel CPU' that WAY outperforms mine... And his was more expensive. The generalization? That Intel is more expensive, but has better performance.

    However, if you would compare two equally-performing CPUs from the same company, you DO in fact find that AMD's chip is cheaper.

    A good comparison chart can be found here:

    Indeed, his CPU (one of the i7s, I forget which) was WAY higher on the benchmark chart than mine was. But, when looking at an AMD chip that was at about the same performance as his, it was still over a hundred dollars cheaper.

    That chart is somewhat biased, though. If you notice, it has mostly Intel chips on top... But, what you don't see, is that there are many chips that simply are not listed... Mostly server CPUs.

    Most of the CPUs on the 'Best Value' charts are AMD processors, because they have the best price/performance ratio.

  36. Adding some detail, as I just built a new machine from scratch. The big thing is to configure the system to avoid bottlenecks. When rendering, your CPU and RAM speed is the limit.

    RAM: use DDR3 instead of DDR2, since DDR3 has three channels for I/O instead of two.

    CPU: If you get a mobo that supports overclocking, you can save money and get a cheaper CPU and just overclock it. I have a i7 920 that I overclock to 4GHz.

    Motherboard(Mobo): be sure to get one that supports the latest SATA specs. Currently that is SATA 3 which transfers at 6Gb/s. Also be sure it support RAID 0 (striping).

    Disks: Be sure to get two identical drives that support the newest SATA, and configure them as a RAID 0 array. That way, you get 12 Gb/s transfer rates, or 1.5GB/s. When you are using Blender to slew video and lots of frame sequences in HD, each frame image can be 4MB. Being able to quickly slew that much data to/from your disk is essential.

    Backup: Build in backup dirves, but use slower cheaper disks, configured in a RAID 1 array.

    So, I have two 2T SATA 3 drives as a RAID 0 as my main work drives, and two 2T SATA 2 drives as a RAID 1 for my backup partition. With 50% compression, I am able to back up all 4T to a redundant backup. In practice, I am only using 1T now for the movie I am working on, and will probably have to buy more backup drives before I run out of primary working disk.

  37. Regarding the specs that have been recommended by Blenderguru, I was suprised.

    His tutorials are extremely good. I use them a lot and find them very informative.

    Regarding hardware. A 21 inch screen if doing any professional or aiming for professional work is not enough desk space. Minimum should be full HD and 24inch, preferably more. Twin screens are usually best. A mouse should be 3 or 4 button at least, with an emphasis on accuracy, not brand.

    A graphics tablet is really a must. A tablet by Wacom is not necessary contrary to what people with the need to aquire the latest thing will say. The Trust or equivalent A4 tablets are actually quite good and very accurate for the most demanding work, which they handle with ease.

    Overclocking is completely pointless if aiming to eventually break into the professional market. All it does is shorten the life of computer components for very little gain. overclocking is for gamers and speed freaks. Overclocking a quadro or fireGL would just lead to an expensive piece of scrap.

    As for Ubuntu. What is stated is 100% categorically wrong. Ubuntu is plug and play these days. It also works very well with ardour and blender integrated for working on audio syncing in Blender which is a nightmare to do in Windows.

    My blender machine specs are.

    Nvdia Quadro FX 5600, to be upgraded to quadro fx6000 in january when I have the money.
    I7 920
    12GB DDR3 in 3 sticks of ram, upgrading to 24GB next month.
    2 x 2TB swapable drives in raid, plus 2 x 2TB back up drives and 2 1 x TB for back up and storage.
    LG dual layer Bluray/DVD/CD burner.
    Operating system Windows 7 ultimate x64 and Ubuntu x64 on swapables. I use both equally.
    Wacom A3 graphics tablet, with pens, mice and airbrush.
    37inch LG full HD TV screen for editing, matt colour, colour checking, production checking and 27 inch Samsung for modelling in Blender.
    Alesis Fusion 8HD (V2 80GB) for sound effects generation for animation.
    Terratec phase 88 and a Delta 1010 for audio recording.
    Sound Creative ddts 100 and 7.900 7.1 speakers + dual 200watt audio monitors for sound checking.
    Canon ix5000 printer, HP K850 printer and Designjet 120 for A1 work.
    System not connected to the net or a network.

    I have seen a lot heaver than my system, used for Blender.

    Quite often I am still waiting a long time for renders, although a lot less than with other programs.

    All renders are in Linux, which I find significantly faster and more stable than windows for rendering.

  38. With regards to overclocking and shortening life of components, while this generally does hold true its not the increase in speed which affects the life but the extra heat the hardware generates.

    Overclocking a CPU but having a better cooler (could even be lower temps than at stock with stock cooler) will mean little impact on life but a great saving on hardware cost for better speeds.

    If your looking for a great PC for rendering, I doubt your going to be using the same hardware 5-6 years down the line by which time its completely obsolete! Ok you might still keep the machine for web browsing etc but you could remove the overclock or even underclock.

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