To make optimum use of Blender you need a Windows, macOS or Linux system with a certain degree of hardware power, which can be costly. To compensate for slow hardware you can make use of online render farms at a price per hour. The new vagon service takes this principle a step further: you can now rent a completely usable and customizable, high-performance remote Windows system you can run in any browser.
Vagon works quite straightforward: you register at the vagon website, select a plan / system configuration, and you're ready to start using your remote system right inside your browser window.
At the time of writing vagon is in a public beta stage, offering three performance options, which come at different prices. You can switch between performance options anytime while keeping your computer’s data the same.
Each performance option for your remote vagon Windows system can be tried for free for a limited amount of time, and vagon has offered a special promo discount code for Blender Nation readers, which you can find at the bottom of this review. Vagon stated that new performance options will follow soon.
We tried the top-level Apollo system, featuring 32 CPU cores, 244 GB RAM, a 2 x 8 GB GPU for a price of $ 4.99 per hour, at the time of writing.
To start using your remote vagon Windows system, you need to initialize the system. At the time of writing this takes about two to four minutes, which is slightly inconvenient, like having to wait for a render before being able to use Blender. But this is necessary only once per session, and will undoubtedly improve, as vagon is working hard to improve all areas of their service.
Some applications such as Google Chrome come pre-installed with your remote vagon Windows system. Vagon is working on a solution providing Blender and other creative software out of the box when you start your vagon system.
There are different options for available storage space, and you can connect external cloud storage services to your vagon system, such as Dropbox and Google Drive. A full-sync file manager is being worked on and will follow soon.
Files can be sent to your vagon system by simply dragging and dropping them into the vagon interface inside your browser, and you can remotely download applications and data to your vagon Windows system via the browser. The advantage of this is that the vagon system includes a symmetrical internet speed of nearly 2 Gigabits per second, which causes any large file to be downloaded from the internet to your vagon system in the blink of an eye.
Connecting to your vagon system works with any internet connection speed, but to avoid lagging it's recommended to work with a fast internet connection. This allows you to push the Stream Preferences to the 'Very High' setting, for a smooth workflow.
Of course the first thing I downloaded was our beloved Blender. It feels magical to be able to run Blender inside any browser, even on a Chromebook or iPad. Vagon breaks OS and hardware barriers.
After setting some personal navigation preferences I subdivided the default cube, entered Sculpt Mode and started sculpting. As we tested the top vagon system via a fast internet connection, there was a low latency with a neglectable lag, allowing you to smoothly sculpt in Blender Sculpt Mode.
I also made a quick Suzanne scene with some lights and a semi-reflective material to test the realtime Cycles viewport performance. This was also very good on the fast remote system with the fast internet connection. It feels like running Blender locally on a relatively fast system, but controlled via your browser window.
Rendering the same Suzanne scene also went smoothly, but although the Vagon Apollo system is powerful, a dedicated online render farm is still more efficient for production rendering purposes, at a comparable price per hour. This might change when new performance options are introduced to vagon.
At the end of a session, don't forget to shut down your virtual vagon system, or the system time and its rent will proceed. There's a difference between not being actively connected to your vagon system and having it shut down. You can be disconnected, but the system will still be running. This can be used for rendering a scene while you're not actively using the system.
To protect you from accidental system time usage, there's an 'Auto Turn Off' option with an adjustable timer.
Give Vagon a try
Vagon enables you to work anywhere, turning any device that's connected to the internet into a powerful desktop workstation. It could be very useful for a temporary remote job, without the need for investment in an expensive desktop system or a powerful notebook.
Vagon allows you to work with Blender and/or other Windows applications on any type of device with an internet connection, preferably a fast one. You can start working using one of the cheaper options, then upgrade your computer to the most powerful option when you need to start rendering, while keeping all your system's data.
On a final note it's good to keep in mind that at the time of writing, vagon is still in a beta development stage, so some minor quirks might occur, but the platform is being improved as we speak, and vagon's support team was conveniently responsive.
More info and videos can be found on the vagon site. Give it a try yourself. Vagon has offered a special promo discount code for Blender Nation readers: just enter the code
BLENDERNATION20 when registering, and you're good to go.