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Choosing the right computer for 3D

Learn what part of the computer is the one that you need to improve the perfromance on 3d aplications

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Choosing the right computer for 3D

People always ask me what computer to buy for creating graphics, or which is the best choice according their needs and Budget. Before answering this questions, It is very important to understand what it does each part of the computer on the render process. Next I will try to explain it in a simple way.


The processor (At the time) is in charge of create the final Image. The number of cores, the processor has, the number of buckets will appear at render time. At the moment the processors can reach till 64 cores, but a standard number on a high end computer would be 8 cores. Another important parameter would be the clock frequency, this is measured on Mhz in a processor; this means in a 2Ghz processor each second can make 2000 million operations on each of it cores. So this value affects in conjunction with the core number, the speed of the processor.

In PC processors there are 2 dominant competitors, the first one is Intel and the second one AMD. Intel has several processor lines, the ones with best performance are the core and Xeon. The Intel Core Processors, like the Corei7, they have 8 cores and clock speeds as high as 3.9 Ghz. Competing with them on the same segment are the FX processors from AMD  with also 8 cores and speeds as high as 4.2 Ghz. In other segment there are the Xeon from Intel and Phenom from AMD which are server processors that regularly have less performance and speed but have the ability to work in parallel with more processors, so you can build a bigger server with more processors of this kind. My personal opinion is for standard computer budgets something around 1200 USD I would definitely choose the FX or core over Xeon and Phenom (you can look for a benchmarking on processors on internet).

A page that I recommend to compare processors is this one. www.cpuboss.com/cpus/Intel-Core-i7-4940MX-vs-AMD-FX-9590, there you can compare the different Intel and AMD processors. Intel With no doubt has a better performance on their high end processors, compared to AMD witch is a little bit below, but at the same time the difference in price is very high, intel processors can double the price and just have a slightly better performance than an AMD.

Ram Memory

The memory is in charge of keeping all the information that will be processed or that require fast access. So at the time you work on a scene, or you are rendering its going to affect the overall performance of the machine. The RAM memory is something that you don’t notice, till you use it all. If you have a scene that occupies 4 Gigs in RAM and you have 8, 16 or 32 Gigs this will not make any difference on render time, in any case it would render your image on the same time, however, if your scene uses 18 Gigs and you only have 8 Gigs installed on your computer, you could notice an increment of render time as large as 10 times that with a 32 Gigs machine. In summary the more ram your computer has, you will be able to render scenes with larger amounts of geometry and textures with no problems.

In the case of the RAM memory, the main parameter would be its speed, and the way in which the pins are organized to fit in your motherboard. There are DDR2, DDR3, DDR4, the name only represents the generation, at the time, the last generation that is compatible with a PC would be DDR4 and has speeds of 1600 1866 2133, 2400, 2666,3200 MB/s it is very important to look at the Motherboard specifications to be sure that the Ram you want to install and the speed are compatible with your Motherboard

But how does the speed of the RAM memory affects the render time?

This is not a simple question to respond, since there are too many parameters that affect render time and on each scene will be different the amount of information that the processor will require at render time. To simplify this we could look at the processor as a carpenter who works building wood furniture, and the ram would be his warehouse, the place where he keeps all the wood while working. In this context the speed of the ram would be how fast someone can bring more wood to the carpenter, which is not that important if this speed is faster than the carpenter speed for working. (Processor Speed with the amount of information needed to work).

The advantage of RAM is that is easy to scale, we can buy a mother board that supports 4 DIMMS of 8 Gigs, for a total of 32 gigs, and only buy to start 1 8 Gigs DIMM and as our scenes grow in complexity, you could  acquire, more DIMMS according to our needs.

HD Hard Drive

The HD is very useful at the moment to open scenes or the 3d software we are using. Each day the software is heavier, and requires larger amounts of information for launch, so it can take a while to open a 3d software. Recently there is a new technology on HD called Solid State disks or SD, which can accelerate till 10 times the reading speed. Although their cost is higher per disk size, at least I recommend an 128 Gigs SD for a computer, so it will accelerate the computer start, and the launch of 3d programs that you use.

Video Card

The video card is the most important component at the moment of creating computer graphics. It is the one in charge of processing the information and create the 3d images that display on screen. In Video Cards there are two main chipsets brands on the market, NVIDIA and ATI(An AMD company).

In personal opinion I can´t talk about ATY cards since there´s been a while I only buy NVIDIA, which has proprietary technologies like CUDAs.

Both brands divide their cards in  2 segments : the gamers, and the scientific applications, their gamer Nvidia cards are the G-Force, and in the case of ATI, the RADEON. Both compete for the same market segment. For the NVidia Gforce I recommend At least the GTX750 that contains the last Nvidia Processor, from there on, the performance goes up but also the price. The firs number of the GTX750 code is the generation of the card, and the second one the processor capacity. So a 750 will have a slightly better performance than a 650, but a 680 would be faster than a 750.

You can compare CPUs and Video cards on the next page.


 To compare only Nvidia GPU´s you can do it on the next Nvidia official page.


With this you can have a better Idea of what video card to buy. And the better video card you have you will be able to visualize more polygons on screen while working.

Recently the render engines are starting to use the Video card for rendering. It´s called GPU Render, advanced render engines like V-Ray have their own versions on GPU which is V-Ray RT(Real Time) and that can be very Fast, they have the limitations of the amount of memory they could handle, since everything used to depend on the Video card memory. Now days Render engines like I-Ray, V-Ray and Maxwell have been working with Nvidia Optix wich is a GPU raytracer, that solves previous problems, and make possible to render with the GPU CUDAS; with this what I want you to notice is that at the moment the Video card only affects you while you work and how fast your viewport is, but in the short term, could take more relevance on the final render, as the render engines go improving and implementing this new Nvidia Technologies.

About the Video cards on the Scientific scope which would be the FireGL from ATI and Quadro from Nvidia, I had the experience of using both and have not notice an improve on performance in spite their higher costs. Talking to an Nvidia engineer he told me that my perception is correct but the Quadro are only manufactured by Nvidia so their quality control is very rigorous, while in their gamer segment, there are manufactured by other companies like PNY, MSI, ASUS, using their chipset, so only the Quadro have a longer warranty on the product.  As far as I concern this has no relevance for a user that creates CG, and understands the speed which technology advances.

Motherboards MB

The mother board is needs to support all the components that you choose and make them work together. It has a socket number which determines processor compatibility. For example it can be a 775 of intel or a am3+ from AMD. It is very important that once we have choose processor, we look for a MB that supports the processor socket, and check some features like the kind of RAM it can handle, at which speeds, and how much; there are many manufacturers, like Asus, Gigabyte, Intel, or Nvidia. Personally I don´t have any preference for a MB manufacturer, and the best choise will be to look for compatibility with the rest of components that you choose for your computer.

There are some MB that have a Video card integrated, which is not exactly what we want for CG, thought this sometimes can be handy when you have video card problems, and can use this video card for testing purposes.

Aside of this we need to look for the data bus speed for the mother board, which can be PCIe x4 x8 or x16. It is just important to choose one compatible with our video card.


Assembled PC vs Branded PC

An assembled pc has the advantage of placing exactly the components that you wish at a lower price.

Branded PCs have the advantage of offering services and tools to make easy maintenance. Branded PCs regularly have tools for formatting the PC and returned to fabric state in one click, also they provide warranty and support service in case that something gets broken.

Personally I prefer assembled computers, but I have the experience of assembling them so my preferences might be biased.

In laptops is very important to look for a laptop Brand that allows to configure a powerfull Video card. There are many brands that sell laptop workstations.



Also the common brands like Toshiba or HP have their computers for the video game segment, like Toshiba Qosmio, or HP Envy. It is very important to tell that Mac computers ar not designed to create computer graphics, I have seen many people to buy a mac at a very high price, thinking that they bought the best that there is on the market, but unfortunately, macs are always one generation behind, in processors, and have a video card specially designed for mac, that it’s not bad but is not the best you can get on the market, and you can´t buy a different card for the laptop.


It´s very important to know each one of the parts that you need to choose when picking a computer, and how this will affect the render time and our workflow, so we can choose the best according to our budget. Each decision could be a bottle neck depending on our workflow.

So in resume the first thing would be to choose a video card according to our needs. I would go for a GTX that I could afford but I would not choose something under the GTX 750; I would go straight to the AMD processors, because of their price/performance ratio compared to Intel. I would definitely invest in a SD Hard drive, and I would start with one DIM of 8 gigs, considering to upgrade as needed to 16 or 32 Gigs. About the mother board I would choose an Asus, just because I have bought a lot of them and I have never had a problem with them. And I wouldn’t forget to choose a Power supply according to my needs, that supports all the power that my components require, a standard power for a pc would be something around 1000 watts for the power supply and avoid any overcharge.

desainc miembro desde 30/07/2015
30/07/2015 03:43:13

tell me which video card to buy quadro or gtx for best viewport performance and Vray RT also my budget is a bit limited