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Building for Blender

Building for Blender

Postby SPARTAN-001 » July 19th, 2010, 9:51 am

When you're thinking about upgrading your computer or building a new one, you have to think what you really need in a computer used for Blender. Blender will run on just about any computer, but you're not looking for just running, you want performance. If you want performance, you need to choose the right parts for the right price, and you need to make sure you don't have too little of something, or too much of something, so that the system is balanced. Here I'll provide a list of possible builds at 3 price points, low, mid, and high.

Low price, high performance:

CPU:
We're going to go with an AMD platform for this one, because the $90-120 Athlon II X4 CPU is the cheapest quad core you're gonna find anywhere. It might not perform as well as some of the i5 or i7 CPUs, but it can't be beaten for the price. At 3.0GHz, the Athlon II X4 640 is extremely speedy, and at $120, it's awe-inspiring.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6819103871

Motherboard:
We want a good quality motherboard at a low-quality price. It needs to be socket AM3, support 4GB of RAM, and have all of the peripheral ports and other features that we need. The Gigabyte GA-MA74GM-S2 is only $55, but still manages to support 8GB of DDR2 1066, has onboard video (which we won't be using here, but is a possibility), has a PCI-e x16 slot, 4 SATA ports (supporting RAID 0/1/10/JBOD), and an IDE port. It only has 2 USB ports, but plentiful headers if you need them. It also has onboard gigabit ethernet, which is on most boards now, but is still helpful.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/NewProduc ... 6813128342

RAM:
Since we're going to be using Windows 7, we're going to need some RAM. For a new system, I'd recommend at least 4GB, and that's what we're going to use here. For Blender, 4GB will give you enough RAM for large scenes, and lots of stuff going on, without being unused. We don't really need the extra speed of 1066MHz RAM, and so we can save some money and go for DDR2 800MHz RAM, which will perform adequately at a low cost. For $87, this kit of Kingston HyperX will do. I have this kit, and it's great RAM.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6820104001

Graphics:
Graphics card is an important consideration. For Blender, we need something that will power through high-poly scenes, and still remain buttery smooth. We also need something that will play most recent games, because games are fun. For this reason, and to avoid a bottleneck, I chose the EVGA Geforce GTX 460. Built on the Fermi Architecture from Nvidia, and the first card to use the GF104 chip, it outperforms the GTX 465 and ATI's 5830 can't touch it. At $200, the GTX 460 is an amazing deal.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6814130562

Power Supply:
This is an area where it's absolutely critical not to skimp on. The PSU is the heart of your computer. It needs to provide stable, clean power, and have enough of it to keep your system running without a hitch. The Corsair CMPSU-750TX is a beast of a 750W PSU, with a 60 amp single +12V rail, and enough connectors for any system. It'll last through an upgrade if you get a new system, and still have enough power. It might be a little bit overkill, but that's ok for a PSU.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6817139006

Storage:
Pretty much any hard drive will do for this build, as long as it's SATA and fairly new. An SSD would be bottlenecked by this system, and RAID can get pricey. Blender's not going to have huge amounts of data normally, but editing videos and doing huge smoke simulations might lead to a lot of storage requirements. I'd recommend a good 500GB-1TB drive, as these come fairly cheap and good quality. For example, this Seagate Barracuda 500GB drive is a pretty typical hard drive, nothing fancy, nothing horrible, and it's a decent price at $60.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6822148395

Optical:
All CD/DVD+/-RW burners are going to be the same. You might find some speed improvement, but not enough to pay more than $30. Blu-ray is cool, but it's very pricey right now, and no free software can play it. Here's an example of a standard optical drive at $20.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6827118039

Case:
At this price range, you're probably not going to be looking for a stylish case with flashy lights and tons of airflow. You're going to be looking for a case that gets the job done without complaining, and this Rosewill case does what's asked of it. It's going to be a little flimsy, but it's also cheap, so don't complain too much. You can also add 2 120mm fans to the case, for extra airflow. Fun fact: Rosewill is Newegg's house brand. $30
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6811147074

OS:
For the OS, you're gonna want Windows 7. It plays games, it's new, and it's supported by every vendor under the sun. Blender runs well on Windows 7, and there are no compatibility problems. You can get an OEM copy of Home Premium for $100. The EULA says that the OEM version is for people building systems for other people, so you aren't supposed to buy it to use yourself, but nobody will know the difference. Home Premium is missing some features, but honestly, I haven't used any of those features in the year I've had 7.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6832116754

Total price: $782
OS- $100
Case- $30
Optical- $20
Hard Drive- $60
PSU- $110 on sale ($90 with MIR)
Graphics- $200
RAM- $87
Motherboard- $55
CPU- $120

Mid Range and High End builds coming soon.
//SPARTAN
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Re: Building for Blender

Postby 3LeggedDog » July 19th, 2010, 10:08 am

Great article, Spartan! I checked all links - they all work, and I pretty much agree with all of your choices. I spent about that much for an of-the-shelf emachines, that is sitting in the corner burned up, and I can tell anyone, from experience, it is better to build than buy preassembled.
Now, what about that "dream machine"? :D
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Re: Building for Blender

Postby SPARTAN-001 » July 19th, 2010, 10:13 am

Oh, don't you fret about the dream machine. It's on the way. But yes, it's always better to build rather than buy in the $700+ range. Below that it's hard to beat the big box retailers at their own game.
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Re: Building for Blender

Postby SPARTAN-001 » July 19th, 2010, 5:52 pm

Now that we've seen the low cost build, let's do a mid range build. For this build, we're not going over the top, we're going to aim for about $1500-2000. The key here is the price-performance ratio, and we aren't going to go over the top or too cheap. Without further ado, here's the list.

Mid range, no compromises:

CPU:
For this build, the i7 920 is a good deal. For now, it's the cheapest in the 900 series i7 processors, and while the 930 will take its price point soon, it's still more expensive right now. At 2.66GHz, this might seem kind of weak for a quad core, but you have to remember that it's hyperthreaded. This means that it will have twice as many threads, which doesn't quite equate to twice the performance, but it'll give a good deal more performance. For Blender, expect great render times, and it'll bake like a storm. $295 dollars on Newegg, around $200 at some retailers.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... -_-Product

Heatsink:
Here, we'll be using a heatsink, because with a higher performance system, you'll be more likely to overclock, and a heatsink helps keep your temperatures down. The Cooler Master Hyper 212+ is a great heatsink, and at $30 from most retailers (except Newegg), it's an unbeatable deal. I've got one, and it's served me well so far.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6835103065

Motherboard:
For a mid range build, we'll go with a decent motherboard by a good manufacturer. EVGA has a bit of trouble with components on their high end boards, but that should be dealt with soon, and their mid range boards are very good quality. It provides good stability for overclocking, and has two PCIe x16 slots, if you're interested in SLI or Crossfire. It also supports a maximum of 24GB of DDR3 1600 in 6 slots, and will give you 6 SATA ports, optical and S/PDIF audio out, 8 USB 2.0 ports, onboard gigabit ethernet, 2 firewire ports, and loads of other fun stuff. This is a pretty good board for $200
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6813188051

RAM:
We're gonna want enough RAM so that we aren't low on RAM while multitasking or dealing with huge high poly scenes. We want RAM that's fairly fast, and also fairly cheap. It should also be tri-channel to take advantage of the x58 chipset. Let's go with 6GB of DDR3 1600 from GSkill, a well known and trusted brand. $150
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6820231225

Graphics:
For graphics, nothing right now from ATI can match the power of Nvidia's Fermi architecture. The second best in Nvidia's DX11 line is the GTX 470, and it's certainly powerful. It has 1GB of RAM, and outperforms the HD5850 in most benchmarks, and even the 5870 in some. Nvidia's tessellation performance is second to none, and this will be great for Blender, powering through sculpting and subsurface levels with ease. It'll also play almost every game at the highest settings (except for Metro 2033). If you SLI them, it'll be unstoppable. For $350, it's a little bit pricey, but it's certainly not the most expensive out there.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6814130550

Power Supply:
In this build, we'll want a good PSU that can supply enough power, has enough amperage on the 12V rail, has enough connectors for everything that you'll need to attach, and is reliable and provides clean power. This PC Power & Cooling 950W power supply has more than enough connectors, some of the cleanest power on the market, and with almost a kilowatt of power, more capacity than you should need for this build. It's got a capacity of 83.4 amps on the +12V rail, and will supply even a 3-way GTX 480 SLI setup.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6817703028

Storage:
For this build, we'll want fairly fast storage, to make sure that we have quick load times and quick boots, but we don't want to break the bank. Let's get a smaller SSD and a large storage drive, so that we can have the best of both worlds. For the SSD, we'll go with the 40GB Intel X25-M drive, which supports TRIM and is one of the faster drives on the market. At 40GB, you can have your OS and a couple programs and games on it. It's only $115, so it should be fairly affordable, and it's wicked fast.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6820167025
Here's the HDD, for larger amounts of storage. Any 1TB drive will work, and for example here's the Samsung Spinpoint F3, the highest rated 1TB drive on Newegg. One of my friends has this drive, and he hasn't had a single problem with it. It's also one of the faster 1TB drives out there. At $75 it's not a bad deal.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6822152185

Optical:
All CD/DVD+/-RW burners are going to be the same. You might find some speed improvement, but not enough to pay more than $30. Blu-ray is cool, but it's very pricey right now, and no free software can play it. Here's an example of a standard optical drive at $20.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6827118039

Case:
A good case adds style and function to a build. The Cooler Master HAF 932 is not going to be appealing to everybody, with its industrial/military theme, but you certainly can't beat the cooling in this case. With several 200mm fans and a 230mm fan, this case is cool and silent. $140
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6811119160

OS:
For the OS, you're gonna want Windows 7. It plays games, it's new, and it's supported by every vendor under the sun. Blender runs well on Windows 7, and there are no compatibility problems. You can get an OEM copy of Home Premium for $100. The EULA says that the OEM version is for people building systems for other people, so you aren't supposed to buy it to use yourself, but nobody will know the difference. Home Premium is missing some features, but honestly, I haven't used any of those features in the year I've had 7.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6832116754

Total Price: $1725
OS- $100
Case- $140
Optical- $20
Storage- $115+$75
PSU- $250
Graphics- $350
RAM- $150
Motherboard- $200
CPU- $295
Heatsink- $30 most retailers

This build comes in at a little bit of a higher price than you'd like for a mid range build, but it's got good quality components and it certainly will power through rendering and baking in record time. It'll also stay cool and remain stable even with some overclocking. High end build coming tomorrow.
//SPARTAN
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Re: Building for Blender

Postby IrascibleOne » July 19th, 2010, 8:56 pm

This is great, and thanks for spending the time to do this. I have been vaguely interested in hardware and whenever I have the money I plan on putting together my own computer.
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Re: Building for Blender

Postby SPARTAN-001 » July 20th, 2010, 4:54 am

Not a problem. Hardware is interesting for me, and I'm glad whenever I can help someone out. :D
When were you thinking of building your computer?
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Re: Building for Blender

Postby IrascibleOne » July 20th, 2010, 9:20 am

No real plans at the moment, money is still an issue and probably will be throughout my college life. It's more of a 'I'll get to it someday' sort of deal right now.
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Re: Building for Blender

Postby SPARTAN-001 » July 20th, 2010, 9:22 am

Ah, ok. Well hopefully you get to build a new computer soon! :)
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Re: Building for Blender

Postby 3LeggedDog » July 20th, 2010, 3:36 pm

Yeah; me too :D

(Still waitin' for that dream build! Last build was good, too, by the way!)
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Re: Building for Blender

Postby SPARTAN-001 » July 20th, 2010, 3:52 pm

That looks like it's gonna have to wait right now. I'll get it up ASAP, no promises on time though.
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