Advice Wanted: New Computer?

I’m getting fed up with my current computer. It’s slow as hell (2.3 gHz, 1 core), with an outdated graphics card (Geforce MX 440), and 256 Mb of RAM. Needless to say, I’m looking for one with a bit more drive in the processor department and a CUDA-supporting graphics card (Cycles!). Does anyone have any idea as to how I could get a new (or used)) computer with decent specs for VFX work, without paying an arm and a leg?

How about some URD?
Budget, usage, pipeline…

Best bang for the buck on the core system:
Phenom 2 X4 955 BE or Phenom 2 X6 1090T BE. new 100, 150 euro, used only prior for 50-70 euro.
(BE = black edition and you´ll be able to OC the system very easily)
sata2+ unless you plan to VFX with proxy files. (buy while HDDs are still cheap (japan)) 1 tb+ ~40-50 euro new, 25-30 euro used.
8+ Gig generic DDR3 ~70 euro new, ~50 euro used.
Maiboard, depends however, AM3 board from 35-250 euro.

Graphics card you´re screwed. What´s good for cuda, sucks for OpenGL/Blender viewport. What´s fast in OpenGL has no CUDA.
Anyways, by the time Cycles is usable it´ll have OpenCL, or you use Luxray, or Octane if you want GPGPU raytracers that are free/affordable.
Personally I´d not get a card specifically for Cycles, by the time Cycles production ready the card´ll be old crap. (I´d guesstimate about 2-3 years at least unless some genius coderteam suddenly appears and hops on the source)

I´d try to get a GTX285 if it has to be nvidia, I just got one on ebay for 70 euro. It´s almost as fast as a GTX460, but only has CC 1.3 and no DX11. It´s the fastest card you can get from nvidia without the glreadpixels and backface shading bottleneck.
Otherwise if you don´t need cuda, get any Radeon from 4850+
4850/4870, 5850/5870, 6950/6970.
You´ll get a 4870 for ~40-50 euro on ebay.

As I guess you´re from the states, other than ebay you can get a computer from a pawnstore and feel sorry for the one who it was stolen from :slight_smile: As for used computer part dealers in the colonies I got no idea.

Thanks. I’m really interested in a better GPU so I can use GPU rendering- I might get Octane after I get a better computer. Any other ideas, people?

Perhaps the first thing you ought to do is to find out how much RAM your existing system can hold. 256MB is, by modern standards, hopelessly inadequate. “Chips are cheap,” and the “chips” used in older systems are cheaper still. Perhaps you should find out how much memory you can stuff into the box.

(And, if that motherboard can’t hold many gigabytes of RAM, then I’d say “it’s time to move on.”)

As far as what you might want to “move on” to, you are most likely to be satisfied with a computer that’s similar in software-configuration to the one that you now own. Which would be, Microsoft Windows in some incarnation.

The perceived “slowness” of your computer probably isn’t in any way related to the graphics card.

When I bought my first stereo system, all those years ago, I was given the advice, “buy a cheap amplifier and terrific speakers.” When buying a camera, buy a cheap camera and a fantastic lens. When buying a computer, I suggest that you buy maybe not-the-fastest CPU, but stuff it with memory.

For cheap PC’s you can try or find a place in your town that sells used office PC’s… Just be sure you know what you are looking at so you know what can and can’t be upgraded on the box.

Anymore you can get a new PC that is pretty good and a huge step up from your current rig for pretty cheap… if you are running only 256 ram… then you have to be pretty good at optimizing your PC so you wouldn’t have too much issue with a $500 PC I’d imagine.

His system is so old, upgrading is no option in my opinion. He should buy a complete new system. Tell us how much you want to spend on your PC and we can help you with finding the right components.

I’m on a crappy old PC myself, only slightly better than yours: 2.4GHz P4, 512MB RAM, GF 4200-Ti 64MB VRAM. In other words, I involuntarily forget about sculpting and “serious” rendering.

Anyway since this is not exactly off topic and MAY interest the topic starter also, I have this question: I have long been waiting for a good laptop with following requirements:

  • 17"+ Full HD screen.
  • Capable HW for sculpting, rendering, and also games (disregarding top settings).
  • “Normal” price tag.
  • Relative safety from going defect within the first few years.

Is it dumb to buy a laptop for rendering ? Does that go against my last requirement ? I mainly am pursuing a laptop purchase for the comfort purpose, which would enable me to “work” for much longer than I’d otherwise be able to sitting in front of a desktop.

I can’t speak for you, xol, but I’d be fine with a laptop. Yeah, I’d generally need a new system, preferably one capable of VFX work. I’d like to keep it under $1200 if I can.


Comfort? No. The only thing where a notebook makes sense, is when it got to be mobile and I don´t mean to carry it from the livingroom to the garden. If you don´t use a notebook at a desk it´s more tiresome and even considered unhealthy.
On top of that you get ~3x the power a notebook has for the same price in a desktop and got the chance of upgrades - however nowadays major upgrades are not really an issue anymore. By the time you think you need an upgrade you come to realize that you´re off cheaper buying a new box.
On top of that during rendering the power intake is so high you either render 30 mins, or are bound to the next wall socket, and a notebook is a dense contraption, the heat isn´t really expelled good and thermal stress ages electrical components by a multiple.
If you intend to “work” longer make sure to get an anti-glare coated display. Those makeupmirrors are rough on the eyes, exhausting your eye muscles very fast and you get tired. Here in Austria workplaces for employees have to have non-glare displays for instance. It´s not always done, nor known by many, but if the… i think the translation is “occupational health practicioner” or the “industrial safety” hears it you get a fine and got to replace the screens.

If you really need the comfort factor, get a workstation and save a bit on the components and throw a netbook on top of the buy.
Use a remote desktop to control your desktop with the netbook then. To check on renders, start renders, or simple modelling tasks, or assigning materials it´s good enough. I sometimes even work remotely from home with a machine in the studio to fix stuff in files or check on the renderfarm.



With comfort I mean I get tired in my body sitting on a chair, and I do workout several days week, that’s proper workout and very different to those of Bud Bundy :yes:
I like (need) to be in bed quite a lot, not sleeping, but resting, both due to workouts and also health (I 've had an injury for years) issues for whose very reason I do those, quite extensive, workouts.

Anyhow, could you elaborate on “remote” clients etc ? While I have barely researched the subject I’m not sure if I can have the same user experience from such a client. But again, I would not have a clue.

Oh,man, your RAM, CPU and graphics card is old school now. You may need change it to a new one! It won’t take you too much if you assemble on your own.

Thanks for your tips on hardware, etc. I know my computer is older than dirt… Does anyone know of a source for good components at reasonable prices?

There are a few cool projects on the web I first read about in PC Format allowing you to connect an external GPU to any laptop with a PCMIAA slot <<coughcyclescough>> for rendering overnight while your laptop is charging.


Thanks for the hint!

Well, I am not sure about where you live, but for me I have a (massive) discount computer store near my house (the word “Near” for an Australian means less than an hour…) that sells basically everything at tiny cost. I got 8 GB RAM for $50 (about $52 US), ordered my 560ti for just $240 ($250 US) and ontop of that got a new 24" screen for $160. Everything new, still in box. Full warranties, everything. If you look around you can find almost anything for a good price. (I literally searched thousands of websites, but It was worth it because I have saved thousands of dollars).

Look aruond, and think before you buy. If you think a price is cheap, keap looking around. There is almost ALWAYS a cheaper store.

Start here:

PCMCIA does not work, you need an ExpressCard Slot.

Including a monitor or not?

Not including a monitor. I have all the right peripherals (keyboard, mouse, a Wacom tablet, etc.), just a crappy computer. I just need the box.