Mac Windows or Linux?


Please excuse the ignorance - I am just the money supply when it comes to Blender. My background is I am an electronic engineer, but PCs leave me cold and I don’t understand graphic card specs and the difference between different processors/RAMs/Motherboards and how they relate to Blender.

My 12 year old son has been using Blender for a couple of years, generating pictures and using the game engine, and is expressing interest in following 3D animation for a career. He has struggled with our 10 year old windows XP PC and the time has come to upgrade it. I would like to get a computer that will be future proof when using Blender as this is probably the application with the most exacting requirements.

So the question is should I look to buy a iMac, Windows or Linux computer and what specs should I be looking at? If there is a web page anyone can point me to I am fine with that.

Thanks in advance

I’d suggest Windows.

Sure it has issues, but they all do; windows 7 is a dream in comparrison to anything else MS have prodiced (I hated XP) and stayed with windows 2k until trying vista.

You’ll certainly pay more for the mac, and some argue you get more. And there are posts on these forums of people expressing irritation over linux.


contrary to what writer’s block said, i would suggest to have a look at a linux operating system: if your son wants to make a career out of doing very specialized tasks on a computer, it is very beneficial to learn about how the computer actually works and that’s a thing linux is particularly good for due to it’s open environment.

as for hardware: there really is no future proof option when buying a computer, as the technology has been evolving rapidly for a longer period of time now and there is no real sign of stalling (in fact there is even a law for this).
the good news is, if you buy a decent computer now, your son will (potentially) be able to do things with it, pixar couldn’t do only a few years ago.

If you want “future proof”, don’t get a Mac. To be able to upgrade the graphics card you would have to go with the Mac Pro, which I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple dropped in the not too distant future. Powerful but expensive. With the iMac you can only upgrade the RAM and the graphics cards are usually well behind the latest on the market.

Build your own PC, a Mac offers no flexibility in terms of useful hardwareupgrades whatsoever and is just another x86 PC as well, oversimplyfied said: running a fancy Linux derivate.

Once the machine is done, get a windows OEM/SB license, they are really cheap just come without any support tickets and dualboot with Linux, which is not really a discussion, as latter doesn’t cost anything anyways.

This way you got a highly customizeable, upgradeable machine if you choose the hardware wisely and can have the best from the Linux and the Windows world.

Today it’s not about what’s the ultimate best, it’s about picking the rasins.

+1 for a dual boot.

If you are buying a pre-built PC it will have Windows on it anyway. Add a separate partition or a separate hard drive with linux on it.

For the new cycles renderer you need a nvidia GFX card (atm.), don´t buy smaller than GTX 550 2GB rather better.
Think about a SSD hardrive for your system and main software, i´ve buy one 60 GB last year and want never give it away (only for a faster one :)). The best hardware part i ever buy.

Cheers, mib.

++to organic.

Whatever hardware you get setup a dual boot into Linux. Blender, under Linux, has been reported to render faster than Windows or OSX. So you are left with choosing an OS. Your graphics card should be nVidia. And lets not forget this is boy. So he will want to play/make games as well. This means choosing Windows. Which means it will cost less than a mac.

I reckon ask your son what he wants. My daughter prefers the iMac, it better (eyeroll)! It doesn’t really matter, Blender runs acceptable well on just about any old computer and OS.

Dual boot Linux. I do the same thing. I run fedora 16 crossed with Windows XP. Performance wise Windows uses a huge amount of memory when it runs and makes multitasking other applications a pain and while windows can multitask it’s slow. Linux on the other hand is very conservative. While compared to windows, Linux cpu usage is only a little bit less, but Linux uses less than half of what Windows uses and allows for a heck of a lot more room for other applications to run together.

Only issue on Fedora blender does not update in the repos so you have to install manually through a terminal which isn’t to hard. No need to compile. All you have to do is download the linux build of blender from then as root move the file to /opt/ create a “blender.desktop” file in /usr/share/applications/. But I just copied another application file and reconfigured it with Vi editor to get a desktop icon which is packaged in the blender download and the right executable along with description tags.

After you have made everything work and blender comes out with another update all you need to do is replace the new downloaded file with the new and with Vi editor change the executable location in the blender.desktop you also have to change the location of the icon too uless you moved it to another folder then you don’t have to worry about it.

Does your kid want to create stuff or become a quasi CS major? If your PC is 10 years old then I doubt you are much into building PCs. I would avoid Linux just because there is no immediate benefit for you or him. If you or he wants to dual boot later, great, it can be fun. But for right off the bat, get a PC with Windows 7. Almost anything you get will be better than what you have now. Windows 7 is great. Attractive and fast enough. A pc would also allow for future upgrading, expansion etc. I don’t feel like there is any benefit for you to go with a mac. I have had decent luck with Dell’s but think it is worth getting an extended warranty. If you don’t build your own and don’t have a bunch of parts to roll over into a build then this is generally the cheapest way to get new hardware, monitor and a legit OS license. Stick with an nvidia card as it is generally a happier experience in linux if you ever decide to install it and is a great card in Windows.

Thanks everyone for your replies and help.

Having talked it over with my son, I think we be doing the Father/Son bonding thing and make our own. I have done this once before, for a very budget system with my (85 year old) Dad. I understand the graphics card is probably most important and as regards OS I’ll probably dual boot Linux/Win7 (I use both at work and my email surfing laptop is Linux).

Thanks again for all your help and advice.

As a linux user, imo it is best suited for the power user. There are often times where fixing issues are not intutitive. That said imo it is more powerful and better for the power user.

I feel like the blender expericene is slightly better in linux (I saw some bench marks that showed better blender render times in linux fwiw), plus I feel like the software is slightly more stable…I could be wrong though. Plus IndulgentDad’s expereince with Linux (however small or large) will be invaluable…I know when I was 12, I would have been incapable of switching interfaces/Operating systems.

Good luck!@IndulgentDad

In terms of building a box, there are a lot of places that offer good prices and include a 3 year hardware warranty to boot, and they have way more options hardware-wise than a big name will offer.

Just to update you, I decided to make my own system. i5 based, 8G RAM, GTX550ti, Cached hard disk, Raid 1 disks, Win7 possibly linux (depends on the disk caching working in linux, I suspect that they will be separate systems if I dual boot).

Worked first time but it’s back in it’s box until my son’s birthday at the end of the month.

Things I wish I had changed:

1 - motherboard with 2 PCIx16 so graphics card could be SLIed in future.
2 - bigger SSD so I could load operating system on that directly (could be changed in future)

Thanks for you help and advice.

The best desktop operating system i have ever tried is FreeBSD/PCBSD, it also supports linux binaries and it works flawlessly, the only problem in my case is the lack of driver from ATI, if i had a video card from Nvidia i will certain install a BSD system.

Windows 7 and Mac OS are only a waste of money for me and for what you can get, in most cases are also a waste of computing power and a source of troubles; a GNU/linux distribution is the best options if you want the best support that is available for your peripherals without losing too much time.