My Cycles render quality is terrible

My cycles render quality is terrible. I get fuzzy images not nearly as crisp as what I see in nearly any tutorial. I’m not running terrible hardware either,

Blender 2.61
i5 2500k
8gb ram

I’m using the default settings, in CPU mode. (I see a lot of videos with GPU mode as an option, but I don’t have that selection).

I’ve attached the common monkey snapshot edited in graphics program to have a strong border for contrast and a zoom on some of the speckles I’m getting.

Fancier images get a lot worse, even after hundreds of passes.

I’ve applied the same “zoom” on this image.

The blue…thing in the vase, is the water. I just shrunk it down and moved it up, in preparation for this image, so that I could be 110% certain it was not overlapping with the glass in any area and causing artifacting in that way.

Any tips on why my render quality, with default settings, is so terrible? ._.

Thanks for any help.


increase the samples

“hundreds of passes”? Only very simple scenes like old default 2 monkey on cycles before merging can clear noise that fast. Real complex scenes require tens of thousands of passes to clear noise.