My Next CGI workstation (For Blender) What do you guys think?

Ohhh boy, so, my pirorities have changed in terms of building a machine for Blender.

Originally; I was going to stick with a 64-Bit Pentium 4 and an overpowered graphics card (like the GTX 1080 I currently have) But due to the stock Blender Render not having GPU based rendering and the possibility of that becoming a thing is unknown, I decided to completely flop priories in favor of Blender’s CPU rendering demands.

Here’s what I’m looking to buy now;

CPU 1: Intel Xeon X6550 2.00Ghz (8 cores 16 Threads)

CPU 2: Intel Xeon X6550 2.00Ghz (8 cores 16 Threads)

CPU 3: Intel Xeon X6550 2.00Ghz (8 cores 16 Threads)

CPU 4: Intel Xeon X6550 2.00Ghz (8 cores 16 Threads)

That’s right, 4 of these monsters. This is equaled to 32 CPU cores, and 64 threads!

RAM: (32 RAM slots present, up to 1TB)


(I’m honestly uncertain where to go with this area, I will likely stay around 128GB for a while)

Graphics card; (Hopefully the on-board video will be enough to serve as a simple display adapter, otherwise I will pick up a GTX 1050 or something along those lines)

Here is an example of the motherboard;

This is not an urgent thing to be answered, I just want to know from your personal experience with Blender, I haven’t used Blender on the high end very much at all.

How well do you think Blender will take advantage of this insane machine? Again, this is going to be built specifically around Blender Render’s CPU rendering. I’m aiming for raw performance, the BEST, performance.

Thanks in advance for your input guys. : )

I haven’t looked into this in detail, but I tend to not think this is the best idea at first glance. First of all, this seems to be possibly wonderfull for rendering, but is it going to be a good workstation?.. What about single threaded tasks that are preformed by Blender? What are you planning to render? If it’s a lot of fast renders, like animation frames, this might be even slower for rendering then a sigle fast 4 core processor if there is at least one single-threaded part in the whole proces of loading and prepearing the scene for rendering. The other point to consider is where Blender Render is heading in the future. Also I think there might be issues with other software you are going to use. Does all the software you use and might use in the future support multiple processors well? I think there are a lot of things to consider before making such a decision, I wouldn’t rush with it.

I think you’d be better off to build your system around a dual Xeon E3-1231. It’s in the same price range and—even though you have to take them with a grain of salt—benchmarks show it to be on the order of three times faster. So, for less money, you could have a dual-CPU system that’s 1.5 times faster overall than the quad system you’ve outlined.

I feel your pain regarding BI render, though. I made the mistake of buying a second GPU before I realized BI didn’t even use the GPU.

Typically with a massively multi-threaded CPU rendering system you’ll want to start with at least 1 GB per (hyper)thread. At a minimum you should be looking at 48 GB. Plus that’s going to be relatively expensive ECC RAM.

But as noted by others most of the time all those resources are going to be wasted. Fewer cores, higher clock speed is usually better for all-round performance. The higher clock speed will at least partially compensate for fewer cores available while rendering and in general work. And less likely to turn into a space heater while running full-blast. :o

Well this machine will serve only one specific purpose, which is just 3D animating. I (and thousands of other Blender users) have noticed in the past that the AMD FX series CPUs render faster because they had more cores than most intel CPUs. Of course, when it comes to gaming, which is not my intention for this machine, the fewer, faster core machine would steamroll the FX processor.

So yeah, I will take what you all have said into account. I’m going for just the most insanely fast CPU rendering times possible, and fewer cores doesn’t seem to be the sweet spot, so I was thinking a large amount of cores and CPUs. 4 CPUs, that is.

Thank you for your input, I will indeed perform further research on this.

I’m hoping the primary Blender devs add in a GPU rendering option for Blender Render, because in that case I could stick with my beloved Pentium 4 rig and keep the overpowered GPU in it. Until then, I will try my absolute hardest to optimize my renders as much as possible, currently I have some very realistic/eye pleasing settings going in 1080p, and my Pentium 4 renders one UHD character with all of that and x16 anti-aliasing in just 40 seconds. : )

Also I would like some input on types of RAM you recommend, what RAM speeds you notice increase rendering performance, same goes with storage devices and operating systems. : )

You need to be careful with server motherboards, for instance the motherboard you posted above doesn’t have any PCI slots, at least none that I can see. This means that you will not be able to plug any video cards into it. That motherboard also looks to be designed for a specific case, probably a rack mounted one, which means even more $$. Many server motherboards are designed to run headless without graphics cards, which you don’t need on a server most of the time.

Good point. And I think I read somewhere that even with PCI slots, server motherboards aren’t as speedy for graphics work… or did I dream that?

Considering my work will be rendered with CPU only, an on-board GPU will be more than enough.

You don’t give a link to the motherboard you posted above, but I did a little research on quad cpu motherboards. I think you might be really disappointed if, like I said, you are not real careful on which one you end up going with. For instance this one is an interesting example:

It’s a $900 motherboard with quad cpus but it’s onboard video is a G200. That would be a Matrox G200 that originally came out in 1998, many G200s don’t have enough memory to even do 24 bit color (usually they are 16bit color) and no modern 3d acceleration (if they have any at all). At least this motherboard has some PCI slots so you could add a decent card if you wanted.

Now if you wanted this as a external render server that you connect to with another machine then it would work really well. Slap Linux on it and go to town, as a workstation I still think that you will be disappointed with these machines.

I’m really not sure it’s a good idea to invest in Blender Render right now. It’s not being actively developed anymore, simply maintained. It will be discontinued in 2.8 and it’s current role will be totally replaced by the new viewport.

I animate in blender too and for several of my past freelance projects I was using Blender Render. But I had to switch to cycles recently anyway for so many reasons.

But Cycles has become so incredibly damned fast now. Have you been keeping track of the recent developments like denoise ? Cycles denoise and several other big speed advancements are looking to be in the next official release.

If you are investing in a machine for Blender then I feel its better to really look towards where it is going and be ready for it. Blender is developing so fast right now.

Anyway all the best. Good luck with the new machine.

Maybe so, but you’ll still be dependent on a GPU for a speedy viewport. If you end up with the G200 cited above, you’ll be waiting eons every time you rotate the view… in wireframe mode. It would also mean not seeing textures or even test animations until you render to a file. And playing back those animation renders (or even viewing a large still image) will necessitate transferring your final image/animation to another machine with a proper video card.

But if that’s how you roll, go for it.

I believe then this 4 times Intel Xeon X6550 rig would be a huge mistake. Blender Render might not be around for long as it is planned to be replaced by Eevee. You will pay for RAM that is never going to be used for one thing, you will not have an adequate video card to even view your work and it will most likely render slower than a single good i7 processor like i7-7700 because raytree building happens on every frame before rendering and it is single-threaded operation that will take more time than actual rendering if it’s 40 seconds on Pentium 4. And it will cost a fortune.

Why don’t you move to Cycles rendering, get a i7-7700K, one more GTX 1080, add the GTX 1080 you already have, get 2 fast SSDs and RAID them, get a huge storage and backup HDD and enjoy a really fast workstation? It seems it would be even cheaper! For the remaining pile of money you could for example get a couple of decent monitors and a colorimeter to calibrate and profile them for accurate colors that will make a real difference for your work.