New PC components for sculpting - RAM or graphic card first?

Due to the incredible sculpt improvements I want to increase the sculpt performance with my PC. I am using Windows 7 64Bit, 2GB RAM and an ATI x1950 GT with 512MB.

I can’t buy all the hardware at once, so I am wondering what is more effective for getting a higher performance with sculpt mode. More memory RAM or a faster graphic card? Note that I am using GLSL shading in the viewport for a better sculpt material.

This is a little tough, you definitely need more Ram as a priority 2 GB is simply not enough for 64 bit windows 7 running 3d apps. Also, the Graphics card is beginning to get on in years a little bit. You will get much improved performance by upgrading the Ram first but I would also start saving a few quid for a new Graphics card, there are some pretty good, reasonably priced mid range ones out there.

Yea well that’s my problem at the moment. If I buy a new graphic card, then I’d buy a high end ATI 5870 or 5970, but I think the new graphic card generation is coming out in a few months, so I’d rather wait with the graphic card if possible cause it would be a “waste of money” to buy a high end graphic card, if I can get the newest generation for the same price in a few months…

Considering RAM I would buy 12 GB.

And shooting yourself in the foot as far as performance goes turn it off and you will be amazed at how much better you can sculpt at higher subdivisions.

I have about the same spec pc as yours but I use ubuntu 32bit version. With GLSL things are sluggish at 1.5million faces without it things only get sluggish at 8 million faces. This is with VBO on and double sided faces turned off and global undo turned down to 5 steps.

I only use GLSL for screen grabs and checking things out.

my graphics card is a lowly 9500gt with 1GB of memory. I haven’t baked anything yet but I am thinking baking not sculpt is what will eventually force me to spring for more memory, I have 2gb at the moment.

12 GB of Ram is a lot, it is useful if you are rendering huge scenes and more than enough for sculpting. The bang for buck ratio of Graphics cards isn’t that good at the moment due to do the general disappointment among gamers with the new Nvidia fermi series. I’m building a new system next week myself so I’ve done quite a bit of research on this.
The Nvidia GTX 470/480 become a good option if you are planning to use the cuda technology for rendering and GPU processing, Octane render etc… Otherwise stick with ATI, they’re better value for money at the minute. Another important thing to think about is the quality/size of your power supply, your motherboard and what cooling you have. 12 Gigs of Ram and a high end GPU will draw a lot of electricity and produce a fair amount of heat.

Definitely go for more RAM, once you hit about 800,000 polygons your machine will more than likely run out of RAM and Blender will exit, not to mention the horrific slow-down you’ll have with such a low amount of RAM.

If you can, try upgrading it to 6GB, this will be more than enough (In most cases) and will future proof you for a little while until you can upgrade your graphic card.

By the way, from what I’ve seen the latest generation cards don’t always equal a massive amount of gain in raw polygon performance, it seems as if the latest generation of cards are geared much towards shaders and other fancy features.

Alright then, thanks everyone for your suggestions. I’m going to upgrade my RAM first, going with 16GB. I know that’s a lot, but it’s a great Quad Kit with only 4 RAM modules :). And hey, you never know how much ram you could use in the future :D! I’m planning to start a short animation soon, so as much RAM as possible is well appreciated ;)!

16GB is a lot, but you know what they say ‘the more the better’.

I would run a RAM test as soon as you have the modules installed, just to be on the safe side.

Check the specs on your motherboard before buying 16GB of RAM. From what I can see, most of the motherboards released around the time of that graphics card only supported 4-8GB.

Yes, but that’s no problem. I’m trying to upgrade my PC every month with one new component :).

I still have the poorest graphics Card on earth (see signature)… guess the ram is what saves me (till i can change the card.

For future reference, the simplest way to tell if RAM is your issue is look at how much RAM is in use while you’re sculpting (or even better, at the peak usage while subdividing or level-switching on a multires mesh.) If you use up all your RAM and start going in to swap, that’s definitely bad and more RAM will give you a bigger performance increase than anything else.

Knowing when to update the processor vs. the graphics card is trickier. Updating the graphics card will help if the old one doesn’t have enough memory for the VBO data (although depending on the situation, VBO data might be staying in main mem anyway.) Updating the processor might help for other cases, particularly a processor with more cache. Extra cores will help a little bit, but multi-threading for sculpt is still a bit iffy right now, not sure that you’ll see a ton of improvements from that.


Thanks for that very detailed answer! That cleared up a lot! It’s always been kind of opaque how which part of the hardware is influencing the performance in Blender!

Did you watch the clip on realtime Small-lux gpu render, it is hot! and is GPU based. You may want to look into a card that works best with that for your next vid card.

Yes I know bout that and I am following the movement of GPU-computing with a lot of excitement! I hope that in the future most of the stuff will be OpenCL based. I am a huge ATI fan, so I am looking forward for all this cool stuff to be available with OpenCL. It’s sad that most of the commercial tools only support CUDA (at the moment).

By the way: I don’t have a slowdown with using GLSL shading! Or at least no significant! My systems slows down at 1,5Million polygons when drawing. It’s almost the same speed with or without GLSL so I rather leave it turned on :)!