New PC, Hardware setup and basics

Hello everyone!

Im about to buy a new PC. Well, i mainly want to use Blender on it so i wanna match up my system as much as possible. I like to ask for help, so i will not make any errors and have a nice and clean start.

First things first, the PC. I have a 1.5k€ limit, with this current setup im still 300€ below. So there is some space to change things until i have the final result.

Seagate Barracuda 7200.14 2000GB, SATA 6Gb/s (ST2000DM001)
Samsung SSD 840 Series 120GB, 2.5", SATA 6Gb/s (MZ-7TD120BW)
Intel Xeon E3-1245V2, 4x 3.40GHz, Sockel-1155, boxed (BX80637E31245V2)
Enermax ETS-T40-TB
G.Skill Ares DIMM Kit 16GB PC3-12800U CL10-10-10-30 (DDR3-1600) (F3-1600C10D-16GAO)
Point of View GeForce GTX 660, 2GB GDDR5, 2x DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort (VGA-660-A1-2048)
Gigabyte GA-H77-D3H, H77 (dual PC3-12800U DDR3)
Dell UltraSharp U2412M schwarz, 24"
LG Electronics GH24NS95 schwarz, SATA, bulk (GH24NS95.AUAA10B)
Xigmatek Asgard Pro (CCC-AE37BS-U02)
be quiet! Straight Power E9 450W ATX 2.3 (E9-450W/BN191)
Microsoft: Windows 7 Home Premium 64Bit, DSP/SB, 1er-Pack, labeled (deutsch)
as OS.

I got this setup by posting a request in another forums so it should work and match well. However, i want to cross check and ask experienced Users (especially experienced in working with blender) about any suggestions they might share with me.
Im not very experienced in hardware stuff and there are some points im still clueless. So i start with some questions here:

#1: General: Will the stated setup above works well with rendering software like Blender? What is your opinion/rating on that system?
#2: GPU: It seems that there are many differend variations on the graphic card available, that differ slightly in names, prices and so on, even if the basic model name is identical (GeForce GTX 660). So which one should i choose or are they basically all the same so it doesnt matter that much?
#3: Cooling: Should i take more attentiion on this point or is the stated hardware adequate to take care of that? If not, what can i do to improve possible cooling issues?
#4: OS: Is that Windows 7 version ok or will i need an other version?
#5: Any other things i should be aware of or any hardware that i should change in my setup?

After that is done i will need to set my system up. Since this PC is mosly for rendering i would like to tune it in that direction. Again, i wanna ask for opinions from experienced users to get the maximum out of it.

#6: OS: I will check other forums to instal it clean and tune it a bit. However, please add a coment if there is anything in particular i should take care of.
#7: Drivers: Well, i would just download the newest drivers and instal like recommended, starting with mainboard, graphic card, then others. Is there anything i should be aware of please let me know. ^^’
#8: Software: I don’t wanna add unnecessary stuff. What (and what versions) do i really need and what do i not need? (like MS frameworks, librarys, c++ etc.)

And thats it for now. I hope that you guys can help me out on some issues. Anyways, thank you for reading!

Quit a mouthful here, but let me try to do a very condensed response.

  • Unless you are doing CPU-heavy stuff like fluid sim etc., you only really need to care about the GPU. When you’re rendering that’s the only things that matters. A fast disk, quick CPU/MB/RAM matters little
  • Linux has a tiny edge over Windows, but it’s tiny, so you can probably ignore that and go for Windows 7
  • The GTX-5xx series is faster for rendering than the GTX-6xx series (and cheaper!). I’d rather look for a GTX-580 if you can afford it
  • With a single GPU you don’t need additional cooling. For more than one GPU you probably want to think hard about this, but not for a single GPU. Your 450W is pretty weak - I wouldn’t chance it
  • Make sure you have a powerful enough PSU, 650W minimum, 800W+ great in case you decide to go dual-GPU later or have tons of fans, blinking lights, water cooling, built-in aquarium etc. (yup, the aquarium was mostly a joke)
  • Drivers: nah, just get the newest
  • Software: nope. Get Blender and all latest updates for Windows and you are good

For all your GPU-accelerated rendering questions I’ll do my regular shameless plug for my Blender Cycles Hardware FAQ. Most questions most people seem to have are already answered there.

Bottom line: for Cycles GPU-rendering your GPU matters (and having a strong enough PSU to power it of course). Everything else is more in the “nice to have” category unless doing certain CPU heavy tasks (or rendering scenes too large for the GPU, which will force you to fall back on your CPU).

Thank you for your help!

Well, i had in mind doing some real complex simulations using the CPU. However, GPU rendering would be nice for previews and for rendering smaller projects - or parts of it.

I changed my set atm and replaced the graphic card with this one:
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 660 Ti Windforce 3X OC, 3GB GDDR5, 2x DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort (GV-N66TOC-3GD)
However, i did some random search on the GTX-580 and this one is looking good too:
Point of View GeForce GTX 580, 3GB GDDR5, 2x DVI, Mini HDMI (VGA-580-A2-3072)
(There are too many different variations of cards with the same name… ._.)

I have to do some more research. Anyways, any suggestions and opinions always welcome. ^^
Im going to buy it on monday so there is still some time left to consider my set and maybe change things. By now i will stick to the GTX-660.
Most important part is that all fits together well. If the setup above provides me stable CPU rendering on bigger projects while the GPU let me see and quick preview what im editing im fine with that.

Oh, and i dont think i go for dual GPU. Would be too expensive - and im not experienced enough to hande that anyways. ^^’

EDIT: Btw, nice FAQ you have there. ^^
It really helped me a lot on some issues - not all ofc (english isnt my native language so all that technical stuff is kinda difficult to understand right away).
Using both cards mentioned above simultaneously should work fine with Blender right? Well doesnt matter much in my case, i could never build in something like that. But just… theoretically… would it be possible with the stated mainboard to do an upgrade to a 800W PSU and add a second Graphic card?

I’m sure the GTX-660 is going to work just fine, and with 3GB you should be safe on most scenes. I have personally never really needed more than 3GB of VRAM, but I’m an happy amateur, and the complexity of my scenes will probably not impress anyone :wink:

The world has, even though it might not feel like it when building a system from scratch, gotten a bit easier with regards to getting components to work together these days. I believe your current setup is going to work just fine. That also goes for your potential upgrade there. Both cards will work nicely, independently and together. As you probably saw in the FAQ, Blender looks at GPUs as separate little parallel computers inside your PC, so you can add as many as you can fit into your case as long as you have a powerful enough PSU. And upgrading your PSU later is no problem. It less economically efficient if you already now know that you will get another GPU later, but I’m guessing you’ll be more than happy with the setup you have for quite a while for that to be a concern.

I’m happy to hear the FAQ was helpful to you. I found that the same questions gets asked over and over here at Blenderartist, so I figured it would be a timesaver to have it all in one place, and though there is a FAQ thread here, I’ve always personally preferred a (hopefully) nicely formatted FAQ :slight_smile:

I have a feeling that i will run out of VRAM quite fast. ^^’
I ordered my PC right now with the setup above and the 3GB GTX 660 as GPU. All i have to do now is wait a little bit longer…

Oh, and thanks again!

The difference between linux and windows on cpu rendering is enough to warrant using it, imo; 15% approx faster over ming64; and 40% at least on standard builds.

A fast xeon system - remember you can’t really overclock xeons; they are designed to run forever - a good idea when rendering.

Personally, I would wait until Haswell’s release - only a few months away.

If you do want xeon now, I’d consider the e5 not the e3 - faster.

Course a motherboard and two fast xeon e5s are going to cost you around £2,500-3,500 depending on specifics - just for the motherboard and 2x cpu.

GPU are limited to the memory on one of the boards. If there isn’t enough they crash; a cpu render can have much more memory available and will start swapping to hard disk if you run out; swapping to disk would really slow you down though - but I wouldn’t consider a dual xeon based system with less than 32gig and ideally at least 64gig.

If I’m not mistaken each cpu is allocated it’s own memory, so 32gig means each one primarily accesses 16. Again, if I’m not mistaken, you want EEC memory - although I recommend you make sure I’m correct to suggest that.

And personally, other than the fact AMD cards don’t render with cycles, I prefer them for blender use - personal preference.

I used a render farm recently, and the SuperCar scene in my sig, crashed when rendering on gpu - it had to be redone on cpu; it is easy to run out of memory.

You can render separate layers if memory becomes an issue, but that takes more effort; although, it’s likely you’ll be separating your scene to layers.

I’d go for a bigger monitor if you can, and higher resolution; at least 12560x1440 or even 2560x1600; you may also look at dual monitor setups.

It’s all down to budget, and with monitors how you prefer to work.

Personnaly I just bought a new PC for 1850€ (2500 US$, £1580). I tried the dual GTX580 (they were one sale at 230€ each) which gives good results so far. However, i agree that they lack VRAM to render really epic scenes.

The OS is also quite important. I did the BMW benchmark about 30% faster with ubuntu than with Windows 7 (but on some more complex render it goes down to only 15% faster though).

That’s quite interesting I think, as I heard the difference was negligible. I must admit I wonder why exactly… I’m mostly a UNIX guy myself, and I was considering switching my rendering box to Ubuntu, but due to some rather bad experiences spending way too much time mucking about with NVIDIA’s binary blobs, I didn’t (there is a good reason Linux quite publicly gave NVIDIA the middle finger, quite literally, recently). Perhaps time to reconsider :wink:

#olesk, I though the difference was negligible too but it really depends on your render. As I said after some tests, I think that the difference is less obvious with complex render [29" -> 22" (32% faster) for the BMW and 3’58" -> 3’40" (8% faster) for a personal complex render].

While I am at it I’ve got a GTX260 and a GTX460 which gives similar time for simple render (<1’) but the 460 can be up to 40% faster when dealing with more complex render.

I don’t know what are the reasons behind this nor if it is accurate and will be reproducible on every similar configuration. But I think that to compare some hardware you need to check depending on how epic the scenes you intend to render might be. Personally I need a fast render of quite simple scenes for quick animation so I chose 5XX series and I render on Ubuntu (using a dual boot).

Since I’ve been writing in the FAQ that Linux is only marginally faster, I suspect I’ll have to try myself to see if I can benchmark a few different scenes and get an idea of how it works with scenes size etc (so I don’t get accused of misinforming people :wink: ). My main renderbox is in pieces at the moment waiting for some watercooling parts to show up.

I suspect that it’s simply that Linux does the bits leading up the start of the render faster, meaning that everything but the actual GPU render is faster, and this is matters less and less the more time you spend actually rendering versus preparing the scene. After all, the CUDA architecture on the NVIDIA GPU doesn’t know or care what OS you have, it only talks to the driver. This should mean that the longer the render time the smaller the difference. I’ll give it a spin once I’m sure I’m not turning my PC cabinet into a fishbowl :slight_smile:

@olesk – I went to your FAQ and followed it pretty easily, but what I’m trying to do is find out if the GPU is being used. It’s selected for CUDA in the Prefrerences > System area, but my Camera Icon> Render tab doesn’t seem to have any choice of use of CPU or GPU. :frowning:

I’m currently using the Blender internal renderer because I really don’t understand cycles at all.

(Win 7 Dell Inspiron Athlon II X2 Nvidia GTX560 Ti Blender 2.63

If you’re using the internal renderer there is no choice of CPU or GPU.

You have to set the render in the drop down at the top to Cycles to have a choice of GPU.

@Flieg, your GTX 560Ti is about 10 times faster then your X2 and it is much easier to setup.
Here is an older tutorial about start with cycles so some settings are change.

Cheers, mib.

@powerst – thank you. That was the information I was asking for.
@mib2berlin – thank you. I suspect this is the information that I need.