I will need to buy a new computer before I download Blender. Can anyone tell me what the things are that I will need to run it well? Can this run on a laptop, or do I need a desktop? And I am most familiar with windows so prefer to stick with that unless it takes away from the functionality of Blender. Thanks for any answers>
Relative to other similar software, Blender’s system requirements are pretty modest. Most decent modern machines can run it just fine. Typically, the biggest problem people tend to have is with their video cards… Intel cards (like the ones integrated in many laptops) are something to avoid; nVidia and ATI/AMD should work fine. Granted, there are some exceptions, but that’s a pretty decent baseline for video cards.
I often read on this board (and several other) that some ATI owners have problems due to some bad OpenGL support in their driver, and Blender being OpenGL only, wouldn’t it be better to not recommend an ATI card ?
Or has the situation changed between ATI and the OpenGL support on their drivers ?
It depends on the age of the card. It’s true that older ATI cards suffered from some pretty horrible support. With many of their more recent cards and the updated codebase in Blender 2.5, those problems are quite a bit less noticeable now. That said (and please note that this is merely anecdotal), I’ve always had better experiences with Blender using nVidia cards. Of course, there’s also a whole thread here on BA.org dedicated to some wonky behavior with some of the more recent cards from nVidia, so your mileage may vary depending on the specific card that you get. My advice would be to find a card that you’re interested in getting and then check here or on IRC to see if there are any other Blender users who have that card. Alternatively, I suppose you could outright ask for recommendations, but your answers are likely to be far more varied if you do that.