Upgrading old Hardware for Blender on a tight budget in 2021 Best bang-for-buck

I am planning an upgrade to an old PC on a really tight budget and interested in hearing about any upgrades that people made that had an unexpectedly/disproportionally large (or the opposite) improvement to Blender performance (in any aspect).

Any help/comments on my personal upgrade would also be very much appreciated as I don’t want to blow my budget and find zero improvement!

My budget is $400 AUD ($310 USD) including all postage to upgrade my system for light/hobby Blender use (Mostly modelling but it would be really nice to be able to render short/simple animations in Cycles in my lifetime. I am also loving the Mantaflow simulations but they take forever).

I currently have an approx 10 year old pc with below specs:

  • 6 core AMD Phenom II 3.2GHz (Asus Formular IV AM4 ish)
  • 32GB DDR3 Ganged
  • Asus GT710 Passive cooling (Added later)
  • 3 Displays
  • 1500W modular PSU (Cost more than my entire budget for this upgrade back when I didn’t have kids!! :cry:)
  • Additional cooling = taking the side off the case pointing my desk fan at it

My options as I see them are: (Note: The below GFX cards are the only NVIDIA cards I can currently get my hands on at the moment that are within budget)

  • Replace GT710 with 3 x Asus GT1030 GDDR5 Passive cooling (Would 3 even make a difference over one?)
    or
  • Replace GT710 with 1x ASUS GeForce GTX 1650 Phoenix OC 4GB GDDR6 Video Card
    or
  • New AM4 AMD processor eg Ryzen5 3500X (But not sure if would work or be hopelessly crippled in 10year old AM4 socket system with ddr3 mem) and a single GT1030 or RX550 graphics card
    or
  • ??? I am open to ideas.

My first inclination would be to upgrade the graphics card as modelling except when previewing in Cycles. But I am concerned that Upgrading the GFX card will not make much of a difference due to other bottlenecks?

Hi.

Except rendering in Eevee or Cycles with GPU, most of these tasks are CPU intensive. What is currently recommended for Blender 2.8+ is a CPU with a score of no less than 2,100 in the following single thread CPU benchmark:

and ideally with at least 8 threads.

You for the moment for example could build a machine with the best of these CPU you can buy:
https://www.cpubenchmark.net/compare/Intel-i3-10320-vs-Intel-i5-10600-vs-AMD-Ryzen-5-3500X/3890vs3750vs3592

And then use integrated intel graphics or your current GPU If you choose AMD, until you can save money for a better GPU. If you plan to use intel CPU with iGPU, when you buy the motherboard you check that it has the necessary video outputs compatible with your current monitor/display. When you choose the intel CPU, there may be similar numerical versions but some with an “F” at the end, they do not have a integrated GPU. So you be careful with this.

You can start with 8GB of RAM, but then ideally you should go up to 16GB when you can buy more.(Edit: ah, I see that you already have enough RAM if your plan is to continue with motherboard with DDR3)

You just use your current GPU or intel iGPU until you have money to buy at least one nvidia GTX card. Low end cards are not worth it.

Hi,

Many thanks for responding. Your advice has been very helpful. I downloaded the CPU benchmark software and my CPU score was 3280 which although is above the 2100 minimum it is a far cry from the Ryzen 5 3500X (13404).

I will do as you suggest and upgrade the CPU (and or motherboard) and deal with GFX later (or possibly not at all). I have been looking at cloud computing or render farms for final render and it looks like one can buy a lot of rendering (of simple projects at least) for the cost of anything graphics card with GTX in the title. :slight_smile:

I managed to scrounge a GT1030 from a different machine which has significantly improved the view port shader with cycles performance over the GT710 (from unusable to just-about usable). Though I haven’t managed to persuade the NVIDIA drivers to allow me to have both cards running at the same time. :frowning:

Hi.
Maybe I was not clear. I was not referring to global score, I was referring to “Single Thread Rating” in that list of that link I shared. There the best Phenom II x6 listed has a score of about 1,500 in single thread.
What I was telling you is that what is currently recommended is a CPU with a single thread score value of no less than 2,100 and with at least 8 threads.
In summary, in that single-threaded benchmark list, the higher the CPU is on the list and the more threads the CPU has, the better. If your budget is limited, what is recommended is that you get something balanced between single thread performance and number of threads.

Okay, yes, in single thread mine gets a score of 1,384. The solution is still the same though in that I need a significantly less sucky CPU. But not the Ryzen 3500x as it only has 6 threads rather than 8 (I get there eventually :slight_smile: )

I have just found that my Motherboard is AM3+ not an AM4 so regardless I will need a new motherboard and memory (as DDR3 will apparently not work in a modern board) so will am not going to be able to get far with my budget.

On a positive note at least it will stop me from trying to run before I can walk and force me to concentrate on improving my technique/3d skills rather than getting all the time distracted with the physics simulations!

That’s good, better not rush and try to raise some more money to buy a good CPU, motherboard and 16GB of DDR4 memory (making sure that the motherboard has the necessary memory slot so that later you can add more memory). The advantage of those intel CPUs is that they are good CPUs with a basic integrated iGPU that you can use until you get money for a new GTX card with at least 4GB of vRAM (6GB or more ideally).