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The Best PC For Blender - Value And Performance Specs

With this guide we're aiming to find the best value PC for Blender, with speed and performance that does not come at too high a premium.

 

The Best PC For Blender - Value And Performance Specs

 

If you take a look at some of the more well-known Blender creators on YouTube, you will notice a recurring theme. Everyone is talking about the best value. The reason is, most PC specifications over a certain price will have a point of diminishing returns. In other words, once you get to a certain specification level, you can actually see less value for money, where lower spec PCs are able to render at the same speed as a system that is double the price. It's a strange affair, and usually only affects builds that are specifically for creativity and productivity, such as video editors, 3D modellers and CAD PC users. A Blender artist who doesn't do any research on specifications will soon find out that just because they spent £3000 on a PC, they are not getting any faster rendering than a £1500 PC, and that can sting.

Why "Most Expensive" Is Not Best Value?

The main reason for diminishing returns is the architecture of GPUs and processors as well as their applications. If you use Blender, you will know that it has many applications for creators - such as shader editing, 3D modelling, 3D animation, 2D animation, 3D sculpting, rendering, and more. So there is no real one-size-fits-all Blender user. Which also means, there's no one PC spec that will be perfect for all types of Blender user. That said, if we tackle the most intensive aspects of Blender, then you are covered for all of the other aspects if you decide to use them.

If you purchase the most expensive PC specification from a vendor, and see that it has the most expensive GPU and CPU, you might be forgiven for thinking you are well covered for Blender or other 3D software. And you might well be. but what if you could save over £1000 on getting the same performance? You'd naturally be devastated, because you could have put that money to other essentials like a graphics tablet, a 4K monitor or even a more comfortable chair.

The path to a good value PC for Blender is not that difficult to travel, as long as you take some common sense and insider knowledge with you.

Best Processor For Blender

The beating heart of your system, the CPU is very important, and it is critical you only look at what is vital for working with Blender and other software you'll be using. A processor that has been designed for gaming might be close to worthless when it comes to rendering in Blender or Autodesk Maya. Also, to add to the weird recipe, a more expensive processor with multi-threading will only work great for you if you have plenty of RAM installed.

Really, using Blender means you want either faster cores. In benchmarks, there's little difference when it comes to playback framerates or physics calculations between high-end processors like the AMD Threadripper 3970X and a 10-core Intel Core i9 10600K, so the real test comes at the end of the process - rendering. For most Blender users, rendering is going to be part of the workflow. This is where you want to save time, and with little to no difference in the earlier steps of your workflow, it makes the most sense to compare rendering times for processors.

Faster Cores Or More Cores?

When it comes to value for money, we opt for faster cores. Processors with higher core counts - like the leviathan Threadrippers - tend to be more expensive, and we are into the realms of diminishing returns yet again going from mid-range processors to newer & faster processors. Blender's Open Data shows the top performing CPUs, and these are the heavy-hitters such as Threadripper and Ryzen 9, with the Core i9-10980XE bringing up the rear:

 

Fastest CPUs For Blender

 

This is all well and good, but tells us nothing about value. To explain the paradox of finding the sweet spot between mid-range and new/faster processors, we can look at a few processors in each category and see if the time saved in rendering is worth it to you. And that's the main point here. If you're saving a matter of seconds in rendering time, will that justify double (or triple!) the spend?

Rendering test: bmw27 Scene

 

PROCESSOR RENDERING TIME COST
Intel i7 10700k 2m 59s £289.97
AMD Ryzen 7 3800X 3m 07s £282.99
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X 3m 53s £274.50

 

If we take a look at the cheaper processors in Blender's top ranked CPUs, the plot thickens:

 

PROCESSOR RENDERING TIME COST
AMD Ryzen 9 5950X 1m 26s £649.95
Intel i9 10980XE 1m 33s £900.51

 

The tables above do indeed show where the value is, and when you compare the rendering time, are you really losing that much?

Newer processors from Intel have been smashing their way through benchmarks for a few months now, and Alder Lake has cemented its feet in the gaming arena quite easily, leaving AMD on the back foot, not having a like-for-like competing processor.

How does Alder Lake handle Blender rendering on the same Blender scene?

 

PROCESSOR RENDERING TIME COST
Intel Core i5 12600K 2m 24s £287.80
Intel Core i7 12700K 1m 54s £379.99

 

So we can see that a newer processor (Alder Lake) provides amazing value for money, and beats AMD's Ryzen 7 3800X, released in 2019. But not by much. This is where we need to change up the rendering test, so we can see just how a modern processor handles the workload in the real world. We also need to compare it to AMD's closest competing CPU, which is the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X. This bumps up the cost a little, however.

Rendering test: Pavilion Barcelona

 

PROCESSOR RENDERING TIME COST
Intel Core i5 12600K 6m 49s £287.80
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X 7m 31s £410.38

 

Best Blender Processor: Conclusions

To get the best value, without sacrificing rendering on more intensive scenes, the obvious choice is the Alder Lake Intel Core i5 12600K. At under £300, you can comfortably render small or large scenes, and build out the rest of the specification without breaking the bank.

Best Graphics Card For Blender

On to the second-most important hardware in a Blender PC build, and it's the GPU. Finding a good value GPU is not very easy any more, but there are rumblings that suggest 2022 might be a much easier year for us, with ARC Alchemist and Nvidia launching new GPUs, as well as AMD's RDNA 3 GPU's being thrown into the gladiatorial arena.

How To Choose A GPU For Blender

Blender uses GPU acceleration in the best possible way, and does a great job of balancing most of the workload between the CPU and GPU. However, Blender's CUDA implementation means that Nvidia cards are the best choice overall. Scene navigation and playback of animations are faster and easier with Nvidia, as is camera positioning.

When choosing a GPU, you should be looking at which core it has (CUDA or OpenCL), the number of CUDA or OpenCL compute cores, and the amount of VRAM the GPU has.

CUDA: Compute Unified Device Architecture, a proprietary API that is only supported on Nvidia GPUs.

OpenCL: Open Computing Language, an open-source language used by multiple vendors.

Basically, the more CUDA cores and the more VRAM, the better, and as far as pedigree, Nvidia have got the reliability and performance nailed.

To simplify, we need only head to the benchmarks again to find value.

Note: Nvidia RTX GPUs support OptiX, an SDK that accelerates rendering using raytracing cores. With a high number of CUDA-Cores and OptiX support decent VRAM, you will see the best rendering with Blender’s Cycles Render Engine. Of course, GTX cards do not have RT capabilities, so performance is not as high.

Rendering test: bmw27 Scene using OptiX.

 

GPU RENDERING TIME COST
Nvidia GTX 1660 SUPER 6GB 1m 18s £399.00
GeForce RTX 2060 6GB 0m 36s £499.00
GeForce RTX 3060 Ti 0m 18s £689.00

 

The £100 difference offers significant gains in rendering speed. The RTX 3060 Ti is possibly considered as overkill, when you consider you're only speeding up the process 18 seconds. Granted that's 100% better than the RTX 2060, but it is only 18 seconds.

Best Blender GPU: Conclusions

There is no compromise when it comes to GPUs, and it will come down to spend. To get the best performance, you'll need an RTX GPU from Nvidia, and you can get great value starting with the GeForce RTX 2060 6GB.

Other Considerations

Naturally, there are other components and hardware we need to take into consideration, and it starts with the motherboard.

Motherboard

Ideally you will want good connectivity in the form of Thunderbolt or USB 3.1 if you want to move stuff around outside of your system, as well as fast internal SSD storage ability (PCIe Gen 4). Fast memory is essential, so choose a motherboard with high RAM clock speeds where possible.

Storage

Ideally, running an SSD with your installation of Windows, Blender and other applications on it works best. Use the SSD to store your current workflow, and then move it to a secondary (long term storage) 7200RPM SATA HDD.

Memory

As much as you can afford. If there are options to upgrade from 16GB to 32GB or more, take it. There's no such thing as too much memory when working with Blender and other 3D software. With a large pool of memory to play with, Blender can dump a lot of the data in there, rather than offloading it all to your storage device. This makes undo operations and editing images much faster in real time, and video editing cache is handled with RAM rather than storage - read: faster scrubbing.

Don't forget to optimise your memory, either:


The Best Pre-Built PC For Blender

 

Horizon 5 Intel 12600K RTX 3060

 

The only thing you'll need to optionally add to this Blender PC is extra SATA HDD storage and memory. With the RTX 3060 and Intel 12600K processor, you have the strongest foundations to create, edit and render in 3D.

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The Best DIY PC For Blender

Going down this route is usually reserved for IT experts who know what they're doing with PC building. CCL offers pre-built motherboard bundles that take all of the usual installation problems away:

 

CCL Alder Lake MSI Z690 Pro Motherboard Bundle

 

With a motherboard bundle, you just need to add a case, add extra memory, and add a power supply.

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Last Word

Blender is not as demanding as some of the 3D software out there, and with each update the processes get faster and can be optimised to be even more reliable and speedier. Whichever PC you decide to go with, it is always worth checking out the latest videos from creators such as Alex Pearce and DECODED to see how to optimise Blender and speed up each step of your workflow.

Enjoy!

Prices correct as of 30th December 2021