By February 6, 2012September 11th, 20127 Comments

The 4 biggest beads of wisdom that I can offer on the topic of hardware when it comes to 3D modeling is:

  1. Get as much RAM as you can.
  2. Focus spending your money more on your video card than your CPU.
  3. Wireless keyboards and mice are a great way to go to de-clutter your area.
  4. Get a notebook and pen!

Remember: You don’t need to spend a ton of money on the Super XLT 5000X1 Mega Computer when you are just starting out. Once you’ve wrapped your mind around modeling and feel proficient at it, you can build a very solid machine for a reasonable amount of money. $1000 to $1500 should be plenty. Anything more than that should go more towards treating yourself to dinner or saving for this¬†awesome scooter.


  • KaAnna says:

    This is awesome! I was just thinking about a new computer and what specs it should have.

    How much different from this would a system be if you were mostly a renderer? Would it be relatively the same? Are there any other smaller details in specs that we need to be aware of? For example, speeds of different hardware, etc?

    Thanks for the wonderful site and videos! <3

    • Pilot says:

      Hi KaAnna,

      Yeah, when I first started out, I had NO idea what I should get for set up. Lucky for me, I was a gamer, so I already had a pretty good graphics card and the rest fell into place.

      If you’re building up a rendering rig, the rendering needs to be calculated by the processor. So a dual core or better is a safe bet. When just starting out a rendering machine, you might want to add in about at least $500 more for the reason stated. Processors aren’t cheap. Fortunately, if you are just trying to get started, you can get a decent machine going for about $1200. Rendering machines can cost upwards of $30,000 and beyond though. However…this is way more than you need to pay. If you get to a point where you want to really invest in a solid machine, go with either a solid Dell machine ( or a Box Tech machine ( and pump up the specs.

      I’m glad you like the site!

  • Pilot says:

    Oh, and one more thing regarding your question about detailed specs. I try to steer clear of talking about this because the sad truth about buying a computer is that it is obsolete as soon as you buy it so specifying a spec almost locks you into purchasing something that will be old by the time you track it down.

    I recommend Nvidia for graphics cards. I’m running on an old 8800GTX and the thing is still purring like a kitty. You can pick one of those up for cheap (cheap meaning sub $500) these days. I hope this helps!

    • Ever Hobbes says:

      I like the article, especially since it’s a topic that is fresh in my mind since since I recently built myself a new rig from the ground up. My biggest suggestion is research, research, research. There are so many options, and they change so frequently that you really need to do research for every item you plan on putting in your computer.

      I wouldn’t agree that ram or graphics card is more important than cpu, but ram is so cheap it doesn’t hurt to get a tonne. And a modern 200-300$ graphics card is usually enough to handle more than a hobbyist will ever create. I have a 3 year old graphics card that can still handle a good 2 million polys before slowing down. Plus the cpu does actually contribute quite a bit to real-time screen refresh rate in a lot of programs.

      The keys are balance and purpose. Only you know what you use a machine for, and what you want to use it for in the future, so build your machine based on that. Take your budget and get the best components you can for that price. Making adjustments here and there for your needs. For instance, having a cheaper but plain chasis can save you money for an extra couple gigs of ram. Or a mobo with a few less peripheral slots that gives you money to get a faster processor.

      I personally have an i7-2600k, which, at ~300$ is 300-600 dollars cheaper than cpus that are only a smidge faster, and I have it overclocked to give a real-world increase of 25% in my render speeds, which makes it faster than the stock speeds of several of the 1000$+ cpus. So you don’t need to break the bank to get great cpu performance, especially with a little research about safe overclocking (it is incredibly easy modern processors).

  • Zoid says:

    as of Feb 2012
    128 SSD drive for your OS, partition 1/2 for Blender + Gimp 2.0
    16GB Corsair Ram (4x 4gb)
    Z68 Mother board, sandy bridge + i5 quad package (microcenter)
    nVidia GTX 560 Ti
    …Add the HD from your past box and your done; super speed for 950$
    (make sure you got 800 watt power supply)

    next up is a new video card in 3-6 months if you want to splurge.

    • Pilot says:

      Having some comment issues on the site. Putting this here until I can figure out the issue.

      Michael just wrote in with the question –
      “Since most CAD package operations have to be performed in order, i.e. most features are not multi-thread capable, is an i7 even worth it over a fast i5 with turbo (boosts to 3.2ghz) with the savings in CPU being applied to more important speed anchors like storage, either 10,000 rpm hdd or ssd? As someone else already pointed out, ram is cheap so I consider that a near non-issue to max out whenever possible.

      I don’t really have a need for stacks of cores since I do not render. When I do need multiple threads I have a workstation I can put the files on. Currently I am trying to figure out a nice laptop just to model with when on the move.

      Lastly, has anyone been using Rhino beta on the Mac OS that can maybe speak to the performance differences on a Mac to PC? I am not trying to start a PC Mac war here, but honestly, Macs are almost always quicker when hardware is same / same since Apple tightly controls what pieces that their machines are built with. I am sure that the Mac os has also something to do with how speedy they seem to be. With all the laptop options out there who knows what you are getting sometimes. Is Windows 8 64bit faster that Windows 7 64Bit? I would assume that the code is cleaner and thus faster, but I could easily be wrong.”

      A large portion of these questions are a little out of my league to answer, but if you happen to know the answer, please respond!


  • KaAnna says:

    Thank you so much for all of the help! It is very much appreciated! And again, wonderful site with helpful tips!

Leave a Reply