Another great thing with cycles is that you can make a good render machine out of an old computer: just buy a new graphic card !
No need to upgrade CPU, motherboard, or even RAM, just plug a recent graphic card and voilà.
A long time ago (2005) I bought a Dell PC for rendering, It was an amazing dual-core pentium D ! 2 Gig of RAM and a whooping 80 Gb harddrive. A good machine that served me well a few years. But it started aging…
Needless to say I haven’t used it recently (my wife do still chat and watch chinese soap opera on it though). Even my “old” macbook pro is faster.
The solution to give it a second life was to buy a graphic card, I opted for a geforce gtx 560.
Unsurprisingly Windows did not want to install recent nvidia drivers. Luckily there was a linux mint install cd in my drawer, all worked fine and I got a 1min15 result using Mike pan’s Car cycle benchmark file. !
Compared to 53 sec for the recent linuxbox I bought in the beginning of the year, I say it’s a very honorable result. It just confirms that Cycles used full power of the GPU.
So folks, take out your old machines and give the a second youth by buying a recent graphic card for a cheap home-made renderfarm ( you can use my renderfarm queuing software system Brender for that )
As comparaison : pure CPU render is 07:17 for the pentium D, and with an i7-2600 00:44 seconds
And final word : yes we own too many computers