Blender Cycles best hardware ? Using the Benchmark spreadsheet analysis

So you are a cycle fan ? You have an old computer and graphic card, and want to upgrade your hardware to something good enough for running the new cycle rendering engine ? Here is an interesting article for you.

It all started with a cool model and shared .blend file by Mike Pan. People download the file, render it, and add there rendering times in a spreadsheet. It has been posted a while ago and there have quiet some results (around 160 at the time of writing this post). You can view the original blenderartist thread here :

The online results can be viewed online in a google spreadsheet, but one big problem when trying to compare systems, gfx cards and operating systems, render times, is that the answer’s formatting of most people are very mixed up… some people write 2min36, some write 02.36 and some 00:02:36 . It makes it all hard to see things out. It needed some rework and reformatting …

So yours truly has been working hard day and nights (ok just a few minutes) to unify the graphic card names, operating systems and render times, deleted duplicate entries etc…

You can view the modified spreadsheet here :

With this spreadsheet it is hopefully easier to sort results by rendering times, and see which one renders faster…

The results & Analysis
Here are some observations I made… but first a disclaimer: I am not in no way any sort of analyst or hardware geek, so if errors or mistatements are said out, please excuse me.

And the winner is… ?
And yeah, we should start with the thing that most people want : raw power and speed !
Right now (23 feb 2012) the fastest system is the Juan Jośe Torres‘s one : It is a dual Nvidia GTX 580 that renders the scene in just less than 24 seconds ! Niiice ! 🙂

Benchmark results by GPU

We can also notice Juan Jose posted a result with only one of the GTX 580 in use, result 00:39:30, that means 1.6x faster with dual card…
Still rendering on CPU (that’s so 2011 🙂 ? Well go for Intel i7 2600 or 2700, but be sure to not run Windows… fastest win machine makes it in 03:28 (Intel i7 3930k@ 3.2ghz) when linux and mac’s do it in less than 3 mins.

Benchmark results by CPU

EDIT (11 march 2012):
AS of mid-march I noticed there are 2 new results : both are faster, and both are dual cards systems… that means that monday I am going to buy a second gfx card 🙂
Seriously it seems cycles takes good advantage of multi-cards configs. it can especially be seen with Mitsuma’s result. 2x GTX 460 gives him/her a 37sec render time…
But more important there is a new top of the cream, and that would be 2x GTX 590. and 19.67 seconds…. It seems soon Mike will have to make a slower benchmark (My opinion is benchmark of less than 30 seconds will give less precise differences than something that renders in 2 minutes… )

ATI or Nvidia ?
It seems at the moment there is only one viable option for cycle : Nvidia CUDA.
OpenCL is being worked on and hopefully will give some good results soon. For now OpenCl results are also about 20% slower.

Which GPU ?
Well results seem to indicate GTX 570-580 seem good cards, but then it all depends on your budget.
One can note also that Quadro cards do not perform that well. But I believe these cards deliver better performances in display.

Windows, Mac or Linux ?
Comparing operating systems is always a tricky, and troll-attractive thing. But I am brave and will try to make some conclusions from what can be seen in the spreadsheet’s results.
And to honestly compare OS , I believe the best is to check results by a same person, on an exactly same machine : For this you sort the results by blenderartists handler name, and check who has provided multi-os results.

Render results with dual-boot

In fact not so many people did dual-os rendering, but basically Windows is slower (can be often seen in CPU render times), and also in GPU rendering (although the only result in GPU is mine :p )
please : If you have a dual-boot system with GPU cards, please post results 🙂 It would be interesting to have more results there.
Some people seem to have dual-boot on Mac, so I am not sure if it is to windows’ advantage being run on mac hardware.

If we just look at results according to GPU … lets take the example of the Nvidia GTX 560 Ti :

Render results for Nvidia GTX 560 Ti

It seems Linux results are slightly better 🙂

Benchmarks, What else?

and for the end some fun facts :
Slowest render time was done by nfz who let his Netbook with an Atom N450 cpu run for 1 hours and 12 minutes ! Compared to the 24 seconds of the fastest setup that is about 180x faster 🙂
Blender versions are getting a bit faster to render with each release (see lking73 and Andreu’s results)
OS Stats :
Windows 7 : 74
Other Windows : 12
Mac OSX : 22
Ubuntu : 30
Other Linux : 25

If you find out some other interesting facts, feel free to share them in the comments, this article can be updated with new elements 🙂


28 Responses to “Blender Cycles best hardware ? Using the Benchmark spreadsheet analysis”

  1. 1 Robert Lindner February 26, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Ok so I am a Windows user, but would it make sense to run a virtual Linux or would that just slow the render time down even more?

    • 2 Dustin February 27, 2012 at 7:46 am

      It would be much slower to render on a virtual Linux machine. You would have to do a real Linux install to get the benefits. If you want to try it, Ubuntu has some nice utilities that let you carve out a partition for Linux, usually without having to reformat your hard drive. Just make sure to back up you stuff before trying to install a new OS 🙂

      • 3 Robert Lindner February 27, 2012 at 9:00 am

        thanks, seems like a bigger project then, and all just for decreasing rendertimes o_O Hope its worth the effort.

      • 4 Benjamin Lindquist April 4, 2012 at 11:49 pm

        That’s not true. You can have linux as a folder on your HD and dual boot it without installing anything and it will be a lot faster than windows.

    • 5 bat3a April 3, 2012 at 11:57 pm

      if you could manage to compile blender with mingw, you may have almost the same time as linux, but i couldn’t though!

  2. 6 Dustin February 29, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    I know that the data is insufficient to answer to questions, but I think it would be interesting to find out how much people payed for their GPU/CPU. That way, we could compare cards based on their time/cost ratio which is a great thing to know if your trying to build a new computer. Who knows, I might look into it if I have time this weekend 🙂

  3. 7 kilbeeu March 18, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    nice post
    im wondering about different desktop managers under linux, do you think it makes much of a difference between for example xfce and heavier managers?

    • 8 artao April 2, 2012 at 7:20 pm

      Hi. I posted my original results using Ubuntu 11.10 with XFCE. Since then I’ve switched to KDE, and notice no significant difference in rendertime outside random variance. =D

  4. 9 jedibeeftrix March 22, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    cheers for this.

    has any work been done on finding out how big a framebuffer cycles needs for this (and larger) file, in order to determine the sweetspot?

  5. 10 mitsuma March 30, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Thanks for adding my results.
    It seems that two 460 are a good choice if you want something fast for less money.
    If you already have a GTX460 and your system is SLI ready, go buy a second GTX460.
    I got my second one for abou 120€.
    (Just make sure not to buy a SE or v2 version. They are not SLI compatible with the old GTX460.)

    The speed differs from version to version.
    I downloaded a new build and got 37.77s.

    • 11 Jachin Rivers January 16, 2013 at 11:14 pm

      One thing to add to you post, is that GPU rendering such as cycles does not take advantage of a SLI / Crossfire setup, so getting a matching card is only advantageous if you are also gaming. You can mix and match cards without issue, and Cycles can you both. Just keep in mind that you will be limited by the card with the smallest amount of memory when it comes to scene size.

  6. 12 RagBuster (@RagBuster) April 2, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Nice to see these results but I think a table showing the best laptops for performance might also be of use. Shame the original table did not have an option to select if we were using workstation/laptop, would have made it easier to sort the data.

  7. 13 sozap April 2, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    very nice article and funny to read ! I was wondering what new hardware to buy and that answer perfectly my question … THANKS !!

  8. 14 dromero April 2, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    I like gtx 460, but i only can find 1GB versions, so ram installed on the card its a critic factor, you can model and prepare a scene and when you are ready to render that scene maybe wont fit on the gpu ram…

    Based on that numbers a cheap choice would be a dual 550 ti, i can buy 2 with 3GB for 246€, will render in 38 secs based on that 1.6 ratio…

  9. 15 Karlis Stigis April 2, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    This is really useful, thanks!

  10. 16 cgjunkie April 2, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Benchmarking especially with Blender is a mess!!
    The CPU usage depends on the scene itself. The BMW benchmark f.e. renders on my machine (Dual XEOn Quadcore) in a range of 60-95% CPU load! The cycles island scene o the other hand renders with 99%!
    So comparing cycles with CPU to cycles with GPU says really NOTHING!
    Other renderers like V-Ray are scaling better.
    One more lack in Blender is the not-supporting NVidia Quadros!
    If you have a geo with more than 6 or 7 polys, the viewport slows down to 0.5 or 1 fps! In the future there will be no more render power for GTX cards, so support Quadros!

  11. 17 maxxie April 3, 2012 at 8:18 am

    I wish we would see the new GTX 680 soon 🙂

  12. 18 Davinci990 April 4, 2012 at 3:39 am

    +1 for laptop data. I am stuck off-site with a company-issued Windows7.

    “Make” is important too. My work was once much easier using a Toshiba laptop with a CUDA GPU. I am now in slow motion with a Dell, even though it uses a more advanced Intel CPU.

    Here’s an idea for any tinker– a data cable for laptops to bypass what wimpy card they were born with, in order to access dual CUDA GPU linked as a peripheral?! Maybe “Raspberry Pi” can work on this. LOL

    Thanks also for the idea to build a box– no company rules against an “assistant” machine, if it stays away from all non-company networks and the Internet. Guess I’d better study what flavor Linux and Windows7 work together in the easiest way.

  13. 19 Thor D Wilk April 5, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Hello, I love the details on building a system for Blender, what about a system for the person on the move? What kind of Laptop should a person look to buying to handle Blender/Cycles efficiently. i know it wont compare to a full system, but what if it was the only option. What system should/would be best (and before someone says it, I’m not just looking at Alienware systems, they are nice but can you get it the same but cheaper with other brands).

  14. 20 pavel June 9, 2012 at 7:55 am

    thank you for verry interesting benchmarks

  15. 21 Martin Lindelöf (@martin_lindelof) August 11, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    really nice put together now I don’t have to search the BA thread 😀

  16. 22 sunseeker1975 November 15, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    …and for recent GPUs? Like GTX 680 etc?
    Anyway it seems Linux is always quicker, with the same GPU compared to Win. Strange, since nVidia drivers are rather bad for Linux…

  17. 23 Bishop Knight February 8, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    There are a lot of things that can affect render times. And these numbers are not accurate. Having people send in render times with very different systems isn’t going to show which video card setup for the money is best.

    You would have to use the same system with only the GPU configuration changing to get accurate results. The kind of bloatware someone has in the background can significantly change the numbers. The mother board can also change the results. Especially, with dual or triple cards. For instance, how many PCIe slots on their system are true 16x? Video drivers can have a big affect as well. And many other factors.

    For me, though, it’s simple. Memory is more important than speed. So, I’ll be going for the cards that have 3GB or higher memory. Speed doesn’t matter if I keep getting an out of memory error.

  18. 24 carl July 17, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    the original has many entries with GTX 660 rendering in approx 1 minute. i bought one of these cards last year and found it very cheap. mines has 2GB ram and 900 cores

  1. 1 Best Hardware for Cycles | BlenderNation Trackback on April 2, 2012 at 7:26 am
  2. 2 Blender Cycles Render Benchmark | Trackback on April 7, 2012 at 10:39 pm
  3. 3 Performance de placas de vídeo com o Blender Cycles | Allan Brito Trackback on September 19, 2012 at 2:54 am
  4. 4 The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Computer for Blender | Blender Guru Trackback on January 13, 2013 at 1:15 pm

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