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Cheap render machine

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I'm thinking of buying a cheap single processor machine to help out on a big rendering job (3ds Max, scanline and a bit of Brazil). I have a load of bits so all I need is a motherboad, CPU and memory. But I'm not sure what to get as I'm a bit out of touch with current specs. I've looked at this board for rendertimes etc but is there any where I can find rendering specs for the latest processors?


Does anyone have any recommendations? as I'm a bit confused between the current range of AMD processors (FX, 64, XP etc) and how they stack up against Intels latest.


Price is a major consideration, and I will probably not get the fastest available but the best bang for buck coupled with the chance to swap the processor in a year or two. So I don't want to get something that will be discontinued next month.



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my choice as well... just a single HT P4 with lots of RAM (the more the better). And sometimes when doing scanline renders its faster to disable HT. RPC for instance does not support HT yet, so it uses only 1 thread to do the preparing. I've asked them to make it HT supportive....

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I created my farm using this board:


Approx $100USD

Its basically the same as the previous board except with built in video. No need to spend money ona video card for a rendering maching working headless. It also supports HT, dual channel memory and has onboard LAN too.


Heres a version with Radeon graphics:


Approx $76USD

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I use a twin Opteron machine which flies rendering with Maya and Mental Ray. I'm pondering building another -

MSI K8T FAR motherboard (dual opteron, onboard graphics & LAN) - £120

2 x Opteron 242 processors - £290

2GB of DDR333 RAM - £300

Good (quiet!) PSU and case - £120

Total less than £900 for a machine that will storm through scenes. I've been running the opteron's day in, day out since last Feb and another AMD machine for 18 months, with no hassles at all.


This allows you to up the processors as they come down in price ( I have 248's in my machine) and the option of using 64bit when it actually is of any use......

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  • 2 weeks later...

For best bang for buck, price-performance ratio/uniprocessor config take a look at Athlon64 on Winchester cores. Its based on 90nm process and runs relatively cooler and draws lesser power than comparative P4's. I wouldn't recommend the XPs at this point, they're obsolete platform though they still get the job done on the cheap. The current models for A64 Winchesters are 3000+(1.8Ghz), 3200+(2.0Ghz) and 3500+(2.2Ghz) Performance Ratings. Don't get too hung up on their seemingly low clockspeed cause its not the only gauge for performance, Athlons have higher IPCs than P4s due to their shorter pipeline and efficient microarchitecture. Plus they have excellent and low-latency throughput due to their integrated memory controller. Pair those with a couple of good tight-latency RAMs and you're good to go.


The Athlon FX on the other hand is ridiculously expensive, its the cream of the crop for AMD's A64 platform. You can forget it unless you're a multi-millionaire, though its still cheaper than the P4 Extreme Edition which is its direct rival in that market segment. As for dual Opterons, they're really nice and very responsive. We are using dual Opterons in our office as our main workhorse. And they can really take whatever we throw at them with ease. But since your main concern is price, I don't think its a good option since you will be forced to use registered memory for them, which is more expensive than unbuffered ram. So I would recommend an A64 90nm based on a Socket 939 motherboard, that way you will have dual-channel memory capabilities. The socket 754 is only single-channel so socket 939 is preferable in that regard.

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