You don’t need a Super-Computer for Blender

Blender Render Thumbnail

Blender is an awesome tool for creating animated filmsvisual effects, art, 3D models, motion graphics, computer games, etc. It is loved by many because it’s a free, open-source, and versatile application – simple enough for beginners to learn, yet intricate enough for professional work.

Like any 3D application, Blender requires a high-performance computer to run optimally. But what does it really mean? And do you really need a dedicated graphics card for Blender? Let’s find out more.

Blender System Requirements

Blender running on Mac

Since Blender is free and open-source, they strive to make it operable on as many devices as possible. This includes developing for every major operating system (Windows, macOS, and Linux), as well as designing for lower-end computers.

Blender recommends that you have a relatively new CPU that has at least 4 cores. Plus you should have plenty of RAM, at least 8GB for starters. In 2021, this is a common spec to find in most desktops and laptops. Budget-oriented computers from the last few years typically have at least 4 cores in their CPU and will be suitable for Blender.

But for optimum performance, you’ll want to have

Minimum System Requirements:

  • 64-bit quad core CPU with SSE2 support
  • 8 GB RAM
  • Full HD Display
  • Graphics Card with 2 GB RAM, OpenGL 4.3
  • Less than 10 years old

Recommended System Requirements:

  • 64-bit eight core CPU
  • 32 GB RAM
  • Graphics card with 8 GB RAM

Can Blender Run Without a Graphics Card?

It wasn’t until recently that support for GPU rendering was added to Blender. And even if you don’t have a dedicated GPU, every CPU will also come with its own integrated GPU.

You can run Blender 2.9 without a dedicated graphics unit, but you probably don’t want to. Without a dedicated graphics card, you might see frequent lags in the UI, especially in the viewport window. Plus the rendering may take hours if you have a large, high-resolution project with a huge sample size.

If you don’t care much about render times, you can run Blender fine without a graphics card. But make sure you have a capable processor and enough free RAM.

What Does a GPU Help With?

Even if you don’t see lags, the rendering will take hours without a strong GPU. When working, you may occasionally want to render scenes to evaluate. And on an integrated GPU this can be painstakingly slow.

A dedicated GPU is a lot more powerful than integrated graphics units like Intel’s HD Graphics. And it helps a lot in cutting render times significantly.

But if you don’t care about render times, you may not really need a dedicated card. And apart from the GPU, your computer’s CPU and the amount of RAM you have are also going to have a large impact on how well Blender will run.

CPU vs GPU: which is more important for Blender?

While a good GPU provides fast render times, you must have a solid, multi-core processor to run Blender smoothly.

So whether a GPU is important or not will depend on what you plan to do on Blender. For example, if you’re doing architectural works like 3D modeling, you’ll only need a high-performance processor. Tasks like these involve calculating a lot of vertices, which puts pressure on the CPU.

The only reason to have a solid GPU is if you’re working on games or animations in Blender. You’ll have to frequently test the output; and as we said, rendering may take hours without a powerful one.

Different Renderers in Blender – What is better for what?

Cycles – For Professional Use

The cycles renderer is the most feature-rich renderer for Blender and has been used in feature films and TV shows. This is also a renderer that is going to benefit greatly from adding a GPU to your setup.

Apple Silicon has just received initial support to render using the GPU in Blender 3.1 alpha, and we can see that the results using cycles clearly have a drastic difference. Using the CPU + GPU will result in over 2.3x faster than just the CPU.

EEVEE – for speed and performance

EEVEE is a physically-based rendering engine added to Blender starting from version 2.80. A GPU-only engine based on OpenGL, EEVEE is intended to be a real-time rendering engine with many features.

While the EEVEE renders don’t generate identical results to Cycles, the render times are much shorter. The introduction of EEVEE opens up an array of choices for artists, from 100% EEVEE renders to combining Cycles and EEVEE for optimum performance and visual eye candy.

Are AMD or Nvidia GPUs Better for Blender?

Starting with version 3.0, Blender officially supports AMD GPUs, but the performance is much lower than that of Nvidia GPUs. In fact, AMD has been working very closely with Blender to fix performance issues and improve support for GPU rendering in Blender. Hopefully, we’ll see improvements in the near future.

But right now, your best bet is to get an Nvidia graphics card with a high number of CUDA cores. They are now fully supported in Blender, so having more CUDA cores means less time to render scenes.

Blender render times on different GPUs
Blender render times on different GPUs

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