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Okay, so I'm working on setting up a small render farm, and I'm unsure of something. Is it better to use one really powerful computer, or the price equivalent of smaller computers in an array?

I'm a student and my teacher asked me to look into this. We have a lot of students that use blender. We use GTX 1080s for rendering, but for those of us that do animations, they often take a while to render. We have a server system running and it wouldn't be difficult for us to set up a network rendering machine or a render farm. But I'm trying to figure out if it's better for the single powerful machine, or multiple small machines. I haven't been able to find any direct comparisons between the performance differences of those setups.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Duarte Farrajota Ramos, Timaroberts, Denis, Paul Gonet, someonewithpc Apr 26 '17 at 20:31

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ There really is no universal answer for this, it all comes down to specific jobs, and what a "single powerful machine" is or how good "multiple small machines" are. You can't easily divide one single large frame job across multiple slaves, but rendering many frames across multiple machines is more doable. $\endgroup$ – Duarte Farrajota Ramos Apr 26 '17 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, it's about how many gpus can you put together. $\endgroup$ – LetTheWritersWrite Apr 27 '17 at 3:31
  • $\begingroup$ If you can render using the gpu then the cpu does very little. Multiples of the cheapest cpu/motherboard will give you more computers that can each hold a gpu that does all the work. It also means a failure only slows you down, it doesn't stop you completely. $\endgroup$ – sambler Apr 27 '17 at 4:01
  • $\begingroup$ Let's say its an i7-6700 for whatever CPU performance is needed and two dedicated 1080s for the rendering. What I don't understand is if the price equivalent of 1060s on computers in an array is more powerful when they are all contributing to the render job, or if that one computer is better. There should be a performance difference, however slight, but considering its about the price equivalent I want whichever would provide the most collective power, however small a performance gain it is, it helps. $\endgroup$ – bkrumins Apr 27 '17 at 12:44
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I agree with Duarte that there is no universal good answer for this. In fact the real answer will depend on what time you ask this e.g. the GTX 10 series brought in a swathe of cheap GPU power where [1] a GTX 1060 is the best bang for your buck in terms of FLOPS/$.

Just bear in mind that if you do decide to opt for a bunch of smaller gpus, the amount of onboard memory will limit the size and complexity of your blender scene.

If you are looking to drastically reduce render times, check out airenderer.com. I used it a couple of times, it is good for most scenes and they claim can reduce your render times by up to 97%...[2] it is more like 90% but still very good.

sources: [1] geforce.com official FLOPS versus RRP [2] airenderer.com

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  • $\begingroup$ Never heard about airenderer before, interesting concept. Upvote for that $\endgroup$ – Duarte Farrajota Ramos Apr 27 '17 at 0:36
  • $\begingroup$ I don't want a rendering service, it needs to be in-house so that we can do our own maintenance on it and know that it can be reliable and redundant. $\endgroup$ – bkrumins Apr 27 '17 at 12:34

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