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Is it an alternative to Cycles, or just for the 3D viewport?

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You can read this code.blender.org post describing the development goals for Eevee: https://code.blender.org/2017/03/eevee-roadmap/

In short, Eevee is meant to be a modern, high-quality viewport that will perform better than the current Blender viewport, and can better approximate the shaders for game engines or renderers such as Cycles. It will also be able to function as a final renderer in its own right, removing the need for a dedicated scanline renderer such as Blender Internal. Since it is GPU based (using the same render techniques as game engines) it will be very fast, rendering in seconds or fractions of a second.

You can use it as an alternative to Cycles if you prefer the speed, or use it as a preview of Cycles for when you need the extra quality of path tracing and don't mind waiting around for it. Since the renderer is very similar to game engine renderers, it is also very useful for prototyping game assets before sending them on to engines such as Unity or Unreal.

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    $\begingroup$ Does anyone know if it's going to get compatibility with Cycles/Internal on materials level? While it's nice preview it seems to be quite lost potential if we need to make second set of materials for final render anyways. It doesn't make it especially useful material preview in such case... $\endgroup$ – Lapsio Aug 2 '17 at 7:45
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    $\begingroup$ Eventually yes, at least for Cycles. It actually supports many Cycles shaders already, it just currently requires them to also be connected to an Eevee material output. This will change in the future AFAIK, Cycles already supports reading its shaders from Eevee's material output. $\endgroup$ – JtheNinja Aug 2 '17 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ "that will perform better than the current Blender viewport" -- how can a viewport full of post-processing effects and complex lighting (Eevee) perform better than a simple viewport with solid objects and GL lights (current)? I don't think this assertion is right. $\endgroup$ – R. Navega Feb 3 '18 at 4:40
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    $\begingroup$ Short answer is that the current viewport code is very old and poorly optimized in many ways. Also, while Eevee may not be faster than with all the effects turned on, you can turn off the effects too, so.... $\endgroup$ – JtheNinja Feb 3 '18 at 16:45

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