Inexpensive Rendering Build (2011)


This article is obsolete, I strongly recommend you check out the 2012 version.


In these times of uncertain economy, you don't wan't to lose all your savings on computer builds. Rendering computers, built to deal with applications like Adobe Premiere, Sony Vegas or even Maya (for 3D graphics), are amongst the most expensive systems out there, as they require excessively good specs to perform well. Here's an example of what you could build that would work decently with editing, but won't cost an arm and a leg.



  1. No operating system is included with this build, so you'll need to shave off another hundred dollars for Windows. If you have a copy of Windows, you can install it, otherwise, you can use Linux (not very good for gaming, but with WINE you can do some pretty impressive stuff).
  2. Also note that this is simply the tower, and does not include the monitor, mouse, keyboard, or other peripherals.
  3. Finally, if you screw up anything, we are not to be held responsible.
Parts Links Price (USD)
-Optical Drive:
-Power Supply (PSU):
-Video Card:


With taxes and shipping, the overall price averages around 800$

More information on each component, and justification of our choices.

  • Case: Rendering computers are advanced machines that are quite expensive. You'll need a good sturdy case to protect all that precious hardware. You also need to make sure that the case supports the motherboard and PSU form factors you have. The case we've chosen supports both ATX and MicroATX motherboards, has good ventilation and is somewhat inexpensive. Oh yeah, it also has tons of space for expansion.
  • Motherboard: The motherboard is in some ways the heart of the computer. It connects everything together, and the quality of the board generally influences the quality of the parts you can use. This board comes with an AM3+ socket, and is thus compatible with current (and future) high-end AMD processors. It also supports plenty of RAM, which is essential in rendering.
  • Optical Drive: If you're doing some intense rendering, then it might be interesting to have a Blu-ray drive. Unfortunately, these aren't cheap, so, instead, we went for a simple DVD writer/reader.
  • Power Supply: With PSUs, you're always better off buying decent quality. A bad power supply could easily fry your entire computer, and you don't want that happening now, do you? This unit is known to be quite reliable, and will provide enough power to give you some wiggle room if you ever intend to upgrade. Note that, even though it is SLI and CrossFire ready, I do not recommend using it with a dual GPU setup, except if these have low power consumption.
  • Processor: The CPU should ALWAYS be the most expensive component of a rendering rig. Many neophytes tend to think that the video card makes a big difference in rendering speed (not a bad assumption, considering you are working with graphics). Yet, it is the processor that does most of the work. Here's a screenshot I took of one of my computers rendering a simple Windows Live Movie Maker animation:

Task Manager

  • The funny thing is, even though this computer runs Crysis on moderate settings, it lags like hell when rendering a simple animation. Why? because the GPU is good, but the processor (Pentium D) sucks. This build has a Phenom X6 1090T Black Edition CPU. For its price, this six-core processor it's an absolute MONSTER, which should have no trouble rendering complex animations.
  • RAM: This is also quite important in rendering, yet somewhat less than the processor. Here, we have a very decent 8GBs of ram, and the possibility to upgrade to 16GBs in the future.
  • Storage: When it comes to videos, they can take up a huge amount of disc space. For best performance, you would need to use a SSD Drive. Unfortunately, these are still extremely expensive. Instead, for this setup, we went for 2 Western Digital Caviar Black Hard Drives, one for your media files, and another one for the operating system and programs. If you wish to have more speed, and don't mind being a bit reckless, you might want to look into RAID 0, but keep in mind that this makes you more vulnerable to losing files.
  • Video Card: You remember when I said the Video Card choice wasn't that important? Well, it isn't that much. It still does help though, especially for CAD and viewing HD videos. This card is actually a bit overkill for this computer, and you can invest into something less expensive. On the other end of the spectrum, you can buy a full blow Quadro or FireGL card, which are known to perform marvellously for 3D animations.


Ok, so 800 bucks might not seem inexpensive, and I agree. Still, for rendering, this is pretty much the best you can do if you really want good performance. Still, if you're on a very tight budget, you can buy weaker components, just remember to get a good CPU, and lots of ram.


P.S. If you have a few old PCs lying around, you can harness their power through the use of a Render Farm.


Happy Building!