Million dollar decisions

Hello everyone, Josh emailed me asking about hardware ideal for animators. OK, so it may not be a million dollar decision, but when you talk about systems needed for crunching modeling and animation, you will drop some serious coin.

Here’s what I researched for Josh.

  1. 1st decision – Desktop Or Laptop
  2. 2nd decision – Fastest processor you can get/afford.
  3. 3rd decision – Fastest Graphic Card you can get/afford
  4. 4th decision – Biggest Hard drive you can get/afford
  5. 5th decision – Dual screen or not dual screen – once you have done two, you’ll hate using only one.

  • Laptops typically don’t have as fast a processor on the upper-end of the food chain as do the Desktops (MacPro or the new iMac Pro). They also, typically don’t have the fastest graphic cards in them either.
  • RAM is the memory the software utilizes from the computer – all the work you do is done in the RAM until it all used up and then the software writes any additional data to temporary place on the hard drive. Typically, RAM is faster than hard drives or working over network channels. With the solid state hard drives, I don’t think that is the case any more. There are no moving parts in a solid state drive. They are just big flash drives and have no moving parts, so they should be as fast as the RAM. And, you can allocate a portion of your hard drive to act as virtual RAM too. That helps speed up the work you computer is doing.
  • A big hard drive is needed because, 3D modeling, animation and video eats ups tons of storage space.
  • Dual screens are nice because you can work on one and have your palettes on the other. You could do a 40 inch HD TV as your second scree – probably cheaper than buying a computer screen. Hook it up via HDML.
  • The Apple Magic Mouse works well with the scrolling and everything you need to do to navigate in a 3D environment.
Here are some specs I worked up from the Apple Store. You can see the choices for the two options. So, you can configure something less expensive, but you will be giving up speed. These Mac systems will do the job. If you want a PC instead of a Mac, you can configure similarly, but from the blogs I’ve read, to do so, you will spend pretty close to the same amount of money for similar configurations.
Computers are just like race cars… the more money you spend, the faster you go.


13-inch MacBook Pro – Space Gray

  • Touch Bar and Touch ID
  • 3.5GHz dual-core 7th-generation Intel Core i7 processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.0GHz
  • 16GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory
  • 1TB SSD storage
  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650
  • Four Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • Backlit Keyboard – US English



27‑inch iMac with Retina 5K display.

  • 4.2GHz quad-core 7th-generation Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz
  • 32GB 2400MHz DDR4
  • 2TB Fusion Drive
  • Radeon Pro 580 with 8GB video memory
  • Magic Mouse 2
  • Magic Keyboard – US English


iMac Pro (the dream system)

Can’t price anything yet. But to outfit one of these with all the bells and whistles will be about $5,000 to $7,000. Yikes! I want one so bad.

As you can see, for an additional $200 the iMac system will be bigger and faster than a laptop, but you give up mobility for the desktop platform. The 27 inch screen is a ton of screen real estate, so you wouldn’t have to add the second screen like you might want to with the laptop. Big question is where do you want to spend most of your time? Hunkered down in your dorm room or in OP1224 working on one of the Mac Pro systems. The million dollar question…

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