For things like Blender then it really is the more money you throw at it the faster it will be. The question is, how fast is fast enough?
As a rough finger in the air I'd say about £500 should do it. That will get you a decent (if not top of the line) Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory and a big hard disk. The graphics card will be average but good enough. Maybe add on another £100 or so if you want to get a new monitor rather than re-using the existing one. This kind of technology moves fast though so wait 6-12 months and that £500 will get you significantly more.
Thanks. You're being v helpful. On further consideration, would you know what model/spec of PC to purchase for DS next time round (and this may not be for ages now) that would give him exactly what he wants for doing CGI/Blender?
Would that be an incredibly expensive machine/system or what?
OK, it's not a hugely powerful PC which means that there's not much point throwing in a monstrously powerful graphics card as the rest of it simply couldn't keep up. And, even if it could, I don't think the power supply would be powerful enough to drive it.
You could put a lower-spec graphics card in it, one that wouldn't be wasted and that the power supply could cope with, but then the difference it would make to rendering time would probably not be worth the effort.
Lowest cost option - put more RAM in it. I think the maximum that most models of that PC can take is 4GB. How you get to that depends on the exact model of Inspiron 530 it is (there are several). Easiest option - go to this page, download the system scanner, run it and it will tell you what you need to buy to get to 4GB RAM. Expect it to cost £30-£50 depending on what's already in there and the model of Inspiron 530 it is.
Next option - if it's a model of Inspiron 530 that can take 8GB of RAM then get that plus replace the 32-bit Windows Vista with 64-bit Windows 8. 32-bit versions of Windows can only actually use around 3.2GB of memory. 64-bit versions can use much, much more. It's only worth upgrading Windows if you've installed more than 4GB RAM though. Windows 8 upgrade is £60 plus the RAM cost.
Many thanks. The following info is the most I can access: he uses Windows Vista Home Premium Service Pack 2 on a Dell desktop PC, model - Inspiron 530. The processor is: Intel(R) Core(TM) 2 Duo CPU E7400@ 2.80GHz 2.80 GHz
The memory is: RAM 2.00GB The operating type is: 32 bit operating system.
The used space is currently 155.056.435.200 bytes - 144 GB
The Freespace if: 154.211.614.720 bytes - 143 GB
The current graphics card name is: Intel(R) G33/G31 Express Chipset Family. Chip type: Intel(R) GMA 3100. DAC Type: Internal. Total memory: 286 MB
Would that be enough info. for anyone to deduce whether a graphics card would help and if so, what type?
It is possible to use the graphics card to do some of the rendering in Blender. I'm not sure how big a difference it will make though; I think it depends a lot on what you're trying to render. Blender supports NVidia graphics cards better than it does ones from AMD/ATi.
Two questions: 1) How much money do you want to spend?
2) What is the current spec of his PC? The easiest way of finding out is (assuming it's running Windows) click on the start button and then type dxdiag.exe into the search bar and hit return. The DirectX Diagnostic Tool will then start up. Click on the "Save all information" button and it will ask where you want to save the information to - the desktop will be fine. This will then put all the system information into a file called dxdiag.txt on your desktop. Double-click on that file and you should get a load of information. Then copy and paste that info here. Or, if you prefer, ask your son to tell you what make/model PC it is, what version of Windows it's running, what model processor, how much RAM, and what graphics card it has then post that info here.
Although a graphics card could potentially help speed up the rendering, the main thing to look at is the ram and the processor. Do you have the computer specs to hand? it would be easy to work out if a graphics card is all you need or if it would be a waste as the computer needs more ram.
DS 12, loves creating computer generated imagery, using the programme Blender. However, he's says that his PC isn't competent enough to render the vertices of images and, as I can't afford to buy him a new PC, he wants a good quality graphics card for Xmas. He thinks this might help 'speed things up' and improve things.
Now, all of the above is a 'foreign language' to me as I was born well before the age of modern technology and can only barely understand what he need - but have got him to tell me what to put in this post.
So can anyone knowledegable about CGI and Blender and graphics cards, advise me if a) a graphics card will indeed help to improve his use of Blender b) is worth getting c) recommend a 'size' or type that would do the trick?