Like most applications, the system requirements for OctaneRender can be found on the official OTOY website. It is part of their FAQ page, though, and while it has good info about compatibility it is outdated in terms of performance recommendations. Since their info is outdated, we have taken the time here at Puget Systems to perform our own testing to determine what hardware runs OctaneRender the best. Based on this testing, we have come up with our own list of recommendations.
In OctaneRender, as well as most other GPU-based engines, the CPU does not directly play a role in the process of rendering scenes. However, there are calculations that take place in preparation for rendering, between frames in an animation, and the like. For example, OTOY mentions in their FAQ that "a fast multi-core CPU will significantly improve the scene loading speed."
Based on our testing, clock speed has the biggest impact on CPU performance with Octane. Core count does not seem to matter at all. This lines up nicely with the CPU requirements of other programs that are frequently used alongside OctaneRender: Maya, 3ds Max, Cinema 4D, and the like all do best with high clock speeds too. If you run other applications besides those, especially any CPU-based rendering engines, then that may change the sort of system you want to get. In such mixed-use cases, please contact our consultants for personalized assistance.
Aside from raw performance, it is also important to consider the number of PCI-Express lanes a CPU supports. This will govern how many video cards can be used, which has a big impact since video cards are the primary driver for rendering performance in Octane.
- Intel Core i7 9700K 3.6GHz (4.9GHz Turbo) 8 Core - This is one of the highest clock speed CPUs available, and does extremely well with both OctaneRender and modeling / animation applications. With only 16 PCI-Express lanes, though, it usually maxes out at two video cards; if you want more, a different platform and CPU is needed.
- Intel Xeon W-2125 4.0GHz (4.4/4.5GHz Turbo) 4 Core - Intel's Xeon W series processors have far more PCI-Express lanes than the consumer-oriented Core series, and even more than the more enthusiast Core X line. Combined with the right motherboard, this CPU can allow up to four GPUs in a single tower workstation. It also maintains very high clock speeds, but is more expensive than a similar Core series chip - and uses more expensive motherboards and RAM as well.
The video card selection is the driving factor for performance in OctaneRender. There are two aspects of a video card that impact render capabilities: the raw speed of the GPU itself and the amount of memory on the card. Video memory will limit how large and complex of scenes can be rendered GeForce cards tend to have good raw performance, with decent amounts of video memory, while Quadro cards come with larger amounts of VRAM but also cost far more for the same level of raw performance. As such, we recommend GeForce series cards for most Octane users.
- GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER 8GB - The RTX 2070 SUPER is an upgrade from the RTX 2070, which in turn was a replacement for the older GTX 1080. The newer features in the RTX series, particularly RT cores (hardware based ray tracing), make the older 1000-series obsolete - while the added performance in the 2070 SUPER puts it in the same performance range as the RTX 2080 and 2080 SUPER at a lower price.
- GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB - Almost 30% faster than the GTX 1080 Ti and RTX 2080, this card is a fantastic choice for OctaneRender! It comes very close to the performance of the Titan RTX for less than half the price.
The faster the card the better, but you can also use multiple GPUs to further increase speed. We have tested up to four GPUs, and scaling in OctaneRender is almost perfect: a system with four video cards is 4 times faster than a system with one. Because of the extremely good scaling in OctaneRender, it is important to consider whether your budget allows for up to four or just two cards. There are many situations where four lower-cost cards will actually be faster than two more expensive cards, but the trade off with more GPUs is a physically larger chassis. Other factors can come into play as well, like the cost of a bigger case, motherboard, and power supply. We have a variety of system sizes and form factors to choose from, so that you can match both your budget and location requirements.
While the exact amount of RAM you need is going to depend on your particular projects, for OctaneRender (and GPU rendering in general) we generally recommend 32GB. That should be plenty for rendering even very complex scenes, but our systems do support more for those who need it. If you run other software alongside OctaneRender, keep that in mind when selecting how much memory you get.
With the falling costs associated with SSDs, we almost always recommend using an SSD for the primary drive that will host your OS and the installation of OctaneRender and other software. The high speed of SSDs allows your system to boot, launch applications, and load files many times faster than any traditional hard drive. If your budget allows, it is also a very good idea to have a second SSD that can be used to store your active projects to further decrease load and save times.
Since SSDs are still more expensive than traditional drives per GB, for long term storage we recommend using a traditional hard drive (or two if you need even more storage!). Using a SSD can be useful in some situations, but most of the time the high performance of an SSD is simply not required for a storage drive.