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iBuyPower P500X And P900DX Workstations, Reviewed

Rendering And 3D Animation: Maya And LightWave

Autodesk Maya 2013

Maya/mental ray Rendering

Like 3ds Max (and Softimage XSI), Maya has its own limited software renderer, and the included high-quality renderer is mental ray. Since we evaluated V-Ray as part of the 3ds Max tests, we saved the mental ray tests for Maya. We used the Tom’s Hardware logo scene originally made in LightWave 3D. The scene was ported over from a .dae file. Then the animation was cleaned up a bit (even with baked camera motion, it never comes across quite right). The logo was then re-textured because the LightWave texture settings did not transfer between applications. Finally, the lighting and render settings had to be rebuilt from the ground up, since lighting and render settings don't transfer between applications very well, either.

We used the same four frames for the same representative reasons that we explained on the previous page. Besides, rendering the entire animation would take far too long.

Maya with the mental ray renderer experiences the same large spike on frame 500 as V-Ray did with 3ds Max. Once again, this is due the large amount of motion blur and massive number of polygons in the frame. Frame 600 has more polygons, but less motion blur, resulting in an overall lower render time. Frame 8 shows only an 85% increase in render speed on the P900DX, whereas frame 500 displays a 91% increase. Frames 41 and 600 fall somewhere in between.

The mental ray renderer clearly does not benefit from the additional cores and extra memory bandwidth of the P900DX as much as one would expect. In fact, most of the performance difference may be attributable to just the memory bandwidth.

Maya Playblast

Maya’s preview animation to disk function, Playblast, dates back to when machines couldn’t play back reasonably-detailed animations in OpenGL at anywhere near real time. Back then, you’d start a Playblast render before lunch, and then check back when you came back to get an idea of what your animation looked like at full frame rate. While that isn't exactly the case these days, we still think it's a good way to gauge OpenGL performance in Maya. The Playblast was rendered out to a RAM drive in order to eliminate storage performance as a variable.

Surprise! The P500X comes out 49% faster than the P900DX, despite the more expensive machine's superior GPU and memory specs. This is likely a result of Playblast being single-threaded. So, the Ivy Bridge-based chip's more efficient architecture and higher clock rate are notable assets.

NewTek LightWave 3D 11

Our Tom’s Hardware logo tests were originally created in LightWave 3D 9.6 and therefore required slight updating due to the new unified sampling system in LightWave 11. This, and other small changes make it difficult for those without extensive experience with the software to compare the resulting render times between versions.

LightWave 3D Modeler

Despite the single-threaded nature of this test, the P900DX absolutely rocks the P500X. The 6.8x speed increase is remarkable, which uses a script written in LightWave’s lscript scripting language to reproduce small details across a section of the Tom’s Hardware logo (the same technique used to add most of the polygonal detailing to the logo, achieving the Death Star look). The script has a built-in option to report the time to complete the operation.

We ran the tests multiple times on both systems to see if there was some sort of error, but the results were consistent. Our theory is that this test is severely limited by memory bandwidth on the P500X, while the additional bandwidth of the P900DX allows the test to run less-obstructed.

LightWave 3D Rendering

LightWave doesn't calculate motion blur in quite the same way as the other renderers we’ve looked at, so the jump on frame 500 is less pronounced. LightWave 11 makes use of the P900DX's 16 processor cores, averaging a 2.74x render speed increase over the P500X. Although the scaling isn't a clean 4x (the P900DX has both 4x the cores and 4x the theoretical memory bandwidth), it still demonstrates a speed-up consistent with the other renderers.

LightWave 3D Preview

LightWave 3D’s built-in OpenGL preview automatically renders to RAM and defaults to an older OpenGL-compatible shading model, which works incredibly fast, but has limitations on accuracy.

The older shading model (multi-texture shaders) generates a preview in no time flat on both systems. Since preview generation is a single-threaded operation, the P500X demonstrates a slight advantage due to its faster clock rate and Ivy Bridge architecture. We also ran the test in the much more complex GLSL shading model, which is also more comparable to the shading models used in 3ds Max and Maya (albeit much slower). The GLSL shading model allows the P900DX’s faster GPU and higher memory bandwidth to pull ahead by 66%.