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3D - Making the most of a small PC

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3D - Making the most of a small PC

I'll be starting school in the fall and will be working on their lab computers, my work computer and (don't laugh)... my little Compac laptop at home. It has 1.20GHz and 240MB RAM.

I've done several Maya tutorials successfully in wireframe - but very simple and small files - I'd imagine they'd get bigger and more complicated as I go along. I'd like to work at home as often as possible, (work/kids/home) what can I do to make the most of this little laptop. Memory? Math co-processor? Forget it - not gonna happen.

Any ideas?

That system will probably be fine.
If you find yourself working on immense files - which probably isn't too likely in school - you can later add more memory or upgrade your video card.

I would suggest that if you can afford it, to at least upgrade your memory to 512 MB. I think laptop memory is running about $150 for 512 MB right now but I could be wrong. If you do not plan on multi-tasking then this would not be an issue. However, if you have several large applications open, you increase your chances of a memory leak and a possible crash. Your processor speed is fine for now though and I agree with Harvey about possibly updating your video card in the future to a 128 MB instead of the standard 64.

Surely a little extra RAM will help, but in this case I think the most important thing would be the video card. Make sure it's 3d and has at least 64 megabytes of memory.

This is quite an interesting thread... I am about to get a new system and I wondered about the option of getting a laptop for the convenience and portability (imagine long flights or train trips or anything that's boring, and actually being able to use that time efficiently on your animation?!). I've heard that it's quite feasible to connect the laptop to a bigger monitor when you are at home, using the laptop as you would your normal pcu. Is that correct? Isn't it amazing that we can now run 3D programs on laptops? (I wasn't 100% sure myself if this was the situation yet) A couple of years ago, it would have been a laughable proposition wouldn't it?

I'm definately not up to date enough to know how this really rates with the best of them out there, but check this baby out!:

hey, you want to laugh at somebody? check out my workstation:

350MHZ G3, 256MB RAM, 32MB video card

Hey, its still runs, right? just like my truck! (knocks on wood)

If you do not plan on multi-tasking then this would not be an issue.

This is an important consideration.
I sometimes use Maya on a low-memory computer (256mb RAM, 8mb video card :eek: ) but I usually don't have much of a problem as long as I A) hide any objects I'm not working on and B) don't have any other applications open: no Photoshop, no DeepPaint, and few if any web browser windows.

Maya's recommendation is a minimum of 512mb RAM. This should cover reasonably-sized Maya files as well as having a couple other programs open.

Thanks for all the additional info. I'll gladly invest in memory and video cards - now I know what to look for. I'll also get a hefty "key drive" to transfer files easily.

As for multi-tasking, yeah we choked the other night because I was running the tutorial off the internet, which had video that I could start and stop. Now that I think about it, I've really been running this little laptop through its paces. I'll keep a closer eye on what programs I'm running.

As for using a regular monitor, check out "Docking Stations" these are hard plastic work stations that your laptop "plugs" into. It has all the necessary connections to power, a mouse and monitor, internet connections, etc. No fussing with plugs and attachments, you just slip it into place.

Thanks again.

As for using a regular monitor, check out "Docking Stations" these are hard plastic work stations that your laptop "plugs" into.

Mouse, keyboard, audio, and video ports are standards on notebook computers, so docking stations aren't necessary.
If I owned a laptop, I'd plug it into my 21" monitor as soon as I got home, and I'd probably plug in a mouse and keyboard as well (so I wouldn't have to scrunch up my fingers).

I would double check, most laptops, especially older laptops, do not have upgradable video cards...

RAM and processor speed is what you need for rendering, a good video card is what you need to push all those polygons when you're working in your scene file.

If I owned a laptop, I'd plug it into my 21" monitor as soon as I got home, and I'd probably plug in a mouse and keyboard as well

That's the whole point of a docking station - you automatically "plug" into everything. Here's a picture of a generic one, you can use any monitor you like, or drawing tablet, etc. It kind of treats you laptop like a desktop, but allows it to be portable. You never touch the wires apart from the initial set up and you can take it out whenever you need to be mobile. Just about everyone who travels in my company has one, and they're pretty good about standardizing equipment so that folks in our NY office can go to SF and plug in.

I might consider a set up like this, but can't swing for a monitor as well as all the other stuff. For those with older PCs contemplating a laptop but hate the keyboard (who doesn't?) and small screen, this is a pretty good option. Why not, if you already have everything else.

I'm going to research my own laptop, which is about a year old to see how it can be upgraded. (RAM, processor, video card) I'll report back with the options and results.

I know what a docking station is. If it were me, I'd just go to the trouble of plugging in the 2 or 3 devices.

Anyway, I'm not a portable computer person. I like to spread out. I'm not really comfortable hunched over one of those tiny things in a coffee shop.

Sorry Harvey, didn't mean to beat you over the head with that discription. Just wanted to address the cramped figers and monitor comment. Just putting it up as an option for students like me or Keenasmustard who are mobile for one reason or another.

no need to apologize. I just wanted it understood that docking stations aren't necessary to plug in a monitor, so that some people don't go spending money on unnecessary equipment. But if you have the money to spend on a convenience device, go for it. :)

You can pick up monitors pretty cheap if you shop around. I picked up a 21" for an emulator I was working on for $25. Check out

They also have some beefy systems you can pick up from auction for around $600. They are refurbished but some of them come with a year warrenty.

You might try ebay too.

One of my employers goes there all the time to get new half-priced systems and components.


If you are somewhat computer savvy, I would suggest checking out this link:

If you are only using your laptop to surf the internet and work on Maya, you probably have way more things running in memory than you actually need. It may help you in the short-run to just optimize your computer to run what you need. Good luck.