Disclaimer! I use OpenSUSE and ArcoLinux for graphics, web and industrial design.
A few days ago, I bought the Mac Mini base model running Big Sur. To test the new Silicon M1 chip everyone is raving about, I’ve installed Blender 2.91 which is my go-to 3D modeling suite.

A B testing Blender render speeds on MacOS Big Sur and Arco Linux

blender apple silicon m1 linux comparison
Blender Apple Silicon M1 Linux test scene

The Blender scene used for testing

To start the A B comparison test, I’ve loaded Blender 2.91 on both my Mac Mini M1 (base model) and Dell Inspiron 5680 which has an 8 Gig Nvidia 1070 graphics card. The render engine used is Eevee without any tweaks.

I had no expectations and my intent was to see how bad the Mac Mini would perform when compared to my main Dell graphics workstation which has an Intel i7-8700 6-core 12 thread processor. Well, I was in for a bit of a big surprise.

Update! After some more testing, it appears that the latest Blender 2.91 release is noticeably slower than the 2.9 version. This is the only way that I can explain the results posted below.
To be sure, I’ve opened Blender 2.9 on my old MSI laptop which also rendered the default cube in 0.82 seconds.

Test 1 : Default Blender cube, no textures

Upon loading Blender, the default scene shows a cube, the camera and a light. Without touching anything, I’ve pressed F12 on both computers and here are the render results.
Linux: 5.39 seconds

blender linux default cube
Blender 2.91 running on ArcoLinux

MacOS Big Sur: 1.7 secons

blender macos big sur default cube
Blender 2.91 running on macOS Big Sur

Clarification! I am running a Linux theme to make ArcoLinux look like MacOS Big Sur so please don’t let the visuals distract you.
As you can see, the above image shows that the new 2020 Mac Mini with the Silicon M1 chip renders the default scene in just 1.7 seconds. I repeated the this test several times because I could not believe it. How could that be?

Test 2 : Default Blender cube with a red texture

I have long known that rendering a 3D model with no textures takes a bit longer than when textures are applied so I changed the default color to red. I’ve also added a bevel modifier with the default settings.

Arco Linux rendered the default cube with a red texture in 3.68 seconds.
MacOS Big Sur took only 0.86 seconds!

Test 3 : 10 x 10 x 10 array

My Dell computers is way faster than all of my other machines and when I saw that the red beveled cube rendered in under one second on the new Mac Mini, I had to increase the polygon count. I did this by adding an array modifier, set the instances to 12 and then applied the modifier. I repeated this process two more times and each time, I’ve applied the modifier to force the creation of tons of faces.

Arco Linux rendered the cube cluster in 9.57 seconds.
MacOS Big Sur took only 1.03 seconds.

Test 4 : Ambient Occlusion and Screen Space Reflections

In my excitement/disbelief, I have forgotten to turn on Ambient Occlusion and Screen Space Reflections. As you can guess, this stresses a 1000 cube render scene quite a bit more and here are the render times.

Arco Linux rendered the scene in 15.66 seconds.
MacOS Big Sur managed a render time of 2.81 seconds.

Final thoughts

dell 6 core graphics workstation running arch linux
My 12 thread Intel i7 8700 is slower than Apple Silicon M1

I have tested several of the above posted render times more than once because I couldn’t believe what I saw. The render times I have gotten with the new Mac Mini make no sense. This thing doesn’t even have a dedicated graphics card like my Dell Inspiron 5680 has and still, it leaves Intel / Nvidia in the dust. Not to mention that the 1070’s cooling fans went full blast while the Mac Mini remained noiseless as if it were off.

If you are a Blender user and bought a Mac Mini (mine is just the 8-core base model) then I’d be curious what your render times are. The default cube is easy to recreate and so is the red texture and default bevel. Always collapse the modifier to increase the polygon count.

I will do some more testing with some different scenes and feel that another blog post is needed to provide more insight. Many reviews state that the new Apple Silicon M1 processor is a best but I had no idea that the render speed would be so different. Let’s keep in mind that Blender runs via Rosetta2 (emulated) which means that an arm64 built would be even more impressive.

Thank you for reading. If you have questions, post them below and I will provide more specific info on the topic of Apple’s now Silicon M1 processor and how fast Blender runs on it.
For now, it’s safe to say that the latest version of Blender which, as of today, is 2.91 is noticeably slower than Blender 2.9 but as always, the Blender developers will surely address this ASAP.

2 Comments

  1. Zelig Lim says:

    Use the latest rtx optic to compare. And you didn’t mention if you’re using cpu, gpu or both. Anyway, your article help very much for me to understand how blender works on a Mac, do proceed and write more detailed content, how can I find the article in the future?

    1. Hello Zelig,
      to clarify, the new Mac Mini has the graphics component as well as everything else on the main board. Because of that, there is no GPU option and Eevee seems to use the8-core CPU. Still, the render results impressed me.
      Since then, I did a bit more testing and also moved from ArcoLinux to Ununtu which upon rendering a test render managed to render the default scene at 1.2 seconds (compared to the 3.x seconds ArcoLinux took).

      I bought the Mac Mini mostly for audio recording and web design so Blender wasn’t important back then when I made that decision. Sometimes we get a pleasant surprise and the Mac Mini M1 managed to deliver that surprise and then some. I will make new render tests soon. 🙂

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