If you work in 3D you'll know full well that it pays to stay up-to-date with the latest and best hardware – or at least, the latest and best hardware you can afford. Having the best kit won't make you a better artist, but it will help you create stunning 3D art or render beautiful 3D movies a lot faster.
Bearing that in mind, we've assembled five of the best bits of 3D gear you can buy for your studio right now. Have no doubt: some of this kit is eye-wateringly expensive, but if you're serious about producing the best 3D content then you'll find that this hardware quickly pays for itself.
3D has traditionally been a hardware-intensive discipline, making it difficult to work away from your desktop. However, Wacom's stunning mobile pen computer gives professional 3D artists and illustrators the convenience of a mobile tablet – with the full power of desktop creative apps.
Making the iPad Pro look more like the iPad Plucky Amateur, the MobileStudio Pro is a high-end Windows 10 PC crammed into a 13 or 16-inch tablet form factor. Powered by an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor and Nvidia Quadro GPU, it's packed with features making it ideal for 3D content creation. Its Pro Pen 2 boasts increased capabilities – including 60 degrees of tilt, over 8000 levels of sensitivity and pixel-level pointing accuracy, and higher-spec models come with a 3D scanning camera.
Make no mistake: this is a heavyweight machine, literally. You'll know if you're carrying it around all day, particularly the 16-inch model. But if you need to be able to create on the move, the MobileStudio Pro is the only serious choice.
Also read: Wacom MobileStudio Pro review
The HTC Vive is already the best of the VR headsets, but HTC is upping its game with the Vive Pro, due out in May and available to pre-order now. At $799 for just the headset – you'll need to buy base station sensors and controllers separately – it's not cheap, but if you're working in VR then you'll appreciate its new features.
These include a better-fitting headset that's designed to be comfortable for extended periods of time, built-in on-ear headphones delivering 3D spatial audio, and a second front-facing camera for improved tracking. The Vive Pro also boasts a dual AMOLED display with a native resolution of 2880 x 1600, a 110 degree field of view and a rock-solid 90Hz refresh rate. And with the Vive Wireless Adapter due soon you'll be able to use the Vive Pro without all the cables.
- Also read: HTC Vive Pro review
- Buy US: HTC Vive Pro at Amazon for $799
- Buy UK: HTC Vive at GAME for £799
If you're embracing a VR workflow, you'll want an effective way of building or sculpting in a VR environment. And while both the Vive and Oculus controllers do their jobs perfectly well, it's hard to beat investing in a Leap Motion VR Developer Kit.
It takes the standard Leap Motion sensor and mounts it on the front of your VR headset, freeing you from controllers and tracking your hand movements to give you that extra level of precision and finesse that you might not need for gaming in VR – but could prove essential when you're in the middle of a tricky 3D build.
- Buy US: Leap Motion VR Developer bundle at Amazon for $89.99
- Buy UK: Leap Motion Controller for £60.16 and Leap Motion Motion Sensor System for £83.63
The GPU market is in a very weird state at the moment. If you haven't needed to buy a new GPU in the last couple of years, you're in for a shock next time you go shopping for a 3D upgrade. Decent GPUs are in short supply and their prices have gone through the roof, and it has nothing to do with any demand for realistic 3D graphics. Rather, they're being snapped up by Bitcoin miners as fast as the manufacturers can produce them.
The good news, though, is that the miners tend to concentrate on consumer-level hardware such as the Nvidia 10-series GPUs. Pro-level hardware is a little easier to acquire (although these days you'll find that the number of cards you can buy in one purchase is limited), so you shouldn't have much difficulty getting your hands on one of Nvidia's workstation cards.
Nvidia's new Quadro GV100, with 640 deep learning-focused Tensor cores on top of 5,120 CUDA cores, is almost certainly overkill for a 3D workflow, especially at $8,999. But the Quadro P6000, with 3,840 cores, 24GB memory and 12 TFLOPS FP32 performance should be all you'll need for the next few years, and it's a (relative) snip at just $4,694/£4,100.
We've looked at some great portable tech and VR trinkets, but let's face it: you still need a decent monitor most of the time. And they don't come much more decent than Dell's UP3218K. It's the world's first 32-inch 8K monitor, giving you unprecedented levels of crispness, and delivering exceptionally accurate colours and smooth gradation.
It uses Dell's PremierColor system to provide colour coverage that meets most industry standards, it boasts a flicker-free display that filters out blue light emissions so that it's comfortable to stare at all day, and its adjustable stand means that you can quickly and easily switch it from landscape to portrait view. It'll definitely give a Quadro P6000 a run for its money, and it costs slightly less; the UP3218K is available now from Dell for $3,699.99 / £3,435