Maxwell Render v4 – 1 Hour Review

*This is not a professional product review, just me playing around with the software for an hour*

Since we got that out of the way I can dive into my quick look at the new version of Maxwell. Obviously, this is coming months after the release of v4, but I had been hesitant to make the upgrade for a few reasons.

I was a little confused at why Maxwell broke their software down into all the different plugins. In previous versions, a licence of Maxwell got you access to their render engine, and whatever plugin you wanted to use. Conceptually, I liked this idea, but in practice, my workflow whats pretty much straight out of sketchup. In v3, Maxwell offered a 100$ plugin for sketchup which I tested out. It was pretty worthless and only let you save images from the Fire preview window. It didn’t let you render out any channels.

My experience with this plugin is what lead me to be hesitant to upgrade. I was nervous since sketchup was cheaper it was going to just be like the old worthless plugin.

Anyways, I was working on Black Friday, as I do every year, and saw a 50% off email from Maxwell. I figured I’d give it a shot for half off. Turns out since it was an upgrade, it came out to $148.75. I buy photoshop plugins for more than that…


Turns out its the exact same thing and workflow as I always used. Here is a screenshot of the interface.


So into the software review.

I rendered this scene with a few different settings.

The furthest cube had some the lacquer setting in maxwell, the middle had a plastic setting with a displacement, and the close cube had a car paint setting on it, The ground had no reflectivity, but a fairly strong bump map turn up.

Here is a normal render in maxwell 4. All the SL are the same, the times change for the most part.

SL 10, 2 minutes

Here is with the denoiser that maxwell is marketing.

SL 10, 12 minutes

Take a look at this screen shot, it has 2 levels of SL. for the denoiser to work effectively, it MUST finish. IE get to the final SL. You can not end it early, or there would have been no point in selecting that option.

For fun I ran my own denoiser in photoshop over the second image that had the 2 minute SL10.

Since the denoiser clearly took more time (10 minutes more), I set the time to 12 minutes and wanted to see how far the render could get.

SL 14.65, 12 Minutes

From the 4 images, I think the best one is the one that rendered the longest. No real surprise here. To better compare the images download them to a new folder on your local so you can just toggle from image to image without loading times. You’ll see the subtle differences then.

I’m not convinced that the denoiser is a great feature. I’ll have to use it some more to verify that though. It seemed to just take a lot of extra time for not a huge gain in quality. Additionally, if you just run your own denoiser from PS or Topaz as I have, you can save a ton of time. Or just let the thing render for longer.


GPU render capabilities


So this is new in Maxwell v4. you can change the render engine from CPU (above) to GPU.

When I tried this option it failed instantly. After a little research, I realized they only supported CUDA architecture in their video cards. So my quadro card wasn’t going to cut it. I had just recently upgraded my Lumion machine’s video card to the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti (11 gig) card. So I had the old GeForce GTX Titan )6 gig) card sitting around.

I popped that into my Dell and took out the old quadro card.


Then the GPU renders worked just fine. I tested the same scene and got an interesting result.

SL 10, 1 Minute.

The second cube with the displacement map came out very strange, and the car paint cube didn’t work at all.

I tried this again with the denoiser fuction

SL 10, 6 Minutes

Really strange results on that one too. All the quilted pattern?


Anyways, conclusion time.

I think I paid over $1400 for the last Maxwell upgrade, since I only paid $150 I’m happy with it. Had it been +$1000, I wouldn’t feel like I got much. You get all the same workflow that you have used in previous generations of the software, which I am really happy about. It wasn’t just a shitty stand alone plug in for sketchup like they had before. I wanted to bench these against my v3.xx Maxwell, but the licensing wouldn’t let me. I guess I can no longer use my v3?? Kind of sucks. At least as people in my office jump to sketchup 2018+ I wont have to down save them to work on them. As far as the denoiser goes, I don’t think I’ll be using that function. Being tied down to a SL might not work for me. I’d just rather run my topaz filter on it, and render it for longer. I didn’t realize that it would take a lot more time to render. If the time were the same, I’d be totally into it, but this dual SL thing, not so sure about it. I’d rather have a higher SL than the built in denoiser.

I think the GPU is pretty cool. Sure you have to watch your materials, but for this basic scene, it rendered to SL 10 in 1 minute!!! Thats pretty awesome. Again the denoiser is really buggy it seems. But for a simple scene with simple lighting, I think it worked awesome! I’ll be sure to use it on simple exteriors with simple material work on them. That being said, if your current video card is not CUDA, then just forget about this. I’m interested in the potential this will have moving forward. Maxwell has a good article here about it.

Is v4 much better than 3 if I dont have a CUDA card? Probably not, seems like its just more of the same. You are just going to upgrade because you are sick of downsaving your sketchup files, and for $150. I think it’s worth that convenience.

Again, I played with this for an hour or so. All of these opinions could be wildly different in 2 months, so just take this quick review with a grain of salt. Thanks,

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