3D-render wunderkind Ian Zelbo jacks up performance [Setups] | Cult of Mac

3D-render wunderkind Ian Zelbo jacks up performance [Setups]


Ian Zelbo works on renders on a tricked-out PC in New York City.
Ian Zelbo works on renders on a tricked-out PC in New York City.
Photo: Ian Zelbo

We last wrote about the computer setup of 17-year-old concept creator and render artist Ian Zelbo back in May 2021. As then, the young New Yorker’s 3D renderings of Macs and other leaked tech products continue to amaze viewers online.

But he recently switched things up a bit with the gear he needs to get the job done. Along with a big step up from a 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro to a 14-inch M1 Pro version, he custom-built a PC to do a lot of the heavy lifting in his resource-intensive work.

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Ian Zelbo’s evolving computer setup

It’s not every day you come across a high school student whose 3D renderings are routinely seen by many thousands of people. But that’s just what Zelbo’s Rendersbyian business has accomplished.

His detailed and realistic renders of leaked tech products get loads of exposure on social media from his clients — the likes of Jon Prosser of @FrontPageTech and Sam Kohl of iupdate.

We conducted a Q&A interview with Zelbo back in May. It goes into detail about how he got where he is with his high-profile work.

And since then, Cult of Mac has written about his renders predicting Apple Watch 7, iPhone 14, an iPhone 14 with a pill-shaped camera hole, an Apple AR/VR headset, an M2 Mac that looks like it’s from 1984, and the new mid-range Mac Studio desktop computer.

But along the way, he had to upgrade his setup here and there to get the job done more quickly and efficiently.

What’s in the new setup?

Zelbo told us he still uses his MacBook Pro for modeling, especially when he wants to be mobile, but never for rendering. His recent upgrade took him from an original 13-inch M1 MBP to a new 14-inch M1 Pro MBP.

“I mainly use it for color correction, compositing and video editing, but I occasionally make 3D models,” he said, adding that he owns the base model with 16GB of integrated memory and 512GB of storage.

The big change in the setup, though, is his new, heavily customized PC. Compared to his old MacBook Pro, it takes hours of animation work down to minutes.

Here’s how he described it:

A significant upgrade that I made is that I bought a dedicated rendering PC. While Jon Prosser and I were working on the massive iPhone 14 leak, I realized that my Mac would not cut it for the ideas we had in mind. I bought a prebuilt system from Asus to get the main components. I did a case swap and upgraded the cooler, fans and RAM. The PC has a factory overclocked RTX 3080, which breezes through anything I throw at it. While 4K animations could take 7-8 hours on my previous 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro, they now take 15-20 minutes.

Here are the main specs of Zelbo’s souped-up PC:

  • Asus TUF RTX 3080 OC graphics card
  • Intel i7 11700KF processor
  • Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro 32GB RAM
  • Corsair 4000D Airflow mid-tower ATX case
  • Be Quiet Dark Rock Pro 4 CPU Cooler
  • Asus ROG Strix B650 – G Gaming Wi-Fi
  • 512GB solid state drive
  • 2TB hard drive
Ian Zelbo's monitor shows a render of a leaked MacBook Air concept he worked on with Jon Prosser. on.
Ian Zelbo’s previous monitor shows a render of a leaked MacBook Air concept he worked on with Jon Prosser.
Photo: Ian Zelbo

Other upgrades and upgrade wishes

In addition to the computer upgrades, Zelbo took his external display up a notch. He replaced his previous 23-inch Dell 1080p display with a 27-inch LG 27UK650-W 4K display.

“It looks fantastic and works fine for me. The only issue is that the color accuracy isn’t the best, so I have to color correct on my smaller MacBook 14-inch display,” he told Cult of Mac. “I could easily fix this with a color calibrating tool, but another solution would be the newly announced Studio Display.”

In addition to having perfect color accuracy, Zelbo noted, Apple’s new Studio Display also has a glossy screen that makes colors appear richer and blacks appear darker.

“I do wish it shipped with Mini LED, though; that was a miss on Apple’s part,” he added.

Among other changes Zelbo made between recent setups were a “significant struggle” with cable management to make cords less visible and the addition of a Deity USB microphone, sent to him by Prosser. It sits on an Elgato Wave Arm LP. He also swapped his Magic Keyboard out for a Keychron K4 wireless mechanical keeb.

So what does the future hold for Zelbo latest setup?

“In the future, I could see myself replacing my PC with a maxed-out Mac Studio or even an Apple Silicon Mac Pro if the Mac Studio does not bring the performance I need,” he said.

And with the 3D rendering he does, you know he’s not kidding about needing his machine to perform.

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If you would like to see your setup featured on Cult of Mac, send some high-res pictures to info+setups@cultofmac.com. Please provide a detailed list of your equipment. Tell us what you like or dislike about your setup, and fill us in on any special touches or challenges.


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