Computer system ?

Shane Scaife

New elf
Dec 12, 2022
Sorry if this is dumb question.
Does it matter what computer system you get if your looking to eventually work into a large show?
I am literally starting with nothing. I need a system that will handle numerous displays over a few acres. Including water features as well as lights.
Am I over thinking it any any laptop will do no matter how large the display ? Or is one system setup better to run the programs than others. Or does everything rest on things like a raspberryPie and controllers.


Apprentice elf
Dec 6, 2021
I am using an old laptop, felt like a good use for what would have been scrapped. The controllers are doing the grunt work.


Crazy elf
Global moderator
Generous elf
Dec 19, 2021
Western Sydney
Playback of a pre-rendered sequence requires very little processing power. It's reading the channel data from the FSEQ and spitting it out to the lights. This is why a small-board computer like a rPi works well for this.

Creating the sequence in xLights, however, needs much more grunt work, because this is what takes the effects and layout and has to compute frame by frame what the RGB values for every pixel are. Now, depending on the sheer number of lights and channels, thats where the processing power ramps up. Matrixes and panels have very high channel counts and are where alot of grunt is needed to generate the frame data.
I have around 18k channels in my display, and the same again in my TuneTo sign. So not particularly large. Sequences take up to 5-10 seconds to render on 2 year old mid-spec desktop, and about 15 seconds on a 7 year old laptop.
But if you had hundreds of thousands of channels, this could blow out to minutes on the same hardware.
You'll get suggestions that you must have the latest Mac Pro M2 CPU and things like that because it's more optimised etc, but those things cost a fortune, and honestly, the hard-on for a few seconds of lower render time is certainly a driving factor there. You can certainly use any machine, until your show gets so massive that it just refuses to render on a machine.
My suggestion is don't go buy something crazy until you get frustrated or can't render, certainly not if the only purpose is for the 1-2 months of a year that you are sequencing.

Use batch render - hit the button, come back in half an hour and you're all done :)


Angry Elf!
Feb 15, 2022
Orlando, Florida
If, it is any help, I use a 2014 Mac Mini, I threw in 32Gig of ram, I don't have a large number of pixels in the whole scheme of things just over 3K but a new sequence taks just a few seconds to render and the show plays without any issues with xschedule.

I initially tried to use a very old HP PC running Windows 7 pro, to run xLights, after having issues with the video drivers and also after upgrading to Windows 10 and still having video issues, I utilised the Mac Mini.

So basically, if you do use a PC, make sure it is not overly old, in case of video driver issues. Just make sure it can run the latest versions of xLights if you are.