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What can I do as an amdfag that wants to use houdini? None of the supported renderers seem to support my card. Do I have to export in some other supported package for my final result or cope with slow render times? I love prorender in Maya and eevee in blender but the utility of houdini for effects is too valuable since I make props and shit a lot of the time. My current workflow is making some props in zbrush and substance painting some textures on them. Then I put it through the works of simulating fractures and erosion then retexture. I was thinking I'd then export to unreal and just running off realtime glsl shading and effects. Is this any good?
If you don't want to deal with Mantra, which is entirely understandable if you want speed, I'd suggest you export your geo into Maya or whatever else has support for your renderer of choice, and do the final work there.

You can also have a look at the Houdini Engine for Maya/3ds/Unreal/Unity and see if it helps you with this. Though, I have never used it so I don't know how much of a useful idea this is.
PS. Also, H17 has glTF support, so it may too be worth looking into.
How is Mantra vs say Vray or Arnold in terms of photoreal quality and also speed?
how does it compared to fbx?
Mantra has it's uses. It plows point clouds and does great with volumes. It is a very high quality and robust renderer. Especially as you get into larger scenes that choke off other renderers. While mantra can be slow it will get the work done. Since you are on an amd gpu you are limited to software rendering, so why not try renderman? It will most likely be faster for you than mantra.
Could it be used in huge Arch viz scenes with lots of scattered grass, trees, plants etc with the same speed and quality as vray?
speed probably not, quality yes. Though Mantra eats instanced (packed prims) alive.
in detailed exterior scenes it is the mass instanced vegetation that is the killer for time. perhaps houdini/mantra could be a viable alternative for max/ vray plus plugins like forest pro
It sounds like an ideal case for mantra, though I have never done any arch vis work so take that with a grain of salt. Read up on packed prims it's slightly tricky getting them to pack their shaders. It's just one buried setting on the mantra output rop.

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