Charles Culp

May 2012 Suggested Computer Specs

Discussion created by Charles Culp on May 2, 2012
Latest reply on Jul 24, 2013 by Sean Simmons

This thread is now out-of-date. Check out:

February 2013 Suggested Computer Specs



The next round of suggested computer lies with the Ivy Bridge CPU. I have a longer write-up of this new CPU series here:


What you need to know, is that these are a smidgen faster than the Sandy Bridge (5%), but they have some outstanding values in the lower priced options. So in the thread below, I hope to detail out an entire "homebuilt" system with this new chip. Later I hope to post a "discount" machine as well.


First, though, lets cover the major manufacturers, which still only offer the now year-old Sandy Bridge based processor. Note that these do not cover things like monitors or accessories, just the machine, Windows 7, and sometimes a keyboard and mouse.


Dell T1600 - $1,430

They have really dropped the price on this, but they have also dropped the options. Now they only offer a regular HDD, not a solid state drive. Also, you can no longer get an ATI video card, which is too bad because they are a far superior value. I'm very disappointed in Dell, and if you have your pick I would look at another manufacturer.

What you need:

Xeon E3-1270, 1280, or 1290 (this is still the year-old technology)

I suggest the E3-1270, because it is so much cheaper. The E3-1290 is 3% faster than the E3-1280, and the E3-1280 is 3% faster than the E3-1270. So you can decide what is worth what to you.

I suggest 8GB minimum of Non-ECC memory

You only need the nVidia Quadro 600 video card for most SolidWorks users. Only get the bigger card if you have thousands of components in an assembly, or extremely complex models (moldmakers with complex models and multiple models on dual screens).

I'm very disappointed that they dropped the Solid State Drive, so pick the 1TB 7200 RPM. This is generally inadequate for a new workstation.

This Includes Windows 7


HP z210 - $1,890

What you need:

Xeon E3-1270, 1280, or 1290 (this is still the year-old technology)

I suggest the E3-1270, because it is so much cheaper. The E3-1290 is 3% faster than the E3-1280, and the E3-1280 is 3% faster than the E3-1270. So you can decide what is worth what to you.

I suggest 8GB minimum of Non-ECC memory

ATI FirePro v4900 (much better than the Dell offering)

HP at least lets you get a faster HDD, so get the 10kRPM 160GB primary drive, and a secondary 500GB drive. This is part of what makes the HP more expensive than the Dell, but it will be worth it.

This Includes Windows 7


Lenovo E30 - $1,839



ThinkStation E30 Series - On-Site Warranty 3 Year Parts / 3 Year LaborEdit
Processor:Xeon E3-1270 (3.40GHz)Edit
Operating System:Genuine Windows 7 Professional 64 - EnglishEdit
Form factor:Tower 4x5 with Intel C206Edit
Memory Type:DDR3 ECC uDIMM PC3-10600 1333MHZEdit
1st Memory DIMM:4GB ECC PC3 1333MHz uDIMMEdit
2nd Memory DIMM:4GB ECC PC3 1333MHz uDIMMEdit
Video adapter:NVIDIA Quadro 600Edit
First hard drive bay:2.5" 150GB SATA HDD 10k rpmEdit
Second hard drive bay:3.5" 500GB SATA HDD 7200 rpmEdit
First optical device bay:16x DVD +/- RW DL Win 7 onlyEdit
Ethernet adapter:Integrated EthernetEdit
Keyboard:USB Full Keyboard - EnglishEdit
Pointing device:Lenovo USB Optical Wheel MouseEdi


Lenovo offers a SSD, but for $750! Are you kidding! They do offer ECC memory, and only offer nVidia graphics cards. So this is a mix of the HP and Dell offerings. I'm still less than impressed, but the price isn't too bad.

This is very comparable to the HP, but a few dollars less. It does have both a 150GB 10K RPM and an 500GB 7200 RPM drive.



Xi Computers - $2,132

For the first time I'm suggesting Xi. Why? They will give you terrifically fast speeds; they already offer the Core i7-3770K overclocked to 4.6 GHz. This means that it is about 44% faster than the above computer (approximate, based on calculation and not benchmarking). And they give you all the options that HP, Dell, and even Boxx don't. I'm impressed, and I'm even more impressed with their price. For a computer that performs better than the "homebuilt" I have specified below, it is not that much more expensive. If you want a pre-built machine, this is the ticket.


Xi MTowers are: CADalyst! HR & AllStars, PC World Best Buy 2007/2008.
Xi® MTower™ PCIe Workstation

Base Price: $1,119.00




00013Xi® MTower™ PCIe Workstation (Base Configuration)$1,119.00
01819Intel® Core™ i7 3770K @ 4.60GHz Silent Sealed Water Cooling 8MB Shared L3 Cache DMI Quad-Core 22nm$439.00
0225116GB DDR3 @1600MHz Dual Rank Interleave (Dual RAM Channel MoBo only)$199.00
04394AMD® FirePro™ V4800 1GB DDR5 PCIe 1xDVI Dual Link 2x Display Ports Dual Monitor Support$189.00
05015No Monitor (credit)($140.00)
03147120GB Solid State Drive Corsair® Force Series™ 3 (R2) SATA 6Gb/s 550/520MB/s Seq.R/W SandForce® SF-2200 Ctrl. <.3ms seek Shock Resistant 1500G.$89.00
32112Optional 1TB 7200RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 64MB Cache 4.2ms Latency (no RAID)$129.00
17012HD Ctrl. According To Motherboard and HD Type SelectedIncl. w/ Base
23011SATA/SAS Trays accordingly to case selectedIncl. w/ Base
06061DVD+RW/DL/+R-R/CD-RW Double Media 4.7/8.5GB 18x$49.00
09007On-Board sound as per selected motherboard specificationsIncl. w/ Base
12001On-Board Network accordingly to motherboard selectedIncl. w/ Base
13001Logitech® Black Windows KeyboardIncl. w/ Base
14010Logitech® 2+ Wheel Mouse Black OpticalIncl. w/ Base
16084Genuine Microsoft® Windows® 7 Professional Edition 64Bit on DVD (32Bit & XP Pro downgrade avail. on request)$59.00
22261Asus® P8Z68-V LE Intel® Z68 Express C.S.-2xPCIe 1x16x1x4x-2xPCIe 1x-3xPCI-Dual Ch.DDR3 2200/1333-1GbLAN-2xSATA6Gb-4xSATA3Gb-1xeSATA6Gb-RAID 0/1/5/10-HD-Audio-8CH-S/PDIF-12/4xUSB2.0/3.0-1xDVI/HDMI/DP-(No OC)Incl. w/ Base
44038650W Cooler Master™ GX Series Ultra-Quiet BB 12cm Fan 80%+ Bronze Efficiency-99% PFC UL (or otherwise superceded by embedded Case/PS)Incl. w/ Base
18001Standard Xi Warranty w/Express Advance Parts Replacement, One Year on System, Mfg. on MonitorIncl. w/ Base
27157Xi® MTower™ CM-Elite™ 430 2x12cm Quiet Fans-Front Grid-2x Front USB- 3x 5 1/4" 7x 3 1/2" (No O.C)Incl. w/ Base

Sub Total: 



Wow. A SSD primary, and reasonably priced 1TB secondary drive.

4.6 GHz Core i7-3770K. This is the fastest computer you can purchase for SolidWorks (that I know of).

The only thing they missed is they don't offer the ATI FirePro v4900. Get either the v4800 or the v5900. The v4800 should be more than enough for most users.

Can't remember everything? Just ask for Quote #274818, that is this system.


Note that this motherboard will not utilize PCI-E 3.0, but that firepro video card is only PCI-E 2.0 anyway. This is just a drawback for future video card upgrades. I still woudln't hesitate.






But enough of that, let's look at each component individually, and see what I suggest:



Charles' Custom Build - $1,073

My cheapest and fastest suggested computer yet. I'm hesitant to offer a "discount" machine because of the speed/value of this thing. All prices from



Core i7-3770. $320. The new king. If you aren't going to be overclocking, than this is a good choice. The "K" version is 100Mhz faster, and probably $40 more (although sold out today). If you are overclocking, you can probably get to 4.5GHz or more! You need a better case, a better power supply, and more fans for air cooling. If you want to do that, start a discussion below or in your own thread.


Mushkin 240 GB SSD - $250 - SSD's are finally cheap enough you can consider buying one drive. This is it. At $1.04/GB, it is setting a new standard in price. I assume that most of your data will be stored on the network, so this will be the only storage device in this computer. Source:,3184-4.html


The AMD FirePro V4900 has been dropped to $160. Outstanding value. Check my forum thread for why I like AMD video cards:


I like the gigabyte lower priced motherboards. Like usual it is $120, and comes with the new Z77 features, like PCI-E 3.0. This just came out, and you can't even get it on the Xi computer above. This will be good for the next generation video cards, although the v4900 I recommend is still PCI-E 2.0. It also runs DDR3-1600 natively (Ivy Bridge chips with the Z77 chipset). it also has 4 USB 3.0 slots, so you can really add high-speed USB devices when you get them.


I picked $54 8ns latency memory, instead of $45 9ns latency memory; mostly just because it "felt" like a good idea, since DDR3 is getting so cheap. I specified 8GB, but this is a "buy as much as you need" kind of thing. This motherboard can support up to 4 memory cards, up to 8GB each. So if you need 16GB, buy two pair of what I have selected. If you need 32GB, then find some 8 or 9 ns latency memory that meets DDR3-1600. How much do you need? I don't know. Rough guide: 1000 or less parts in an assembly: 8GB. 1,000-10,000, then 16GB. More? then 32GB, and you should probably post your current system below so we can chat about it. This memory must be purchased in pairs of dual channel memory.


These Ivy Bridge CPUs are even more power-sippers than the Sandy Bridge, which is great. We can stick with 650W power supplies, and know that they are more than enough to handle this system. I calculated ~360W of actual usage. Antec now has an "80 plus Platinum" rated power supply, which means it is between 89-92% efficient. This is outstanding, and the first time one of these platinums has been available for sale in a reasonable price range (although currently out of stock). The electricity savings from these things is well worth the extra few bucks, and you will make Asheen Phansey ( happy at the same time.