1 2 3 First Previous 185 Replies Latest reply on Dec 6, 2017 4:34 AM by Jason Young

    March 2014 - Suggested Computer Specs

    Charles Culp


      I do want to specifically thank Anna Wood for helping run the benchmarks this year. This posting is a bit late, as this general setup has been available since July, and available from the major computer builders (Dell, HP, Lenovo) for a few months already. Also, it is now much more complicated to specify a CPU, as there are many reasonable choices from Intel. The biggest update is the video cards (which will not be a separate post), which now with SolidWorks 2014 SP2 not utilize more of the video card. This means the more expensive video cards might be worthwhile for some users.


      If you need a system for FEA, or rendering, start a forum post with exactly what kind of analysis or rendering you do. Someone will respond with some general suggestions for the best way to get what you need. Because these systems can be very nuanced, you deserve a better answer than a generic system as specified below. These may include 6-core single CPU machines, or maybe dual-socket systems. Whatever you do, don't buy a dual-socket system just for regular CAD work, it will be very expensive, and probably slower than what I have suggested.


      This first post is my suggestions. The follow-up comment directly below is my source data showing why these specifications are the best.



      $907 is the cheapest price, but this will be just as fast as any of the Dell/HP/Lenovo systems below. This computer will be over twice as fast as a Core 2 Duo, so it should be pretty easy to justify to management. Note that this does not include a monitor, Windows, keyboard, etc. Don't forget to include these when comparing to other systems.


      If you want to build your own computer, or your IT department wants to build their own system, then the above system is a great place to start. I assume that you don't need lots of local storage, all your CAD files should be on a PDM server. If you deal with very large assembles, you might need more memory, but 16GB should cover nearly all SolidWorks users. Here are the details of each component:


      CPU: This consumer grade CPU is the "sweet spot" for performance and price for single-threaded performance. It is a "haswell" Intel chip that was released last summer. There is no need for a 6+ core machine for regular SolidWorks modeling. SolidWorks only uses one core most of the time, so everything is tied to CPU design and frequency. You want the highest GHz possible. I only suggest systems that run 3.4 GHz or more. If you use a Xeon CPU, pick a Xeon E3-1240v3 or 1270v3. The 1280v3 is faster, but comes at a very large price increase. These Xeon chips give you access to ECC memory, which does an error correcting check whenever it uses the memory. Once in a blue moon you could have a flipped bit (from cosmic rays!) that could cause a glitch in your computer/data.


      Memory: I assume 16GB is enough for almost everybody, but do your own check. Load up your largest assembly, and see if you max out your current system's memory. Open up Outlook, plenty of part files, whatever you typically do when you need to use SolidWorks.


      Primary Disk Drive: I won't suggest anything but a SSD for new computers. The response is difficult to measure, but the user experience speaks for itself. Once you use a computer with a SSD you will wonder how you can live without it. The performance difference between drives is not a huge difference, but you can always find a good update on Tom's Hardware. Here is the latest as of when I specified this computer (mid-January). http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ssd-recommendation-benchmark,3269-6.html


      Video Card: My next post will show the results of video card testing. My summary though, is that the basic CAD cards are still fine for almost all users. A NVIDIA Quadro K600 or AMD FirePro V4900 are still my cards of choice. The K600 is actually my preferred card today (at least for the next month or so).


      Power Supply: Don't cheap out on your power supply. Buy one from the top of this list: http://www.eggxpert.com/forums/thread/323050.aspx The cheap power supplies will die by having a component inside explode, sending sparks everywhere and nasty power spikes. Not a good situation for inside any computer.


      Case: For this, I selected just a reasonably priced case, with plain looks and USB3 on the front. For whatever reason many cases still only support USB2, which is a deal killer for me. For a much quieter case, even if you aren't overclocking, see the Fractal case below.


      Suggestions for Overclocking - DIY

      If you overclock (and it is very useful for SolidWorks), you need to do plenty of your own research to make sure all of your components are compatible. Do not rely solely on this thread. I did build an overclocked system for myself last summer, and it is phenomenal with SolidWorks. I was able to run my Core i5-4670K at 4.3 GHz, making it 26% faster than a chip running at stock speeds. With Haswell, I can even have it idle at lower frequency, so it doesn't always run at 4.3. Only when it needs to. While I write this post, my computer is running about 0.92GHz. This uses less power and is less load on the CPU and the cooling system. Then when I actually do something intensive, it ramps up to 4.3GHz.


      You can see pictures of my build here: https://plus.google.com/photos/+CharlesCulp/albums/5889156952469453137


      Case: I have a Fractal R4 case. It is great. I suggest this even if you aren't overclocking. They are very quiet, because there is sound dampening material on the inside. This computer is quiter than most workstations, even when it is running full-bore.


      Cooling: I have a Noctua NF-A14 air cooler. This requires a larger case, but the Fractal has that. It is even better than the prebuilt water coolers, and again it is quiet. They are known to create stresses on motherboards if they are moved around, but if your computer sits in one place, like most computers do, it is not a problem.


      Motherboard: I used a Gigabyte Z87X-UD4H motherboard, although by now I'm sure there are other great options.


      Power Supply: Seasonic Platinum 860. This is an ultra-premium power supply, but before I installed the dedicated video card, it ran without a fan. It is just that efficient. This also made it much more quiet. I am very satisfied, and the 860W rating is necessary for the extra power from overclocking; although my calculations only show 700W required.


      CPU: I picked the i5-4670K because the sandy bridge chips actually got higher frequencies with the i5 then the i7. This is not true for the Haswells (it has to do with the type of solder used), so I just suggest the i7-4770K if you want a big SolidWorks machine.


      Video Card: I have the AMD FirePro v4900, which I still suggest for most people. The NVIDIA Quadro K600 has inched away as a better value, so that is actually my first pick. If you do want a bit more, then the AMD W5000 or Quadro K2000 might be worthwhile (see below).


      I'm not going to give a full spec sheet for DIY overclocking, because as I said, you need to do your own research. My system was less than $1,200.


      Prebuilt Computers

      Which should you buy, a Dell, HP, or Lenovo? Tough to say. Most users don't get to pick, it is whatever IT requires. If you can, it is fairly easy to justify getting a premium system, which I have under the next header. These are much better suited for CAD performance than these workstations. That being said, most of us are stuck with these choices at work, so here is what I suggest:



      Everything was priced on January 20th, 2014. I included all discounts and sales at that time. Prices for all prebuilt systems include Windows 7 Professional. This is approximately a $140 for purchasing the OEM version of Windows 7 on the open market. The price difference between the Dell and the HP and Lenovo is likely due to the lack of an SSD drive.


      Really, I suggest the Dell T1700 with specifications as close to the system at the top of this page as possible. But Dell's new website does not allow for true customization. Because of this, I was only able to find a comparable system with the Dell T3610. If your company only uses Dell, and you have a Dell representative you can contact, please call them up and ask for a T1700 with the specifications at the top of this page. You will get a much better price point than I was able to find on their website.


      Dell T3610/T3600


      Xeon E5-1620v2 3.7 GHz

      16 GB ECC

      1TB 7,200 HDD (eek)

      AMD FirePro W5000



      Lenovo E32


      Xeon E3-1240v3 3.4GHz

      16 GB ECC

      256 GB SSD

      NVIDIA K600


      Also, don't forget that HP offers three configurations of CAD workstations: Workstation, Small Form Factor, and the Z1. The Z1s have an integrated computer behind the screen, which makes them look nice on a desktop without any extra cords or boxes. They come at a very steep premium. I actually suggest the small form factor if you can get the specs you want.


      HP Z230 SFF


      Xeon E3-1240v3 3.4GHz

      16 GB Non-ECC

      128 GB SSD

      NVIDIA K600

      Premium Systems

      There are some premium systems that are more expensive, but often worth the value if you are a heavy SolidWorks user who needs extra performance. There are quite a few boutique builders out there, but the only one I've found that caters directly to CAD users (instead of gamers) is @Xi.



      If you buy a Boxx, please tell them you read about them here. They have provided me (and Anna Wood) with test machines for benchmarking, and your feedback will ensure they continue to provide me with samples for testing. Since I mentioned it, I have not been compensated in any way by any manufacturer described anywhere in this post. Unfortunatly, they do make me return their hardware after testing...


      Boxx computers are great, because they are overclocked, yet very quiet, and still come with a regular 3-year warranty. They are very well built machines, and their hardware looks nice. Their computers are more quiet than most desktops, yet outperform them by a significant margin.


      Boxx 4150 Xtreme

      This really is the best SolidWorks computer you can buy pre-built. It is more expensive than Dell/HP/Lenovo, but you get 20-26% better performance for that money.


      Core i7-4770K @ 4.3 GHz

      16 GB RAM

      180 GB SSD

      NVIDIA Quadro K600


      Box 4920 Xtreme

      This is the absolute fastest SolidWorks computer ever. If you want the best, this is your computer. It screams for rendering and FEA, as well as being more than 5% faster than the 4150.


      6-Core; Core i7-3970X @ 4.5 GHz

      16 GB RAM

      180 GB SSD

      NVIDIA Quadro K600



      If you buy an @Xi, please tell them you read about them here. They have provided me with test machines for benchmarking, and your feedback will ensure they continue to provide me with samples for testing. Since I mentioned it, I have not been compensated in any way by any manufacturer described anywhere in this post. Unfortunatly, they do make me return their hardware after testing...


      @Xi computers are known for building high performing overclocked machines. They use similar components to what you can buy yourself if you build a DIY machine. The difference with @Xi is you get known hardware and the support you need to build it correctly. They also offer a 3-year warranty on their hardware, so you can feel safe knowing your investment is solid. They do not build very specific machines like Boxx, so all configurations are not tested as well. This means you have to be careful when specifying a machine, so my summary for @Xi is much longer than my other summaries.


      @XI Mtower


      See this product quoted here: http://www.xicomputer.com/products/quote/printQuote.asp?configid=306707

      Intel® Core™ i7-4770K @ 4.3GHz Hi-Perf. Sealed Water Cooling

      16GB DDR3 1866MHz

      Xi® MTower™ CM-HAF 922 Case

      ASUS® Z87-C Motherboard

      AMD® FirePro™ W5000

      250GB Solid State Drive Samsung® 840 EVO

      Windows 7 Professional


      So for the same price as the Dell/Lenovo/HP website price, you can get a machine that is 26% faster, actually has the SSD, and even has the nicer AMD W5000 video card.



      As I say in every post like this: CPU is King. Always has been, and it will be for a while. Don't get dual CPU setups for SolidWorks modeling; that is a horrible mistake. Get the highest frequency Intel CPU you can, then an SSD second, and a better video card third. Make sure you have enough RAM for whatever your models require by doing a test and looking at your task manager. The real way to get ahead today is to buy a machine that is overclocked, and there are safe and reliable ways to do that.

        • 1. Re: March 2014 - Suggested Computer Specs
          Charles Culp

          I'm a little late here, but here are the numbers. These tests were all run by Anna Wood, who generated the data. Again, I must thank her for putting together all of this information.



          The absolute best CPU for SolidWorks is still a Core i7-3970X or 3960X overclocked to above 4.5 GHz. This 6-core CPU can be purchased in the Boxx system shown above. For most users, expect mid-40 seconds for a 3.4-3.7 GHz latest generation CPU suggested above.



          Simulation uses many cores, so if you crunch numbers all the time, then you can really benefit from a fast dual CPU system. Note that the second best score is still a regular 4.3Ghz Core i7-4770K, the cheap, standard system I suggest above, only overclocked. It even beats the moderate speed dual CPU system.



          Flow gives us slightly different results, and again it is overclocking of a regular 4-core consumer grade $300 CPU that wins.



          Rendering uses all cores well, so using a dual CPU system can really pay off. If you only occasionally run renderings, this will be hard to justify. Consider outsourcing your occasional renderings to an outside renderhouse like renderbay.com, then keep the overclocked single core system on your desk.



          Video Card

          Video card testing has changed dramatically. This first chart shows the results from 2013. The following charts show the result from 2014. Note that with 2014 SP2, there is a significant improvement in the responses, specifically with higher end video cards. If you have a video card with over 2GB of video memory, you should make sure you are running 2014 SP2 or later. It will greatly enhance the ability of your video card to perform.

          Here are the results from our test last year in 2013. You can see that there was a limitation in SolidWorks that prohibited the more expensive video cards from doing anything. When this test was run, there was no reason to buy anything except the cheapest card, the V4900. The more expensive cards actually under-performed the V4900:



          By comparison, you can see in the new 2014 chart, that the higher end video cards do give good responses. We get more FPS with nicer video cards. Note that the AMD video cards do not have a great response yet. They are still limited by having drivers that are not updated for the capability of 2014 SP2. Expect and update from me any time showing new results from updated drivers.



          A slightly larger assembly, the entire press which includes the die, gives us less difference between the cheaper and more expensive cards:



          This engine assembly is an imported model, and thus doesn't have the same structure as a native SolidWorks model. It is thus a bit more "optimized" in its video performance by reducing some of the overhead, and you can see more significant difference between the video performance of the inexpensive and more expensive cards.



          As a reference, we also used Cinebench to test each card. This is a standard test that is not SolidWorks, and gives us straight video card performance results. We can see that when optimized for video performance, how each card runs a standard test.



          For most users, the cheapest video card from each manufacturer is still your best option. This is the K600 from NVIDIA and the V4900 from AMD. If you can justify the higher performance, the more expensive cards now actually offer real value.

          • 2. Re: March 2014 - Suggested Computer Specs
            Jerry Steiger



            Thanks! (And thanks to Anna as well!)


            Don't be too hard on yourself for taking so long to put out a new version; just doing it at all is a lot of work and is much appreciated by all of us who depend on the experts to keep us informed. We would be up a creek without a paddle if it weren't for you.


            Jerry S.

            • 3. Re: March 2014 - Suggested Computer Specs
              Andy Birko

              Thanks so much!  I'll be ordering everything on this list within the next few days.


              Anyone have any recommendations for a budget 27" monitor with good performance?  I'm running SW on a iMac 27 right now so hopefully something close to that.

              • 4. Re: March 2014 - Suggested Computer Specs
                Scott Baugh

                I wrote this when I was researching the monitors we were purchasing at the time. This information is what I found on the web and I made this document to help myself, others and I plan to use in an up an coming User group meeting as my presentation material... just have to convert it over to powerpoint. Hope this helps you in your quest to find the best monitor for the money.

                • 5. Re: March 2014 - Suggested Computer Specs
                  Mark Coville



                  Thanks for putting this list together! I am getting a computer made to these specs, Dell T1700, i7-4770 3.4GHZ, AMD Firepro V4900 like you suggest. When I look for a certified graphics card driver the V4900 is not in the list. Do you think this will be an issue or will I have to just test different drivers until I find one that works?



                  • 6. Re: March 2014 - Suggested Computer Specs
                    Charles Culp



                    We use Dells at work with SolidWorks 2014 and the V4900. It works fine for us. I have a V4800 in my machine and it still works great. We use these drivers for SW2014 with Windows 7 64-bit:



                    However, AMD will be coming out with a new driver in the next few weeks, and I suggest using their most recent driver once it is approved.

                    • 7. Re: March 2014 - Suggested Computer Specs
                      Mark Coville



                      Thank You for your quick reply. I can't wait to try it out.

                      • 8. Re: March 2014 - Suggested Computer Specs
                        David Sandoz

                        thanks for the benchmark testing. Do you have advice on laptops? I need portability and thought of a gaming laptop, but am unsure what laptop would be suitable. Help!

                        • 9. Re: March 2014 - Suggested Computer Specs
                          Scott Baugh

                          I agree there should be someone doing these benchmarks on laptops. I do my own testing here and have for years. I contact each mfg and they send me 1 laptop to test. I test those laptops as if they were in our network (having IMS install all the necessary applications they normally install). I don't just put an OS and SW on it and get the numbers. I want to know what the Laptop is going to do under normal network conditions. So far every year the Dell Precision M4000 and M6000 series always wins. We have been ordering the M4800 and the M6800 this year. This is the 3rd year in a row of  ordering Dell Laptops with no problems or compliants. However your going to pay for them. We pay between $2800 to $3500 for the M4800 and $3200 to $4200 for the M6800, but both of those quotes include 2 24" monitors, keyboard, mouse, and a monitor stand.


                          Gaming Laptops might work, if you could get a Quadro K-series card instead of a Geforce or some other gaming card. However some gaming laptops are more expensive than the Dell's are.


                          If I had more time work or personal I would test this myself.

                          • 10. Re: March 2014 - Suggested Computer Specs
                            Michael Dondelewski

                            One important item missing in your specifications is Power Supply.

                            350 watts may be o.k. for simple modeling.

                            When it comes to Stress analysis and more advanced Solidworks applications 600 to 1000 watts of power will be required.

                            Also the more memory the better.

                            One can build a "knockout" unit for about $1200-1500 which will far exceed in performance pre-built computers you list by major manufaturers.

                            • 11. Re: March 2014 - Suggested Computer Specs
                              Charles Culp



                              The 360W power supply I specified is adequate when running the equipment specified at 100% power. Some power supplies don't actually output what they claim, this SeaSonic will. The power supply required can be calculated by taking the power requirements of each component and adding them up. This Haswell CPU only uses 84W, and the video card only uses maximum 75W. Both of these are much lower in power requirements then older CPUs and more powerful video cards. SSDs also use less power than traditional HDD.


                              I would feel very comfortable running this system I have specified at full power for extended periods. It uses less than 300W maximum with everything at full power.

                              • 12. Re: March 2014 - Suggested Computer Specs
                                David Anderson



                                Great work!

                                Question: I have an XI built box with an Asus P6T Deluxe MB and a Core I7 965 w/12 GB of ram onboard, max allowable ram is 24 GB. I think this machine is 3 yrs old.


                                I am considering a new computer as this machine is used for both SW and FEA equally. I want a smokin processor and was looking at the intel core i7-3960X Extreme 6 core. I also want at least 32 GB of ram as my FEA models are not all running in-core anymore. Rather than going for a new machine, could I simply replace my existing MB etc with the setup above or are there compatibility issues that would prevent me from doing so?





                                • 13. Re: March 2014 - Suggested Computer Specs
                                  Charles Culp

                                  You will want a new motherboard, RAM, and CPU. Also, which video card do you have? It is probably suitable with the other system specs you mentioned, but worth verifying.


                                  The best way to get screaming speed is to get the 3960X (or 3970X), and overclock it to over 4.5 GHz. This requires a strong enough power supply, and either an oversized CPU fan or a water cooling system.


                                  Regardless of overclocking, I think you will be very satisfied with a 3960X and an LGA2011 motherboard.

                                  • 14. Re: March 2014 - Suggested Computer Specs
                                    Ian Worrall

                                    Intel have just announced their new chips for the 2nd half of this year - including an 8-core that uses DDR4 RAM.



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