I'd recommend either the Dell T3500 or HP Z400 with a six core Xeon w36xx processor. The Xeon variant supports ECC memory, which is important for running large problems unattended. HP is offering the reasonably priced w3670 and you could probably get Dell to price one out, if you ask nicely.
Thanks for the response.
I contacted a Dell rep regarding a box, and the pricing is based upon your recommendations. I received three quotes. Two are around $4K, and the other is around $3K.
All three quotes reflect 12GB of RAM, three 300GB hard drives to approximate 1TB of drive space, and mid-level SolidWorks recommended (1 - 2 GB) video cards. The difference in the $1K between them is driven by a smaller, quad core processor instead of a six core that you recommend.
If I'm forced to go with the lower priced box, would a quad core be a problem for me? We don't run real large complicated assemblies where I work, but some analysis may be complicated/complex. Is it just the speed that will suffer, or will the softwares not run well?
Flow runs very well on my Lenovo W510 laptop with a Q720 quad processor with 10 GB DRAM. You should not experience any undue slowdown vs. a six core processor. I have run the Flow Solver with 4 x 2 threads for eight processing units, but did not see much if any improvement.
Cores and raw speed count. I am running on a Dell T3500 (6 core xeon) with 12gig ram. Hauls asssss. Turned off hyperthreading and it runs better. I can run 2 simultanious simulations and still do other stuff on the machine, without maxing out the cores. Also, SSD main disc. Don't worry about the graphics, it's trivial compared to the actual analysis. There is no substitute to pure horsepower.!!!!
I know this post is old and you've probably already bought a machine, but I thought I'd throw in some comments for future users with the same questions.
I bought pretty much the same Dell T3500 setup you described: Xeon W3680 6 Core @ 3.33 GHz, 12 GB ECC RAM, ATi FirePro V5800. Just like you, I was looking for a machine to handle both normal modeling and Flow Simulation. It ended up running between $4-5k. It runs all my modeling very well and can handle smaller simulations (ie, less than 1 million cells with heat transfer) pretty quickly. Designing a machine for a good modeling only experience was pretty straight forward. A good processor, decent amount of RAM (12 GB seems pretty good), and a good graphics card should be top on your list. Don't skimp on the graphics card because that's where a lot of the processing power comes from when you're modeling and is important if you don't want laggy, jerky motion in larger assemblies.
When you start talking about building a machine for Flow Simulation it becomes more of a case by case basis, based on what you think you'll be modeling. Probably one of the best things to do if you aren't familiar with Flow Simulation and haven't done any work in it, is get in touch with your SW reseller and have them set up and run a simulation that is a good representation of you'll be simulating most. Err towards something on the more complicated end of the spectrum. After they run it they can give you some of the generic details about it that will be helpful for building a system around. In particular, you'll be interested in mesh size and the complexity of the physics involved (i.e, heat transfer, rotational flow, etc...) Larger meshes and more complicated physics will require more ram. Rules of thumb I've come accross for RAM are:
2-3 GB for every 1,000,000 cells (simple physics)
2-3 GB for every 500,000 cells (when employing conjugate heat transfer, rotational flow, etc...)
You really want to make sure you have enough RAM, otherwise the calculation will dip into virtual memory, which is much slower, and has a tendency to crash my machine if the mesh needs way more RAM than I have available. As for processors for Flow Sim machines, there has been a lot of talk about whether more processor cores is better. From some of the charts avaialble from SW, it seems like speed doesn't increase much after 12 cores for Flow Sim 2012 and 6 cores for 2011. Multiple cores for modeling aren't really a big help, since performance is driven heavily by the GPU and many processes only support a single core. Though I do like the multiple cores because I'm usually doing numerous other task while using SW and they help keep it speedy.
So, back to building the machine... The Xeon is a good processor , especially if you want to run ECC RAM, though it isn't really necessary for SW, and is more expensive than non-ECC. After I had been running my machine for a couple months a coworker built another SW machine from scratch for about $1400. It's running a quad core i7 processor, 8 GB RAM, and a NVidia GeForce graphics card. This machine actually outperforms my T3500 in all the SW modeling benchmarks we've run. Another $500-$1000 in RAM and CPU upgrades it would probably beat mine out in Flow Simulation too. Knowing this now, I say build your own machine, if you have the know how. You can put some serious horsepower in it for a much lower price. I'm sure there are some good how-to videos on computer building. I know NewEgg.com just posted some new ones.
Hope this helps someone!