Charles Culp

October Suggested Computer Specification

Discussion created by Charles Culp on Oct 24, 2011
Latest reply on Feb 21, 2012 by Valentin Leung

This thread is now out-of-date. See this thread for May 2012:



This thread is for a regular CAD system. If you do heavy (day in and day out) animation rendering with PhotoView, or another rendering software, then you probably want a system with more cores ( Make sure to state exactly what you want to use the system for. Otherwise, if you just do CAD, including FEA, then this information applies to you.


Well, first let me start off with a few news items:

October 24th (today), Intel released the latest Core i7-2700K. It runs at 3.5/3.9 GHz, and is overclockable. This is my new suggested CPU for all SolidWorks modeling systems. If you are actually going to overclock, perhaps the 2600K is still a more cost effective solution; however if you are just buying stock, then the 2700K will run faster.


A couple weeks ago, AMD released their "Bulldozer" CPUs, which have 8 cores. Unfortunately, each individual core is slower than most of Intel's offerings, including the Core i5-2500K, which is cheaper than the AMD FX-8150 chip (their fastest Bulldozer). So I'm still not going to suggest an AMD chip right now. They will be good for rendering (and at a good price), but wait until you read the next paragraph.


November 14th, Intel is going to release the next series of Sandy Bridge based processors. These will have up to 6 cores, and run in the 3 GHz range. These will be great rendering machines, but will come at a steep $600-$1,000 price, as well as the new LGA 2011 architecture (so different motherboards). So sometime in November I will create a "suggested november build" thread. Things will get more complicated, as it will include a seperate rendering machine, CAD machine, and bargain machine. We'll worry about that when we get there.

Here is my new November suggested Ultra-high performance machine, for rendering:

November 2011 Suggested Computer - Ultra-high Performance


Also, sometime in Q1 2012, Intel will release the upgraded Xeon chips with up to 8 cores, and 2-up processors. These will be expensive machines, and I will probably only suggest them for render nodes, or people who really want the most performance they can get. What I do expect is for Dell and HP to jump on these to replace their now aged high-end workstation lines. So if your company only wants to buy beefy workstations from Dell/etc, then next spring will be a good time to upgrade (better bring your boss' wallet).


Suggested Built Systems:


Dell T1600 -

Estimated US $2,414 (as configured below)

- Energy Star Case with 320W 90% efficiency Power Supply

- Quad Core Xeon E3-1270, 3.4 GHz (If you want to spend a bit more, get the 1280 or even better 1290. Each is a 100 MHz increase)

- 8GB, DDR3 Non-ECC, 1333MHz (2x4GB)

- 1GB ATI FirePro v4800 (sometimes not available, get the more expensive nVidia Quadro 2000 instead)

- 256 GB Solid State Drive (smallest they offer, if you need more than 256GB, add a 10k RPM secondary 2.5" drive)

- Everything else that comes standard on a T1600

- Includes Windows 7 64-bit in the Price


HP Z210 -

Estimated US $2,650 (as configured below)

- Energy Star Workstation (90% efficiency)

- Xeon E3-1270, 3.4 GHz (chose the E3-1280 for 100 MHz faster)

- Solid State 160 GB primary disk

- 10k RPM 300 GB secondary disk

- 8GB RAM (I suggest non-ECC to save money)

- ATI v4800 graphics card

- For the Optical Drive Downgrade to the DVD+-RW to save $300


Boxx 3970 Xtreme -

Estimated US $3,454 (as configured below)

- Core i7-2600K overclocked to 4.5 GHz (wow, this is fast stuff)

- Solid State cache drive (System Cache Drive, see the video in the post below) - 20GB

- 10k RPM primary SATA drive (300 GB)

- 8 GB DDR3-2133 (wow, this is fast stuff)


This Boxx is faster than anything else on the market. You can overclock yourself, but if you want to purchase a fast system for SolidWorks modeling, this is it. The system cache isn't quite as fast as a SSD primary drive, because your solidworks files won't always show up on it. It works automatically in the background, so all repetitive files go to the SSD, so any files you end up just "occasionally" opening will still save to the HDD. It is easy, automatic, and secure compared with a full SSD primary drive (my bargain system below uses this method).


Suggested Laptops:

Look for one of these processors: Core i7-2960XM, 2860QM, 2760QM, 2670M, in that order (the first two are quite expensive). The 2640M is a lower power, lower cost alternative with only 2 cores. If you are actually doing any modeling on a laptop, these are the only processors I will endorse. You must run 64 bit windows 7 with at least 4 GB of RAM. After that, everything on a laptop is a compromise, so I don't really suggest laptops for modeling to begin with.


* Also note that hard disks are now twice the price they used to be. There was flooding in Thailand that has devestated the hard disk industry, so expect to pay $130+ for a 1TB 5,400 RPM HDD, and $350+ for a 600GB 10,000 RPM Velociraptor.


And without further ado, here are my suggested builds for those who want to save some serious cash and make one yourself: