15 Replies Latest reply on Jan 4, 2012 12:34 PM by Denny Metcalf

    Partially Mobile Workstation

    Robin McCaffrey

      I've searched through the forums and have found a number of discussions on tablets, 3d controllers, and whatnot.

       

      I was wondering about recommendations to get the following setup.

       

      I would like a tablet that I can bring on site, scribble down notes/drawings and take pictures/video, and hopefully also be able to record sound.

       

      Then, I'd like to have it as my work center.  I'm imagining a docking station with a built in or bluetooth keyboard/mouse/3d mouse/speakers.  And be able to run Windows 7/Solidworks (smooth and stably).

       

      Any recommendations for any/all of the hardware I'll need to build such a workstation?

        • Re: Partially Mobile Workstation
          Denny Metcalf

          For the price I really like this one:

          http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834131191

          That's the same tablet that we got from the Microsoft BUILD conference.

          The docking station in another $100.

           

          True the graphics muscle isn't all that great but for simple stuff it's fine.

          I think it'd be a very slick looking device to show things to customers on, very elegant and lightweight.

           

          If you want a "mobile" workstation in a more traditional sense, but not weight 13 pounds, look at something like a Clevo P series 15 inch but that's probably going to set you back $2,000 - $3,000 depending on the reseller and configuration. Very nice computers though.

          • Re: Partially Mobile Workstation
            Anna Wood

            I do not beleive such a computer exists.

             

            Tablets are just not very powerful cpu wise.  They also do not have higher end GPU's.  Not much RAM either.

             

            Having one run Windows 7 and SolidWorks smooth and stable would be a tall order.  Especially if you want portability.

             

            Be neat in the future. I am afraid that future is a long way off, if ever.

             

            We can only dream,

             

            Anna

              • Re: Partially Mobile Workstation
                Robin McCaffrey

                Yes, I don't expect to be running with real view/ambient occlusions.  I do however want it to be at least faster then my couple year old fujitsu convertible.

                • Re: Partially Mobile Workstation
                  Denny Metcalf

                  I don't think it's as far off as we all dread, and Windows 8 will be out just over a year from now. The metro UI is... well I won't comment to much about that, but once you're back to the traditional UI it really is quite nice with good improvements in performance and efficiency.

                   

                  While tablets have been traditionally content consumption devices, they do have a role as presentation tools. Autodesk has some really slick applications specifically for that, I haven't tried any offerings from SolidWorks though. That Samsung tablet is a pretty capable content creation device though and sort of a new breed of things to come.

                   

                  Intel Core i5 2467M

                  Intel HD Graphics 3000 (Not as good as AMD's APUs but quicksync is nice and it's capable)

                  Samsung 128GB SSD

                  Samsung 4GB DDR3 1333

                  Wacom 256 Level Digitizer

                  802.11a/b/g/n Wireless LAN (the 802.11n 5Ghz performs very well)

                  Bluetooth V3.0 High Speed

                   

                  All in a less than 2 lb package with realistically a three to four hour battery life with a beautiful IPS display.

                   

                  This isn't targeted at anyone, more just my typical mumblings:

                   

                  The hardware is catching up very quickly, specifically the mobile sector. I almost feel as though it's time for the software to catch up in the sense of... imagine SolidWorks with all its capability now, but with a touch centric UI. It's still very clunky to try and do any real work with your fingers, let alone a digitizer. Don't get me wrong, I love my keyboard, mouse, and 3d mouse, but when on the go lugging them around is "excess baggage." There's no reason to believe that we have to lose functionality just because our devices are changing though.

                   

                  Hardware capability aside, the UI is everything... It's hard to fathom doing the work that we do now with touch screens because the software that we use has been optimized around the peripherals that we've grown accustomed to. Even SolidWorks has been changing with release to release and changing how we interface with our models. No longer is a full sized keyboard a necessity as much as a recommendation, as many of us have moved to a few hotkeys that directly enter commands or open menus of commands, whether based on keyboard or mouse button input.

                    • Re: Partially Mobile Workstation
                      Robin McCaffrey

                      To make these tablets a presenters dream a kinect style multi camera setup to act as a 3d mouse would be cool.  I'd imagine it aiming to the side where you would typically have your hand located.  Multi task that with a pen in your other hand and you would have a very powerful presentation tool.

                       

                      That is a bit further off in the future lol.

                        • Re: Partially Mobile Workstation
                          Denny Metcalf

                          I personally don't talk with my hands and don't like waving my hands around to control something, but that's me.

                           

                          Multitouch works great on a lot of applications out there where you place one finger down as an anchor point and drag another finger to rotate. That's one area that touch centric controls have already exceeded mouse input.

                           

                          As far as scrolling/zooming though, I still like a mouse scroll wheel. With my wacom tablet I can flick my digitizer to scroll and that works nicely too. I don't like the pinch and drag gestures though, that still feels really weird to me.

                        • Re: Partially Mobile Workstation
                          Anna Wood

                          SolidWorks is woefully behind on apps for slates and tablets.

                           

                          I have a MacBook Air, 2nd gen, that is boot camped with Windows 7 x64.  It runs SolidWorks.  Not speedy and I have to be careful what I fire up on it.  But it works pretty good.

                           

                          It will be interesting to see what the next couple of years brings on the slate/tablet front.

                           

                          Cheers,

                           

                          Anna

                      • Re: Partially Mobile Workstation
                        Jonathan Smith

                        This might help. Samsungs are ok but I have had to replace far too many internals, too frequently, such as wifi cards. I also wouldn't go with an off-brand build of any type. You also don't need an SSD as a storage drive in your mobile -and possibly only- workstation, unless you're using Carbonite or other such backup service. Your performance gain also isn't substantial unless you are familiar with spending the equivalent of 4 days worth of hours microtweaking system settings on your new rig.

                         

                        I would say try this one: http://www.dell.com/us/enterprise/p/latitude-xt3/pd but I think Dell dropped it.

                         

                        They copied HP anyways and with a few peripherals and softwares, you should be mobile with all that you asked for.

                        Here: http://shopping1.hp.com/is-bin/INTERSHOP.enfinity/WFS/WW-USSMBPublicStore-Site/en_US/-/USD/ViewProductDetail-Start?ProductUUID=BZIQ7EN5znIAAAEvOgtt8LID&CatalogCategoryID=9pYQ7hab6osAAAEzHkt9c2XE&JumpTo=OfferList

                          • Re: Partially Mobile Workstation
                            Denny Metcalf

                            That Samsung boots in less than 18 seconds.

                             

                            I know what you mean though, but to be fair Samsung has come a long way and I see them as making some of the best products out there. I've also always been quite partial to IBM/Lenovo.

                             

                            Really though, you have to compare the internals. If you don't like that Samsung, no big deal, just wait a bit. It's a taste of things to come. The Dell and HP cannot even compare to the Samsung at the moment (for better or for worse), because unless they do a hardware refresh or offer additional options, it's a different product class. Those are running on higher TDP processors.

                             

                            They're definitely worthy products though, I hope you don't feel I'm bashing your suggestions. They may even be more appropriate form factors considering the hardware keyboards.

                             

                            As far as off brands go, I think that we must all take a step back and look at where our products come from. Have a look at the bill of materials sometime and you'll see what I mean.   The Dell workstation that I inherited had a custom Dell motherboard (careful when performing upgrades or modifications, the circuitry is vastly different even if the chipsets are standard), a pathetic power supply (typically the first thing to go on a Dell), cheap Nanya DDR2 RAM, and an PNY Quadro FX 4800. You can see my main workstation specifications in my profile.

                             

                            As far as SSD in a mobile device, this is a big power savings not just in active usage but also in less downtime... not to mention HDD are pretty expensive right now...

                            • Re: Partially Mobile Workstation
                              Robin McCaffrey

                              Convertible tablets are ok, I've had one for a while now.  But I definitely wouldn't skimp out on the solid state drive, using it in the field instead of at a desk all day makes it much much more prone to shock loading.  If my fujitsu lacked the solid state drive my hdd would have been toast by now.  As to performance gains, the biggest gain you can have with them is in the time it takes to load the system/programs.  Actual running speed isn't affected.

                               

                              At this point I would prefer a full out slate/tablet with a dock then a convertible.  Convertibles while flexible are also cumbersome, bulky, and are far from ideal when  for taking pictures or video.

                                • Re: Partially Mobile Workstation
                                  Denny Metcalf

                                  That's what I figured when I read your post. The camera on that Samsung is meh, run of the mill. My three year old Windows Phone has a nicer one.

                                   

                                  It is really nice though to be able to take a picture while on site, and then start sketching on top of it with a digitizer. Then take your sketch and your picture and import then into your CAD software and start making blocks. There are a lot of nice convertibles that use digitizers but most of them are weak and run on Atoms, so pretty much worthless for any real work.

                                   

                                  That HP that Jonathan suggested though is a pretty nice device for the price if you had to get something right now. It's twice the weight but has a keyboard (though cumbersome), it's fairly rugged sans mechanical drive which you could replace, it has a pen (not sure if it is pressure sensitive, which is very important to me), and will perform calculations a little bit faster than the tablet at the cost of battery life.

                                   

                                  Meh, different target audience, both nice products.

                                    • Re: Partially Mobile Workstation
                                      Jonathan Smith

                                      I would not recommend that anyone use an SSD as a primary boot drive, without an effective per-hour backup strategy. I have had two kingston drives die on me out of box, and same with a Vertex 3. My replacement seems to be working great, but im just cautioning, don't trust the reliability of your SSD. I have a backup HDD, and I use allwaysync to clone all content on a per-hour basis to the other drive. I have windows installed on it as well, and all my current folders are there. My sync program keeps both "PC's" identical. I then use Dropbox to sync data like firefox preferences and bookmarks, 1password keychain, etc...

                                      Then I use Carbonite to keep my data on the cloud, where it is safe in the event of some crazy disaster.

                                       

                                      Being a Dell guy, I would actually get that HP instead of the XT3 (or whatever it's next gen replacement might be). Dell support just got done telling me that the next gen version of that unit is on it's way but all they have right now is a mailing list for product news. I would actually keep a sharp eye on that as the XT3 wasn't a bad unit coming from a colleague of mine. I build nearly all my personal PC's (and Solidworks rigs) at cyberpowerpc.com. It has been my Alienware alternative for over 14 years now.

                                • Re: Partially Mobile Workstation
                                  Robin McCaffrey

                                  I think I'll hold off on this purchase till next year.  I just seen a preview of the new windows 8 interface and I'll probably upgrade then.  From the sounds of it win8 will have a more touch screen friendly/tablet style interface that multi tasks and can switch to a more traditional windows interface.  Which is really ideal for the setup I want.