1 2 3 First Previous 303 Replies Latest reply on Jul 24, 2013 3:32 PM by Sean Simmons

    May 2012 Suggested Computer Specs

    Charles Culp

      This thread is now out-of-date.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 newegg.com.



      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: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ssd-storage-value,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: https://forum.solidworks.com/message/267903#267903


      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 (http://blogs.solidworks.com/solidworksblog/2010/05/solidworks-welcomes-sustainability-advocate-asheen-phansey-to-the-team.html) happy at the same time.

        • 1. Re: May 2012 Suggested Computer Specs
          Matt Lombard

          Thanks, Charles,


          That Xi is almost identical to the one I just bought. I went one up in processor (3820 with 10 mb L3 and quad channel memory), and had to get a different mobo and case to fit the water cooler. I also got the 850 power supply just because I've got a couple of things I'll add to the box when I get it home.


          I've bought computers from all the major players, and these guys are the ones that get my repeat business. They have been very helpful with spec'ing for my needs, and don't sell me a lot of crap I don't need. When I bought from Boxx, I wound up with a $4700 computer that had a lot of stuff I didn't need.


          I wanted to build my own, but just don't have the time. Thanks again for the comments.

          • 2. Re: May 2012 Suggested Computer Specs
            Justin Richardson

            I would love some benchmarks on the new ivy bridge CPU's.  I can't seem to find any.  I am looking for a business case to convince IT we need to upgrade our dell workstations with Xeon E5430 CPU's.  That Xi build looks awesome for the price.


            Can anyone help point me to some data that can justify the upgrade?  Thanks,



            • 3. Re: May 2012 Suggested Computer Specs
              Charles Culp

              What kind of benchmarks? SolidWorks specific benchmarks?


              Will this information do? https://forum.solidworks.com/message/288789#288789

              • 5. Re: May 2012 Suggested Computer Specs
                Ben Royston


                I'm planning to build a PC very close to the custom build specs. It's my first build and I was wondering if there is any reason I should not go for the microATX sized motherboard rather than full size ATX

                ie the GA-Z77M-D3H


                It seems to be only a matter of fewer PCIe slots and having been on a mac for the last 8 years I'm a bit out of touch with what I might need the extra slots for?


                I like the idea of a smaller case and also the full size version is not available from the same site where I plan to buy the rest of my components - there's something nice about getting them all from one website.

                I'm building this in the UK and will post full details of the costs and performance once I'm done (hopefully by the end of the week)




                • 6. Re: May 2012 Suggested Computer Specs
                  Charles Culp

                  There is nothing stopping you from using microATX, but there are a couple things you need to be careful with when you specify components.


                  Some microATX cases don't allow for an extended length video card opposite your hard disks, they will interfere with each other. Make sure there is room across from your video card for whatever else is there.


                  Also make sure you have cooling under control. These newer processors are much cooler than the beasts of 4-8 years ago that had CPUs that used 150W+. These new chips use much less, but with the microATX cases, I always worry about heat. Make sure you have open pathways for airflow, and enough cooling fans.

                  • 7. Re: May 2012 Suggested Computer Specs
                    John Helfrich



                    We use Solid Works for design of stamping tooling, simple assemblies and prptotype design. Will this Dell system work well with Solid Works? We can add a different graphics card if it would help and we will upgrade to Windows 7 Professional.


                    • Intel 2nd Gen Core i5-2320 Quad Core Processor (3.0GHz/ 3.30GHz Turbo Boost, 4 Cores, 6MB Cache)
                    • - 8GB DDR3 1333MHz Memory (2 DIMMs)
                    • - 1TB SATA 7200rpm Hard Drive
                    • - 16X DVD+/-RW Dual Layer DVD & CD Burner
                    • - Intel HD Graphics 2000 with VGA and HDMI Ports (Supports 2 Monitors)
                    • - Integrated 5.1 High Definition Audio
                    • - Integrated 10/100/1000 (Gigabit) Ethernet LAN Network
                    • - Dell 1502 Wireless 802.11 B/G/N Network Card
                    • - Dell Optical 2 Button Mouse & Dell USB Keyboard
                    • - Genuine Windows 7® Home Premium Edition 64-bit with Restore Disk


                    • 8. Re: May 2012 Suggested Computer Specs
                      Casper De Boer

                      Dear John,


                      The processor should be fine, a small bottle neck can be the memory, i would advise a minimum of 1600MHz DDR3 instead of 1333MHz.


                      The internal HD2000 GPU can handle Solidworks but you won't be happy with it! there is just not enough speed and power inside.

                      I would reccomend a V5900 card (will cost about 500 dollar and is futureproof)


                      For overall speed, try to put in a SSD, it will boost the performance tremendously!


                      Tip: Windows "home" can not be intergrated in a domain (business inviroment) you need at least "pro"

                      • 9. Re: May 2012 Suggested Computer Specs
                        Charles Culp



                        This is not a workstation. Many people have had trouble with the "Intel HD Graphics 2000". You want a Xeon CPU with the P3000 graphics chip. They are very similar CPU's, both with integrated graphics. Either that or just go ahead and purchase an AMD FirePro V3900 ($97).


                        It sound like you are looking at the Optiplex or Inspiron line, which is designed for office workers and home computers; you need a system designed for CAD. I still suggest the Dell Precision T1600. Even if you chose less expensive options you will want these options for graphics stability. Also, I've seen recently that Dell no longer offers the SSD in the T1600, so while Casper's point is valid, for some reason Dell isn't offering it.

                        • 10. Re: May 2012 Suggested Computer Specs
                          Chris Michalski

                          Charles -


                          so this comes out of the box already overclocked to 4.6GHz? 


                          I've never been overly confident in overclocking myself (I'm not a fan of letting the magic smoke out of electronic components) but the performace boost is worth it. 


                          Especially considering that I see Intel offers a Performance Tuning Protection Plan that for $25 covers the i7-3770K against any unfortunate fate it might meet (including overclocking related death).

                          • 11. Re: May 2012 Suggested Computer Specs
                            Charles Culp

                            Yes, both Boxx and Xi will sell SolidWorks rated workstations that are overclocked with a warranty. Boxx comes with a 3 year warranty, and Xi comes standard with a 1 year warranty, although you can buy a 3 year parts warranty for ~$120 or parts & labor for ~$200. So if you feel comfortable replacing your own parts, then the $120 might be a good deal.


                            Boxx will sell a Sandy Bridge @ 4.5 GHz and Xi sells an Ivy Bridge @ 4.6 GHz. Both are watercooled.


                            You can find the Boxx here, but be ready to bring a wallet (or three): http://www.boxxtech.com/products/3DBOXX/3970x.asp?prodid=3970x

                            • 12. Re: May 2012 Suggested Computer Specs
                              Chris Michalski

                              Any reason to think a dedicated Flow Simulation cruncher would benefit from adjustments to that system spec? 

                              To me it looks good, but I'm also running a first generation i7e and SW2009 so I'm not sure what the bottleneck in 2012 is but I have to assume it's still 99% CPU frequency.

                              • 13. Re: May 2012 Suggested Computer Specs
                                Charles Culp

                                Flow can use all 6 or 8 cores of the Xeon E5-XXXX series. So if you have $2,500+ to spend, then those will give you extra core power. You will need the LGA2011 motherboard for that. They will run at lower frequency, so your actual SolidWorks part editing time will get a touch slower on rebuilds. It's a small give and take.


                                If you do want one of those, look at this thread: https://forum.solidworks.com/message/280917#280917, and consider the system that Matt Lombard just built, except more cores: http://www.dezignstuff.com/blog/?p=7537

                                • 14. Re: May 2012 Suggested Computer Specs
                                  Adriaan De Jager

                                  I'm from south africa....Will this laptop be sufficient to run solidworks with photo rendering?


                                  Intel® 2nd Generation Core™ Core i7-2670QM 2.3Ghz, 3MB Cache, 1333 MHZ FSB

                                  8GB DDR3-1333

                                  1TB SATA II

                                  Blu-Ray Read & Write Super Multi Drive

                                  Embedded nVidia GTX-460M w/1.5GB GDDR5 (supports nVidia Optimus)


                                  Help much appreciated.

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