Charles Culp

February 2013 Suggested Computer Specs

Discussion created by Charles Culp on Jan 31, 2013
Latest reply on Jan 17, 2018 by Charles Culp

Want a new computer with blazing speed? It is only $922.


First off, I have a separate thread just for video cards, you can find that here:


I spent quite a bit of time benchmarking video cards, so let me summarize by saying that anything other than an entry-level professional card is probably not work the money. You can see my benchmarks in the above linked thread to see why I came to this conclusion. For now I am recommending the AMD FirePro v4900 for all SolidWorks users.


Here is my suggested system for people who want to build their own computer. It is only $921.91! This does not include Windows, keyboard, mouse, or anything else, just the computer itself. This pricing is from newegg:



The Core i5-3570K is the overclockable version. If you want to do light overclocking, this is great. If you want to stick with the standard clocking, consider the Core i5-3570. Either way, most users won't use the hyperthreading, so save the money. If you do occasional rendering (over an hour of rendering time a week), then you should consider the Core i7-3770K, which will give you a 4% boost in CPU speed, as well as add a 15-30% boost with hyperthreading. If you do more rendering than that, consider one of the premium computers below, or consider outsourcing your rendering to a render-farm. Also, Microcenter has these on sale for a ridiculously low price of $189: I don't know if this is a loss leader for them, but it is $30 cheaper than the price above. That means the total system could theoretically be below $900.


This has a 80-plus platinum efficient power supply made by sparkle (SPI). I only suggest efficient power supplies. They'll pay for themselves in electricity, and cheap power supplies will literally explode after a few years. Don't cheap out on your power supply.


I only suggest SSD's now. They are anywhere from 30-85% faster than HDD's. I can show benchmarks, but if you ever sit down in front of a machine with an SSD, the difference becomes apparent in everything you do. I can't imagine going back. All software (not just SolidWorks) just becomes much faster. I speced a 256 GB drive, so it should be big enough as a stand-alone drive, as long as you have a network server holding the CAD data. Please use PDM.


The RAM is CAS-9 latency DDR3-1600. This is the "sweet spot" for price/performance. The latest CPUs can use DDR3-1600 running at 1.5V. As long as you get DDR3-1600 at 1.5V it will work. I only specify 8GB RAM, but you might want to go for 16 if you deal with very large assemblies (many thousands of components), or huge renders. Some people with massive assemblies (10,000+) may even need 32 GB RAM.


Also, I don't specify it above, because it is not necessary, but the new liquid coolers are great, even if you are just running a standard setup. They will ensure longevity of your CPU, and they are often much quieter than a regular air cooler. They will cost $60+ for a non-overclocking standard size, or $100+ for the beefy ones ready for overclocking.


I go a bit further into the detail in the presentation I gave at SolidWorks World with Anna, you can see that here: (video will be up once SolidWorksposts it, but the powerpoint is available today)






But lets say you don't want to build a computer yourself. Here are some prebuilt options.


Everything was priced on January 5th, 2013. 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.


For CPUs, I specify the E3-1270 3.5GHz or E3-1245v2 3.4GHz. The E3-1290 is faster than the E3-1270, but costs $552 more for a 6% speed increase. The E3-1280v2 is faster than the E3-1245v2, but costs $650 more for a 6% speed increase. The E3-1290v2 is available from HP, but it will cost $1,200 for a 9% speed increase.



Dell T1650


E3-1270 3.5 GHz CPU

(alternately, $1,238 with the Core i5-3550 @ 3.3 GHz, 4% slower and only 2 cores)

(or for more money, up to an E3-1290 3.7 GHz for $553 more)

320W 90% efficient power supply

8GB Non-ECC RAM (or more if you need it)

AMD FirePro v4900

156 GB SSD ( consider a 32 GB boot + 250 GB HDD for $229 savings, but I don't really suggest that)

3 year hardware + limited onsite service


Kudos to Dell for providing a very cost effective SolidWorks CAD solution


HP Z220 Workstation

$1,830 after 20% off "after checkout"

Xeon E3-1245v2 3.4 GHz CPU


Quadro 600 (that’s the fastest they offer)

256 GB SSD (this was very expensive, but I had to make it fair with the competition, and you really should have one)


HP Z220 Small Form Factor

$1,750 after 20% off "after checkout"

Same as above, except in a smaller case and $100 cheaper (before 20% off). Sounds like a deal to me.


HP Z1 All-In-One Workstation

$2,970 after 20% off "after checkout"

Xeon E3-1245v2 3.4 GHz

NVIDIA Quadro 1000M 2GB

8GB DDR3-1600 nECC (4x2GB)



If you haven't seen the Z1, check it out, they are neat looking. I'm not picking up that tab, though.



Lenovo ThinkStation E31


Core i7-3770 3.4GHz

8GB RAM  ($315 premium. Why? Even for ECC)

Quadro 600

256GB SSD ($650 premium. Ouch!)

3 year warranty parts and labor onsite


Lenovo's SSD and RAM pricing brought them sky high. Hopefully you can get a corporate discount?





Core i7 Overclocked @ 4.5 GHz, liquid cooled. 32% faster than an E3-1245v2


240GB SSD (you can save $250 with 24 GB cache)

Quadro 600

1 year premium & 3 year limited warranty, $229 for 3 year premium onsite




Core i7 Overclocked @ 4.75 GHz, 6 cores, liquid cooled. 35% faster than an E3-1245v2

32GB RAM as tested

180GB SSD as tested

Quadro 600

1 year premium & 3 year limited warranty


Both of the Boxx systems above are significantly faster than Dell/HP/Lenovo. Why? because they overclock. Since SolidWorks is so CPU dependent, this makes a huge difference. Boxx computers are warrantied, very well engineered, and very quiet. The 3DBOXX 4920 XTREME is the fastest computer you can buy for SolidWorks. It is pricey, but if you want the fastest system possible, this is it. It is great for rendering, as well, because it has 6 cores. For regular SolidWorks users, who want a serious kick in the pants performance, the 3DBOXX 4050 is still an outstanding choice.


@Xi MTower


Core i5-3570K Overclocked @ 4.6GHz. 34% faster than a Xeon E3-1245v2. Plenty of other options.

8GB 1866MHz Overclocked RAM

FirePro v4900


Includes Windows 8 (Windows 7 Pro is an add’l $59)

1 year warranty on parts. $49/yr onsite, $99 3 years on parts. $199 for 3 years system, parts & labor onsite.


I have to add a disclaimer that @Xi provided me with a similar system to the one listed above for all the video card benchmarking I did in the video card thread. Still, if I was buying a system for myself for CAD, I would pick the @Xi as specified above. Like the Boxx system, @Xi will sell you an overclocked, liquid cooled system, with a warranty. This is an amazing performer for SolidWorks, and at the very reasonable price, it is well worth the money. The @Xi system is much louder than the Boxx, their fans move quite a bit of air, but will also be much louder than the Dell or Boxx systems.




So in summary:

CPU, CPU, CPU. There is a great price point with the Core i7-3570, Core i7-3770, Xeon E3-1270 and Xeon E3-1245v2. They all perform about the same (low 50's in thepunchholder benchmark). If you really want a high-performing system, you have to get an overclocked machine. The @Xi machine and Boxx 4050 will get ~39 on the punchholder, and the Boxx 4920 will get the current record, 36.03.


RAM is all about how much do you need to open up the size files you have. It is cheap now, so with 64 bit computers just buy what you need.


Video cards I think I've beaten to death.


Feel free to ask questions, that's why this is a forum. If you want to post a system you are thinking of getting, go ahead!