1 2 3 First Previous 275 Replies Latest reply on Jan 17, 2018 4:07 PM by Charles Culp

    February 2013 Suggested Computer Specs

    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: https://forum.solidworks.com/thread/64436


      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: http://www.microcenter.com/product/388577/Core_i5_3570K_34GHz_LGA_1155_Processor. 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: http://swtuts.com/?p=700 (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

      8GB nECC RAM

      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)

      256GB SSD


      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?



      Boxx 3DBOXX 4050 XTREME


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

      8GB RAM

      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


      Boxx 3DBOXX 4920 XTREME


      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

      240GB SSD

      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!

        • 1. Re: February 2013 Suggested Computer Specs
          Timothy Nagi

          Any thoughts on server-oriented CPUs as opposed to desktop ones? 


          I'm looking at building a system for my design work (we do a decent amount of rendering here) and was considering AMD's Opteron 6378 CPU (16 cores, 2.4 GHz, 16 MB L2 and L3 Caches).  Will this give me a significant improvement as opposed to, for example, the FX-8350 (8 cores, 4.0 GHz [4.2 turbo], 4x 2MB L2 Cache and 8 MB L3 Cache), particularly in rendering?


          After getting a more expensive server motherboard, more expensive Opteron CPU, and more expensive ECC RAM it ends up being about $1000 more.


          I prefer the AMD CPUs since, in my experience, they seem to offer more bang for your buck and perform acceptably as long as you're not trying to break any benchmarks.

          • 2. Re: February 2013 Suggested Computer Specs
            Anna Wood



            Get the test rendering files from Charles swtuts.com website. http://www.swtuts.com/?p=700  Try it out on your systems.  These are SW2013 files.


            Then compare your results against the results I get for rendering that file in SW 2013 on my render farm systems.  I run Intel cpu's only.  Set the file to run at 1920 x 1080 at Best settings in PV360.


            The results for my systems are shown on page 12 of our SWW presentation.




            My thinking below is based on having a dedicated render node.  You would not be doing any solid modeling, only final rendering.  If you do a lot of rendering this may be an option to consider.


            If you do a lot of rendering I would not consider anything less that a dual socket system.  The Xeon E5-2620's (OEM tray versions) can be had for around $360.  http://www.superbiiz.com/detail.php?name=E5-2620


            Later tonight I will get post a hardware list for components that make up a nice E5-2620 dual socket rendering system without breaking the bank.


            Key point to consider is getting a dedicated render node.  If you do not put a video card in the system you can spend more money on the cpu's.  The render node will only do rendering, it can set in the server room and be accessed through remote desktop.


            For rendering AMD does not seem to perform nearly as well as the Intel CPU's.  I beleive Intel will be a better buy for a rendering machine.





            • 3. Re: February 2013 Suggested Computer Specs
              Charles Culp

              How much time would be spent rendering on this Opteron machine vs modeling? If you spent time modeling on the same machine, it will make a big difference in what I would suggest.

              • 4. Re: February 2013 Suggested Computer Specs
                Timothy Nagi

                More time would be spent modeling than rendering by far. My boss wants me to have a system that will promote maximum modeling efficiency while still being able to rapidly render several variants of a model from time to time when needed. Currently, I don't render more than once every week or two, but when I do I'll usually spend at least half a day doing it on my core i5 processor in my current pc. As we get closer to product release, I expect more time to be spent rendering too.

                • 5. Re: February 2013 Suggested Computer Specs
                  Anna Wood



                  What is the model number of the Core i5 cpu in your system?





                  • 6. Re: February 2013 Suggested Computer Specs
                    Timothy Nagi

                    If I remember correctly, I believe it's a i5-2430M (2.4 GHz, 4 cores).  Not terrible, but not at all ideal for Solidworks or rendering.





                    • 7. Re: February 2013 Suggested Computer Specs
                      Anna Wood

                      Is this in a laptop?






                      It is only a 2 core cpu, plus hyper-threading.  At 35 watts max TDP it is a pretty weak processor.


                      The system that Charles has spec'ed in this post will be about twice as fast for rendering compared to what you currently have.






                      What type of rendering to you do?  Large format, single frames or animations?


                      What is your budget for a system?





                      • 8. Re: February 2013 Suggested Computer Specs
                        Timothy Nagi

                        This is in a Dell XPS laptop -- I can't remember the model number unfortunately.  Most of the rendering I do is at 1920 x 1080 with everything else maximized in PhotoView360.  It's been single frames so far as well.  I could see being asked to do higher resolution renderings though, but I doubt I'll be asked to do animations.


                        I don't have a clearly defined budget -- my boss was wondering what it would cost to put together a system that's actually designed to do CAD that would give very significant improvements in render time and also work well for modeling and other typical office/engineering tasks.  I expect I'll probably be doing a few different types of simulation as well.  It also must be able to last 4-5 years.  From what I've heard, I probably can't go much above $3000, but spending less is better since we're a small company that can find very good uses elsewhere for whatever I don't spend.


                        I spec'ed out two different systems, both with a FirePro W7000, 16 GB RAM @1600 MHz, and an SSD (among other things).  The main difference between the two is that one was about $2600 and had the Opteron 6378 in it, while the other was $1500 one had an FX-8350.  I'm also looking at the possibility of a dual-CPU setup running two Opteron 4386s.  I guess what I've been wondering is how much improvement the server-oriented CPUs typically show over the desktop ones and whether it's worth the extra money.  I wouldn't be opposed to using Intel CPUs either, but like I said above, I've found in the past few years that AMD typically seems to offer more bang for the buck in the midline processor range, although their top end models can't compete with Intel's usually. 


                        Thanks for all your help so far, I appreciate it very much.

                        • 9. Re: February 2013 Suggested Computer Specs
                          Ian Hoven

                          Hi.  I have just started researching components for a new build and had a question.  As far as the processor goes how important is the processor cache size vs. the speed of the processor when using SolidWorks.  I kind of had my mind made up to use the i7-3770K processor but was wondering your thoughts on upgrading to the i7-3930K.  I will be using this machine for a combination of rendering and modeling if that helps at all.


                          Thanks for your help.



                          • 10. Re: February 2013 Suggested Computer Specs
                            Charles Culp



                            Unfortunately it is difficult to do a benchmark to directly compare these CPUs like that. The 3930K runs on the 2011 socket, so benchmarks would be difficult to compare. I can tell you that the two additional cores will work great for rendering, if it is worth the additional few hundred dollars for them.


                            I have not done any testing, and I am unaware of any direct testing of the cache for CAD/SolidWorks.

                            • 11. Re: February 2013 Suggested Computer Specs
                              Charles Culp



                              How about monitors?


                              Many new monitors come in an aspect ratio closer to 16:9. Especially the nicer, newer ones. This is actually too wide for SolidWorks, which generally looks best on 4:3. At work, I have dual Dell IPS style monitors that are somewhere in between. They work well.


                              IPS (as opposed to TN) is a better image quality, and I think it well worth it. It makes the monitors twice as expensive, but I even got one for at home (and I'm very cheap). These will cost roughly $250-400 for a 27" IPS monitor at 1600x1200 resolution.


                              SolidWorks supports dual monitors. I often have SolidWorks open on one, and other things open on the other. I sometimes use the SolidWorks functionality to span between the two monitors, and have a part file open on one side, and an assembly on the other.


                              Dell & HP have been offering the best prices for professional grade displays for a while, but in the last few years quite a few other companies have gotten into the IPS business.


                              Here are the cheapest I could find recently:


                              This monitor from Monoprice will knock your socks off. 27" IPS LED CrystalPro Monitor WQHD 2560x1440. It is only $390 (monoprice sells cheap cables, and they are quickly expanding their discount philosophy into other product categories). That's one heck of a high resolution, if you need reading glasses you might benefit by sticking with a lower resolution model. It was just released, and is so popular it is on a 2 month back order. It is 16:9, so it is wider than I would typically recommend, but I'd take the tradeoff for the stunning resolution and price point: http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=113&cp_id=11307&cs_id=1130703&p_id=9579&seq=1&format=2


                              Microcenter has a similarly price $399 monitor with very similar specs:  http://www.microcenter.com/product/384780/EQ276W_27_IPS_LED_Monitor


                              This are amazing deals, but if you really want to have a better aspect ratio, here are some better options:

                              If you can afford $700-$1000, these are the same resolution as above, and some have a better aspect ratio:






                              Also worth considering are refurbished monitors. Newegg carries those in their own section.

                              • 12. Re: February 2013 Suggested Computer Specs
                                Charles Culp

                                That video card won't help with anything. Save the money on the video card and just get a v4900.


                                Spend the extra money on an Intel CPU? You said that you liked AMD because they are a better value, but those Opteron chips are amazingly pricey. They will also be significantly slower than the Intel chips I suggest for regular modeling. All those extra cores will just sit idle while you rebuild parts and assemblies. Since you really need both rendering speed and regular modeling speed, perhaps a good solution would be the Core i7-3930K. This is a 3.2 GHz (3.8 max turbo) Sandy Bridge - E with 6 cores + hyperthreading. It is a $600 CPU, set up for a single socket system.


                                I wish we had good benchmarks of the AMD systems to compare. I can tell you that a 3.2 to 3.6 GHz Intel chip will be at least double as fast as the AMD while you are modeling. I can't provide you with numbers to back that up. For rendering they will probably end up being 20% faster on a single chip (http://www.anandtech.com/show/5553/the-xeon-e52600-dual-sandybridge-for-servers/14), and the AMD would of course have two chips. If you spend most of your time rendering though, in the end I think you need the faster single core.


                                With a $3,000 budget, I would really consider getting an @Xi computer with the Core i7-3930K liquid cooled and overclocked to 4.3GHz.

                                This will literally max out your budget, but it will scream. Both for modeling and for rendering. This will give you rebuild times about 4X what you have today, and your renderings will go even faster than that. You could also look at Boxx, but then you would be outside your budget. @Xi warranties their overclocked systems (shown below with the 3 year parts warranty).


                                @Xi® Computer Corp.
                                980 Negocio, San Clemente, CA 92673.
                                Tel: 800-432-0486,  (949) 498-0858    Fax: (949) 498-0257


                                Xi® MTower™ PCIe Workstation

                                Base Price: $1,119.00

                                SAVE QUOTE 



                                00013Xi® MTower™ PCIe Workstation (Base Configuration)$1,119.00
                                01743Intel® Core™ i7 3930K @ 4.30GHz Hi-Perf. Silent Sealed Water Cooling 12MB Shared L3 Cache DMI Six-Core VT (x79 MoBo only)$899.00
                                0226016GB DDR3 1866MHz Corsair® Vengeance Heatspread$219.00
                                04444AMD® FirePro™ V4900 1GB DDR5 PCIe 1xDVI Dual Link- 2x Display Ports Dual Monitor Support$189.00
                                05015No Monitor (credit)($140.00)
                                03166240GB Solid State Drive Corsair® Neutron Series™ GTX SATA 6Gb/s 550/470MB/s Seq.R/W SandForce® SF-2200 Ctrl. <.3ms seek Shock Resistant 1500G.$179.00
                                17012HD Ctrl. According To Motherboard and HD Type SelectedIncl. w/ Base
                                23011SATA/SAS Trays accordingly to case selectedIncl. w/ Base
                                06019DVD 16x40x ReaderIncl. w/ Base
                                09007On-Board sound accordingly to motherboard specificationsIncl. w/ Base
                                12001On-Board Network port(s) accordingly to motherboard specificationsIncl. w/ Base
                                13001Logitech® Corded Black Windows KeyboardIncl. w/ Base
                                14010Logitech® Corded 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
                                22254Asus® SABERTOOTH X79 Intel® X79-3xPCIe 16x Mechanical (2x16x+1x8x)-SSD Cashing-Quad Ch. 8 Banks DDR3 1333/1866-1x1Gb Ethernet-2xSATA6Gb+4sSATA3Gb RAID 0/1/10/5 -1x1394a-Digital Audio-8CH-S/PDIF-Dual SLI®$149.00
                                44030850W Corsair® TX Series Ultra-Quiet BB 14cm Fan 80%+efficiency 99% Active PFC$59.00
                                49004Vibration Dampener Power Supply Gasket - Installed$9.00
                                49002Sound Dampening Acoustic Foam Material - Custom Cut Installed on Side Panels$39.00
                                27158Xi® MTower™ CM-HAF 912 High Ventilation 2x12cm Quiet Fans -Front & Side Grid-2x FrontUSB-4x 5 1/4" 6x 3 1/2"$29.00
                                18002Total of 3 Years System HW Warranty w/Express Advance Parts Replacement, P&L. FOB Xi, Mfg. on Monitor$99.00
                                47002NEMA 5-15P to C13 Wall Plug, 125 Volt, 16AWG, 5 Feet. Standard Computer AC power CordIncl. w/ Base

                                Sub Total: 


                                • 13. Re: February 2013 Suggested Computer Specs
                                  Russ Johnston

                                  I'll second Charles on this one.  We have almost the exact same systems from @XI.  The only difference is the video card (Quadro 2000 instead of the FirePro V4900).  It's an absolute screamer.  We use to make renderings and animations as well as perform FEA's.  It also gets used by designers when they are updating large assembly drawings.  The extra cores and clock speed really help with drawing view resolving.


                                  Timothy, if you want I can render one of your parts on our machine and give you some idea of how it takes to render.

                                  • 14. Re: February 2013 Suggested Computer Specs
                                    Timothy Nagi

                                    I'll believe that that rig would be a beast.  I appreciate the offer to check how long it takes to render my parts... I think management would be exceedingly unhappy with me if I shared any of our files though, considering their views towards the proprietary nature of our products, so I'll have to be content to take your word on the speed of that system. 


                                    It looks like we're probably going to home-build as opposed to buying a full system from a vendor, but it will basically be the @XI system outlined above except with a FirePro W7000, a 120GB SSD plus 500GB HDD, and a different power supply -- for about $650 less.  It's good to hear recommendations from multiple sources on that build.


                                    You've all convinced me that in this case Intel is the way to go.  I finally found a good benchmark comparison tool, thanks to a few links posted by Anna above, and it seems to suggest that the high end of the i7 series will be a happy medium for what I'm after, although there's no information on the Opteron 6300 series there yet.  Like Charles was saying though, the opteron chips will probably be quite a bit slower for modeling due to the lower clock speeds and single-threaded nature of solidworks.


                                    Thanks to everyone for all of the information and advice.

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