6 Replies Latest reply on Oct 17, 2013 4:44 PM by Jerry Steiger

    Mobile workstation GPU advice

    Adam Pugh

      Hi guys,

       

      This is my first post on these forums and I'm not sure that the topic is in the right area - if it isn't I apologise. I'm in the process of training as a mechanical engineer in the UK, I'll be moving out to the states in 2014 to start an AAS degree. I'm also taking various evening classes in CAD, using both AutoCAD, Inventor and SolidWorks at this stage.

       

      My laptop (a DELL XPS M1710), recently suffered a HDD failure. Instead of pouring more money into what is fundamentally an obsolote set-up I've been looking for a completely new system. I originally intended to get an ultrabook or similar and then build a desktop workstation once I'm settled in the US, however, money's tight so it would be more cost effective to invest more now in a mobile workstation which should give me all of the features I'll need in the long term.

       

      I'm trying to decide upon either AMD FirePro or nVidia Quadro as the basis of the system. I'm unsure at the moment which of SolidWorks or Inventor is more prevalent within the industry in the states, or which has the greater number of seats in CAM workshops. I'll obviously need to firm this up before making a final decision.

       

      Could anyone please offer advice as to which system; FirePro or Quadro would be better for use with SolidWorks? My budget's relatively tight, and I'd like to get the biggest "bang for my buck" so to speak.

       

      Currently I'm looking at either a DELL M4800 or M6800 mobile workstation, both with Haswell quad cores, 16GB RAM and either a FirePro M5100 (M4800 and cheapest), a FirePro M6100 (M6800 approximately 16% more expensive but with greater HDD capacity) or a Quadro K3100M (M6800 - 26% more expensive than the cheapest option, but matching the FirePro M6100 model for HDD capacity). Overall the M6800 17.3" models offer the best value in relation to performance.

       

      I don't expect to working with particularly complex assemblies once I'm fully up and running, however, more performance than I need in the short term should increase the machine's utility in the long run - I hope to have use of this machine as my primary workstation for the next 5 years or more.

       

      If anyone could offer advice I'd be very grateful indeed.

       

       

      Cheers,

       

      Adam

        • Re: Mobile workstation GPU advice
          John Burrill

          Adam, you want to search these forums for Charles Culp's 2013 Suggested Computer specs and Anna Wood's benchmark tests.  They're the hardware wonks around here and have put a lot of time and research into their advice.

          That said, any of the machine's you described should do fine for your standard 1-2K part SolidWorks assemblies and any of the video cards listed should support SolidWorks full display capabilities.

          I haven't checked to make sure of that's the case, so follow up by giving this page a good read-through

          http://www.solidworks.com/sw/support/hardware.html

          As far as your questions about inventor vs SolidWorks in terms of prevalance, that's a difficult question to answer.

          In general SolidWorks has more seats in use than Inventor, but not more than AutoCAD.  For 3D manufacturing, SolidWorks is usually what companies are looking for.  SolidWorks has 2 million commercial seats in use compared to Autodesk's 500,000 seats of inventor in use.  Where you'll find inventor most often is in businesses and industries that migrated out of AutoCAD slowly.  Inventor comes with a full version of AutoCAD Mechanical so the price value is compelling especially for companies that invested heavily in customizing AutoCAD like conveyors, furniture and 2.5 axis milling. Over the last 5 years, the mixed 2D-3D manufacturing environment has started to wane.  Most of the 2D assets have either been converted into 3D models or were superseded.

          In terms of hardware requirements, my knowledge may be out of date but I remember them being very similar.  Both rely on CPUs for solving and building geoemetry, GPU acceleration for almost all aspects of display and UI and benefit from SSD's.  Autodesk is more lenient about video cards-supporting both OpenGL and DirectX cards.

            • Re: Mobile workstation GPU advice
              Adam Pugh

              Thank you very much for the advice John. I'll follow up with a search for Charle's and Anna's research material. In the mean time, if there's anyone else on the forums who might offer an opinion I'd be very interested to hear it.

               

              P.S. I've accidentally set this topic to "Assumed Answered" - does anyone know how to amend this?

                • Re: Mobile workstation GPU advice
                  Anna Wood

                  Check out the SolidWorks list of Approved Video Cards.  This will give you an indication of the laptop to purchase.

                   

                  http://www.solidworks.com/sw/videocardtesting.html

                   

                  A workstation class laptop with an approved video card Nvidia Quadro or AMD FirePro.  Dell, HP, Lenovo all sell workstation class laptops.

                   

                  Cheers,

                   

                  Anna

                    • Re: Mobile workstation GPU advice
                      Adam Pugh

                      Thank you for your feedback Anna. Could you advise as to whether there is a particular performance advantage with either the FirePro or Quadro platforms at present, whether through drivers or the capacity of each's hardware? I'm looking at either a FirePro M5100, M6100 or a Quadro K3100M. Any advice that you could offer would be fantastic.

                        • Re: Mobile workstation GPU advice
                          Anna Wood

                          SolidWorks performance is all about the cpu.  Get the best cpu you can afford.  From there you are likely not to see any real difference in display performance from the gpu.  Especially with the size of assemblies you are likely going to be working with.

                           

                          Also do not expect your workstation to last 5 years.  Look for 3 years at most.  Spend a bit less money and replace more often.

                           

                          Cheers,

                           

                          Anna

                          • Re: Mobile workstation GPU advice
                            Jerry Steiger

                            Adam,

                             

                            If you read the thread in this forum on the best video cards, you will see that Charles's and Anna's research seems to show that the FirePro cards are giving the best performance in desktops. I would guess that the same is true on the laptops, but that is just a guess.

                             

                            Personally, I have never found the graphic card performance to be that critical, as long as you have an approved card, so I agree with Anna's advice to get the best processor that you can.

                             

                            Jerry S.