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New CAD Computer

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March 26, 2006 2:12:42 PM

I am looking for some recommendations on hardware and setup for a new custom built computer. I use my computer mostly for 3D modeling programs like SolidWorks and MasterCam. I do not care about soundcards or having a bunch of unnecessary inputs that I will never use. While the software programs are located on my hard drive, the files that I read and write are located on a server. I am looking to spend about $2500+ on the computer and install upgrades to my server if necessary.

What should I spend the most of my budget on to decrease file loading time and processing large calculations?

Components that I had in mind:

Motherboard:
Asus-SLI Premium (Overkill for my use?)(SLI needed?)

CPU:
Fastest, but proven AMD dual core available

RAM:
2 Gb Corsair XMS

Hard Drive:
WD Raptor 10,000RPM SATA 74 Gb (SATA needed?)

Video Card:
PNY Quadro FX 500

PSU:
?

Thanks in advance for your input.

More about : cad computer

March 26, 2006 2:24:40 PM

Quote:
I am looking for some recommendations on hardware and setup for a new custom built computer. I use my computer mostly for 3D modeling programs like SolidWorks and MasterCam. I do not care about soundcards or having a bunch of unnecessary inputs that I will never use. While the software programs are located on my hard drive, the files that I read and write are located on a server. I am looking to spend about $2500+ on the computer and install upgrades to my server if necessary.

What should I spend the most of my budget on to decrease file loading time and processing large calculations?

Components that I had in mind:

Motherboard:
Asus-SLI Premium (Overkill for my use?)(SLI needed?)

CPU:
Fastest, but proven AMD dual core available

RAM:
2 Gb Corsair XMS

Hard Drive:
WD Raptor 10,000RPM SATA 74 Gb (SATA needed?)

Video Card:
PNY Quadro FX 500

PSU:
?

Thanks in advance for your input.




OK. This looks like a workstation, so you should look at the dual core AMD Opetrons. Raptors are the fastest hard drives that you can buy, but they're capacity limited. There's also a 150GB model, if that interests you. For the power supply, a 500+ watt model should be fine. Here are links to the components that I just mentioned:

CPU

Power Supply

Hard Drive

And here's a nice case in case you haven't decided on one yet.
March 26, 2006 3:47:01 PM

CPU:
AMD 64 X2 vs. AMD Opteron
why would the opteron be better for my workstation?
can both be easily overclocked?

I like the Power supply:
Antec TRUEPOWERII TPII-550 ATX12V 550W Power Supply

and I think I'm going to stick with the 74 GB raptor for my computer, but possibly add a 150 GB drive to my server because all of my large files are stored there.
Related resources
March 26, 2006 4:13:54 PM

Quote:
CPU:
AMD 64 X2 vs. AMD Opteron
why would the opteron be better for my workstation?
can both be easily overclocked?

I like the Power supply:
Antec TRUEPOWERII TPII-550 ATX12V 550W Power Supply

and I think I'm going to stick with the 74 GB raptor for my computer, but possibly add a 150 GB drive to my server because all of my large files are stored there.


Opterons are server grade chips that come with 1MB cache per core at ALL levels. The X2s below 4400+ only include 512KB per core. Opertons are server grade chips that are made to high quality control standards. It is assumed by AMD that Opterons will be used in systems which are powered on 24/7/365. This is not the case with an X2. The Opterons acheive better overclocks on average then the X2s.

The power supply you picked is the one i highly recommend to my cilents, good choice. The Raptor is fine for your box as long as 74GB is enough storage space. Using the 150 Raptor in the server does not make sense however. Over the network, any speed gains the Raptor drives give you will be lost. It would make more sense to get a higher capticy SATA drive with 16MB of cache. The cost will be less, and the speed will be basically the same.

As for the motherboard, an SLI board makes no sense unless you are going to use 2 video cards. I dont even think the FX series is an option for SLI. Unless you need onboard firewire (and not via a PCI card) ditch that board and get the Asus A8N-E instead. This board is only $95.
March 26, 2006 4:46:36 PM

Why not get the Asus A8N-E? You're not going to be using SLI. I also don't know how much you have to spend on a gpu, but why not go for the Quadro FX3450 (roughly $1050). It looks a lot better than the FX 500. With the cpu that's about $1600. If you do go for the SLI-Premium, that's $1750. A case and power supply will run.... let's say $150 ($1900). If you get 2-3-3-6 XMS that'll put you at about $2100, or $2300 for 2-2-2-5. However, you might want 4 GB for these apps, and in that case I'd get 4 GB of 2-3-3-6, so that'd be about $2300 overall. The SLI-Premium has SATA connections, so don't worry. However, since you will only be loading programs and not files from your hard drive, I would personally go for a nice 250 GB 7,200 rpm hard drive with NCQ for about the same price. That even leaves you with a few spending bucks left over for a nice optical drive or two.
March 26, 2006 4:51:01 PM

Quote:
Why not get the Asus A8N-E?


Good to know someone thinks just like I do :D 
March 26, 2006 5:50:25 PM

I am running Solidworks 2006 and MasterCAM X at work. I have found that if you can spend the money on the higher end Quadro cards that it makes a big difference on the performance in Solidworks. My systems span all the way from the NVS 280 upto the FX 3450.

The problem with getting a higher end Quadro, besides cost, is that Solidworks maps the graphics memory in to its address space at the high end of the avaliable OS limit (32 bit or 64 bit limits), this can cause problems with model loading and rebuilding if you are running something like the FX 4500 on only 1.5GB of RAM. You would be left with only 1 GB for both Windows and SW. I know the math seems goofy but its how SW maps the memory. It actually become more apparent with closer to the 32 bit limit of 4GB. The 64 bit OS fixes that problem as well as makes the rebuilding and stuff go oooo so much quicker.

Forgot... Dual core is a must now. Introd in SW 2006 the system will now branch rebuild certain independent features on both cores. I personally havent noticed a rebuild time difference but have noticed more cpu utilization during a rebuild. From talking to the SW guys this is only going to become more noticable as they get the kernal rewritten for multicore systems.

My current CAD CAM system is Pentium D 950, 4GB DDR2 667 ECC, Quadro FX 3450 and XP 64-bit. This system dropped my rebuild from 5 minutes on my old P4 3.0 GHz with 2Gb and Quadro FX 3400 to about 15 seconds for most of my parts.
March 26, 2006 6:35:03 PM

Solidworks is another of the 3D modeling systems avaliable.

It depends on who you talk to which is higher in the food chain. Personally I cant stand Pro/E, its way to difficult to use for most people. I spent about 3 weeks trying to learn it but I couldnt even get a 2d sketch to work right. I picked up most of the solids portion of SolidWorks in about 8 hours. The surface modeling portion is a bit trickier but not much more.

At the Solidworks Users confernce this year I was talking to a reseller that sells both Pro/E and Solidworks and he was complaining about Pro/E as well. He said that it takes him something like 6 months of training to get a new Pro/E user to be able to do only the most basic of operations but only half a day for the same stuff in Solidworks. I dont know how much of the was him blowing smoke though but from what I have seen its not too far off.

Talking to associates the highest CAD system you can get is probably Catia with Pro/E (2000i and Wildfire) and Solidworks coming in second. I dont know anybody that is using Autodesk Inventor and only one company using Unigraphics.


64 bit definetly has it uses in CAD systems. I have some models that if I open just Solidworks on a system with 2GB of RAM I'll end up down at about 50MB free and that lovely XP warning message about low resources that over uses resources to display itself. 64 bit is also useful with the COSMOS addin for Solidworks, I still routinely crash it with a low memory error with my 4 GB system.

I have some other models that took an hour to rebuild on my old system that I havent been able to talk myself into opening on the new system yet.
March 26, 2006 6:46:11 PM

Processor: AMD Opteron 180 (Fastest s939 Dual-core Opteron there is)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

Case: Thermaltake Armor series Black case with side panel window (HUGE)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

Power supply: Antec TruepowerII 550W Power supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

Memory: Corsair XMS 1GB 184-pin DDR SDRAM (Buy 4 of these for 4GB)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

Motherboard: ASUS A8N-E ATX AMD Motherboard- Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

Optical drive: ASUS Black IDE DVD-ROM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

Floppy drive: SONY Internal Floppy Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

Hard drive: Western Digital Raptor 150GB 10,000RPM Hard drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

Hard drive 2 (Optional if you can go over $3,000 and want an EXTREME amount of space~) Western Digital Caviar 500GB Hard drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

Video card: PNY Quadro FX3450
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

Total without 2nd hard drive: $2,873.95
Total with 2nd hard drive: $3,183.95

Either one of them would be good but make sure you get the other parts.

Video card:
March 26, 2006 10:05:17 PM

I appreciate all of the feedback and I have updated my Component List:

Motherboard:
ASUS A8N-E ATX AMD

CPU:
Fastest, but proven AMD dual core available
I'm still not sure if I should go with X2 or Opteron?

RAM:
4 - 1Gb Corsair XMS 184-pin DDR SDRAM

Hard Drive:
WD Raptor 10,000RPM SATA 74 Gb

Video Card:
PNY Quadro FX 500
PNY Quadro FX 700
PNY Quadro FX 3450
How much of a difference will these jumps in video cards make?

PSU:
Antec TRUEPOWERII TPII-550 ATX12V 550W Power Supply

Monitor:
Preferrably 19" LCD


Would XP 64 bit make a big difference? Would I have to upgrade my server to XP 64 bit? Will old programs still run on XP 64?

I believe Solidworks is coming out with a 64 bit version soon, so to utilize the 64 bit version I would need XP 64 correct?

I want this upgrade to be sufficient for some period of time with the allowance for future upgrades as well.
March 27, 2006 1:59:48 AM

Try this monitor: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

And since you're running a server I repeat, OPTERONS ARE MADE FOR SERVERS! Get it? Opterons were created for what you need this computer for. That monitor is pretty good. 340 people reviewed it and it averages 5 stars. Get the PNY Quadro FX3450. You'd notice the difference if you bought them all but you don't have to do that because alot of people who used them, told me that the Quadro FX3450 is worth the money. And why use a 74GB hard drive for a server? Well, use it if you want. Get the case I told you.
March 27, 2006 1:59:48 AM

Personally I would go with the Opteron or a Xeon, depends on what you prefer. Currently there is not supposed to be a difference between using an X2 and PD vs Opteron and Xeon, however they have stated that in the future they may make use of the extensions that the Opteron and Xeon have.

As for the video card, it depends on how "intensive" your parts and assemblies are for solidworks. For the models that I work on I have noticed a difference between the 3400 and the 3450. Essentially the same card just updated to be true PCIe. When I was running on the 3400 the other guy with my same job (his system had a 700 running on AGP) had trouble working with some of my models because of the comlex curvature associated with wings, airfoils and other aerospace shapes. So I do know it makes a difference.

To me 64 bit did make a difference, like I posted earlier Solidworks maps the entirety of the video cards memory into its system address space. When you are running on a 32 bit OS the system can only address 4GB of RAM, of this 4GB Windows, by default, only allows 2GB for the application space. This in turn can limit your avaliable space to open up your models outside of lightweight mode (which does not load the parasolid data, only the image). If you have the 3450 and 4GB of system RAM then Solidworks can only provide for a maximum of 1.75 GB of space for your assemblies, barring of course everything that is running in the background. You can activate a system switch to allow up to 3GB of application memory. This can help but you are still limited to the 4GB total. I know I am going to get this number wrong but if I remember correctly 64-bit allows for addressing something like 8TB of system RAM so in theory the application space limitation goes away, at least for the near future. I also do some farely complex COSMOS so the extra RAM makes a big difference for me.

If I recall correctly all versions of Solidworks since 2005 SP 5.0 will run on Windows XP 64-bit without running in the WOW32 thunking layer. Don't quote me on the version though. I do know that all versions of 2006 will run quite well on the 64-bit OS, I just can't remember if they are in the thunking layer or not. The 64-bit version of Solidworks will be a natively compiled version of Solidworks for 64-bit so it won't be running under WOW32.

MasterCAM X is running fine under 64-bit as far as I can tell. The decision to upgrade from 32-bit Windows to the 64-bit version is one that you will have to make based upon what software you are using and what kind of printers or peripherals you are using. Currently I am using Solidworks, GibbsCAM, MasterCAM, Office and Matlab on 64-bit Windows with the only problem being that I cannot get drivers for my HP LaserJet 9000 and DesignJet 450.

My server system is currently composed of both a 32-bit Windows Server and a 64-bit Windows Server. The only reasons I am using the 32-bit server is my SolidWorks dongle is parallel (which no parallel dongle works on the 64-bit OS, it must be a USB dongle, this include MasterCAM as well) and I have some 32-bit systems that still need access to the 2 printers that 64-bit drivers have not been released for. The difference between the 2 server is completly transparent to all of my end users.
March 27, 2006 10:46:26 PM

I'm thinking about redirecting some of my budget into my server to gain some hard drive space. I can save about $500 by going to a lesser graphics card like the Quadro FX 1400 with PCI-E or the FX 700 AGP. If someone could explain which is better, AGP or PCI-E, that would help.
With the saved money, I can add a 500GB hard drive to my server and still be under budget. I am having a hard time getting myself to spend over $1000 on a graphics card.

I also am concerned about sufficient cooling. I haven't pick out a case yet, but should I include CPU cooling like the Thermaltake Big Typhoon 120mm Cooling Fan with Heatsink?
March 27, 2006 11:31:03 PM

Currently AGP and PCI-E are about the same. However, AGP is dead and a maxed out spec. PCI-E has replaced AGP. All current graphics cards are released on PCI-E first, and sometimes the card maker decides to make an AGP version later. PCI-E is the future and the way to go.
November 8, 2006 1:59:38 PM

After installing 2 new CAD computers I realized that I need another computer that I will use to run only our CAM software.

Here is my list of requirements for this build:

dual processors - AMD vs Intel (which is better at math calculation?)

motherboard to accept 2 processors - (do not need anthing fancy.)

4 gb ram

74 gb 10,000 RPM HD - Raptor?

Quadro FX graphics card - support for dual monitors (dual graphic cards needed?)

Any suggestions?
November 9, 2006 2:13:55 PM

Quote:
I would look at the soon to be released 4x4 setup from AMD or the quad core chips from intel. Both should be available soon.


I would not want to buy these new chips as soon as they are out because of stability and cost reasons. I would rather wait until they have been proven and cost comes down.

Is there a motherboard out now that will accept these new chips? If I buy now, I would like the ability to upgrade in the future.

So what is the fastest processor setup available today?...
(2) dual core chips?
November 9, 2006 3:14:24 PM

I work in an office that uses a lot of AutoDesk software LDD,Civil3D mostly. We just recently purchased a Dell Workstation with XP 64 bit, it just doesn't have the printer support. I've been pulling my hair out trying to get drivers for it. So i'm not a fan of 64 bit XP too many compatiblity problems.

A bit off topic but still CAD computer setup stuff. Does any one know if LDD and Civil3D make use of the Dual Core procceing or Dual CPU setups.

Blind_Chimera. you mentioned a switch in windows to allow Applications to use more memory could you point me to something that could help me do this, there are some preformance problems that i want to fix.

Sorry for the off topic bit.
November 9, 2006 4:22:01 PM

Quote:
Currently AGP and PCI-E are about the same. However, AGP is dead and a maxed out spec. PCI-E has replaced AGP. All current graphics cards are released on PCI-E first, and sometimes the card maker decides to make an AGP version later. PCI-E is the future and the way to go.


Do you have any experience comparing the ATI cards to the nvidia? I'm in the market but have been planning to avoid the Quadros becasue of my current anti-nvidia bias.
November 9, 2006 5:06:21 PM

The Windows 3GB switch is discussed here.

As for quad processors in a system only for CAM you would be wasting alot of money. CAM is a very linear process when its generating the G-Code and as such there are not enough places for the system to create threads to run and do work on the other cores. The new CAM systems that we are using at work can generate 100 MB G-Code files (4-axis simultaneous surfacing) in about 5 minutes. Those systems are built using a single Xeon 5160, 8 GB of RAM and SAS 15K RPM hard drives. If you are only doing CAM then the HD is really up to you I would think, my systems are all hybrid CAD/CAM/FEA and I am still using the page file sometimes when I get into FEA on some of my larger models .

Most of the Xeon motherboards will leave you expansion room for the future if you decide to add another proc.

The Quadro graphics card is always useful in the render of tool paths (unless you are using an older version of GibbsCAM, doesnt like Quadros for some reason). For a CAM station you can really almost get away with an FX 560 or FX 1500. The dual graphics cards just adds extra headaches and cost, unless you want the 4 monitors I would spend that money on more RAM.

I havnt heard anything recently about differences between ATI and Nvidia cards. What I do remember was that when we first got Solidworks most of our systems were using ATI cards and the Solidworks guys recommend that we switch to Nvidias cards because of some differences in the way the companies handle the GFX memory. But that was about 4 yrs ago now. Who knows whats happened in the interim.
November 16, 2006 1:24:16 PM

Here is the latest revision:
-Xi® MTower™ 2P64X Workstation (Base Configuration) $1,399.00
Upgrades And Options:
-2 x Dual-Core Intel® Xeon® 5160 3.00GHz 1333FSB 4MB L2 Cache EM64T $1,799.00
-4096MB DDR2 667MHz FB-DIMM ECC Dual Rank Interleave heatspreader $549.00
- nVidia® Quadro FX 3500 256MB DDR3 PCIe 2x DVI Dual Link SLI Capable $889.00
- 19" VX922 Viewsonic® OptiSync® Ultra-fast 2ms. LCD 1280x1024NR $205.00
- 19" VX922 Viewsonic® OptiSync® Ultra-fast 2ms. LCD 1280x1024NR $299.00
- 73GB 10000U3SCSI-320+MB29320 Adptec $399.00
- Optional 73GB 10000RPM USCSI-320 $295.00
- HD Ctrl. According To Motherboard and HD Type Selected $0.00
- RAIDMode O Performance RAID (IDE or SCSI RAID Ctrl. Requires 2x identical HD) $39.00
- DVD+RW/+R-R (writes to CD-RW) 4.7GB w/SW-Media $59.00
On board Intel® 82540 10/100/1Gbit Ethernet $0.00
- Genuine Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional-64 CD-ROM w/manuals/act.reg.
(w/Vista Upg. Coupon pu.aft. 10-26)
$129.00
- SuperMicro® intel® 5000X C.S. X7DAL-E 2xPCIe 2xPCI-X 2xPCI 2x 1GB Ethernet
up to 12GB DDR2 667Hz FB-DIMM 6xSATA2-RAID 0/1/5/10-AC97
$0.00
- 460W Enermax Ball Bearing Thermo Controller or conforming with selected
configuration
$0.00
- Xi® MTower™ Alum.2x12cm Quiet Fans-2x Front USB+1394- MatrixVX™
VD3000BWA Tt™ 460W UL PS-4x 5 1/4" 6x 3 1/2"

I think this should work.
November 16, 2006 2:46:59 PM

Hi
i recomend
CHASIS:
http://www.thermaltake.com/product/Chassis/fulltower/Ka...
price: about 300 USD built in WaterColler for CPU


GFX:
i use EVGA-7800GTX and SW switched to QUADRO 4500 with all the speed what come from Q4500 - if you need i can send you benchmark from SPECViewperf9 an you can see it in work. the 7800GTX is no more in online shops but you can find it on ebay. i hawe buyed it for 241 USD
its posible to use it on Nvidia7950 but hawe no one.. someone can try it....

RAID 5 CONTROLER
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...


HDD: for system
RAID 1 - 2x 250 GB HDD

for DATA
RAID 5 - 4-8 at 250GB - 400 GB something about 350-380 MB/s !!!!!
RAID 6 - suported - that is what you need - SAFETY(speed) for data

if you need more info about the GFX let me know...[/list]
November 16, 2006 2:48:58 PM

Since you already have 4GB of ECC DDR2-667 RAM, why not get a dual Opteron setup and keep the $600 in RAM? The Xeon 5160s are certainly fast, but the FB-DIMMs suck.

Here's what I would recommend instead:

CPU: 2 xAMD Opteron 2220SE (2.8 GHz, dual core) They are slightly slower than Xeon 5160s in purely CPU-bound tasks, but the platform they run on is much better than Intel's 5000 chipset.

RAM: Keep your 4GB DDR2-667 ECC RAM from the PD 950 build. it will run nicely with the Opterons.

Motherboard: Get a dual socket 1207 Tyan board with a PCIe x16 slot. The S2927 series would fit that bill.

GPU: Your Quadro FX35000 would be fine.

Monitors: Dual 20.1" 1600x1200 units are much better than 2 19" 1280x1024 units. Much more resolution, crisper picture. (I know as I have two 1600x1200s on my computer and have used 1280x1204 monitors before.) I recommend the Samsung 204B as it's an excellent monitor and a good deal as well.


HDD: Put your OS on 10,000 rpm Raptor drives. 10,000 rpm SCSI drives don't really perform any better than the Raptors do as Raptors are simply WD's SCSI 10k rpm drives with an SATA interface. RAID 0 is only useful if you back up religiously as it's not fault tolerant and has half of the reliability of a single drive. You don't want to one day boot up your computer and have one of the drives die, taking out your OS. I'd say RAID 1 or 5, or a 1 and 0 layered RAID instead if you want RAID. 0 alone is not the way to go.

DVD burner: $60 is a ripoff price. Get an IDE unit for $30.
November 17, 2006 10:13:21 AM

I had a $ 1500 check made out to JNCS for a Am2/4400 64x2/sli 32/ 1GB/xfx geforce 7900 (1) when I by chance caught a line in a chat ... "sli may not provide what cadd/video needs ..." (loosely) ... WTF I asked and began re reading - and encountered what is clearly a paradigm shift when looking a "home office"/"gamer" and "work station" ... I've had a hard getting my head around that paradigm ... this discussion has only peeked my curiosity even more ... and thanks to all contributors ... can some one kind of help me out - when I understand the why I can usually get the what ... my target goal is cadd architectural/rendering/graphic illustration and video /compiling editing - the $1500 was about 100 to 200 short a of an entry level WS ... monitor/software yet to be purchased ...
(previous post - Business vs Cadd)
TIA
November 17, 2006 10:55:47 AM

I have to agree with the having a Quadro video card on a workstation. Yes they are several times the cost of a retail gaming card, but they perform amazing with opengl CAD software. I've been a long time PRO/E user (8+ years) and am familiar with Solidworks. For someone just starting out, I would say Solidworks is MUCH easier to pickup. Pro/E tried to simplify its menus and such with Wildfire, but in my opinion, they made things more difficult.
I would be interested to see how 64-bit XP would perform on my system at work, as thats basically what it was designed for....huge amounts of data. My Quadro 3400 can still handle the biggest of assemblies, but my old school Xeon 3.2 struggles to regenerate big models. Multithreaded apps is definatly the way of the future.
!