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ATI FireGL 3350 for Autodesk inventor and autocad

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a b U Graphics card
June 12, 2008 3:56:38 PM

Hey guys, here's the situation. I work for a school district as a tech, and have been asked to look into some video cards. They are going to be using Autodesk inventor. Maybe solidworks and perhaps autocad. I looked into some cheap gaming cards but I don't think that's going to cut it.

What we are looking at right now is Dell Optiplex 755 systems, with the minitower. I think the budget right now is about 920 bucks for the systems, but the tough part is they still need speakers and need probably a workstation video card. And I need to keep it around 1000. I'm guessing 1100 may be doable but I'm not sure. I know my boss is pretty fond of dell because the warranty is great that we buy, but we're going to have like 20 something systems for students. So building each one is not a great option.

So anyone ever used the ATI FireGL 3350 or another cheap workstation card? I know the teacher has been steered toward Nvidia. What cheaper offerings would they have? Like I said mainly we need something workstation class, I would say 128 mb or above, and on a budget. As far as I know the systems come with a 19 inch widescreen. What can you recommend? Keep in mind, we are on a budget, but do need something decent as these are for student use, so with limited class time, we need it to render as quickly as we can, plus the software as far as I know is calling for workstation class cards. I was just always a gamer and never used autocad or autodesk inventor and the like. So coming from the opposite end of the spectrum.

Quick note, I will probably need links to specific parts if you have them, if not I can look it up, my boss is wanting to price match with other sources as well. The systems will be running Windows XP pro from what I understand. Thanks in advance everyone.
a b U Graphics card
June 12, 2008 4:22:45 PM

By the way, I've also noticed we can get a Dell system that has the integrated Nvidia Quadro 210S video chip. Would this perform well enough or do we still need the add in card?
June 12, 2008 5:07:28 PM

I think unless you are getting into some serious design, any old thing will do, Inventor takes forever to load up, but once its up it seems to run ok. I found that the 64bit version on a Core 2 duo with 4GB of RAM installed is pretty good, the program is pretty CPU bound though so the more Ghz the better. The graphics card will help a bit, Inventor in its current version (not sure about mechanical/autocad), supports Direct X acceleration instead of Open GL only, so a Geforce based off the same processor as a quadro card will offer the same performance. If you use a Geforce though make sure to pick a card with drivers approved by autodesk. Quadro's are a do it all card and are very nice, but they are very expensive. If you are just running inventor and your version has support for Direct X, I'd definitly look into a cheaper desktop with a Geforce instead of a Quadro/Fire GL.

Look around on the Autodesk forums there are always people on there asking about this kind of thing, a lot of them are running Geforce cards as well so you can ask there too.
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a b U Graphics card
June 12, 2008 5:18:24 PM

Appreciate the info. My boss kind of handed me this project this morning, which I don't mind, but totally other side of the spectrum from what I've done before.
June 12, 2008 6:04:24 PM

I agree with FHDelux. At work we use Inventor with high end systems that have high end open gl cards. My home pc has a single core athlon with a 7600GT and i am able to do work at home, just takes a bit longer to render and finish a feature. I am also able to do straight auto cad. All direct 3d cards have open gl processing and vice versa. Its just open gl cards tend to be more stable, reliable, and quicker when large renderings are involved. Thats more due to the programing. Inventor is now writen for direct 3d so now its more stable under a gaming card but seems a bit slower than previous versions. Despite that, I'm sure as learning tool especially first time users you all should have no issues using a less expensive pc. I'd go with a basic Intel core duo, 2 GB of Ram, Nvidia 8600GT (256MB), and at least an 80 GB hardrive. Think of it as something you would have considered a good entry to mid level gaming PC. If you want to splurge, spend it on more RAM. For a monitor if you are buying from dell than stick with theirs. I use a dual screen with my browser and panel bar on the second screen. I haven't worked on a WS so I don't know if it is possible to keep those bars on the side and appear to have a full screen to make your models in. Hope that clears up anything.
a b U Graphics card
June 12, 2008 6:15:14 PM

I appreciate it again. So you think a light gaming card would be fine? Because I know they were going to get the ATI Radeon 2400 XT preinstalled and apparently the guy heading this up was told at a training that an nvidia card, probably a workstation card would be better basically being told that a gamer card is supposed to process things faster. But they told him the workstation card can process things more thoroughly from what he's telling me, so that basically he'd get a better image.

I know the systems we've been looking at are like lower end dual core 2 duo's I think, like say an E2160 or E2180. 2gb of memory, the widescreen, 80-160 gb hard drives. So kind of trying to guess where is the best option.
a b U Graphics card
June 12, 2008 6:31:06 PM

@OP: Unless you plan to do some heavy real-time (key word, real time) rendering, you won't need a Workstation card. Get a 8800GT with 512MB RAM and that should perform well (even a 8800 is an overkill). CAD software is more CPU bound than GPU bound. I use SolidWorks (2007 Premium) and these recommendations are based on that experience.
a b U Graphics card
June 12, 2008 6:39:07 PM

Ok, so really then the 8600 gt like a lot of others are saying or even 8800 gs or the like should suit it fine. Ok, well I'll pass that info to my boss see what he thinks. Thanks everyone!
a b U Graphics card
June 12, 2008 6:40:18 PM

Yeah. I say go for the 8800GS over the 8600GT. There's a 8800GS for $90 on newegg.
a b U Graphics card
June 12, 2008 6:44:00 PM

Yeah, I've been noticing. Might actually see, b/c not long ago they had the 9600 gso for 105 but 20 dollar mail in rebates.
a b U Graphics card
June 12, 2008 6:51:53 PM

Only bad part is they are wanting these minitowers and a card that size, I don't know about that, I'd just as soon go with a prebuilt for that reason. Do you guys think these cards would actually fit a minitower?
June 13, 2008 5:43:36 PM

You shouldn't have any issues with the 8600's fitting. 8800 gs could still be doable and the 9600 is fairly the same size. I saw earlier you were talking about the 2400. For your aplication that could work. I recommend a 2600 series with 256 MB. Better yet for ati, a 3650. I dont recommend anything over 512 on any of these mid-range cards (3650 can be found at 1 GB oddly enough) because then it requires more processing to sort the data on the card. So gains if any are minimal on these higher capacities. Honestly for your application of learning tool I say stay basic. I think you are on the right track with an earlier post you had. Just stick with it and you should be pleased. Should you have extra funds up the RAM to 3 GB unless you have windows 64 then go 4GB.
June 13, 2008 5:52:58 PM

Everything seems nice and dandy in this thread !! They are giving nice advices ohiou. Ill just subscribe to what has been said before.

just one thing, get a 8600GT or 8800GS. Adobe CS4 is coming already with CUDA enabled. I believe the minimal specs for it will be a 8600GT. CUDA will be a big bandwagon in floating point procedures, libraries and apps.

Go 8600GT or 8800GS and if possible go 64 Bits also !!
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