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Solidworks CAD Workstation PC Build - June 20 2008

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June 21, 2008 4:41:00 AM

Please note this is not a gaming PC build, it is built for a serious professional occupation using CAD software so please keep the flames to a minimum. But please feel free to critique, advise, or comment. There are some usefull tidbits in here about particular hurdles along the way.

(May 20, 2008) Total build was a hair over $2000 to the door from Newegg (not including the keyboard or, of course, Solidworks)

(1) Asus P5N72-T Premium
(1) Intel C2Duo E8400 (BX80570E8400)
(1) Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Coumpound
(1) Asus CPU Cooler (V-60)
(1) Antec Case (Nine Hundred)
(1) Thermaltake PSU (W0116RU)
(2) OCZ Reaper 2Gb PC2 6400 (OCZ2RPR800C44GK)
(1) PNY Quadro FX3700 (VCQFX3700-PCIE-PB)
(1) DVD+R/RW/DL SATA (DRW-2014S1T)
(1) Seagate 250Gb SATA (ST3250410AS)
(1) OS-MS XP 64bit SP2C OEM (ZAT-00124)
(1) 3Dconnection SpaceNav (3DX-700029)
(1) Logitech G5 Mouse (G5)
(1) Saitek Gamer's Keyboard with Programmable Command Pad (already owned)
This list is also in the order of installation (see **System Building Note 1 on the motherboards VPU fan below)

Been running for about a week straight with not the first hiccup, and the system runs consistenty cool under 100f deg in an 80f deg room during load. Extreemly fast assembly rendering with a multiple helix and textured parts. A real joy to use and saves a lot of time. Will pay for itself in a month or less. Ran 3dMark06 and scroed over 12000, which is quite impressive as video card is not designed for gaming graphics.

Image: CPU-Z, Clocks, temps, volts: http://www.imagebam.com/image/2340cf8076256

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Each component was scrutinized, in the exreeme, for compatibilty, performance, and longevity.

VidCard: PNY is a Solidworks Cert. Premium Partner, if you ever have a problem, thats a gaurantee they will have help. PCIe 2.0 x16, 512Mb DDR3 memory, OpenGL 2.1, SLI Capible, 400RAMDAC, DirectX 10 Shaders (although chosen OS doesn't) 1/3 the price of current top dog that I don't see the reason in it's specs it is that price.

Case: Best ventilation avail for the $ and fans can be manually adjusted H-M-L with a switch on each although very quiet on med speed. PSU on bottom makes system less top heavy and ports higher.

MB: most stable intel 775 nvidia nForce SLI board on the market.

Memory: It's OCZ, what did you expect? The Motherboard mfg doesn't even list a vendor that has modules to max what this board advertises it can handle, but these two 2gb (4Gb total) are working at the memories listed speed without a hitch.

PSU: Modular cables so you dont have to account for a thousand loose wiring bundles tied off blocking air cirulation and making installation an agrivating mess.

CPU: best bang for the buck.

CPU Cooler: don't stick with the base CPU fan unless you never plan on building an assembly with more than 2 parts, and don't stick with the paste that it comes with, it could be 3 years old and dried out.

Arctic Silver Thermal Coumpund: this is a top item by all those overclockers out there, and they recomend you only use enough to make full coverage contact, if it's too thick it will act as an insullator causing CPU overheating.

OS: Why would you spend the resources to run that flipin' vista CPU hog? XP64 is based on the 2003 server architecture, very stable, and old software WORKS on it, but install the 64bit Solidworks to get the full benifits of the dual processor and 4gig of ram.

G5 Mouse: make life easier when the mouse works on any surface and can be adjusted with buttons on the mouse itself (also note the wheel is also a sideways slider as it will tilt to the left and right.)

3dConnection: this little thing is a wonder!!! Wow it saves time, and sanity.

Saitek Keyboard: The command pad is 27 button programmable pad to do anything from a one button keypress to a complex macro. And it sits nicely next to the 3dconection mouse that only has 2 limited programmable buttons.

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The only place I would make any other recomendations is when SSD SATA drives become sanely priced, I would buy 6 of the smallest (8g or 16g)ones and place them in raid 0 with an external HD or NAS for backup. Now your talking a 10 second bootup and files load ultra fast, windows swap files move at near fsb speeds, almost no heat, and nearly no power draw to operate, not to mention resiliant to shock.

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**System building notes:
1. If you plan on installing the boards optional VPU fan, you will need to snip off this fans 2 plastic latch clips and make a second hole in the fan shell for it's cables to keep them from contacting any of the nearby metal heat sinks and install the optioanl CPU coolr venting straight up.

2. DO NOT install the Microsoft windows update software for the Saitek Gamer's keyboard or it will break it's command pad's progamming function.

4. BIOS defaults worked out of the gate with only an adjustment on the boot device priority needed to install OS from a IDE CD drive i had before SATS DVD arrived. Also, disable the floppy drive in BIOS, are we really still using floppy drives? sheesh...

5. After OS installation, make the hard drive 1st in boot priority because durring the ASUS autoinstallation, the pc will reboot 3 times and the ASUS cd is a bootable utility cd witch may scare you that something is wrong when thers not.

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Final thoughts, the motherboard will allow for 3 PCIe cards in SLI, but the graphics card listed only allows for 2. This is fine with me, by the time I need more power, I can add a second card to this for 1/3 the original card's cost + the second set of the identical memory modules to get another 2 years out of it.

This build will save hours or days trying to figure out how to save 40-150% off retail from the major pc vendors and still get a lightning fast engineering workstation, but it requires you to roll up your sleves and turn a few screws, but I think 99% of solidworks users can handle it.

-I hope this helps someone.
June 21, 2008 9:41:39 PM

Newer cad software, unlike most games, is quad optimized. Dual is not good. It'll run a lot faster with slower clocked quad.

2gb is not good. Cad is memory hog.

Workstation graphics card is not good. They're overpriced and underpowered. Maya, and nothing else, requires it. Cad does not require high graphics, not in the sense games do. A cheap mid-high range desktop graphics card will do fine. It does not support sli or crossfire, so that sli motherboard is useless. P45, which overclocks much better, runs cooler, and far more stable, is better for the workstation.

That expensive case is not necessary. A mid tower atx case with good cooling does just as well for cad workstation.

Hdd is slow and quite small. Hdd speed does make a difference for cad, unlike for games, in which faster hdd only decrease load time and doesn't increase in-game fps.

For os, Vista 64bit is a better choice. It's ram hog, but not cpu hog. You should get a lot of ram for cad anyway. XP 64bit still have some stability and driver problems. If they haven't worked out the kinks by this point, it won't happen. For workstation, stability and reliability is more important than a tiny, unnoticable performance increase.

No offense, but you don't really seem to understand cad, or how it's different from gaming.
June 21, 2008 10:44:48 PM

dagger said:

No offense, but you don't really seem to understand cad, or how it's different from gaming.

Actually I think he understands Solidworks2008 software very well. Solidworks is multi threaded in many of the user interface activities such as redraw and dialog box interaction, etc.
But the solving process used for modeling is very linear and cannot take full advantage of multiple or dual core processors. The 3.0Ghz E8400 was a very good choice.

Thanks for the after-action report. We don't see enough of those around here.

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June 22, 2008 4:55:12 AM

I also think 64-bit XP isn't such a great choice, it was always the odd one out considering it was released years after 32-bit XP and hasn't had the same level of support. Vista 64 has much better support since it was more mainstream being delivered with the 32 bit (some PC manufacturers are installing Vista 64 on new computers, which they never would have done with XP 64). Vista only seems like a RAM hog until you get past 2GB of RAM, then you'll have loads left over. Plus the sidebar, Aero, and other services like parental controls could be disabled on your workstation to save a lot of memory.
You probably could have gotten a better cooler (one with a 120mm fan) just because you have room in the case.
Power supply seems a little on the expensive side, for that price you could have picked up a Corsair HX620; that series is highly respected for it's performance.
Still, you've got an awesome computer, I wish mine was half as powerful!
June 23, 2008 4:42:37 AM

I placed a "(2)" in front of the OCZ memory to indicate it was a 4Gb build using a set of 2Gb DIMM's, as the mfg part # would show, keeping room to expand to with another 4Gb's. Also, the motherboard mfg does not certify a memory mfg that will supply a 2gb dimm (Per slot) that runs at the boards maximum advertised speed, so OCZ was the the obvious choice. (You always want to use a pair of matched dimms to get the best ulitization of speed from the memery buss. or so I've read).

The choice for XP 64 is simple, proven track record of the server 2003 platform (the xp 64 base) and compatibilty with older software which is what a lot of people in business still need to use or face a whole new brand of challenge.. buying new software and hardware so you can run... the OS? Vista is eye candy. It makes existing PC's immediatly obsolete and breaks our (and a lot of other busineeses) purchased and custom made software which we (they) have to support in house. Yea, I have a bit against spending business dollars on equipment becasue the OS needs it, i'd rather invest in the business software the staff needs to do their jobs. XP x64 just works with all our exisitng hardware and software.

Also, thank you all for your input. I appreciate all the comments, even the insults can be used constructively.

Hatered is like drinking poison because your mad at someone else, ultimetly it's self-destructive. (quote from my Mom, one smart gal')
July 12, 2008 12:53:36 PM

Pokey your mom is a smart gal. And her advice come in handy especially in some of these formums.
Thanks for putting up the system. Your system looks great and I have been looking for a complete system list since I been very unhappy with the out of the box dell systems which have been problematic for solidworks but okay for everything else.
Can you suggest a faster hard drive for the system and will this system work well with the 64 bit vista along with 4 gigs more of memory?
June 18, 2009 8:42:00 PM

PokeyJoe...I'm considering building a system like this but it's now a full year after your build.

I use Solidworks 09 with Vista 64 and it runs better than XP IMO..been using the software since 1998.


That aside...what system hardware would you use/change with the new selection of hardware available for the same cost roughly speaking?

Could you put a new list together for today's available hardware?

Cheers!
June 19, 2009 9:28:10 AM

IM with NOZ I am looking to build a new machine to run CAD also. I am very curious what to use now. Since all the new parts are out.
!