I am mechanical engineering student and my I am finding myself needing a quality workstation for running 3D (and 2D) CAD applications. I will be running Unigraphics NX, Solidworks, AutoCAD, as well as Microsoft office applications, and maybe a few games from time to time (but that comes secondary to the work).
I was looking through all the threads about workstation graphics cards and most of them were a year or two old so I wanted to make a new thread to see what you guys are saying today as technology is always changing.
Basically this is going to be my first every complete computer build. I am have a good amount of knowledge when it comes to gaming PC's but I haven't found as much info about workstations. I was wondering what would be the best setup for my needs:
1. AMD x6 or Inter i7 (with respect to both price, and performance)
2. Gaming Graphics Card (6870?) or Workstation Graphics Card (Don't know which one to pick, but they seem pretty pricey)
My budget is anywhere from $1000-$1500, but I am very flexible if it will give me a considerable performance boost and longer lifespan on the computer.
Also, I live in Canada (eh) and will be ordering from www.ncix.com as they have reasonable prices and a warehouse near my home so I will not have to worry about shipping.
First off, having used a system with a "gaming" card for SolidWorks for the past 4 years I would advise against that. It's slower (you have to use the CPU for software-based OpenGL), and the display (even without SW's "RealView" enabled) is quirky. My next system will absolutely have a hefty (approved by SW) workstation graphics card.
My seat-of-the-pants experience with multi-core and CAD is that the app itself only uses one core for most activities, so you need a fair amount of processing for that (a workstation graphics card helps off load the visual processing to the GPU). Some operations, like photorendering, annimation, flow analysis and CAM/CNC computations can take advantage of multi-cores.
With my Core 2 Extreme 2.8ghz machine a decent rendering of a small part with ~ 3 materials takes 30 to 45 minutes with both cores at 100%. A really good rendering might take 3 to 8 hours. Just changing to a six core machine would cut those times to a third of what they are. FWIW, I just recently read that Bunkspeed's Shot renderer can do GPU-based rendering and it's significantly faster.
So, a good all-around CAD workstation ends up needing a fast multi-core CPU, a fast GPU, and a lot of RAM.