Low/midrange workstation for CAD/Illustrator/Sketchup

Hello, I'd appreciate your feedback on a system I'd like to build for my wife who is heavy user of Illustrator, Sketchup and CAD but mainly 2D and perhaps 3D and Revit in the future. This system is 90% design workstation, 10% general PC (surf, email) and 0% gaming.

Approximate Purchase Date: Black Friday (a few days from now)

Budget Range: under $1800 after rebates

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Illustrator, CAD, Sketchup and perhaps Revit in the future. NO Games.

Parts Not Required: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: no preference. suggestions for sites that offer best prices.

Parts Preferences: by brand or type : I'm between an i7 860 and 950. I've read that many of the above apps use primarily 1-2 cores and benefit from the better "turbo boos" from 8xx i7 and the i7 950 given that it is $200 at microcenter and the 1366 seems better "future proofing". For the apps listed above, which platform should I go with?

I need help on the mobo: looking at Asus P6T WS Pro and SuperMicro x8SAX-O for 1366 and for 1156: Asus P755 WS. Please suggest better boards for both categories. Would like to stay < $550 on the CPU/Mobo combination. Is a workstation mobo better for our needs than say asus sabertooth?

Are the programs I listed CUDA or OpenCL enabled? If not, will they be over the life of this system (want 5-7 years out of it)? How does this impact my choice of mobo?

GPU: I'd like to go with NVIDIA. Willing to spend the money but don't want to overspend if the programs I've listed don't use the GPU. Have looked at GTX480 and Quadro FX1800. Can I leverage CUDA and please help me understand CUDA is leveraged with just one card or only with multiple cards?

Storage: Might want to go with one 64-80GB SSD (suggestions?) and one 500-1TB Samsung F3 spinpoint. Thoughts?

Memory: 8-12GB depending on 1156 or 1366 platform. Voltage? Hz? Doesn't the CPU or Mobo dictate which Hz to use? CAS level? Please advise.

PSU? Wattage? High quality preferred....recs?

CASE: I'm clueless. Please give me 2-3 suggestions under $150 with quality/heat dissipation/basic layout/quality ranked higher than looks. Would like front-side access to USB, SD, etc. Won't be using more than one BD/DVD drive.

Overclocking: Absolutely Not.

SLI or Crossfire: Maybe?

OS: Win 7....which version for this build? Pro? Premium?

Additional Comments: desire stability and not too noisy...relatively good boot/access times
8 answers Last reply
More about midrange workstation illustrator sketchup
  1. ^ IMO the i7 8xx CPUs are better suited mainly for their superior Turbo...Also most of the apps wont take advantage of Tri-Channel memory of the i7 9xx CPUs...
    Also the i7 9xx is Future-proof ? AFAIK Intel is going to lauch their newer LGA 2011 socket(LGA 1366's replacement) by Q2 or Q3 2011...

    Here is a config -
    i7 870

    Mobo + OS
    Gigabyte P55A-UD3 + Win 7 PRO -This would be a good option as many productivity s/w might need it, also XP mode just in case...

    RAM - Corsair 8GB

    CASE - IMO this would be a very good option - Small, light so would be easy to move around and as for quality, it is one of the best that you can get...

    Video card - I have CUDA mainly used in Adobe Premier and other select apps, so it would be better to check if the apps that she will be using would take advantage of CUDA...
    For now this should suffice IMO

    PSU - A very good Modular PSU with enough power
    CM Silent PRo 600W

    SSD -
    OCZ Agility 2 120GB

    DATA - Samsung F4 2TB 5400RPM


    Total - ~$1225
  2. If you don't live near a microcenter.

    Total: $1219.89 --> $1189.89 AR
  3. Thanks for the very helpful input. I'd like to ask some specific follow up Qs about some parts that I know the least about:

    MoBo...Both of you rec'd the Gigabyte P55A-UD3 instead of a workstation class mobo. The Sata III and USB 3.0 functionality offered by the UD3 is appealing and I would have to spend probably $150 more to get a workstation class mobo with this functionality. My question is if this is predominantly a workstation design PC (cad, illustrator, sketchup and maybe revit in the future) what am I giving up by not purchasing something like ASUS P7P55 WS, P7F7-E or a comparable Gigabyte or Supermicro workstation class board?

    Regarding the SSD which I'd use for OS and Apps (Samsung Spinpoint for "stuff"), do I really need 120GB or could I get away with 64-80GB? Also is the OCZ Agility 2 better than the Vertex 2 or the Crucial RealSSD C300 CTFDDAC064MAG-1G1? Does mobo / SSD matching come into play?

    Finally, on RAM, I'm trying to understand if the i7 870 or the mobo basically LIMIT the performance of using higher Mhz memory to 1066 and consequently whether it is even helpful to purchase memory over 1066 MHz? Other places I see posts that state that there's a performance boost going to 1333 Mhz with low latency C? C6? What is the sweet spot between Mhz and latency class rating?

    Thanks so much!
  4. Mobo - Workstation boards were generally preferred because they are generally made of high quality/ stable parts, but nowadays top tier desktop mobo manufacturers have started to make top quality products which are very stable, so I doubt it would be necessary to go with a workstation board for such small single CPU build...

    SSD - Yes even a 60/ 80GB would suffice if you wont install many apps onto the SSD...

    RAM - Here is a good article about RAM speeds
  5. Great link to the memory review gkay09!

    A few more Qs

    I may go for the GT 430 GPU to get starters. But I want to ensure we have an adequate PSU if we were to upgrade to GTX 480 or Quadro FX 1800. Would the recommendations above suffice?

    Also do I need a separate fan(s)? CPU, GPU?

    Should I consider Sata III hard drive since the Gigabyte UD3 supports this? If so, which one?

    Finally, is there a way to do more than 8GB on the 1156 board? 12 GB preferred?

    Many thanks!
  6. For your questions -

    PSU - It is a very good quality 80+ 600W PSU, so it would have no issues powering even GTX 580

    CPU Cooler - For stock speeds, the stock fan would suffice, if overclocking, then an aftermarket CPU cooler would be nice.

    HDD - SATA III for mechanical drives(HDD) is just a marketing gimmick, they still have not saturated the SATA II speeds...

    RAM - Well if you get 2 sets, it would do 16GB ;) but its upto you...Maybe for now just stick with 8GB, see your RAM usage and then if you need more, pop in the extra sticks as RAM upgrades are no trouble(But just make sure you get the same rated kits)...
  7. Thanks Gkay09 and karma831!

    I ended up ordering:

    - i7 870
    - Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD3 mobo
    - Firepro v4800 GPU
    - G.skill ripjaws 8gb PC3-1066 1333 DDR
    - Lian Li PC-OA5NB case (love it!)
    - Antec True Power New TP-650 Watt PSU ($69 special)
    - OCZ Vertex 2 90GB SSD (for apps, OS, work in progress files)
    - Samsung F3R 1TB HD 7200 RPM (for long term storage of files)
    - Samsung DVD burner SH-223L (decided not to get BD at this time)

    Thanks for all your help!
  8. RioTubes said:
    Thanks Gkay09 and karma831!

    I ended up ordering:

    - G.skill ripjaws 8gb PC3-1066 1333 DDR

    I know this thread is several months old but I have a followup
    question to your build. Can you comment on the amount of ram used
    while running those programs? I'm an architecture student attempting
    to build a computer to run those programs + Autodesk Maya. The only
    thing that I'm concerned with is the amount of ram. Was 8GB sufficient or was
    more added?

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