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Build Adivce: Light to medium duty workstation

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February 4, 2011 11:18:28 AM

I work for a small construction company. We are getting to a point where we will need to update/upgrade several of our computers. The ones primarily used for office apps such as Word, Excel, accounting software are simple enough. The ones I need advice on are the workstations. We do some desgin work with Civil 3D (an Autodesk CADD product) and Trimble software which is our machine control system. This means we do a lot of surface modeling. This is not overly intense like 3D annimation but does require significant resources. I am putting together so ideas for two types of machines then. One that uses the CADD software daily and one that uses the software on occassion as needed. For the medium CADD station I am entertaining options for both a Core i5, i7 machine and for a Xeon dual processor capable machine though that is likely overkill. For the lighter workstations a Core i5, i7 will be more than sufficient.

Medium CADD Workstation:
Approximate Purchase Date: 1-2 weeks to 1-2 months I'm not worried about exact price just yet but need a budget range and a performance range. If that means waiting for the SandyBridge fix, that's fine.


Budget Range: The less expensive the better. About $1000 to $2000 Before Rebates


System Usage from Most to Least Important: CADD, Office, Internet, multi-tasking


Parts Not Required: keyboard, mouse, OS, monitors, speakers, case is not a necessity (can reuse existing dell cases if we need to), need PSU


Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Newegg


Country of Origin: US


Parts Preferences: currently using intel & nVidia parts but not completely opposed to AMD. My impression is that nVidia Quadro is better for CADD applications because of CUDA. Local storage is not a huge issue. We have a server for most file storage. A 120ish GB SSD for OS and apps and a 320GB HDD is plenty. A single HDD would be fine as well. Blue-Ray is not necessary.


Overclocking: Maybe


SLI or Crossfire: Maybe but probably not necessary


Monitor Resolution: 1920x1200 min


Additional Comments: Again this is for the medium CADD workstation. This machine will run 24/7 and should last for several years. The current machine is at least 4 years old.


Light CADD Workstation:
Approximate Purchase Date: 1-2 weeks to 1-2 months I'm not worried about exact price just yet but need a good budget range and a performance range. If that means waiting for the SandyBridge fix, that's fine.


Budget Range: The less expensive the better. About $1000 to $2000 Before Rebates


System Usage from Most to Least Important: Takeoff & Estimating software, Office, CADD, Internet, multi-tasking


Parts Not Required: keyboard, mouse, OS, monitors, speakers, case is not a necessity (can reuse existing dell cases if we need to), need PSU


Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Newegg


Country of Origin: US


Parts Preferences: currently using intel & nVidia parts but not completely opposed to AMD. My impression is that nVidia Quadro is better for CADD applications because of CUDA. Local storage is not a huge issue. We have a server for most file storage. A 120ish GB SSD for OS and apps and a 320GB HDD is plenty. A single HDD would be fine as well. Blue-Ray is not necessary.


Overclocking: Maybe


SLI or Crossfire: Maybe but probably not necessary


Monitor Resolution: 1920x1200 min


Additional Comments: Again this is for the light CADD workstation. The machine will run 24/7 and should last for several years. The current machine is at least 4 years old. We will be building up to 3 of the light CADD machines. Mine is a Pentium 4 630 Prescott, hyper-threaded with a nVidia Quadro FX 540.

Thanks for your help!
February 4, 2011 12:28:17 PM

Hello BlueFireAngel;

Besides the nVidia Cuda there is the AMD/ATI Stream general purpose GPU which is the same concept. So it's down to the choice of what your software supports. CUDA has had the wider support but that could always change. Check your current software and any possible software upgrade packages to see if Quadro or Firepro makes a difference to you.

What Dell cases are you re-purposing? There can be some unwelcome surprises in some of those cases as far as being a 'standard case'.

February 4, 2011 12:48:35 PM

Looking through our software, I don't think CUDA or Stream will make a noticable impact. That being said, I'm leaning toward the Quadro's because that is what we are using currently.
My current case is for a Dell Precision 380. It's a mid Tower with 2 USB 2.0 ports and a two audio jacks in front. There are 2-5.25" bays and 2-3.5" bays. The other light duty CADD machines are similar.
The other case is a full tower, Xeon case. I don't know much more about it.
Related resources
February 4, 2011 1:44:56 PM
February 4, 2011 2:19:44 PM

For the light duty work stations a Sandy Bridge solution would work great, if you can wait till late March or April.
The forums Recommended Builds by Usage has two suggested Sandy Bridge builds Core i5-2500K (Gamer: $1,102) or Core i7-2600K (Enthusiast: $1,332) that can be easily tweaked to move the focus from gaming to earning income/workstation. Although a serious thought should be given to using a on-the-shelf consumer video card (Fermi) vs a workstation Quadro.
I think you'll be able to get the workstation costs down under $1000 with small changes in video card, PSU and the like. Perhaps enough to sneak a modest SSD boot drive into the build.

If you want to wait for the SB builds stop back around in five or six weeks when hopefully we'll know a lot more about when the pipeline will open up again.

Core i5-2500K (Gamer: $1,102) example:
CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor BX80623I52500K
MOBO: ASUS P8P67 PRO LGA 1155 Intel P67 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Intel Motherboard
RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1600
n/r HSF: COOLER MASTER Intel Core i7 compatible Hyper N 520 RR-920-N520-GP 92mm Sleeve CPU Cooler
HDD: SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
step down a model or two: PSU: XFX Black Edition 750W
step down a model or two: GPU: EVGA GeForce GTX 470 (Fermi) Video card
DVD: SAMSUNG DVD Burner Black SATA Model SH-S223L LightScribe Support - OEM
n/r Case: COOLER MASTER HAF 922 RC-922M-KKN1-GP
n/r Thermal Compound: Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound - OEM
February 4, 2011 3:35:18 PM

Thanks for the help. I wouldn't expect a dual processor to come in under $2k but a dual processor motherboard with the upgrade potential sounds like a good idea.

Another thought: would it be worth it to wait for the SB replacement of the LGA 1366 & X58 socket and chipset if possible? I know that won't come until later this year.
February 4, 2011 4:15:48 PM

I don't think I have strong feelings one way or another about waiting for the SB server parts.
Here is a comparison between the consumer i7-950 / X-58 and i7-2600 / P67 benchmarks. Likely a good model that should mirror the server parts.
What will be missing from that chart is where your current workstation would rate. Without knowing what you're using now I'm guessing it will be fairly far behind either of those two options. Keeping that in mind, the performance lead of the SB shouldn't keep you from understanding a Xeon Westmere can be a huge? upgrade.
February 4, 2011 4:21:54 PM

I knew I had it bookmarked some place.
The Future of Servers Sandy Bridge, Bulldozer, and more.
February 4, 2011 4:46:41 PM

I build a lot of CAD boxes. I generally only put Quadro's in ones that do rendering because most of my builds are multi-purpose for peep's so they can work from home .... which means they generally want to use that hot hardware to play also. Both the GeForce and Quadro cards have CUDA btw:

Medium Workstation Build (256 bit GFX) - $2,056:

Case - $140 - Antec P193 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Case Fans - Later - Antec Red 120 mm http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
PSU - $120 - Antec CP850 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
MoBo - $495 - Asus Sabertooth http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
CPU - - Intel i7-950 included in above
Cooler - $40 - Scythe SCMG 2100 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
TIM - $5 - Shin Etsu http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
RAM - $200 - 3 x 4GB Kingston CAS 9 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
GFX - $780 - PNY VCQ4000-PB Quadro 4000 2GB 256-bit http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
HD - $55 - Seagate 7200.12 1TB 7200 rpm http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
SSD - $199 - OCZ Vertex 2 2.5" 120GB http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
DVD Writer - $22 - Asus 24X DRW-24B3L w/ LS http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

In a user's "home workstation" that would be twin 570's


Light Workstation Build (128 bit GFX) - $1735:

Same as above but drop to 128 bit GFX
PNY VCQ2000-PB Quadro 2000 1GB
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Ya can drop the SSD if budget becomes an issue

In a home workstation, I'd use twin 560Ti's

A smaller HD might save $15 so why bother
February 5, 2011 1:51:03 AM

I'm sorry. NO. you are not running BBC's Servers you do not need multiple CPU's,
!