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3D CAD Workstation Compatibility Check and Advice

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July 24, 2011 8:39:25 PM

I'm going to build a workstation PC primarily for using Autodesk Inventor and AutoCAD simultaneously. In the future I may also use 3ds Max for rendering images. This will be my first build.

OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit

CPU: Intel i7 2600K

GPU: ATI FirePro V5800

Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-Z68XP-UD3

RAM: CORSAIR Vengeance 16GB DDR3 1600

HDD: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200 RPM

Heatsink/Fan: COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus

CD/DVD Burner: Lite-On 24 X iHAS424-98

PSU: CORSAIR Enthusiast Series TX750 V2 750W

Case: LIAN LI Lancool PC-K7B ATX Mid Tower

Researching monitors and UPS.
July 24, 2011 11:54:56 PM

personally I would go with a

Intel Xeon E3-1275 Sandy Bridge 3.4GHz 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Server Processor BX80623E31275 -- $349.99

ASUS P8B WS LGA 1155 Intel C206 ATX Intel Xeon E3 Server/Workstation Motherboard -- $229.99. this would help when you get into 3d max rendering.

for a video card, I would start out with
ATI 100-505552 FirePro V3750256MB 128-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 Workstation Video Card -- $128.99

Corsair Professional Series Gold AX750 (CMPSU-750AX) 750W ATX12V v2.31 / EPS12V v2.92 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply -- $179.99 -$10.00 Instant . this will help if you decide to have 2 more powerful graphic cards.

for the OS, you will probably want to stick with the windows 7 professional 64 bit

you will want a 2nd monitor. I have 2 samsung 20" wide screens but I didn't get them at the same time so they are different sizes and have slightly different colors palettes.

I know a lot of people swear by amd and graphics, but I have had 2 amd pc loaded with xp and both gave me lots of headaches with missing system files and both of these units were loaded with lots of graphics software from lightwave, photoshop, etc. stopped have issues when I rebuilt with intel, so I won't be going back to amd.

all prices and components are from newegg.

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July 25, 2011 1:40:35 AM

From what I can find, the Xeon E3-1275 and the i7 2600K perform very similarly, but the 2600K can be overclocked. I keep reading that the Xeon series of cards are for workstations but I don't really know what that means. Why would an Xeon be better for me than an i7? I'm in Canada and the Xeon E3-1275 specifically isn't available on newegg.ca, I haven't checked other websites.

The GPU you recommended is much cheaper than the ones I was considering, I suppose I don't need as powerful of a GPU as I thought? That GPU isn't listed as one of Autodesk's certified cards on their website. I read that I should go with a Quadro GPU instead of a FirePro because the new CUDA architecture is designed to be paired with the Sandy Bridge CPU architecture. Does this really matter?
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July 25, 2011 2:49:35 AM

There will be no any noticeable gain in performance from the xeon cpu IMHO. The only benefit from the Xeon build may be the posibility to use RAM with error correction. But it's actually irrelevant unless for server usage somewhere in the enterprise segment - something like a database server or so.
Your Q4000 is waaay better, although IMHO it's too expensive for the work it does. I don't know what exactly CAD you'll use, but I have quite some experience, especially with Autodesk products and may say their latest 2-3 gens work fairly well on general purpose GPUs. And I allways felt more comfortable with Nvidia /+ you gain CUDA/.
But your monitor, with it's petty 1080 vertical res /and also bad color gammut btw./ seems to me a bad choice.
I'd allways exchange the overprised graphics card for a better monitor.
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July 25, 2011 3:03:26 AM

The xeon and the i7 are fundamentally identical cores .

Stick with the 2600k and a Z68 motherboard .

The quaddro is a good call , and so was the original 650 watt psu . Even that is overkill to some degree since the system wont pull more than about 250 watts anyway .
Consider the Antec Sonata 4 case which is very quiet and ships with a quality psu

The Zalman cpu cooler is pretty old and was never much good to start with . It is capable of doing the job, but there are significantly better tower coolers . Even Zalman ones .

I'd want at least two hard drives in a work station . Either set two up in RAID 1 for redundancy or just use the second as back up manually .
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July 25, 2011 4:33:47 AM

a workstation is to a desktop pc like a 1 ton dually is to a heavy duty 1/2 ton. I got the 1 ton, not so much as to be able to pull any size horse trailer I wanted, but I wanted the brakes and other beefed up systems that would withstand the stress and strain of pulling that trailer and last. I bought that 1 ton in 1993 and I still use it today with almost 250,000 miles.

So it boils down to what you are planning on using this unit for. traditionally 3d graphic developers use workstations since rendering can be a 24 hour process. xeons processors are designed to be the workstation processor. back in the 2004 time frame I created a 600+ frame lightwave movie on a mac g4 and it took 8 hours to render, not utilizing aa, nor any of the other enhancements.

I currently have a e5300 dual core with 3 usable gb out of 4 gb of memory and it is not significantly faster. my next build is going to use quad core xeon processor/s at the fastest speed I can afford. $350 is not too much for workstation processor, or step down to a E3-1245 which is a 3.3GHz for $280 and save $60. many of the gaming gpus are identical to the workstation gpus, differing only in the drivers supplied. many of the articles here state for 3d graphic development buy a workstation gpu, not a gaming gpu. Intel wouldn't be selling 2 fundamentally identical processors, unless there is a reason do do so. this plays havoc with their inventory and the price per unit cost, so why buy a general purpose cpu, unless there is a certain set of capabilities on the general purpose cpu not found on a workstation cpu?

ATI will never be certified by intel since amd bought ati, but that doesn't mean that an ati gpu wouldn't work with an intel cpu.

buying 2 hdd would be a smart move to protect your work.
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July 25, 2011 5:07:53 AM

Your workstation after some 5 years will be so desperately outdated anyway...
A computer is not a truck.
When you buy a computer you'd better keep in mind upgrading it every 2-3 years.
Whatever you may possibly buy now, after 2 years you'll heve something at least 50% faster on a lower price.
And just to be clear here - over time it happened to me to work on SGI Indigo, a DEC Alpha based system, try out a HP Envizex terminal...
The suggestion for 2 HDDs is the good one.
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July 25, 2011 5:22:52 AM

Pepe, perhaps you could recommend a better monitor?

I chose a P67 motherboard because I'm buying a dedicated GPU so I don't need the integrated graphics that comes with Z68. The Z68 boards seem more expensive, why do I need one? Is this one good? GIGABYTE GA-Z68XP-UD3 LGA 1155 Intel Z68 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard

I chose the Zalman cooler because they're the most popular LGA 1155 coolers on Newegg. Looking at this cooler now: XIGMATEK Aegir SD128264 Mega Killer Double HDT 120mm Long Life Bearing CPU Cooler Dual Fan I7 i5 775 1155 1156 and AMD compatible

We back up everything to a server so I don't think I need more than one hard drive for this computer.

The question is whether the Xeon is better than the i7 for use with Inventor and AutoCAD, rendering would be something I do occasionally, but part and assembly creation is what this computer will be used for 99% of the time. Any rendering I do will be mostly images for advertising.
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July 25, 2011 5:45:59 AM

I particularly like the HP IPS monitors with a resolution of at least 1920x1200 - 1200 is something like the standard supposed to be for current CADs. If you have money, and you want the best, go for an EIZO PVA /a PVA tech monitor with at least 1200 pix vert. resolution, not the cheapest models, based on TN tech - at last few years they finaly surrendered to the demand for cheap/. But EIZO comes at a price. While a 24" HP IPS monitor is good for CAD and much cheaper /and is not so bad for 3D in case it interests you/. NEC is also good.

The GB mobo should be OK.

If you are working in an office why you need to choose your system - isn't there in your firm somebody responsible for this?

and just a note: a monitor will likely no need to be replaced after 2-3 years :) 
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July 25, 2011 5:53:29 AM

Family owned company, I used Inventor in school last year and the workflow is just so much faster than the 2D AutoCAD we've been using for years. I convinced my dad that the computer I'm currently using wouldn't be able to handle both AutoCAD and Inventor simultaneously. It's looking much more expensive than what I initially thought but I think it'll be worth the investment. I also want the experience of building a computer.
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July 25, 2011 6:17:32 AM

I don't think you need to go for the expensive quadro 4000. As i remember there was a not bad Q1800 for example. Or you may buy just a mainstream card. Unless you are working on something extremely complex you'll not utilize the power of a Q4000 series thing. And switching on and off layers/groups still does better work.
Try the SpaceClaim - there was a product based on it in the Autodesk folio, don't remember the name - if you model parts you may love it.
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July 25, 2011 6:36:01 AM

Okay, I'll look into cheaper GPUs and SpaceClaim tomorrow. It's pretty late where I am.
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July 25, 2011 6:40:21 AM

You really dont need a top end cooler . The 32 nm chips run very cool compared to previous generations . What used to be mid range is easily enough cooling .

http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1683...

or the cooler master hyper 212 [ from Amazon ]


I suggested a Z68 board because of an Intel technology called Quick Sync . Whether it plays well with your programs , and/or the Quaddro I am unsure and needs a bit of research by you , but if it does then there are advantages .
You definitely wont lose anything by going with Z68 .

IPS monitors have much better viewing angles than TN panels . This helps a lot of more than one of you is using looking at the same screen . They also have a reputation for better color adjustment and control but this might not always be true.
The Dell panels are impressive .
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July 25, 2011 5:11:49 PM

Oh, no wonder apple's screens look so nice, they use IPS. I updated the OP with the parts I am now considering.
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July 26, 2011 1:21:57 AM

A-a, this is definitely not the HP monitor you should look at - it has the bad 1080 resolution. These are:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
or this one with the right resolution, but not so good color gamut:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
As somebody mentioned earlier - Dell's IPS'es are great.
But again - EIZO are the best :)  believe me, they use another technology - PVA, usualy considered as not being better, compared with IPS, but they do exceptional job.

I don't like much the graphics card you choose. I may guarantee you that a mainstream GF 560Ti will kill it even on OGL performance /and it has more as two times greater performance on CUDA acceleration - 384 cores on higher speed against 192/.
In this price range I actually think ATI has better offers. Like this one:
http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1681...
So - if you realy hold on buying a pro card I'd recommend you to consider ATI.

Ah, something else /I forgot/ to consider about OGL graphics: For a long time, too long, OGL consisted of a small core overgrowned by extensions and was pretty much run on these extensions and special manufacturer libraryes, supported by specialized drivers - the Pro level drivers, while the mainstream drivers offered only core OGL acceleration. That situation served manufacturers of professional OGL acceleration gear pretty well and was one of the reasons the progress in the OGL area and the further standardization was so difficult /it was also OK for the software manufacturers, unwilling to rewrite their code - expensive code on expensive gear/. And the OGL 2 attempt, after finally taken, was ruined. But, this is just my opinion, Microsoft /again Microsoft, after they do so great job by just porting, slowly and painfully, once ago Softimage for PC, opening the PC world for professional 3d content creation and as a consequence effectively killing in longer term the workstation market/ by DX put there an increasing pressure to the point where Autodesk began to reccomend using their products with DX acceleration instead of OGL on mainstream hardware. And then finaly a new KRONOS comitee finaly standartized OGL the way it should be done /pretty much kicking the asses of everybody who disagree/ - the OGL 3, and then enriching it to the point of being almost as capable as the best of DX if not better /in some directions it allways was/ - by OGL 4. So at the moment OGL is pretty much standartized and any exceptions are forbiden, extensions too, and drivers, supporting the standard are required to support it in it's broadness, leaving the Pro drivers by essentialy not capable to offer something so precious. Ofcourse on the software side there still is using of special libraries and the switching on the more standardized track is a proces, and all the businesses will continue to search for ways to squeeze more profit by offering VIP features, but the general progress and opennes as usual will finaly prevail, and things are moving that way. :) 

I find this RAM better: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... - I myself have used GSkill for maybe last three-four years /and Corsair before this/ because GSkill offered better price for acceptable quality /I've had some errorneous modules from both manufacturers/, but at the moment they do not /and I like Corsair's support more/.

I'd also recommend to change your HDD. WD Black /and only black/ are good. WD has weak electronics on their drives /the reason I wouldn't recommend anithing but Black series/, but on Blacks their control cirquits are doubled.
Samsungs are with good quality and performance on good price.
My favorites are Hitachi /they operate former IBM disc business btw./. They are kind of lower-techie in this area, and in this case it's good. For example for their high capacity disks they use more platters with lower density, and more platters means also more magnetic heads, more bits read and written in paralel, which generally surpasses higher density regarding the performance + it guarantees more steady record /less interference between the neighboring magnetic domains/.

The PSU is acceptable, although I'd go for something better for an expensive build.
And the rest is less relevant /LianLi cases are good/. :) 

Not a bad idea is to consider buying an UPS too - even a weak interactiva UPS of good quality will guard your system against any kind of power related problems like surges /but because it's not an allways inline device it will not render irrelevant the active PSU of a good quality/, will bypass short power interruptions and will give you few minutes to save your work and to switch off in a case of emergency. For your system a 700-750 VA device will be fair enough. You need to know that the VA output power of your UPS should be normally some 20 % higher than the marked power of your PSU /+~120VA for the monitor/ to compensate for the dissipation in the PSU /and this in the case for an 80+ PSU/ but keep in mind - even a weaker UPS unit may provide high current for a short time, so do not be afraid if the UPS output power don't fully cover the power requirement of your system - the UPS will be able to keep delivering current for shorter time and the battery will heat up but it's kind of ok as long as it don't burn :) .

And just another thing from me, just a personal feeling about these things - IMHO it's better to build a robust all-arround system with strong emphasys on the purpose but without any sacrificing on stability and robustness for rushing in some overlyexagerrated special features.

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July 27, 2011 3:53:30 PM

That's funny, the ATI FirePro V5800 is the first card I was considering before someone told me I should look at PNY Quadro cards.
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July 27, 2011 10:05:43 PM

AMKalmar said:
That's funny, the ATI FirePro V5800 is the first card I was considering before someone told me I should look at PNY Quadro cards.


Then you may reconsider it :) . Quadros are great, but in the higher segment.
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July 27, 2011 10:24:43 PM

The Dell "Ultrasharp" monitors are IPS panels .

For cad the bigger the better though so I would rather have a larger tn panel than an IPS that was smaller .
I also use CAD software and have a Samsung BX2440 LED which is fine

But then again I'd rather have a 30 inch Dell if it was in my budget !
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July 27, 2011 11:24:38 PM

Outlander_04 said:
The Dell "Ultrasharp" monitors are IPS panels .

For cad the bigger the better though so I would rather have a larger tn panel than an IPS that was smaller .
I also use CAD software and have a Samsung BX2440 LED which is fine

But then again I'd rather have a 30 inch Dell if it was in my budget !


You are absolutely right Outlander. CAD just adores higher resolution. And the space is never enough, especially after Autodesk begin to implement the silly MS-Office-ish Ribbon interface. That's why I say a vertical resolution of a 1200 is like the acceptable minimum. Else you have only a thin strip at the middle of your screen for viewports and top and bottom are cluttered with different interfaces, at least until you master to use hotkeys, but in my experience not everithing is working on hotkeys, if you work with several programs memorizing hotkeys gets complicated so you may never rely solely on them and you need the clutter.
And the larger resolution is saving you hugely on zooming and makes your life much more happier.
What's about IPS - it's good for the rendering and everywhere color is involved. Plus great viewing angles and the general eye comfort. Especially on large screens.


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