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Affordable start-up setup for CAD student

Hello Everybody!

I have, for more than a week now, been trying to get my head around quad cores, six cores, motherboards, graphic cards and a huge array of other words and expressions I have no idea of. I know nothing of and about computer hardware at all.

My son is about to embark on a new phase in life: as s mechanical engineering student.

He'll probably be gaming as well, BUT this is NOT the reason for the computer (poor guy :-)). The CAD software is called SolidWorks, and according to them, the fastest CPU, without the need for multiple cores, and high RAM, is the way to go. They even seem to indicate that an additional graphics card is of minor importance - or I may have forgotten what they actually said... They seem to indicate that multiple cores become vital when doing rendering - but that will not happen soon.

Money is an issue for me at this stage of the fight. I cannot really give you a price per se - it's more that Ill know when I see if I am OK with it for what I get. If possible, I'd simply like to get him a good, but cheap, initial setup that can be expanded on in a few months' time.

In South Africa, where I am based, AMD is a lot more affordable than Intel and ATI more affordable than Quadro boards. I notice, too, that people are calling us to look for "Bang for your Bucks" components - and the cheaper ones seem to do that.

I'd like to have bought the Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition, the ATI Firepro V4800 Graphics card, an ASUS M4A89GTD Pro Mobo (hey - I'm using tecno slang!) and 12 GB RAM - but then the price cought up with me...

Now I am wondering whether a cheap Phenom II X2 555 (seems like a nice fast card) will look after the speed bit - but what about the rest?

If my plan is to upgrade to a quad core or maybe even a hex core (for rendering and other multi tasking) a few months from now, is that handled by the motherboard? Then what motherboard do I get now?

I'd like to keep the 12GB RAM. Does this determine the motherboard and its specs? Should I get DDR3? I don't even know what this means, but they seem to be better?

Can I initially get a motherboard with good enough built in graphics so as to negate the purchase of an additional graphics card for now? Or should I get a "less fancy" motherboard PLUS an affoprdable graphics card?

The motherboard seems to be central to the upgrade, or am I mistaken?

I wanted to summarise what I'd been rambling about above - but thought better of it.

Please forgive me my ramblings?

Any help out there, please?

With kindest possible regards - and hopeful to get answers that fit my idea and budget

8 answers Last reply Best Answer
More about affordable start setup student
  1. It's hard to start guessing what to suggest when you don't give even a rough budget. I'd say look into an Athlon X3-X4 plus a cheaper motherboard with integrated graphics, 8 GB RAM to get started.
  2. Budget. I would really recommend something by intel, 3d programs love intel cpu's.
  3. Best answer
    we use solid works at work and it likes speed more then core count so i'll reccomend a 1155 setup

    intel i5 2400
    z68 board
    gt550 graphics

    that will be more then adequate
  4. Best answer selected by Harryf.
  5. i do 3ds max and it really does stress the cpu under rendering. better to get a multithreaded cpu for this stuff as the apps will push your kit to its limits... stay well away from amd in this instance, they just dont do math that well. just compare superpi times....
    i use a i7 920 and it still takes an hour to do certain single frame renders that have high polly counts... your doing cad so your more likely to use splines than polys and again intel does this better...
    there really is a marked difference between amd and intel for this particular kind of thing in my experience.
  6. Thanks to everybody who'd responded! :-) I was waiting for emails telling me that someone had responded but didn't get any! I actually decided to just pop around and mention that I'd reached a decision on what to do.

    I wanted to go AMD like FinneousPJ mentioned, but decided to go with an intel i5 2400 CPU and an intel DH67BL motherboard - like amuffin and obsidian86 mentioned. No GPU for now. My son will have to suffer through the onboard graphics of the motherboard for now until we get something cheap like an ATI Radeon HD5670 when rendering becomes an issue in a few months' time.

    Also took a really standard case, 500W power supply - and the normal other paraphernalia like keybord and mouse etc.

    I got it within my budget for the requirements I needed - and my son is happy as a cat with a bowl of fish - or is it cream :-).

    Kindest possible regards


    EDIT: Hi HEXiT!

    Just noticed your post! I am glad with your confirmation that I should stear clear of AMD for this kind of thing. Eish! (A South African expression of wide use, but currently used to convey my sense of helplessness...) I do hope that my son won't be on my back too soon because of rendering problems with the i5... Eish...
  7. cool. the onboard will work well enough as long as you dont create to much in the way of detail. 10,000 pollys would probably be your limit per screen (if your animating) so that should be enough grunt for basic work. good luck.
  8. Thanks for the thumbs up and confirmation that my eventual decision is OK, HEXiT!

    I forgot to mention that I got 16GB RAM for a good price and decided to leave it at that number. Some comment that I'd read somewhere on a forum suggested that an excess of RAM does not really create much of a betterment when using SolidWorks, but that too little RAM WILL wreak havock.

    All of the best!

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