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Engineering Computer/Workstation use for AutoCAD advice please?

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June 11, 2012 11:46:40 PM

Hello,
I am buying the parts(most likely) for a new computer that i will be using for AutoCAD. I am looking to settle into the ivy bridge i7 3770k, a nice z77 mobo, a sleek, uninterrupted case that doesn't have lights (its going to be in an office) most likely a 500 gb caviar black western digital hdd, and something like a AMD firepro v7900. i don't know which brand of ram to order, most likely 16 gb though. budget inst really an issue. Help please?
P.S. In short, i need help getting a good motherboard and some nice ram that's quick, a good case/chassis(whats the difference) and also comments/concerns on the stuff i have picked out already.
Thanks!

More about : engineering computer workstation autocad advice

June 12, 2012 12:11:49 AM

If you're doing a lot of CAD work I highly suggest getting an Intel C206 series motherboard with a Xeon processor and ECC registered memory. These are all highly beneficial to CAD work and contrary to popular believe uniprocessor (single socket) Xeon platforms do not cost much more than their desktop counterparts. If you're getting a FirePro or Quadro graphics card I highly recommend this route

Here's a good workstation motherboard that's not too expensive

http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/Intel_Socket_1155/P8B_...

As for the memory, Kingston has a wide selection of ECC registered DIMMs which are quite affordable. WinTec has some as well but I haven't used tem.

There's no difference between a case and chassis. Chassis is just sometimes used to refer to professional cases, server cases and rackmount blade enclosures. Case/Chassis/Enclosure are mostly interchangeable terms and anyone should be able to figure out what you're talking about based on the context. As for what case to get, here's my recommendation

http://www.antec.com/product.php?id=704860&pid=4

It's quiet, free of annoying lights and very streamlined with no wasted space. I have several workstations and servers at home in that particular case and absolutely love it.
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June 12, 2012 7:04:30 AM

ECC Memory makes no quantifiable difference.
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June 12, 2012 7:10:08 AM

Draven35 said:
ECC Memory makes no quantifiable difference.


The purpose of ECC registered ram is to ensure that a small memory error doesn't turn into a quantifiable difference in a model or simulation that takes many hours or even days to run
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June 12, 2012 10:13:07 AM

I am well aware of that. I am also aware of that there are no tests that can detect when such an error actually happens and ECC has actually corrected for it- i.e. the difference is not detectable and benchmarkable. Like i said, no *quantifiable* difference.
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June 12, 2012 1:48:38 PM

Draven35 said:
I am well aware of that. I am also aware of that there are no tests that can detect when such an error actually happens and ECC has actually corrected for it- i.e. the difference is not detectable and benchmarkable. Like i said, no *quantifiable* difference.


What? That makes absolutely no sense. Single bit error corrections are passive, there's no need to observe them happening. Double or triple bit errors aren't correctable by the same means but are detectable and can be reported. Without ECC the only way to tell if you have a DRAM error is by observing whether or not something doesn't come out as expected or your system freezes. The quantifiable "difference" that you speak of is that nothing goes wrong.

Correctable errors are estimated to occur on average once every couple of months PER module. Put 8 or 16 modules into a computer and watch that become once every couple of weeks. Put enough computers into a lab cluster and it becomes once a day. Run a week long simulation on that cluster and see how often you get the same results with and without ECC.
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June 12, 2012 2:31:03 PM

Correctable errors *are estimated to* occur on average once every couple of months per module. Once again, something not measurable without extremely expensive lab equipment... Maybe the single-bit errors make a functional difference in engineering, but I've never seen the difference in animation work. Frames rendered on identical systems with and without ECC memory come out identical... or would I have to render the same frame for weeks on end on the chance a cosmic ray flips a bit in the memory? I guess we'd better not trust GPU-based computation from anything but a Tesla, either- since only a Tesla has ECC.
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June 12, 2012 2:50:55 PM

Draven35 said:
Correctable errors *are estimated to* occur on average once every couple of months per module. Once again, something not measurable without extremely expensive lab equipment... Maybe the single-bit errors make a functional difference in engineering, but I've never seen the difference in animation work. Frames rendered on identical systems with and without ECC memory come out identical... or would I have to render the same frame for weeks on end on the chance a cosmic ray flips a bit in the memory? I guess we'd better not trust GPU-based computation from anything but a Tesla, either- since only a Tesla has ECC.


If you don't believe me do a quick google search. Memory errors are the leading cause of system failure in large scale distributed systems and are the rule rather than the exception when it comes to scientific and engineering applications. There are many studies which track correctable and non-correctable error rates. You're unlikely to notice the impact of a single bit error on an animation because the consequences of having a single bit error in an animation frame are small and don't necessarily justify the cost of a highly redundant system. A pixel colour might be slightly off or a vertex in the wrong position but big deal. In finance, engineering and science this IS a big deal, especially if a single bit error propagates through a whole simulation it can drastically alter the result which can have huge consequences because its often hard to know what the result should be ahead of time. AutoDesk makes engineering applications and should receive the proper treatment if long duration simulations or renders are being performed.

The same is definitely true for GPU based computations. Quadro and Tesla have ECC registered memory while the GeForce and Radeon cards do not. AMD's FireGL lineup doesn't have ECC registered memory which makes it half-assed for GPU based computations (although it will work fine for purely rendering purposes because it does employ higher per-pixel accuracy) and their FireStream products are worthless for the same reason. The results are simply not as trustworthy as those from a Tesla product
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June 12, 2012 3:18:15 PM

Only the Quadro 5000 and 6000 have ECC memory (and all Tesla cards).

Also, per-pixel accuracy on the FirePro doesn't matter when using it for GPU-based rendering, because GPU-based rendering doesn't use the GPU's graphics engine for rendering and (this is important) software-based rendering doesn't use the graphics card at all (hence why render nodes usually have crummy onboard graphics ). (I know you may realize this, but others often get under the impression that GPU selection makes a difference in render speeds)
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June 12, 2012 3:44:51 PM

Pinhedd said:
If you're doing a lot of CAD work I highly suggest getting an Intel C206 series motherboard with a Xeon processor and ECC registered memory. These are all highly beneficial to CAD work and contrary to popular believe uniprocessor (single socket) Xeon platforms do not cost much more than their desktop counterparts. If you're getting a FirePro or Quadro graphics card I highly recommend this route

Here's a good workstation motherboard that's not too expensive

http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/Intel_Socket_1155/P8B_...

As for the memory, Kingston has a wide selection of ECC registered DIMMs which are quite affordable. WinTec has some as well but I haven't used tem.

There's no difference between a case and chassis. Chassis is just sometimes used to refer to professional cases, server cases and rackmount blade enclosures. Case/Chassis/Enclosure are mostly interchangeable terms and anyone should be able to figure out what you're talking about based on the context. As for what case to get, here's my recommendation

http://www.antec.com/product.php?id=704860&pid=4

It's quiet, free of annoying lights and very streamlined with no wasted space. I have several workstations and servers at home in that particular case and absolutely love it.


Okay thanks. I'm going with the case. I don't really want to go down that road with that type of board seeing as it can only accept an i3 processor or a xeon processor. I kinda want an i7 3770k in there to ramp some power into the machine.
Is the Firepro v7900 overrated? Should i go with a gaming card like the new nvidia cards or a 7970 AMD card? But then again, those are meant for gaming.
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June 12, 2012 4:30:38 PM

big m1ke said:
Okay thanks. I'm going with the case. I don't really want to go down that road with that type of board seeing as it can only accept an i3 processor or a xeon processor. I kinda want an i7 3770k in there to ramp some power into the machine.
Is the Firepro v7900 overrated? Should i go with a gaming card like the new nvidia cards or a 7970 AMD card? But then again, those are meant for gaming.


That motherboard supports the entire lineup of desktop and workstation CPUs, first and second generation Sandybridge i3, i5, i7 and Xeon

http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/Intel_Socket_1155/P8B_...

The Firepro and Quadro graphics cards have specific driver optimizations that are tailored to specific CAD applications which includes AutoCAD. Software vendors pay very good money to have these enhancements developed and included and as such they are only available on the professional driver suite
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June 12, 2012 5:08:46 PM

Sorry, referred to newegg for my info. Bad idea. Anyways, between the ASUS P8BWS, an ASUS Sabertooth Z77, or an ASUS P8Z77-V Deluxe which do you guys find the best?. All those motherboards looked to be great quality and what i need.
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June 12, 2012 5:34:38 PM

Also, only the FirePro and Quadro are certified by Autodesk for use with AutoCAD. Non-certified cards- i.e. game cards- won't be supported by them.
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June 12, 2012 6:31:52 PM

Okay. So sticky with the FirePro. Any thoughts on a motherboard? and also is non ecc memory okay? Would autoCAD still run fine(mostly drafting)
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June 12, 2012 7:11:31 PM

big m1ke said:
Okay. So sticky with the FirePro. Any thoughts on a motherboard? and also is non ecc memory okay? Would autoCAD still run fine(mostly drafting)


ECC memory is necessary when running incredibly long simulations or models as well as when performing distributed tasks. As the length of a task increases the chances of a memory error occurring increase and will eventually reach certainty. This is obviously more likely to happen during a week long molecular simulation than while just running AutoCAD but its still a good practice to adopt. Memory errors can occur in both primary and secondary storage (SDRAM and non-volatile storage) which is why professional solutions use ECC registered memory over non-registered memory as well as why they use the SCSI command set rather than the ATA command set (commonly SAS and SATA interfaces now). I don't know what your particular use case is but it can't hurt to be safe if money is at stake. While going from SATA to SAS has a substantial price premium, going from an i7 to a Xeon and a Z77 to C206 does not.

If you're considering going with a FirePro you may want to see if a Quadro 5 or 6 series card is available in the same price range. Consult Autodesk to see what they recommend
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June 12, 2012 8:45:18 PM

The computers im buying will be used for 2D drafting. I just kind of want to have an i7 3770k, but im pretty sure it doesnt support ECC memory. If the xeon route with the c206 is a better route then i will take that route but i want to make sure i cant use an i7 first.
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June 12, 2012 9:13:29 PM

big m1ke said:
The computers im buying will be used for 2D drafting. I just kind of want to have an i7 3770k, but im pretty sure it doesnt support ECC memory. If the xeon route with the c206 is a better route then i will take that route but i want to make sure i cant use an i7 first.


You can use an i7 3770k but there are Xeon processors that are identical to the i7 3770k with the exception that they cannot be overclocked and support ECC RAM.

If you are just doing 2D drafting it's probably not necessary to go for a workstation platform but I would recommend it if you are doing any scientific or engineering work
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June 12, 2012 9:17:54 PM

okay so either way ill be about the same. One issue though, if i use EEC it is typically slower right? i read a few times that it slows down the clock speed for some reason. (Checking for issues probably). I just want the best config i can get for a computer doing 2D CAD and ENERCALC and RISA 3D. those are the programs that i will be running on it. Possibly 3D CAD even im not sure. Most of it is structural design by the way.
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June 12, 2012 9:34:34 PM

ECC memory comes with IO speeds up to1600 MT/s (800Mhz bus, 200Mhz module), they will usually match whatever the workstation processors are capable of which is currently 1600 MT/s. With that said, ECC registered memory does have higher latency than non-registered memory but the performance impact is negligible in computation environments.

The advantage of ECC registered memory is that it will passively catch and correct single bit memory errors as well as detect and report multibit errors. Unregistered memory can't do this and the error will simply propagate through unless there are additional software checks in place. In science and engineering applications this is pretty critical, even more so when lengthy simulations and models are being run where a single memory error can invalidate days worth of work.
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June 12, 2012 9:55:28 PM

Would doing structural CAD be affected by RAM errors?Anyways, so here are the two systems i have

Spoiler
Case-Antec P183 v3
PSU-Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold 800W
HDD-Western Digital Caviar Black 500gb
CPU-intel i7 3770k
Motherboard-ASUS Sabertooth z77 or a ASUS p8z77-v deluxe
Graphics Card-AMD FirePro v7900
DVD Drive-LG DVD Burner Black SATA
OS-Windows 7 Professional


and second config
Spoiler
Motherboard-ASUS P8B WS
CPU-XEON e3-1275 V2 IVY BRIDGE


What do you think? And i have no clue which RAM to get. I know i want 16gb of it, just don't know what brand or what type to get. Anyone want to help point me in the right direction?
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June 12, 2012 10:32:11 PM

Anything can be affected by RAM errors. The chances of a RAM error impacting something grow as the duration and width of the process grow. A single computer will probably experience a DRAM error once every 3 months on average. Various other factors including chip quality and settings will affect this value. An enthusiast running DDR3-2400 is far more likely to experience DRAM errors than someone running DDR3-1600. On average about 10% of all DIMMs will have at least one memory error per year with many of the same modules having more than one error. Standard practice is to just replace the module but this first requires detecting the memory error, a feat which is not always easy.

DRAM errors happen all the time but they're hard to notice because they will usually either have no visible impact or are not deterministic. Following this same logic, heavily used systems are more error prone than lightly used systems.

So if 10% of all DIMMs will experience at least one memory error within the first year this means that a system with 4 DIMMs has a 35% chance of experiencing at least 1 memory error and a system with 8 DIMMs has a 57% chance of experiencing at least one memory error. Similarly, a cluster with 64 DIMMs has a 99.9% chance of experiencing a memory error each year. Scale that to a cluster that occupies a datacenter and you can expect one or more memory errors per day. When there's an engineering or science simulation running on that cluster it is almost guaranteed that a memory error would impact the result.

So, while it is unlikely that a memory error would occur on your machine and it is even more unlikely that a memory error would adversely affect your work know that it can and does happen from time to time. If we did not need ECC memory it would not exist.

Anyway, if you want to get standard non-ECC registered RAM go with Corsair Vengeance. It's some of the best desktop RAM around and extremely affordable.
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June 12, 2012 10:48:46 PM

What would you suggest for ECC ram? I'm kind of thinking of that route now. Also, when a memory error does occur, what happens? Does the RAM stick die, or does it fix when you restart your computer?
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June 12, 2012 11:03:55 PM

Wintec and Kingston are the primary manufacturers of ECC registered DIMMs

Here's a good 16GB set that should work just fine with that mobo I linked earlier

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Memory errors can manifest in a lot of ways. The usual culprit is a bad cell, these are easy to detect even on unregistered DIMMs because once the cell has failed it will always be bad and can easily be detected via pattern testing software such as memtest86. If only a single bit has failed an ECC DIMM can correct the error but the module should be replaced

Another common cause of errors is electromagnetic interference such as that from power lines and cosmic rays. In this case there is usually nothing wrong with the memory module and a single bit error will be corrected, excess charge just gets pushed along the IO bus which causes the physical logic to interpret a 1 as a 0 or vice-versa. This is more common in high speed systems which don't have large safety margins.

Third, are timing errors. These shouldn't occur at all in well tested systems and are almost exclusively the domain of overclocking enthusiasts. With that said, as circuits age they become more susceptible to the effects of elecromigration which can include instability in a previously stable setup. This isn't the same as outright component failure but can necessitate that the module be replaced.

As a rule of thumb, ECC memory can detect and correct 1 erroneous bit in a 64 bit wide memory channel. It can detect but not correct 2 or more erroneous bits. The system is also able to detect and correct single bit write errors and detect but not correct multibit write errors.

So a memory error can be an indication of a dead or dying module but this isn't always the case. An uncorrectable memory error will result in an exception being thrown that can be handled by the application, usually resulting in some sort of termination.
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June 12, 2012 11:15:14 PM

Okay. How often do you replace your ram modules? (quick question) Also, with the motherboard i described, which do you think would be the best option for me if i did go with the i7 3770k?
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June 12, 2012 11:20:44 PM

I've never had a module die on me in any of my desktops. I have a number of rackmount servers at home with ECC registered ram and all of the modules are still working correctly with no faults detected. Man I wish HP made their laptops like they make their enterprise hardware.

If you go with the 3770k you will not be able to use ECC registered RAM so you might as well just go with a P8Z77 series board instead
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June 12, 2012 11:22:43 PM

Do all of your desktop computers have ECC RAM installed in them or are they Non-ECC?
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June 12, 2012 11:23:01 PM

Best answer selected by big m1ke.
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June 12, 2012 11:26:43 PM

None of my desktops have ECC registered RAM in them. I don't run any mission critical applications on them though, just development environments.

I do have 4 servers with DDR ECC registered DIMMs and one with DDR2 FBDIMMs
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June 12, 2012 11:28:39 PM

Okay. Have you ever had a problem developing if you get a single error on a module of RAM?
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June 12, 2012 11:33:23 PM

big m1ke said:
Okay. Have you ever had a problem developing if you get a single error on a module of RAM?


Nope. A single bit memory error wouldn't bring down a development environment. The worst it would do is cause an app crash, system freeze, force a recompile or maybe change the value of a character in a text file before its saved. I have had errors before, many due to my placing too high an electrical load on the memory controller. Most of my applications are heavily fault tolerant though and/or a fault is hand correctable.
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June 12, 2012 11:38:12 PM

So corsair ram would be your favorite when it comes to Non-ECC? I am currently browsing on newegg for RAM, and they all seem about the same.
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June 12, 2012 11:45:05 PM

Corsair Vengeance is amazing. Mushkin Redline is also very good (along with Blackline, just a matter of colour)
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June 13, 2012 12:27:42 AM

You will have to make that wishlist public first
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June 13, 2012 5:13:27 AM

EDIT: Igrnore this
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June 13, 2012 5:35:45 AM

okay. The difference between the first and the second one is the rated speed. The first is rated at 1600 MT/s (800Mhz bus clock) while the second is rated at 1866 MT/s (933Mhz bus clock).

The only difference between the first and the third is that the first has those gigantic and unnecessary heat fins on the top. These can actually inhibit some CPU fans.

The second one is way over priced, just forget about it

get this one:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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February 17, 2014 10:28:59 AM

big m1ke said:
Hello,
I am buying the parts(most likely) for a new computer that i will be using for AutoCAD. I am looking to settle into the ivy bridge i7 3770k, a nice z77 mobo, a sleek, uninterrupted case that doesn't have lights (its going to be in an office) most likely a 500 gb caviar black western digital hdd, and something like a AMD firepro v7900. i don't know which brand of ram to order, most likely 16 gb though. budget inst really an issue. Help please?
P.S. In short, i need help getting a good motherboard and some nice ram that's quick, a good case/chassis(whats the difference) and also comments/concerns on the stuff i have picked out already.
Thanks!


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