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CAD/Revit Workstation Build

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March 8, 2013 10:39:37 PM

Reason for New Computer:

I’m an architect in Colorado and want to build a computer for 3D CAD and production work. I’d like the computer to be fast and to be able to grow somewhat with the constantly increasing hardware requirements of AutoCad and Revit. I also use Sketchup and I don’t currently play any games. My projects are small to medium in size and I will do some project rendering on the computer. I understand that Revit needs a fast processor, more than it needs additional cores or an extremely high end video card. I probably won’t use multiple video cards at any time. I used Tom’s Hardware, Autodesk, and the following link for basic Revit build information:

http://www.revitforum.org/hardware-infrastructure/74-re...

Overclocking:

I’ve never overclocked a computer but might give it a try if the added performance is a benefit.

Purchase Date: April 1, 2013

Budget: $1100-$1400

I am trying to get a good balance of budget and performance. After many hours researching on the internet and this site, here’s where I am on my build. Any thoughts or comments would be greatly appreciated.

Case: Lian Li Lancool PC-K7b (like the look unless there’s a big drawback with the case, otherwise Corsair 300r) - Newegg - $80
CPU: Intel Core i-7 - 3770k - Microcenter - $230
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Pro4 LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX – Newegg - $98
RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL9D-16GBXL (should I use low profile RAM?) – Newegg - $97
GPU: EVGA 01G-P4-3650-KR GeForce GTX 650 Ti - Newegg - $150
HD: Western Digital WD Blue WD5000AAKX 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - Newegg - $50
SSD: Samsung MZ-7TD250BW 840 Series Solid State Drive (SSD) 250 GB Sata 2.5-Inch - Amazon - $170
CD/DVD: Asus Black 12X BD-ROM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-ROM SATA Internal Blu-Ray Drive (BC-12B1ST) – Amazon - $56
Cooling: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO - CPU Cooler with 120mm PWM Fan (RR-212E-20PK-R2) – Amazon - $33
PSU: Corsair CX750M ATX 12V v2.3 SLI Ready CrossFire Ready SLI Ready 80 Plus Bronze Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply Model CP-90200061-NA – Microcenter - $90
OS: Windows 7 Pro – Newegg - $140
Monitor: none
Total: $1187

Additional Comments:

Since RAM requirements seem to keep increasing for Revit, I wonder if it makes sense to
choose an X79 board with the i-7 3820 CPU for the added RAM capabilities down the road. Would that allow easier upgrades of the CPU and RAM in the future? Would that help to extend the life and use of the computer? And what about power issues? 3770k vs. 3770 vs. 3820? I don’t really want to have a computer that will dim the building lights when I use it. Is my PSU the right size?

Thanks for any thoughts and suggestions you may have!
March 9, 2013 12:29:19 AM

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor ($229.99 @ Microcenter)
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler ($29.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme4 ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($134.99 @ Amazon)
Memory: Patriot Viper 3 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($83.98 @ Outlet PC)
Storage: Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($72.98 @ Outlet PC)
Storage: Samsung 840 Series 500GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($279.99 @ Adorama)
Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 650 Ti 1GB Video Card ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Corsair 300R ATX Mid Tower Case ($59.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Antec High Current Gamer 520W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($79.99 @ Amazon)
Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD/CD Writer ($18.98 @ Outlet PC)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional SP1 (OEM) (64-bit) ($135.97 @ Outlet PC)
Total: $1256.84
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-03-08 21:26 EST-0500)

This has a 500gb ssd so you can load all your files and programs to it. I use Inventor with 8gb ram and it runs fine so you should be good with 16gb in Revit. Finally you only need a 500w-600w psu.
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March 9, 2013 1:11:32 AM

Great, thanks for the input. What do you like better about the ASRock Z77 Extreme 4 motherboard? Not knowing the finer details about motherboards it's hard to choose between the various models.

Any thoughts about the i-7 3820 for more RAM later over the 3770k?
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March 9, 2013 1:33:39 AM

Homesteader said:
Great, thanks for the input. What do you like better about the ASRock Z77 Extreme 4 motherboard? Not knowing the finer details about motherboards it's hard to choose between the various models.

Any thoughts about the i-7 3820 for more RAM later over the 3770k?


There really isn't a difference for your needs so you could go with the Pro4. Also I would go with the 3770k since it's a newer processor and the motherboards for the 3820 are more expensive.
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March 9, 2013 3:48:24 AM

Any issues with the Lian Li case? Is the Corsair just easier to work with?
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March 9, 2013 6:05:36 AM

Homesteader,

I'm an architect in Los Angeles and a couple of years ago moved into 3D CAD and now industrial design. I use AutoCad, Revit, Sketchup, Soldiworks (learning) Adobe CS4, Corel Technical Designer, MS Office, WordPerfect Office, and etc. I bought a used Dell Precision T5400 which is now > 2X quad core Xeon X5460 @3.16GHz, 16GB DDR2 667 ECC, Quadro FX 4800 (1.5GB), Western Digital RE4 (enterprise) 500GB, Seagate Barracuda 500GB, 875W PS) I would estimate the total cost has been about $900. This is not a benchmark hot rod today, but does certain things very well and is the most reliable computer I've ever had.

As for CPU's, I would strongly recommend getting a six-core i7 instead of quad core, mainly for rendering speed which is CPU-based. Core count is why I recently- two days ago added the 2nd Quad core Xeon to the Precision T5400. On the Passmark Performance Test, the CPU score went from 4800 to 8500- about equal to an i7-3770K, but I know that the 8 cores will be an advantage in renderings. I have a project that will have 40+ large, high resolutions renderings and I can assign all 8 cores to the job.

I've spent a lot time considering the needs of the software used, and went through three graphics cards with the T5400 > the Quadro FX 580 (512MB 16 cores) that arrived with it, and then I tried a GeForce GTX 285. Because the GTX 285 shared the GPU of the then top end Quadro FX 5800 ($3,200)-with 512-bit, 240 CUDA cores, but 1GB instead of 4GB, I thought I was getting away with an inexpensive solution. However, I found I had strange artifacts in Sketchup shadows, viewports in Solidworks wouldn't run, Revit 3D views had severe aliasing problem- jagged lines, there were crashes -"Bug Splats"- in Sketchup, and so on. My solution was to buy a used Quadro FX 4800 for $150, ($1,300 new)- a card that shared the GPU of the the FX 5800 and GTX 285 but which is 384-bit, 192 Cores and 1.5GB.

The thing is, as you get towards more complex drawings, 3D viewports, and with renderings, the Quadros' drivers have advantages-they emphasize qualities such as 64X and 128X anti-aliasing, 10-bit color, high segment curves, partnered specialized drivers- Autodesk and Solidworks for example do these for all their products, and so on. In place of high frame rates, Quadros are also usually pushed a bit less than gaming cards- slightly lower clock rates and power consumption, running cooler which makes them more reliable. Quadros don't benchmark as high as the equivalent GTX and cost a lot more but you can trust them to stay at their jobs and produce high precision results. Of course after all that, I am still recommending a GTX simply because of budget. The graphics card I would buy today would be a Quadro K5000- but they're $1,700,..

As for your upcoming system build, I've listed a configuration using the i7-3930K 6-core, which could be lightly overclocked to 4.1GHz, 16GB of 1866 RAM, a GTX 660Ti card- not a Quadro which I would prefer, but is 192-bit and has lots of CUDA cores- 1344- and has 2GB memory, an advantage with large files and if you do animations- walk-throughs, or video editing. Also in this list is 2X Western Digital Red HDs which have 64MB cache and are 6GB/s. While SSDs are very fast, I would personally consider setting up a RAID 1 which mirrors the primary drive. If there's a failure, you plug in a replacement the intact drive is mirrored and you don't miss a beat. The ASrock X79 board is rated highly for performance and takes 64GB of RAM up to DDR3 2400. It can also have a 3X PCIe 3.0 SLI. I beleive that in not too long, CAD worskstations will increasingly move towards GPU co-processing arrays- there'd be a 2-4 GPU processor units linked to a video output. The new GTX Titan and the Tesla C2075 are already demonstrating this trend.

The cost is $1,600 -$200 over your budget, but I think the 6-core i7-3930K is a better long-term solution.

________________________________________________

Intel Core i7-3930K Sandy Bridge-E 3.2GHz (3.8GHz Turbo) LGA 2011 130W Six-Core Desktop Processor $539.99 - (possibly with mild overclock to 4.1GHz)

CORSAIR Hydro (liquid) series H50 High Performance CPU Cooler $59.99

ASRock X79 Extreme6 LGA 2011 Intel X79 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard $219.99

Kingston HyperX Predator Series 16GB (4 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1866 Desktop Memory Model KHX18C9T2K4/16X
$109.99 With the 8 slots on the ASUS X79 board MAX 64GB), this could be expanded to 32GB, which would probably be sufficient to run all your applications at once. I've often run AutoCad, Solidworks, Sketchup, a rendering plug in, Corel Technical Designer, Wordperfect, Adobe Acrobat, and Firefox all at once on 12GB without a hiccup.

ASUS GTX660 TI-DC2O-2GD5 GeForce GTX 660 Ti 2GB 192-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card $289.99 - and possibly add a 2nd one SLI in a year

2X Western Digital Red WD10EFRX 1TB IntelliPower SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive $189.98 (in RAID 1)

LIAN LI Lancool PC-K7B Black Aluminum/ SECC ATX Mid Tower Computer Case $79.99 ( a nice, restrained appearance. You might consider a full tower version of this for roominess and good air flow.)

SeaSonic X Series X650 Gold ((SS-650KM Active PFC F3)) 650W ATX12V V2.3/EPS 12V V2.91 SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Full Modular Active PFC Power Supply $119.99 ( this might be increased to an 7-850W to accommodate a future 2nd card and/or GPU.


Subtotal: $1,609.81 - sorry, a bit over
_______________________________________________________

Just a thought.

Cheers,

BambiBoom
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March 9, 2013 1:31:27 PM

Homesteader said:
Any issues with the Lian Li case? Is the Corsair just easier to work with?


Corsair has good cable management.
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March 9, 2013 2:38:02 PM

Bambiboom, Interesting that you mention the Precision workstation with the dual Xeon precessors. That was the other option I was considering. I just wasn't sure if it made sense to buy a used system over a new system. There are some really good deals on Precisions with dual processors over 3.0 ghz. At the right price I could upgrade the video card and have a great workhorse system. From your experience, it sounds like the Precision with Xeons performs very well for you. And it would be less expensive than the new system above. I'm not hooked on having a new system. Would you suggest that route as a viable and cost effective way to go? Thanks so much, Homesteader
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March 10, 2013 8:46:44 PM

Homesteader said:
Bambiboom, Interesting that you mention the Precision workstation with the dual Xeon precessors. That was the other option I was considering. I just wasn't sure if it made sense to buy a used system over a new system. There are some really good deals on Precisions with dual processors over 3.0 ghz. At the right price I could upgrade the video card and have a great workhorse system. From your experience, it sounds like the Precision with Xeons performs very well for you. And it would be less expensive than the new system above. I'm not hooked on having a new system. Would you suggest that route as a viable and cost effective way to go? Thanks so much, Homesteader


____________________________________________________


Homesteader,

As I mentioned earlier, I had very good luck with a used Dell Precision. Sorry, a little repeat background> In 2011, I bought a used T5400 with a Xeon X5460 quad core @ 3.16GHz, 4 GB DDR2-667 ECC RAM, a Quadro FX580 (512MB) graphics card, and 80GB HD. The cost was $500 for a machine that cost about $6,000 new. I ran AutoCad, Revit, Sketchup, Solidworks 2010, Adobe CS4, Corel Technical Designer,WordPerfect, MS Office Pro, and several others. Often, I'd use several of these big programs at once, and this computer has been by far the most reliable computer I've had since my first in 1993. Over time, I added a Western Digital RE4 500GB HD (RE4 are the WD very reliable enterprise series HD's), a Seagate Barracuda 500GB, and a GeForce GTX 285. The GTX was not completely compatible with my applications, as I progressively moved into 3D CAD, so I changed back to a Quadro, an 18 mo. old FX 4800 for $150 (new $1,200), added RAM, first to 12GB then to 16GB (8 slots, max. 32GB), and just last week, added a 2nd Xeon X5460 and the amazing (it looks like a tiny metal model of a 20 story building), special T5400 heatsink, giving me 8 cores for rendering speed ($100). The Xeon is a specialist in the number crunching and by having 8 cores all of which can be assigned to rendering, I'm expecting this to be great at that task. In my view, the ability to add a 2nd CPU is a fantastic reason to use a dual CPU Xeon machine. On the Passmark Performance Test, the CPU score went from 4800 to 8500- similar to a new quad core i7-3770K, but because there are twice as many cores, the calculation scores are 30-80% higher than the i7. So, all together, a beautifully built, highly capable machine for under $1,000.

I would enthusiastically recommend that you consider the used Dell Precision alternative. They are not ultra-hot rod performers, but the double precision is substantially higher, Quadro cards can do 64X and 128X anti-aliasing which I think is essential for good renderings, they are not quirky when calculating shadows. A very attractive feature of a used Precision as compared to a new build is that you can take the wrapping off the package, load your programs, and be working the same day. I've built only one computer and was lucky that it worked immediately, but the research- compatibility of the components was less general than I thought, ordering, assembly, configuration, solving problems, testing, and so on probably totaled over 30 hours. Even then, it had quirks and as the software progressed in size and complexity, the quirks increased. I gave it to my niece when I'd had it about 18 months. I believe the experience would be much easier 10 years later and the performance might be astounding, but I would still think of it like I would a car I'd built from a kit- can I really trust the brakes at the crucial moment, will it start when I'm miles from anywhere... The other problem- perhaps it's just me- is that I've read too many rant / reviews of hardware components on sites like Newegg where a motherboard might have have 25% negative reviews. If the reviews are to be believed, SSD's are likely to fuss, spit on the cat, and stop working in 6 months, and so on. Of course, the problem pieces will get more vocal "expression". The ones that work will make less fuel to write in to say, "My God! It did what I paid for it to do!". So user reviews are probably skewed to the negative, but the texts also show genuinely how many subtle things can go wrong with a self-build, even for enthusiasts and the experienced. This site is filled with those in search of high frame rates in games, willing to go to extraordinary thought and cost to achieve it, but the parameters of performance and use when you have to depend on it to earn a living is very different between a machine that can create what the other machines only have to play with,..

_______________________________________________

My T5400 is getting on a bit, but the performance is still more than adequate, and it has been rock-solid from the first day. If you were to consider this route, I'd suggest looking at the next series Precisions, a T5500 or T7500. These use faster, as they use DDR3-1333 ECC (error correcting), and DDR3 is also less than half the cost of the obsolete DDR2. The T5500 and T7500 and also support 6-core processors. I don't know all the differences, but the T7500 certainly supports SLI- dual graphics cards, and the 7- series also usually has a bigger power supply.

In searching for a T5500 / 7500, it is useful to first check the user's manual (download complete PDF) on Dell.com for compatible CPU's and then consult the list below for the performance/rank. This list can be searched by name and/or sorted by name or rank >

http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_list.php

When you find an attractive configuration T5500 or 7500. look up the rating for the CPU's contained therein. In my poking around it seems the best will be X55xx or X56xx- some of the W series are good too, but not E-series (example> E5504) and not to be confused with the current and excellent E5-XXXX**. If you put the list above in order of relative ranking, the E5 Xeons are 8 of the top 1010 CPU's. The #1 is the "E5-4650" 8-core @ 2.70GHz at $3,900. This list doesn't however show the Xeon 4XXX and 8XXX which have 10 cores and can be used in 4X and 8X CPU machines! They are expensive - imagine spending $37,000 on the CPU's for an 8X 10-core computer!

** [If I were to build a computer, I 'd use an E5-1650 -6-cores, 3.2, #13 on the list, and "only" $600.]

I saw on eBay recently a Precision T5500 with the excellent Xeon X5680 6-core @ 3.3GHz- the #23 CPU on Passmark list (and $1,200 new), 12GB RAM, a Quadro 1700 (512MB) graphics card (not terrible but not up to your use), and 2X 160GB HD's- all for $1,400. The X5680 would be worth pursuing, as it's 5-core and has one of the upper clock speeds for Xeons. There are pieces to improve and the first two things to do- but it could wait until it'd earned it's keep- would be to change the HD's to a pair of 1TB Western Digital Black in RAID 1 (mirrored), and consider a Quadro FX 3800 (1GB), Quadro FX 4800 (1.5GB), or FX 5800 (4GB). The more modern Quadro's are better for 3D CAD, so a Quadro 2000 (1GB), 4000 (2GB), 5000, or 6000 (6GB -$3,800 new, about $1,200 now) would be a longer term solution, though (I think) only the 5000 in that list can be used in SLI. Eventually, 2- SSDs for OS/Applications in RAID 1, with the 2-1TB HDs moved to data storage, a second FX 4800 or 5800 in SLI if one of those were chosen. If you had two FX 5800's- with 8GB video memory on 2- FX 5800's you could run 4 monitors and edit feature films. You might not need it, but there could be a 2nd X5680- for 12 Cores= plenty. The X5680 was $1,300 new, today still about $700. Note that adding a second CPU to a T7500 requires a special riser card with a CPU fan and heatsink- $150 or so. Such a machine I think would be good for up to 5 years. By then Revit 2018 will be a 12GB program and we'll need 4X-7GHz 16-core Xeons, 192GB RAM and 3 Tesla K30x GPU coprocessor units and 10TB NSD's in RAID 20,.. I'm already starting to save up!

Sorry to ramble on for so long, but as I've been on a tight budget-(for 10 years!), I've spent along time thinking of a way to have appropriate performance and high reliability for not a huge price.

Best of luck. I'd enjoy knowing what you end up doing.

Cheers,

BambiBoom
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March 13, 2013 12:17:09 AM

BambiBoom,

Thank you so much for your thoughts and input. You've been a great help. We are on the same page regarding finding a good computer at a good price that will offer solid 3D/CAD/rendering performance for years to come. I've spent an inordinate amount of time over the past two weeks researching computers and video cards, pricing systems, and learning about CAD and Revit needs. It's been an interesting learning experience and tiring. From my research I agree that the T7500/T5500 may be my best computer option right now, although there are some great deals on the T7400/T5400 available. I'd prefer the newer model for better speed and future relevance but I'll see where I can get the best deal for the best performance. My primary concern is getting a good, solid, workhorse of a computer. How do you feel about xeon processors in another setup? i.e. a different computer manufacturer? Is it the Precision that has worked so well for you or has it been the xeon precessors? or is it the combination?

Do you have strong thoughts about the T7400/T550 vs. the T7500.T5500? From your comments above it sounds like the ram, power supply, and 6 core option seem to be the key upgrades. Do you think a T7400 with a fast processor and lots of ram (24 or 36 gb) still take care of most application needs? With lots of ram I wouldn't have to worry much about buying ram for a while.

I'm making the change to Revit right now which is why I need a better computer. For the past several years I've been doing mostly 2D CAD work and 3D in Sketchup. I've hit a point where I'm tired of the uncoordinated 3D to 2D process. I first thought I might produce construction drawings in Sketchup, which I really like, but doing so seems to be a bit of an ordeal. I've decided to jump into Revit for its 3D and coordination benefits. I'm spending lots of time on lynda.com watching videos right now. I actually worked with Revit in 1998 before it was sold to AutoCad. I thought it was a great idea but, at the time, it couldn't handle very complex geometries and roofs. It didn't work for me at that point.

Thanks again for your postings. It's been a great help to talk to another architect who has gone through the same process I'm going through. You've steered me in a good direction. I'll keep you posted on what I end up getting. I'm hoping to finalize my purchase in the next couple of days.

All the best,

Homesteader
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Best solution

March 13, 2013 2:05:49 PM

Homesteader,

I was talking with my brother yesterday, who has had an architectural practice since 1980, and we were both bemoaning the thought that in 1980, an architect only needed an architectural scale, T-square, triangle, a pencil and stack of paper to go into business. If it was to be a highly professional office, you needed both a 45 and 30/60 degree triangle, and the show-offs would have an engineering scale also. Today, it's necessary to understand immensely complex software of immense cost, interactions of computer components, and the relationship of those components to software performance.

As far as good used computers to consider, I've looked mostly at the Dell Precision line- I like the configuration and experience relationship to their servers that emphasizes accuracy and reliability as well as the general build quality. I have looked into HP workstations from time to time and wish I knew their line better. HPs seems to parallel the Precision series, e.g., the HP z420 seems to be similar in performance to the Precision T7500 and the z820 to the T7600.
My 2nd computer on the performance/cost level to the Precision T5400 is an HP Elite m9426f [ Core 2 Quad Q6600 @2.4GHz, 8GB RAM, Radeon 6850, 1TB] that I use for HD live recording, and while very reliable, and the Q6600 seems to be a good CPU, the Elite is not a top line in terms of build quality. It was still expensive and to me, several steps under the Precision. But, I would encourage you to look at the last 2 generations of HP's Z-series workstations as they do seem to be a bit less expensive used than the parallel-level Precisions.

As for Precisions series, I am very pleased with my T5400 except that the TX400 (3400, 5400, 7400) use DDR2-667 ECCC RAM which is slow by modern standards, runs very hot- I saw a RAM temperature of 93 C !(197 F), and it's stupidly expensive to buy- more than twice DDR3. The T7500 uses DDR3 -1333 ECC. One thing I like about the T5400/7400 more than the T7500 is that the T7500 requires a complex riser board/fan assembly to add a 2nd CPU, but that is balanced by the possibility of using 6-core Xeons, like the X5680 3.2GHz. In comparison, the X5680 ranks no. 23 on the Passmark benchmarks where my X5460 3.16Ghz is ranked 239. It takes two of the X5460's to have an overall performance of one i7-3770K, although the computational speed/threads capacity of the 8 cores would make the 2X X5460's better for rendering than the four core i7. The more I learn about this, the more I realize how little I know!

You mentioned the advantages of lots of RAM and that's something I learned too, thanks to the T5400 having arrived with 4GB. When I moved from 2D into 3D CAD, I noticed that I was using far more programs at once- I'd fiddle with Sketchup, then do the plan in AutoCad, then move it into Revit for 3D, then for rendering. So, I'd have all those programs going- , plus something in CS4 or Corel Graphics, WordPerfect, Windows Explorer, and Internet and now I'm getting going with Solidworks, which will also take another 2-3GB when running. I occasionally saw the HD activity light go mad, as I ran out of of RAM and was working some program swapping off the HD. I upgraded first to 12Gb, and recently to 16GB in the T5400, so that I never have to worry about running out of steam. It's an education to open Task Manager- right click on the Taskbar- click on "Show processes by all users" and there's a list of 60 hungry mouths gorging themselves on memory.

Again, it would be possible to build a computer based on something like the excellent E5-1650 6-core, a good board, lots of DDR3 1600 RAM, SSD/HD in RAID for something in the $2,500-2,800 range that would be a stellar performer, but my experience is that I am happy about the T5400 the way I am with my everyday-work cars, if it always starts and runs, gets me to the destination in reasonable time, I don't mind that it's not the ultimate performance demon. Plus, the ability of a dual CPU board- and that will take a lot of RAM and SLI graphics cards mean the Precision can still keep up amazingly well. Passmark came out only yesterday with a new build of Performance Test which finally allowed me to test the T5400 after it's recent upgrades. Based on the 2nd CPU the CPU score went from 4600 to 8500 and the overall rating went from 1623 to 1909, moving it into a reasonable place with modern CAD workstations. If I had a Quadro 5000, I could probably have 2D and 3D scores in the range made by a new- and $3,500- T7600. My brother, I learned yesterday is still using his Precision 390's with XP Pro 32-bit, Core 2 Duo's at 1.86GHz, 2GB RAM, and 128MB Quadro 550's that don't have any CUDA cores. He's run DataCad for the last twenty years, which appears to me to be a very capable 3D program with integrated rendering, and $1,200 per seat. I had a flash drive with a smaller Sketchup model, tried these and the Precision 390's were- just fine! I offered to spruce then up a bit for him- XP-Pro 64-bit, 3GHz CPU, 4GB RAM, Quadro 1800's, but he put me off saying it was completely unnecessary- they were used to the speed and didn't want to disturb the total reliability.

I don't know- it's more confusing than ever. I'm setting up a new desk with a T-square, scale, and a pencil, and if I can get a good, hanging Kerosene lantern,..

Stay in touch!

Cheers,

BambiBoom
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March 14, 2013 1:21:37 AM

BambiBoom,

Your post made me chuckle. I agree so much with the added complexity of being an architect these days. It's crazy. There's so much to keep track of, so much technology, so many new programs to learn. Architects are known for being great generalists; we know a little about a lot of things. The challenge today is that we have to know a little about many, many more things than in the past. I suppose it's the same for all professions. When I started out, I drafted by hand for a few years and really enjoyed the craft of it all. There was a wonderful physical aspect to drafting that is lost with the computer. How you held the pencil, how you rolled the graphite to keep an edge, and each person's unique way of lettering added a personal touch to each drawing. Despite the fact that all the drawings were supposed to look the same, there was always something special about the sets put together by the guys who had great control of their drawing skills. I'm very happy I didn't miss out on that time in the profession.

I've been using a car analogy, like you, to think about my computer purchase. I realize I could go out and buy a really nice, brand new, computer/car that would be the top of the line (within reason). It would be fun, look great and, like so many high performance cars/computers, I likely wouldn't be able to push it to its limits to get full use of it. The alternative, in my eyes, is to purchase a dependable used car/computer that will be a workhorse. So instead of a brand new 2013 Audi S8 I suspect I'll be better served by a 2009 Honda Accord. Though not nearly as fun to drive or as flashy, the Honda will likely serve my needs better and cost much less to own and maintain over the years. Yes, I'd love a beautiful Audi but for now the Honda will be fine. Perhaps if the economy takes a big upturn then I can expand my computer wish list.

Right now I'm leaning towards getting a Precision T5500 with at least a 2.8 ghz xeon processor. It just seems to be such a solid performer. And with dual processors it competes with the top i-7 computers. I like the idea of affordable ram for future upgrades so I'll stay away from the T5400/7400 series for now. I'm looking at single processor T5500's at the moment and scouting out the additional cpu upgrade (which I may go ahead and get now). I'm assuming 16 gb of ram will cover my needs. I just want to be able to run Revit, AutoCad and a few other programs smoothly. If I get into large renderings I'll up the ram as needed.

I really don't understand much about the RAID thing so that will be my next research project. More to learn! As I get older I find that I want to spend less time wrestling with technology and more time becoming a better architect. For me that means refining what and how I express myself in my work. After all we do to learn the technical side of things, the challenge for me now is how to best use my knowledge to become a better architect. I am working to simplify, clarify, and refine what I do, to focus on the qualities that I really love. I want to clear the junk out and get down to a few good and essential qualities that are expressed well. After years of working, some of the most simple things I learned in school are becoming more and more important. It's just taken me a long time to get back around to the basics. Years ago a professor of mine said that architects don't start to mature until their 50's. I laughed at the time but have come to realize that, for many of us, he was right. It takes a long time to get a handle on all the various aspects of the profession before one can dig in and make one's place.

Again, thanks for all your help and insights. It's been great to find a kindred spirit in the confusing and daunting world of computers. I'll let you know what computer I settle on.

I wish you all the best.

Homesteader
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March 23, 2013 1:43:01 PM

So here's my new/used system so far;

Dell Precision T7500 workstation (went for the T7500 over the T5500)
Intel Xeon W5590 3.3 ghz single processor (future option for dual processors)
24 gb DDR3 ECC ram
250 gb Samsung 840
1TB Western Digital Blue Hard Drive
160 gb Seagate Barracuda Hard Drive (came with the system, best use?)
(2) DVD drives
Nvidia Quadro FX3800 Graphics Card 1gb
Windows 7 pro 64 bit
new keyboard
new mouse

Total price for everything works out to be $965. With the expansion capabilities of the Precision T7500 tower, the option to add another processor, the option for more ram, etc., I'm excited that this will be a great workstation computer for years to come.
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March 23, 2013 3:05:17 PM

Homesteader,

Well done! That's an amazingly good specification > the Xeon W5590 is #112 on the Passmark list- (and $1600 new), the Quadro FX 3800 is one of the great ones ($1,100 new). For some reason, it seems the X800 Quadros were among the strongest performers, e.g., the 4GB FX 5800 was the top Quadro in it's day ( and $3,500), plus 24GB ECC RAM- plenty, Samsung SSD and 1TB WD Blue- all good news. The best feature is the price- that would've been in the $5,000+ range new- and with a close to perfect specification. Plus, you don't have to fuss with shopping for the parts, assembling, configuring, and so on.

As for the the drives, you might make the Samsung SSD the OS/applications drive, and partition the WD 1TB in 4 for > active CAD / work projects , active Documents and Images, Archive, and then a 4th partition to place a system image for a fast restore / recovery. If you make the system image as soon as it's all setup and configured, and before a lot of use, if there's a virus, it gets slow and full of errors, or just fails, you can have it back in it's pristine working condition by just pressing a few buttons- something like > "Select system image", "Select target drive" , and "Start". If you think the Seagate 160Gb has a reasonable life in it, you could put it in an USB enclosure for an external backup and transfer drive. In my perhaps overly cautious view, it's not a bad idea to keep a drive like this up to date and keep it separately from the computer to isolate your files in case of virus disaster, theft or fire. If you can fit a second copy of the pristine system image on it, even better. These enclosures vary a lot in price and quality- I had one that was too tight and ran too hot (by chance using the Seagate 160GB from an Optiplex 740), so check reviews- To extend it's life, run it only when backing up or large transfers to another computer.

I tried a search string in Passmark Performance Test for something similar and didn't find anything comparable, but it's bound to be a great CAD performer as well as reliable.

I'd enjoy knowing how this system works out, once you're up and running. When it's all setup, you might do the free trial of Passmark Performance Test and see how it scores. Really- a fantastically good purchase!

Cheers,

BambiBoom

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!