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Ultimate CAD System for £3500?

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August 1, 2007 12:38:25 PM

Hi Guys,

Long time lurker, first time poster!

My boss wants me to spec up a new machine for running Catia V5, and Vericut Verification software. I know that an NVIDIA Quadro graphics card is a must, as is dual monitors, but what is the best CPU out there?

Do I go for quad core, or two dual cores? Also, what memory? And what sort of HDD?

I've been looking at the Dell Precision 490 and 690 machines, but I can't figure out what are the best options to spend the £3500 on.

He wants speeeeed. And lots of it, otherwise my P45 is in the post.

Thanks!

M
August 7, 2007 6:08:55 AM

Ok, I've done my homework, and I'm looking at the following spec:

--------------------------------------------------
Dual AMD® Opteron™ 2222 3.0 GHz 1000 MHz FSB w/ 2MB Cache & Dual Core

NVIDIA® Quadro™ FX 3500 PCI-E 256MB GDDR3

4GB Dual Channel DDR2 Registered ECC at 667MHz - 4 x 1024MB

147GB Serial Attached SCSI 3GB/s 15,000 RPM with NCQ & 16MB Cache

Dual 19"/20" Monitors

------------------------------------------------------

Looking at the AMD workstation offering from alienware.co.uk/.com

Overkill, or should I look at a quad-core system?
August 7, 2007 8:12:02 AM

Ok thats a good and expensive machine.

I personaly am working on this:
E2160@3.2GHz
4x1 GB ram ddr2 800 kingmax
Gigabyte P35-DS3P mobo
GeForce 6800GT 256mb pcie ---> softmoded to Quadro fx 3400
Fortron 400W PSU

and I get these scores in Specview 8.0.1 or 8.1 I dont know anymore

Run All Summary

---------- SUM_RESULTS\3DSMAX\SUMMARY.TXT
3dsmax-03 Weighted Geometric Mean = 58.96

---------- SUM_RESULTS\CATIA\SUMMARY.TXT
catia-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 49.46

---------- SUM_RESULTS\ENSIGHT\SUMMARY.TXT
ensight-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 31.64

---------- SUM_RESULTS\LIGHT\SUMMARY.TXT
light-07 Weighted Geometric Mean = 41.16

---------- SUM_RESULTS\MAYA\SUMMARY.TXT
maya-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 100.4

---------- SUM_RESULTS\PROE\SUMMARY.TXT
proe-03 Weighted Geometric Mean = 65.16

---------- SUM_RESULTS\SW\SUMMARY.TXT
sw-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 39.73

---------- SUM_RESULTS\UGS\SUMMARY.TXT
ugs-04 Weighted Geometric Mean = 35.62
Related resources
August 7, 2007 8:18:06 AM

I am not sure if any of those programs have multithreaded viewport.
So it wouldnt matter if you had a single or 16 core CPU.

If you must choose one I would go for a single quad core. It's probably way more cheaper and it will give you the same performance as the 2x2 core system.
August 7, 2007 8:35:08 AM

3500 pounds? thats is alot of money, just build a quad core machine with 2x 8800gtxs, use riva tuner to convert them to quadros, put 4-8gb of ram in it (4x1gb/4x2gb) and use vista ultimate 64bit, then make a big raid 0+1 setup
August 7, 2007 8:42:18 AM

Sorry but as far as I know the 8 serise and even the 7 series of nvidia cant be converted to quadro. You can make them display in widows as a quadro card but their specview benchmarks are poor.
The last cards that could be converted to quadro are the 6800GT and 6800Ultra (AGP&PCIe).
August 7, 2007 11:08:47 AM

Sorry not true. 8800 can't be unlocked!
I have looked for this on the net and on all forums ppl who know their stuf not tards say it cant be done.
You can use the quadro drivers make windows call it fx 4600 or whatever but the performance isn't there.

Look at my 6800GT before and after modding

Before:
Run All Summary

---------- SUM_RESULTS\3DSMAX\SUMMARY.TXT
3dsmax-03 Weighted Geometric Mean = 24.64

---------- SUM_RESULTS\CATIA\SUMMARY.TXT
catia-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 16.44

---------- SUM_RESULTS\ENSIGHT\SUMMARY.TXT
ensight-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 13.41

---------- SUM_RESULTS\LIGHT\SUMMARY.TXT
light-07 Weighted Geometric Mean = 18.71

---------- SUM_RESULTS\MAYA\SUMMARY.TXT
maya-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 32.09

---------- SUM_RESULTS\PROE\SUMMARY.TXT
proe-03 Weighted Geometric Mean = 17.75

---------- SUM_RESULTS\SW\SUMMARY.TXT
sw-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 15.78

---------- SUM_RESULTS\UGS\SUMMARY.TXT
ugs-04 Weighted Geometric Mean = 4.793


After:
Run All Summary

---------- SUM_RESULTS\3DSMAX\SUMMARY.TXT
3dsmax-03 Weighted Geometric Mean = 58.96

---------- SUM_RESULTS\CATIA\SUMMARY.TXT
catia-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 49.46

---------- SUM_RESULTS\ENSIGHT\SUMMARY.TXT
ensight-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 31.64

---------- SUM_RESULTS\LIGHT\SUMMARY.TXT
light-07 Weighted Geometric Mean = 41.16

---------- SUM_RESULTS\MAYA\SUMMARY.TXT
maya-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 100.4

---------- SUM_RESULTS\PROE\SUMMARY.TXT
proe-03 Weighted Geometric Mean = 65.16

---------- SUM_RESULTS\SW\SUMMARY.TXT
sw-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 39.73

---------- SUM_RESULTS\UGS\SUMMARY.TXT
ugs-04 Weighted Geometric Mean = 35.62


No one is posting benchmarks of softmodded 8800 and 7900 cos they dont mod.
August 7, 2007 11:12:38 AM

Guy talks how his image quality looks better with softmodded quadro in BF2142. Does that sound sane to you??? People write all kind of stuff on the net.
Rich kidds even buy quadro cards cos they think they are better for gaming.
August 7, 2007 11:23:10 AM

8800gtx softmod to Quadro FX4600 - 07-24-2007, 17:57
Can the G80's be softmodded? I successfully got windows to recognize my card as a Quadro FX 4600 but there has been no improvement in my specview benchmarks. Alot of my pipelines say disabled under status. I checked from 0,32 but half are disabled. Anyway to enable them?

I using the latest forceware drivers for the Quadro FX 4600 card. 97.78

Run All Summary

---------- SUM_RESULTS\3DSMAX\SUMMARY.TXT
3dsmax-03 Weighted Geometric Mean = 17.48

---------- SUM_RESULTS\CATIA\SUMMARY.TXT
catia-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 12.61

---------- SUM_RESULTS\ENSIGHT\SUMMARY.TXT
ensight-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 20.98

---------- SUM_RESULTS\LIGHT\SUMMARY.TXT
light-07 Weighted Geometric Mean = 13.69

---------- SUM_RESULTS\MAYA\SUMMARY.TXT
maya-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 29.28

---------- SUM_RESULTS\PROE\SUMMARY.TXT
proe-03 Weighted Geometric Mean = 23.77

---------- SUM_RESULTS\SW\SUMMARY.TXT
sw-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 12.74

---------- SUM_RESULTS\UGS\SUMMARY.TXT
ugs-04 Weighted Geometric Mean = 8.173 said:
8800gtx softmod to Quadro FX4600 - 07-24-2007, 17:57
Can the G80's be softmodded? I successfully got windows to recognize my card as a Quadro FX 4600 but there has been no improvement in my specview benchmarks. Alot of my pipelines say disabled under status. I checked from 0,32 but half are disabled. Anyway to enable them?

I using the latest forceware drivers for the Quadro FX 4600 card. 97.78

Run All Summary

---------- SUM_RESULTS\3DSMAX\SUMMARY.TXT
3dsmax-03 Weighted Geometric Mean = 17.48

---------- SUM_RESULTS\CATIA\SUMMARY.TXT
catia-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 12.61

---------- SUM_RESULTS\ENSIGHT\SUMMARY.TXT
ensight-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 20.98

---------- SUM_RESULTS\LIGHT\SUMMARY.TXT
light-07 Weighted Geometric Mean = 13.69

---------- SUM_RESULTS\MAYA\SUMMARY.TXT
maya-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 29.28

---------- SUM_RESULTS\PROE\SUMMARY.TXT
proe-03 Weighted Geometric Mean = 23.77

---------- SUM_RESULTS\SW\SUMMARY.TXT
sw-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 12.74

---------- SUM_RESULTS\UGS\SUMMARY.TXT
ugs-04 Weighted Geometric Mean = 8.173


LINK: http://forums.guru3d.com/showthread.php?t=232500
August 7, 2007 11:54:27 AM

m_morgan said:
Dual AMD® Opteron™ 2222 3.0 GHz 1000 MHz FSB w/ 2MB Cache & Dual Core
Looking at the AMD workstation offering from alienware.co.uk/.com
Overkill, or should I look at a quad-core system?
You actually did spec out a opteron 4 core (2x2) system, right?.
If top rendering performance is the criteria compare the Xeon 5160 3.0Ghz (dual core) and Xeon X5355 2.66Ghz (quad core) vs Opteron 2222 3.0Ghz. Generally the Xeon perform better in 3D rendering than Opteron and its especially true for applications that are SSE2 optimized. The Xeon X5355 is the more powerful rendering CPU. (I couldn't find out if Catia V5 and Vericut Verification are SSE2 (or higher) optimized.) http://www.anandtech.com/IT/showdoc.aspx?i=3057&p=12
The video/HHD/RAM choices you picked are fine. Stick with the Quadro FX 3500 video card.
August 7, 2007 1:04:14 PM

Yeah I was looking at the opteron 4 core (2 dual core chips), but I was looking at benchmarks of the opterons vs. the Xeons, and it seemed that the opterons were a little better overall, but not by much.

I figured that if I was only running one or two really demanding applications, I'd max out one or two 2.6GHz cores, whereas if I had 4 3.0GHz cores, it might be faster?
August 7, 2007 8:03:33 PM

Two Opteron Dualcore 2222SE scored Peak SPECint_rate2006 52.1
running SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 SP3
vs.
Two Dualcore Intel 5160 chips scored Peak SPECint_rate2006 54.9
running Windows XP Professional x64 Edition on Dell Precision 690
http://www.spec.org/cpu2006/results/res2007q1/cpu2006-20070126-00311.html

It's OK to check the benchmarks like SPECint_rate2006 - as long as you understand it doesnt mean one CPU or the other will run YOUR programs faster or slower. And also remember most benchmarks run many different testing slices most of which have nothing to do with how your programs of interest actually run in the real world.

It's much better to find a similar type program and it's benchmarks. (from the link I posted earlier)

August 7, 2007 9:35:12 PM

I can't absolutely confirm that Catia is a SSE2 optimized but it looks like it should be based on what types of support it gets from the Quadro video card. Thats a huge advantage for the Xeon's as the current Opterson's dont support SSE2 nearly as well as the Xeons. (The Opteron Barcelona CPUs will have better support for SSE2 and should outperform the Xeons but it will be a bit before the faster Barcelona's hit the market).

The 2222SE is a good CPU. The 3.0 GHz Opteron 2222SE can usually outpace Intel’s Xeon 5160 in three server-specific benchmarks (SPECint_rate_2006, SPECint_rate2006, SPECompM2001). If you were running a database server or web server the 2222SE would be the better choice.

The one benchmark that is of MOST interest to you is the SPECviewperf and its difficult to find heads up benchmarks. The Xeon SSE2 advantage is the reason the 5160 beats the even the Opteron 2224SE in the 3D rendering benchmarks above.

SPECviewperf offers users the ability to compare the performance of systems running in higher-quality graphics modes and using full-scene anti-aliasing. The product measures how effectively graphics subsystems scale when running multithreaded graphics content under the OpenGL application programming interface.
Current viewsets represent graphics functionality in 3ds Max, CATIA, EnSight, Maya, Pro/ENGINEER, SolidWorks, UGS NX and UGS Teamcenter Visualization Mockup.


You didn't mention what operating system you're considering but I'm guessing its WinXP Pro64?
August 8, 2007 2:20:11 PM

Yes just running WinXP Pro64.

Been thinking, and looking around everywhere, even at high spec gaming machines.

If I can do the soft-mod on the 8800gtx, and convert it to the Quadro 4600, would I be insane to buy an alienware Area-51 ALX, with watercooled, overclocked 3.33GHz Quad core processor? Is it even worth going for a high spec gaming machine, when I'll be doing high end CAD?

Thanks for all your help guys! WR2, you're a life saver!
August 8, 2007 3:15:38 PM

rammedstein said:
3500 pounds? thats is alot of money, just build a quad core machine with 2x 8800gtxs, use riva tuner to convert them to quadros, put 4-8gb of ram in it (4x1gb/4x2gb) and use vista ultimate 64bit, then make a big raid 0+1 setup

you don't want software raid.
August 8, 2007 3:18:52 PM

WR2 said:
You actually did spec out a opteron 4 core (2x2) system, right?.
If top rendering performance is the criteria compare the Xeon 5160 3.0Ghz (dual core) and Xeon X5355 2.66Ghz (quad core) vs Opteron 2222 3.0Ghz. Generally the Xeon perform better in 3D rendering than Opteron and its especially true for applications that are SSE2 optimized. The Xeon X5355 is the more powerful rendering CPU. (I couldn't find out if Catia V5 and Vericut Verification are SSE2 (or higher) optimized.) http://www.anandtech.com/IT/showdoc.aspx?i=3057&p=12
The video/HHD/RAM choices you picked are fine. Stick with the Quadro FX 3500 video card.

and the Xeons use much higher cost FB-DIMMS and the MB have very few pci-e lanes.
August 8, 2007 4:18:00 PM

Given that the street price for 8800GTX is $500US and the Quadro FX 4600 is $1500US I can see why that approach looks attractive. But I can't find a whole lot of info on the success rate of those brave enough to try it.
Keeping in mind its not your own £3500 I'm not sure taking a gamble for a 8800GTX softmod is a good idea unless you can find lots of success stories from those who softmodded 8800GTXs in the CAD/CAM community. And get the boss to sign off on the gamble.

The AW 3.3Ghz QX6850 will have more computational muscle than the Xeon X5355 (2.66GHz) but less than a possible dual Xeon X5355 (8 cores). Unless your Catia V5 & Vericut Verification is optimized for SLI the extra 8800GTX won't provide any extra CPU processing speed. (Although it might be a bit easier to try an FX 4600 soft mod with a spare 8800GTX). If you wont need a CPU upgrade and the softmod 8800GTX turns out to be a viable option for you than the AW options isn't all that insane.

(1) If you use your programs mostly for heavy computational workload and average CAD/CAM display requirements it would give you more performance going with extra cores over a higher-end Quadro. (2) If your work product is average CAD/CAM computational workload and very graphics intense in display a higher-end Quadro starts to make more sense. (3) If its more of a balanced workload a balanced system works best with your budget.

Keeping in mind that my requirements fall in the 1st category here is what I'd choose for that £3500.
Dell Precision 690 Advanced workstation with Intel 5000 series motherboard. XP Pro 64bit
One Quad Core Xeon X5355 (2.66GHz,1333 MHz,2x4MB Cache) (future upgrade to 8 cores possible)
4GB DDR2 667 Quad Channel FBD Memory (4x1GB) and 2 300GB 10K hard drives (not using any RAID)
nVidia Quadro FX3500 Graphics Card
Dell UltraSharp™ 2407WFP 24" Wide LCD Monitor and Dell UltraSharp™ 2007WFP 20" Wide Monitor
and an upgraded ergo keyboard and mouse.
August 8, 2007 4:31:17 PM

OK.....the Alienware MJ-12 8550i workstation isnt a bad option either. Same Intel 5000 series motherboard.
Xeon 5355 2.66 GHz 1333 MHz FSB with 8MB Cache & Quad Core XP Pro 64bit
NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500 PCI-E 512MB DDR3
4GB DDR2 FBDIMM 667MHz - 4 x 1024MB
Single 250GB Serial ATA 3Gb/s Hard Drive
Two 19" Dell UltraSharp 1907FP LCD Monitor
for under £3,500
Ohhhhhhhhhhhh! Decisions-Decisions-Decisions! :pt1cable: 
August 8, 2007 4:58:44 PM

well , i rather build a new rig instead of buying a complete system
August 14, 2007 9:05:17 AM

ARRRGGGGHHHH!!! Decisions Decisions!!!

If I was looking for the PC myself, I'd build it from scratch for £2500 and pocket the £1000, but since it's for work, it has to have a big fat warranty on it!

Got word from Catia and Vericut that their applications ARE NOT multi-thread apps, but that they can use the multi-threading on Windows XP to run the main application, and then batch programs (Not what I want). For example, I can be modelling, using one core, while another core is rendering another part.

Tempted by the soft-mod for the 8800, but I'm not sure it will work perfectly for the GTX card in particular. Haven't found any success stories for that card.

---------------

Keeping in mind that my requirements fall in the 1st category here is what I'd choose for that £3500.
Dell Precision 690 Advanced workstation with Intel 5000 series motherboard. XP Pro 64bit
One Quad Core Xeon X5355 (2.66GHz,1333 MHz,2x4MB Cache) (future upgrade to 8 cores possible)
4GB DDR2 667 Quad Channel FBD Memory (4x1GB) and 2 300GB 10K hard drives (not using any RAID)
nVidia Quadro FX3500 Graphics Card
Dell UltraSharp™ 2407WFP 24" Wide LCD Monitor and Dell UltraSharp™ 2007WFP 20" Wide Monitor
and an upgraded ergo keyboard and mouse.

-----------------------

Didn't realise I could upgrade to 8 cores from that spec, so I think I'll go for something along those lines.

WR2, thankyou so so much for all the help!
!