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CADspeed -- Optimizing Hardware for CAD Software

Hardware for the CAD Professional, Part 1: Requirements

Posted by cadhardware

Apr 11, 2011 9:57:35 PM

At Cadalyst we often hear questions regarding the hardware end of the equation, particularly about the system requirements to do useful work with the AutoCAD family of products. As a result, I’m starting this series of blog posts on hardware for the CAD professional, with each segment focusing on a specific area such as graphic cards, memory and hard disks.

Base Requirements Are the Starting Point

Users often have a look at the base requirements for their planned design software and plan their system purchase accordingly. For the most part, vendors such as Autodesk provide requirements based on what is considered workable speeds, not what gives the absolute best performance overall. This information makes a good starting point for configuring your workstation, but shouldn’t be thought of as the “perfect” system requirements. These days Autodesk is providing both the requirements for just running AutoCAD, along with an additional set of higher specifications required for systems creating 3D work.

Requirements for 3D Modeling

The additional requirements for 3D modeling (all configurations, 32-bit and 64-bit) include faster and more capable processors, 2GB RAM or more, 2GB of available hard disk space in addition to free space required for installation, and a graphics display adapter capable of at least 1,280 x 1,024 resolution in true color. The graphics card needs to have 128MB or more memory, support for Pixel Shader 3.0 or greater, and Microsoft Direct3D capabilities. On looking at even these more advanced requirements, they seem to be still targeting the minimum rather than the truly useful range.

Best Performance for Your Dollars

My plan is to go through the system component choices you’ll be faced with if you configure a workstation online — what will give you the best performance for your dollars. With technological innovations and higher capacity hardware, this presents a constantly changing target. We all too often receive emails from users who “bought a system that meets the specifications provided” but is still too slow for the kind of work they are doing. All too often the impact of a given system component can negatively impact overall performance. At the same time, it’s possible to make some tweaks to well-performing systems to enhance their capabilities even more.

First, let's define the categories of typical CAD workstations.

Author: Ron LaFon

Topics: Workstations, RAM, Hardware, 32-Bit, Operating Systems, GPU, Video Cards, Operating System, 64-Bit, Windows, CAD

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