In part 1 of Hardware for the CAD Professional, we reviewed the basics of system requirements. Now let’s look at some commonly used terms. We often hear entry level, mid-range, and high-end applied to workstations, without any clear definitions of what these mean and where the borderline between each of these categories lies. It helps to look at what each workstation is going to be best suited to do.
Defining Workstation Categories
- Entry level systems tend to be relatively inexpensive, with the intended use focused on simple drawings, drafting, and 2D work — with minimal, if any, 3D work.
- Mid-range systems are intended to cover a broader range of work, typically have more powerful graphics cards, more RAM, and more horsepower. These are typically production machines designed to produce final work.
- High-end systems are the most powerful of these three divisions, ideal for accommodating complex models, 3D graphics, rendering and visualizations. These more expensive systems are generally allocated to the most experienced users with the most demanding needs.
Time is Money
If you run a benchmark on each of these systems, you’ll find the slowest to be the entry level systems and the fastest being the high-end systems. Said another way, it takes longer to do something on an entry level system and since time translates to money, the most experienced and highly paid personnel typically get the high-end systems that everyone else wants. Time is money, and if an experienced user working on a capable system gets a given piece of work done faster, it means less of the user’s time is used and that the system is freed for other purposes sooner.
While there can be some crossover in these categories — for example, if you put a faster graphics card in an entry level system, you can achieve performance more akin to the mid-range systems. Since this tends to be a fairly costly addition, and since the gains are limited, it’s not typically considered feasible to go this route in order to get enhanced performance. A better option would be to get a more modern system that has more capabilities and faster, multi-core processors. It should be possible to obtain such a system for about the cost of the more advanced graphics cards.
Now in Part 3 of this series, let's look at processors in your system and how they can affect your workflow.
Author: Ron LaFon