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Good computer for CAD work

  1. May 14, 2012 #1
    Im looking to buy a desktop for some CAD work. I'm an engineering student on the formula SAE team and we design a formula style car on Solidworks, so Solidworks is the main program I would be running and it's what's used mostly by the school. I'd also like to try out a few others like Ansys/Catia, autodesk, etc.

    I want it to be able to use 2 screens, and I've heard for Solidworks I will want about 8 GB of ram but not sure what else to look for.

    I don't want to spend more than 600 on it. I found a couple that looked like potential winners that were towers only for around 520-550 I believe a gateway and an HP. But then I ran across this that I believe is too good to be true. I was looking to spend slightly less for just a tower but this comes with a 23" LED too. Can anyone look over it for me and confirm its a solid desktop for what I will use it for?


    I'm also open to suggestions for my price range. Thanks so much.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 14, 2012 #2


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    Hard to say how good that is with the info provided. Dell is really low on my list due to the fact that I have seen them use two pieces of hardware that don't allow each other to function at full speed (FSB on the CPU much slower than RAM speed, for example). I feel like they use inferior componentents as well and the last Dell I owned was built such that it couldn't be upgraded.

    For CAD work, you will really want an nVidia Quadro GPU. They can't do games but they own CAD.
  4. May 15, 2012 #3


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    You will need 64 bit Windows to access more than ~3.5 Gb of RAM no matter how much you have installed.

    Quadro are very expensive but are specifically produced for CAD. I don't think you will get that included for £600.

    I would prioritise CPU speed, dedicated graphics and HDD speed in that order for Solidworks. If this puts the machine out of your price range I would buy with on board graphics and perhaps look on eBay for a second hand graphics card.
  5. May 15, 2012 #4


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    You can get a low-end Quadro for ~$200 that works fairly well.
  6. May 15, 2012 #5
    As far as graphics is concerned I would be upgrading as soon as I came across the money. Is this dell capable of being upgraded in that way? The other machines I was looking at are these.

    http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olstemplatemapper.jsp?_dyncharset=ISO-8859-1&_dynSessConf=-9160800400383255204&id=pcat17080&type=page&lcn=Computers+%26+Tablets&sc=abComputerSP&st=processingtime%3A%3E1900-01-01&usc=abcat0500000&cp=1&sp=-bestsellingsort+skuid&nrp=58&qp=cabcat0500000%23%230%23%232g0%7E%7Ecabcat0501000%23%230%23%232e%7E%7Ecpcmcat212600050008%23%230%23%231%7E%7Eq4661737433736b753934%7E%7Enf118%7C%7C384742&add_to_pkg=false&pagetype=listing [Broken]


    I researched a little and found the hp had a superior graphics card, but it was half as slow as the gateway. I can spend a little more and just buy the second monitor later, so if you guys know of a computer that is capable out of the box that would be great.

    Also if there is one that is capable but slightly lacking in the graphics area that would be good too cause as soon as I got the extra money I could upgrade to a better card.

    Thanks for the help guys.

    Edit: I found this HP that has almost the same specs as the dell except its 100 dollars difference. It also has the Athlon 650 instead of the 645.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  7. May 15, 2012 #6
  8. May 15, 2012 #7
  9. May 15, 2012 #8
    newegg is great for ordering parts to build your own computer.

    the graphics card is the same on both of those, and it's not very good.
    you aren't putting enough value on the performance benefits of a graphics card.
    ram is necessary for working with 100-part assemblies, but without a decent graphics card, a simple extrude will be a headache

    just out of curiosity, why don't you want to build a computer?
  10. May 15, 2012 #9
    I guess you could say because at the moment, I'm lazy. I don't want to spend time researching/buying individual parts/building. Plus when it comes to building I'd have to research that a bit as I have no background doing that sort of thing. It sounds interesting and I'd like to do it at some point, but right now I just want something solid that can manage for the time being. I don't mind spending the money on a better graphics card later on and installing that, but right now I'm not trying to go all out. It would literally only be a few months till I could upgrade the graphics card.
  11. May 15, 2012 #10


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    Well you won't really find many COTS PCs that run Quadro cards, if any, and if you are building specifically for CAD, you will want a Quadro.
  12. May 15, 2012 #11
    Last edited: May 15, 2012
  13. May 16, 2012 #12
    My 2 cents on this.
    I did the same as you at Uni, Formula SAE, did most of the CAD work at Uni on some OLD dell dual cores (2.2GHz processors) with 512MB graphics cards and 4GB of ram. Now this was in 2009 so of course the software has been grunted up a bit sense then. However, I wouldn't imagine your planning on becoming a full time draftsman or design engineer (going by your handle), so in good conscious cant recommend the money to get a proper CAD computer when it's off your on back and realistically computers are outdated as soon as you buy one.
    I'd highly recommend a mid-range Intel I7 (get one of the over-clockable cores, i.e. reaches up to 3.2-3.6GHz), with a fast read-write hard drive (more than 5600rpm if possible), 8GB of DDR3 or greater RAM. In terms of graphics something from Nvidia released in the last 6 months would be a good idea with 2GB internal RAM. Get something in the newer 6series and you'll be good to go for more than just casual CAD (forgive me if my assumption is wrong), especialy if you get one with multiple outputs i.e. HD and DVI.
    I'd recommend a place to purchase but I'm not familiar with where you are, so I'd suggest going to your local electronics places and shopping around for a couple of hours.
    Finally why not an AMD computer? The newer generation of processors are all based around being lean and green (special power modes etc). Coupled with an ATI graphics card (as they usually are) means they can do some pretty good graphics processing, however they usually fall short of the calculations per second which is where you need the power.
  14. May 16, 2012 #13


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    Have you ever run SolidWorks using a typical "gaming" card like the nVidia 6-series? You need like a top-of-the-line card to get the CAD performance of a bottom-of-the-line Quadro. If his stated purpose really is CAD then the Quadro is the way to go. If he wants to play games and stuff, get one of the general purpose cards.
  15. May 18, 2012 #14
    I don't want to spend more than 600 on the tower right now. Later I will upgrade to a better graphics card. Is the quadro 600 capable of handling my needs? Can anyone recommend a decent tower set up that can manage until I can upgrade the graphics card?
  16. Jun 3, 2012 #15
    Well I ended up buying all components separately, an i5 2500k with 8gb of RAM it's an awesome machine but I would like to complete it with another monitor in the 21-23" range and a decent graphics card. My max spending limit is about 200 on the video card.

    I keep reading mixed reviews on the quadro 600 and firepro v4800, about how some say they're better than a gaming card of the equivalent price and some say the low end quadro and firepros are not worth getting and it'd be better to just stick with the integrated graphics from the processor.

    Does anyone have any personal experience or good advice to give on what to do with my spending limit?

    I appreciate the help.
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