Hardware for the CAD Professional, Part 7: Graphics Cards
So far in this series, we’ve discussed system requirements, commonly used terms, processors, RAM, hard drives and connectivity. The next two installments of Hardware for the CAD Professional will talk about graphics cards.
Three General Categories for Graphics Cards
The graphic card you select for your workstation can either make or break all your carefully chosen workstation configuration options, thus this topic gets two entries in this blog. As with the three categories of workstations that I outlined earlier, graphics cards also fall into three general categories based on their capabilities. While you could certainly configure what is generally considered an entry level workstation with a high-end graphics card, it would make no sense economically — some of these high end graphics card can be comparably priced to the workstation itself. Also, to really perform at its best, the high-end graphics card needs robust system support as found in higher-end workstations.
As you go from entry level graphics cards up to high-end graphics cards, you not only gain in the amount of video RAM on the card, you also gain in processing power, capabilities and often connectivity options. Vendors typically offer a range of graphics card that are supported by unified software drivers for commonly used operating systems, so that no matter which card you use, the drivers will work in the same fashion.
Power, Fan System, Vents
When configuring your workstation, there are a couple of important considerations that I’ve waited until now to discuss. First involves the capacity of the power supply on your workstation. As graphics card increase in power, so do their demands for electricity, so if you’re configuring a workstation that will use such a card, you’ll want to be sure that you’re configuring the base system with a power supply that has sufficient wattage. Be aware also that such a graphics card will generate a significant amount of heat, so you will want to be sure that the fan system and vents for the workstation are adequate.
High-end graphics cards generally require addition electrical feeds from within the system — these are generally available, though other options you choose for your workstation might also make use of such connections.
A final configuration consideration is the width of high-end graphics cards. While they actually only use one electrical slot in the system, the width of the graphics card typically makes the adjacent slot unusable by any other devices. Plan on having two adjacent slots available if you expect to be using one of these more powerful graphics cards.
Once installed, then the next consideration is software drivers.
Author: Ron LaFon