We’re talking about remote graphics in this series. We’ve outlined the potential benefits for CAD users, and now we’re going to get more specific.
The Remote Graphics 4:1 Advantage
Many companies are looking for ways to cut back on their IT spend and want to purchase hardware and software solutions that allowed them to do more with less. By implementing a remote graphics solution that is capable of supporting more than one user on zero clients, that’s fewer workstations and graphic cards you have to buy and support.
The FirePro RG220 Remote Graphics card for example, supports hardware-accelerated PCoIP compression and is capable of supporting up to four users on thin clients with a single professional graphics card and at least one quad-core CPU server running the Parallels Workstation Extreme 4.0 hypervisor.
At each users desk, in addition to keyboard, display and mouse, there is just a PCoIP-supporting thin or zero client that is mapped to the graphics card. And it doesn’t matter where these four individuals sit (well they do need to be within 100 miles). As long as they have a 10+ MB/sec network connection (sorry your 3G MiFi card won’t do the trick), they can use the remote computing solution. For more complex modeling a 20-50MB connection is recommended (i.e., a standard office Ethernet LAN, Verizon Fios connection, or even my high-speed Comcast line).
Now obviously we aren’t talking about four users manipulating multi-million polygon 3D models and rendering. That can tax a single high-end FirePro or Quadro card. But in many engineering/CAD firms, many users are working on 2D AutoCAD DWG drawings or are working on medium-complexity 3D projects that would generally require the resources of a low-end 3D graphics card like the FirePro V4800.
Next up, we’ll outline the benefits for the heavy-duty 3D CAD user.
Author: Tony DeYoung
There is a growing demand for portability, energy conversation and cost savings in the CAD world — hence the movement to small form factor devices use of the cloud for review and commenting. But there still remains the need for complex 3D graphics, security and high performance computation. Hence killer workstations and professional graphics cards like the FirePro or Quadro.
So how do you get the best of both? Is it even possible and under what conditions? This thought was exciting to me as I read all of the press releases talking about new remote graphics solutions tapping into professional workstation graphics cards. So I decided to do some research beyond the marketing brochures in order to find out what is real today for remote graphics as a high performance and viable solution for professional CAD firms.
What is Remote Graphics for CAD?
In a nutshell remote graphics is the ability to have a full CAD computing experience — with display, keyboard and mouse — but the actual 2D/3D computing is done on a device that sits in the data center. The experience can be virtually (no pun intended) equivalent to a regular desktop workstation. In fact if you just sat down and started doing some basic CATIA work on one of these systems, you probably wouldn’t realize the workstation was missing from your desk until you went to power off the system, charge your phone or save files to a USB thumb drive.
When Would You Really Want/Benefit from Remote Graphics?
If you are truly a 3D power user or if money, desktop space, green-ness and security are total non-issues for you, then don’t even think about remote graphics. It is not for you.
But as a CTO or IT manager responsible for outfitting several employees who work on less complex designs and models, or outfitting employees/contractors working on sensitive projects (at any level of complexity), current remote graphics solutions can help to:
- Support more CAD employees with less equipment
- Keep security tight on sensitive 3D/2D CAD projects
- Reduce time spent servicing and managing systems
- Reduce power and cooling costs
Sounds interesting, huh? Next we’ll discuss these benefits in more detail.
Author: Tony DeYoung
Since early August, Cadalyst.com has been running a poll asking users, “What type of computer do you use primarily for CAD-related work?” As this post went live, 905 people had voted.
As every user knows, CAD software isn’t your standard PC software. It takes some horsepower to work with these heavy-duty programs. Add 3D rendering, design analysis, or other high-end tools, and you’ve got to have a machine with some muscle behind it. So we aren’t too surprised that our poll results show that desktop professional workstations are, so far, the most common among our readership (37%). The standard desktop PC is a close second (35%).
Mobile workstations (11%) and standard PC notebooks (8%) are making a respectable showing in our poll. Mobile computers offer a great deal of flexibility, especially for those who travel, and in recent years have evolved to offer power that’s comparable to that of a desktop system. However, that mobility comes at a price. Whether opting for a mobile workstation or standard PC notebook, the user can expect to pay a premium for mobility. This may be the greatest factor behind most companies’ decisions to opt for desktop systems.
Last, but just as intriguing, is the number of Mac users (7%) who have responded. Mac OS owns about 10.7% of overall PC market share as of summer 2011, according to research firm Gartner. However, fewer Mac-based software solutions are available for the Mac user vs. the PC user — in fact, AutoCAD for Mac was absent from the market for nearly two decades until its reintroduction
last year — which likely explains the nearly 4% lower adoption rate indicated by our poll. As Mac continues to grow in popularity and software developers continue to introduce more Mac-based CAD products, this number will no doubt increase.
So, what type of computer are you using for CAD? Are you part of the desktop crowd, going mobile, or having a Mac attack? It’s not too late to chime in. Vote today!
Test your powers of prediction and comment below on any hardware trends you see in the CAD world!
Previously we covered the important characteristics to look for when choosing your next CAD display. Here, we finish our discussion with some suggestions about shopping and costs, as well as what you will need to get the best possible image out of your new display.
Seeing is Believing
As the old proverb states, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” If possible, view your potential display up close and personal — before you buy. Ideally, you should view the candidate displays under the same lighting conditions as those of your office. Also, don’t be afraid to bring an 8× magnifying loupe with you. You can learn a lot about a display by examining it at the pixel level. Quality displays will have well-defined, tightly packed groups or rows of red, green, and blue dots. These are the primary colors for the additive color process of light, as opposed to cyan, magenta, and yellow, which are primary for the subtractive color process of pigments. (Hah—I worked in a quick physics lesson.) Lesser displays will look blurry or fuzzy at the pixel level.
What You Should Expect to Pay
What you pay for your display depends on several factors, including the size, quality, and feature set, as well as where you purchase it. At the low end, budget at least $500 for a medium-quality 24″ display. On the other hand, you can easily spend $2,500 for a high-quality 30″ display. Without mentioning vendors or models, if we were in the market today for a CAD display, we would be looking at a good-quality 27″ LED backlight LCD display at a cost of about $1,000. Remember, you are going to be spending a lot of time with your choice of display, spend the extra money now, so you don’t have regrets later.
Adjusting Your Display
After you have made your decision and have your new display in hand, don’t stop there. Get the most out of your new LCD panel with DisplayMate for Windows ($69; downloaded), an excellent software-based utility for fine-tuning your display. Cadalyst has used DisplayMate, from Sonera Technologies (www.displaymate.com), for all of its monitor reviews since it first earned our Highly Recommended rating in 1995.
This wraps up this series. We hope you find it helpful when you are shopping for a display. In a future blog, we will take a detailed look at DisplayMate for Windows.
Author: Art Liddle
What is the single most important hardware decision for any CAD user? Their choice of display. This is especially true given the short half-life of today’s workstations. You may have to live with your display through two, or even three, different workstation purchases.
Where to Start
First, the biggest factor affecting your choice of display is cost. Please: Do not scrimp on your display budget. If you must cut back on costs, hold off on that extra system memory or hard drive storage (you can upgrade both later).
Second, buy the largest display that fits your budget and quality specifications, as well as workspace. The bare-bones minimum size for even semi-serious CAD work is 24″. If you buy anything smaller, you will regret it every time you execute an extra zoom or pan to get the required view: During the course of a single workday, there might be hundreds of such productivity-killing distractions. We strongly recommend a minimum 27″ display for anyone that works fulltime with CAD.
Third, the transition away from CRT- based displays is complete. Today’s display choices are LCD-based. The newest type of displays, sometimes listed as LED, are really just a type of LCD panel that uses energy-efficient LEDs for the backlight. These present a more pleasing and evenly distributed light to the screen.
Other Things to Consider
Here is a list of other factors, listed roughly by importance, to consider when
shopping for your next display.
- Resolution: For 24″ class displays the maximum resolution should be at least 1920 pixels across horizontally. At the high end, expect 2560 pixels for 30″ displays—see note below about graphics card.
- Brightness: Measured in cd/m2 (candelas per square meter), look for a minimum rating of 250, and preferably 300 and above.
- Contrast: Rating of at least 1000:1 is ideal. (Not to be confused with dynamic contrast, which may be listed as 1,000,000:1 or higher.)
- Response time: Should be no higher than 8ms; shoot for under 6ms. Some high-end displays now claim 2ms response times.
- Viewing angle: At least 170° is reasonable. Newer displays now offer 178°.
- Screen surface: This factor may be more or less important to you, depending on how harsh the light is in your workspace. In general, you will give up some brightness for more glare control.
- Color depth: Today’s minimum of 24bit (16.7 million colors) is fine for most CAD users.
- Color Accuracy: Not essential for most of you, unless you are creating drawings or renderings for publication where it is important to match colors for printing.
- Connection options: Expect at least D-sub and DVI connectors; many new displays now support DisplayPort, the latest video/audio standard.
- Graphics Card: To ensure that you get the most out of your new purchase, double-check that your graphics card handles the display’s maximum resolution and supports its best available connection option.
Author: Art Liddle