Home > Dell Workstations > How Much Should You Spend on a New CAD Workstation? Part 1: Entry-Level Systems

How Much Should You Spend on a New CAD Workstation? Part 1: Entry-Level Systems

November 17, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments
Price Ranges for CAD Workstations

Nearly two-thirds of workstation purchases in Q1 2011 were entry-level systems. (Source: Jon Peddie Research)

Here at CADspeed, we sometimes talk about hardware in general terms, using descriptions like “entry-level” and “high-end” to describe the different categories of computer systems available on the market today.

But what does “high-end” mean when it comes to the dollars in your budget? This post defines those general categories to help our readers understand what CAD workstations cost and how much they are going to have to spend to find a machine that meets their CAD production needs.

The CAD Workstation Marketplace

In tracking the workstation market, Jon Peddie Research breaks workstations into several categories: mobile, low entry desktop, premium entry, mid-range, and high-end. Not surprisingly, the higher the category, the steeper the price.

Entry-level Systems

For a CAD workstation, anything below $2500 is considered to be an entry-level system. Here at CADspeed, we know that the need dictates the hardware. While you obviously need a system that works efficiently with your CAD software, buying a beefy system when you don’t need that level of power is simply wasteful, in terms of both money and efficiency. So depending on your CAD needs, $2,500 or less can buy a nice system in today’s market.

Until recently, the lowest desktop category was entry, plain and simple, composed of high-volume, single-socket machines. But with Intel’s introduction of the Westmere platform generation in 2010, the entry category split into two discernible subtiers: low and premium. Low entry machines are typically minitowers and low-profile, small–form factor machines.

Today’s premium entry system is most often a mini-tower configuration with two PCI Express x16 slots for graphics and perhaps more drive bay capacity. Mini-towers have fewer slots and bays for additional add-in cards and drives.

Small–form factor machines put a real premium on capacity, with perhaps only two drive bays and space for one low-profile PCI Express card for graphics. Small–form factor workstations have found a compelling home in certain installations that don’t necessarily demand maximum performance and where priorities include noise and heat reduction and space optimization. These installations are not typically CAD oriented.

For CAD production, a mini-tower will be a better bet in most cases and will allow for future upgrades of your graphics card, memory, or storage if needed.

Next we’ll describe what you’ll find in mid-range and high-end CAD workstations.

Author: Alex Herrera

Categories: Dell Workstations
  1. November 18, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    I just configured a computer for my engineer friend and we got a high end computer for her for $4,100 dollars. You know that cheap is expensive so I wanted to make sure she got the very best deal and component parts that were available on the market for what she could afford as a beginning engineer. She has room to grow with her experience and she has a computer that will grow right along with her for quite awhile. We got the best deal for what we wanted for her fromt the Xi Computer Company. Other companies don’t offer as good of a choice for the components we wanted. I don’t work for Xi. In fact I am retired but do teach SolidWorks at the College.

  1. November 22, 2011 at 7:41 pm

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