Archive

Archive for the ‘Processors’ Category

The Best Hardware Configuration for AutoCAD 2013, Part 4: Processor, Video Card, RAM and Hard Drive

October 31, 2012 23 comments

So far in this series, I’ve discussed how to determine if your hardware can handle the AutoCAD 2013 upgrade, how to outline your current and future needs and how to find new hardware if you decide it’s time for a new system. If you are looking for new hardware for AutoCAD 2013, here’s some specific components to look at closely.

The Processor and Video Card

Make sure to focus on the processor and the video card when looking for a new workstation. Especially the processor. This component is the most difficult to upgrade latter on.

A video card is easy enough to change out, but they can be very expensive. If you are working with 3D models and create a lot of renderings, make sure to get a good video card. “Regular” 2D CAD work will also require a good video card. Go through Autodesk’s list. Don’t fall into the trap of getting a gaming card. CAD requirements of video cards are very different from game requirements. CAD is a precision tool. Games are not. Games need speed. CAD needs accuracy.

RAM

RAM is another component that is easy to update later. Make sure you get ECC RAM (Error-Correcting Code Memory). One of the requirements of being a “workstation” is having ECC memory. This type of computer memory can detect and automatically fix common types of data corruption. That means fewer crashes while working in your CAD software!

Each motherboard will carry a certain amount of slots for the RAM chips. Get that number of chips. Each slot has a channel in which it can pump data through. If a slot is empty, then that channel isn’t being used.

Hard Drive

What are you going to do for internal storage? I’m talking about the hard drive. Workstations typically have support for RAID, or Redundant Array of Independent Disks. Essentially this type of storage system has multiple hard drives, each mirroring the other. If one fails the workstation still works because the second drive is still running. It’s automatic and can keep your CAD users working. Of course this will increase cost, but it could prolong the life of your workstation.

How much storage space is enough? If you are storing data files, images, videos, etc. on your network instead of your workstation, then you shouldn’t need much storage. 500 GB should be enough for most systems, probably even 350 GB. Make a list of all of the software programs a user needs, include the operating system, and add up the space needed. Leave room for growth and there you go.

The price of hard drives is always dropping, and the amount of storage space on each drive is always increasing. Getting a little less storage capacity could help reduce cost.

Author: Brian Benton

Recommended Hardware for CAD, Part 1: AutoCAD, Inventor, Revit and Other Autodesk Applications

September 19, 2012 3 comments

Here at CADspeed, we get a lot of questions about buying new hardware for CAD applications. While the answer to, “What CAD hardware should I buy?” varies widely based on the person asking the question, it always starts in the same place: with the requirements of the CAD software you plan to use.

Yet a list of minimum requirements can be, well, only minimally helpful in the quest for the right CAD workstation. Most CAD users need hardware that will not just meet the minimum specifications, but enable them to maximize their productivity.

CAD software developers know this, and they have a vested interest in making sure you get the bang for your software buck. So this series will explore recommended hardware for a variety of common CAD applications from the makers of the applications themselves.

Autodesk

We start this series with Autodesk, creator of 3D design, engineering and entertainment software that includes some of the most commonly used applications in the industry. Autodesk has developed a web site to help users find certified or recommended software for Autodesk applications.

The truth is, however, many CAD users don’t use just one CAD software application. It’s very common to use both AutoCAD and Revit on the same system, for example. The intriguing part of the Autodesk hardware site is you can select multiple products and find the common driver and hardware configurations that will work best for your system.

Autodesk Certified and Recommended Hardware

Select up to three Autodesk products to find the best hardware configuration for you.

Certified vs. Recommended

On the Autodesk website, you’ll see two terms that you need to understand: certified and recommended. “Certified” hardware meets Autodesk’s minimum hardware requirements for the applicable Autodesk software product. At least one configuration (e.g., GPU + driver, or CPU + GPU + RAM + HD + BIOS) has passed tests designed to verify that the hardware supports the product’s features.

“Recommended” hardware meets Autodesk’s recommended system requirements for the applicable Autodesk product. At least one configuration has passed tests designed to verify that the hardware supports the product’s features.

A “Recommended” or “Certified” rating is based on the test results for a graphics card and driver or a complete system. Clicking the link for a card or system will reveal the results of each individual component tests.

Icon Rating Description*

Recommended – Meets Autodesk’s recommended system requirements and has passed all Autodesk certification tests.

Certified – Meets Autodesk’s minimum system requirements and has passed all Autodesk certification tests.
Icon Component Test Results*

Passed – When tested with this configuration, the hardware passed testing.

Passed with issues – When tested with this configuration, the hardware has some minor problems or features that are not supported.

Failed – When tested with this configuration, the hardware does not adequately support the product’s features.

No Results – This configuration has not been tested by the associated product.

* Test results are valid only for the tested combination of hardware and driver. Certified or Recommended status does not guarantee that the graphics hardware will operate acceptably with other drivers or configurations. Driver-specific test results are available for some hardware and can be found by clicking on a product name in the Hardware List.

Other Terms to Understand

Before using the Autodesk Certified Hardware site, you should understand a few other common terms to make sure you are getting the right results.

Graphics:

  • Workstation—Graphics hardware designated by the manufacturer as workstation-grade, typically meaning it is designed to work with 3D CAD applications
  • Consumer—Graphics hardware designated by the manufacturer for desktop or gaming level use, typically meaning it is not designed or recommended for use with 3D CAD applications
  • Mobile—Integrated hardware normally found in laptops.

Systems:

  • Workstation Desktop—Desktop system designated by the manufacturer as workstation-grade, typically meaning it is designed to work with 3D CAD applications
  • Workstation Laptop—Laptop designated by the manufacturer as workstation-grade, typically meaning it is designed to work with 3D CAD applications
  • Consumer Desktop—Desktop system designated by the manufacturer for desktop or gaming level use, typically meaning it is not designed or recommended for use with 3D CAD applications
  • Consumer Laptop—Laptop designated by the manufacturer for desktop or gaming level use, typically meaning it is not designed or recommended for use with 3D CAD applications.
  • Tablet—Touch-screen device with integrated components.

The Hardware List page contains only the hardware products that Autodesk has tested for use with certain Autodesk applications. Autodesk tests a variety of hardware, but focuses primarily on hardware the manufacturer has indicated is workstation-grade and designed to work with 3D CAD applications.

Unless otherwise noted, Autodesk hardware certification tests are run on systems containing a single video card with a single monitor attached. Autodesk does not currently run certification tests on systems with multiple graphics cards installed or multiple monitors.

Author: CADspeed Editors

Choose the Right GPU for Your CAD Workstation

September 5, 2012 5 comments

A GPU manages how your computer graphics process and display and, thanks to parallel processing, is typically more efficient than a CPU. The GPUs that are best optimized for professional graphics-intensive applications, such as CAD, design visualization and analysis, are found in workstation caliber AMD FirePro and NVIDIA Quadro graphics cards.

Five Categories of GPUs

Such professional-caliber GPUs come in a variety of flavors for desktop as well as mobile form factors. In the more mature desktop arena, they tend to fall into five categories of add-in cards.

The first category is 2D GPUs. Professional 2D cards can manage some 3D processing, but are not optimized for regular or intensive 3D applications. They generally aren’t well suited for CAD use.

For professional-level CAD work, you’ll want a Quadro or FirePro 3D add-in card. Each of these product lines includes approximately half a dozen models that fall into the remaining four product categories, as defined here by Jon Peddie Research:

  • entry-level: $350 or less
  • mid-range: $350–$950
  • high-end: $950–$1,500
  • ultra high-end: $1,500 or more

There are always exceptions, but most buyers will want to match the performance and capabilities of the GPU with the rest of the system — that is, an entry-caliber card for an entry caliber workstation. Achieving good balance, where each component hits a performance level that is supported by the rest of the system, is the best way to maximize ROI for your workstation purchase and optimize your productivity.

Fortunately, most workstation OEMs today do this work for you, offering a subset of cards from AMD and NVIDIA that best match the capabilities of the model you’ve chosen.

Optimizing GPU Performance

Most graphics cards — and all performance-oriented models — slide into PCI Express x16 slots in the workstation. Graphics cards can be installed in open slots at the factory when ordering your new system, or anytime later if you buy a card off the shelf. A mid-life upgrade of your system with a latest-generation GPU can provide a cost-effective kick, for example if rendering becomes a bottleneck.

And unlike the machine that’s at your desk today, your new workstation (unless it’s a small–form factor model) will likely come equipped with at least two PCI Express x16 slots, able to accommodate two cards. Why would you want two (or more)? One reason is that multi-GPU technologies from NVIDIA (SLI) and AMD (CrossFire) allow the pairing of two cards (rendering alternate frames) to boost performance.

Author: Alex Herrera

Buying a New CAD Workstation? Know Your Software System Requirements

August 30, 2012 3 comments

Where do you begin your quest for the right workstation? This particular hardware search should start with your software.

Let’s be real: Nobody relies on just one application over the course of a day. We’re all bouncing between disparate tasks and windows. But for the majority of CAD professionals, there is one application — or maybe a couple — that consumes the bulk of your hours at the desk. What’s the app that dominates your day? Got it? Now hit the web site of the software developer and find the minimum and recommended system requirements for your killer app. AutoCAD users can find this information at http://usa.autodesk.com/autocad/system-requirements.

Minimum is the Starting Point Only

In most cases, an application’s minimum requirements set an extremely low standard, as the software vendors begrudgingly must address the least common denominator of the installed base. We don’t recommend you follow these guidelines, but it’s worth making a note of the minimum graphics, system memory and CPU requirements. On the other hand, it’s highly likely that any new workstation on the market today will meet or exceed these numbers.

Certified Hardware

More interesting is the list of recommended or certified hardware. For SolidWorks, Dassault Systèmes (as of this writing) specifies a minimum of 1 GB RAM, but suggests 6 GB. Well, if you go with 1 GB, you’ll be sorry — even 6 GB isn’t necessarily the best choice, depending on your budget, and especially given the incredible amount of gigabytes/dollar that can be had today.

Similarly, Autodesk isn’t going to stop you from running a PC gamer graphics card, but the company will tell you which cards are optimized for performance and built for reliability when it comes to supporting AutoCAD or Autodesk Inventor.

Increasingly, the only CAD-certified graphics cards are professional-brand NVIDIA Quadro and AMD FirePro. That’s because software developers have consistently seen the fewest bugs and problems with cards that, like the system overall, have been exhaustively tested and tuned for professional workstation applications. In fact, the major CAD software developers will help you address issues related to running a Quadro or FirePro card, but they dedicate no support cycles to fixing bugs on consumer-class hardware.

Author: Alex Herrera

New Accelerated Processing Units for CAD from AMD

August 15, 2012 1 comment

AMD launched the AMD FirePro A300 Series Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) for entry-level and mainstream desktop workstations. Featuring AMD Eyefinity multi-display technology, the AMD FirePro A300 Series APUs are designed for CAD and media and entertainment (M&E) workflows.

AMD FirePro A300 Series APUs combine CPU and GPU functionality on a single chip to blend workstation performance and application-certified compatibility required to help keep design professionals productive in their work.

“Design professionals demand workstation-class tools that enable productivity and flexibility in their workflow, and the AMD FirePro A300 Series APUs enable workstation integrators and OEMs an exciting new computing platform on which to design and build powerful, entry-level desktop workstation configurations,” said Matt Skynner, corporate vice president and general manager of AMD Graphics.

According to the company, the AMD FirePro A300 Series APUs are the first single-chip processors capable of delivering the workstation-class visual computing performance required for advanced professional design workflows. The introduction of AMD FirePro A300 Series APUs is designed to allow OEMs and workstation integrators (WSIs) greater flexibility, enabling new workstation designs that help save space, are energy efficient, and have low heat and noise levels without compromising true workstation-class performance and reliability.

Performance

AMD FirePro A300 Series APUs were developed for the entry-level and mainstream workstation segments, providing a blend of CPU and GPU performance and industry-leading features to keep design professionals efficient:

  • Support for AMD Eyefinity Technology for enhanced efficiency and immersive, multi-monitor productivity;
  • AMD Turbo Core technology, where CPU and GPU performance are dynamically scaled depending on workload demands, effectively providing a more responsive experience;
  • Support for horizontal display resolutions up to 10,240 x 1600 pixels, enabling large desktop spaces across multiple high-resolution display devices for advanced multitasking;
  • Support for Discrete Compute Offload (DCO), allowing additional compute capability by using discrete AMD FirePro GPUs in parallel with APU graphics for extended GPGPU performance;
  • 30-bit color support to enable image and color fidelity for advanced workflows such as color correction and image processing when using displays capable of 10-bit-per-channel operation;
  • Dedicated UVD (universal video decoder/VCE, or video CODEC engine) media encoding hardware for faster “fixed function” GPU processing of H.264/MPEG4 files and other motion media formats when using compatible software, to free up CPU resources for other tasks.

Pricing and Availability

The AMD FirePro A300 Series APUs will be available in systems from a number of workstation integrators starting in August 2012.

AMD FirePro A300 Series APUs
APU Model TDP CPU Cores CPU Clock (Max/Base) AMD Stream Processors GPU Clock Unlocked
AMD FirePro A300 65W 4 4 GHz / 3.4 GHz 384 760 MHz No
AMD FirePro A320 100W 4 4.2 GHz / 3.8 GHz 384 800 MHz Yes

Author: CADspeed editors

Vectorworks Cloud Services: Reduce CPU Computing Times, Improve Collaboration in 3D Workflows

July 4, 2012 2 comments

When people think of cloud computing, benefits such as convenience and portability often come to mind. After all, the cloud may or may not deliver a faster experience for users of CAD solutions when compared to desktop processing. With this in mind, why then is cloud computing garnering so much attention these days?

It’s simple. The real benefit lies in the significant speed gains that emerge in your workflows. So if you find yourself twiddling your thumbs and monitoring your desktop CPU as it churns away at processing complicated client presentations, a cloud-based workflow could drive some needed improvements.

For example, under normal circumstances, if you want to generate a set of construction documents in PDF form, containing 10, 20 or even hundreds of sheets, sections and details on your local machine, this process can tie up your desktop for a considerable amount of time and lock you out from working. This forced downtime will vary, depending on the complexity of the viewport update and render.

Utilize the cloud, however, and the steps are basically the same, but you gain the benefit of being able to use your desktop during the process. This is because the calculations needed to generate sections, elevations, renderings and Building Information Modeling (BIM) data shift from the desktop to the cloud.

Cloud Services From Vectorworks

To synchronize and compute presentation and construction documents in the cloud, simply drag your Vectorworks file to the Cloud Services Desktop App’s project folder on your CPU, and wait for a connection. The file may reside temporarily in a queue based on load. Next, the remote server processes your file just as your desktop would, and results are automatically downloaded to your desktop or mobile device.

Vectorworks Cloud Services Portal

Cloud servers are very capable from a hardware standpoint, and can manage multiple file instances at once, meaning uploads won’t interrupt your workflows. Additionally, the Vectorworks Cloud Services sync can be automated to occur based on a user-defined schedule —sort of like a “set it and forget it” option.

Vectorworks Cloud Services users have up to 5 GB of storage capacity, and files are transferred over a secure HTTPS connection to and from the cloud, encrypted with AES-256, a U.S. government adopted security standard. Stored files are similarly encrypted. We also use Amazon Web Services for our cloud infrastructure, which enhances reliability and availability by providing redundancy and multiple data centers worldwide. (Read more about cloud security at http://aws.amazon.com/security/).

Leveraging Mobile Devices

Another benefit of the cloud is that it lets people use iOS hardware they already have to be more productive. For example, our cloud product features the Vectorworks Nomad app, which lets users browse through and share their designs from any computer or web-enabled device, such as an iPhone or iPad. So whether you’re at your desk, in a meeting, on the job site, or on vacation, you can view, mark up, share, and synchronize Vectorworks files across your devices and with your colleagues. The app runs on any iPhone or iPad that has iOS v5.0 or later, and an Android version will debut later this year. (The Vectorworks Cloud Services desktop app requires OSX 10.6.8 or newer and Windows XP SP 3, Windows Vista SP 2, or Windows 7.)

Vectorworks Cloud Services

Today’s iOS hardware relies on Wi-Fi and 3G or 4G data networks, which makes them a perfect conduit for communicating files processed in the cloud.  So just imagine the possibilities as these mobile devices become more powerful and as the services to match these capabilities also grow.

Vectorworks Cloud ServicesIn the meantime, CAD software users can take advantage of their iOS hardware to access files in a practical way. And from a project management perspective, it’s all about increasing the efficiency of employees to do more. Embrace cloud services and you’ll make your workflows and your teams more efficient.

Author’s Note: Vectorworks Cloud Services is currently available for free to members of Vectorworks Service Select, a subscription program that provides customers with the latest product releases and updates, as well as priority technical support, and VIP access to downloads and a growing library of on-demand learning tutorials. Visit www.vectorworks.net/cloudservices to learn more.

Author: Jeremy Powell, Director of Product Marketing, Nemetschek Vectorworks, Inc.

Q&A with CADspeed: Hardware Upgrade for 3D Modeling

June 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Editor’s Note: Q&A with CADspeed answers CAD hardware questions from our readers.

Question:

I am the CAD manager for a design group of eight.  We are looking into upgrading our computers to be able to accommodate our 3D modeling needs.  We primarily use AutoCAD and CADWorx for piping and vessel design.  We do not use surfaces or rendering.  My question is, what CPU/GPU combination should I be looking into for high performance orbit/zoom/pan/refresh? Our price point is below $2000 and we would like to get a comparable laptop as well.

Answer from CADspeed Blogger, Alex Herrera:

In general, I’d start with a CPU and GPU of relatively equal footing (i.e. both entry class, both mid-range, etc.) Then, if a lot of time is spent navigating/viewing a static model in real time with good render quality, then you’ll want to look for a higher-end GPU. If more time is spent creating models or rendering with final-frame or publish quality, then focusing on a higher-end CPU would be more appropriate.

Read more on hardware configurations for 3D CAD.

Have a question about your CAD hardware? We’ll try to find the answer. Contact CADspeed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 37 other followers