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Hardware for the CAD Professional, Part 6: Connectivity

April 20, 2011 3 comments
CAD Hardware Connectivity

Choose a workstation with sufficient connectivity options for longevity.

So far in this series, we’ve discussed system requirements, commonly used terms, processors, RAM and hard drives. This sixth part of the series will cover connectivity.

The modern PC has become an electronic version of Grand Central Station, with connectivity options that add capabilities, allow data storage or transfer, communicates with the world outside, or with another computer on your local network. Choosing a workstation that has sufficient connectivity options may determine the longevity and usefulness of the system you acquire.

Network Connectivity

Network connectivity is standard on modern workstations, allowing you access to the Internet and to other workstations in your local network. A 1GB connection is common, though some workstations also offer WiFi connectivity. Typically your Internet connectivity will come from a network cable attached to a router, a cable modem, or a DSL modem.

USB Ports

It seems that you can hook almost anything to your workstation these days using the flexibility and chaining capabilities of USB. USB v.2 is generally standard, though newer workstations are beginning to incorporate USB v.3 with its “SuperSpeed” connectivity and power management options. USB has largely become the standard way to attach mice, keyboards, digital cameras, external hard drives, thumb drives, scanners and printers, so you want to be certain that you have a number of available USB ports.

USB does allow chaining of devices, but chains have a way of getting unwieldy. Some vendors include an internal USB connector to keep software dongles secure, and most have connections on both front and back of the system. Personal preference here: make sure there are USB ports readily accessible from your sitting position at your workspace — this means a few connections on either the top of high up on the front side of the case.

FireWire

It won’t hurt to have a FireWire connection or two for use with devices that rely upon this connector to function. Also known as a IEEE 1394 High Speed Serial Bus, this connection was originally found on Apple computers, but the broad array of external devices are also useful with PCs using the FireWire port.

eSATA

Most modern workstations also provide an eSATA connection. eSATA is a computer bus interface that’s used to connect host bus adapters to mass storage devices such a hard disk drives and optical drives. It provides a high speed data path for such storage devices.

Next we dive into graphics cards.

Author: Ron LaFon

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