Home > Operating Systems, Processors, Windows, Workstations > Hardware for the CAD Professional, Part 3: Processors

Hardware for the CAD Professional, Part 3: Processors

In part 1 of Hardware for the CAD Professional, we reviewed the basics of system requirements. In part 2, we defined some commonly used terms. Now let’s look at processors in your hardware and how they can affect your workflow.

Processors, Cores and Background Processing

The heart of your system is the processor, and these days that processor might beat with more than one heart. While the headlong advance towards higher and higher processor clock speeds has waned somewhat, multi-core processors have become much more sophisticated. At the same time, more applications are supporting multi-threading, including the most capable design and visualization software packages. The move to 64-bit operating systems has been fueled by the ready accessibility of processors that will run such software and take advantage of its support for a larger memory model.

Active graph of multiple cores in application

Active graph of multiple cores in application

Watching an active graph of multiple cores in application is informative in that you can see tasks being assigned to and finished by each of the operative cores. Some applications, including AutoCAD, use some multitasking if multiple processors are available, but only in limited ways — for example in handling the interface and on-screen display. Visualization products such as Autodesk’s 3ds Max make more extensive use of multitasking and multicore processors. Often the cache size of the chip, bus speed, and dual vs. triple channel memory has a greater impact on performance than an application’s multitasking abilities — at least at present.

What Should I Buy?

Since multitasking and 64-bit operating systems have become the norm for CAD and Visualization software, it certainly makes sense to have one or more multi-core processors in any new system that you anticipate purchasing. When it’s time for me to purchase a new system, I tend to get whatever is the fastest and most capable processor available at the time of purchase. This ensures that I have a speedy system at present and that it won’t be obsolete for a longer period of time. As I see it, you can put in the money now and reap the benefits, rather than paying sooner when your system becomes too slow for the work you’re doing.

Before purchasing a new workstation, do your research on processors — what’s coming, when it’s expected, and what features and benefits does it bring. Also have a look at the socket it uses — will it allow upgrading processors in the future without having to purchase a new motherboard?

Next, how much RAM do you need?

Author: Ron LaFon

  1. Alex Lazowick
    February 9, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    What is the best Processor I can buy to Run AutoCad Civil 3D 2010

  2. Alex Lazowick
    February 10, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Yea I see the minmum but if I’m buying a new computer and want to buy the Best/Fast Processor, what would that be. I found this site what do you think?
    #1 – Intel Core i7-3960X @ 3.30GHz
    #33 – Intel Xeon X5650 @ 2.67GHz (What I have now)


    • February 13, 2012 at 6:18 pm

      We always go with the fastest processor. It’s generally fair to say that if CAD modeling chews up more hours than anything else in your day, you should allocate more of your workstation budget to buying a fast processor.

  3. Alex Lazowick
    February 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    So you agree that the Intel Core i7-3960X @ 3.30GHz is the #1 processor I can buy for a standard desktop computer to run AutoCAD Civil 3D 2010?

    • February 13, 2012 at 6:35 pm

      We haven’t run any comparison tests on those two processors. However, we’ve also never heard anyone complain that their processor was way too fast.

      • Alex Lazowick
        February 13, 2012 at 6:41 pm

        I guess I will trust that website and buy it and let everyone know how it is. We are doing some intensive 3D design work and I waste a lot of time with my current processor; which is a great processor but for a huge project all in 3D, it just can’t keep up. Thank you for your time and help.

      • February 13, 2012 at 7:02 pm

        With 3D, we’d definitely go with the fastest processor you can afford. Report back and let us know how it goes!

  4. E.D.S.
    December 11, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    I utilize my reseller/partner for these questions. Even though the Mfg. has a spec. and certified workstations, my experience has taught me to go back and get them to do the legwork. Most times, if they are large enough, they have a contact at the mfg. that will configure a system to meet your current and longer range needs. If they are good they will give you at least two or three options and pricepoints. In some cases their prices are much better than if you went direct. Not all software utilizes the newest of technologies. Sometimes you can overspend for very little for results. Again, if your application is hard drive intensive or if you use a vault there may be hardware considerations. Autodesk used to publish their test results and benchmarks for the certified systems using their applications. I use a Dell T7500.

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