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its_cconner
Posts: 52
Registered: ‎02-06-2012
Message 1 of 10 (6,941 Views)

Workstation or consumer desktop for AutoCAD 2013?

6941 Views, 9 Replies
08-15-2012 12:35 PM

The question posed is not the exact question but is simple enough for a subject line. For background we work with mainly 2D and on rare occasion 3D drawings. We are working in a networked office now making use of Vault Pro 2013. I work in the telecommunications field and in charge of keeping track of all the outlets and cable pathway inside and outside hundreds of buildings. I don't want to go into to much detail regarding the poor organization of information prior to my arrival but lets say they really needed a dedicated draftsperson.

 

I was asked to put together a quote for a true workstation since I've been asking for it for two years since I started. The first computer they gave me in 2010 was a P4 with 4 gigs of ram and a stock video card which I quickly bogged down to an unusable state while drafting. They told me they would get me a true workstation and I received a Dell Optiplex 960 SFF. It has a Core2 Duo processor, a 256MB ATI consumer video card, 250GB HD and 8GB ram. While it ran AutoCAD I personally didn't feel it ran it well and at times menus and layers would disappear visually unless I hovered the mouse over the area it should be at and even then not all the time. I was able to upgrade my video card after a year of complaints to a FirePro V3900 because it was the only card I could find that would fit in my Small Form Factor case and while it runs better I will still have issues with my system seeming to lag and menus disappearing but much much less than it had in the past. Of course 3D drawings still slow my machine to a learning to crawl state and I am forced to save after any modification to the drawing just to be safe.

 

Almost to my question..

 

I started to rant, deleted and will try again.. Simply put am I crazy for thinking a ISV certified workstation will work better for AutoCAD over a consumer desktop or not? I put together a system for around $2400 from Dell, the preferred choice of our company, and was told that's out of the question unless it would double my productivity. I tried explaining that while it won't double my productivity a happy employee is more productive but they think I'm trying to pull a fast one simply because they don't use machines like that here. Most of them are MS Office users and nothing more. The machines they use are excellent and should be more than adequate for my use and even then my system is still below what supervisors here have. Is there a website link I can give them that gives them pretty pictures to look at that will help my case?

 

Or can someone recommend a decent Dell machine that will handle 2D and 3D drawings easily at a $1000 price. I've recently submitted another quote for a $1500 machine that works but IMHO feel will be lacking overall. I gave it to my supervisor over a week ago and while he didn't say no he gave me a semi disapproving glance and said I'll have to think about it.

 

Man what I wouldn't give to go back to being a land surveyor again. *sigh*

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entropist
Posts: 125
Registered: ‎01-04-2010
Message 2 of 10 (6,935 Views)

Re: Workstation or consumer desktop for AutoCAD 2013?

08-15-2012 03:20 PM in reply to: its_cconner

Ahh, workstation versus desktop - it's always a can of worms...

 

Personally, I think running a xeon on anything but a server is a waste. The PC industry has changed a lot through the years and there is no longer much difference between a current desktop cpu versus a xeon cpu. Also, autocad is only a single threaded application - so the best cpu is the fastest single core you can find; extra cores will help with running other software in the background.

 

As far as GPU's - I think a gaming oriented card is a great value for general drafting purposes, and most of the workstation cards seem a waste. However -  I do not ever render, and I do almost exclusively 2-D and very little 3-D drawing. The fastest workstation card I have used is old (FX1700). I have worked with gtx series 280 and 670 cards and found them to be far more capable than an outdated workstation card.

 

A newer i5/i7 will run circles around any core2duo. I recently built a new computer for home use - total price just under $1500 - it uses an i5 3570, 16Gb RAM, z77 mobo, gtx670, 240gb ssd, and 1Tb hdd. If you're stuck with Dell - don't let yourself be stuck with their online configurator, call the business division and get a rep to help you, they can often do things that are not on the website.

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dgorsman
Posts: 5,416
Registered: ‎10-12-2006
Message 3 of 10 (6,931 Views)

Re: Workstation or consumer desktop for AutoCAD 2013?

08-15-2012 04:09 PM in reply to: entropist

Check to see if your company has a service deal with Dell, as well, there may be a company rebate or some such, and as mentioned they may have lightly used ones on sale.  As far as pricing, you won't get much of a (brand new) AutoCAD machine from Dell for only $1000.  You might be able to pull that off with a scratch-built system, but only with some serious optimizing.  Good rule of thumb is ~1500 for a basic AutoCAD computer, ~2000 for something thats going to be doing a lot of heavy lifting.

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If you are going to fly by the seat of your pants, expect friction burns.
Adopt. Adapt. Overcome. Or be overcome.
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dgorsman
Posts: 5,416
Registered: ‎10-12-2006
Message 5 of 10 (6,905 Views)

Re: Workstation or consumer desktop for AutoCAD 2013?

08-16-2012 03:31 PM in reply to: pendean

Ugh.  The second to last link gives some opinions which don't hold up, which pretty much sums up a lot of the pro-workstation arguments:

 

Only marginally more expensive?  Where do they shop... and even small savings gets big when multiplied over hundreds of computers.

Workstations last longer (by up to 50 PERCENT?!)?  Even desktops last longer than the hardware replacement cycle.

More horsepower?  Stronger graphics cards?  Not at all, not many CAD programs can use all (or even most...) 8 cores.  And the graphics card is a function of what you buy, not the workstation.  And many programs are getting better about using lower cost gaming cards.

Certified to work with applications?  Maybe, at least with an uncertified video card.  But I haven't been turned away from tech support yet for running AutoCAD on an i7 instead of a Xeon.

Dramatically reduces system crashes due to memory errors?  Nope.  Can't remember the last BSOD I've gotten which *wasn't* my fault (and that was YEARS ago), and memory errors prevented by ECC are next to nothing.

----------------------------------
If you are going to fly by the seat of your pants, expect friction burns.
Adopt. Adapt. Overcome. Or be overcome.
A good question will be halfway to a good answer.


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pendean
Posts: 22,656
Registered: ‎11-06-2003
Message 6 of 10 (6,898 Views)

Re: Workstation or consumer desktop for AutoCAD 2013?

08-17-2012 05:34 AM in reply to: dgorsman

one out of 7 gives you heartburn is not bad: the point is the OP needs to see the discussion is much bigger than this one single forum post can handle. Glad you went through them all yourself, sharing and exposure to other writings is critical to be able to form an opinion on a major purchase as the OP is facing.

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Valued Contributor
its_cconner
Posts: 52
Registered: ‎02-06-2012
Message 7 of 10 (6,892 Views)

Re: Workstation or consumer desktop for AutoCAD 2013?

08-17-2012 07:16 AM in reply to: entropist

"The PC industry has changed a lot through the years and there is no longer much difference between a current desktop cpu versus a xeon cpu."

 

That is only true of the higher end i7's and low end Xeon E5's. An E5 cache is nearly three times that of an i5 and has H/T on pretty much every cpu as compared to only a couple of the i5's. Now while the higher i7's cache, boost, H/T and speed start closing the gap the integration of I/O onto the Xeon chip makes me wonder how well that works in a networked environment such as the one I'm working in.

Valued Contributor
its_cconner
Posts: 52
Registered: ‎02-06-2012
Message 8 of 10 (6,888 Views)

Re: Workstation or consumer desktop for AutoCAD 2013?

08-17-2012 08:20 AM in reply to: dgorsman

@dgorsman Have you had a lot of experience working on both a workstation and consumer PC over several months and see no real difference between the two?

 

I would agree the difference in price is a lot more than the claim made but then again while shopping around a workstation can run a lot less when equipped with the lowest end Xeon, 4GB of ram, the lowest end video card and a 250GB HDD at which point I ask how can a machine like that run AutoCAD well compared to it's more highly equipped consumer model in the same price range. That could come down to the difference in CPU's though as I mentioned above.

 

As for certified and tech support I believe ceritified to be worthwhile when I ask for support since they've done extensive testing with that particular equipment and any trouble you have they've most likely encountered and know why it happens and how to fix it, where alternately with uncertified equipment you can really only use educated quesses on why something's not working and possible ways to fix it.

 

I've not had many "system" crashes but I've experienced many a software crash. Whether that has to do with memory issues, drivers or just an older CPU I don't know but I would prefer to lean on the side of caution.

Distinguished Contributor
entropist
Posts: 125
Registered: ‎01-04-2010
Message 9 of 10 (6,885 Views)

Re: Workstation or consumer desktop for AutoCAD 2013?

08-17-2012 09:04 AM in reply to: its_cconner

Thanks Dean, there are a lot of articles there. One thing that consistently bothers me about these type of articles is a lack of actual testing; I want to see the data, not just hear a bunch of talk.

 

I have seen a test comparing high end workstations rendering times, but they don't include a 'desktop' for comparison sake. I have seen no testing that attempts to simulate day to day drafting usage on any level of system.

 

@Conner - I agree, there are CPUs that are not comparable between the core series and the xeons. As you noted, a bottom end xeon may be better than a low end core-series cpu - but would either be worth having at all...

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dgorsman
Posts: 5,416
Registered: ‎10-12-2006
Message 10 of 10 (6,872 Views)

Re: Workstation or consumer desktop for AutoCAD 2013?

08-17-2012 02:26 PM in reply to: its_cconner

I've been working on several "workstations" (a variety of Xeons) for the past several years, and also desktop PCs (Core2Duo's, first gen i7's).  If there was a wall between me and the hardware stats I could probably suss out the PCs, as they were the slightly zippy ones (3+ GHz vs. 2-point-something on the Xeons).  But most users simply can't tell that level of difference, so it then it comes down to price. 

 

Now a lot of times the comparison being made isn't that fair e.g. comparing a box-store 1-point-something GHz i3 against a mid-range Xeon w/10k HD, more RAM installed, etc. - of course, the workstation is better if a bit more expensive.  But once you start heading into the mid-range gaming rigs (still PCs, just a little bigger, faster, stronger) the performance starts to outpace the workstations for even roughly equivalent cost.  A high-end gamer rig with water cooling, overclocking, tweaked out RAM settings, gaming video card, etc. will compete favorably against a mid-range workstation in performance and a high-end workstation in both price and performance (especially in AutoCAD where straight-line speed is more important than the number of actual or virtual cores).

 

I have *never* seen hardware become an operational issue with AutoCAD.  Hardware conflicts have always been from the usual video card/driver issues, never RAM (ECC or otherwise), hard drive type (RAID, non- RAID, SSD, etc.), Intel vs. Athlon, motherboard, and so on.  The way the hardware and OS interact make it irrelevant from the point of the program.

----------------------------------
If you are going to fly by the seat of your pants, expect friction burns.
Adopt. Adapt. Overcome. Or be overcome.
A good question will be halfway to a good answer.


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