Hardware spec for SolidWorks beginner

I've got a design team who are currently using computers (home made) with Pentium III 700MHz processors and 256Mb.
I'm not a CAD professional, I've just been brought in to sort out the IT
area, and the CAD equipment has come under my remit. The engineers, however, tell me that the kit they're using is too slow - to rotate models, for example, they need to reduce the complexity first, as otherwise it isn't possible in a reasonable amount of time.
To help solve their problem, I need to be able to compare their current equipment with new kit that I'm proposing to buy, as follows;
Dell Precision Workstation 650 (or another Dell, or the Compaq equivalent, if there is any - no other manufacturers are authorised by the IT Department)
2 x Intel Xeon 3.06GHz 2Gb memory
40Gb IDE disk 1, 80Gb IDE disk 2
nVidia QuadroFX500 graphics card
20" Ultrasharp LCD
Gigabit network cards (Design network runs at 100/1000)
Does this specification sound well balanced for SolidWorks? The application is vehicle manufacturing.
Thanks in advance for any help.
--

Doug Dent
Cornwall
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You should compare the fully equipped Dell work station with HP (former Compaq) workstations when fully equipped, since Dell seem prone to have a low starting price, but when you fill it up to your needs the price may well have passed an HP machine, equally equipped. Others may have something to say about balancing one of two expensive processors to serial ATA or SCSI hard drives and/or faster graphics. The old Quadro 750 or higher XGL's seems faster in tests than the new (budget model) Quadro FX500. But an FX 1000 should be faster still. /per

however,
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Hey Doug. .. Heres what I reccomend. . . (I do IT for automation co. - we use PRo-E, Mech Desk, Sld Works)
DUAL CHIP IS NICE BUT WITH THE RIGHT COMPONENTS SINGLE WORKS FINE - I WILL SAY GO AMD - ARCHITECHTURE WORKS BETTER WITH CAD STUFF.
Drives: 2 setups First, Dual 10-20g Scsi Raid 0 or westernDigital Raptor-raid is a must. Second drive: Small ScSI (dont slave it. . . Run it solo ON pci card) This second drive would be ONLY for Virtual Mem - make vm static-hide drive so engineers will not be tempted to use (older 3-5gb scsi will suffice)
Notice all drive are small-Reason? Smaller drive faster read/write.
Memory: 1g ddr400 will work just fine (again tweak your virtual memory)
Video Card;
this is the difficult part but definately NO ATI!!!
I would reccomend WILDCAT III (3dlabs) or nividia QuadroFX 2000
Bottom line - Spend at least 1k on your video card. . . ( video cards have been our single biggest issue in the last 10 years)
also, are you running file server? if not, do so . . . and let the engineers store everything on server. Keep CAD stations clean and lite.
Have FUN!
-Alex

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Currently the Opteron 246 systems are the record-setters for the SW benchmark. The comparison I saw did not include Xeon processors though. Anyway, I don't think Dell or Compaq sell anything but Intel. The Xeon porcessor is not significantly faster than the P4 on the SW benchmarks. See http://www.specbench.org/gpc/apc.data/specapc_sw2001plus_summary.html
Solidworks does not scale at all to two processors. A second processor won't be needed unless your users need to do analysis or rendering in a separate application in the background, or do other things while waiting for SW. Photoworks does use both processors. See if your people use it.
Make sure the RAM is as fast as possible of course. Stay away from Rambus' high latency. Look for dual channel DDR DRAM on the 800 MHz bus. In my opinion, SW and Windows are not stable unough to warrant ECC RAM, and it's speed penalties. Others may disagree. If the system does not use the registered DIMMs, make sure the memory is installed in two and only two modules for minimum latency. For more, see the discussion of memory here:
http://www.firingsquad.com/hardware/building_gaming_opteron_2003 _Part2/page19.asp
Check the task manager's memory usage when your users have a system under what they would consider maximum load. Get more memory than that, obviously. No rule of thumb has proven effective, since memory usage varies so widely with application, even in the same industry. I seem to be using 15-20% more memory since moving to Sw 2004. You may want to take that into accound if you haven't moved from 2003 yet.
The QuadroFX500 video card should do well. Some might suggest a fast GeforceFX with a SoftQuadro patch on the drivers to save money. I'm guessing you don't want to run unsupported drivers.
If you have room on the desks, a quality 21" CRT will provide better resolution, brightness, etc. for a lot less money.
Money saved on processors and monitors would be best spent on making sure the RAM is optimal and a fast disk subsystem. Asseblies and drawings for a normal project can run into hundreds of MB on disk. Obviously, the faster that dat acan be read into memory, the sooner you people can get to work.
Almost anything is going to be lightning fast compared to your existing machines. Your users must get a lot of web surfing done while waiting on those things.
--
Dale Dunn
Design Engineer
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Dale,
Many thanks for your comprehensive answer. The comments yourself and Per have made have given me some areas to look at in more depth. In particular, I think I'll look at using a SCSI subsystem instead of IDE, and finance that by dropping the second processor. I did think about allocating SolidWorks solely to the second processor, and leaving the first to do the dogsbody tasks such as handling email.
I do want to run a certified graphics system, and I'd rather spend money on graphics cards that really do the job rather than try to push a cheaper card just to save a few quid.
Luckily, the engineers don't do a lot of web surfing. Well, none at all, really - there isn't an internet connection in their office! (thats another item on the long list of things to do!)
Regards,
Doug

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that
I was going to say that SCSI will only pay off if people load a LOT of files every day. I was thinking that it would make sense for someone who is doing a lot of drawings, but for engineers who are working on a few parts each day it would be hard to justify. Then I did a quick estimate of time saved. I think I only spend a few minutes a day, maybe 10 or 15, loading and saving files. If I could save 5 minutes a day by going to a SCSI drive, 235 days a year (3 weeks vacation and 11 holidays), that adds up to 19.6 hours. At $100 an hour fully loaded, that's $1960 a year. That'll easily pay the difference between SCSI and IDE drives. Looking at the Dell prices, Going with a 36GB (15k rpm) and a 73GB SCSI would add $1079 with cable and card. If you figure on 2 years before you replace the drives, you will break even with a labor rate of about $27.50 per hour. I guess I need to ask for SCSI drives next time we replace our boxes!

allocating SolidWorks

SolidWorks is pretty good about letting go every once in a while so that you can read email without undue waiting. I've never felt any need to add a second processor. Other programs, like FEA for example, seem to hang on to the processor like death, making it pretty much impossible to do anything else while the analysis is running.
Jerry Steiger Tripod Data Systems
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Interesting analysis. I've been mulling over the idea of using a striped array of fast SATA drives with a good backup system. I'll have to run some numbers to see if it's worth it. For the way I work, I think I can save a lot more than 5 minutes a day over a single ATA drive. On my current system, it takes me a minimum of 15 minutes to fully load an average drawing, make a minor change to a model of drawing view, export new revision .pdf files, and save. Some weeks that happens several times, and with somebody from the shop on the other end of the phone. So my savings could double!
--
Dale Dunn
Design Engineer
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Doug,
The overall specs look pretty good. You may want to kick up the graphics a notch to an FX10000 though.
HP doesn't market a CAD worthy machine under the Compaq name anymore. All the good stuff is HP.
Dell offers quit a few options as well.
One thing you do need to know is that a well spec'd "white box" machine will out perform the best from HP and Dell for allot less $. It will be just as reliable too.
The big boys compete on price, so they tend to go the cheapest route. Mother board makers like Supermicro, Asus, and Gigabyte, compete on performance (IO). All three of these companies use first quality components. We have several Supermicro servers that have been running day and night for years with zero downtime. Our workstations are Supermicro and ASUS, again zero problems, and very fast.
Regards
Mark

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I agree with the above posts.
Also, use Windows XP Pro.
Best Regards, Devon T. Sowell www.3-ddesignsolutions.com
I've got a design team who are currently using computers (home made) with<BR>&gt; Pentium III 700MHz processors and 256Mb.<BR>&gt;<BR>&gt; I'm not a CAD professional, I've just been brought in to sort out the IT<BR>&gt; area, and the CAD equipment has come under my remit. The engineers,<BR>however,<BR>&gt; tell me that the kit they're using is too slow - to rotate models, for<BR>&gt; example, they need to reduce the complexity first, as otherwise it isn't<BR>&gt; possible in a reasonable amount of time.<BR>&gt;<BR>&gt; To help solve their problem, I need to be able to compare their current<BR>&gt; equipment with new kit that I'm proposing to buy, as follows;<BR>&gt;<BR>&gt; Dell Precision Workstation 650 (or another Dell, or the Compaq equivalent,<BR>&gt; if there is any - no other manufacturers are authorised by the IT<BR>&gt; Department)<BR>&gt;<BR>&gt; 2 x Intel Xeon 3.06GHz<BR>&gt; 2Gb memory<BR>&gt;<BR>&gt; 40Gb IDE disk 1, 80Gb IDE disk 2<BR>&gt;<BR>&gt; nVidia QuadroFX500 graphics card<BR>&gt;<BR>&gt; 20" Ultrasharp LCD<BR>&gt;<BR>&gt; Gigabit network cards (Design network runs at 100/1000)<BR>&gt;<BR>&gt; Does this specification sound well balanced for SolidWorks? The<BR>application<BR>&gt; is vehicle manufacturing.<BR>&gt;<BR>&gt; Thanks in advance for any help.<BR>&gt;<BR>&gt; --<BR>&gt;<BR>&gt; Doug Dent<BR>&gt; Cornwall<BR>&gt; UK<BR>&gt;<BR>&gt;<BR><BR></BLOCKQUOTE></BODY></HTML>
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