Workstation build and Software

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    Mike Schrader

    Good morning all!  

    I’m in the process of building a workstation as a surprise present for my wife, but am in need of some practical, technical advice regarding CPU’s with respect to uni/multi-threaded software.  My wife is currently a student so I am doing a budget build to last a couple years until she graduates. 

    I believe the commonly used programs in her dept. are AutoCAD, SketchUp, Revit, and AdobeSuite.  My understanding is that CAD is a fairly unilineal program only relying on a single core in most cases and only utilizes a second in a limited capacity.  Revit, however, from my understanding, can utilize many cores.  

    So my questions.  For a workstation that needs to be fairly versatile, should I focus on computing power, or cores? AMD has the first 8 physical core processor out which has shown to be really adept at 3D modelling but is slow in some single/dual threaded software environments.   Anyone have any experience with the newer AMD FX-8XXX series cpu’s?   Their price is fairly comparable to an intel i5-2500k.    

    I am fairly set on GPU. I am going with the entry level firepro V4800. It shows to be the best value workstation card available.  I apologize if this topic has been touched on before. I searched the forums and didn’t find what I was looking for. Also, I didn’t know if I should post this in gen. discussion or tech.  Tech seemed to be more of a how new tech was being utilized in the field.  



    David Barbarash

    I’d be somewhat wary about the AMD chips. Historically, AMD GPus had issues with some 3D modeling programs, though the built in graphics processing on the new FX series CPUs are pretty interesting (they can be disabled in BIOS if you use a standalone card).

    If you’re looking for a budget build, why spend the money on a workstation level card? I’m willing to bet that unless she gets heavily into advanced 3D modeling (NOT sketchup…) she will never see benefits from the card. I’d suggest a CUDA capable consumer level card instead to save you ~$50.

    AFAIK, none of the programs you’ve mentioned can handle anything more than 4 cores at a time and the majority only use one. Consider an i5/i7/Phenom II build at last years top of the line technology. It will serve her for 2-3 years without noticeable issues (if properly maintained) and allow you to put money towards other more important things in the meantime.

    Just my $.02…

    Jason T. Radice

    I found it much less expensive to purchase a machine than try to build one, and I’ve built most of my old machines for the past 15 years. I could not even come close when trying to match part for part with a mass builder. You used to be able to build a more powerful machine for less than it cost to buy a basic-duty machine, but not anymore. I bought a refurb HP from with an AMD Phenom II Quad Core and 8 gigs of memory pretty cheap, and it works just fine. It was a brand new machine!  And it came with more bells and whistles that I was putting into building a comparible machine. It ended up being several hundred dollars cheaper and more powerful to boot than I could build for a comparible price. I will eventually upgrade the graphics card to something a bit beefier and with more memory, but for CAD and modeling, it works just fine. Unless you need crazy HD rez with stupid frame rates on multiple monitors, just buy one.

    Frank Varro

    I would look at Tons of great advice there, and they do system builds every few months in three price brackets.  What is your total budget looking like? In march they build a $650, a $1250, and a $2600 machine. 

    The productivity comparison (between each and their January builds) is here:,3163-10.html

    I would also look more at the consumer level cards, as you’ll get better bang for your buck, and even if she does get into heavy 3D, a decent consumer card will fit her just fine (I have a GeForce GTX 670 and run Rhino, and 3DS Max with no problems)

    Good Luck!


    This may help you. In the last paragraph the author provides a link to his Amazon list of recommended hardware based on your budget and the level of work you intend to do. Though his reccomendations are based on 3d modeling and rendering, they should be fine for Autocad and 2d work like photoshop. The “Budget 3d Artist” list should be more than enough to meet your wife’s Autocad, SKU and 2d needs.

    Ivy Bridge will come out this year so take that into consideration when you purchase a motherboard…

    Mike Schrader

    Thank you for your reply. That gentleman has a nice comprehensive list. I’ve done some some finagling and the ivy brige i7-3770 came out and looks to provide a significant increase in performance over both the i5-2500k and the fx-8xxx for only a modest increase in price.  As long as I provide enough memory to keep latency low I think it will work well.  I would like to see if folks start using the FX series cpu’s soon.  Thanks again.  

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