Few software applications are more hardware intensive than CAD. But investing in the right components for the ultimate CAD workstation can be a tricky and rather daunting task, even for experts. Here then are our recommendations for building the best CAD workstation PC.
What is CAD
CAD stands for “Computer Aided Design” and is generally used synonymously for any computer application that creates or drafts 3D or 2D designs, usually for architecture, structural engineering, or interior design. Ever see a mock up of a new skyscraper, ballpark, or house remodel? That was probably done with a CAD software. Autodesk makes the most popular CAD software, called AutoCAD, but others like TurboCAD have similar feature sets. There is also online CAD software like TinkerCAD and freeware solutions like LibreCAD.
Building the best CAD Workstation PC
GPU – Graphics cards are not just for gaming. In fact, the most important component in a CAD workstation is the Graphics card (or GPU) which does most of the heavy lifting during the rendering process. For professional level CAD, we recommend the NVIDIA Quadro P2000 for its combination of processing performance and value. For the most complex renderings and larger budgets, the NVIDIA Quadro P4000 is probably the best choice. It provides double the VRAM and 150% more CUDA processing cores than the P2000, both of which result in better CAD performance.
CPU – The CPU is also a critical component for the fastest possible rendering times. Since most CAD software is not muli-threaded, you’ll see the most bang for your buck investing in a processor with higher core speeds, rather than a larger number of cores. For the money, the 8th gen i7-8700 or i7-8700k are the best investments because of the 4.6GHz and 4.7GHz Turbo speeds they boast respectively. Since Xeon processors usually offer more cores at slower speeds, they’re not what we’d recommend for pure CAD work.
For more information on Xeon vs i7, check out this post.
RAM – CAD design requires lots of memory, so an abundance of fast, reliable RAM is critical to fast and smooth operation. DDR4 is a must and 16GB is a minimum with 32GB more ideal for professional use.
Solid State Drives – With the prices of solid state hard drives today, I would strongly recommend building every PC with one, and that goes double for CAD workstations. The speed benefits (5-6x over 7200 RPM platter drives) are real and impactful, as is the increased reliability. For CAD workstations specifically, NVMe SSD drives like the Samsung 970 Pro are insanely fast for quick boot, shut down, and program launches as well as an overall snappier feel.
Our Most Popular CAD Workstation
Velocity Micro was founded as a PC builder specializing in CAD workstations specifically. We’ve continued with that heritage, now winning 70+ total awards for performance and support (and counting!). For CAD users, our most popular system is the ProMagix HD60, now available in either our mid-size or full chassis and either AMD or Intel processors and fully upgradeable with the components discussed above to meet your specific needs.