CAD Manager's Newsletter (#311)

13 Nov, 2013 By: Robert Green

Specifying CAD Workstations, Demystified

Unsure about whether to direct your dollars toward a faster processor or more RAM? Here's one expert's opinion on what to choose for your CAD users.

In the previous edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I made the argument that new workstations are actually a bargain, considering what they can do for your users. I also implored you to become more involved in specifying the workstations your company buys.

Now, I'll share some information that should take the guesswork out of specifying your CAD workstations and help you get the hardware you need to run CAD effectively. Here goes.

Wes Shimanek

An Expert Perspective

I asked Intel Workstation Segment Manager Wes Shimanek to help CAD managers understand how to best configure workstations for their CAD users. Keeping in mind that there are many perspectives on this topic, I think you'll find this information to be very helpful as you undertake future workstation upgrades.

One question I hear a lot has to do with the difference between Intel Core i5/i7 and Intel Xeon processors. Could you give us an idea of when each processor might be appropriate?
Great question; I get that one a lot too. Here is something I want your readers to consider: Professionals do not use personal computers to do design, they use workstations built for professionals. Workstations go through more testing and offer more features that can make a big difference in the speed and outcome of their project.

All of our processors are based on similar microarchitectures. What makes them different is what you surround them with. As an example, our entry-level Intel Xeon processor E3-1200v3 product family is surrounded with more advanced reliability and stability features. That means they are dependable; they will do what you ask them to do and they will probably have less demand for extended support services. Some of these processors also have access to our Intel HD Graphics P4600. Our HD graphics technology for professionals has come a long way in three years [and] now rivals many entry-level $150 discrete add-in cards for certain applications.

More advanced users doing photorealistic imaging and simulation or robust design activities will benefit from our Intel Xeon processor E5-2600v2 product family. These processors will present professionals with a more robust input/output [I/O] system, twice the memory bandwidth, larger caches, and a few more things, but I think you get the picture: These processors are built for demanding users who want to do a lot of work and iterate through more ideas than their peers who are using lesser devices. Read more »

:: CAD Manager's Toolbox

Compare Processor Options

If you're like me, you can never keep track of all the frequency, core, and other processing options that are available when specifying CAD workstations. Sure, you can look at workstation web sites, but it never seems that all the options (such as cache size) are listed in an easy-to-compare format.

In contrast to that experience, I've found a cool tool on the Intel web site that allows for easy comparison shopping of all the company's processor families. It's so easy to navigate that I wish I'd discovered it sooner. Read more »

Do you have a question or tip for the CAD Manager's Newsletter? Send it to me at If I use your tip in the newsletter you'll receive a cool Cadalyst prize!

:: Resources

Additive Manufacturing 101:
Changing the Future of Product Development and Manufacturing

Manufacturing engineers are employing rapid prototyping and 3D printer technologies for applications well beyond concept modeling to now include jigs, fixtures, check gauges, and even as a bridge-to-tooling and low-volume end-use parts. View the webinar »

:: Events

Virtualizing Design Applications
November 19, 2013
Santa Clara, California
This seminar, sponsored by NVIDIA, Dell, Autodesk, and Citrix, will show attendees the top things they need to accelerate deployment and ensure success, including how to access, design, and deliver virtualization solutions. Read more »

Autodesk University 2013
December 3–5, 2013
Las Vegas, Nevada
This annual conference is designed for users of Autodesk software, including architects, engineers, and designers. The event comprises more than 650 classes, networking receptions, and an exhibit hall featuring more than 150 Autodesk authorized developers, solution providers, and strategic partners. Read more »

Luxology MODO for Design Exploration
December 18, 2013
11 a.m. PT
This free, one-hour webinar will show how MODO 701 can enable more exploration of design ideas and help the user make design decisions quickly. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on Are you hosting an event that you would like to include in our calendar? Submit details at least two weeks in advance to

:: What's New at

Win a New Dell Workstation — Submit Your Entry by November 15!
Don't Let IT Limit Your Potential! Submit a short video telling us why you need a new professional workstation and you could win the grand prize: a new Dell Professional Workstation with Microsoft Office Professional 2013! Read more »

Calling All Tipsters: Win a $150 Amazon Gift Card
Your Cadalyst CAD Tips have always been a valuable resource for your fellow CAD users. Now, they can be more valuable to you! Tips selected for publication can now earn a $25 Amazon gift card (for software usage tips and tricks) or $50 Amazon gift card (for Hot Tip Harry LISP tips). And that's not all! Every published tip author will be entered in our new quarterly random drawing for a $150 Amazon gift card. The more tips you submit, the better your chances of winning! The first drawing will be held at the end of the year, so submit your CAD tips now!

IMAGINiT Tricks Tutorial:
It's Your Canvas — Customize the Autodesk Inventor 2014 Interface

Learn how to use the many customization options to streamline your access to frequently used commands. Read more »

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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