CAD Tech News (#28)

15 Oct, 2015 By: Cadalyst Staff

▶ Herrera on Hardware: The Next Generation of Small–Form Factor (SFF) Workstations

Intel releases Skylake processors, triggering the launch of a new round of workstations — including boundary-bending SFF models.

By Alex Herrera

When it comes to the hardware foundation for visual computing applications such as CAD, three suppliers dominate the landscape: Intel, Nvidia, and AMD. The latter two provide accelerated rendering in the form of high-performance graphics processing units (GPUs) — a critical component in the visual computing equation. However, today, it's the products delivered by Intel — namely, processors — that set the pace for successive generations of workstation products.

With the company now virtually the sole supplier of microprocessors (and supporting silicon, including I/O chipsets), it is Intel's schedule of product launches that dictates the rollout of new workstation products from vendors such as HP, Dell, and Lenovo. For two years, the product landscape has been dominated by Intel's Haswell-generation platform, but that's changing with Intel's new Skylake generation of products. Workstation vendors are following the launch with a range of Skylake-based products, including new models and refreshed versions of existing models. Small in physical size, the small–form factor (SFF) workstation has developed a major market presence of late, and vendors are seizing on the Skylake product cycle to introduce new models to cash in.

What Does Skylake Bring to the CAD Workstation Party?

Let's take a brief look at Skylake, and how it surpasses the Haswell generation in what it offers CAD workstation applications. The first round of Skylake processors primarily includes models that combine four CPUs (quad-core) and an improved integrated GPU. The combination is particularly appealing for mobile and entry-level deskside workstations, because the integrated GPU option provides value both in reduced cost (in desksides, especially SFF models) and in low-power graphics for periods of low-demand computing (in mobiles). Read more »

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Cadalyst Contributing Editor Alex Herrera is a consultant focusing on high-performance graphics and workstations.

▶ First Look Review: Velocity Micro ProMagix HD80

Top-notch parts support solid performance of this CAD workstation.

By Randall S. Newton

Velocity Micro is somewhere between a boutique builder of workstations and a high-volume manufacturer. The company is big enough to be stocked by major retailers and to pack a bit of marketing swag in the box — a T-shirt and a book bag, in my case. But it wants you to think of it as one of the little guys, creating hand-built, made-in-the-U.S.A., engineer-tested alternatives to assembly-line workstations. The mix of big and small seems to be working for the company, as it continues to expand its product line and rack up winning reviews — and this review was no exception.

Velocity Micro ProMagix HD80 comes in a full-size aluminum case that helps dissipate heat better than steel or plastic, according to the company. Image courtesy Velocity Micro.
Velocity Micro ProMagix HD80 comes in a full-size aluminum case that helps dissipate heat better than steel or plastic, according to the company. Image courtesy Velocity Micro.

We tested the ProMagix HD80, a single CPU model designed for 3D CAD and media professionals. The HD80 is near the top of the ProMagix line of professional desktop workstations, exceeded only by the dual processor ProMagix HD360MAX (starting at $2,999). The HD80 comes in a custom designed full-size aluminum ATX case, which Velocity Micro says dissipates heat better than steel or plastic. One interesting feature is a top fan, which draws heat up instead of to the side, as in most workstations. "It's letting hot air do what it's always done: rise," says the online configuration page for the HD80. Liquid cooling is a $160 option, one I think necessary for only the most demanding users and environments.

In a summary sent with the workstation, Velocity Micro discusses its use of retail-grade components, stating that "not only are retail-grade parts easier to upgrade and service, their higher quality translates into more power and rock solid stability." The big name brands would counter by saying they specify all components to their demanding standards. I like the retail parts approach Velocity Micro follows, but each approach offers it own advantages. If you are one who likes to get under the hood, a workstation stocked with easy-to-upgrade retail parts is more suited to your style.

A nice touch on this workstation case: USB ports on the top. I frequently need to plug in and unplug my headphones and my external speakers, so having the ports on the top instead of in back (hard to see or reach) or the front (always in the way) seemed like a fine luxury. Read more »

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Randall S. Newton is an independent engineering software industry analyst and journalist.


Video Tip: Keep Track of Your AutoCAD Drawing Time
It's nice to know how much time you've spent on an AutoCAD drawing. It also comes in handy when you want to see how much time someone else spent on a drawing! Watch the video »

HP, Dell Seek to Lure PC Users with Budget-Conscious Workstations
With more and more options in the triple-digit range, customers who have found workstations too expensive in the past may take a second look. Read more »

On-Demand Webinar: Taming Cross-Site CAD/BIM Collaboration
Does your cross-site CAD and BIM workflow buckle under the pressure of collaborating on files and models across geographically dispersed locations? This Panzura-sponsored webinar explains a way that CAD and IT managers have to overcome the challenges of slow networks and poor file control. Watch the video »

HP–Memjet Patent Suit Puts Spotlight on Wide-Format Printing Technology
With two hardware developers grappling over technology patents, what are the ramifications for the marketplace? Read more »

Autodesk Adds Simulation Capabilities to Fusion 360
Linear stress and modal analysis are the first wave in the company's planned rollout, with thermal and fatigue analysis still in the works. Read more »


BIM Forum: VDC for Design Phase Management & Preconstruction
October 20–21, 2015
Orlando, Florida
This conference will focus on how the utilization of virtual design and construction (VDC) techniques in the design and planning phase are ultimately impacting our project outcomes. Read more »

New Scanning Solutions for General Contractors and Construction Managers
October 20, 2015
9 a.m. PT
This webinar from Trimble Buildings will discuss the company's imaging and modeling solutions for use on the construction worksite in a the field-to-BIM workflow. Read more »

AVEVA World Summit 2015
October 20–22, 2015
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
AVEVA's international customer conference will provide users with an opportunity to learn about the company's new developments and share their own experiences. Read more »

ISW: Introduction to Ideate Sticky
October 21, 2015
11:30 a.m. PT
This webinar will introduce Ideate Sticky — a solution to connect non-BIM data from an Excel file into a Revit project. Read more »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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