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Performance, Reliability Are Top Computer “Must-Haves” for CAD Users

6 Apr, 2017 Sponsored By: Fujitsu and NVIDIA

Cadalyst survey takes temperature of CAD professionals and their companies relative to desktop and mobile CAD computing hardware.

Editor's note: Through a sponsorship by Fujitsu and NVIDIA, Cadalyst brings you this feature, part of a special series of articles designed to educate CAD users and managers about the benefits of professional workstation technology.

An online survey, titled “Market Insights: Computer Hardware for the CAD Workflow,” was conducted in February to better understand the perceptions and experiences of design and engineering professionals and their companies relative to desktop and mobile CAD computing hardware.

Total survey respondents: 981. Due to rounding, percentages may not total 100%.

Conducted by Cadalyst and sponsored by workstation developer Fujitsu, the survey found that CAD workstation users, whether desktop or mobile, value day-to-day performance and reliability to an overwhelming degree. Regarding what they consider “must-have” features for a CAD computer, respondents said:

  • Performance (optimal software support): 93.6%
  • Reliability (lifespan, minimal downtime): 90.7%
  • Good value: 50.6%
  • Discrete graphics card (GPU): 46.6%
  • Good product reviews and ratings: 30.8%
  • Independent software vendor (ISV) certification: 4.6%

The survey also found or confirmed the following:

  • CAD hardware decision-making is a collaborative process that typically involves IT personnel, CAD managers, and CAD users. In the survey, 81% said they have a role in configuring new CAD computers and/or deciding which model to purchase.
  • Companies are favoring smaller form factors. In addition to the known trend of increasing mobile workstation adoption, companies seem to be moving toward smaller desktop computers as work spaces shrink.
  • More than one-fourth of CAD professionals are still using standard PCs in lieu of professional workstations.

Who Is Using Which Type of Computer for CAD?

Computer use among survey respondents broke down as follows:

Mobile workstation users these days seem quite happy with their computer performance, according to the survey. These users (84.2% of which report using an NVIDIA GPU, the world's most advanced professional graphics solution ever created, bringing unprecedented power, performance, and capabilities to professional users) indicate that graphics performance is excellent or good (22.6% and 55.6%, respectively; 78.2% total), and 81.2% total say their mobile workstation compute performance is excellent (37.6%) or good (43.6%).

The NVIDIA Quadro P6000 GPU.

Aside from their primary CAD computing device, 56.5% of mobile workstation, laptop PC, and tablet users call on at least one additional device (such as a secondary computer, tablet, or smartphone) to support the CAD workflow. Among desktop workstation and PC users, 69.8% use at least one such device. Regarding smartphones in particular, 21.6% of all survey respondents report using one to support the CAD workflow (excluding generic tasks such as calling and emailing).

Three out of five companies typically replace CAD computers every 3–4 years, according to the survey. Desktop users are 10% more likely than mobile users to push the refresh cycle to five years or more.

Who Decides Which Computers to Purchase?

More than 80% of respondents indicated having a role in configuring new CAD computers and/or deciding which model to purchase.

Are Graphics Cards Important for CAD?

Respondents were asked to complete the sentence, “I think a professional graphics card (AKA graphics processing unit, or GPU) is ____.” Nearly four out of five respondents overall said GPUs are necessary to support graphics-intensive work (88% of mobile users and 76% desktop). Only 1.5% overall say a GPU is “not beneficial to my work,” and only 4.1% say they are using a consumer-grade graphics card.

Future Technology Adoption

Which technologies are companies using or planning to adopt in the next two years to support the CAD workflow? Workstation users (desktop and mobile) responded as follows: 


"Thank You" Gift Card Recipients

As part of the survey promotion, Cadalyst conducted a random drawing of respondents to be awarded gift cards as a thank you for completing the survey. Selected respondents are as follows:

  • Anne Kemper, Houlton, WI ($500)
  • Keith G., Brookfield, WI ($100)
  • K. Calder ($100)
  • Ken G., Grand Island, NE ($50)
  • Patti Fallin, Henderson, KY ($50)
  • Robert Zipprich, Portland, OR ($50)
  • Mike Stephenson, Solon, OH ($50)
  • Michael Reeves Architect, Bay St. Louis, MS ($50)
  • Mike Tuter, Jefferson City, MO ($50)

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