CAD Manager's Q&A: Should I invest in fast computers?

8 Aug, 2007 By: Robert Green

We're using a mixture of AutoCAD and presentation graphics tools and function in a primarily 2D environment. Should we spend the extra money to get high-speed dual-core or quad-core machines, even though we're not using high-end 3D software?

Robert Green replies: Yes! Just because you're not using the most cutting-edge 3D tools doesn't mean your users should be stuck with slow machines.

Here's my brief take on the current hardware situation:

Multicore processors and fast disks really are cheap. The cost of these computing platforms isn't a big barrier anymore, especially when amortized over a two-to-three-year service life. Buying older, single processors just to save a few dollars locks you into old architectures and low throughput. When you buy the new hot rods, be sure to specify RAID 0 disk controllers with two fast disks to almost double your disk drive throughput! CAD users make their machines perform a lot of disk access, so disk speed is a must, and the difference in cost is usually less than $100.

Even 2D software benefits from multicore processors. Software that isn't optimized for multicore machines still runs faster simply because the computer can allocate its processing power more intelligently. AutoCAD users will see background plotting run much faster and won't see their AutoCAD sessions slow down while running background file transfers or other office applications.

You might move to different software soon. What if you decide to do benchmark testing or an evaluation 3D project sometime this year or next? You'll then wish you had multicore machines!

I really believe that buying fast hardware is absolutely worth the moderately higher expense. Let's put it this way: If you can save a $60/hour engineer an hour per week, that adds up to $3000 a year! Wouldn't you spend a few hundred extra dollars to save $3000 a year? I bet your boss would when you explain it that way.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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