It’s been a while since I wrote a blog on computer hardware for SOLIDWORKS, so I thought it would be good to kick off 2021 with an update. Let’s go through the 4 major components of a CAD workstation, one by one.
The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the heart of any SOLIDWORKS workstation, and the least upgradable (if at all). Therefore, the CPU decision is the most important consideration when buying a new machine. Fortunately, there is an easy way to determine the suitability and performance in SOLIDWORKS core processes, which are single-threaded: CPU single-core performance. Information on single-core performance is readily available on websites such as CPU Benchmarks website. An interesting development in CPU technology in 2021 is the AMD Ryzen Series 5, which beat almost all Intel competitors, albeit by roughly 11% on average, so not a huge amount:
You don’t have to take my word for it. There are numerous places in the SOLIDWORKS forums where Dassault Systèmes personnel discuss the single-threaded nature of much of SOLIDWORKS (especially rebuild).
Graphics are also a critical component of performance and stability for SOLIDWORKS users. If you have a desktop that is up to it otherwise, but need to upgrade graphics, that’s an easy and inexpensive operation; for a laptop, however, graphics are fixed, so it’s best to get it right the first time. So, how do we do that? We get certified graphics for our SOLIDWORKS workstation.
Essentially, there are two graphics product lines that contain products that are either certified or supported by SOLIDWORKS: NVIDIA Quadro, and AMD FirePro. Certified means that DS SOIDWORKS has tested the actual graphics card with the given version of Windows and SOLIDWORKS. Supported means that the cards is still officially supported by DS SOLIDWORKS, even though they are no longer doing certification testing.
The new website design for graphics cards on the SOLIDWORKS website still works as before; you put in specifics, including your exact computer model, if it’s listed. If your exact computer model is not listed, leave that field set to “All” and rely on the graphics card, Windows version and SOLIDWORKS version to see a list of results.
The certified cards for 2021, according to the SOLIDWORKS website as of this writing, are the NVIDIA Quadro P, T, and RTX lines. The supported older cards for 2021 are the NVIDIA Quadro K, M, GP, GV lines, as well as the AMD FirePro line, M4000 and later.
RAM is generally upgradable on laptops as well as desktops, so the caveat here is having the potential capacity to add a suitable amount if your needs change. As a rule, I recommend starting with 64GB of RAM for any new SOLIDWORKS workstation — laptops included. If you are doing very large assemblies or planning to do complex simulation, you might need to add more. How do you know how much you need? Use Windows Task Manager’s Performance tab to see how much RAM is being used on your current machine, and take whatever you highest commit charge number (in the red box below) is when you’re doing you most taxing activity, and add 50% to that to get the RAM level you should have.
This one is easy these days: get an SSD device on the PCIe / M.2 interface, at whatever size you need — at least 512MB.
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