Why do I need a CAD Workstation for SOLIDWORKS?

SolidBox has become SOLIDWORKS’ go-to for CAD workstations when people call in asking about hardware for SOLIDWORKS. Every week we get calls transferred from Waltham, MA and it’s usually someone wanting to know which NVIDIA GeForce video card to put in his or her computer or whether or not a Microsoft Surface can run SOLIDWORKS adequately (the answers are none and no). The larger question here is why do I need a CAD workstation for SOLIDWORKS? Why can’t I just use a gaming computer or a hybrid tablet? The main two points are video card and CPU.

Engineer Desktop, CAD Workstation for SolidWorksVideo Card Performance in a CAD Workstation

Two big ways of assessing a video card’s performance are frame rate and polygon count. Frame rate is king for gaming. This is why NVIDIA’s gaming line of GeForce cards prioritize frame rate over polygon count. When using SOLIDWORKS, those priorities flip and polygon count becomes the most important. For this reason, SOLIDWORKS does a lot better when the graphical output is processed by an NVIDIA’s Quadro video cards which prioritize polygon count and are, therefore, better suited for CAD. Every SolidBox comes standard with a video card from the NVIDIA Quadro line.

Error-Correcting Code (ECC) RAM in a CAD Workstation

CAD and CAM software push computers in a way that word processors and web browsers don’t. Unfortunately, this means that these software packages can be less stable from the user’s point of view. One feature that can help mitigate this instability is Error-Correcting Code (ECC) RAM. As the name suggests, this type of RAM can detect errors in data and correct them before a system crash occurs. This feature is not available with Intel’s i-series processors, which is why all of the higher end SolidBox workstations feature Xeon processors with ECC RAM.

CPU Cores in a CAD Workstation

Lastly, certain tasks in SOLIDWORKS—specifically simulation and rendering—utilize more processor cores than other programs do. We covered the topic of processor cores in greater detail in our previous article, “SolidBox Laptop – Now with 50% More Cores!”. You won’t find a 14-core processor in a standard consumer-oriented personal computer like you will in our Engineer Desktop L4. On the other hand, most consumer-oriented computers come with 4-core processors, which offer plenty of horsepower for basic computing tasks. Nevertheless, these would not cut the mustard in trying to run a flow simulation or perform a 3D render.

The hard truth is that SOLIDWORKS performs better when installed on a true CAD workstation FOR SOLIDWORKS. It might mean a bit more expense up front. That said, the investment is justified when you account for all the time spent recovering from crashes, watching a spinning dial while SOLIDWORKS is thinking, or just suffering through poor performance on an overmatched, consumer-grade computer.

The Bottom Line Regarding a CAD Workstation for SOLIDWORKS

We think of it this way: SOLIDWORKS is a tool that helps you do your job; and that requires a sizable investment. The CAD Workstation is another tool that helps your primary design tool work at optimum performance. If you’re interested in how SolidBox CAD Workstations stack up against the minimum system requirements, you can review those against our desktop and laptop options.