Best computer for designing?

Hi all-

My Dell laptop has finally croaked and its time to pick up a computer that can service all my industrial design needs. I want this new computer to run CS4 without any hiccups and also be capable of handling CAD software like solidworks or rhino. I’m aiming to go with a desktop this time, more affordable and customizable. Are there any brands that you prefer? What models do you guys use? What should my specs be in regards to hard drive, RAM, processors (dual vs quad?) I’m pretty computer illiterate, please help thanks!

Check out this article:

Dell and HP make solid workstations, but at the end of the day a good homebuilt machine will be just as good.

Hey thanks cyberdemon, good info in that article. Not sure I have the knowledge to build my own desktop, I’ll probably stick with one of the ready mades.

Jro: You can still apply all that info to configuring an out of the box machine from any of the major vendors. Get the fastest CPU you can buy, enough ram, and a good video card, then call it a day.

Dell is coming out with Nehalem-based workstations.
Any of these will do fine.

These are professional workstations taht may cost a bit more.

There are other Core i7-based machines that are in the consumer ranges of Dell, Gateway, and now HP’s lineups.

a custom built desktop PC machine will be the fastest and most affordable solution for you. the performance to cost ratio blows away any premade PCs (HP, Dell, etc) and destroys all Apples, even though I’m a fan of the latter systems.

I recently just built one for my design needs from scratch…

-Intel Core 2 Duo (3 GHz x 2)
-8 GB of DDR2 RAM
-NVIDIA GeForce 9500GT w/512MB Video Card
-2 TB of Hard Disk space
-SoundBlaster Audigy SE Sound Card
-Windows Vista 64-bit
-Intel Motherboard
-easily runs Photoshop CS4 64-bit, Illustrator CS4, iTunes 64-bit, AliasStudio 2009, Showcase 2009, etc)
-Apple aluminum thin keyboard
-32" 720p HDTV widescreen LCD Monitor
-Wacom Intuos3 tablet

Under $700 (minus the monitor and wacom)

Wow, that’s an awesome deal. lusting for a 32" monitor after reading that…

So did you have to research the motherboard, chipset, and all that (and it you did, what did you buy?) That kind of research is why I never build my own…

Taylor: Do you get graphical issues when running showcase on your ground plane shadows? That was a major issue I found but didn’t try jumping between drivers.

You can actually get some pretty good deals on basic Dell systems and then upgrade them yourself. Provides a good base if you don’t already have a desktop. Depending on your starting point it may be one option.

Building yourself can still be a bit of a pain, some motherboards still don’t play nicely with certain components and for a novice this can be a problem to diagnose everything. If you don’t know the difference between RAM speeds, PCI express slots, SATA, SATA 2, etc - it can all be pretty overwhelming.

Just find yourself a good nerd and make them build it for you. :laughing:

I spent a good deal of time working at a major PC manufacturer, and have to say that they tested the bejezzus out of components working together, making suppliers re-work motherboards to make the platforms more stable. It would seem to be really hard to find so many components that work nice with each other, but if you could do it the prices would be phenominal. I was always partial to our cover-sets so half the purchase was to pick up a machine that I thought looked good, but I know there are nice cases out there too

I fully agree with the custom route. There are several companies that do custom builds. Basically just pick the components you need and they will have it ready for you. If all else fails, Im sure you can find a company in your area that will at least help you understand the basics. I think in the computer debate, a little bit of extra research goes a long way and can save you a ton.

Taylor: I had no idea you could run a monitor that size. Im curious about how far you are viewing it? You must have that thing pretty far away. There is an equation based on viewing angle, and I am just wondering if you have experienced eye fatigue? I surely hope not, as someday I hope to be running something that large

720p is actually pretty low res in terms of resolution. You get a big screen, but less actual pixel real estate then a 17" LCD (1280x720 vs 1280x1024).

A 1080p LCD is a pretty good display if you want to do some sofa CAD, but IMO a good set of 2 - 20-24" displays is key. Most real estate and you can get 2 displays for under $500.

The main reason I opted for the 32" 720p HD LCD over two LCD Monitors is because I use this as my home entertainment system as well. The 32" screen sits on top of my desk, behind my desk chair is my couch about 8 feet back. So with the two smaller LCD Monitors I couldn’t watch movies or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Fair enough - I used to do the same with my 50" DLP actually running as a 3rd monitor. Lately though I just use my PC as a media server and actually use the PS3 or Xbox for any on TV media watching.

So here’s a related question (I thought about building my own PC a year ago but got a Macbook to learn OSX and Mac apps):

Where can you find a well-designed case to house your self-built PC? Most of the stuff out there is really over the top, tacky, unrefined, or all of the above.

Check out There is a lot of junk out there, especially if you don’t want to pay much money. There are some fairly traditional but nicely built cases from Lian-Li. All aluminum, typically very high end construction, plus light weight.

Theres also small form factor mini cases if you want a smaller box. Requires a specialized motherboard but most of those machines will comfortably handle a good GPU and other accessories. Just makes upgrading impossible/a nightmare.

My Dell XPS 700 is GIGANTIC, but it’s fairly nicely designed and a pleasure to work in since it’s almost all tool-less with good cable management. Just weighs 90 pounds…

Thanks Cyberdemon. You always have some good advice.

That show is hilarious… I saw it for the first time 2 nights ago and love it. on Hulu too.

I have two 22in monitors and one is lower resolution than the other… I totally prefer the crisp detail myself to a larger screen. I ended up getting a projector for the movie watching… thought I used to use a monitor too. Now a really big monitor with really high resolution, that would be insane…

Though that i know a lot.thanks

The new Core i7 processors gives a lot of processing power. They got 4 cores and can go up to 8 threads so Adobe programs will like that. If you use Maxwell Render you get awesome rendering power with the i7. Core i7 is up there with Xeon processors in the list.

The Core i5 is also nice, can’t go up to 8 threads but got a good price for what you get. IF you want more than 3Gb RAM you need to use a 64-bit operating system, some programs dont come in 64-bit versions but most so it’s usually no problem. But it can be good to check up on that before installing if you use some special program. Most 3D software come in 64 bit versions though.

Get a nice monitor that don’t use a TN panel so you get good colors. The Dell U2410 is a good option.

You can still run most 32 bit software just fine on Windows 64. 64 bit is so old now unless you are using some EXTREMLEY old hardware without drivers it will not be an issue. I have yet to find a piece of software or hardware that I use that has given me an issue in x64 or Windows 7.