desktop Pc advice

Hi everyone

Im looking to get a new desktop PC pretty soon, I’m a student so my budget isnt huge. I’ve been looking at these PCs from Dell, what do you think of them?

I’m going to be running Photoshop, Illustrator, Pro Engineer, Alias and 3DS Max on it.

Is there anything else you would recommend?

Thanks for your help.

Im also looking at this Mesh PC which I’ve hear quite good things about.

If you are planning on running these software you may think about getting a OpenGL video card running on a PCI express x16 motherboard slot. Regular gaming graphics cards may run these software but OpenGl are design to run them. Here are the supported graphic cards:
for ProE

for 3DMax

The Dells are pretty solid machines, I personally run an XPS 700 for my home workstation.

If you’re on a budget I dont think you need to worry about getting a workstation class video card. If you can afford it, then I’d say go for it. Otherwise a good Nvidia card should handle all your apps just fine. I’ve got an Nvidia 7950 GX2 in my machine and I’ve run Alias and Pro E on it without much issue. Max shouldn’t have any problems either.

Outside of that I’d say go with a quad core CPU, single Nvidia graphics card (an 8600 or 8800GT are both solid cards), and 2-3 gigs of ram (any more then that will most likely go unused). Also see if you can get Windows XP instead of Vista.

Thanks for you replies, I was planning on calling Dell tommorrow to see if I can get XP, ive only heard bad things about Vista.

I was looking at the £889 XPS420 on that link, but looking at the slightly cheaper one at £649 the only differences are a Premium chassis on the processor and a 768MB 8800 GTX graphics card as opposed to the 512MB 8800GT card on the cheaper PC. Do you think it would be worth me paying the extra £240 for these differences? Like I said I was looking at the £889 one but if I can save some money then I can eat! lol

Thanks again.

I’m not even sure what “Premium Chassis” means, but I’d imagine its not worth the price difference.

The cheaper configuration will be MORE than adequate. Very good video card, very fast processor, and more than enough ram. Save the money and put it towards a good high res monitor. Dell’s high end 24" display is absolutely fantastic if you can afford it. Their lower end 20/22" displays aren’t bad, but pale in comparison in terms of quality when you compare it with the 24" panel.

Why desktop and not laptop?

I would have loved the flexibility of working whenever/wherever when I was a student.

Thanks Cyberdemon, I’m going to call them later today and see if I can get that with XP

I just prefer working on a desktop than a laptop, I had a laptop in my first year, it actually got stolen from my house so I replaced it with a desktop and just prefer it, working everywhere isnt such a major issue for me and as Im on a budget I can get more for my money with a desktop.

Hi Crutch,

Have a look at the Dell Workstations as they are more tailored towards the programs you’ll be running. (Computers, Monitors & Technology Solutions | Dell UK)

Also have a look at the HP workstations (although these are a little more expensive) -

MCAD magazine sometimes has some good reviews on workstations and software so worth having a look there.

In my experience the premium graphics cards that are designed for the CAD and rendering applications are often faster and more reliable. The Nvidia Quadro FX and ATI Fire GL cards are very good. The Fire GL v3600 card is a good ‘entry level’ card. The main difference with these cards is that they are specifically designed to work with the CAD and rendering packages (ProE, solidworks, 3dsMax) often software drivers are released to optimise the performance and these are updated more regularly as these cards are widely used in professional capacities.
You may well find other graphics cards which will give you the same levels of performance without paying the premium prices, although i couldn’t tell you which ones - sorry.

Working to your budget i would recommend looking at a good core machine (ie good motherboard and chipset - intel’s 5000x has some good reviews) that is easily upgradeable as you go along and when you can afford it.

All you need now is the cintiq screen! :smiley:
Good luck.

Just got off the phone with Dell, apparently due to a licensing issue they cant do Xp on the PC i was looking at, the guy recommend me this instead

said he could upgrade the ram to 3gig and have Xp for £1000 but it seems expensive to me he was really trying to push the sale through and I think he was just trying to sell me a more expensive system.

I’m now looking at this mesh pc

it comes with 2x 256MB nVIDIA GeForce 8500 GT - SLI Configuration
I could upgrade to a single 512MB nVIDIA GeForce 8800GT. Which is best?

thanks again guys


I wouldn’t worry too much about Vista, It’s not like its going to go away, so I think you’ll end up getting it eventually.

It’s not all that bad of a os, I really like the thing where you can gather up all of your flash devices you aren’t using and vista uses them as RAM.

It sucked when I first got it last year about this time because there was NO software for it as far as solid modeling goes, nothing worked, but now most of the companies, autodesk, solidworks rhino etc have released vista versions. I have photoshop and illustrator cs running on mine with no problems and know that cs3 works so I wouldn’t worry about that. just be warry as a student that Adobe and Microsoft are working harder to swashbuckle you for being an e-scallywag. (software pirate) not that you would do that…

I’d suggest having a look at Rizeon - custom built laptops. The ‘more for your money’ (desktop - laptop) issue isn’t as much of an issue with them (4gigs ram, 160gb hd with 256mb graphics @ about £850)- check out the FL90. They’re a new company (est.2005) but apparently they’re great and offer brilliant support, gives some piece of mind in case something does actually go wrong.

I might be ordering one from them very soon.

If the XP is an issue I’d say you can just go with Vista OR get a copy of XP somewhere (student licenses are usually available for very little money) and you can always downgrade. You can also dual boot for Vista’s niceitys and XP’s speed and stability. All up to you though.

The XPS 720 is the newer version of what I have but is probably overkill (I bought mine because it was 50% off, but the machine itself is a ridiculous 80lb hunk of aluminum), so out of all those choices I’d still say go with the $650 XPS 420 and just deal with Vista.

Avoid SLI configurations, they are of no use to you as only games are configured to properly use SLI.

I agree with your decision to go with a desktop over a laptop. You simply get more bang for the buck with the desktop, and you can always get a really cheap second hand laptop if you need it for travel. You’ll love having a quad core processor when it comes time to make a rendering. The days of having to leave your machine on all night to get a rendering are gone.

hello again,

I think I am now going to buy a custom built computer from

Looking at getting
Intel® Core™2 Quad Q6600 (4 X 2.40GHz) 1066MHz FSB/8MB L2 Cache
2GB RAM1066MHz
36GB WD Raptor® SATA 16MB CACHE (10000rpm)
Windows XP professional

Within my budget I can buy one of the following graphics cards,
1> 512MB GEFORCE 8800GT (total PC price £895)
3> 256MB FIREGL V3350 (total £909)
4> 256MB QUADRO FX370 (£909)

Which will give me the best performance/value for money?

Thanks again

Why are you looking at those? Because they can come with XP?

The $649 Dell is a better deal, cheaper, more memory, more storage, and a better video card than the 8600’s. Plus it seems like they have a bunch of deals on that system at the moment like free shipping etc. Not to mention the Dell cases are generally fairly nice, quiet, and well designed if you decide to upgrade.

I don’t see anything on that site that makes me see any reason you should get the homebuilt over the Dell. If XP is your only reason, then you should just save the cash and do it yourself, or just live with Vista. It’s not THAT bad, and it’s pretty straightforward to downgrade.

Just realised I wrote down the wrong graphics card, the system I was looking at here has the same card as the Dell the 8800.
I looked elsewhere after talking to a classmate who had recently bought a Dell with Vista, thought I would look around at alternatives. Also those Dell offers are about to expire tommorrow and my student loan hasnt come through yet! :frowning: at the normal price plus delivery its about the same price as this and has less memory anyway. Especially if I am then looking to downgrade to XP.

I was also following advice from a friend to look at the FIREGL graphics cards for ProE and Max as these may perform better and be more stable?.
I also think this system would be better performing,
although its only 2 gig RAM as opposed to 3, the RAM is 1066MHz, in the Dell its 667MHz.
from looking around the motherboard is pretty decent, so the system should be more upgradeable.
Although the spec i quoted has smaller storage this is not a major concern for me at the moment, the 2nd hard drive is a Raptor drive (10000rpm) which Ive been advised can improve render speed.


A workstation (Quadro/FireGL) card is definately better, but is it necessary? Absolutley not, especially for a student. You go to most colleges and you’ll be lucky if you see anybody with a workstation class card in their laptop/desktop. Most people doing amatuer CAD work use gaming cards and it’s fine. ID is about the quality of the design, your model, and your rendering, not the ability to draw incredibly complex meshes on screen.

The ram speed isn’t going to make much of a noticable difference in anything you do. The WD hard drive won’t improve rendering speed, it’ll just reduce load times when starting windows or loading an application. The Dell had a RAID setup which means the performance gains are minimal and the Raptor drives tend to have a slightly higher risk of failing then most normal drives.

In the end it really doesn’t matter, get whatever you can spend your money on. Remember that 5 years ago people still had to do CAD in college and the machines were nothing compared to what they are now.

What about financing the Dell machine? You can save a couple hundred bucks, get a better spec’ed machine, and it says on the site they’re running a “No Payments till July” deal. That means you could buy the machine now and wait till your loans come in to pay it off. It’d be better to that rather then wait and spend $200 more on the same machine. I financed all of my stuff when I was in college, goes along with the whole “being broke” thing. :laughing:

One other thing to note about the graphics card:

You can always UPGRADE to a Quadro card later. It’s very easy to pull out a gaming card, throw it on Ebay, get $200 for it and use that towards a Quadro. If you blow your money on a Quadro from the manufacturer not only are you spending MORE then the card retails for, but you’re also stuck with it. I always say get a gaming card first, if your graphics are really struggling (which requires some pretty intense CAD work, I’ve comfortably handled million+ polygon scenes on hardware much lower end then that) then worry about the upgrade.

yeah thats good advice thanks cyberdemon, I was thinking the best thing to do was get the gaming card and upgrade if needed, guess I was just wanting to check that was the right thing to do rather than waste money on something that I would have to then upgrade on.

I admit to being a bit naive with this stuff and just wanted to make sure that im spending my money on the right things and getting the best spec that I can for my money, so thanks to everyone that has replied to this thread I really appreciate you taking the time to do so.