Which computer for a Sophmore Designer????

I am entering my second year in college as an “Industrial” design major, i am working all summer so i can buy myself a brand new computer. I want to know, from some of you professionals or students, which is the best brand and/ or which amenities i should choose. My budget goes up to 2,500, maybe 3 Gs. Buuut if there are computers that do their job for less money, i will consider them also.



Build your own system.

You could put together a very fast Athlon64 system with a nice OpenGL video card for less than $2000. I would suggest 2 19" monitors, 1Gb of RAM and at least a 120Gb HD.

What software do you plan to use?

I will give you my opinion, it may not be true for all people.

I would suggest a Pentium 4 processor if you can afford it. It will work best with the widest array of software and any P4 is plenty fast. Get an Nvidia or Radeon video card with at least 64 mb of video RAM. These will give the best performance when using 3d software. Hard drives are typically large enough on any computer you buy…try to get one that spins at 7200 rpm, they will perform a bit quicker than the ones at 5400 rpm. Make sure you have at least 512 mb of RAM (1 gig preferable). CD burner (probably a DVD burner today, they are dirt cheap) for burning work to bring to class and perhaps burning software too-expensive for students to afford (although I do not condone this activity).

In a desktop format you should be able to track this down for $500-700. Go get a used 19" monitor for another $150-200, and you are set. Save the other $1500-2000 for traveling to interviews after you graduate, and for the few months you may be unemployed while job hunting. The only real advantage (according to me) of buying something like a Dell is the tech support. Warranties are pretty meaningless on electronics, the only things that move (and therefore really wear-and-tear) in a computer are the cooling fans and the hard drives.

A P4 outperforming an Athlon64 processor is pure marketing hype. The claim that P4’s are more compatible with a wider range of software is also untrue.

For the most part, nVidia and Radeon cards you find in retail channels only help with 3D gaming - not 3D apps designers would use. They are optimized to work well with DirectX 9. That is of no use if you are using Rhino, 3D Studio MAX or even Solidworks. You want a workstation grade card designed specifically for that purpose (they will cost a little more also). Some examples would be:

-Quadro series from nVidia.
-ATI’s FireGL cards
-Matrox Parhelia series
-Any card from 3D Labs

I would also look into an affordable laptop if you have money left over. After being laid off last year, I bought an eMachine’s laptop for $1000 with a 15.4" widescreen display. It has made a world of difference in interviews as far as impressing possible employers with a portfolio in electronic format. It happens to run Rhino and 3D Studio MAX extremely well also. I also use it for miniDV video capture and editing in Premiere.

wrong forum.

“For the most part, nVidia and Radeon cards you find in retail channels only help with 3D gaming - not 3D apps designers would use.”

not quite true. those cards run most 3D fine. i run Pro/Wildfire and Maya with much less. dont need Quadro’s or FireGL’s. just dont.

issue to consider. game cards ARE usually optimized for DX9 features. and Pixelshaders 2.0 now. but 3D apps can now use these game features to render in realtime. in the app. there’s a plugin for Maya. one coming for Pro/E. think SolidWorks already has. etc. if you dont need fine. but if you dont, you probably dont need Quadro either.

ask around. i know people with ATi drivers complaining when using with Alias. dont know why. or what the problem is. or if its a user problem.

check software & tech forum for more info. no one’s mentioned dual harddrives for example…

Thats less of an issue with 3D/CAD/Photoshop work. You only need a 2nd HD when doing bandwith intensive work like digital video or audio.


one harddrive for you OS. frequent access. lots of wear n tear.

2nd harddrive for your files. keeps em safe for when the first melts down.

nothing to do with high-bandwidth stuff like vid capture. wouldnt recommend 2nd drive for that anyway. better to get a multi-drive array.

two drives discussed before. in old threads. should also clone your OS drive. i put mine on a partition of the 2nd. OS on SCSI. data on IDE.

Being a musician with a DAW setup at home as well, I can say performance gains with RAID or SCSI are minimal with today’s fast IDE and SATA drives.

I agree on the second drive idea for backup, but would rather go with something external and portable in the form of a Firewire HD.

I think a second hard drive is not really necessary. I’ve had 1 hard drive fail…that was 1997 and it was a 120 mb hard drive…probably very old by that point. I’ve only bought 2 hard drives since then…both are in use in my current computer.

Every so often, everyone should burn their work to a CD, probably twice. Keep one copy at your home in case you do have a massive failure. Send another copy to a friend, or your parents so that if your house has massive failure (hurricane, earthquake, fire) you still have a back up. Yes, it does happen. I believe that a whole senior class lost their work once in a fire at their university. That was in the slides & models days, but the same could happen tommorow. Where’s your work?

I’ve heard that the Intel P4 doesn’t perform any better than its AMD rivals. I have not had any problems running 3D software with my AMD…at least not that I can attribute to the processor. It’s really your choice in the end, although I’m sure developers use the P4.

I have an Nvidia video card that is OpenGL. The OpenGL part seems to be the important bit as this is the factor that allows fluent communication with the software. The others are right…check for this. I have not personally used an ATI card, but I’ve heard they perform well. In the end, this is your choice too.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to buy some equipment that isn’t cutting edge. I was using only a 900 mhz processor (albeit with much RAM) before, and I have to say, my 1.8 ghz processor is visibly no faster. I’m sure the same is true for many components.

you guys are the experts. i’ll not bother with recommendations in the future (or corrections).

I’m no expert YKH, like I said in my initial post, “I will give you my opinion”. Feel free to turn up the heat.

Look into tablet PCs. If you can get a student version of Painter or Alias Sketchbook you’ll be sketching & rendering digitally in no time. This is definitely the future of ID, and I believe you will be very valuable to a future employer if you are able to be both prolific and accurate.

I would highly reccomend a 2nd hard drive. Keep one for running programs and the other to save to. It’s not so much for insurance against a hard drive failing but protection in the event your software gets corrupted and then having difficulty getting your work files off the hard drive. That way you can just format your drive and start over without worry.

Then if you are worried about backing up, RAID arrays are kinda useful.

Read up on the topic. Tablet PC aren’t selling well and are on the way out. They also for the most part use 12" displays. Hardly enough for something like Alias when you are limited to 1024x768 resolutions. Too much money for too little of a PC.

I would say that a second drive is important.

Just under a years ago I had a mass failure of my only drive at the time.
Everthing was on it. Apps and work. Backup is great as long as you have another accessible PC with the same progs. If you havent, you are screwed. It had a devastating effect!

All I will say is this. You never know when technology will bite you in the balls!

After installing two drives, i find maintenance such as defrag takes less time and needs to happen less often too.

I run a P3 900. 512MB RAM. 128MB Open GL Graphics and twin drives (60/40).

I still run Alias better than a colleague who bought a P4 1.8GHz, 512MB RAM. Single 80GIG drive.

Both are Dell Systems.

I will certainly reconsider adding a second real drive (current second drive I don’t use cause it is too darn slow and small)

dud you going to get hossed without one