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I have a friend who will be using SolidWorks soon. She wants to get a new laptop, but SolidWorks is only certified with workstation graphics cards. What laptops do you use with SolidWorks and what is the cheapest laptop with a workstation GPU available?

Aside from laptops, what kinda of desktop setup would work well with SolidWorks? The box only stated families of processors like Intel Xeon, Core 2 Quad, etc... no specifics. Also which workstation card would be optimal for a desktop?

Lastly, which OS would be best?

Thanks in advance!

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3 Answers 3

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Edit: here's the SolidWorks Hardware FAQ which states:

How much RAM is needed to run SolidWorks?

Based on Javelin’s benchmark testing and our experience with typical customer usage, we recommend starting with at least 4GB of RAM. Depending on the size and complexity of your assemblies increased RAM may be the best investment for performance improvement. For assemblies with more than 1000 components and parts with more than 300 features 8GB of RAM or more is recommended.

What type of video card do you recommend?

Although SolidWorks is designed to work with any generic graphics card that supports Windows (MINIMUM resolution would be 1024x768 or higher with 32K colors or more), a graphics card with hardware OpenGL acceleration will provide improved performance, especially in 3D model viewing (repaints, spins, zooms and pans).
Detailed info on video card support and testing is available at:

http://www.solidworks.com/sw/support/videocardtesting.html

Video cards designed for “gaming” or multi-media applications do NOT offer maximum performance for SolidWorks and other 3D CAD applications. Game/multi-media cards are optimized for a low number of polygons displayed on the screen, and a high frame rate. CAD applications have essentially the opposite requirement, polygon count is high (all the details in your design model) and the image does not change rapidly, so high frame rates are not as critical.

Does SolidWorks make use of multiple and/or dual core processors?

SolidWorks is multi-threaded. Many of the user interface activities such as redraw and dialog box interaction, etc., take advantage of this technology. However, the solving process used for parametric modeling is by nature very linear and cannot take full advantage of multiple or dual core processors. Opening documents in SolidWorks 2010 is now multi-threaded. When you retrieve a large part, drawing, or assembly document, the document immediately displays in a view-only state while the actual document and all its components are retrieved in the background. During the view-only state, you can use all functions supported in the SolidWorks Viewer (Zoom, Rotate, and so on), but you cannot switch to another document or start to open another document. After the retrieval is complete, SolidWorks changes to the normal edit state.

If she doesn't connect a secondary screen with a high resolution, I actually don't expect the GPU (even in a laptop) to have any trouble with running SolidWorks. The resolution of the main screen simply isn't high enough to stress the system that much.

With Windows 7 you have to take Professional, Ultimate or Enterprise and I would recommend the 64 bit version, so she can use more RAM (only if available).

Any gaming laptop's GPU (dedicated, not integrated) should be powerfull enough to drive SolidWorks, do note that a notebook will never give you the same performance/dollar as a desktop.

Given that on the desktop you can get a kickass GPU for 150$, which simply isn't available for a GPU due to it's size and heat production. So any gaming desktop would probably do.

Note: all the above depends on your budget, but personally I wouldn't use a laptop for heavy duty work

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Okay, so the fact that the SolidWorks website only certifies workstation GPUs (NVIDIA Quadro & ATI FirePro) doesn't mean that you can still use a higher-end GeForce/HD4XXX series? Also what kind of processor do you think will work best? Quad I'm guessing? Approx. speed? –  Wesley Jan 14 '10 at 17:22
    
I edited my post in response :) –  Ivo Flipse Jan 14 '10 at 18:09

We have used the HP 8710W portable workstation and it works great with the built in Quadro GPU. Version 2010 with XP 64Bit and 4 GB of RAM

Tried an Optiplex Dual Core we had here with 4GB of RAM and and Geforce card we had here with 512MB of RAM. Not great. Installed a supported Quadro card and performance was much better. SolidCAD was no help troubleshooting the "unsupported" card.

More RAM would help so 64bit OS as mentioned bit make sure there are video drivers to match

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Okay, so looking at some Quadros on Newegg.ca... there are some lower end ones that are sub-$175 CAD. Then there are the higher-end ones that start from $450. Which GeForce did you use first and which Quadro did you use after? Also, the usual debate... Intel vs. AMD? NVIDIA vs. ATI? –  Wesley Jan 14 '10 at 20:18
    
FX560 was the one we ended up with. Do not know which GeForce we used. The person who might know just left on vacation –  Dave M Jan 14 '10 at 20:33
    
Okay, here's what I'm compiled so far: Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 2.33GHz / GeIL Black Dragon 8GB DDR3 1600 / WD Caviar Black 500GB 7200 RPM SATA / PNY Quadro FX 380 512MB 64-bit GDDR3 / Sunbean 750W PSU / MSI P43-C51 Motherboard / CD/DVD Burner & ATX case –  Wesley Jan 15 '10 at 0:06
    
Hmph, back to laptops... which brand of laptop do you think is best? There's the Toshiba Tecra, Dell Precision, HP ???, and what other lines of workstation laptops? –  Wesley Jan 16 '10 at 1:20

I usually buy from Dell's precision laptop line. Dell is our corporate preferred vendor and the precision laptops have workstation class GPUs. IMHO gobs of RAM (&64bit OS) are more important than GPU or CPU speed.

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Scratch that, she wants a laptop again with an upgraded budget of $1300 CAD or so. –  Wesley Jan 16 '10 at 1:19

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