We are getting ready to buy a Xeon-based workstation for a coworker who will be using Pro/E 3D CAD software. For the processor we need to choose between an E5-1607 (3 GHz with 0 GT/s QPI) or an E5-2603 (1.8 GHz with 6.4 GT/s QPI). Is one going to be a clear advantage over the other?

The machine will have an NVIDIA Quadro K2000D graphics card.

  • I don't think you meant 0 GT/s because that makes no sense? Intel's specification on the CPU even uses that unit of measurement but in the context its like saying 0TB makes no sense at all. So it has zero QPI links, which is the interconnect between the chipset and processor, which likely means an interconnect to the PCIe bus. – Ramhound Sep 16 '13 at 15:56
  • More information on the 3D CAD program is required to answer this question. The E5-2603 supports double the memory and will allow you to use 2 of them on a single board. The frequency differences won't provide that huge of a performance increase but being able to support 2 of them and thus 8 threads would. – Ramhound Sep 16 '13 at 16:02
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    @Ramhound It may make no sense, but that's on Intel's shoulders, not mine. – SSteve Sep 16 '13 at 16:51
  • I undersand. It took me more then 5 minutes to realize that you got the information from the specification pages. – Ramhound Sep 16 '13 at 17:06

I work at a shop where we run a ton of Xeon(3.0-4gHZ) PCs and the biggest bottleneck at this level of performance tends to be the GPU. I'd stick with an NVIDIA Quadro-type card, not a consumer grade. The difference can be as high as 25%(seat-of-pants measurement) by simply using the proper graphics card. As I understand QPI, it is simply the competitor to AMD hyper-transport so I don't think your choice here will make as large a difference as the GPU you choose. Another good point is to load it up with memory at least 12GB.

I should also note that most high-end CAD packages are still single-threaded in most operations due to the nature of the work, so most multi-core machines allow for multi-tasking, but they don't make a whole lot of difference within the CAD environment.

Some things I have noticed from maintaining 50+ CAD workstations:

  • Intel CPUs are much faster in this realm than comparable AMDs
  • NVIDIA GPUs handle the work better than comparable AMD GPUs
  • Multi-cores are not utilized by many CAD operations due to the linear nature of the work
  • RAM RAM RAM...and then add some more RAM! Large CAD files with complex geometry and CAM operations will bring even the best system to its knees due to RAM restriction
  • The GPU can make a much bigger difference than 25% though, even with similarly priced cards. – Austin T French Sep 16 '13 at 16:04
  • I agree the differences between 1.8Ghz and 3.0Ghz for a task like this, given the proper memory and GPU won't be noticed. Of course I would go with the Q3 2013 product instead if I was buying new hardware and paying full price for the v1 of these products. – Ramhound Sep 16 '13 at 16:07
  • Sorry, should have said we are getting an NVIDIA Quadro K2000D in the machine. I added that to the question. – SSteve Sep 16 '13 at 16:44
  • The k2000D will work for you. I actually run Quadro 480's in quite a few of our PCs and for a "lower-end" Quadro that's an older model, it performs admirably. Just don't forget to throw as much RAM at it as possible and you will be fine and your engineer will love you. – Lee Harrison Sep 16 '13 at 18:18
  • We ended up spending a little extra and getting the E5-2609 (2.4 GHz with 6.4 GT/s QPI). And we got 12 Gb of RAM instead of the 8 Gb we originally planned on. But we got it from Crucial, not Lenovo, which saved us a few hundred dollars. – SSteve Sep 16 '13 at 23:04

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