So, you’re in engineering and are wondering which CAD workstation to get. There are many opinions on what makes a great CAD workstation. Purists will tell you that there is no way that you should buy a pre-built computer and you should build one by assembling components together to create a custom machine.
While this may be the way to get the best machine possible, it is out of the realm of possibility for most normal humans. The easiest way to buy a machine that will be able to handle your CAD needs is buying a pre-built workstation.
In this breakdown of the top 5 CAD workstations, we will look at the latest iterations of graphics cards and processors, and some of the models may feature the previous versions to save costs. A few guidelines we would like to give for purchasing your new CAD workstation are as follows:
- We recommend a strict minimum of 16GB of RAM, but in a perfect world 32GB would be nice. This will improve power and speed and also future-proof your device
- A ninth generation Intel Core i7 processor or newer, or a third generation AMD Ryzen processor if you don’t want to use Intel for some reason
- PCIe NVMe SSD storage, HDD storage is a hard no here
- A NVIDIA GTX 1660, 2060 or better for the graphics card. You can also get Quadro equivalents for NVIDIA graphics card but NVIDIA are the dominant force in the graphics card game
Once the main features are set and satisfied, there are some “nice-to-have” options which really come down to personal preference and your specific use of the machine. Electronics engineers in particular, will want to pick up something that has a significant amount of ports, as they can use an insane amount of peripherals and USB devices.
Now, lets analyse our choices, please bear in mind that none of these comes with any peripherals or monitors, unless specified. Enjoy!
Our Picks for the Best Overall CAD Workstation
The Dell XPS Tower features an eight core Intel Core i9 9700 processor, and a NVIDIA RTX 2060 graphics card, which makes it a force to be reckoned with. It will be more than capable of handling pretty much anything that you can throw at it, including Altium as well as any other CAD programs like SOLIDWORKS or AutoCAD. It also has 16GB of RAM and NVMe storage with plenty of connectivity.
The first HP on the list, which means that you are dealing with a Quadro graphics card. While it is significantly cheaper than the XPS, it does come with a slower Intel Core i7 9700 processor, less RAM in 16GB, less storage space and a NVIDIA Quadro graphics card which is definitely slower than its RTX counterpart. To give an example, this graphics card is about 50 to 60% slower than a NVIDIA RTX 2060, it is up to you whether the reduced performance is worth the savings in money.
The cheapest option on our list, the MSI Trident 3 10th, runs a current version Intel Core i7-10700. Budget HP systems are known for their bang-for-buck, but if you can put together a little bit more, the MSI Trident is a much better option with better features. It also has a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 1660 Super graphics card, which is a step up from the already powerful lower-end option from NVIDIA. While we would love to see some more connectivity ports on it, this compact computer can do it all!
Our Pick for the Best CAD Workstation for AutoCAD
Keeping the MSI trend going, the MSI MEG Trident X is a power packed computer that will be perfect for any intensive projects you are planning to run on AutoCAD. It has an Intel Core i9-10900KF and an MSI GeForce RTX 3070 8GB GDDR6 – translation: it is a very powerful graphics card. You will also get 64GB of RAM and 1TB PCie NVMe SSD which means you will have no problem storing all of those cumbersome projects. Although it is pricey, it is worth the money if you are looking for ultra performance.
Our Pick for the Best CAD Workstation for SOLIDWORKS
This is the most powerful option on the list. The HP Z8 G4 workstation will have everything you need without breaking a sweat. It features an Intel Xeon Silver 4116 (a 16 core processor!), and a NVIDIA Quadro P4000, 8GB DDR6 dedicated. The extra core makes this model great for simulations, load calculations and renderings, as it has enough power to handle huge project files. It comes with 16 GB DDR4 RAM and 512GB of HP Z Turbo Drive PCIe SSD storage. Do not get disheartened by the amount of RAM, this machine has plenty of speed.
Well there you have it, 5 great CAD workstations to tackle any project, no matter what your budget is. Let us know which model is your favorite and if you will be picking any of them up!