Advice on Desktop PC for CAD and home use

  hippo_oxford 19:22 11 Jan 2011

Hi, I'm looking to buy a desktop PC - the main use will be for architecture drawings in 3d CAD, and some family photoshop stuff - so the CAD will be the biggest demand.

I think I need the following as a minimum ( but I'm new to CAD ):
An Intel i5 700 ( the quad core version ) processor;
500GB Hard Drive;
1GB graphics card, ideally abel to run 2 monitors.
24" or larger widescreen monitor - ideally also to double as a reasonable TV in our study/guestroom!

My budget is £600-£650 ish on the tower, and say £150-£200 for the monitor.

Any comments on the above - to increase / reduce the spec etc.

Also - in terms fo maybe getting a few upgrades as presume these will be cheaper to get done at time of purchase:

Any of these offer significant benefit:
an 60GB SSD Hard Drive to speed things up?
upgrade the PSU?
Improve the cooling
a better case with additonal fan? ( really NOT worried if it si pretty or not - ( however, we do have a very nice black perforate steel case on our old Desktop - but presume probably not cost effective to try and get the new machine built into it?

The DinoPC Elmisaur 760 has an i5 760, 4GB RAM; 60 SSD and 1500GB HD; and a Blu Ray and is best of the £500-750 bunch. Is that the simple solution?

( I've asked about aftersales customer service on a separate thread )

I'll ask about Monitors on a separate thread.

The Operating system:
Presume no reason not to go for Windows 7, 64bit.

Ideally I'd like an OS with a 3 machine license so we can install it on - my new PC; my wife's laptop and my laptop.

So do I need to buy it separately, and avoid paying to have a pre-installed OEM version installed by the PC manufacturer? ( I understand the OEM versions are linked with the original machine you install them on and cannot be moved to a new machine - was told that last week by Microsoft.

Lastly ( apologies if this is blasphemy on this site ) but I have access to a 15% Mac discount, + tax rebate as an expense - which puts their 27" machines close enough to my budget to consider if they are realy woirth the extra money???

many thanks for any help.

  OTT_B 22:08 11 Jan 2011

A good 3D graphic card is a must for a CAD PC, so if you update anything then do that.
The processor cooling fan (as supplied with a new processor) is not worth upgrading unless you want a very quiet PC, or if you intend to overclock (which could well be a consideration in your case). As for the rest of the cooling solution, again, if you don't intend overclocking then 'normal' cooling will be fine.

If you W7 64bit, then go for 6GB RAM. This may well help with your CAD software as well....but that would depend on what software you use.

Personally (and this is only my opinion), I would avoid DinoPc. Do a search on these forums.

SSD drive? That's one option. Not a bad one either, but I don't know how much it will help with your work.

If you want an operating system with 3 licenses, then you have should purchase 3 licenses - windows 7 included. Otherwise you would be in breach of the license terms and conditions.

  hippo_oxford 22:35 11 Jan 2011

Hi - OTT_B,

thanks for the help - few responses / further questions:

The software will probably be Autocad 2010, and possibly something like 3DS Max too.

Do you think I'd need to upgrade beyond a 1GB basic graphics card?

Is whether a graphics card is good for 3D a subjective choice, - or is there a specification I can look out for?

( Dino etc. ....I'll keep comments to Choice of shop / Suppliers to my other thread ).

Ref. the need / preference for three licenses - I'd seen an advert somewhere for a Microsfot OS ( think it was windows 7 ) which came with 3 licences - anyone know about these.

  GaT7 22:42 11 Jan 2011

Try to get workstation type GPU (e.g. click here), but they can be considerably more expensive in comparison to a mainstream one. If not, something like a mainstream ATI HD 5670 / nVidia GT 240 will do. Going for anything better in the mainstream category will not make much difference in CAD, but only in 3D games - so not worth the premium if it's not going to be beneficial to you.

You could opt for a Win7 Family 3-pack for a reasonable £108 price tag at Amazon click here. It's an upgrade version, so this is assuming your laptops already have XP/Vista on them. It's still better than buying two OEM versions at £70-75 each. You'll have to get a separate Win7 OS for the new PC though.

"however, we do have a very nice black perforate steel case on our old Desktop - but presume probably not cost effective to try and get the new machine built into it?"

Could do, assuming it's a suitable case for the new components. But then you would have to build the PC yourself. G

  hippo_oxford 19:44 21 Feb 2011

Hi, outcome was I went for a Dell ( based on personal recommendations ).

It came with an INtel i5 ( 760 ); 6GB of RAM; 1TB hd; 1GB graphics card. and included 3 year next day in house service. Windows 7 but nothing else.

Downside - very unexciting case; Not superb on usb ports; or double monitor outputs - but can live with those.

Total was approx. £650 inc. delivery, with delivery in 4 working days!

Seemed to be approx. min. £150 or so better deal than the comparable spec. / prices others were offering ( PC specialist; Mesh; Chillblast, DinoPC etc. )

Hope that gives someone a guide / comparison to what's out there.

It's bought it will only be crying over spilt milk if you let me know about any amazing deals out there, but do post - might help someone else!
: )

  GaT7 20:00 21 Feb 2011

Thanks for getting back hippo_oxford & glad you're happy with it overall.

"Downside....Not superb on...double monitor outputs"

Didn't the graphics card have at least 2 outputs then?

Which graphics card did you go for exactly & who made the choice? G

  hippo_oxford 02:47 23 Feb 2011

Hi Crossbow7,

the Dell came with an:
ATI Radeon™ HD 5450 1GB DDR3 graphics

so a pretty budget card, I've not installed Autocad yet - so have yet to see how it performs with that - and it has got three different monitor outputs - so does that mean three monitors can be hooked ? ( not that I need 3, and only considered 2 as a luxury )?

: )

  GaT7 10:44 23 Feb 2011

Sorry, I misunderstood you're earlier post - I thought it came with only one monitor output.

Yes, a HD 5450 can run 3 monitors simultaneously.

Not sure how it'll fare with Autocad though, & makes one wonder how much better the more expensive workstation-type graphics card will be. G

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