Best computer for BIM and 3D Rendering
I was recently tasked with upgrading the Computer’s in my office for our upcoming software switch to Revit 2012 and 3D Studio Max. For the most part our office was using AutoCAD Architecture and the lower end computer requirements kept our equipment somewhat basic. However, with the switch to new software, our computer requirements became complex which sent me on the search for the best equipment at a reasonable price. Through this extensive research process, I learned a few tricks, different methods of building the computer as well as the difference in hardware required to produce the best renderings.
Workstations Vs. PCs
Workstations are computers that are designed specifically for large scale multi-threading tasks. Whether it’s for large scale database analysis or 3D modeling, these machines are specifically designed to handle these tasks. Workstations are designed to be more stable and less prone to computing errors. PCs on the other hand, are designed for more immediate multimedia requirements like games, web browsing and basic tasks. PCs concentrate on FPS and display, Workstations concentrate on data and production. Workstations can be very expensive where as PCs usually tend to run much cheaper. However, if the PC if built correctly, it can compete, if not outrun a commercial workstation. The hardware you put in the machine will determine its power.
Graphic Cards (GPU’s) are one of the most important aspects for creating a computer for 3D Design. Earlier in computer history, Frames per Second (FPS) became very important for GPUs and the games that were played that required the most speed. However, when it comes to 3D Modeling, FPS is not the most important aspect, but the quality, stability and the processors ability to handle complex algorithms becomes most important. Just because a processors is great for the most demanding video games does not mean that it will be good for 3D Modeling. However, Like most companies, budgets can become the most important factor in creating a new system, The high end GPUs that are might for design work can cost close to $1000 or more, that’s a hefty price tag when preparing a new computer. For the most part, if a GPU does well handling demanding video games as well as designed for media applications, it will most likely be acceptable for 3D modeling.
Graphic Card Specs
· 2GB of Memory
Check out http://www.videocardbenchmark.net/ for Video Card Benchmarks and ratings
Processors and Mother Boards
The key to selecting the proper processor is not focus on the speed (GHz) of the processor but its ability for Multi-threading and the amount of cores that it contains, the more cores the faster the rendering process. It’s also important to note the size of the cache, at least 12 Mb is recommended for 3D Modeling and Rendering.
· Intel Xeon Workstation Processor – Specifically designed for the 3D Design process for Engineering and Architecture. This processor can be found in most workstations from Dell to smaller computer companies. Although this processor is found on many workstations, it is not necessarily the most powerful. It’s used in these applications because the processor has been clocked back which allows them to be more stable and reliable, however you aren’t necessarily going to be getting the fastest chip in town.
· Intel Core I7 – This is a desktop PC processor that packs quite a punch for gaming and graphics. It is also well suited for BIM and 3D modeling because it contains 6 cores and on many multi-threading tests, worked better than the Xeon processor. You currently cannot get this chip in most workstations, but with the uses of a proper motherboard (in this case an X79 with Sandy Bridge-E) it will outperform most workstations while avoiding the price for one.
Available memory is extremely important when it comes to processing power. If you do not have enough memory as compared to processing speed, the lack of memory will create a bottleneck and reduce the power of your processor. The more memory the better, but be aware that most systems can’t handle more than 32gb.
Hard drive speeds play an important role in 3D modeling. Faster the speed, faster the processing. To get the most out of your computer, use two hard drive. A SSD ( Solid State Drive) strictly for running programs, no data saves. Use the second drive for your pictures and data. SSDs run much faster than a typical hard drive because they do not have any mechanical components that need to spin to retrieve memory. SSD tend be smaller than a typical hard drive and have smaller memory capabilities, but run much faster. Remember, faster the drive the quicker the processing. Grab a large capacity typical hard drive as your data storage. I recommend a 120GB drive or higher for your SSD Drive.
Recommended Hard Drive
There are many computers available on the market that are pre-built and configured ready to go out of the box. Whether you are looking for a Workstation, PC or a Mac, there are many options for purchase.UPDATED April 1, 2012