Thursday, April 18, 2013

What's the best computer to buy for Revit 2014?

So...
Here we are are again at another release cycle for the Building Design Suites (Including Revit) and all the Autodesk offerings! So with that comes the inevitable questions, namely: What's the best computer to buy for Revit 2014?
Aren't you excited?

This post will be in two parts: 
1) Generic Recommendations 
  • Useful to spec your own machine and suggested peripherals
2) Specific Recommendations
  • Nearly an actual manufacturer recommendation

Part 1 | Generic Recommendations 

Autodesk's SysReq's can all be found at the prior link but I would emphatically caution you to go well beyond even their "Performance: Large, Complex Model" spec's, as I will illustrate below!!!

The "Performance: Large, Complex Model" spec's (With my comments in Blue):
  • Windows 8 64-bit Enterprise or Professional edition, or Windows 7 64-bit Enterprise, Ultimate, Professional, or Home Premium edition OK, say goodbye to Vista64!!!
  • Multicore Xeon or i-Series processor or AMD equivalent with SSE2 technology (highest affordable CPU speed rating recommended) -Can't agree more, this is where the bulk of $$$ should go!
  • Multiple cores for many tasks, up to 16 cores for near-photorealistic rendering operations Yes! 16 cores!!!
  • 16 GB RAM (Usually sufficient for a typical editing session for a single model up to approximately 700 MB on disk. This estimate is based on internal testing and customer reports. Individual models will vary in their use of computer resources and performance characteristics.) It's 2013 now and we should think of 16 GB being the base amount for Workstations, but 32GB or 64GB are my recommendations! 128GB seems a bit costly for average projects and users but those who do large projects should really fight for 128GB.
  • Models created in previous versions of Revit software products may require more available memory for the one-time upgrade process -See? 16GB is not going to be "enough" to work effectively for many, if not most of us.
  • 5 GB free disk space; 10,000+ RPM for Point Cloud interactions Can you say: SSD? Solid State Drives are mandatory IMHO!!! Use the old spinning drives for archiving, etc. but use SSD's for all system and other software + Active Workstation storage... Several drives may be required (read as: ARE Required) these days... Also; only 5GB of free space? Hahaha -if you only have 5 free GB of space you need some help -or a new SSD!!!

  • 1,920 x 1,200 monitor with true color That should say: 
  • 2 x 24" Monitors at 1920 x 1200 pixels for a Basic setup
  • 2 x 27" Monitors at 2,560x1440 pixels for a Recommended setup
  • 4 x 24" or 4 x 27" Monitors for a Preferred setup
  • DirectX 10 capable graphics card with Shader Model 3 as recommended by Autodesk
    •  See this link to find "Certified" Graphics cards, etc. The ADSK "Recommended" ones may be OK but then again, maybe not... Use at your own choosing, after testing.
  • Internet Explorer 7 (or later) Yeah that will happen since it's built into Microsoft Windows, though I use Mozilla Firefox primarily.

  • MS-Mouse or 3Dconnexion-compliant device -I suggest the following:
  • Download or installation from DVD9 or USB key OK
  • Internet connectivity for license registration and prerequisite component download OK

Part 2 | Specific Recommendations

Well I am (still) not going to recommend any one manufacturer with an emphatic endorsement...but I was close!!! -And it may seem like I am recommending one mfg. but, well, you decide for yourself...

I was close to recommending BOXX Workstations outright...Close.


The BOXX 4920 and BOXX 4050 Workstations were graciously extended as Demo's to prove out their potential ROI to me; toward my potential and necessary future acquisitions. What I found was, that for me, in AEC, with different project types and sizes, the BOXX 4050 appeared the best candidate; balancing performance in a moderately cost effective Workstation. 

Why am I not emphatically recommending BOXX outright? I have mixed thoughts... The BOXX Workstations and the GOBOXX Laptop/Mobile Workstations are truly great machines; although they are a bit expensive in direct comparison to other mfg's..

1) The BOXX 4050 is a machine that I will be specifying for a select group of Designers and 'Large Project' teams. The productivity increases will pay for these Workstations in a matter of month's... Over the 3 year run of the Workstation, I see a lot of ROI (AKA: profit) from this approach...

That said and to be totally honest, I will also acquire both HP Workstations and Dell Workstations, spec'd to match the BOXX 4050 apples-to-apples and see if the cost differential or support or if anything else affects my future purchases... I have already tasked my long-time, multiple firm Network Team (SADA Systems) to get quotes for similarly spec'd Workstations from both HP and Dell and they report the cost delta ranges about $500 to $1,000 less than BOXX, but only time will tell if the components perform comparably, keeping in mind that the BOXX Workstations are overclocked to their maximum.

With the cost of the BOXX 4920 coming in just below $6,000 I cannot see the ROI being clear unless one has an unconstrained budget. Of which I do not...do you??? The ROI between the 4050 and the 4920 does NOT make sense to me, being that $2,000 only gets marginal percentage point increases for the cost (see the rendering "Time" differentials below).

The BOXX 4050 though, coming in at just about $3,900 makes it attractive, given the performance it provides and where, for just over the cost of a single 4920, one can get nearly 2 of the 4050's, if not 3 other decent machines... It's all a balancing act, no? 

That all said; the BOXX Workstations did work amazingly fast and I really liked having them around.
For instance the rendering differences were extraordinary. -I rendered the same file from 3 machines: Note the costs are "as configured" -one can spend a bit more or less depending...



Project File Size: 19.5 mb

Faces: 35,316

Materials: 105


Rendering Results:

HP Z400 ($2,500 +/-)

Res: 2800 x 2100

Time: 56m 59s



BOXX 4050
($3,900 +/-)

Res: 2800 x 2100

Time: 19m 0s
since


BOXX 4920
($6,000 +/-)

Res: 2800 x 2100

Time: 17m 24s

So there it is in not so small a nutshell...Get the most you can afford and make sure the service contract is up to your needs as well!!! 

Cheers, -J

20 comments:

  1. J,
    how about system specs on the HP box?

    How about other benchmarks than just rendering? Rendering will always look better on timed tests with higher GHz or more cores.

    How do you spec a Dell or HP i7 CPU to be water cooled and overclocked?

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  2. "How about other benchmarks than just rendering? Rendering will always look better on timed tests with higher GHz or more cores" Well that's part of the point (more computer/faster computer = better computer)! But to be honest the RFO benchmarks were inadvertently lost during a network refresh we are going through...If I find them I will post... As I recall the percentages were similar to the rendering (about 3-5 times faster) but without having the actuals I didn't feel it appropriate to post...

    How do you spec a Dell or HP i7 CPU to be water cooled and overclocked? Can't exactly do everything but to get close is all we can do... When I spec those I will probably offset the overclocking of the BOXX's with better processors... It's all simply a balance between Speed/Power and Cost...

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  3. With rendering considerations aside, during active modeling involving worksharing and multiple systems in the MEP end of Revit, what seems to provide the highest speed to cost return? I speak, specifically, about the calculation and regeneration related lag involved in actually drawing pipe and fittings. Are raw power and high-multiple core processors more important than GPU, or vice versa?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Typically in Revit the GPU has been less important than it is for other software, though still desired for an all around machine... I would not recommend going overboard with GPU's.

    As to your other considerations ("Are raw power and high-multiple core processors more important than GPU, or vice versa?") the "raw power" via processors and cores are going to get you the most bang for your bucks, in the right system; as Revit leverages more multi-core processing as the releases come, so I'd focus on the best, fastest 16 core processors with SSD hard-drives (this will also give extremely noticeable positive effect), huge amounts of RAM (32 to 128) and a decent GPU.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm new to Revit, as the company I work for just purchased me Building Design Suite Premium 2013, but I recently built a system for myself that is way better than the Boxx 4050 for less than $2,000. It was actually closer to $1,500, but I haven't installed the Nvidia Quadro 4000 that I'm going to be purchasing in the next month or so. In Windows 7 Pro, it's rated at 7.8 and the only thing holding it back is the gaming video card I have in it right now. You get yourself a good Corsair 1000W PSU, one of the Corsair H100 CPU coolers, a good overclockable motherboard (I have the Asus P8Z77-V Pro) and building a screaming CAD/BIM machine is cake. My i-7 3770 is currently OC'd to 4.1 GHz and is rock solid. I've even seen people push the 3770 to 4.7GHz! I'd be glad to make recommendations based on my system if anyone is interested.

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    Replies
    1. hey interesting post, how many of ram gb ram does your computer, what are its benchmarks on CINEBENCH. I recently bought the asus workstation board with dual cpu lga2011 slots and are saving up for 2x 2650 e5 cpu's 16 cores and I believe they don't overclock, and the ATI fire pro w5000, what other components do you recommend for autoCAD Revit/3ds max, regarding storage, power and any thing else I missed

      Delete
  6. Jeremy,
    Thanks, nice comments... Too bad a lot of firms have no real way to build hundreds of machines as such in a cost effective manner, with warranties, etc.

    For the small or single operator that is a great way to go if one does not melt down the overclocked systems ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. offerings! So with that comes the inevitable questions, namely: What's the best computer to buy for Revit 2014? where to buy a computer

    ReplyDelete
  8. DO buy a computer just build it yourself if your smart enough to work with Revit then You should also be smart enough to know you can build & overclock a computer for thousands less than this BOXX ADVERTi.., I mean blog, haha.

    Jeremy IS DEAD ON & JZ is stupid because most firms (especially the one's willing to overpay for a crummy box) employ what's called & IT EXPERT that Can build, repair & yes overclock several computers, for thousands less than the OBVIOUS Advertisements listed above. Overheat puhh!!! DON'T know what JZs' motherboard is(must be ancient) ,but today we have motherboards that have alarms & automatically protect themselves from over heating, & software that overclock & tests the system for you I.E. Asus Suite Utility that comes with boards such as the one Jeremy has... p.s. don't just blindly take some Bloggers advice, even mine for that matter , but PLEASE do the research, try to visit a firm that has been using revit for years & ask their IT GUY , they will definitely have one that knows what not to do.. such as throwing money down the drain on a boxx.

    HEY BLOGGER upload a link to the file & settings you rendered, so that others may compare their machine's results to your BOXX.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Well there "Anonymous" Nice to see gutless name calling is still alive.

    I have 2 main replies:
    1) I'd be happy to debate the possibility of build-your-own for different firms.
    2) I am not 'stupid' because as you put it: "because most firms (especially the one's willing to overpay for a crummy box) employ what's called & IT EXPERT" -Obviously you don't know me very well ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anonymous,

    I have NEVER seen a larger firm build their own workstations, it's not cost effective. I work for a firm of 100 people and we bought 50+ new Boxx stations earlier this year (4920 Extreme). At $8K each, yes they are expensive. But...they have 3 year warranties and on site tech support if needed, and they provide loaner stations should one die.

    Our IT staff would never have the time to waste building and maintaining this many systems as DIY rigs.

    ReplyDelete
  11. thanks for the recommendation on the RAM. I had missed the v-rating. As for the Hardware, I have a reformatted 320GB WD Cavier that I planned on using. It is a 7200 rpm unit so I thought would be good for what we planned on for the useage.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hey Anonymous,

    It seems you are either a "Technology Expert" or have issues with said experts. If you noticed everything on here was peaceful until your first insulting comment. I honestly see the importance in the technical knowledge you posted but the name calling not needed. Is there anyway you could rephrase your commentary in more constructive manners? IT would help everyone appreciate your expert knowledge that much more.

    ReplyDelete
  13. It is very tough to get the perfect specification updated all the time, specially when there are lots of random advancement in Cad sector.You can try these specification though.

    Dell Precision T3600
    Four Core Xeon E5-1620, 3.6 MHz, 10M Turbo
    MS Home & Business 2013 Office
    635W power supply 90% efficient
    2GB nVidia Quadro 4000 graphics card
    32 GB RAM, DDR3 RDIMM, 1600 MHz, ECC (4x32G3E64 8GB DIMMs)
    RAID 1
    Dual 2TB HD, 7200 RPM 3.5" SATA 6Gb/s HDs
    30" Dell UltraSharp Monitor w/premier color 2560x1600

    Hope it helps
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wouldn't recommend a T3600, we have have then running at 3.9 GHZ and we still have issues, we are considering to get a BOXX workstation, so no for a T3600, we even tried a T5600 with dual XEON's and 8 cores, but the frequency is still too low ( at 3.8 GHZ).

      Delete
  14. hi..Im student from Informatics engineering, this article is very informative, thanks for sharing :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Its really nice I have no idea about computer system but I read this blog and get more information about.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Some great points put out there and all are valid. BOXX workstations are great, solid, reliable pieces of equipment, but, I must agree with Jeremy. The price to power ratio is completely outweighed when one looks at the hardware available out there. A few months ago I was in this exact debate with myself of BOXX or custom for personal use. I paid a quarter of the price for a build that is possibly a more powerful machine (I’m attempting to avoid a hardware architecture debate), however, it does come with its own headaches and realistically a firm cannot run on possibly temperamental machines (unless you have a large committed IT team, which will in effect alter the price per unit). For small scale and personal use, I say go with custom.

    For the students and young professionals, this is what I specified for Revit and Max, it was reasonable cheap and I am extremely happy with it:
    Intel 4770K @ 4.9GHz (a high overclock is not guaranteed, do not expect the same result, I was lucky)
    Corsair H100i Cooler
    MSi Z87 M-power (A bit of an overkill, a cheaper MB would have been equivalent for our use)
    X2 Corsair Vengeance 8GB DDR 3, 9-9-9-24, 1500MHz (easily expanded to 32GB if necessary)
    Nvidia Quatro k2000 (Unless you can afford a quarto 4000)
    X2 Corsair Neutron 64GB SSD
    1TB Seagate

    May I also recommend a good interface of keyboard ,mouse and screen. You will really regret it if you skimp out on that. Good luck

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  17. Revit uses only 20% of my processing power what a waste of an expensive computer.
    you can build the fastest machine ever but Revit will only goes so fast as it is deeply flawed.

    Intel Ci7 3970X 3.5GHz S2011 6 core Processor (Overclocked to 3.9ghz)
    NZXT KRAKEN X60 Water Cooler
    Asus Rampage IV Extreme S2011 Motherboard
    (8) Corsair AF 140 Case Fan
    Cooler Master Silent Pro Hybrid 1050W ATX Power Supply
    480GB ForceSeries GS SSDForceSeries GS SSD
    Corsair Dominator Platinum 16GB 2133MHz Memory
    (enough to have multiple 130mbg revit files open)
    a gorgeous NZXT Switch 810 White Full Tower Chassis

    A $2,600 waste because Revit has never even used more than 50% of the processor. REVIT slows down regardless of how much computing power you have.

    ReplyDelete