Best CAD Computer

I am currently looking to update all of our computers for CAD and was wondering what the best computer to get is. I was looking at a Lenovo Ideapad 320 15 Touchscreen Laptop - Intel Core i7. Is this a good computer for CAD? I really want something with enough storage to run Solidworks and some 3D printing software. I am fairly new to CAD, so please let me know if you have a better suggestion. Thanks

What’s your budget? I’m not sure if the IdeaPad 320 has enough RAM to handle Solidworks.

I would recommend a quadro k620 with a cpu that has good single threaded preformace, you should also have an ssd and Atleast 8 gb of ram.

You generally need the following for a CAD computer:

  • High quality CPU (2-4 cores)
  • Solid-state drive (most robot assemblies can be really big, ours came out at 150MB in a STEP)
  • 8GB+ RAM
  • Some form of graphics - Integrated graphics work, but a GPU is recommended.

Graphics processors are much less important than CPU for SolidWorks, since it’s a single-threaded application. We use older-generation laptops (mostly ThinkPads) that are donated to us by corporate sponsors who don’t need them any more. The school teaches CAD using Dell Precisions, which are also pretty good for it.

Depending on your application, a desktop system might be better. There are lots of good pre-built options, but building a few desktop PCs might be a fun project for your team. I CAD on my laptop, but almost whenever I design, I use a second monitor because a laptop screen, in my opinion, no laptop screen is big enough for a CAD window and a window of anything else. I use this USB-powered second monitor and it works great! Plus, it gives me a place to put all the VexPro/AndyMark/McMaster browser tabs and Excel spreadsheets that inevitably you need when doing design work. Certainly if I had the space to set up a nice desktop I would but I am in college and need to be portable.

If your students are working in the shop, I’d definitely recommend desktops(at least I know I prefer them), and maybe a laptop or two (depends on the size of your CAD team) for some portability. As far as laptops go, you probably want something with dedicated graphics and 8+GB of RAM, plus a fast hard drive (SSD or SSD + second drive). That might not work if you’re designing a fighter jet with thousands of components, but for an FRC robot it should probably work just fine.

Follow-up after reading Clayton’s post. You definitely don’t need a dedicated graphics card, and CPU is more important, but dedicated graphics are a plus if you can find them.

With laptops for CAD look for 16GB or 32GB of RAM.
And a decent video accelerator.

For example a IdeaPad w/I7 might get you to 16GB RAM stock.

You may also want to consider an SSD upgrade…it makes a big difference.

I’d recommend more than 8GB of RAM for running SW. I run SW at work with only 8GB and it’s painful sometimes…

Also, I second using an SSD, but if you’re looking to collaborate with your team, Google Drive (or whatever it’s called now) is pretty good. I think it does pre-load the files to your computer, so if you move the Google Drive folder to your SSD, it should give pretty fast start-up and file opening/saving. If a lot of work is being done remotely via the Google Drive, you’ll still be limited by your internet connection, but once it’s downloaded it should open pretty quickly.

My iPhone 7 runs Onshape Mobile pretty well…

Part of that is because OnShape is a cloud piece of software. If you’re doing something like Solidworks, which runs on the computer, you need a lot more beef.

I do cad all day for work, we use Dell optiplex desktops, I usually have AutoCAD and Inventor open with multiple tabs of each going at the same time, as well as bluebeam and YouTube it can get kind of slow sometimes when it gets heated up but it works ok, I have three monitors currently and I can’t imagine trying to work off just one on a laptop, the students on my team use Acer laptops for inventor but imo it’s really not efficient.

I have an Optiplex 9020 (the smaller ones), and I’ll say it’s barely cut-out to handle SolidWorks… it only has 2 RAM slots, and they only supplied me with 8GB ram when I started. It does work for SolidWorks, but every now and then I’m limited by RAM

Our budget is around $1,000 per computer for a total of 4 computers but if we need to we can go higher. Or if we get less computers we can get better ones. Any computer recommendation would be greatly appreciated! Would a Windows computer be better than a Mac for CAD? Just curious. Thanks!

Solidworks is not supported on Mac (assuming that’s what you use given what you said in the OP).

1000 per computer? I can make a parts list for you if that’s the budget to get a couple solid machines built.

How many computers do you need?

I just finished building my personal CAD/gaming computer today, feel free to PM me with any questions you may have.

If you have 1000 dollars then you can get a quadro k620 and a used dell optiplex with an ssd for 500 Ish including ok peripherals you just have to do some looking around on ebay.

A Windows running computer is generally better for CAD because that’s usually what the main CAD softwares (Inventor, Solidworks) exclusively run on.

I use Boxx Apexx W-Class at work. They can be optimized for CAD from Boxx and have been the best CAD computers I’ve ever used.

But I bet you don’t have $5k per computer to spend.

Key take-away points:

-Fastest CPU speed. No CAD software that I know of can multithread, so you want to disable HT and overclock if possible, and you’ll only be using one of the cores.
-Workstation-oriented graphics outperform gaming graphics per unit $ by a hilarious margin.
-Enough ram to not be overwhelmed, 16gb should be fine
-SSD to get your seek times down. CAD files aren’t big, so HD read/write speeds aren’t a huge deal

Edit: with a budget of $1k I would strongly suggest going on eBay, buying used Dell M- or Precision laptops, and upgrading them as appropriate. That worked very well for us at the cost of <700/computer when upgraded and have sufficed for CAD work from 2016 through 2018 with SolidWorks.

Thank you, I appreciate it. Unfortunately, since we are a school we are only allowed to purchase computers from brick and mortar retailers like Costco, Walmart, Frys Electronics, etc. Also, we are looking for some portable laptops to purchase and maybe one desktop so we can bring the computers home and to the shop. Is there an off the shelf CAD Laptop that would be sufficient?

All ours have nvidia 1050’s installed, I believe mine is a 980 model. I do almost exclusively sheet metal with it

It does bog down when I’m programming our laser machine though.