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Is the best computer for AutoCAD … a computer?

Is the best computer for AutoCAD … a computer?

First launched in 1982, AutoCAD is the most widely used CAD software in the world. The popular Autodesk software is used by millions of designers, architects and engineers to turn ideas into reality.

If you plan to use AutoCAD software, you will need an AutoCAD computer which gives you enough power to get the most from the platform. Designers do not appreciate having to continually reboot from crashes!

So, how much power will you need from your AutoCAD computer?

Every year, Autodesk releases a new upgrade of the software, so the minimum specifications for an AutoCAD computer are continually changing. Since the 2019 edition, disk space and memory requirements have been significantly higher than earlier years, so if you are upgrading to a newer version of AutoCAD you may well need to invest in a more powerful machine.

Here are the minimum requirements for an AutoCAD computer (laptop or workstation) for the 2020 edition of the product on Windows:

  • OS: Microsoft Windows 10, 8.1 or 7 SP1
  • Processor:5-2.9 GHz Intel processor minimum (3+ GHZ recommended)
  • Memory (RAM): 8 GB RAM minimum (16 GB recommended)
  • Graphics (GPU) memory: 1GB with DirectX 11 support
  • Disk Space: 6 GB SSD Storage Drive(in practice, of course, less than 100GB in SSD storage is unpractical, as you are running other software on the machine)

Here are the minimum requirements for an AutoCAD computer (MacBook laptop or iMac workstation) for the 2020 edition of the product on Mac:

  • OS: Apple macOS Catalina v10.15, Majove v10.14, High Sierra v10.13#
  • CPU type: 64-bit Intel CPU
  • Memory (RAM): 4 GB of RAM (8 GB+ recommended)
  • Disk space: 3 SSD storage drive available for download and install (of course, in practice you can’t buy a an Apple machine with such a small SSD storage disk).

How much will an AutoCAD computer cost? 

Finding the best machine that meets these requirements for RAM, GPU and SSD storage disk is not cheap. You can normally expect to pay $1,000 as a minimum for an AutoCAD computer that will efficiently run the software and not leave your designers tearing their hair out.

That said, for complex models and large files, you are realistically going to be spending around $2,500 or more for a machine that can best meets your teams’ needs.

If you are thing an earlier version of AutoCAD is best for you, a less powerful machine will normally suffice. This is especially true for students or professionals who only need to produce basic or 2D designs.

Could a cloud-based AutoCAD workstation be the best option?

If today were still in the teens, your best bet would be to take those specs to Amazon or your local computer shop. But today, there’s an alternative you should consider.

Technological developments (Nvidia Grid graphics technology, Citrix HD Pro, Intel server-side RAM technology with many cores, Netflix-grade public internet) have made cloud-based workstations feasible for AutoCAD. The COVID-19 pandemic has made them the best option for AutoCAD for most large Architecture, Engineering and Design organizations.   

This is because Cloud-based CAD machines allow you to load AutoCAD onto a virtual workstation hosted in a specialised cloud environment. You can then use any internet-connected computer to view and work on your models as if AutoCAD was loaded on your desktop or laptop. Or any mobile device, for that matter. So, the performance of the client device - the physical computer on which you run AutoCAD - doesn't matter anymore in the cloud. 

This way of working can be best compared to writing a document with Google Docs, or playing a video game online. You get all full functionality of AutoCAD  on any local computer. You simply need connect to a virtual workstation over the internet to run AutoCAD

Learn more: Why are CAD Workstations moving to the cloud?

Using a cloud-based AutoCAD workstation provides multiple benefits:

Hardware savings

As noted above, a decent AutoCAD computer will set you back at least $1,000 – and you can usually expect to pay much more. On the other hand, CAD in the cloud is charged at a low monthly fee – as little as $16/month. All you need is a basic laptop (even a $250 Google laptop will work) or desktop with low specs (less RAM, no GPU, little SSD storage) and you can remotely access an extremely powerful machine.

Continually updated

A cloud-based AutoCAD computer is constantly updated to give you access to the most powerful hardware. This means that you can upgrade to the latest version of AutoCAD, safe in the knowledge that your virtual desktop will be able to handle the software. 

More secure

Given the cost of AutoCAD computers, it is no surprise that these machines can be targets for theft. And this is where cloud-based AutoCAD computers offer peace of mind. Your designs will be stored in highly secure datacenters in the EU or on the US coasts, with 24/7 security and disaster prevention plans in place.

designairspace provides cloud-based AutoCAD computers which allow professional designers, architects and engineers, training colleges and students to run AutoCAD remotely. With pricing as low as $16/month, our plans bring you the most powerful NVIDIA GPU technology and high spec computers at a fraction of the cost of buying a regular AutoCAD computer.

Free trial of AutoCAD computer in the cloud

If you have never used a cloud-based AutoCAD computer, you might be uncertain as to whether it can really meet your performance needs. Therefore designairspace offers a 3-day free trial with our machines so you can experience CAD on a virtual workstation  and see what is best for you..

You will get to use a machine which offers the great performance, with the following specs:

  • Intel processor with 32GB of RAM
  • 8 x CPU cores
  • 4GB of Nvidia GPU Graphics Board
  • 100GB SSD Storage Disk

Begin your free trial of our cloud-based AutoCAD computer to see if this  works best for you!


Why Are CAD Workstations Moving To The Cloud?

Why Are CAD Workstations Moving To The Cloud?

For almost 40 years, CAD workstations have been accessed locally on desktops and laptops in people’s offices. However just like so many other technologies - from word processors to 3D computer games - it is now perfectly possible to do CAD design work over the Internet. Learn more about this fascinating trend and what it means for you. 

Architect Computer - 5 Steps The Best Choice For Any Architect

Architect Computer - 5 Steps The Best Choice For Any Architect

5 Questions To Ask Before Buying An Architect Computer?

An architect computer is a serious investment - you will want to choose the best machine that supports your needs today and in the long term. After all, you do not want to be stuck with a computer that takes half an hour to render a basic model, when you could have purchased another workstation that does it in minutes.

With so many powerful machines out there, it can be difficult to decide which architecture computer is best for you. This doesn’t have to be. In this quick guide, we will look at five steps to pick the best computer for any architect.

  1. Sizing your machine
  2. Windows or Mac?
  3. Your usage of 3D design software
  4. Your budget
  5. Desktop or laptop

Whether you are a student or an IT system professional buying a computer for architects at your business, the following 5 steps will help you to your decision.

5 steps for choosing an architect computer

The following five steps will help you choose the best device for your needs.

1. Size your system: 3D design software and model size of your 3D designs

      Architects will first need to know which BIM modelling software they will use, and what the minimum system requirements are for that software. This is the most important factor to consider when sizing an architect’s computer. After all, “heavy” 3D modelling architecture software – such as Autodesk’s Revit - needs lots of power.

      Whether you are buying an architecture computer as a student or you are an IT systems manager for a large architecture firm, it is vital to ensure that the machine can run the software required. 

      Therefore, visit the website of the software company and review the minimum hardware requirements (for Revit, see here). You are looking in particular at the size of two important components.  

      • The minimum CPU: what minimal amount of computing power? Your vendor will recommend a minimum CPU performance, measured in GB of RAM. Most vendors spec a minimum of 8GB of RAM.
      • Graphics power: what is the minimal recommended graphics card (from vendors such as Nvidia or AMD)? The minimum performance of a graphics card or GPU (such as from the popular Nvidia Quadro family) is 2GB RAM.

      Our advice for Revit: rather than picking the minimum performance of 8GB, we recommend 16 GB of RAM. If the size of your central design model file is larger than 1GB, than pick a CPU that has a performance of 32 GB RAM. You normally won’t need a bigger graphics card than 2GB, unless you also want to do 3D rendering work (Lumion, VRay, 3D Studio Max). Students  who don’t know which software program they will use should contact their college to find out what 3D design software they will be using.

      2. Operating System

      As opposed to other knowledge workers, architects will consider two operating systems: Microsoft Windows and Apple's Mac OS.

      Windows is the most widely used operating system among architects and students simply because there are far more machines available and at a lower cost. You will normally find high quality computers at a much lower price than the Apple equivalent. Windows is generally better known and supported by IT departments and university computer repair teams too.

      That being said, the Mac OS is probably more popular among architects because of its focus on design and usability. A perennial drawback is that there’s no Revit version for the Mac OS.

      3. Your planned use of 3D architecture software

      A recent new trend is that virtual computers can run the graphics-intensive software that architects typically use. A virtual computer gives an architect access to a best-in-class virtual machine which runs on the cloud. Just like Google Docs, a virtual computer requires you to connect over the internet to use your preferred architecture software. The advantage is that you can buy very affordable laptops or desktops (or a Macbook laptop or iMac workstation ) and then rent a relatively low cost (starting from $16/mo) but high specs (32 GB of CPU RAM, powered with nvidia GPU’s up to 8 GB RAM) remote desktop online.

      Learn more: What Are The Costs Of Remote Desktops For CAD And BIM?

      There are other advantages of virtual machines: you can work with them on practically any device (Windows, MacOS, and mobile devices if you must), and from anywhere.  

      To summarize: if you don’t need your 3D BIM software 40 hours a week (or if you insist on working on a Mac), you should really consider a virtual workstation (if they meet the requirements in step 1) in combination with a low-spec, low-cost laptop or desktop computer (or iMac or Macbook Pro).

      Bear in mind that virtual machines will only work if you have a constant, reliable internet connection at home, in the office or at school, similar to what you would need for watching Netflix. If you do have such a connection, then you can save a lot of money over time. Plus, your designs will always be stored securely in the cloud rather than being held on an expensive machine which could be a target for theft. 

      4. Your budget

      Speaking about money: how much are you willing to spend on an architect's computer? As a rule of thumb, it is usually best not to economize on the computing power or graphics card - even though Nvidia or AMD graphics cards can be more costly than the rest of the system. In the long run this will pay dividends since you will save hundreds of hours waiting as the computer processes renders, and you can store far more data on the machine itself.

      5. Desktops or laptops?

      A final question to think about when choosing your architecture computer, is whether you prefer desktops or laptops. A stationary desktop or workstation offers the advantage of being easy to customise - you can add more memory easily, pick a specific nvidia graphics card, etc. On the other hand, laptops are of course mobile, and you can use them anywhere.

      It is of course possible to use a virtual architecture computer on both laptops and desktops. If you have gone into college or work and not brought your laptop, you can still use any internet connected computer to log onto your machine remotely and work on your designs.

      The laptop also comes with a sizeable screen. However, most architects will want to buy dual screens, which is a separate expense. If you choose a laptop, you should factor in the cost of a base-station to connect your laptop to a dual-monitor screen.

      The shortlist for your architect computer

      The sheer quantity of architecture computers out there can make choosing a machine overwhelming. However, by using the 5 steps you can easily narrow it down and find the best architect computer for you. Let's summarize and simplify here: 

      1. Sizing your machine: at a minimum 16GB of RAM and 2 GB of GPU.
      2. Windows or Mac: pick a Windows systems, unless you can't live without a MacOS. 
      3. Your usage of 3D design software: if you're not a heavy user - working with 3D design software on a full-time basis - go with a virtual machine. 
      4. Your budget: don't skimp on CPU and GPU power. 
      5. Desktop or laptop: if you're a heavy user, we recommend a high-end desktops or workstations. For all others, we suggest standard laptops (or MacOS) in combination with a virtual workstation.  

      Virtual architecture computers from designairspace are ideally suited to architecture firms and architecture students looking for a flexible and cost-efficient option for running architecture software - either on affordable laptops to Apple's most impressive iMac's.

      To learn more about designairspace’s virtual architect computers, read about the industries we serve or begin your free trial today.