To Buy Or Not The Buy, That's The Question
Choosing the best Solidworks workstation is a really important decision - and it is worth doing your research to make sure you select an appropriate machine. You might assume that buying the most powerful computer you can afford is the way to go. However, new developments in cloud computing makes renting a virtual CAD workstation in the cloud a viable and popular alternative.
Let’s look at the fundamentals first. Most computers today combine multiple cores on each chip. However, Solidworks is mainly a single-core application, so all those extra cores are unnecessary (and potentially a waste of money!). This means that you would do better to choose a machine with fewer cores and a faster processor. Less intuitive is that the demands on the performance of the graphics board (typically from NVIDIA or AMD) is not that high as with rendering software such as 3D Studio, Unreal or Lumion.
Here is everything you need to know about choosing a Solidworks workstation.
What is Solidworks?
Solidworks is a CAD program published by Dassault Systèmes. First launched in 1993, the technology is primarily used by engineers for 3D solid modelling, which refers to the design of physical objects. According to Solidworks themselves, over 2.3 million people in 80 countries use the software.
What do you need a Solidworks workstation for?
Different kinds of people will have different needs for their Solidworks workstation:
- Students: If you are learning Solidworks as part of an engineering or design course, you will likely have relatively low computing power needs. Many students will find that a decent quality consumer laptop (around the $500 mark) will be sufficient for school projects.
- Professionals: If you need a Solidworks workstation in the professional environment, you will likely be running the technology for many hours each day, while also producing large files. In this case, you’re going to want a powerful Solidworks workstation and you can expect to pay upwards of $2,000 for a machine with the specs you’ll need.
Hardware and OS specs for a Solidworks workstation
Every year Solidworks releases a new, improved version of the software which often entails an increase in hardware specs too. Here are the latest Solidworks workstation minimum specifications for the 2020 edition of the product:
- Operating system: Solidworks only runs on Microsoft Windows. Choose a machine which runs either Windows 10, 64-bit or Windows 7 SP1, 64-bit.
- Processor (CPU):3 GHz or above.
- RAM: 16 GB RAM is the absolute minimum for a Solidworks workstation, but choosing 32GB or more will avoid you running out of memory.
- Graphics card: Solidworks provides a tool for finding certified graphics cards and drivers. Ideally choose an NVIDIA Quadro, AMD FirePro or another certified card
- Hard drive: Solidworks recommend choosing a machine with an SSD drive for optimal performance
Thanks to improvements in internet connectivity, it is now perfectly possible to run Solidworks on a cloud-based CAD machine. With this approach, you use any internet-connected laptop or desktop (including low-spec consumer machines without expensive NVIDIA graphics cards) and then remotely use high powered Solidworks workstations that are optimised for the software.
Learn more: Why are CAD workstations moving to the cloud?
This is a fairly new approach to running CAD programs like Solidworks that provides multiple benefits over running it locally on your desktop or laptop:
Continually updated with the most powerful specs
Cloud-based CAD machines are continually updated with the newest graphics cards, CPU’s and have virtually unlimited disk size. This means you will always be using the most powerful machine to run Solidworks. Of course, they also feature GPU power through the Grid technology from NVIDIA.
More cost-effective than a local workstation
Buying hardware to run Solidworks can be expensive – professionals can usually expect to spend north of $2,000 for even a basic machine. On the other hand, a cloud-based Solidworks workstation subscription can be had for as little as $16 per month.
Anytime, anywhere productivity
With a cloud-based Solidworks workstation, you can be productive anytime and anywhere. As long as you have an internet connection, you can use any machine to log into your workstation and edit your designs. That means you can work from home, at a client’s office or while travelling.
Try before you buy
Are the benefits for a cloud-based workstation appealing? Then it gets even better. There are several options available for you, from as AWS, Microsoft Azure and designairspace. As the author of this article, we like to point out that we (designairspace) provide cloud-based virtual desktops that can run all popular CAD programs, first among them Solidworks. Our machines are perfectly suited to the hardware and OS demands of Solidworks and allow you to get up and running in moments. Each of our cloud-based Solidworks workstations includes:
- Intel CPU with up to 32GB of RAM
- Up to 8 x CPU cores
- Up to 4GB of Nvidia GPU Graphics Board
- A minimum of 100GB SSD Storage Disk
Laptop, desktop or build your own?
Of course, if a cloud-based workstation isn’t the best option for you, you can still go down the road of buying your Solidworks computer. A major consideration for your Solidworks computer is the kind of machine you want to run it on:
- Laptop: Provides mobility at the expense of easy customisation. This is your best choice if your out and about a lot
- Desktop: Usually more powerful machines that can be customised, but chain you to an office desk
- Build your own: Specify your exact needs based on your Solidworks workstation uses. Will cost you significantly more money, however
If you don’t need a physical machine per se, then save yourself hours searching for a Solidworks workstation that best meets your specifications, spending thousands of dollars on hardware and waiting days for it to be delivered. It’s good to know that you can get started with a free trial of our cloud-based CAD machines today!