CAD Workstations Versus the PC: Which is Better?

by Jaap van Duijvenbode on November 13, 2015

Engineers, architects, designers, and other professions that depend on CAD drawings and animations have a choice when it comes to machines: CAD workstations or an ordinary desktop PC. As you'll see, there are some distinct differences between the two, and certain situations when only one or the other will do.

Workstations Versus PC: The Price

If price outweighs the importance of a machine that can handle huge files and analysis, then the PC is right for you. Windows-based computers average about $700.

Many shoppers get no further than the price tags when comparing workstations to a PC. While the average Windows-based computer costs between $500 and $1,500, the average workstation runs between $1,500 and $3,000, making it about twice as expensive. For this price, the PC will also handle your basic computing needs, like managing email, creating and editing documents, and surfing the Web, but the workstation is more rugged, durable, and powerful.

Workstations Versus PC: The Power

Much of the difference in price between workstations and PCs is the hardware. CAD workstations are designed to work with far larger files without bogging down, so these machines are equipped with much hardier hardware components. For example, workstations usually feature 10 cores, versus the 4 common to most PCs. Workstations generally pack about 30 MB of cache, versus just 8 MB of most PCs, and workstations boast about 4 TB of memory versus the 32 MB common on PCs. This allows workstations to handle massive CAD files, animation, data analytics, and video and audio creation and editing.

Workstations Versus PC: The Durability

CAD workstations are designed to work around the clock: these machines are often left to process renderings and animations all night long while their human users go home to rest. So, the cost of the workstation isn't just related to beefier hardware, the cost also reflects the fact that CAD workstations are built for durability. Most PC users don't need this capability, hence the less expensive and comparatively less durable hardware components. CAD workstations are generally equipped with Error-Correcting Code Memory, RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks), SSD (Solid State Drives), and Optimized GPU to provide this durability.

Workstations Versus PC: The Work

Older CAD workstations worked on UNIX operating systems, but more modern ones are equipped with Windows operating systems, making them easier for today's users to learn to operate. CAD workstation software, such as AutoCAD, ranges from powerful and elaborate proprietary options to freeware and shareware, all with varying quality and product support. Most workstations are also capable of doing basic PC operations (like email and Web surfing).

Workstations Versus PC: The Decision

Whether you opt for a PC or a CAD workstation, Talon Storage can help you collaborate on and share the files internationally while maintaining the performance and security you'd get if all the work was under one roof.

As you have likely determined, the question of investing in a CAD workstation versus a PC primarily comes down to whether it is necessary to invest in the rugged quality that a workstation offers. If you have just a few lightweight 2-D CAD drawings to deal with, a workstation is probably overkill. However, if your work demands a significant amount of large CAD animations, 3-D CAD files, photorealistic renderings, video and/or audio files that need to be worked with or edited, then a workstation will likely be worth the cost of the speed, power, and durability.

CAD Files & Data Sharing

When it comes to sharing your CAD drawings and animations safely, securely, and quickly, you need another solution entirely -- that requires the help of the folks at Talon. See how others have solved their data sharing and collaboration issues in our customer success stories.

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