A well-rounded low cost workstation for CAD based on Intel’s new Ivy Bridge CPU
You do not have to spend a fortune on hardware for entry-level 3D CAD. At just under £900, InterPro’s latest IPW-iB [i5] workstation is a testament to this, combining new technology in processor, graphics and storage to good effect.
The system is built around Intel’s brand new ‘Ivy Bridge’ processor, a small improvement over its ‘Sandy Bridge’ predecessor, bringing lower power consumption and a small increase in performance to the table.
InterPro has not gone all out with Ivy Bridge for this review machine. In order to hit the sub £900 price point, it has opted for a mid-range model — the 3.4GHz Core i5 3570K (quad core). Only 0.1GHz slower than the top end Core i7 3770K, users will notice very little difference when performing core CAD tasks. The real differentiator will come when using a ray trace renderer. Here, the Core i7 3770K’s support for Hyperthreading would give it a significant advantage over the Core i5 3570K.
For those that focus solely on Building Information Modelling (BIM), the Core i5 is the logical choice. Backed up with 8GB RAM, there is enough capacity to work with mid-sized models across multiple applications. For graphics, the AMD FirePro V4900 (1GB) is an ideal partner — enough GPU power to make sure complex models move smoothly on screen and, for those that like working with extended desktops, support for three displays through AMD Eyefinity.
Some may find our test machine a bit light in terms of storage capacity. With a single 120GB Intel 330 Series SSD, InterPro has designed this machine for use in an environment where data is mostly stored on a server. For those that need more gigabytes, InterPro can add a high-capacity SATA drive without too much expense.
Boasting 500MB/s (read) and 450MB/s (write), the brand new Intel drive certainly offers much for an entry-level workstation. From a standing start, the machine booted in a mere 21 seconds and felt responsive throughout with applications and datasets loading quickly.
InterPro also offers an overclocked version of this machine (the K suffix of the Core i5 3570K CPU denotes that the chip is fully unlocked). This would push up the overall system cost to just under £1,000 but would probably boost performance by around 20%-30%.
A worthwhile investment in our eyes, but sub £1,000 or sub £900, the choice is yours. If you are in the market for a low cost machine for CAD or BIM the IPW-iB [i5] looks to be an excellent proposition.