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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Best Computer for 3D Modeling and BIM

I have posted numerous times about this subject as well as received a ton of emails asking the best computers to use. David over at DesignReform recently posted a nice break down of this question.

This week classes started and one the most common questions I’m getting is “What’s the best computer for 3d modeling?”. Beside the people that REALLY want me to say “MAC BOOK PRO, of course” this is a tough question to answer. (I’ve noticed once a person has decided to go with a Mac book, there is really no point on discussing it further ) When it comes to hardware I try and stay objective and really find the best tool. I had a Mac Book and the issue for me was mapping the keyboard. I could not get used to the command key. For me the most important things are performance and comfort, you are going to be spending a lot of time with this computer so make sure you like it.

My recent recommendation has been the 15″ HP elite book. At CASE we have one of the 17″ versions and although it’s pretty big, it has been a great machine. Fed, Steve and I work on Dell Precisions M4400(s). We have had mixed results….. Fed’s hard drive failed, my monitor has had to be replaced 2 times and we have spent waaaaay too many hours on the phone with dell customer service. And….. that was all in a period of 8 months. That being said Steve has had little to no problems with his machine. 1 out of 3 is not good odds.

So my question to you is what is the Best Computer and/or Laptop for 3d Modeling and BIM?

My general concerns, or things I tell students to look out for include:

Processor: The processor affects things like rendering and computationally heavy operations (updating a huge grasshopper definition). What it does not affect is things like spinning a model or composting in Photoshop. Generally I try and not get the best option. It tends to add quite a bit to the price tag. I go for the one just below the most expensive.

RAM: Try and get 4 gigs or above (if you go with a 64 bit OS)

Graphics Card: The graphics card affects things like orbiting a model (not so much in Revit) and real time shading previews (software like Autodesk 3ds Max, Autodesk Showcase and Autodesk Newport) I prefer nVidia over ATI. Upgrading quatro is a different discussion in and of it’s self. (What do you think?)

Hard drive: This is for storing your models. 3d models, rendering and all the other file you produce will get very big (100 megs per file at times) . Hard drives are getting fairly inexpensive so I would go with at least 250 Gigs. That being said, for me your HD can get too big and you should avoid making it your life long data storage bin. Back that data up on an external drive.

Operating system: I bought our machines with Vista 64 and in general it was not too bad. I definitely had some things about it that drove me nuts. Now I’m running Windows 7 (64 bit) and I have to say, I really like it! for you Mac lovers, running 3d apps on parallels or VMware is going to get you mixed results in terms of performance and…. you will run into some listening issues with Autodesk application (3ds Max in particular)

That my 2 cents on the issue of hardware. Please post your thoughts (students need it) and forward this post to anyone you feel can provide some insight on this subject.

So what are my readers using? Let's see some comments and we can add to Davids post. Also, do a quick search using the search bar on the right of my site for some related posts.