Hardware for CAD

Hi All,

I am in the market for a new notebook computer and would be grateful
for any advice that you might have. I am basically looking for
somethign portable that I can use for my business so it’s looking
like it might need to be able to run the following programs:

CAD Program – Rhino, Art Cam, etc. I am not planning on operating a
machine from it, but if it is possible get an affordable one that
can attach to a machine, hey, the more the merrier!
Inventory/Business Program Website Builders for the website that I
will get around to building one of these days Storage Space for
Photos Corel Draw, Adobe Illustrator and other photo and drawing
programs Microsoft Word, Excel, etc… etc., etc.,

How much memory should I get? 512 mb? 2GB? I want it to not be as
slow as my current computer, which just cant seem to handle more
than three programs open at once. How fast a processor? I already
think that I want a dual core processor. Any other things that I
should think about when purchasing?

I am also definitely getting a Windows machine. I am not going to
buy a Mac for a ton of reasons. My first computer was a Mac and I am
not going back, LOL! I am also leary of buying a Dell, I have one
now and am not thrilled with their customer support and the photo of
a Dell notebook setting itself on fire that has been all over some
techie blogs and even in the New York Times really scared me off
buying a second one.

So, any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks a bunch.

Look at the Lenovo and Toshiba laptops. Lenovo purchased the IBM PC
and ThinkPad lines. My clients have been happy with the quality and
support for both of these brands.

Stay away from what is found at the big box/retail stores. These
appeared to be designed to meet price point rather than performance.
Personally I have seen enough problems with these consumer class
machines from Hp, Compaq, Gateway and no-names that I recommend
clients stay away them. (Hp does have higher end business class
machines - I don’t have enough experience with these to comment on

Dell is in the middle quality and price wise. They are good for a
home machine and secondary portable machine. If you looking for the
laptop to be your primary business machine - look at Lenovo and

Doing CAD you will want a big screen. 15" is largest practical
screen and still by portable. You can get 17" and 19" laptops, but
these are really small footprint desktop machines. Look for a machine
with video card with its own memory. Integrated video with shared
memory is slower. Check the requirements of the CAD package you are
going to use.

Get at least 1GB of RAM - more is better for performance and running
multiple programs at once.

Get a hard drive bigger than you think you will need - they fill up
fast -

specially with graphic files.

Make sure get a CD or DVD burner. Do backups - drives fail, stuff
happens. On the typical business computer the data/stored
is worth much more than the hardware. Backups stored in different
location from computer.

My full time business is technology support for small businesses.
Plus I am a jewelry student at the Worcester Craft Center working
towards a second profession.

Norman Buck
Senior Howling Wizard

For your needs, you’ll want as powerful a processor as you can get.
The Duo Core is a good idea and, obviously, the faster the better.
Look for at least 1GB of RAM, and try to get a model with a good
graphics accelerator, preferably featuring open GL. You’ll want it
for the CAD CAM stuff. Most of the notebooks on the market that run
the Windows Media Center OS are capable of running all the software
you mention without bogging down. For storage, you might consider an
external USB drive to help keep your notebook’s hard drive

James S. Duncan, G.G.
James in SoFL

You’ll get as many replies as people have computers - very much a
personal choice. I went through the same thing, though, and I ended
up with an HP dv4000. It runs 1.8ghz, as I recall. It does have 1 gig
of memory and a 100 gig harddisk. DVD writer, integrated wireless,
digital media card reader, LAN, 4 USB 2.0, etc. It is widescreen with
enhanced brightness - beautiful display. One reason I got it, even
though I rarely use it, is because it will play DVDs without booting
the computer. It just seemed so silly to have to boot a computer just
to watch a movie, which is 2x the battery power. The DVD drive was
quirky, and it was determined that it was bad (5 minute wait for phone
support). Once we determined that, he just said, “Give me a credit
card and we’ll send you a new one - just send back the old one in 30
days for no charge.” 5 days later, there was a new drive in the mail -
no muss, no fuss. I’ve had it for about 8 months now, do 3d graphics
and web site authoring. It boots in a flash, very reliable.



Despite your anti-Mac stand, the new Mac laptop that runs both Mac
and PC operating systems is hands down the best available for many


For your needs, you'll want as powerful a processor as you can
get. The Duo Core is a good idea and, obviously, the faster the
better. Look for at least 1GB of RAM, and try to get a model with a
good graphics accelerator, preferably featuring open GL. 

Thanks a bunch for these tips. Why is it necessary to get a graphics
accelerator or open GL? I am definitely going to look into this when
buying my computer, but just wanted to know why. Thanks again.

good graphics accelerator, preferably featuring open GL

The one thing my HP doesn’t have, but I’m intending to add, is a
graphics accelerator. It’s not actually a graphics accelerator,
though, it’s a graphics card. If you have a graphics card, it takes
on all the work of writing graphics to screen, and contains it’s own
memory for the job. Otherwise, you use the native motherboard
graphics processing, and it taps into your system memory as needed,
and uses much more cpu, as needed. My HP does all of this work just
fine, without dual processing, etc. There is a line where you NEED to
have things, and then there’s another line of “It would be nice to
have that.” An SGI workstation would be ideal for your purposes, but
you don’t NEED it. A good graphics card, while not truly essential, is
good advise, though. It will make life much easier.


Why is it necessary to get a graphics accelerator or open GL 

It isn’t necessary, just desirable (especially for gamers). A
computer’s RAM memory only takes you so far with its ability to
handle large files. A graphics accelerator (indeed, any
high-capacity video card) helps your computer handle large video and
graphics without bogging down the rest of the machine, thus slowing
it down. Open GL helps with 3-D rendering. As computer applications
get bigger and more complex, you’ll be happy further down the line
when you have the capability to run them quickly without having to
upgrade your computer as often. And most notebook machines have their
video cards hard-wired to the motherboard and are impossible (or
difficult) to upgrade.

James S. Duncan, G.G.
James in SoFL

check out this site for the recommended specs for Matrix which is a
plug in for Rhino. this is how I bought my laptop


Open GL helps with 3-D rendering 

Just to clarify, it’s true that Open GL is the standard underlying
architecture for computer graphics of all types, including CAD, video
games, and 2d apps.

Usually, a powerful graphics card will facilitate the rendering of
objects in a 3d environment only as far as the on-screen/real-time
rendered display, which is important for video games and the
manipulation of heavy CAD models during modeling operations, but
graphic cards that are rated highly for video games are not
necessarily the best for CAD.

The speed at which a computer can process a photo-realistic
rendering (that one would save as an image), depends more upon how
efficiently the rendering program utilizes the Open GL language and
the processing power of the computer’s CPU and amount of RAM in the

Some rendering programs can also utilize hyper-threaded CPU’s and
dual-core processors to move rendering at a faster rate.


I just sourced a new system to support Matrix 5.31 from a builder of
custom gaming hardware in LA. Go to cyberpowerpc.com. If anyone would
like a copy of my build specs contact me directly at @paul1


Thanks for this Jesse. I am looking at dual core
processors, and am looking to get 2GB of memory. Is that alright? Is
2 GB overkill and can I make do with 1 GB? Also, is it necessary for
me to get a graphics card? If so, what type of card would you
recommend? Thanks again.


I use 3GB and closely monitor my memory and CPU usage. I routinely go
up to 2 GB, but, I think I could get by on less if cost was a real
problem. Once you are working with a system you will adjust your
expectations to match what is available. Memory is easy to upgrade
(particularly on a desk top) the CPU is harder and just as important,
so I would recommend focusing on that and, the video card, the
systems you are looking at come with.