In Product Support, we are asked quite often for advice on which components will yield the best performance for Civil 3D. Let me get it out of the way first – we can’t give specific recommendations on which brands and models to buy. As much as I would love to build your machine (honestly, I would!!), we can’t get that specific with our advice. No two users are exactly the same in the way they use Civil 3D. What is appropriate for one company may be an overkill for another. Alternatively, what may be a solid processor for the average Land Surveying firm may not cut it if you are working with large Corridors or creating huge Renderings. That being said, there is a lot of information out there that can help someone while they research their next purchase. The purpose of this blog post is to consolidate this information so it is easier to find.
This is where it starts – the minimum needed to run Civil 3D properly. There are many times that you may need to go beyond this. So depending on your usage, you may need a faster processor or more RAM. Notice there is a difference between the requirements for 32bit and 64bit.
There have been some huge changes to processors over the past few years. As is always the case, the hardware is what pushes the envelope. So do you need to be on the bleeding edge of technology? Your decision, but probably not. Here is a blog post I wrote on this topic, with some bench marking done on various processors I had access to:
The Graphics Hardware List will help you determine what graphics cards and drivers are supported, and gives you a convenient place to download those drivers.
While you may not need a $1,000 card, I do see quite the graphics card get the short end of the stick many times. Remember, you are building a CAD machine, not a gaming machine. Gaming cards are built for a different purpose, which may not meet your professional needs. Again, keep your daily workflow in mind, and purchase appropriately.
Which Operating System
With the addition of 2011’s 64bit native version, we have seen a lot of people jump over to Windows 7 – 64bit. If you haven’t yet, you should. Even if you are still on an older version of C3D which is 32bit, you can still reap some smaller benefits from a 64bit environment. I wrote a post on this a couple of years ago, prior to the release of the 64bit native version, so some of the material is a little dated. However, it may be helpful as you decide your next move.
Like I said in my post above, RAM is cheap, but waiting on your computer is not. If you are building a new machine, I see no reason why you would opt for anything less than 8GB. For the more GIS-oriented who deal with larger images, you may want to go bigger. Again, your type of projects will determine what you need.
A quick search online showed that you could purchase 8GB of DDR3 1600 for under $150. If you keep that machine for 2 years, it averages out to about a $0.75/day investment.
With over a gazillion* C3D users, there is bound to be someone out there using the same processor you are debating purchasing. Curious if a new i7 is worth the money? Why not talk to someone who already made that choice. The Autodesk Discussion Forums are extremely active and growing daily. There are tons of people in there (as well as ADSK’ers) who are glad to help answer questions and give you their take on the hardware.
Here are just a few detailed discussions about new computer builds:
*number not actually verified
So in conclusion, there is no single solution that works for every user. But with the recent advancements, you can still get a good level of performance at a decent price point. Hopefully, this information will help as you start to plan out your next computer.
Boy, this post has got me itchin’ for a new machine :)