SOLIDWORKS can do amazing things, but you need a computer that can handle whatever you throw at it. Here is what’s important to know when building a system for SOLIDWORKS:
Due to the nature of the work, SOLIDWORKS CAD is a predominantly single-threaded application. That means you won’t see great benefit from adding more cores (and therefore more parallel processing threads). You will see more benefit from going for high clock speed. The comparison testing we have done shows this is ultimately what matters. While Intel’s enterprise “Xeon” line has its benefits, their consumer “Core” line often has the higher clock speeds, so that is what we recommend. It is important to note that CPU efficiency at a given clock speed varies by processor architecture. Therefore, clock speeds do not provide a direct efficiency comparison between, say, an Intel and AMD CPU, or two Intel CPUs from different generations.
SOLIDWORKS Simulation, unlike SOLIDWORKS CAD, does engage in significant parallel processing, and you will get appreciable gains by adding cores for this application. There are, however, nonlinear diminishing returns. The slope of that curve will depend on the size of the model, but suffice it to say we do not generally recommend more than eight cores.
Lastly, Intel isn’t the only CPU game in town — the Ryzen 5000 line from AMD is also a highly competitive option. The better choice may come down to availability and pricing in your region.
Graphics Card (GPU)
In contrast with CPUs, SOLIDWORKS CAD essentially requires that you use a workstation graphics card. Consumer graphics cards are optimized for a different workload, and you may experience diminished performance and application crashes if you try to use one. In SOLIDWORKS CAD, it’s likely that the more expensive the card you get, the smoother viewport manipulation will be.
The SOLIDWORKS Visualize renderer supports both NVIDIA and AMD. However, select models from NVIDIA (the RTX series) contain raytracing hardware acceleration which can be greatly beneficial to render times. AMD includes hardware-based raytracing on some of its cards, but we have yet to test it for ourselves.
SOLIDWORKS’ minimum requirement for RAM is 16 GB, but we see a lot of users opting for 32 GB nowadays. This is as far as we recommend — we are not really seeing SOLIDWORKS utilize more than 32 GB, and we cannot force the system to use more. However, applications such as 3D scanning are using 64 GB, and in some cases going even higher.
For your data storage, you have two options: hard drives and solid state drives. You definitely want solid state drives. They are orders of magnitude faster than old, mechanical hard drives (not to mention they are more reliable). There are two kinds of solid state drives: SATA and NVMe. Both are fast, but the latter is faster.
Official System Requirements
The basic hardware requirements to run SOLIDWORKS CAD are not difficult to achieve. You can see them here.
Visualize requirement details can be found here, but they aren’t so dramatic. The most notable is 4GB of video memory for denoising.
Where to Buy
CATI has a strong partnership with BOXX. They specialize in high-end overclocked workstations. Please contact us if you would like to explore these options and how they may benefit your SOLIDWORKS performance.
CATI also has a partnership with Dell. We have worked with them to create SOLIDWORKS-ready desktop and mobile workstation configurations. Check them out here.
You can also check out my 3DExperience World presentation, Achieving Extreme SOLIDWORKS Performance for our latest benchmark results. That can be downloaded here. You can watch the video version below:
Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need to know more!
Sr. Application Engineer, Strategic Solutions
Computer Aided Technology