Industry News / CAD Hardware / Choosing the right CPU and GPU for your Lenovo workstation

Choosing the right CPU and GPU for your Lenovo workstation

Fundamental to your work : having the right power for calculations and graphics. Once you have made a selection for a workstation model likely to meet your computing needs, you now need to make the right CPU and GPU choices for your work.



The choices you make for a CPU and a GPU impact the performance of your workstation and the productivity of your experts, … or your own productivity directly.


ThinkStation D30

Lenovo's ThinkStation D30 supports the full range of new Xeon E5-2600 CPUs and Quadro GPUs

Let's look at the details for the ThinkStation choices of CPU. Lenovo supports essentially every version of the E5 family, so you will have plenty of choice – too much choice at times. I tend to simplify the selection by forcing the key choice to be between a single-processor or a dual-processor and then to get the fastest model of that choice which fits my budget.


If your work is primarily interactive CAD design, modeling, and engineering work, then your selection is already easier. You will be looking at a single-processor. If your work has a significant component of computational work, but it is not the primary task, then you will be well served with one of the faster choices like the E5-2690. This CPU runs at 2.9GHz when you are loading all eight cores, and has a maximum Turbo Boost frequency of 3.8 GHz which will provide the extra performance when you are running your interactive CAD programs.


If your work has a strong focus in the areas like simulation, modeling, visualization and rendering, or perhaps other non-CAD,computationally intensive tasks like video rendering, then your performance needs and productivity will be better served with a dual-processor system. I know that it starts to seem expensive when you need to equip a workstation with 2 high-end Xeon processors, but I still believe in going for the fastest models available and for a simple reason.


Download the Fact Sheet on the Xeon E5-2600 Family

This workstation will be in use for more than 3 years and it will be used by highly skilled and therefore relatively expensive people (like yourself, even). Therefore, added productivity boost will pay for itself sooner and continue to provide benefits for the next 3 or more years. Certainly you can save 1000€ per system if you get a mid-range CPU in place of the top of the line version, but if the faster system provides even an incremental 10% boost in productivity, then you gain 2 days of work or more every month. Consider that gain every month for 3 or more years and then consider the cost of your exceptionally skilled users, and you won't even need the back of a napkin to do the ROI calculation.


To summarize, you have so many CPU options that you need to simplify your choice to a selection of a single processor versus dual processor configuration and then get the fastest model of CPU which your budget allows.


As for GPU selection, a different set of constraints come into play which are not dependent on the CPU selection. A workstation which only requires a single CPU may still need the fastest GPU possible. Likewise, a dual-processor system might only require a mid-range professional graphics solution. The class of CPU and GPU which you will select are not always going to be the same.


Lenovo offers a full range of GPUs from professional 2D to Ultra high-end 3D GPUs. Download the Quardo comparison matrix here.

If you are working with interactive CAD, as an example, then you should consider the size of the models and the capabilities of the CAD program. Some programs, sadly, make poor use of your graphics and the application performance increases do not reflect the actual performance of your graphics system. Happily, this is less and less of a problem. Consider applications like Creo 2.0 which have been specially optimized for high-end graphics functions like transparent modeling. Others like CATIA V6 offer features like CATIA Live Rendering which supports interactive, GPU accelerated high-end visualization as you are working on your design. When your needs more closely match this scenario, then you will benefit by investing more in your GPU.


Other areas which profit more from a high-performance GPU include interactive rendering and visualization. Whether it is for a single user workstation or for a multi-user 3D design review system, a faster GPU will benefit you.


Professional users working in electronic design, mechanical design with smaller models, or modest architectural designs, can select a mid-range graphics solution. If your work is essentially 2D CAD, software development, or mid-level graphic design, then an entry-level graphics solution will be appropriate.


One more very important point about graphics … When it comes to productivity for professionals, keep in mind that a multiple display solution will automatically boost productivity whether the actual graphics solution is an entry-level, mid-range, or high-performance graphics solution. Make certain to budget for additional high-resolution displays and the appropriate mounting solution when you order your workstations. All of your choices for professional graphics support 2 or more monitors.


You will be very glad that you did.


To summarize, beware of the trap that a need for high-performance CPUs and high-performance GPUs are linked. Often times you will need both, but by understanding your system needs, you can optimize the use of your workstation budget. Also, you are given too many options when it comes to CPUs and GPUs, so simplify. Identify the main priorities, then “think big” when you buy because you will benefit from this system's performance, or suffer from its lack of performance, for many years.




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