You don’t have to spend a fortune on hardware for entry-level 3D CAD. At just under £900, InterPro’s latest IPW-iB [i5] workstation is a testament to this, combining new technology in processor, graphics and storage to good effect.
The system is built around Intel’s brand new Ivy Bridge processor, a ‘tick’ in Intel’s ‘tick tock’ approach of bringing new CPU technology to market.
Sandy Bridge, the ‘tock’ of 2011, was a major change in architecture. Ivy Bridge really just improves on this with a die shrink. Down form 32nm to 22nm, the new manufacturing process brings lower power consumption and a small increase in performance to the table.
InterPro hasn’t gone all out with Ivy Bridge for this review machine. In order to hit the sub £900 price point, it has opted for a mid-range model — the 3.4GHz Core i5 3570K (quad core). Only 0.1GHz lower than the top end Core i7 3770K, users will notice very little difference when performing core CAD/CAM/CAE tasks.
The real differentiator will come when using a ray trace renderer. Here, the Core i7 3770K’s support for Hyperthreading would give it a significant advantage over the Core i5 3570K.
For those that focus solely on modelling and mainsteam CAM or CAE tasks, the Core i5 is the logical choice. Backed up with 8GB RAM, there’s enough capacity to work with mid-sized models across multiple applications.
For graphics, the AMD FirePro V4900 (1GB) is an ideal partner — enough GPU power to make sure complex assemblies move smoothly on screen and, for those that like working with extended desktops, support for three displays through AMD Eyefinity.
For storage, some may find our test machine a bit light in terms of capacity. With a single 120GB Intel 330 Series SSD, InterPro has designed this machine for use in an environment where data is mostly stored on a server.
For those that need more storage, InterPro can add a high-capacity SATA drive without too much expense — prices have started to come down after the worldwide shortage of drives earlier this year.
Boasting 500MB/s (read) and 450MB/s (write), the brand new Intel drive certainly offers much for an entry-level workstation. From a standing start, the machine booted in a mere 21 seconds and felt responsive throughout with applications and datasets loading quickly.
Observant DEVELOP3D readers may wish to know if InterPro offers an overclocked version of this machine (the K suffix of the Core i5 3570K denotes that the chip is fully unlocked). The answer is yes — but it requires a more advanced mainboard and Intel water cooling unit.
This would push up the overall system cost to just under £1,000 but would probably boost performance by around 20-30%.
A worthwhile investment in our eyes, but sub £1,000 or sub £900, the choice is yours. If you’re in the market for a low cost CAD machine the IPW-iB [i5] looks to be an excellent proposition.
» Intel Core i5 3570K (3.4GHz) (Quad Core) (Ivy Bridge)
» 8GB (2 x 4GB) “Major Branded” DDR-3 1600MHz (PC3-12800) memory
» Intel DH77KC mainboard
» 120GB Intel 330 Series SATA3 SSD
» AMD FirePro V4900 (1GB GDDR5) graphics
» Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
» 3 years return to base warranty (incl parts and labour)
(secs – smaller is better)
CAD (SolidWorks 2010) – 223
CAM (Delcam PowerMill
2010) – 1) 171 2) 289 3) 424
CAE (SolidWorks 2010
Simulation) – 89
Rendering (3ds Max
Design 2011) – 299
(frames per sec – bigger is better)
CAD (SolidWorks 2010) – 4
Intel Core i5 3570K (3.4GHz) (Quad Core)(Ivy Bridge)
8GB (2 x 4GB)“Major Branded” DDR-3 1600MHz (PC3-12800) memory
AMD FirePro V4900 (1GB GDDR5) graphics
Intel DH77KC mainboard
120GB Intel 330 Series SATA3 SSD
3 years return to base warranty (incl parts and labour)