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CAD workstations round-up 2021

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The latest workstations for CAD-centric workflows: 11th Gen Intel Core (up to 8 cores) and AMD Ryzen 5000 (up to 16 cores) to go beyond 3D design and into the realms of rendering, reality modelling and simulation


BOXX Apexx S3

BOXX has built a major part of its business around overclocking and with the BOXX Apexx S3 it permanently boosts 11th Intel Core clock speeds across all eight cores. The Intel Core i7-11700K runs at 5.0 GHz, while the Intel Core i7-11900K runs at 5.3 GHz. As with all BOXX workstations, there’s also a huge focus on build quality, with the custom chassis made from ‘aircraft-grade’ aluminium, offering a strength and rigidity way beyond that of most off-the-shelf cases.

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Dell Precision 3450 SFF

The Dell Precision 3450 SFF is a very compact desktop workstation. Measuring a mere 290 x 93 x 293mm it can even be mounted behind a display (pictured left). The ‘small form factor’ chassis does mean a more limited set of processor options, maxing out at the 65W Intel Core i9-11900 or 80W Intel Xeon W-1390. It’s also restricted to entry-level pro GPUs, but the AMD Radeon Pro WX 3200 and Nvidia Quadro P1000 are perfectly suited to 3D CAD and BIM workflows.

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Fujitsu Celsius W5011

This 21 litre ‘micro tower’ from Fujitsu is not as deep as comparable workstations, as the motherboard and GPU span its entire depth. It offers a choice of 11th Gen Intel Core or Intel Xeon W-1300 processors and can be configured with a massive range of GPUs, from the entry-level CAD-centric Nvidia T400 up to the Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 (it doesn’t yet offer the new Nvidia RTX A4000 / A5000). Other features include up to 128 GB of memory, multiple drives and tool-less access.

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Lenovo ThinkStation P350 Tiny

Tiny by name, tiny by nature — this is the smallest workstation on the planet, measuring a mere 37 x 183 x 179mm. However, it still has everything you need for mainstream CAD and BIM workflows, including an 11th Gen Intel Core i9 CPU (8 cores, 5.2GHz), up to 64 GB of DDR4 3200MHz memory and a choice of Nvidia P1000 or T600 GPUs. There’s no room for a HDD but with an M.2 PCIe Gen4 NVMe SSD up to 2TB there’s still plenty of storage. Plus, built in WiFi.

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Boston VENOM R41-10NP

Boston offers a huge variety of desktop workstations in its Venom range, from Intel Core and Intel Xeon, to AMD Threadripper, Threadripper Pro and AMD Epyc. This AMD Ryzen 5000 machine can be fitted with optional liquid cooling for ‘maximum performance and whisper quiet operation’ and matched with up to 128 GB of DDR4 3,200MHz stock or 4,733MHz overclocked memory. All of Boston’s workstations are available to lease.

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Broadberry CyberStation SFF

With its 250 x 203 x 367 mm Fractal Design Core 500 chassis, the Broadberry CyberStation SFF is one of the smallest AMD Ryzen 5000 workstations. This, together with the built-in WiFi, make it well suited to home workers. Despite its size it can still take a whole host of pro GPUs, up to the Nvidia RTX A6000. Two RAM slots on the Gigabyte AMD Ryzen X570 I AORUS PRO motherboard mean it’s limited to 64 GB, but that’s still plenty for most CAD-centric workflows.

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Interpro IPW-R9

As the name suggests, the InterPro IPW-R9 features a choice of 3rd Gen AMD Ryzen 9 CPUs, including the 12-core Ryzen 9 5900X and 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X. To keep clock speeds running as high as possible for longer periods, the UK firm uses a range of Corsair all-in-one liquid CPU coolers. Different BIOS profiles can be created for customers, matched to their workflows. For example, to allow higher clock speeds by temporarily sacrificing cores.

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Novatech ProStation WR7-WX41

The Novatech ProStation WR7-WX41 is built around the AMD Ryzen 5000 Series with a choice of three CPUs — the 8-core 5800X, 12-core 5900X and 16-core 5950X. It’s fully customisable, but not just core components like memory, graphics and storage. Customers can also choose from 15 different CPU coolers (air or liquid) and nine different chassis, from full towers like the Phanteks Enthoo Pro (pictured) to 4U rack mounts like the Chenbro RM41300G.

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Overclockers RENDA

It’s not hard to guess what this UK firm specialises in. The Overclockers RENDA workstation is all about pushing the limits of performance, while maintaining stability. Professional overclocker Ian Parry (aka 8Pack) heads up the R&D, delivering hand-built machines based on each customer’s workflow requirements. With a custom water cooling solution he says he can push the AMD Ryzen 9 5950X to 5.1 GHz on one core and 4.6 GHz on all cores.


BIMBOX Stryker III

BIMBOX is laser focused on the AEC sector and has extensive experience of Revit, Enscape, Leica Cyclone, V-Ray, Unreal Engine and many others — and, importantly, what makes them tick.

The firm takes overclocking extremely seriously. For its Stryker III workstation it ‘delids’ the Intel Core i9-11900K CPU, taking off the standard heat spreader and mounting its own liquid cooler directly onto the silicon. This brings down the CPU temperature considerably so it can safely run at 5.3GHz on all cores.

BIMBOX is based in the US, but with the help of Ingram Micros its machines will soon be built, sold and supported in the UK and other countries.


HP Z2 SFF

With its 338 x 308 x 100mm chassis, the HP Z2 G8 SFF is slightly bigger than the Dell Precision 3450 SFF (see above) but has the option of more powerful processors. These include the 125W Intel Core i9-11900K and the Nvidia Quadro RTX 3000, which extends the reach of the workstation beyond 3D CAD and BIM and into the realms of entry-level viz.

According to HP, the Z2 G8 SFF offers ‘Unthrottled performance’ thanks to Z’s ‘industry-leading’ thermals that keep the processor and graphics card cool, so they can run at max performance for extended periods of time. ‘Unthrottled performance’ also extends to the new PCIe Gen 4 Samsung PM9A1 SSD.


BOXX Apexx Denali

With its Apexx Denali, BOXX was one of the first workstation manufacturers to offer a Ryzen 5000 Series workstation.

It uses the same compact custom ‘aircraft-grade’ aluminium chassis as the Intel-based Apexx S3 and at 174 x 388 x 452mm it’s smaller than most AMD Ryzen 5000 tower workstations. But that doesn’t come at the expense of expandability. The Apexx Denali can house up to two high-end Nvidia RTX, Nvidia GeForce or AMD Radeon Pro GPUs and two 3.5-inch Hard Disk Drives (HDDs).

To keep the processor running at peak frequencies it uses a liquid-cooled closed loop system with a sizeable radiator.


Armari Magnetar V16R-RA850G2-2S

The Armari Magnetar V16R-RA850G2-2S is one of the smallest AMD Ryzen 5000 Series workstation out there, measuring a mere 360 x 87 x 400mm. The custom chassis features a high quality Japanese steel frame which was designed in-house by the specialist UK manufacturer.

Unlike many other small form factor workstations, there is no compromise on graphics and the workstation can support one dual slot GPU like the AMD Radeon Pro W6800 or two single slot GPUs like the Nvidia RTX A4000.

Custom fans and a 14cm all-in-one liquid CPU cooler help maintain peak performance, while still preserving quiet operation.


This article is part of DEVELOP3D’s 2021 workstation special report. To read the other articles and reviews in this report click on the links below.

Desktop workstation buyer’s guide
Greg Corke goes back to basics with some general advice for those looking to buy a workstation for product development workflows

Intel Core vs AMD Ryzen
We explore the best CPUs for design-centric workflows from CAD to reality modelling and rendering 

Scan 3XS GWP-ME A132R (AMD Ryzen 9 5000) review
This Ryzen 5000 beast from Scan excels in rendering and extreme multi-tasking

Workstation Specialists WS-184 (11th Gen Intel Core) Review
This 11th Gen Intel Core workstation is ideal for CAD centric workflows

Best lightweight workstation laptops
Ultra-portable mobile workstations to take CAD and design visualisation on the road

AMD Radeon Pro W6800 GPU Review
This 32 GB beast is the first pro GPU from AMD with hardware-based ray tracing built in

AMD Radeon Pro Viewport Boost Review
Pro driver feature dramatically increases 3D performance by dynamically reducing viewport resolution

Nvidia RTX A4000/A5000 GPU’s Review
New pro ‘Ampere’ GPUs slice through real-time 3D, ray tracing and VR workflows

Autodesk graphics engine to ‘radically improve’ in Inventor
New One Graphics System (OGS) will boost viewport performance and add GPU ray tracing

Talking heads: Multicore for CAD
Is there scope for making CAD software more multithreaded, enabling it to use more cores, more efficiently – or does the sequential nature of many operations mean the hands of CAD software developers are tied? We asked the experts to find out more

Hybrid working: What does it mean for design firms?
With many firms re-evaluating office space and working from home policies, we asked Adam Jull of IMSCAD about the role that virtual workstations can play