Engineering Your Own Kick-Ass CAD Workstation Build on a Budget

Build a CAD workstation to suit your need in your budget

Need a professional-quality CAD workstation without burning your wallet? Then you are in the right place where you find a few tips and tricks to build a customized CAD workstation to suit your requirements without overshooting your budget. Instead of spending wholesome of hard-earned money for ready-made CAD workstation you can build it your way. You need CAD power at a reasonable price then we can build it with the technology available. In this topic we are looking at building desktops.

Selecting the right gear for the desktop

The main worry while building or upgrading a custom CAD workstation is deciding on the performance requirements. As the performance requirements form the base forselecting the right gear. While it is easy to zero down on CPU, RAM and OS requirements the minute you get your graphics card into the picture the configurations of CPU, RAM and OS goes up and down leading to confusion. CAD software has always been quite sensitive when it comes to graphics configurations. You might have come across the vendor certifications which are based on specific graphics cards, driver versions, and operating systems. Some of the vendor certifications are emphasized on the particular workstation models supplied by hardware partners. As there is no external person will not be certifying the build, if you run into any kind of problem with software you are on your own to fix it also.

CPU: Importance of Clockspeed

The assumption that went with the building of CPUs was you went for a huge GHz such as Pentiums. The demand for ever-smaller die sizes and higher clocks has given an opportunity has made it affordable to get a decent CPU.

Microprocessor performance is a mix of clock speed, process size, and architecture. For example the Intel i7-5820 performs better than i7-4790 in most of the categories in spite of 700Mhz dearth in clock speed and same 22nm process the key difference being the Haswell-E architecture. The i5-4690k has strong single-core performance that is much needed in CAD universe that is single-threaded. You might come across most CAD workstations that are Xeon procs, the Xeon’s huge memory address space and hyperthreading capability at marginal value is turning out to be advantageous.

Graphics Card

CAD graphics need professional workstation cards such as NvidiaQuadro or AMD FirePro. The professional cards are especially needed to enhance reliability and to support the optimizations for CAD applications. The gaming cards are immune from these optimizations as the hardware is not capable because of its coding. You can run CAD such as AutoCAD or SolidEdge on a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with Intel HD5000. At this point the load is on the software renderer which today’s CPU’s can withstand. You will experience the same with the gaming card also. You cannot say this is the best experience but a reasonably good one with right assemblies and graphics settings. If you opt for the pro card which is costlier, you can experience smooth rendering not due to hardware superiority but dependent on how the market is structured. So which ones to choose?

  • Go for a safer bet with fastest Quadro/FirePro you can afford.
  • Combination of two graphics cards would work well. Multiple graphics card with contrasting drivers coexist well in Windows 7 and up.A lower end pro card like the NvidiaQuadro K620 to ensure stability and optimize driver and supplement with a gaming card.
  • TitanX with floating-point potential would be ideal


Previously SSDs were optional resource added if you can afford it. Now they have become mandatory. The concerns regarding longevity and reliability of SSD technology are no more true. SSD’s are cost-effective with significant speed advantage compared to magnetic hard drives. The size of the SSD goes up by 250G. In case you need more space you can go for two similar drives, one of the OS and another for the programs. It is a good decision to support your SSD with good magnetic drive to store more, less performance-sensitive data like your own 200G music collection.


8GB is the minimum entry point to memory these days to any CAD-related work. 1600 Mhz DDR3 is the just right for price to get good performance. If you can shell out little more money go for an extra RAM instead of a faster RAM.


Attention to memory slots (4+) maximum addressable memory (32GB+), number of SATA ports (6+) and PCI 2.0 and 3.0 slots to hold graphics cards. Asus, EVGA, and MSI are good choices for solid boards.


A power supply in the 700-1000W range is ideal. Larger PSUs can run more efficiently at lower loads plus it gives room for you while adding a couple of TitanX.


As it is your own workstation you can add a dash of color from the same black case. It also gives you room to add drives, video cards, and cooling systemas and when required.

So here is the list of components to go ahead with building the workstation

CPU: Intel Core i5-4690K LGA 1150 $239.99

Mobo: Asus Maximum VII Hero Intel Z97 ATX $209.99

Graphics: NvidiaQuadro K620 $159.99 + EVGA Nvidia GTX 980 Superclocked $487.99 (With $20 Rebate)

SSD: Crucial MX200 6G SATA III $99.19

HDD: Seagate Barracuda 2TB 7200 RPM $76.99

RAM: Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 1600 $45.99

Cooling: Stock

Case: Cooler Master Cosmos SE $169.99

PSU: EVGA 220-G2-0750XR: $129.99

OS: Windows 7 Pro: $134.95

Keyboard: Use what you got.

Mouse: Use what you got.

TOTAL: $1,755.06

Dell Precision Tower 5810:

CPU: Intel Xeon E5-1620

Mobo: A Scooby-Doo mystery

Graphics: NvidiaQuadro K620


HDD: 2TB 7200 RPM HD

RAM: 8GB (2x4GB) 2133Mhz DDR2 RDIMM ECC

Optical: DVD+/-RW

Cooling: Stock

Case: Generic Dell Sadness

PSU: Whatever they threw in there.

OS: Win 7 Pro / 8.1 Pro

Keyboard: Dell KB212-B Quiet Key

Mouse: Dell MS111 USB Optical

TOTAL: $2,004 (After $668 Instant Savings)

Building your own workstation has its own advantages. We can choose and build within the budget.

Global Nettech specializes in providing best of class CAD workstation Rental designed to accelerate your CAD design or visual effects workflow