Last Updated on December 20, 2021
When choosing the right motherboard for CAD and engineering, the first thing to do is gauge your level of work.
Are you student or someone working in a small engineering firm, or perhaps you are working on a complex project and you have a large budget to spend on a ultimate CAD rig?
Without gauging your needs and where you stand in the CAD and engineering field, it will be hard to find the right hardware for yourself, including a good motherboard.
For instance, a motherboard suggestion for someone who is a student learning the ropes of engineering design and simulation would be entirely different for someone who is designing the next Burj Khalifa or working on the simulating all the forces acting upon on a jet engine.
So, CAD and engineering is a huge umbrella term for the kind of hardware it entails. Generally though, engineering hardware is cutting edge and on par, if not more advanced, then gaming grade PC hardware.
In this article, we will look at the best motherboards for CAD and engineering. In doing so, we will briefly review motherboards from various price categories that would appeal to engineers and designers at different levels of expertise and budget range.
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Comparison of Top Motherboards for Engineering and CAD
|ASUS AM4 TUF|
|Gigabyte A520M |
|ASUS Prime |
|ASUS Prime |
|MSI TRX40 |
1. ASUS AM4 TUF B550-Plus – Recommended AMD Motherboard for CAD
A full ATX motherboard for mid range AMD engineering and CAD builds. Features middle of the road B550 chipset.
If you have an average budget and you just want to go for one of the most functional motherboards out there for and AMD build, then we highly recommend this for your next CAD build.
This motherboard is excellent for Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 builds. The feature set it offers will be in good parity with the these two processor series even if you plan to overclock.
This motherboard features the B550 chipset. As such it offers support for the newer PCIe v4 protocol across the CPU PCIe lanes.
Hence, the graphics card that you choose to install on the primary X16 PCIe slot will conform to the newer protocol.
The motherboard also has a higher number of USB 3.2 Gen 2 USB ports as compared to the inferior A520 chipset and also offers multi-GPU support.
It offers a single PCIe x16 slot as well as an X4 slot. The x4 slot uses the general purpose lanes and thus it conforms to the older PCIe v3. Nevertheless, the motherboard does offer AMD crossfire support with dual AMD graphics cards.
Compared to the older B450 chipset, the B550 offers higher PCIe lanes, generally offers a higher number of SATA ports, and offers WiFi 6 support (should the motherboard come built in with WiFi). This particular motherboard, however, lacks built in WiFi.
One very important factor to note, and one of the main reasons we have selected this as the best motherboard for CAD and Engineering in the mid range AMD category is that it offers an excellent phase power design of 8+2 VRMs. A good phase power design is important for overall system stability as well as for overclocking.
Other important features include 6 x SATA ports, 2 x M.2 slots, and 3 x PCIe x1 slots.
So in short, for a mid range AMD build for engineering purpose, we recommend this.
2. ASUS AM4 TUF Gaming X570-Plus (Wi-Fi) – For High Performance AM4 Engineering Builds
A high performance AMD AM4 motherboard with the premium X570 chipset and an exceptional 12+2 phase power design.
This comes from the same ASUS TUF Series of motherboard as the one above and hence its primary audience are gamers.
However, if you seek a high performance motherboard for your Ryzen 7 or a Ryzen 9 CAD build, then this motherboard with premium X570 chipset is what we highly recommend.
One of the key points to note is that unlike the B550, both the CPU as well as the general purpose PCIe lanes on this conform to the newer PCIe v4 protocol.
So essentially, you can install newer components like the Gen 4 SSDs which can reach speeds of upto 7000 MB/s (or more) here.
It also features an even better phase power design of 12+2 .
A powerful processor like a high end Ryzen 7 or a Ryzen 9 processor requires motherboard sub components that can handle them stability particularly when overclocked, that is where the premium X570 chipset come into play.
If you are building a high end engineering build for an engineering firm and if you do a lot of CAD simulation then chances are that you would opt for a high performance processor anyways. In that case, it only makes sense that you pair it with an equally capable motherboard.
The motherboard offers support for dual AMD graphics cards, has 2 x M.2 slots, 8 x SATA 3 slots, 1 X PCIe x16 v4, 1 x PCIE x4 v4 and 2 x PCIe x1 v4.
3. Gigabyte A520M AORUS Elite – For Budget AMD Engineering Builds
An AMD AM4 motherboard for budget builds. Recommended for students, and small firms.
If you are short on budget and are still looking for a capable motherboard for your next AMD engineering build, then this is what we recommend.
This is essentially a bear minimum motherboard from the newer 500 series line of AMD chipsets. It features the entry level A520 chipset.
However, compared to the older A320 it provides significant improvements. For starters, it comes with built in support for newer gen Ryzen processors. In the older chipsets you would have to flash the BIOS to the latest version in order to make the motherboard usable.
On top of that unlike the A320, in A520 both the CPU and the general purpose PCIe lanes follow the version 3 protocol.
While this is not as great as the B or the X series, which already make use of the PCIe v4, for budget builds, an A520 chipset is quite capable.
The motherboard features a single PCIe x16 slot since it does not have support for dual graphics card anyways. It does feature smaller x1 slots for installing smaller expansion cards like WiFi.
Also while this motherboard does not support overclocking and does not feature a robust phase power design. Hence, this is great for entry-mid range engineering builds.
So in short, if you have a limited budget and if you are student just learning the ropes, this is the best motherboard for CAD and engineering in our opinion for AMD builds.
4. ASUS Prime B460M-A – Budget Intel LGA 1200 Motherboard
One of the most affordable motherboards featuring the LGA 1200 socket for 10th and 11th gen Intel processors.
LGA1200 is the socket required to install the newer 10th and 11th gen Intel CPU. However, unlike the older motherboards featuring the LGA1151 sockets, motherboard featuring LGA1200 can get a bit expensive.
On top of that, since they are generally in high demand, their stocks are hard to find particularly in the budget range. ASUS Prime B460M-A is essentially a budget motherboard with the newer socket.
While there certainly is a cheaper chipset available i.e the H410, we do not recommend that. An H410 motherboard is not build for engineering applications.
The B460 offers support for three displays, has 16 PCIe lanes vs only 6 in H410, has more SATA ports, USB ports as well as a higher memory support.
Hence, for engineering or CAD builds, a B460 chipset is the bear minimum recommended and due to its price tag, we find it to be one of the best motherboard for CAD and Engineering budget Intel builds.
5. ASUS Prime Z490-A – LGA1200 Motherboard for 10th and 11th Gen Intel CPU
A recommended high performance Z series motherboard with LGA1200 socket for the newer 10th and 11th Gen Intel CPUs.
ASUS Prime Z490-A is a stark contrast to the ASUS Prime B460M-A above in terms of purpose and performance. While ASUS Prime B460M-A is more catered toward budget users, ASUS Prime Z490-A is a choice for the power users.
This too features the newer LGA1200 socket, however, this offers a lot of added functionality compared to the B460 motherboard.
The Z series is generally considered to be the premium motherboard chipset series for Intel processors. It offers overclocking, has a lot more PCIe lanes (24 vs 16 on B460), offers PCIe slots for dual graphics cards and has an excellent phase power design coupled making it essential for the high performance Core i7 and Core i9 processors.
This motherboard features an excellent 12+2 phase power design with adequate heatsinks for VRMs as well as for the chipset.
But besides the good performance and expandability, this motherboard also feature other premium specs like the RealTek S1220A.
While this is a slightly higher priced motherboard and you can certainly find cheaper Z490 motherboards in the market, the thermal solution it offers compared to cheaper Z490 options make this a worthwhile option for us.
All in all, if you want to go the Intel route and want a high performance build along with support for overclocking, then this is one of the best motherboards for CAD in our opinion.
6. ASRock X299 Taichi – Intel Workstation Motherboard for Engineering
An excellent, rather budget, workstation motherboard for Intel X series processors. Features LGA2066 socket.
Workstation motherboards are an entirely different category and class as compared to normal motherboards. They are expensive, have extensive features and expandability to offer and support specialized high performance processors.
ASRock X299 Taichi is a workstation motherboard with the Intel X299 chipset and LGA2066 socket. As such, this motherboard only support the workstation grade Intel X Series processors.
Not only can these processors have a whopping 18 cores (36 threads) but they also have enough PCIe lanes to operate 3 or more graphics cards at a time.
ASRock X299 Taichi supports three way SLI or Crossfire (depending upon how many PCIe lanes your CPU can provide).
As such, this is a motherboard for cutting edge CAD and engineering work where you have multiple graphics cards installed for simulating very complex projects.
But besides that, everything regarding this motherboard is an overkill anyways. From the amount of SATA ports it has to the M.2 slot its offers, this is a motherboard for very specialized engineering tasks that require a top of the line system.
We have selected this as the best motherboard for CAD because it is one of the least expensive workstation grade option for an Intel build.
7. MSI TRX40 PRO 10G – For AMD Workstation Builds – STRX4
A recommended workstation motherboard featuring the sTRX4 socket for AMD Threadripper engineering builds.
Like the ASRock X299 Taichi above, this too is a workstation grade motherboard but for AMD threadripper build instead of Intel. This motherboard features the TRX40 chipset and the sTRX4 socket.
Like the motherboard above, this too is an overkill for an average engineering user or a firm. This too features 3 way SLI or Crossfire support, and thus has the primary function of handling GPU intensive work.
In terms of value, we believe this offers a better one since for starters it features PCIe v4.0 protocol and also offers M.2 slot Expansion Card and a 10G Super LAN Card for improved network speeds.
There is no doubt that a motherboard of this capability has its primary functions for engineering, scientific and designing fields. However, at the same time, this is not meant for everyone.
If you are working on simple CAD building layout designs, chances are that you don’t even need a graphics card for that, let alone a workstation grade PC.
But in any case, if your engineering work, perhaps in the data science or machine learning field, requires the use of threadripper processors, this is a motherboard that you can look into.
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How to Choose the Right Motherboard for CAD and Engineering
Technically there is not one size fit all answer to this question. The choice of the motherboard would depend largely on the choice of your processor.
A better question to ask would be what kind of overall system should you build for CAD?
Here are some of the possible scenarios:
Entry Level Setup
If you do simple CAD designing such as 2D architectural drawings, MEP layout drawings and moderate use of software like DiaLux for calculating the lighting lux rate etc, then you don’t quite need a high end system.
In fact, you don’t even need to invest in a separate graphics card here. Since most of the layout drawings are 2D based, all you need is a powerful processor.
2D CAD designing on software like AutoCAD is primarily based on a CPU’s single core performance. Meaning, you won’t quite necessarily benefit from a higher core count as much as you would benefit from a high performance single core.
However, a higher number of cores can allow you to multitask easily and allow you to handle multiple software at the same time.
Generally, for an entry level setup we believe that you should aim the most for getting a good processor. This could be a Core i7 or a Ryzen 7 processor. Along with that, we recommend investing in about 16 GB of RAM.
If you do light simulation, 3D engineering designing than you can experiment with your budget a bit a get yourself a graphics card as well, but it is an absolute must for light and small engineering and architectural firms.
The motherboard that we would recommend here are those featuring A520 or B550 chipset for AMD builds (depending on your budget) or the B460 for Intel builds.
A mid range engineering and CAD PC is essentially a high performance PC by the standard for an average consumer.
These PCs can easily feature high end Intel Core i7/ Core i9 or Ryzen 7 / Ryzen 9 processors.
A mid range CAD and engineering PC has the capacity to work on very complex 2D and 3D design as well as the ability to sufficiently render engineering simulations.
A good engineering firm can have a couple of these PCs for handling more advanced tasks.
For this sort of built we recommend looking into the motherboard with the X570 chipset for AMD or the Z490 chipset for Intel builds.
The holy grail for any engineer is a workstation PC. These are literally compact super computers capable of handling cutting edge projects.
In general, most engineering firms do not require a workstation grade PC. Only the most advanced firms that do engineering as well as creative designing would find use of workstations.
A workstation PC has can have 64 cores and multiple GPUs. Calling this an overkill for designing simple architectural building layout design would be an understatement.
However, the premiere engineering and architectural firms can also have creative designing element to them. The thing with CAD applications particularly where 3D video simulation of an engineering project is required, and where live engineering video analysis is required, then sky is the limit for the amount of PC resources you need.
A good example is where you would need to simulate all the forces acting on a jet engine or on a skyscrapper.
Also while a Single GPU is more than sufficient for most engineering applications, workstations can feature 2 or 3 specialized NVIDIA Quadro GPUs that serve the purpose of analyzing data and visualization.
So unless you are performing scientific work and processing a lot of data, you don’t quite need a workstation grade PC for your small to medium engineering firm.
But in any case, you have the X299 motherboards for Intel and the TRX40 motherboards for AMD that you can look into if you are interested in a workstation build.
If you are building an Engineering PC for yourself, then a motherboard is essentially the building block.
However, as mentioned earlier, the choice of motherboard largely depends upon the processor you choose to go for as well as your budget.
In this article we looked at the best motherboards for CAD and engineering from various price ranges and for different engineering purposes.