When choosing the right motherboard for CAD and engineering, the first thing to do is to gauge your level of work.
Are you a 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 an 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 simulating all the forces acting upon 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, than 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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How to Choose the Best Motherboard for CAD and Engineering
The choice of the motherboard would depend largely on the choice of your processor.
CPU is the Most Important Component
The most important component for a CAD build is the hands-down CPU. The CPU essentially dictates how fast you’d be able to draw, execute commands, render or simulate your 3D designs.
There are two important parameters that we look at when choosing the CPU: single-core and multicore performance.
Single-core performance entails how good the CPU would perform if only its core were running. For CAD, and other designing and simulation software, the most important parameter is the Single Core performance.
This is because the majority of the tasks that you perform, ranging from adding elements to drawing, are all single-core based. Take for instance the PugetSystems’ analysis for SolidWorks.
Modeling and working with assemblies in SOLIDWORKS is not able to utilize more than a handful of cores. – PugetSystems
Multi-core performance would only matter when rendering or simulating your designs.
Simulation and rendering, however, can see moderate to large performance gains with a higher core count. – PugetSystems.
As such, the recommended processor to go for is the Core i5 or Ryzen 5 CPU since they balance the number of cores and cost.
Core i7 and Ryzen 7 CPUs are expensive and have a higher number of cores, but in the majority of cases, you won’t be needing the 16+ cores they offer these days.
I would recommend sticking with the newer 12th or 13th Gen CPUs for Intel and Ryzen 7000 series CPUs for an AMD build.
Yet, 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.
Generally, for an entry-level setup, we believe that you should aim the most for getting a good processor. This could be a Core i5/Ryzen 5 or a Core i7/ Ryzen 7 processor. Along with that, we recommend investing in about 16 GB of RAM – at the minimum.
If you do light simulation, and 3D engineering designing then 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.
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 or Ryzen 7 processors
A mid-range CAD and engineering PC has the capacity to work on very complex 2D and 3D designs 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 build, we recommend looking into the motherboard with the X670 chipset for AMD or the Z790 chipset for Intel builds.
If you are looking to build a high-end industry-grade workstation rig for simulations and rendering, then it would be not uncommon to look into the Core i9/Ryzen 9 or even the Intel Xeon W series.
The holy grail for any engineer is a workstation PC. These are literally compact supercomputers capable of handling cutting-edge projects.
A workstation PC has can have 64 cores and multiple GPUs. Calling this overkill for designing simple architectural building layout designs would be an understatement.
However, the premier engineering and architectural firms can also have creative design elements 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 the 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 skyscraper.
AMD Threadripper and Intel Xeon are no Longer the Reigning Kings
While there was a time when the AMD Threadripper series and Intel Xeon series were the reigning kings for workstation builds, that is no longer the case.
In fact, even an Intel Core i7 13700K is 50% more powerful compared to the AMD Threadripper 3990X.
They are not even on the radar when looking at the recent CPU performance hierarchy:
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.
With that into consideration, for AMD a motherboard with the X670E chipset is recommended, whereas, for Intel, you can stick with the Z790 chipset.
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.