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  1. #1
    Revit Arch. Wishlist Mgr. Wes Macaulay's Avatar
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    Default Recommended desktops for Revit

    ***updated 10 September 2007***

    Operating System
    While Windows XP is a safer bet than Vista, its days are numbered. Users are installing and using Revit successfully under Vista, and the latest build of Revit (20070810_1700) addressed some outstanding Vista compatibility problems.

    Vista may still have some display driver problems under Revit, and thus XP is still recommended over Vista.

    Windows XP 64-bit
    Driver support for XP64 is spotty and many Reviteers who have gone down this road have been burned. The way to maximize Revit's memory is to use 4Gb of RAM and the 3Gb bootswitch.

    Got a Mac?
    New Mac desktops and notebooks that use the Intel processors are working very well with Parallels or Boot Camp (using Windows XP). See this stuck thread:

    http://forums.augi.com/showthread.php?t=35939

    The Macbook Pro notebooks are well-built, and if you think backlit keys are a gimmick, try working in a room with poor light without this feature. It's incredible that no other notebook manufacturer hasn't made backlit keys "standard issue" on their products as well. The regular Macbooks will be less suited because they use integrated video, a no-no for a CAD-capable laptop.

    Processor
    Revit will take the best processor you can afford, though you should spread the money around on other parts of the computer, too.

    Revit does NOT make use of multiple processors, but Accurender and other apps do. If you're planning on doing a lot of rendering work, two processors will save you time. Modeling and general drafting do not benefit from multiple processors -- the processing power of any single core is what matters here.

    Athlons, Turions, Core / Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad processors are all excellent choices in anything over 1.7 Ghz. Avoid Semprons and Celerons as they lack memory on the CPU; these are found on lower-end models anyway.

    Memory
    Revit needs a lot of RAM. The rule of thumb: you're going to need 20 times the amount of RAM versus the size of your file (this ratio relates to the size of a compacted 8.1 central file). 1Gb is really the minimum you want to have if you're working on anything larger than a house. 2Gb up to 4Gb is a safer bet, and is the useful maximum that 32-bit Windows can handle. You can read up on the 3Gb Windows boot switch that will give more RAM to applications, but it can cause stability problems for Windows. Note that this boot switch can cause problems with video cards; see this page at Microsoft: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/319043

    Memory specs vary, but the faster RAM specs like 533 and 667Mhz dual channel RAM are a good choice.

    Hard Drive
    This is less critical since the hard drive should only be used to load the data in the first place. Yes, you can buy SCSI or SATA drives for your workstation, but this is not a real bottleneck for day-to-day use of Revit. 60Gb drives are about as small as they come -- and you don't need more than this unless you need it for your MP3 collection

    If you're not sparing any expense, get a second physical drive to use for your Windows swap file, the idea being that data access and swap file access can happen concurrently. Having tried this on a couple of computers I haven't seen any difference in performance, but you might. I recommend setting the Windows swap file's minimum and maximum size to the same value (twice the value of your installed RAM) so that Windows isn't working to change the size of the file while you work.

    Video Card
    At this time, the only way to be sure that your new computer will be able to use Revit's OpenGL acceleration is to use ATI video cards made by ATI (not other manufacturers, such as Dell).
    Only a handful of nVidia cards have been seen to work for Revit with OpenGL acceleration enabled. Revit does not benefit from a high-end card... all you need is a solid video card that supports Revit's implementation of OpenGL. Integrated video, while some models do work, (Intel most notably) should be avoided since it shares RAM with the main memory. Revit does not benefit from high amounts of video RAM.

    In Revit's Options dialog box there are two checkboxes:
    • OpenGL speeds display performance noticably in ortho views, and dramatically in 3D views, particularly with shadows enabled
    • Overlay planes may increase stability on some cards, but otherwise should be left off to improve display of annotations with transparent backgrounds
    To test OpenGL: in Revit go to Settings > Options > Graphics and enable OpenGL. In a plan view hold Ctrl and your middle mouse button down and move the mouse up and down and see if any objects disappear/reappear in the view. If they do, you have a problem.

    ATI
    ATI cards are usually compatible with Revit.
    • FireGL entry level cards such as V3100 and V3400
    • Radeon, all models (consider getting at least an X1300)
    nVidia
    The GeForce cards are gaming cards; the CAD cards are marketed under the name "Quadro" and are similar to the GeForce cards but use different drivers. We have reports that the following cards are working with Revit:
    • PNY and Leadtek, various models (FX540, FX1300)
    • Some GeForce cards (often requiring use of Forceware drivers and/or Rivatuner)
    • Dell nVidia video cards using Dell's drivers
    If you run into problems with OpenGL enabled in Revit search on this forum for how people have solved this problem with their nVidia cards, either by altering settings in the nVidia display control panel or by downloading and installing Forceware drivers (GeForce cards only). If the Forceware drivers do not help, you may also try changing settings using Rivatuner to see if you can get your card to work. These instructions may also help. Forcing Vertical sync off has allowed some nVidia cards to work with Revit with OpenGL enabled without objects disappearing in views.

    Under the Nvidia Control Panel, 3D Settings->Adjust all image settings: first I tried checking "Extension Limit" but Revit still crashed. Then, I left this setting turned on and set the "Image Settings" to Best Performance and changed "Vertical Sync" to Force Off. Trilinear optimization and Anisotropic optimization are also unchecked.

    Other Makes
    Other than nVidia and ATI there are no other video cards recommended for Revit. Intel Integrated Graphics sometimes works but don't count on it.

    Drivers
    Generally, newer is better. But in some cases, an older driver may work better than a newer one. The key is knowing exactly which manufacturer made the card and using their drivers. nVidia does NOT manufacture video cards -- they make the chips for the manufacturers. This is also the case with some ATI cards, though the majority of ATI-powered cards out there are built by ATI. In both cases make sure you have the right driver. Dell computers may use ATI video cards and nVidia drivers that can only use Dell drivers, and these combinations may not have been tested with Revit.

    Dual Screen
    Revit does not really support dual monitors, but users are noticing that recent versions of Revit are more friendly to this configuration than previous versions of Revit.

    Monitor
    Resolution needs to be at least 1152 x 864 -- 1024 x 768 is really not enough.

    Server and Networking
    Use gigabit technology for your network -- switches, network cards on all computers. The server could be equipped with dual network cards for better throughput. Your server's hard drive should be blazing fast to speed up saving and loading of the central file across the network. It should be equipped with plenty of RAM, and consider multi processor models if you can afford it.

    Recently we have seen some problems with RAID-5 servers causing some minor corruption of central files, either resulting in a crash or an error requiring the save to be repeated. I would recommend another RAID flavour if it is possible.
    Last edited by Wes Macaulay; 2007-09-10 at 07:36 PM.

  2. #2
    All AUGI, all the time tc3dcad60731's Avatar
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    Default Re: Recommended desktops for Revit

    You aren't kidding about memory hog. I am running 1.25 physical with 6GB as a page file and with Revit 8.1 I never paged out. The other day I was upgrading an 8.1 house to 9 and the thing took 5 minutes, used 600+ physical ram and 4.9GB paged out!

    My first thought was "Holy Cow this is MDT all over again!"

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    Default Re: Recommended desktops for Revit

    I'm curious what the average cost companies are spending on new workstations with these recommendations. I've been responsible for config/ and purchase of new cad stations and I'd typically spend $1400 for the box - no monitor. Since Revit does more it makes sense that it requires more - a.k.a. $$$ Having an amount was very helpful for budgeting.
    So what's the new "average" cost. I'm thinking it's somewhere around $3000-$3500

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    Certified AUGI Addict patricks's Avatar
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    Default Re: Recommended desktops for Revit

    I think you could easily build a Revit workhorse for under $2000, not including monitor(s).

  5. #5
    I could stop if I wanted to Lashers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Recommended desktops for Revit

    here in the UK I build my own machines for around £1200 - but I have never used a high end workstation graphics card, so I could add another £100 to that I guess.

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    100 Club lcamara's Avatar
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    Question Re: Recommended desktops for Revit

    I'm going to be buying 6 workstations next week. We currently are only using AutoCAD, but have a license of Revit Structure and plan to adopt it in the near future, so I was hoping to get some input. There's a graphics card compatibility list for AutoCAD (http://www.autodesk.com/autocad-graphicscard), but besides this thread I haven't seen a similar one for Revit that would help me spec-out my systems. Here's the base configuration (for $1500) that I'm looking at:

    Dell Precision 390
    Intel Core2 Duo E6300 1.86GHz/1066MHz/2MB L2/Dual-core/VT
    XP Pro (w/ Vista Business upgrade at some point)
    128MB PCIe x16 ATI FireGL V3400, Dual DVI
    OR
    128MB PCIe x16 nVidia Quadro FX550, Dual DVI
    2GB, 533MHz, DDR2 SDRAM, ECC (2 DIMMS)
    2x160GB SATAII (in a RAID1)
    Office, DVDRW, etc.

    If I had a few hundred to spend upgrading that, where should it go?
    • +$454 - video card to: 256MB PCIe x16 nVidia Quadro FX3450, Dual DVI
    • +$280 - RAM upgrade to: 4GB, 667MHz, DDR2 SDRAM, ECC (4 DIMMS) (although only 3.5GB would be accessible in 32-bit XP)
    • +$319 - processor to: E6400 2.13GHz (a 15% increase in processor clock speed)
    and if I don't upgrade the video card (which seems likely given what I've read so far),
    • which one of those two 128MB ones should I get?
    • and should I upgrade the RAM or the processor?
    Processor & RAM
    I remember reading a long time ago that the memory access clock speed has to be a multiple of the chip's front side bus - is that still the case? Since the chip's at 1066, will the memory always be at 533 (no matter what the chips are rated for), or would spending an extra $20 to get 2GB at 667MHz give me a little bit extra speed? Upgrading the processor would make it exactly twice the FSB speed - would that make a difference?

    (FYI, the test results that I've seen put the E6300 faster than a 3.6GHz Pentium D and close to a 3.73 GHz Pentium XE)
    I know that AutoCAD and Revit currently don't take advantage of the 2nd processor, but I'd think that they would at some point in the future as the Core2 Duo becomes default, and the 2nd core should be effective now with running multiple apps.

    Hard Drives
    I could save $60 and get 80GB drives, and that would be sufficient for applications, but this way I shouldn't have to worry about people putting their MP3s on the server.

    I've gotten burned with various hard-drive failures, which is why I'm ordering workstations with RAID1 now. I once had a hard drive die 1 week after I bought it, and recently one of our CAD workstation's drive died (less than a year old). All the project data is always on the server, but it was a pain to have to reinstall everything while I had him working on a spare laptop. To me it's worth the extra $180 second drive for the convenience and time saving of being able to just swap out a bad drive. There's also the extra benefit of faster read times.

    Network & Server
    The switch, server, and most of the workstations (the ones from the past couple years) are all gigabit (the server's dual NIC - a Dell PowerVault). The server has a RAID5 (wasn't my preferred choice) - is that corruption problem something we need to worry about? How could the storage system matter - are the data being interpreted as drive commands?

    Monitors
    We have various monitor setups in the office, but all are Dell LCDs (DVI). The ones for these machines are: 2x18", 24"W, 18", 19", 20"W, 2x19"
    All of our CAD guys are on dual monitors (and won't look back) but no one else seems to want to give up the desk space for the 2nd monitor (I keep asking). FYI, the other 3 CAD guys have: 2x18", 20"+18", 20"W+17"Analog
    The 17", 18" & 19" are at 1280x1024, 20"W at 1680x1050, 20" at 1600x1200, and 24"W at 1920x1200.
    There's a noticeable difference in quality between DVI & VGA in every instance I've seen - I wouldn't think of using analog (or a CRT for that matter) unless absolutely necessary. All of our (newer) computers are dual-DVI capable (even if they don't have 2 - yet) and everyone's using digital LCDs (with the exception of a couple 17" LCDs that were from before I got involved spec-ing the new purchases).


    Wow. Spell Check went crazy with this post!
    Last edited by lcamara; 2006-12-16 at 02:17 AM. Reason: changed title

  7. #7
    AUGI Addict iru69's Avatar
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    Default Re: Recommended desktops for Revit

    Quote Originally Posted by lcamara
    If I had a few hundred to spend upgrading that, where should it go?
    • +$454 - video card to: 256MB PCIe x16 nVidia Quadro FX3450, Dual DVI
    • +$280 - RAM upgrade to: 4GB, 667MHz, DDR2 SDRAM, ECC (4 DIMMS) (although only 3.5GB would be accessible in 32-bit XP)
    • +$319 - processor to: E6400 2.13GHz (a 15% increase in processor clock speed)
    and if I don't upgrade the video card (which seems likely given what I've read so far),
    • which one of those two 128MB ones should I get?
    • and should I upgrade the RAM or the processor?
    • Pretty much as Wes said regarding the CPU versus more RAM. The E6300 would serve okay in light Revit (& ACAD) duty, but if it's going to be a serious Revit workstation, I'd really push for an E6700 or X6800. Regarding the video graphics card, we have two Precision 390s in our office, one with the V3400 and one with the FX550 (I just wanted to see if there was any difference). They both work well. They both exhibit the same glitches. I'm partial to nVidia. Wes is a little ATI happy.

    Quote Originally Posted by lcamara
    Processor & RAM
    I remember reading a long time ago that the memory access clock speed has to be a multiple of the chip's front side bus - is that still the case? Since the chip's at 1066, will the memory always be at 533 (no matter what the chips are rated for), or would spending an extra $20 to get 2GB at 667MHz give me a little bit extra speed? Upgrading the processor would make it exactly twice the FSB speed - would that make a difference?
    There's 667 theories out there, and 533 benchmarks to prove them... in the end, it's pretty much a wash. Yes, the 533 timings are ideal for a 1066 bus (2:1 ratio), so there's less potential latency... however, the 667 has more theoretical bandwidth, but the 233MHz bus (quad-pumped to 1066) really starts to reach its practical limit even with 533, so anything faster has very limited returns, but certain applications under certain circumstances might see a 2% speed increase... well, you get the picture. Just stick with the 533 (unless someone wanted to OC, which you're not).

    Quote Originally Posted by lcamara
    (FYI, the test results that I've seen put the E6300 faster than a 3.6GHz Pentium D and close to a 3.73 GHz Pentium XE)
    I know that AutoCAD and Revit currently don't take advantage of the 2nd processor, but I'd think that they would at some point in the future as the Core2 Duo becomes default, and the 2nd core should be effective now with running multiple apps.
    I'd be interested to see where you saw the benchmarks, but that seems just a bit generous (at least for "real world" applications).

    This next part isn't really aimed directly at you, and I apologize in advance for going off on a slight tangent here (and a run-on sentence), but the whole "why don't apps like Revit take advantage of dual cores" line of reasoning/questioning/blame gets brought up so often, this seemed like as good as place as any to say something about it. Hey folks, it's not just flipping a few switches in C, and it's not even about just making it some kind of programming wish list priority. It's not simply a matter of putting more effort into it. Certain applications simply do not lend themselves to multi-threading. Think of encoding an mp3 file. To over simplify, one core can take half the file and encode it and the other core can take the other half of the file and encode it - and then join the two halves when both cores are finished. It doesn't even matter what order the pieces are encoded, as long as they're glued back together in the proper order, it's going to sound the same in the end. Pretty easy - which is why encoding an mp3 file is so much faster on multi-core systems. It's a bit more complex with something like a rendering, but a similar concept. Now, think about all of the relationships that need to be analyzed every time you modify an object in Revit. Those relationships have to be processed in a certain order. If you send instructions out to one core, the second core may need to wait around for an answer before proceeding with its own set of instructions. That's not going to necessarily speed anything up... it can actually slow things down. I'm sure you could think of analogies in constructing a building. That doesn't mean that they won't figure out ways to make use of multiple cores, it's just that an entire industry is struggling with this problem... so don't hold your breath waiting for it to come. It's going to be a very slow process.

    And while people get carried away with this idea that dual cores keeps things from slowing down when running multiple apps at the same time, the reality is that there are very few apps that you can run at the same time where dual cores really make any difference. However, it does tend to make things "snappier". So, no one buying a new computer should even consider less than dual core unless they have specialized needs.

    Quote Originally Posted by lcamara
    Hard Drives
    I could save $60 and get 80GB drives, and that would be sufficient for applications, but this way I shouldn't have to worry about people putting their MP3s on the server.

    I've gotten burned with various hard-drive failures, which is why I'm ordering workstations with RAID1 now. I once had a hard drive die 1 week after I bought it, and recently one of our CAD workstation's drive died (less than a year old). All the project data is always on the server, but it was a pain to have to reinstall everything while I had him working on a spare laptop. To me it's worth the extra $180 second drive for the convenience and time saving of being able to just swap out a bad drive. There's also the extra benefit of faster read times.
    I like the RAID1 idea. If it saves you even once on even one of those machines, it will pay for the extra expense of all six (though the more expensive 160GB drives would put me on the fence). I would check as to whether you would need a floppy drive to reinstall the OS or use your Vista upgrade (Dell may include the drivers as part of their OEM version of Windows). However, I would stick to the 80GB drives and put the money towards something else. Even after all the apps are installed, there should be 50+ GB for music - that's, like, more than 500 CDs. And with something like iTunes, people can share there libraries over the network with other users. The "faster read times" thing is negligible.

    Quote Originally Posted by lcamara
    Network & Server
    The switch, server, and most of the workstations (the ones from the past couple years) are all gigabit (the server's dual NIC - a Dell PowerVault). The server has a RAID5 (wasn't my preferred choice) - is that corruption problem something we need to worry about? How could the storage system matter - are the data being interpreted as drive commands?
    We use RAID5 at our office, as do thousands of other offices. We haven't had any problems. With all due respect to Wes' own experience, I think it would be a more widely known issue if it actually was one. However, I'd certainly like to know more about it, if, in fact, it is an issue.

    BTW, nice post - it's great to see the effort put into it rather than just asking what computer they should get.

  8. #8
    Revit Arch. Wishlist Mgr. Wes Macaulay's Avatar
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    Default Re: Recommended desktops for Revit

    Irusun's right on two fronts: nVidia cards seem to be coming out of a compatibility slump that we were seeing locally, and RAID5 has been indentified as only a likely contributor to a corruption problem on one project that I was involved in. The Factory did write up RAID5 as being a problem, so I expect they have seen on more than one occasion. It seems to afflict large projects more than anything else.

    RAID5 is a great method for ensuring data integrity otherwise, and I understand why it's so attractive to IT people. But our server is RAID1 nonetheless

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    AUGI Addict iru69's Avatar
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    Default Re: Recommended desktops for Revit

    Quote Originally Posted by Wes Macaulay
    The Factory did write up RAID5 as being a problem, so I expect they have seen on more than one occasion. It seems to afflict large projects more than anything else.
    Wes, I don't mean to be argumentative, but can you be more specific? How long ago when this happened and what version of Revit? You indicate the Factory did a "write up" - was that a direct response to that firm or was this a paper that is publicly available?

    I can understand that RAID-5 might have been a likely culprit in the corruption of Revit files on the project you worked on, but is there any direct evidence that Revit was the cause? Isn't it possible that they simply had a bad RAID card/BIOS, or bad drivers, or some other problem with their setup that was exposed on a large Revit project file with (at that time) a very complicated worksets folder and file organization (involving hundreds of folders and files)? I've read about cases where bad RAID BIOS/drivers cause corruption problems, particularly on large files. I’ve read that it’s sometimes a good idea to turn off HD write-caches, particularly on RAID-5, since a computer crash can leave unwritten data in the cache and a file in flux (though many RAID cards now have ways to keep that from happening).

    The only place I can find any mention of the Revit - RAID-5 connection outside of this forum is an Archinect post that quotes your own post from this thread. I can’t find any other examples of applications causing corruption on a RAID-5 configuration. It just seems extremely unusual that Revit would be accessing disk i/o at such a low level.

    Any RAID configuration adds complexity to a system, and they all have various drawbacks, but there seems to be some sort of implication that Revit is incompatible/problematic with RAID-5. I don’t mean to deter you from sharing your experiences (quite the opposite), but maybe this is one of those things that needs further explanation before warning users to stay away from RAID-5 (as indicated in your first post and elsewhere).

    Once again, I'm not trying to call you out, it's just that this issue keeps popping up, and I don't understand why or whether there's some massive cover-up by Autodesk (I'm always up for a good conspiracy theory) and users really should be concerned.

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    Revit Arch. Wishlist Mgr. Wes Macaulay's Avatar
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    Default Re: Recommended desktops for Revit

    The project was about 100Mb and was started on 8 and migrated to 8.1; it was during late design development when the project team increased in size that these problems began to occur. These problems included looping error dialogs that you could not break out of during a STC, crashes, and long STC times.

    The Factory asked us if we had RAID5 and we were told that they had other users who were having similar problems. The writeup I'm talking about may have been an internal memo to resellers or a Known Issues doc for one of the releases of Revit; it's been over a year so I don't recall exactly. They told us to take the file off the RAID5 server and when we did the problems stopped for the most part. If memory serves correct the file was put back on the RAID5 server but we were told to take it off again if the problems returned.

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