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Thread: Revit Hardware : General

  1. #1
    Forum Co-Founder iru69's Avatar
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    Revit Hardware : General

    Revised: 7/3/2013

    I've attempted to write this series of posts in a way that will be accessible to everyone. It may seem a little boring and geeky, but you'll be better prepared in making purchasing decisions, or when asking questions or for advice. Also please note that the recommendations given here for specific products are not exclusive - there are too many usage scenarios to cover every option.


    OPERATING SYSTEMS

    If you're getting a new computer, you'll want Windows 8 or Windows 7 64-bit. Revit 2014 is officially supported only on Windows 8 and Windows 7. As far as I've heard, Revit 2014 should work fine on Vista and XP. Revit 2013 (with the latest updates) should also work on all of those versions of Windows.

    There’s a "Pro" (or Enterprise or Ultimate) and a standard (or "Home") version for Windows 8, 7, Vista and XP. Avoid "Basic" or “Starter” editions of Windows. There are no speed or stability differences between the editions. Unless you work at home, and are sure you don't need any of the features of Pro mentioned below, it's best to get Windows Pro. There are three main advantages of Pro:

    1. It allows for "domain" log-ins, which is often used in office environments.
    2. If you need to log into your computer with Remote Desktop, the "host" computer you're logging into needs to be running Pro.
    3. Pro versions support more RAM. For instance, Windows 7 Home Premium (x64) supports 16 GB of RAM (still more than enough for most users), while Windows 7 Professional (x64) supports 192 GB of RAM.

    If you're stuck with a 32-bit version of Windows, 4 GB of RAM is as much as you can use (technically, you can't even use all of that - only about 3.25 GB is actually usable). Even if you're buying a new computer with only 4 GB of RAM, you'll still want to get 64-bit, since you can still access more memory in a pinch, and it will make future RAM upgrades easier.

    Note: There's been quite a bit of controversy surrounding Windows 8's user interface changes. It is inarguably the most significant change to the Windows UI in twenty years. I'm not going to wade further into that debate in this post - there is plenty of information available on the web. Suffice it to say, Revit runs exactly the same as it does on any other version of Windows, and by most accounts, Windows 8 is the fastest and most stable version of Windows yet. Most PCs are now shipping with Windows 8 as a default. If you are purchasing a new system that is only available with Windows 8, but you'd rather continue to use Windows 7, there are two possibilities. First, contact the manufacturer or supplier about any available options to "downgrade" to Windows 7 for free. Second, you can still purchase an OEM version of Windows 7 through retail channels and install it yourself.

    Bottom Line
    Get Windows 8 or 7 Professional (or Ultimate) 64-bit.


    CPU

    See this post!


    RAM (MEMORY)

    See this post!

    VIDEO GRAPHIC CARDS

    See this post!


    STORAGE (HARD DRIVES & SSD)

    Storage drives are so big and fast these days, almost anything will work just fine. If your computer will be used in a multi-user office connected to a separate file server where all your Revit project files are stored, you don't need anything more than a 200+ GB drive for Windows and your apps. If you're storing all your files on the drive in your PC, then you'll want something significantly bigger - 500+ GB depending on how many projects you have and how long you keep them on your computer. And don’t forget to back up your data!

    Hard Drives
    Most desktop hard drives are 7.2K (or 7200 RPM - the rotational speed of the discs inside the drive - the higher the number, the faster the drive), while laptops may have 5.4K or 7.2K drives.

    There are also high-speed 10K and 15K drives. The only one currently worth recommending is the Western Digital Raptor (2010/5th generation or newer). However, considering the extra money, unless you need very high capacities, I'd strongly recommend considering a SSD instead.

    SSD (Solid State Drive)
    SSD is the new kid on the block relatively speaking. SSDs don't have mechanical discs like a hard drive – they’re made up entirely of special memory chips. They are extremely fast, much faster than traditional hard drives, but they're still kind of spendy, and the storage capacities are more limited - though they're finally starting to come down in price a bit. What does the extra money get you? The OS boots faster, apps open faster, copying and moving large files is faster, and often gives an unquantifiable zippier "feel" to the computer. They're made by a variety of different manufacturers, some are better than others. I would suggest at least a 200+ GB drive (especially if you have one of the larger Autodesk suite of apps). A not uncommon practice is to use the SSD for the OS and apps, and a secondary hard drive for data. SSDs should no longer be considered a "luxury" component - they really make a noticeably difference in the computer's overall performance.

    FAQ

    "Will a faster drive make Revit run faster?"
    Aside from actually launching Revit, it will not perform faster – once the application and data are loaded into RAM, the drive speed doesn't really come into play much.

    "How about speeding up Revit file opens and saves?"
    It does affect it somewhat, but the speed of opening and saving files is largely based on the CPU and RAM, not the drive. In informal tests between a traditional hard drive and a super fast SSD, I found opening files a little bit faster, but saving Revit files to be pretty much the same in most scenarios. A fast drive will launch Revit noticeably faster though. File servers with heavy user traffic can benefit from faster drives. However, if you have time to go get a cup of coffee every time you “Save to Central”, it’s probably an issue unrelated to the drive performance.

    "Should I get a second hard drive to use as a dedicated page (swap) file?"
    No - this is crazy talk.

    "Will a 7.2K drive wear down the battery life faster than a 5.4K drive?"
    While technically this can be true, in most scenarios you’ll only save a few extra minutes of battery life. One thing that is still often the case is that 5.4K drives tend to be quieter than 7.2K drives.

    Bottom Line
    Get a SSD 240 GB or larger. Add another SSD or a traditional hard drive if you have additional storage needs.


    NETWORKING

    For Local Area Networks (LAN), Revit will work with just about any networking. For wired connections, you'll want a gigabit (1 Gb) connection (or better), which is standard on almost all computers. For wireless connections, you'll want an 802.11n (Wireless "N") network (or better).

    Where you need to pay closer attention is on wired connections to routers and switches (hubs). For instance, many routers still only have 100 Mb ports, so I recommend getting a 1 Gb switch and plugging servers and workstations into that, then plugging the switch into the router. The computers on the network can connect to each other at 1 Gb speeds while bypassing the router (aside from actually connecting to the Internet where 100 Mb connections are typically far faster than the actual Internet connection).

    For Wide Area Networks (WAN), typically networking from a remote office (or home) to another office, VPN is known to work, but can be rather clumsy and slow. Services like DropBox are inadequate and will not work. Look into Revit Server or third party products such as Riverbed Steelhead.


    DISPLAY MONITOR

    For desktops, you'll be using an external display, and any modern display will support a high enough resolution for use with Revit. If possible, your display should support at least 1280x1024.

    The higher the resolution, the more drawing area you'll have, the better the user experience. Most laptop displays don’t support that high of a resolution. Revit will still run fine, but low resolutions will make it more challenging to see much of your actual drawings. Also keep in mind that smaller displays, particularly on laptops, may be squeezing a lot of pixels into a small area, and that can lead to some pretty tiny text and icons.

    While certainly not required for Revit use, having more than one display can offer a productivity boost. Revit has limited multi-display support at this time. You can drag some tool palettes and dialogs out of the Revit application window and onto another display, but you can’t drag drawing views outside of the Revit application window. However, you can stretch your Revit application window across multiple displays, but you'll want to make sure your displays are the same size and resolution.

    One other thing to keep in mind is that many displays (especially on laptops) have “glossy” screens. The glossiness can create a lot of reflections that can make it challenging to use in direct light. The glossy displays can look great while watching a movie, but maybe not so great when doing fine line work in Revit. Some users are very sensitive while others aren’t as much.

    Bottom Line
    For external displays, there's no excuse for anything smaller than 23", but 24" or larger is recommended - you'll really appreciate the extra screen real estate. You'll probably want an external display for a laptop as well for extended use, but if you plan on doing extensive work on the laptop display, get at least a 15" or preferably 17”+ display (if you’re willing to sacrifice some portability).


    COMPUTERS

    HP, Dell, Lenovo, Sony, Acer, etc. are all fine. If you can find a reputable local system builder, that's a great way to go as well. There may be some differences in build quality and overall reliability, but they all have pretty much the same components inside, so it mostly comes down to personal preference, available system configurations, budget, etc. Some users working solo or in small offices may choose to build their own computers, buying all the components and assembling the computer themselves (or with the help of a tech-savvy friend).


    REVIT ON THE MAC (OS X)


    See this post!


    UPGRADING YOUR COMPUTER

    Upgrades, i.e. replacing older parts of the computer with newer parts can sometimes bring new life to an older computer. Upgrading RAM is very common and generally easy to do. Upgrading a video card on a desktop computer is fairly easy to do, though it can be tricky to know whether the PSU (power supply unit in the computer) can support it - definitely check before buying a new video card. Replacing or adding a hard drive or SSD is generally pretty easy to do. Upgrading the CPU and/or motherboard on a desktop is quite a bit more difficult and involves more tech know-how – not to be attempted by the faint of heart.

    However, before you start upgrading, think bigger picture. Don’t start down the path of throwing good money into a system that really should just be replaced with a new one. I’ve seen this way too many times, and it rarely turns out well even after the money is spent.

    Bottom Line
    If your system is two years old or older, most often going with a brand new system makes far better sense than trying to upgrade one part at a time.


    BUDGET

    Don't be cheap - your business depends on your computer. Spending a bit more money is peanuts compared to your computer holding you back from getting work done. When specifying the components of a system, think about value and bang for your buck. When deciding on a budget, think about how long you expect to have the computer and look at the cost of ownership per year over that time period. It often makes more sense to spend a little less money but upgrade more often than to spend a lot of money and be forced to hold onto a computer longer than you should.

    Bottom Line
    Two years on the short end, two to three years is probably considered the sweet spot; anything more than that and you're probably losing productivity.

    __________

    I've been a computer enthusiast for over twenty years. I know a lot, but I don't know everything. Drop me a PM with suggestions, or if you spot any errors, or think something needs further clarification, or feel free to take it up with me in the forums. And please post those questions, requests for advice, and solutions!
    Last edited by iru69; October 13th, 2013 at 07:31 PM.
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    ATI's Eyefinity(both game cards and Firepro cards) and nVidia's Mosaic (only Quadro cards) can combine two monitors into one "big" monitor so you can boost Revit efficiency by using its shortcuts to tile up to five windows onto the two screens rather than just putting some dialogue boxes onto the 2nd display.
    In my daily work, I use two IPS or PVA panel LCD monitors and make them work in portrait mode(don't try this with TN panel LCD). It's perfect for this Eyefinity or Mosaic method because in portrait mode after you tile the drawing windows, the window size can be nice and square.
    I tried Eyefinity with 3 monitors, but I had to resize all the drawing windows manually, too much trouble.

  3. #3
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    God sent me this post! Amazing!
    I have being looked for all of these everywhere in Chinese Revit forum, and got nothing back.

    Study, study, and study.
    BTW, I just got a 560Ti the day before yesterday, and then, god sent this to me this for reward!

  4. #4
    Member hypnox1's Avatar
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    Good post Iru. I have a document I wrote for system memory for the other technical consultants in office that goes through a sort of basic look at system memory and how to talk with clients about it. I tend to have my own odd way of looking at RAM needs based on overall project and links' size that you may want to cut out but the hyperlinks at the end tend to be nice for people looking for a bit more information on RAM.

    System Memory (RAM) – DDR? Dual Channel? Triple Channel? What do I need?

    RAM can often be a confusing thing to really think about. As of writing this, dual and triple channel are the standard for what comes on system boards. DDR is simply a classification of RAM that stands for Double Data Rate.

    When dealing with dual or triple channel RAM there are some prerequisites. The RAM to be used must be purchased as part of a dual or triple channel kit. This means the RAM pieces you are purchasing are part of a matched set that will have the best compatibility with each other. When purchasing multiple dual or triple channel sets you will want to be sure that you are purchasing matching brands and speeds.

    So how much RAM do you actually want on your system to be sure you have enough? The Autodesk rule to this is to have 20x project size available for total system memory. However, this is somewhat misleading and incorrect. Often companies will simply look at only their file and not include the linked files from other disciplines in this calculation. For instance, if you have a 300 MB project this would come out to 6 GB of RAM required to operate it, but this does not take into account the linked files that will also be using RAM while loaded into a project. So take for instance a 300 MB project with many links in it that all come close to this size as well. You can quickly run into needing 48+ GB of memory according to the 20x rule. 48 GB of RAM on most systems is not a realistic number, so what is?

    When opening a file, whether the main file or a link, it is unpacked to 4x its save size on the disk. This means that a 300 MB file opens to 1200 MB in size. So if all files added up in a project total 2400 MB save size, this will then open to require 9600 MB of RAM simply to open everything up. Including for overhead of Revit operation, Windows (which reserves 1200 MB for itself), and any other programs such as Outlook, Internet Browser, and PDF viewers you will be looking at wanting 16000 MB, or 16 GB, of RAM on the system to handle this type of work load. This leads us to more of an 8x rule to handling Revit files on a system to be able to handle everything Revit is doing as well as allowing users to still have other necessary programs open at the same time without having system stability issues due to running out of RAM available to them.

    What does dual and triple channel RAM do for a system? They are both a system to allow multiple pieces of RAM to process information at the same time, thus speeding up how quickly information is passed around the system. In the case of dual channel RAM, two pieces are running together. In the case of triple channel, three pieces are running together.

    Looking for advanced resources on these different thoughts?

    System Memory:
    Random-access memory - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Dual Channel:
    Multi-channel memory architecture - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Triple Channel:
    Multi-channel memory architecture - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    CAS Latency (RAM speed):
    CAS latency - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    Junior Member Rustle's Avatar
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    Has anyone experimented with 10GB netowork infrastructure to try to reduce Sync with Central time? In particular I'm thinking about our 1GB switches have a 10GB connection to the stack so maintaing that 10GB connection to the file server and then the SAN might be helpful.

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    Administrator Gordon Price's Avatar
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    Russel,
    are your switches already at least 8GB backbone? At 1GB to the clients I would think all the switches would be 8GB fiber interconnects and 8GB to the servers. In which case I doubt going to 10GB is going to change anything, as all file operations in Revit are CPU limited once the client interface is 1GB, and even then I don't think it is a speed/bandwidth issue. I think the latency with 100MB ethernet is the real problem, as I have never measured actual network usage over about 5% on a 1GB interface during any Revit file access, but I have measured 50% utilization on 100MB, so basically the same thruput, and not really even saturating the 100MB. And I haven't seen radically faster file access times on 1GB vs 100MB, but I have seen consistent central file corruption when one team member was on 100MB and the rest was on 1GB. Get the whole team on 1GB and corruption went away. Your TN project being the case in point.
    Also, it will depend on the speed of the hard drive array as well. If the 8GB backbone is already saturating the drive array then upping the interconnect speed isn't going to do anything. But again, if you see a speed increase it is likely to only be when doing a large file copy in Explorer. I think Revit is going to be more limited by the client CPU than anything else. Fine topic for a white paper from Autodesk if you ask me.

    Gordon

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    iru69, you are wise and understand Revit's hardware needs. Particulary in the i7 vs xeon and GeForce vs Quadro debates. My preference today for a Revit workstation with some 3DS Max useage would be:

    Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64Bit

    Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition 3.3 GHz
    Asus Rampage IV Extreme BF3 X79 Board
    Corsair Vengeance Red 32GB PC3-15000, DDR3-1866 MHz

    (2) EVGA GeForce 580 Classified Video Cards, 3Gb GDDR5 PCI-Express 2.0
    Dell UltraSharpe U3011 30" LCD Monitor 2540x1600
    (2) Dell UltraSharpe U2312HM 23" LED Monitors 1920x1280
    Dell AY511 Sound Bar

    Crucial CT512M4SSD 2.5" Solid State Drive 512 Gb, SATA 6Gb/s
    (2) Seagate Barracuda 2TB Serial ATA Hard Drive - 2TB, 7200 RPM 64Mb 6 Gb/s RAID 1
    Lite-On 12X Internal Blu-Ray Writer with Lightscribe
    Western Digital 3TB USB 3.0 My Book External Backup Drive

    Corsair CMPSU-1200AX 1200 Watt Power Supply
    Corsair Hydro H80 CPU Liquid Cooler
    Silverstone Temjin TJ09-B Aluminum ATX Case

    Logitech Iluminated Keyboard
    Logitech Corded Laser Mouse 1000 DPI

    Mark

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    Forum Co-Founder iru69's Avatar
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    Hi Mark,

    Well, I don't know about "wise", but I have a little experience.

    That's a smok'n system!

    My only concern would be the water cooler. It's a gamble... most of the time, no problem... but if there's a problem, e.g. leak, say bye-bye to your system. Personally, that's not a gamble I'd be willing to take. Besides, you can get excellent results on air.

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    Forum Addict gdoherty0102's Avatar
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    One thing that might be noted for the RAM and HDD is the paging file in Windows 7. I upgraded my RAM to 24gb and ended up having to get a second hard drive because of the paging file size. Granted you can change how large you allow the paging file, but this could potentially impact performance. Granted we have 160gb 10k rpm hard drives, so a pretty small hard drive to begin with when you consider you can get 1tb for around $100 now.

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    I assumed that the Corsair Hydro sealed water-cooling I put in my current system 18 months ago was leak proof. Now you have me up in the middle of the night sniffing my system for coolant. Seems OK and has worked great so far.

    How do you feel about liquid nitrogen cooling? (http://kingpincooling.com)
    Mark

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