Xeon vs. i-series


Sep 11, 2011

I have been trying to get specs together for a kick-ass CAD workstation, but I keep going back and forth on the pros and cons of a 2600K system vs. a 3930K system. I have/will have in the immediate future - the budget to afford either setup, with the usual bells and whistles (SSD, etc.).

I do plain AutoCAD right now, but I will be doing Revit and perhaps solid modeling and rendering in the near future.

Someone suggested looking into a third alternative - a Xeon workstation. I know next to nothing about Xeons. Yes, I know I should do my own research, but I figured someone here knows some useful information off the top of their head.

How exactly does a Xeon differ from an i7? Different/more robust instruction set? Ability to utilize different (ECC) RAM? Faster computing even with slower clock speeds?

Is a lower end 1155 socket E3 Xeon ($300-$600 range) going to perform faster/more reliably in CAD work compared to an overclocked i7-2600K or i7-3930K?

Would a $1,000 2011 single-socket E5 Xeon be worth the money and easily outperform the i7-2600K and 3930K, even though the Xeon is lower clocked? Is it possible to overclock any Xeons?

Can you get the E3 in dual CPU form, or is that only for the E5? Can you run one CPU in a dual-socket mobo, then add another CPU at a later time?

What about the OS? Do you need Windows Server OS for any of the Xeons?

I know that I could look up the answers to some of these questions, but I am short of time - I need to make a decision between the three (2600K, 3930K, or some Xeon build) quite soon.

Thank you.

Edit: Any good benchmarks comparing Xeons against i7's (both mainstream and enthusiast) in the applications I work with?


Oct 8, 2011

We (an architecture firm) are facing the same question. We have always used Xeon workstations primarily because of vendor (Dell, HP, and even AutoDesk) reccomendations to support AutoCAD, particularly Revit. It seems the ECC RAM of the Xeon is a major factor and the algorithim handling of Xeon cpus is more favorable to developer software such as AutoCAD rather than gaming and other consumer applications which the i series of CPUs seeems better suited for. So in that sense I guess you get a better AutoCAD/Revit bang with a xeon at a slower clockspeed than with a i series. In direct answer to some of your questions from what I HAVE READ:
Yes, Xeon CPUs can be overclocked,
Win 7 64 bit runs great on a Xeon CPU
For the most part AutoCAD is a single thread application but does benefit in certain graphic areas with a multi thread CPU. My guess is that future AutoCAD versions will slowly migrate to multi thread use.
My guess is that a Xeon CPU will perform better, and more reliably, with a xeon cpu.

There are some goodAutoCAD blogs that have discussions about this subject.

Having said all of that about a Xeon being better our plan is to go with higher end, but affordable Xeon CPUs and throw a lot of RAM at them. AS a test we will also probably get one workstation with an i7 and compare it to several differant Xeon CPUs.

Let me know what you've found out and I will do the same. Jeff@ifdesigninc.com