CPUs for CAD: The right choice
Computer-aided design (CAD) is the use of computers (or workstations) to aid in the creation, modification, analysis, or optimization of a design. CAD software is used to increase the productivity of the designer, improve the quality of design, improve communications through documentation, and to create a database for manufacturing.Designs made through CAD software are helpful in protecting products and inventions when used in patent applications. CAD output is often in the form of electronic files for print, machining, or other manufacturing operations. The term CADD (for computer aided design and drafting) is also used.
How Does CPU impact CAD
When shopping for a CPU for CAD, it’s important to consider the two main factors that determine processor performance – core count and core frequency. Most CAD based programs are either single threaded or lightly threaded, meaning core frequency – often referred to as core speed and measured in GHz – should be the primary focus. The higher the core speed, the better the system will perform with this workload.
Note: Current gen processors have a Turbo/Boost feature, which is essentially an auto-overclock of one core that the system will provide depending on load. Don’t ignore this spec! For CAD, the Turbo/Boost speed is much more important than stock frequency.
Best Budget CPU for CAD
For running CAD, the best value-based CPU will be what offers the highest Turbo/Boost for the money.
From the Intel side, that would be the NEW Core i5-11600k, with 6 cores and 12 threads at 3.9/4.9GHz available for less than $300. You may find higher single clock speeds in the i7/i9 range, but not at that price window. It’s an excellent option for even pro CAD work on a budget
AMD Ryzen also offers some great options for frequency hungry applications like CAD. Our recommendation is the Ryzen 5 5600X with 6 core and 12 threads at 3.7/4.6GHz and a similar pricepoint to the Intel option. Though those GHz speeds are slightly slower, the increased efficiency and IPC improvements from AMD’s latest architecture generally have yielded benchmarks slightly higher in CAD applications during our testing. The difference is very small and it’s really a matter of preference as to which you choose.
Best Overall CPU for CAD
For our pro level architecture, engineering, and construction customers looking for every possible performance advantage, the optimal choice is Intel’s new i9-11900k, solely due to its stunning Turbo speed of 5.3GHz. Prior to this launch, the only way to get closet to that performance level was via significant single core overlocking, which is obviously not ideal on a pro workstation. These speeds paired with support for PCIe 4.0 and ultra fast DDR4 RAM will provide your team the best overall CAD performance hands down.