Sponsor Spotlight: Autodesk Revit on the new HP Z230 Workstation

August 15th, 2013

The new HP Z230 Workstation is a great computing solution for architects working on small and mid-sized Autodesk® Revit® projects. The system is available in a range of configurations designed to match the needs of beginners to full-time users of Revit. In addition, you can choose HP Z230 Workstations featuring a variety of next-generation Intel® Xeon® E3, Intel® Core™ i7, and Intel® Core™ i5 processors. The HP Z230 Workstation comes in two editions—as  a Tower and small form factor (SFF).

Revit represents one of the more difficult applications to right-size for a workstation. The most crucial system components for Revit are in order of importance:

  1. The appropriate amount of memory or RAM in the system
  2. The Intel processor  is a close second to memory
  3. A supported professional graphics card from NVIDIA or AMD
  4. A storage drive featuring SSDs, standard HDDs, or both

The HP Z230 Workstation fills these four key requirements quite well and provides many other features that professionals in the architectural and BIM fields need.

More than other application, Revit is sensitive to the amount of RAM installed in a workstation. Performance is severely limited if Revit executes a function that queries data across the entire open model and much of the data resides on disk due to not enough memory. The rule of thumb for sizing memory with Revit is 20 times the size of your project file on disk. When applying this rule, you should account for future growth of your project file as your work evolves towards completion. You must also account for other applications running on the system, because if they are active, they can compete for space in RAM. Not having enough RAM limits the performance of the other components in the system. The HP Z230 Workstation has four slots for DIMM cards of RAM. A good recommendation is four 4GB DIMMS so that Revit can grow up comfortably to handle project file sizes up to 600MB, leaving 4GB reserved for other applications. Another consideration is to use ECC (error correcting code), memory in a workstation. This helps ensure that your calculations remain consistent in memory. The Intel Xeon E3 supports ECC memory while the Intel Core i7 and Intel i5 do not. (1)

The HP Z230 Workstation uses a range of next-generation processors from Intel. There are eight different Intel Xeon processors in the HP Z230 Workstation lineup from the Intel Haswell generation, which range from the top-end 3.6GHZ Intel Xeon E3-1280 v3 down to the 3.2GHZ Intel Xeon E3-1220 v3. The Intel Core processors are represented by the Intel Core i7 and two Intel Core i5 processors. Revit is sensitive to an additional memory feature called Smart Cache, so the larger the processor the better. The Intel Xeon E3 family and Intel Core i7 have 8MB of level 3 Smart Cache while the Intel Core i5 has 6MB. When buying a processor, it is important to note that a 20 percent increase of processor frequency does not mean a 20 percent better Revit experience when running medium- and large-size Revit models. An excellent choice for an HP Z230 Workstation is the Intel Xeon E3-1240 v3 processor. (2)

The HP Z230 Tower system supports a wide range of graphics cards from NVIDIA and AMD. The latest generation NVIDIA Kepler cards, including the Quadro K600, Quadro K2000, and Quadro K4000, are supported. AMD is represented by the AMD FirePro V3900 and AMD FirePro W7000. Intel HD P4600 graphics is also supported with the Intel Xeon E3-1275 v3 as one of three choices. If you primarily use Revit Architecture or Structure, the NVIDIA Quadro K600 or Quadro K2000 are good choices while the AMD FirePro V3900 is a good alternate. Revit MEP users should stick with the NVIDIA Quadro K2000 graphics card; if they are modeling large installations with large extents, the NVIDIA Quadro K4000 or AMD FirePro W7000 are better choices. Choosing these graphics from NVIDIA, AMD, or Intel provides a supported solution. Gaming graphics cards from these vendors are not supported for professional applications such as Revit, and Autodesk will not support them.

The HP Z230 Workstation supports a number of storage solutions from high-speed medium capacity SSDs to SATA hard drives of various sizes. SSDs are great for speeding up the boot-up of a workstation and the launching of applications such as Revit. During actual runs of Revit, they will only provide a modest improvement since Revit does not create heavy overheads when reading or writing data. If you like an SSD, HP offers one marked as 256GB. You should not go smaller since these storage devices become more difficult to manage and smaller devices are slower with SSDs. A good option is to have one 256GB SSD for the operating system and use a 2TB SATA hard drive for data and extra installation space. (3)

More information on the HP Z230 Tower and SFF can be found at http://www.hp.com/zworkstations.

1 Maximum memory capacities assume Windows 64-bit operating systems. With Windows 32-bit operating systems, memory above 3 GB may not all be available due to system resource requirements.

2 Multi Core technology is designed to improve performance of certain software products. Not all customers or software applications will necessarily benefit from use of this technology. 64-bit computing on Intel® architecture requires a computer system with a processor, chipset, BIOS, operating system, device drivers, and applications enabled for Intel® 64 architecture. Processors will not operate (including 32-bit operation) without an Intel® 64 architecture-enabled BIOS.  Performance will vary depending on your hardware and software configurations. Intel’s numbering is not a measurement of higher performance.

3 For HDDs and SSD’s, GB = a billion bytes. TB = 1 trillion bytes. Actual formatted capacity is less. Up to 20B of system disk is reserved for system recovery software.

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