When it comes to optimizing AutoCAD performance, the most important specification to consider is CPU single-threaded performance. In general, the majority of tasks in AutoCAD are considered single-threaded, meaning that the program will only use one CPU core at a time, even if your workstation has a dozen CPU cores. The two main ways to speed up single-threaded performance are to use a newer CPU with a more efficent architecture (e.g. a 6th generation Intel Core i7 will be faster than a 4th generation Intel Core i7 CPU) and to use a CPU with a higher operating frequency (e.g. an Intel Core i7 6700k at 4.5 GHz will be faster than an Intel Core i7 6700 at 4.0 GHz). It is critical to note that one can only compare CPU frequency within the same CPU family in order to get an apples-to-apples comparison. That is, one can say an Intel Core i7 6700k at 4.5 GHz is faster than an Intel Core i7 6700k at 4.2 GHz, but one can not say that an AMD FX-9590 at 5.0 GHz is faster than an Intel Core i7 6700k at 4.2 GHz, even though on paper it has a higher frequency.
Budget-Friendly AutoCAD Workstation Specs
For the budget-minded AutoCAD user who works primarily with 2D models but does some light 3D work, Orbital Computers recommends a high-frequency Intel Core i5 6600 CPU with 4 cores, 4 threads, and a 3.90 GHz operating frequency. 4 cores/threads will provide ample multi-threaded performance for the relatively rare intensive multi-tasking and rendering tasks while focusing on keeping a high operating frequency for the common single-threaded tasks. Orbital Computers suggests an Nvidia Quadro K620 GPU with 2GB DDR3 video RAM, 8GB to 16GB of system RAM (depending on the size/complexity of the models you work with), and a fast solid state drive to keep a snappy system response time.
Mid-level AutoCAD Workstation Specs
For an AutoCAD user who also does some light rendering, Orbital Computers suggests essentially the same system as listed above but with an Intel Core i7 6700 CPU instead of the i5 6600. The difference is the i7 CPU has 8 CPU threads versus the 4 threads found on the i5. AutoCAD’s rendering function can utilize as many CPU cores/threads as are available. Thus, having twice as many CPU threads will lead to render times about 35% faster than the i5. Single-threaded performance will remain just about identical between the i5 and the i7, though the i7 does run at a marginally faster 4.0 GHz.
High-end AutoCAD Workstation Specs
For an AutoCAD user who performs frequent photorealistic rendering and works with more intensive 3D models, Orbital Computers suggets the Intel Core i7 6700k CPU with 4 cores, 8 threads, and a safe Orbital Computers overclock to 4.5 GHz. To process larger 3D tasks, an Nvidia Quadro M2000 GPU with 4GB of GDDR5 video RAM, 16+GB of DDR4 RAM, and a fast solid state drive is recommended. An overclocked CPU requires paying special attention to supporting component selections including the power supply, CPU cooler, motherboard, system cooling, etc.
It is absolutely essential to note that while it is most interesting to discuss core components that directly lead to system performance (CPU, GPU, etc.), having the fastest CPU won’t help if the rest of the system isn’t stable and reliable. Supporting components like the power supply, motherboard, operating system, and system cooling are all just as important to specify properly in order to maintain a stable and reliable workstation.