New Laptop/PC Requirement Guide

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Choosing a suitable laptop/PC for UDesign/RoofWright

 

Introduction

This guide outlines the hardware specification required to run RoofWright/UDesign on your Laptop and get the best out of our software.

This guide does not take into account any other software that you may wish to run on your laptop, so if you’re a part-time DJ or budding Video/Photo editor in your free-time, please also check the hardware requirements for these applications, prior to purchasing. You may find that the other applications you wish to run require a higher overall specification, or require your budget to be spent in a different area (Music creation software for example may require a well specced PC in terms of it’s soundcard and processing power, but won’t necessarily require top-of-the-range visual output. You’ll need to find the right combination to match all software you intend to run.

Unless price is no object when choosing your laptop, it pays to research the spec required so that you get a balanced system offering the best ‘Bang for your buck’, rather than spending a chunk of money on a Laptop with the best possible graphics card, then sacrificing on other components, which may be the bottleneck in your system.

The sections/components listed below are ordered by priority, Graphics Card being the most important and Operating System being the least important (as the only versions currently available to purchase are Windows 7 and Windows 8, with which both RoofWright and UDesign are compatible).

This guide will conclude with 5 suitable example laptops, at a range of budgets – bear in mind however, that as the program develops and features are added or enhanced, the program may become more demanding on your laptop. Purchasing a laptop on the borderline of the minimum spec could be false economy. If your budget allows, try to futureproof your laptop by selecting the best spec that your budget can afford.

Sony VAIO laptops have a great deal of appeal amongst buyers due to their aesthetics. Although they may look the part with smart aluminium casing, they aren’t the best value for money compared to other brands and they can be notoriously hard to get along with. Driver support isn’t always great.

One well-specced PC, if well maintained , will perform solidy and reliably for a few years to come. It’ll likely out-last two base spec laptops.


Graphics Card

This is 3D design software, therefore graphic processing is very important. Low-spec graphics will require you to run the software at it’s lower settings and you may need to turn off textures, you’ll experience choppiness when moving/rotating the drawing  or zooming in or out.  This very much defeats the object of 3D design software, as it’ll hamper your productivity in the office when looking to draft up jobs quickly and also not offer the customer the best visualisation of what your hoping to sell to them when drawing in the customers home!

 

Graphics cards come in two main types – one being ‘Integrated‘ – the other being known as ‘Dedicated‘ or ‘Discrete‘.

 

  • Integrated Graphics allocate a portion of the Laptop’s RAM for graphic processing tasks. Even if you’re laptop has plenty of RAM installed, Integrated graphics are usually slower and less capable, but due to their low cost, account for 90% of PC’s/Laptops sold.

 

  • Dedicated Graphics cards have their own memory and interface with the system through a PCI slot, the data transfer speeds (bandwidth)  are much greater. The memory used is specially designed and optimised for this type of task

 

Click here to see a list of the many popular graphics options in a handy table. This hierarchy chart maps ATI, NVidia (GeForce) and Intel’s models against each other, so that you can see how one card stacks up in comparison to the other brands available.

 

It is recommended that you opt for a Laptop with graphics matching or exceeding the level shown below – Full table at the link above.

 

Graphics chart

 

Graphics card upgrades are practically impossible to shoe-horn into a laptop once you’ve bought it, therefore it’s paramount that you ensure the graphics card meets our recommendations

If your budget allows, look for a laptop with either ATI or Nvidia graphics, a minimum of 256MB is recommended. If you cannot find a laptop within budget that has dedicated graphics, the latest Integrated Intel HD4000 graphics are satisfactory.

 


Processor

The processor is the heart of the Laptop. As its name suggests, it processes information and performs all computations. Processors are measured by their clock speed, number of cores and cache size. The cache stores recently accessed information for quick recall.

The better the processor you choose, the quicker RoofWright/Udesign will perform during editing. If you under-spec your processor, you may notice delays between clicking to add features and the changes actually being applied to your model. On larger or more complex roofs the delay will be amplified – spec your processor correctly to allow your work to flow as smoothly as possible. As an example a 10 second delay waiting for a window feature to be applied adds up to 2 minutes of waiting, for a conservatory with 12 frames.

Avoid ‘netbooks’ (Usually supplied with Intel Atom processor)- they may appeal due to their portability, but are designed for long battery life. Low power consumption is achieved at the detriment of performance. These have limited capability and are definitely not suited for use with RoofWright/ Udesign.

The Intel ‘Celeron’ or ‘Pentium’ range are aimed at the budget/ home computing market – these are perfectly capable of tasks such as word processing, web browsing etc, but can struggle with more demanding applications. These are also best avoided.

Intel’s i3, i5 and i7 range are popular choices, better suited to demanding tasks. They come in a range of different clock speeds and currently in their 4th generation.  To research these processors, click here then select ‘Mobile Products’ – browse the highlighted categories below – click into each one for the full range. Details such as clock speed and cache size are displayed.

processor diagram

 

If you intend to spec your laptop with an integrated graphics card you should select a laptop with either a 3rd or 4th generation Core processor. Any older core processors may feature inferior graphics cards. The Intel website shows which graphics are included with which processor.

processor diagram 2

 

Core i3 is the minimum that we’d recommend, Core i5 is what we’d suggest you should use. The Core i7 is not necessary, however as we’ll be displaying example laptops covering a variety of budgets, the top of the range offering will feature this.

 

RAM

Data is cached in the RAM temporarily, so that it can be accessed by active programs. RAM is volatile memory which is cleared each time the Laptop is powered down (This memory is not to be confused with your hard-drive, where you store your files)

The more RAM you have, the better your laptop will multitask and perform with multiple applications open.  Some types of software such as CAD and Image manipulation programs such as Adobe Photoshop require large amounts of RAM – it’s not uncommon for a Photoshop user to max out an 8GB setup whilst working on a project.

When shopping for RAM, there are a few figures that manufacturers quote. The most important factor when considering the RAM for RoofWright is the amount of RAM that you have. Low Latency and High BUS speed aren’t particularly important (More important for gaming).

As RAM is very affordable and simple to fit, if you find a laptop which ticks the boxes for it’s graphics and processor don’t be too concerned about picking up a laptop with only 4GB of RAM, providing there’s room for expansion.

You can also find this information on Crucial’s website, by searching the brand and model of the laptop – It’ll advise  Here

 

memory checker

 

 

 

Windows 8 requires 2GB of RAM, just for the Windows operating system alone. On top of this, you will have RoofWright/UDesign running, and maybe an antivirus and email client running (possibly others too).

4GB would be the minimum RAM I’d suggest going for (most on the market today come with that as a minimum). 8GB would be a better option however. 

 

Screen

The screen selection, although an important factor – is much a matter of personal preference.  The only suggestion would be a standard Laptop size (15.6 inch screen) as a minimum, capable of a resolution of 1366×768 pixels or greater. This should allow enough screen area to show a customer their design on screen, as well as provide a comfortable working environment in the office, anything smaller may be more difficult to design on.

Screens are available in matt and gloss finishes – Either one is fine. The 3D drawing may look better presenting to a customer on a gloss screen, but you may also find that reflection is more of an issue with gloss screens, if you use it outdoors whilst on site. I’ll leave that decision up to you!

Pick a laptop with a 15.6 inch screen, that you like the look of. If portability is not a concern and your budget allows, you may prefer to go for a larger screen, such as a 17.3 or 18.4 inch.

 

Hard-Drive

This is the least important components to consider. Two features of hard drives are their speed and capacity.  Capacity is not the main feature to look for as a RoofWright/ UDesign installation is approx only 350MB in size and the average job file is 250KB. Most new laptop have at least 500GB hard-drives, meaning you’d have to draw and save over 2 million conservatories to use up that amount of space, if you were using your laptop exclusively for RoofWright/UDesign. The emphasis on shopping for a hard drive is the speed, rather than the size. The quicker the hard drive can access files, the quicker the laptop will boot up, and the quicker programs and documents will also load.

There are two main types of storage device used; Traditional mechanical hard drives and SSD (Solid State Disc). Standard hard drives are found at a lower cost per GB of storage capacity compared to an SSD (Solid State Disc) type. If purchasing a traditional hard drive, there are different drive speeds available. Most laptop hard drive spin at 5400 – 7200RPM but drives that spin as fast as 15,000RPM are available – Faster spinning drives can access the data quicker.

Solid state discs offer much faster performance. They have no moving parts, unlike a standard hard drive, so also offer better shock performance. If you’re using it out on site, it’ll be a little more robust and less likely to suffer data corruption. Problems such as stiction are not associated with SSD’s because of the lack of moving parts.

Click here for a side-by-side test of two identical laptops (Except for the hard drive) – the increase in performance is very noticeable.

Use the standard Hard-drive that comes supplied with the laptop. A standard hard drive with 500GB capacity will serve you well. If you’re budget will allow, upgrade to an SSD – 128GB will be sufficient unless you’re planning on using the laptop for more than just RoofWright/Udesign.

The ideal setup would be to have one hard drive for the Operating System and system files and another hard drive for document storage – If Windows Fails, you won’t lose your saved jobs. This is the costliest option, so if money is no object, go wild!

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