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Here's the Hardware & Software News Roundup for Content Creators for this week. Please enjoy!
This week saw quite a few application updates, a few popular professional applications announcing support for Apple’s new M1-powered Macs, and another disastrous GPU launch. Let’s go over what happened this week, shall we?
NewsThis section covers news sourced from various trusted media and business outlets.
Foundry Announces Modo 14.2 – A Major UpdateFoundry’s focus on accelerating artist workflows comes to a close with the final major update to Modo for this year. The update brings USD export support, Rig Clay, topology views, MeshFusion Embossing, Ghost/Xray Viewport, and many other improvements to the popular 3D modeling, texturing, and rendering application. Read more.
Adobe Photoshop Now in Beta for Apple M1-Powered MacsIn a showcase of surprising speed and agility, because Apple is involved, Photoshop joins a few other professional applications immediately available for M1-powered Macs that were launched just a week ago. Adobe indicates the application’s Beta status and lists a, well, long, long list of known issues. You can find the beta announcement as well as the list of issues here.
Blackmagic Design Announces DaVinci Resolve 17.1 Beta 1 for M1-Powered MacsDaVinci Resolve’s Version 17.1 update now features universal app support for M1-powered Macs. This major release brought over 300 new features and improvements, and Blackmagic Design assures users of their availability on Apple’s latest devices. The release notes state that the combination of Apple’s M1, Metal processing brings a whopping 5x performance uplift compared to previous generation ‘computers.’ Read more.
Chaos Group Releases V-Ray 5 for RhinoV-Ray 5 for Rhino combines real-time and photoreal rendering for Rhino and Grasshopper. The new features include improvements like V-Ray Vision, Easier Lighting, Post-processing, and more. The update focuses on allowing artists to go beyond just rendering and get photorealistic shots at the push of a button. Read more.
Luxion Announces Release of KeyShot 10Luxion’s KeyShot received a significant update this week, with the application getting a host of improvements for professionals. The update adds Keyframe Animation, new Smart Export options for output to full-color 3D prints, AWeb interaction, a new Light Manager, RealCloth 2.0, as well as improved Denoise and Firefly Filter for faster creation. You can find more detailed feature update descriptions here.
Maxon Announces Major Updates for Red Giant Trapcode Suite 16 and Red Giant Magic Bullet Suite 14For the first time, Maxon announced two major suite updates at the same time. While Trapcode Suite 16 brings a set of 11 tools of particle simulation and 3D effects for motion graphics, Magic Bullet Suite 14 comes with a set of 7 tools for color correction, finishing, and film looks. The latter allows new color workflows and powerful tools in Magic Bullet Looks and Colorista. Read more.
AMD Radeon’s RX 6000 Series Reference Graphics Cards Launch on November 18th – Out of Stock InstantlyIn what’s become an industry trend and meme at this point, AMD’s reference graphics card launch somehow managed to top Nvidia’s disastrous launch of the RTX 3000. Several major hardware outlets reported receiving just ONE top-end card, i.e., the Radeon RX 6800XT. AMD assures its customers that stocks will improve in a few weeks after 25th November when AIBs can also offer their own Radeon products for purchase. Read more.
Educational Content and Helpful Resources for CG ProfessionalsThis new section features tools, training materials, tutorials, and so on for various CG applications.
Will AI Take my Job? (CG Edition): http://www.wrongfingquestion.com/372026/1712740-s01e09-will-ai-take-my-job
Discussing Virtual Production, Issues of Latency, and Targets for Professional Use with Matt Madden (Director of Virtual Production) from Epic Games. He has worked on projects such as The Mandalorian: https://www.fxguide.com/fxpodcasts/325-virtual-production-epic/
Rumor RoundupThis section only covers rumors sourced from relatively unreliable sources. Please treat them as such.
Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti Performance Numbers Leak OutThe first new-gen, sub-$500 graphics is on its way and it does look impressive for creative professionals. An official graph comparing the performance to an RTX 2060 Super and an RTX 2080 Super indicates the price point and performance tier that Nvidia will try to beat. Creation workload performance shown is impressive with the new card comfortably beating the RTX 2080 Super by a comfortable margin in Blender, V-Ray, and Redshift while completely obliterating the RTX 2060 Super. Availability still sus.
Software UpdatesThis section keeps track of the latest versions of popular Content Creation Software. Lots of big updates this week!
- Blender: 2.90.1
- Cinema 4D: 23.110
- 3ds Max: 2021.2
- Maya: 2020.3
- Houdini: 18.5.395
- Modo: 14.2 *Recent Update\*
- zBrush: 2021.1.2
- Keyshot: 10.0.198 *Recent Update\*
- Redshift: 3.0.33 *Recent Update\*
- Octane: 2020.1
- Vray: 5.00.05
- Arnold: 188.8.131.52
- Corona: 6
- Renderman: 23.5
- Deadline: 10.1.11.5
- Substance Painter: 2020.2.2
- Substance Designer: 2020.1.3
- Premiere Pro: November 2020 (14.7) *Recent Update\*
- Davinci Resolve: 16.2.7
- Final Cut Pro X: 10.5
- After Effects: October 2020 (17.5)
- Fusion: 17
- Nuke: 12.2
- Photoshop: October 2020 (22.0)
- Illustrator: October 2020 (25.0)
- Lightroom: October 2020 (10.0)
- Indesign: October 2020 (16.0)
- Solidworks: 2021 SP1 EV *Recent Update\*
- Revit: 2021.1.1
- Autocad: 2021
- Inventor: 2021.2
- Archicad: 24
- Sketchup: 2021.0.339 *Recent Update\*
- Unity3D: 2020.1.14 *Recent Update\*
- Unreal: 4.25
What to look out for when hunting for a laptop. Year 2018. [MISC]
I am not a computer expert of any sort and my only real experience with one is my personal desktop which I built myself. I will do my best to make sure that the information that I have put in this guide is as accurate as I can and I will put the necessary references so that we all can learn this together!
Please do take note that this isn’t meant to tell you to buy a single model of laptop, but more to teach you how to fish (plus it’ll be really useful for more people to understand how it works).
I will introduce to you about the different components, their functions and what my recommendation for parts are with my reasons. After which, I will breakdown the requirements of different programs and what components affects its performance.
1.Anatomy of a computer a.CPU b.GPU c.Motherboard d.Memory e.Storage f.Screen g.I/O
2.Programs a.Operating System (OS) b.Modelling c.Rendering d.Image editing
1. Anatomy of a computer
Now I believe that most people tend to not understand the different components of a computer and their function. People would typically know stuff like i7 is better than i5 which is better than i3, or having more RAM would make your computer faster and that SSD is faster than HDD but there are some important details to take note of which can impact the performance of the programs that we use.
a. CPU (Central Processing Unit)
So for CPUs you’ll see things phrases like single/multi core, single/multi-threaded, clock speed and overclocking. Before we decide what CPU we need, we would need to understand our workload. To make it simpler to understand, I want you to think of cores as people and threads as the number of hands. Some programs/functions are single-threaded while some are multi-threaded.
Single-threaded programs can be tasks like word processing or listening to music.
Multi-threaded programs can be photo editing, 3d modelling and rendering (which makes up the bulk of what we do)
Clock speeds can be seen as the proficiency or the speed at which the hands are able to work. Higher clock speeds means that you’re able to complete single tasks faster.
Now if you have more people (cores) you can do more things at once but if these people only use one hand (single-thread) they would be slower than people who uses both their hands.
Some tasks (programs) are single-threaded so, it wouldn’t matter how many people (cores) or hands (single/multi-thread) you throw at it as it will max out at single person using one hand, so for tasks like these a higher proficiency (clock speed) is preferred.
Now, there will be this word that’ll be thrown about, Hyper-threading. Hyper-threading simply means that virtually, it will double the amount of cores you physically have. So an example could be having a single threaded 4 core CPU, it would appear on your computer as 4 cores on your computer. However, if you have a hyper-threaded 4 core CPU, it would appear as 8 cores on your computer.
It may seem silly at first as you’re only virtually doubling your cores, but it means that now it can handle more tasks at once, which would be great for multi-threaded programs.
Seeing that most of our work make use of multi-threads, you can choose to get an workstation CPU like a Xeon because of the huge amount of cores, maxing out at 18 and 36 if you include hyper-threading while for consumer cards, it maxes out at 6 cores and 12 threads if you include hyper-threading. This is because most consumer programs usually use up to 4 cores. The issue with Xeon CPUs is that it’s more expensive than the consumer level CPUs and are only available on workstation laptops, which are also very expensive. For easy availability and options, I will always recommend either an i5 or i7. When I checked Intel’s CPU list that some of their i5 CPUs are hyper-threaded and that all i7 models are hyper-threaded
I can’t speak about AMD’s Ryzen cards because I never experienced using them but I figure that same concept would apply so their equivalent models would be Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 7. AMD’s Ryzen CPUs are relatively new but are highly affordable and have similar clock speeds to the more expensive Intel CPUs. Check out the list that Tom’s Hardware has put online. I think that in the near future, you would be able to see more laptops making use of Ryzen CPUs, making powerful laptops more affordable.
I haven’t talked about overclocking until now as I find it unnecessary to do especially for laptops. Overclocking is to push your CPU past its maximum intended clock speed. Not all CPUs can do overclocking but if you do, it can put your laptop at risk as it will increase the heat generated and power consumption. When you consider that most laptops do not have such generous space for their cooling systems, I’d recommend not pushing your CPU past it’s intended clock speed.
You may wish to read up more on CPUs here
I've come to realize that I have not explained how the modelling system works for the Intel CPUs, which can be rather convoluted but once you understand the meaning of the model numbers, you should be able to tell which CPU is better just by a quick glance.
So you'll see confusing model names like Intel Core i7-6500U or Intel Core i5-7500HQ. Most people would be able to differentiate the models just by the brand modifier (i3, i5 and i7) but what are the rest of the numbers and letters mean? The simple breakdown is:
(Intel Core) (i7)-(7)(500)(U)
(Brand) (Brand Modifier)-(Generation)(SKU Numeric Digits)(Product Line)
Brand: Well, brand might be a little of a misnomer but Intel has different CPU lines like Core (which is our main focus), Xeon, Atom, Pentium and Celeron so it's just to differentiate their lines.
Brand Modifier: This is was most people would understand, there are now actually 4 brand modifier for the Core line, which is i3, i5, i7 and i9. I think that the 9 models are new and haven't seen a laptop with any i9 components. The higher the number, usually means that the higher the performance.
Generation: Well the different generations have different architectures (pfffff) and it usually means that it's more efficient design. So although we are in the beginnings of the 8th generation, you would see more of the 7th generation cards in laptops at this current moment.
SKU Numeric Digits: This is their model numbers to differentiate one from another. Intel has be consistent in this part, where the higher the number, the better the performance of the CPU.
Product Line: Well for this part of the name, I'm not all that concern about it. It signifies the "focus" of the CPU. Some focus on providing more battery life (U), some have high performance (H) and some CPUs are high performance and have quad cores (HQ). To simply put it, you may want to refer to the table below or this link
|HK||High Performance, unlocked|
|HQ||High Performance, Quad Core|
|Y||Extremely low power|
b. GPU (Graphics Processing Unit/Graphics Card)
GPUs basically specialize in rendering polygons/3D graphics. If you are only doing simple task like I’ve mentioned previously, you wouldn’t need a GPU and your CPU would be more than capable of handling the workload (in which case, it’ll be called an integrated graphics system). But we need to pull out the big guns as we are pushing into the line of 3d modelling, where a graphic card would be required to process more complicated tasks.
Now for types of graphics cards, we have 2 options: Gaming and Workstation.
Gaming cards are able to do real-time rendering (moving around a 3D space) of complicated scenes at a higher-frame rate (which will make the movement appear smoother).
Workstation graphics cards are specialized for stability, precision and 3d rendering (a static scene, instead of real-time) as they are focus more optimization on the industry standard of OpenGL for the 3D work (bridge and aircraft designs).
Now from this explanation alone, a workstation graphics card would be the most suitable for our use, but the only caveat is its pricing. Workstation graphics cards are much more expensive that their gaming counterparts. I’m talking about multiple thousands and are only available on workstation laptops. If you are getting a workstation laptop, it will definitely work with the programs that we use as the developers officially support these hardware.
For this guide, I’ll focus on Gaming GPUs as they are more accessible to everyone.
Now I’ve mentioned about how the OpenGL is the industry standard, but there are GPUs that do support it from NVIDIA. I have never used AMD GPUs before but there are reports that AMD GPUs tend to perform poorly with handling OpenGL( 1, 2 ) so I’ll recommend staying away from AMD GPUs.
The latest series of GPUs from NVIDIA are the 10 series (10XX models where the XX number increases with performance and price). The laws of diminishing returns are very true when you go to the high models of this series like the 1080. You can see how the NVIDIA GPUs stack up against each other, from the 10 Series all the way to the 7 Series from this benchmark using 3DMark Fire Strike taken directly off the NVIDIA website. But most people would recommend either a GTX 1060 or a GTX 1070.
Now the bench marks are for the basic versions of the cards, you may find that in laptops, there use a mobile variant which is demarcated with an “M” at the back of the model number (e.g. 1060 M, 1070 M) but you will also hear this term “Max-Q” which from my understanding, is just a design approach to focus more on efficiency rather than raw performance. Max-Q laptops will have a maximum noise level for 40 dB and are supposedly thinner, lighter (supposedly around 2kgs) and creates less heat but there is no real definition for it.
For laptops, you wouldn’t need to worry about motherboards as they are proprietary version to best fit with the hardware that they’ve put into it. This is just to inform you about it as some people think that you can upgrade/change the motherboard for a laptop.
I also want to bring up a point I made about CPUs and overclocking as I have mentioned previously in part 1(a) on CPUs, when you want to overclock your CPU, you would put a lot of stress on the Motherboard and could cause irreparable damage. So stay away from overclocking your CPUs on your laptops.
d. Memory RAM (Random Access Memory)
RAM is the “working” memory of the computer. It does not make your computer faster but it allows you to do more things at once. It will always be better to have more RAM but it also depends on your workload as most of the processing is done by the CPU. A good explanation for RAM and CPU would be an automotive one. Having more fuel (RAM) will not make your car (CPU) go any faster but it will you to do more things at once like turning on the Air Conditioning.
A lot of programs do not use more than 4GB of RAM unless you are doing workstation programs like what we would typically use. It’ll never hurt to have more RAM. When looking at some programs, they would say 8GB is enough but that only takes into consideration if you are only using the one program. I’d recommend a minimum of 16GB of RAM or 32 if you can.
One important note to take is that having all the RAM in the world on your computer wouldn’t matter if you are running a 32-bit OS and program as the maximum it can use is 4GB. To make use of your available RAM, 64-bit operating system and program. I will explain more about this in 2(a) – OS.
Some laptops do allow you to add in more RAM so you may want to take note of that. You may also watch this video by Linus Tech Tips on RAM and workstation programs, in his case the Adobe Creative Suite.
For storage of files and programs, your two main options would be either a HDD (Hard Disk Drive) or a SDD (Solid State Drive). HDDs uses a traditional spinning hard drive while SSDs uses microchips and have no moving parts. This would make SSDs better than HDDs with respects to durability, speed, form, noise and power. SSDs are much more expensive than a HDD but the gap is closing. So in order to make the best use of storage, people would use both an SSD and HDD. Where for performance such as OS speed or programs, they would store those on an SSD and for basic storage of huge amounts of files, like a photo archive or music library, it would be stored on the HDD.
But due to size of laptops, some OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer) would create a hybrid of called a SSHD (Solid State Hard Drive) which brings the best of both worlds to the consumer.
For recommended storage amounts, most people find that 256GB of SSD would be sufficient, while some would opt for a 512GB model if they have only one storage option. For HDD, I would think that 1TB would be enough for most people. Some laptops do have slots for you to install additional SSDs or HDDs, so be on the lookout for that.
Now from screens, I am not an expert on it but I’ll try my best to explain the available options. So there are 3 types of panels, listed from good to best, TN (Twisted Nematic), VA (Vertical Allignment) and IPS (In-Plane Switching).
TN panels tend to have poor viewing angles and colour accuracy.
VA panels have better colour accuracy but may produce a weird effect when viewed at certain angles.
IPS is the most expensive of the 3 but gives the best colour accuracy and viewing angles.
Some monitors are colour calibrated but I think that is only really important if you’re a digital artist/ full time renderer.
Now for resolutions, I feel that higher doesn’t necessarily mean better. Since your screen on your laptop can only be within a certain size, a 4K display isn’t necessary and it does consume more power to keep all the pixels lit. I’d recommend a 1080p display.
There are also some screens that has a touch functionality, it consumes power even if you do use it and really not that useful but that my own personal opinion.
g. I/O (Input/Output)
I/Os are basically the ports that you can use to connect equipment to your laptop. I’d recommend having 3 USB 3.0 ports (which are blue), for you mouse, external memory and an extra one for flexibility(dongle anyone? ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) ) . An SD card reader would be useful for transferring photos from your camera or you can join team dongle ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) and hook it up to your laptop.
Looks like we are finally here, in this part I will describe how the software/programs would interact with the available hardware and how to make the best use of it. I’ll link to the hardware requirements in each section.
a. OS (Operating System)
For this I would stick to Windows as it’s the most versatile, with the most amount of programs made for it rather than MacOS or Linux.
Now as mentioned before about RAM, you would want to use a 64-bit operating system instead of a 32-bit. The way that they handle memory is very different. 32-bit OS can only use up to 4 GB of Memory. So throwing in 64 GB will do nothing as it will outright refuse to use it. A 64-bit OS by definition, can use up to 17.2 BILLION GB of memory. Now since I am talking about buying laptops, there’s a very good chance that it will be running Windows 10 but there are a couple different versions of Windows 10 64-bit OSes. There is Windows 10 Home, Pro, Education and Enterprise. All version will allow up to 2 Terabyte of memory except for Home, which will maxes out at 128 GB. It’s probably more than what you’ll ever use but it is useful information. More information on the memory usage of the different Windows OSes are listed here.aspx )
i. AutoCAD (2018)
This program is probably has the lightest requirements so it should be the absolute basic requirement for a laptop. I’ll link to the hardware requirements here .
CPU: It uses mostly a single core, but can use up to 2. Faster Clock Speed would be preferred.
GPU: Required only if you show any 3D models
RAM: Autodesk recommends 8GB of RAM but 16GB wouldn’t hurt.
ii. SketchUp (2018)
A relatively light 3D modelling program, the hardware recommended is here
CPU: Affects geometry (faces, edges). It uses mostly a single core. Does not support Hyper-threading. The most important component for performance. Faster Clock Speed would be preferred.
GPU: Affects raster effects (Shading, Textures, Shadows, Fog etc.)
RAM: 8 GB would be enough but the more you have, the bigger or more complex you can model. There are some accounts that says that it also helped make their models save faster but I am not sure if that is the case. Using a SSD instead of a HDD would see that effect.
iii. Revit (2018)
Now we’re going into the big-boy territory. The hardware require is going to be a lot higher than most programs. The hardware recommendation is here CPU: Favours single thread performance, especially during modelling. Able to use up to 16 cores.
Multi-threaded processes includes the following: - Vector printing - Vector Export such as DWG and DWF - Autodesk Raytracer (Rendering) - Wall Join representation in plan and section views - Loading elements into memory. Reduces view open times when elements are displayed for the first time in a session. - Parallel computation of silhouette edges (outlines of a curved surfaces) used when navigating perspective 3D views - Translation of high-level graphical representation of model elements and annotations into display lists optimized for a given graphics card. Engaged when opening views or changing view properties. - File Open and Save - Point cloud data display - DWF Export as individual sheets utilizes multiple processes. - Color fill calculations are processed in the background on another process. - Calculation of structural connection geometry is processed in the background on another process
GPU: Surprisingly, Revit doesn’t require such an intensive GPU as most of the time is spent in 2D and even when in the 3D view, it doesn’t require much power. You’ll only give your GPU your run for its money if you try to spin the 3D model very quickly in shaded view, turn on realistic view mode, anti-aliasing, ambient shadows, lighting and etc. So unless you really want to do all of that, a GPU isn’t that important. As long as it can meet the minimum requirement, it would be good enough. You won’t see almost any performance difference between the average gaming GPUs and high-end Workstation GPUs unless you are working on large files (800MB and above)
RAM: There is a 20 times rule to be considered to ensure that you are able to run the program smoothly. Take the working file size and times it by 20 and that would be the amount of memory it will consume. So a working model of 200MB will take 4GB of RAM (File size of 200MB) x 20 = 4GB.
If you want to know the largest size Revit working file that you can open, you divide the total amount of RAM by 20. My computer has 16GB of RAM, so it will be able to open up to 800MB. (Computer RAM size of 16GB / 20 = 800MB)
Linked models will only take up RAM, the size of the file that they are. So if you have 1 working model of 200MB and 2 linked models of 200 MB it would take up 4.4GB of RAM. (200 x 20 + 200 + 200 = 4.4GB)
Rendering in Revit might benefit with more RAM but it is not as crucial as a good CPU. You also might want to use the Cloud Rendering, especially if you’re a student as it’s free.
iv. 3DS Max (2018)
3DS Max would have almost the same requirement as Revit, with the exception of BIM data. The hardware recommendation is here
CPU: Not all features of 3DS Max are multi-threaded. Some functions couldn’t be programmed to make use of multiple cores. This includes the UI and viewport display. So you will probably see very little performance difference from a single core vs multi-core, with the same clock speed, while working in 3DS Max, but the performance difference can be seen when you do frame rendering (with the built-in render engine), as the tasks can be divided simply across multiple CPUs.
GPU: GPUs can help increase the viewport working performance apparently due to their new display system, Nitrous. You can see the increase performance in navigation, selection and viewport texture baking. There are render engines that can take make use of your GPU to render (like iRay) but not for the built it render engine.
RAM: Now this baby goes down on RAM like a hooker with a house payment. More RAM, more better, my man!.3DS Max is also known for being notoriously slow to load, so it’ll be good if you can store the program on an SSD together with the working files.
v. Rhinoceros 3D (V6)
Rhinoceros 3Dby McNeel is probably pretty commonly used because of the Grasshopper plugin for parametric design. It’s actually pretty light, hardware-wise. The hardware recommendation is here.
CPU: Rhinoceros is not multi-threaded and only uses 1 core for modelling but may use more if you use external render engines like V-Ray, Maxwell and KeyShot. So a CPU with a higher clock speed would be recommended.
GPU: For GPU requirements, as long as it uses OpenGL 3.3 and above, it should be fine. In the McNeel wiki, the more memory the GPU has, the better but they also did not see any noticeable difference between an NVIDIA Quadro workstation GPU and their GTX gaming GPU. This information hasn’t been updated in a while (2013!) but I would suspect that it would be the same.
RAM: Out of the box, 8GB is recommended, while 16 would be useful for complicated models. This would be for the 64-bit version of the program though.
vi. ArchiCAD (20/21)
I’ve never used it before but I did hear many good things about it. The hardware recommendation is here.
CPU: Finally a multi-threaded program! Graphicsoft recommends a least a 64-bit 4 core processor but 6-8 cores would be optimal. It has background processing, which will use more cores to help make the modelling faster, even with the generation of complex details. Multiple cores will be used (if available) for functions like:
-2D drawing in case of projected 3D elements, and other special cases -Generation of Sections and Elevations, -3D generation, loading and saving, -Drawing updates, -Background conversion of opened 3D based windows, -Placing PDF files as drawing (visual feedback when positioning the drawing), -Rendering, -File saving with data compressing option, -Managing Autosave. -And in addition, ARCHICAD takes better advantage of the graphics processor in your display adapter.
Read here to find out more on multi-threading .
GPU: So while workstation GPUs would be the more optimal choice, Graphisoft has also included some data for gaming GPUs.
RAM: 8GB is recommended and 16 GB is highly recommended. More RAM, more better, my man!.
So for this segment, it can get pretty complicated and I will always recommended that you read up on what your engine would make use the most of, but for the most part, a multi-core CPU will be very advantageous. Some engines will make use of your GPU only. It can get real complicated and there are tons of debates online on hardware specification. Do your research!
Now for the final segment, photo editing! Well I’ll be talking more about the post production, so it’ll mostly be for the Adobe Creative suite. But at this point, if your hardware can handle whatever programs mentioned before, it shouldn’t be a problem for you at this point and should be the least of your worries.
Thank you for reading though by obnoxiously long post! I hope that you have learnt as much as I did. If you have any questions, I would try my best to answer them but I won't be able to promise you any answers. I'll most likely be Googling (or Bing if that's the way you like it) the answers. I'm pretty sure that there would be many other professional users asking the same questions as you, but it is always best to research yourself!
Edit 1: Formatting
Edit 2: Added more information on CPUs.