This newb needs a computer, but isn't sure what to get

Greetings folks,
(this is my first post - if I put it in the wrong place, lemme know and I’ll move it)

I’ve recently completely fallen in love with SketchUp, and rapidly outgrew my old laptop. So I went shopping and got an HP all-in-one, (Core i7, NVIDIA GeForce 930A, 12G RAM).
However - some hardware problems meant that I had to take two of them back in a row, and I’m not getting another one.

I’m now essentially back to square one after that fiasco, but am still dead-set on buying a new computer. I’m open to any suggestions about what to get, and where to get it (I’m in Vancouver, Canada, if that helps). I want to keep it in the range of 1500-ish, and optimize it for SketchUp.

I was wondering if anyone could give me a few key specs that I should be looking for with that price range in mind. (I’m getting the sense that a dedicated graphics card is the top one, but even then, some are good and others aren’t?) Is there a basic standard rig that serious SketchUpers use? (in the same way music folks all seem to use Apple?)

I’m pretty new to all this, any help would be much appreciated. :smiley:

Hey @Beau,

Welcome to the Forum.

You should take a look at any of the Dell Precision series computers. These are available in a desktop or laptop form factor and each is a real workhorse. The laptops may be outside of the price range specified, but the desktop workstations may be more reasonably priced.

Admittedly, I am biased because I have purchased and used five Precision systems since 2005 and was extremely satisfied with each of them. I found this series to be reliable, comparatively maintenance free and much more responsive in handling SketchUp and CAD files than the other Windows based PCs that I had occasion to use in my office. It may be well worth the time and effort to seek a previously owned Dell Precision online if the cost is problematic.

EDIT:
I should have indicated that I have been a practicing architect for many years and in lieu of posting as the SU Moderator, in this case, I should have posted under my other user name, jvleearchitects.

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Alternatively, if your budget could stretch a little, you might look at an iMac 21" all in one.

I switched from Windows to iMac just under 2 years ago (to a 27" screen) and find that SU works well on it.

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Thanks jvleearchitects, and John - these are some really great compass points you’ve both given me.

I’m seeing that my budget may not bring me up to the level of a serious SketchUp user, but I’m not sure I can manage much more than that. If I did have a hard cap at $1500 - should I limit my search to the realm of refurbished equipment?

I was also wondering about some key specs I should watch out for (it helps when I browse through websites…)

  • I’ve read that the GPU is the key feature (I’ve also heard Nvidia is necessary, and AMD should be avoided.) Is there some number I should be looking for?
  • CPU, does it matter between Core i5/i7? (If I got an i5 would it be obsolete in a few years?)
  • RAM always used to be the biggest limiting factor for my gaming years ago, but I don’t hear people talk too much about it in these forums.

Maybe an iMac wouldn’t even stretch the budget. Here’s the Amazon.com version that might do well - it’s a good deal better than the lowest spec iMac 21.5 and under US $1500.

https://www.amazon.com/Apple-Retina-Display-MNE02LL-Version/dp/B072JW4Z9S/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1503268709&sr=8-6&keywords=imac+21.5

I can’t remember if the 21.5" iMacs allow you to add your own RAM (Apple’s prices for it are ridiculous) but if it does, add another 8 or 16GB now or later, for more headroom for larger models and general versatility. But even this model, not upgraded, should work pretty well for SU.

[Just realised you said you are in Canada, so I suppose you mean $CAN 1500? (about $US 1200). That will still get an iMac, but a lower spec one.]

Maybe a second hand or refurbished model? Go for a Fusion drive if you can get it (combined SSD and HDD).

I can’t vouch personally for the 21.5in models but I find the high res screen on my 27" one is gorgeous. And SU 2017 works pretty well on it now (inference icons were tiny on SU2016, though there was a hack which fixed that).

And my experience as a 20-year plus user of Dos and Windows didn’t seem to hamper my use of a different OS, and slightly different SU interface.

But if you decide to stick with Windows 10 (and why not?) then go for at least a mid range core i5 (or i7 if you can afford it), a good GeForce card - perhaps a 1050 or 1060, and at least 8GB RAM.

Do you need it to be portable (laptop) or can you use it in just one location? You get more bang for your buck with a desktop.

Do you have a usable screen? Even large ones now are quite affordable, if you don’t. The bigger the better for SU, at least HD resolution (1920x1080) for comfort, and 21" diagonal or bigger.

What size models do you plan to make? And of what type?

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FYI, assembly-line PCs like Dell, HP, Compaq and especially Apple computers are a lot harder to upgrade than third-person assembled boxes…they often use proprietary motherboards, and use PSUs that are barely making it.
Also, the amount of RAM that these pre-assembled machines max out at is usually half of the DIY boards. They have fewer SATA ports, rarely have M.2 available and even have fewer connections for chassis fans.

One recommendation I could make would be to get as much RAM as you can afford (mine has 32 GB), 16 GB should be fine. The extra RAM allows you yo run more programs at the same time without your system sloooowing doooown.

Cheers, eh.

C.C.

BTW…please do NOT buy “refurbished” anything, you would be buying a system or part that has already encountered problems from it’s previous owner, and often come with a much smaller warranty. I wouldn’t touch anything refurbished with YOUR 10’ pole.

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I was actually curious about the user experience with a Mac. The guy who did the tutorials I learned from was on one, and it looked great. I’m totally at home in Mac OS, but I think the reason I haven’t been considering them as seriously is my budget. What I’m after is the right specs, more so than a premium case and cool bundled software. That being said, after my HP experience maybe some of that Apple quality would be refreshing.

The all-in-one HP that I just returned fit a lot of those specs you mentioned - 27” monitor, dedicated GPU (decent, but not amazing), Core i7, 12G RAM and hybrid SSD drive. On paper, the only shortcoming was a 2.4G-only wireless connection. It may not have been the perfect SUp machine, but it would’ve been okay. It just had quality issues (I could rant all day about what those were, but I’ll spare you) - I got that one for CDN $1800. This would be my ideal config, but right now I’m open to anything that works.

As for the kind of modelling I want to do with it…as soon as I figure out how to post pictures on this thing I’ll show you haha. The size of the model I’m working on right now is pretty simple - about 70 megs (if I were to stitch it all together, as I hope to do). It’s a small house and lot.

I’ve been careful to purge all the unused geometry, and I’ve used all the tricks I’ve learned to keep the polygon count low. I haven’t been careless, but I don’t want to have to walk on eggshells any time I want to play with heavier geometry. I’m also very curious about some of the cool extensions like vray (I think), and ways to get realistic lighting effects.

I might stop by the Apple store tomorrow, and also take the suggestions you gave me over to a computer parts store on my way to work (they usually build people gaming computers). They might be able to help. Seriously thank you for all the help.

Thanks for the suggestions coldcanuck, I think I’ll follow your rule on refurbished stuff. I’ve done most of my modelling now on a refurbished Lenovo laptop, and some of the keys just stopped working (I’m typing right now on my sub-$200 Chromebook, seriously one of the best “computers” I’ve ever had haha, saved me so many times)

I think I’ll aim for 12G of RAM - I don’t know if I can budget for much more, and it’s 4 above the recommended by the SketchUp people. I hope it’ll be okay. I doubt I’ll be very demanding on this - just sketchup and maybe a song playing in the background at the same time.

(Thinking about it, I don’t even need a lot of drive space - I’d seriously be happy if I just had 128G pure SSD)

Question though - for these third-person assembled boxes you’re speaking of, are you talking about a home-built pc? Or can you get this from a supplier? I’m so out of the loop on how to buy a computer [/embarrassed]

Famous last words :-}
A good suggestion is to have a nice sized SSD (250 - 500 GB) for boot, and at least 1 TB for additional storage of user files, models, textures, etc. Just remember that it’s not just your operating system that you want on that boot drive, it’s any vital program that would stop working if that secondary drive were to fail.

BTW Have you been backing up the files that you consider irreplaceable?
Murphy’s law loves people who don’t lol

Yes to both. I’ve been assembling our home and clinic computers since 2000, give or take, so either that route or the local PC store can assemble for a modest price (after you look up reviews on their store’s customer service).
Additionally, stores like newegg.com, microcenter, and maybe tigerdirect.com. You could look around for the best prices.

C.C.

*UPDATE!

I’ve visited the computer guys today at MemoryExpress (https://www.memoryexpress.com/) and they showed me a few possibilities.

The one I’m most interested in is this Lenovo:

  • GeForce GTX 1050Ti
  • Core i7-7700
  • 16GB
  • 128 SSD + 1TB HDD

That’s for CDN $1300 (but monitor will be extra)
I really want it… does it sound solid for SketchUp?? :slight_smile:

Thanks also for the tips C.C. - your point is well taken about the hard drive space. I guess I just meant that I don’t typically do any space-hungry activities… I don’t game, don’t take a lot of pictures/vids, and if I did, I’d get an external drive easy enough. I want to prioritize my existing budget into graphics handling. What do you think about the rig above? I didn’t hugely want the old tower setup, but those specs seem really good for the price.

Quite solid

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agreeed, if you wanna improve you could:

• CPU: i7-7700K
• GF GTX 1060
• SSD: 256 GB (no big diff. in cost)

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End of last year I bought a Lenovo laptop, i7, with 12 G ram and an NVIDIA GEForce 940MX (4 G I think). I also upgraded my home monitor to an LG 24" 4K UHD. I got them both from amazon for just a little over $1,000 total. 8 months later, no problems and I am really satisfied with the setup.

Now I’m trying to learn to use a newly bought graphics tablet. That’s a whole other world for a new subject string :slight_smile: …Mick

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I’d totally love it sketch3d_de, but it’s all about the budget. I might’ve done one upgrade, but I don’t think they’ll let me on this one.

I’m keeping the computer above as a good baseline, and am still considering a custom build right now - but I’m still working out the exact cost breakdown.
(I’m even still looking at some laptops)

I’m finding that getting a stable platform for higher-end SketchUp use is putting me in close range to VR readiness - which is something I’ve been interested in for some time. I’m rethinking taking the hard cap off the budget.

That sounds really rad Mick - I’m going over to a friend’s place to talk to him about this stuff in a bit, and I’ll mention Amazon as an option. (Though I will admit that I am a little phobic of buying stuff on amazon and sites like it… I can’t really explain why)

That’s exciting to hear about your graphics tablet as well… I’m going to get one soon as well, and try to work some 2D magic :slight_smile:

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If you haven’t made a decision yet, go to Apple.ca and check out their refurbished computers, This is the only place I buy my computers from and at a discounted price with the same warranty as a new one.

Dave

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Hey guys, I just wanted to say thanks a million for helping guide me through this. I just bought a computer a couple of days ago, and it is quite a departure from what I was talking about above.

While looking into machines with solid specs for SketchUp, VR popped up on my radar. I’m in the field of education, and I’m curious how tech like VR might be useful. So rather than just being a single-use device (a cheap desktop for SUp), I saw it as a multi-use machine, and took the lid off the budget completely (though I did get it on sale :slight_smile: ).

I got the Alienware R4 17:
Graphics card: GTX 1070
(… and every other spec is top.)

Again, thanks for helping me learn the lay of the land… I’m really happy with it, and looking forward to building some interesting stuff with it!!

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