Don’t ya just love slapping down a couple grand for a smokin’ hot 3D model pumpin’ workstation? There’s a whole heap memory-laden machine to smooth out design, render and simulate, but there’s comes a point when you hear what has worked best for others.

Today we take a look at the magnificence of a perfect mobile workstation… Perfect from a sense that it works pretty darn good to run mid to high range 3D CAD apps while streaming music.

I was reading Christine Longwell’s blog post on The Search for a Wicked Cheap Laptop. Wicked cheap for SolidWorks is possible, but we’ll actually look at something that is wicked expensive, but could be customized to be not-so-wicked and just plain old ordinary expensive. Better?

For this adventure, I turned to my good friend Butch Lively from TDAviation. Their company has an impressive network of mobile workstation people, tied together with Rackspace hosting and SolidWorks Enterprise PDM. Here’s what Butch had to say.

We have been purchasing 8730w for the heavy hitters with 8GB, 1 GB Nvidias and dual hard drives configured with raid.

We recently purchased some 8710s as well because they were dirt cheap deals. Overall I have been very happy with HP mobile workstations. That came as a bit of a surprise as I was previously a Dell man. The one thing that made me start considering the HPs was the fact that Dell wasn’t then providing keyboards with a numberpad. The admin configuration tools HP provides are far better than Dell. The HP Performance Tuning Framework application is tops!

I bought the first HP 9740w (predecessor to the 8710) from New Egg just before hiring on with TDA. . We found various other resellers overs the next couple of years. Now we have an HP rep. Even though I bought mine through new egg, hp still sent someone onsite to repair the daughter board with a bad USB connector. Apparently all the mobile workstations come with 3 yr warranties.

The Specs for Butch’s set-up look something like this:

  • Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor T9400* (2.53 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB, 6 MB L2 cache)
  • 17-inch diagonal WUXGA (1920×1200)
  • NVIDIA Quadro FX 3700M 128-core CUDA parallel computing processor 1GB (dedicated)
  • 8192MB (800-MHz, DDR2, 2DIMM) ** ONLY available with VST BUS 64 or FreeDOS OS localizations
  • 250-GB SATA Hard Drive (7200 RPM)
  • 2nd 250-GB SATA Hard Drive (5400 RPM) in upgrade bay ** for RAID
  • Full- sized keyboard with numeric keypad and dual pointing devices (touchpad and pointstick) with scroll zone
  • Intel 802.11a/b/g/draft n I3 (non IAMT/vPro)
  • HP Integrated Module with Bluetooth® Wireless Technology
  • 8-cell (73 WHr) Lithium-Ion battery
  • Limited 3 year standard parts and labor warranty, onsite service (3/3/3)

The Price?
On this configuration you would be looking at $3,691.00. Wooooo! High isn’t it. Well, you can customize these from a base price of $1,899.00 which isn’t too bad. I would splurge on the Memory for 64bit operation.

The recommendation from Trimech
Trimech Solutions, a SolidWorks reseller, put together a recommended hardware list for desktops and laptops. Here’s the laptop section. As you can see the 8730w is listed. I wouldn’t even consider the entry level version and I’d make sure to have Vista 64bit (Windows 7 in October 09) to utilize all the extra RAM you can afford.

So what do you run? Are you happy with the configuration you have or would you change it?


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.