New to Mastercam and looking to buy a computer? All your questions answered here.
Link to the chart shown in the video...
Minimum Requirements Chart
Is it time to upgrade or buy a new computer that needs to run Mastercam? Confused on what the computer needs? ...is it better to spend extra money on more RAM or a better CPU, or maybe even upgrade to the Pro version of Windows? … do you really need a Quadro card? Heck, what even is a Quadro card? Today, we’ll have a look at all these options and hopefully get you better informed for your upcoming purchase.
To start off, we’ll have a look at Mastercams suggested computer configurations. They provide two scenarios, a Minimum and a Recommended configuration. You could simply give this link to your computer sales rep and they would be able to provide several option for you, but, I think if we break down each category you can better decide which upgrade from the minimum works better for you.
OS. Mastercam is limited to running on Windows. New versions of Mastercam will run on Windows 7 or newer. Unless you have a specific reason to run Windows 7 or 8, like perhaps some legacy software you absolutely need, I would suggest going with Windows 10. The main reason, Windows 10 is just faster than the previous versions. Windows 8, just stay away from that, it was not a fun version of Windows…it was so bad they skipped Windows 9. Also, keep in mind, Windows 7 is at its end of life. Support for Windows 7 ended on January 14, 2020…it will still work, just no more updates from Microsoft. Now that we’re focused in on Windows 10, do you pick Home or Pro. Mastercam says at a minimum you should be using the Pro versions. I would agree but, what is the difference between HOME and PRO. Well, roughly 100 bucks if we’re talking cost. The HOME version will run Mastercam just as well as the PRO version. There is no performance gain, but you do gain some security with Bitlocker and WIP, which in todays world, any level of improved security is a good idea. So, to sum up this option, if you are a business, I would say go with PRO. If you are a student, HOME should be fine. Keep in mind, you can always upgrade from HOME to PRO if you find the need.
Processor. At minimum Mastercam suggests 64 bit and 2.4 gigahertz of speed. In computers today, Intel and AMD are pretty much you’re only choices. 64 bit is also pretty much the standard on new machines, to the point where its not really advertised anymore. If you are buying used or refurbished, this is something you’ll have to watch for as the new versions of Mastercam only run on a 64 bit system. Why would you want 64 bit vs 32, mainly to access to more RAM. 32 bit systems max out at 4GB of RAM, which by todays standards is very low…some smartphones now have 4GB of RAM. Back to the actual choices on CPUs, slower processors than stated will run Mastercam, your experience may not be ideal though. Typically, this is something you’ll only need to watch for on laptops, most newer desktops should surpass this 2.4ghz easily. Mastercams recommended CPU is an Intel i7 or Xeon and 3.2ghz or faster. Many benchmarking tests have been done over the years and what has been consistent with them all when dealing with Mastercam is the higher the CPU speed, aka the ghz, the faster Mastercam runs. Intel CPUs have long been the gold standard for performance in this realm. If shopping for a used or refurbished computer, look for the intel i series of CPUs. If you are looking at new, AMD can now be considered as a performance option as well. Previously, AMD chips were cheaper but at the cost of performance. AMDs new Ryzen chips have very good performance. Many users are reporting great results with these chips, similar performance to that of an Intel but at a reduced cost. The Xeon series of chips from intel are a very high-end CPU. If you can afford these most likely you are not listening to this video.
Memory aka RAM. Put simply, more is better. Yes, Mastercam will run with less than 8gb but again, your experience may not be ideal. If you are working with complex assemblies or even complex toolpaths, the recommended 32GB may not be enough. Many of the highend systems today can support 64 or even 128GB of RAM. RAM is also easily upgraded on existing systems. Keep in mind there are many different types of RAM such as DDR2, DDR3, DDR4 and these even come at specific speeds which should match your system. So, for RAM, if you’re doing simple wireframe geometry and 2D toolpaths, you get away with less, anything complex, know that the more RAM you have the better Mastercam will perform.
Videocards. At a minimum Mastercam recommends a card that supports OpenGL 3.2 and OpenCL 1.2 and has at least 1GB of memory. OpenCL 3.2 was released in August of 2009 whereas OpenCL 1.2s release was in November of 2011. So, you should be confident that most modern videocards will easily meet this requirement. On the recommended side, an Nvidia Quadro or AMD Firepro with 4GB or more are listed. Again, the more complex your work is the more benefit you will get from a more expensive video card. Now, there is much debate to the need of these work station class of video cards. Many have had great success using mid to high end gaming cards instead. Gaming cards are much cheaper than their work station equivalents, so you could purchase a high end game card or a mid range work station card for roughly the same price. Which one wins? That is still undecided. The main take away for graphics cards though is…you really should have one. Running on the CPUs graphics, often referred to as onboard graphics, is not ideal. Yes, Mastercam will run. You can even disable some graphic settings to help it run a bit better when not using a video card, but your results may not be great, you will probably have performance issues and probably even stability issues. If you are doing basic 2D, you can probably get away with onboard graphics but anything more, you will want the upgrade.
Monitors. As pointless as you may think a minimum requirement of 1920*1080 may be, it kinda does matter. 1920x1080 is almost standard across the board so for most desktop monitors, this won’t be a problem. But on laptops, you may be stuck with something smaller like 1366x768 resolution. This won’t stop Mastercam from running but you may find some of the menu icons squished and aspect ratios a little wonky. So yes, if you have a choice, pick the 1920x1080. And as the recommended section points out, the more monitors the better! The only limit to how many monitors you can run is the video card you are running. Most will handle 2 without issue, if you want more be sure to check the number of outputs on the videocard. One more point about monitors, at this time I would suggest avoiding 4k monitors as it is not fully supported in Mastercam….yet. Sure there are work arounds and it’s not as if it will not work, I would save the extra cost for a 4k monitor and spend it on additional 1080p monitors instead.
Storage. Minimum, yes, you need enough space to install Mastercam and its supporting files. You could probably get away with less than 20GB but with the cost of storage being so low these days, if you are that close to running out an upgrade is fairly cheap. Speaking of cheap, the cheapest performance boost you can make to your system would be an SSD drive. SSD stands for Solid State Drive, these are basically computer chips that store the information and they are blazingly fast! Once you move to an SSD over an HDD, you’ll never go back!. SSD costs have dropped dramatically over the past 5 years. What used to be 1-2 dollars per GB of storage is now 10-20 cents per GB. There is even faster storage than your typical SSD and that’s M.2 NVME SSDs. The M.2 are pretty much the same storage type as SSDs, they just connect using a different port which allows for higher speeds. For a comparison, your typical HDD will transfer data at 160 MB/s, SSD 600 MB/s, and M.2 3500 MB/s. The M.2 is roughly the same price as a SSD, the limiting factor will be if you computer has a connection port for it.
That wraps up this run down. Hopefully some of this info helps you in purchasing a computer that fits your Mastercam needs!
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