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Lenovo ThinkStation P500 Review

After recent review with entry level machines, we decided that it would be great to get some information out to companies about the hands-on performance of a mid-level, all-day performance engineering workstation. Lenovo sent us a ThinkStation P500 Tower, and assured us the RAM was filled up adequately. We didn’t ask about price, but instead concerned ourselves with the comfort of the engineer using it.

The unit that was delivered was built in the lower-middle range of its capabilities: included a nice quantity of RAM, a good processor, a nice graphics card, and room to grow. We planned for some smoking hot CAD, good FEA and visualization, and in our typical fashion, used the machine with day to day practices in order to give you, our readers an understanding of how this beauty will actually perform for you. The following is a summary of that experience.

Article Outline

Overview of the Lenovo ThinkStation P500

Specifications:

Benchmarks

CAD/CAE Performance

Wrap Up

 Lenovo ThinkStation P500 Front Review Image

 

Overview of the Lenovo ThinkStation P500

The Lenovo ThinkStation P500 is the middle ground muscle of their line of ThinkStation desktop products designed to fit into any design team’s budget. The cost and performance points for the machine are not entry level by any stretch of the imagination; this machine was built for performance and generating ROI.

The P500 graphics supports 3 independent displays as well as connecting 16 independent monitors with 1.2 stream cloning mode. (I still want to see this in action). The 2 upper/side bays of the chassis may contain a DVD drive or the new FLEX module, which the company indicates allows users to customize the I/O ports in order to add what you need in those slots: ultraslim ODD, 29-in-1 media card reader, Firewire, and eSATA – up to 8 configurations among an ODD, HDD, and Flex Module.

All the nice connections are duplicated up front, including the Headphones, Card readers, DVD drive, and (4) USB ports for easy access.

I love this case! Clean lines, simple red highlights on a black background, and beefy, with carry handles and tabs built in for 2 different positions of carry. The black exterior may not be powder coated, but it’s definitely more robust than many machines I see.

The side panel is engaged and disengaged by a stout steel lever, complete with a keyed lock. The main case is comprised of a nice gauge steel, giving the unit a very firm and stable feel, which meets my safety margin, that is, I could stand on it with no damage.

Lenovo ThinkStation P500 Rear Review Image

Enough of that! The internals are well laid out, and most everything is MODULAR!! The power supply which is secured by a steel lever (which acts as a carry handle as well) pops out in about 2 seconds if you are being gentle; no wires to disconnect. There is a removable cooling channel cover to segregate the CPU from the remainder of the unit, which seemed to do its job well. There is lots of elbow room and expansion slots, making this expandable, tool-free chassis a dream to maintain, provided you do all your shopping at Lenovo.

Lenovo ThinkStation P500 Internal Review Image

Specifications:

As tested

  • OS: Windows 7 Professional 64 bit
  • Dimensions (WHD): 175 mm x 440 mm x 470 mm
  • CPU: Intel Xeon E5-1630v3 @3.70GHz

(up to Xeon E5-2643 v3 @3.40 GHz)

  • Intel C612 chipset
  • RAM: 32GB DDR4-2133 RDIMM

(6 slots – 96 GB Max [not verified))

  • Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro K4200 4GB GDDR5 (Up to Quadro K6000 – 12 GB Max)
  • Dual link DVI-I DL + 2x DP1.2
  • Max Resolution: 3840×2160 (DP 1.2)
  • Storage: Samsung 256 GB SCSI SSD (4 slots – 24TB Max., 512 GB SSD, RAID 0/1/5/10 available)
  • FLEX module support: (up to 4 devices)
  • Media Card Reader
  • 16x DVD +/- RW DL
  • USB Ports: 8 (4-USB 3.0 Fore, 4-USB 3.0 & 4-USB 2.0 Aft)
  • Wireless optional: N 7260802.11 b/g/n, 2 x 2, 2.4 GHz WiFi + Bluetooth® 4.0 (none supplied)
  • Price: Starting at $1502 USD (~$4100 USD as tested)

Benchmarks

In this review we used the standard software industry benchmarks as well as certain CAD / CAE software to help convey a realistic expectation of the P500’s performance on daily tasks. Additionally I referenced the Lenovo ThinkStation P300 from a recent review that performed fairly well with standard CAD tasks. It’s an entry level engineering workstation, and should act as a good reference.

Lenovo P500 (Lenovo P300 reference)

Passmark PT8:

  • Mean performance: 5088 (2765.1)
  • CPU: 10279 (9384)
  • 2D Graphics: 1036 (1020)
  • 3D Graphics: 4688 (2902)
  • Memory: 2784 (1818)
  • Disk: 4135 (767)

Cinebench R15

  • OpenGL: 104.00 fps (56)
  • CPU rendering: 731 pts (762)

SPECviewperf 12

  • Catia 04: 58 (38.35)
  • Creo 01: 57 (34.45)
  • Energy 01: 03 (0.67)
  • Maya 04: 72 (32.53)
  • Medical 01: 23 (12.50)
  • Showcase 01: 32 (22.77)
  • SolidWorks 03: 04 (69.71)
  • Siemens NX 02: 68 (36.89)

CAD/CAE Performance

For CAD and day to day engineering workflows, this workstation performed well.

  • Mid-High level CAD
  • Moderate range of engineering
  • Low-level analysis

This workstation was just that: WORK-station. It really plowed through stuff, with numerous background applications running simultaneous to foreground work. Processor kept up with the tasks given, and the graphics were good! The NVIDIA K4200 really did well.

Here’s how the unit performed in different computer aided drafting and engineering CAD/CAE settings.

Inventor Professional 2016 – Great

Wow, this was nice. The responsiveness of the assembly workspace was impressive; panning was roller-bearing smooth, and graphics and anti-aliasing were great. Highlighting of components as the cursor passed over them in the graphics window was instant and assembly manipulation was smooth with the MK II Engine sample model. There was a hint of hesitation in the highlighting while passing the cursor over the components in the browser, but that is normal.

Autodesk Inventor Studio Render for Workstation Review

In the Static Stress environment, setup and manipulation were very sharp and fast. We only ran one linear static analysis, with a limited configuration, and the results were extremely fast, in fact too fast for meaningful times:

“Hit run, grab coffee, sip, analysis complete”

Obviously, the analysis model depicted here is small, and the Degrees of Freedom (DOF) were limited, but still, I was happy with the results.

The responsiveness between various results displays was instantaneous; much crisper than the previous test setup.

Autodesk Inventor Stress Analysis Plot for Workstation Review

A portion of the Sample model shown in the results environment.

The following are an account of timeframes during work activities (No comparisons given):

  • Start Screen Load time, including local host Vault login: 8 sec.
  • MKII Engine Sample load and update: 5 sec.
  • MKII Engine Ray Tracing (shadows, textures, reflections) Interactive: 6 sec. /Draft: 119 Sec./ Fine: 615 Sec.
  • Sample parts meshing of 75453 elements: ~ 3 sec
  • Sample linear static stress solution time (3 Contacts, 2 constraints, 1 Load): < ~5 Sec.

Fusion 360 Ultimate

The experience with Fusion 360 was acceptable. The display of components was sharp, and the interface as well. Unfortunately, I continue to see the same lagginess navigating between environments, but the manipulation of the model was smooth; the smoothest I’ve ever experienced with Fusion. I suspect the navigation problems lie inside Fusion 360’s build.

Rendering was nice though, I mean really nice. The rendering engine inside Fusion 360 seemed to get along very well with the NVIDIA Quadro graphics card. The  results were beautiful.

Autodesk Fusion 360 Rendering for Lenovo Thinkstation P500 CAD Workstation Review

  • Uptime: 18 Sec.
  • Sample engine model open: 5 Sec.
  • Advanced Ray Trace Rendering: 282 iterations in 270 sec.

SolidThinking Inspire 2014

Inspire behaved much better than previously tested. SolidThinking had mentioned that we try more RAM in our tests, and they couldn’t have been more on target; Inspire perked right up. Setups went as usual, but in our test on the P500, the translucent design controls responded instantly, without the slightly sluggish behavior we experienced in previous tests. As usual, the great shading tones associated with Inspire came through.

We tested one of Inspire’s supplied sample files, and applied a reasonable amount of constraints and shape controls prior to performing the optimization. The results came through faster than expected; The P500 is a great match for this application.

solidThinking Inspire 2014 Compression Plot on Lenovo Thinkstation P500 CAD workstation review

Luxion KeyShot 5.2

I wanted to get some more perspective on software for readers, and knowing how popular KeyShot is, I thought it would be great to try here.

KeyShot navigation was smooth, and menus appeared without delay. Raytraced preview panes updated within 0.5 seconds of a new environment selection, and normalized (greater 80% of the preview render completed) within about 3 seconds.

The final rendering process was quite smooth and faster than expected.

Luxion Keyshot Render

Truly sorry about the watermarks

  • Import sample engine assembly: 15 sec.
  • Raytracing: 1600×1200 @ 300 DPI –  9 sec.

Autodesk Simulation Mechanical

Simulation Mechanical functioned smoothly and without any video or performance anomalies. I would have liked to spend more time with this platform on the P500, but we saw enough to understand what how the software will behave on the ThinkStation.

The following are an account of timeframes during work activities (No comparisons given):

  • Open ready load time: 5 sec.
  • Standoff mount solid meshing: 34268 elements: <10 sec
  • Mechanical Event Simulation (90° sine sweep, 0.2mm displaced clamping load, 25 iterations, 45470 DOF): 2h 8m

Note: For whatever reason, which I cannot fathom, we didn’t perform a comparable linear static stress analysis. My apologies; we’ll do it on the next review.

Wrap Up

The Lenovo ThinkStation P500 was impressive. The Xeon processor and a good supply of RAM permitted us to see the machine in a real work environment, complete with simultaneous background and foreground applications running. We had asked for a great workhorse CAD and analyst preparation station, and that is exactly what we received. Fast solves, smooth delay-free CAD, great graphics, and an attractive, expandable chassis.

I wouldn’t upgrade this RAM loadout without a processor upgrade in most CAD applications. The 32 GB of RAM were well matched to the level of CAD we tested and the processor provided. In all the tests, the RAM usage was never maxxed, even when we were performing simultaneous FEA solves in the background and CAD in the foreground. The system did use 100% of most of the processor threads at will, but continued to maintain the system tasks smoothly, without having to wait on CAD, FEA, or Rendering tasks. What I would suggest upgrading is the storage. The tested machine was supplied with a fast SSD, but we maxxed out the 256 GB storage capacity just installing the software listed, and performing the FEA solutions. Get the RAID array!

The NVIDIA K4200 was right at home in this configuration as well. It might be an expensive addition, but well worth it especially if you will experience any complexity of graphics in your work.

I adored this machine and they had to beat me repeatedly to get me to let go of it. Well, actually, their team is quite lovely, but I didn’t agree to send it home without pouting a lot.

I would recommend this machine to any company using CAD to make a living, as well as many engineering applications where there is a reasonable amount of calculations being performed in the background while continuing to work in the foreground. As for FEA, analysts know what level of hardware they need, so I will simply say that this machine is solidly into the lower end of meaningful productiveness, and handled single, non-multi-physics runs for us with no problem.

3Dconnexion SpaceMouse® Pro Wireless Review

SpaceMouse Pro Wireless Female hand

Around a month after 3Dconnexion announced their latest product, I received a test unit of the new 3Dconnexion SpaceMouse® Pro Wireless. I’ve only ever owned and used the entry level 3Dconnexion devices in the past and always thought the professional series, although nice to have, really were a little bit over the top. Admittedly, if I’d had some spare cash lying about or I could have written off the purchase cost against my business taxes, I probably would have at least purchased the SpaceMouse Pro. I am a tech geek after all. With that in mind, I was keen to see how this shiny new toy? shaped up over the next couple of months. I decided on roughly two months, since that was the stated battery life. So how does it stack up?

Stated Benefits

  • Complete Wireless Freedom — Real-time 2.4 GHz wireless connection and a two-month battery life. When it does need recharging, for uninterrupted productivity simply connect one of the supplied USB cables.
  • Professional Performance — SpaceMouse Pro Wireless automatically recognizes your application environment and based on your personal configuration, maps commands to its four Function Keys.
  • View Your Work From Every Angle  Detect errors, explore alternatives, and present your work more effectively for review with SpaceMouse Pro Wireless’s 6DoF navigation and QuickView Keys.
  • Minimize Hand Movements —Conveniently positioned keyboard modifiers provide quick and easy access to Control, Shift, Alt and Esc functions, reducing the time you spend moving your hand to the keyboard.
  • World-Class Ergonomics And Build Quality  Full sized, soft-coated hand rest for maximum comfort.15 tactile, fully programmable buttons.
  • Flexible Connectivity  With a choice of two USB cables, either plug the USB receiver directly into your workstation or use the included Twin-port USB Hub.
  • The 3Dconnexion Experience – 3DxWare® 10 allows you to customize and optimize your SpaceMouse Pro Wireless for peak performance. Easily tailor settings and buttons to your application and needs.

Connectivity

The wireless benefits are clear, if needed I can re-position the device anyway on my desk unconstrained. I have enough cables kicking around my desk as it is, so this was a welcome addition. As it was with the SpaceMouse Wireless when it landed on my desk. I did find it curious that 3Dconnexion provided the Twin-port USB Hub, they mentioned it would come in handy during meetings in the board room where the PC being used for the presentation maybe be stashed away somewhere. The 1.5 meter cable would to expose the USB receiver in those instances. I honestly have never had any issues with connectivity, although to my surprise a couple of CADPRO’s clients have suffered some issues. They were each solved by moving the USB receiver away from the metallic casing of their workstations. I’ve since heard of people having connectivity issues with 2.4 GHz wireless keyboards and mice as well, again extending the receiver away from the case solved the problem. I’ll chalk that up as a win for 3Dconnexion.

3Dconnexion USB-Hub Right-Iso_Receiver

But, there is a less obvious, albeit inconvenient benefit, of 3Dconnexion providing this Twin-port USB Hub. I now have access to two 3Dconnexion space mice, this puppy and the SpaceMouse Wireless I received last year. While I’m at my primary desk I now use the SpaceMouse Pro Wireless exclusively, but with the SpaceMouse Wireless hard sided Carry Case, I’m able to safely cart that about with me on my travels each week. So what’s the inconvenient benefit? 3Dconnexion haven’t managed to unify their USB receivers yet, and although there are a decent number of USB ports on my HP ZBook 15 mobile workstation, they aren’t in abundance and certainly not enough to justify taking up two slots for 3Dconnexion. I need to keep one USB port spare so I can plug in devices Ad-Hoc. This is where the Twin-port USB Hub comes in handy for me. I have both receivers plugged into that, then it plugs into the slot which used to be exclusively occupied by the SpaceMouse Wireless receiver. A bit of a pain yes, but all I have to do is hide it around the back et voila, no big deal. Of course, 3Dconnexion’s well established attention to detail dictates they wouldn’t be happy about this either, I’m sure they have their reasons and I have no doubt they are working to rectify the situation in the not too distant future.

Alright, enough of the moaning. There are two great things I have discovered about using a Professional 3Dconnexion device. They are both the reason why the SpaceMouse Pro Wireless has earnt it’s permanent space on my desk, it’s not small, so it does need a right to be there.

6DoF navigation and QuickView Keys

SpaceMouse Wireless 6DoF navigation and QuickView Keys

This collection of buttons were the ones I was most eager to get my thumb on. While the Autodesk view cube is pretty handy, there are times I find it fiddly to get to the view I need. I’ve been using SolidWorks a bit as well recently as a result of supporting Autodesk’s CAM product in Australia and New Zealand. So this has been my savior, because, well, the SolidWorks view cube sucks in comparison to Autodesk’s. However, it wasn’t any of the four peripheral buttons in this set that I have found the most useful. It’s the Axial Rotation lock button which sits proud, all important like, just above all those around it. That self confidence justifies this little buttons power… I’ve often found myself having to go back to my keyboard, or regress to the orbit command just so I can rotate and pan my 3D view or 2D sketch without tumbling the view away from the orthogonal elevations. It really does break your train of thought, you don’t realize quite how much, until you are able to tap that button and nudge the puck to pan around the sketch you’re trying to manipulate.

Keyboard Modifiers

The next major realization I had with the SpaceMouse Pro Wireless was the collection of four buttons on the left side of the device. The Keyboard modifiers. Honestly, I haven’t used 3 of them all that much… yet. SpaceMouse Pro Wireless Keyboard Modifier ButtonsI’m sure I will get to using those more as time goes by and my hand relaxes into using it more naturally. But it’s the very real benefit of using the CTRL modifier button with Autodesk Inventor and SolidWorks when orbiting around your model and selecting multiple and possibly random objects. In the past I would orbit my model, then move my hand to press the CTRL key on my keyboard, left click on my mouse to add that object to my selection set, theeeen back to my 3D mouse… urgh. It’s hard to read, let alone do. The crazy thing is I thought it was acceptable until I’ve experienced this first hand in a few different situations. Not only is it more productive (the most important part after all), but I can now create way cooler tutorial videos for Inventor, Inventor HSM and HSMWorks. I only have to pause orbiting momentarily now, just enough time to position and click my mouse, then immediately start orbiting onto the next object. I love it, and so will you, if you get to sit down and use it this way for an hour or so.

Battery Life

I’ve had this productive belle sitting on my desk now, for just over two months. I think I’ve turned it OFF a few times overnight. I didn’t put it on charge as soon as I received it and started using it immediately. I’m NOT designing 8 hours a day, but I’m in and out of Inventor and SolidWorks a number of times a day and generally that means I’ll have a fiddle and poke. So in all reality, I’m not using it anywhere near as much as a full time drafter should be. I’ve charged it twice. So my particular version isn’t really meeting the numbers stated by 3Dconnexion, but it has been on, albeit inactive, 24/7 for most of that time. In all reality, I still think that is quite impressive and it seems to recharge pretty damn fast. It just hasn’t bothered me in the slightest.

Final Words

Once again 3Dconnexion have turned out a fine product. The versatility of having a wireless device is a no brainer, you can move around the office with it far more easily, either collaborating with colleagues or presenting in the boardroom. The SpaceMouse Pro wasn’t a broken product, it’s proven and well designed, there really wasn’t a need to deviate too far from that. So would I pay for one out of my own pocket now? Yes! The prices have come down for these devices compared to a few years ago and I think once you have spent a little time with one, most people will realize a ROI pretty quickly. If not it simply makes using CAD more fun and precise. For those bouncing between multiple CAD products, the SpaceMouse Pro Wireless means they can force a consistent navigation and interaction experience across all the applications, when the standard user interface methods are completely different from one another. That’s a huge boost and has certainly proven useful for me now, switching between Inventor and SolidWorks so often.

It still surprises me that most CAD users still have no idea these things exist! Virtually every time I go to see a customer, one or more of their staff will be immediately intrigued by my SpaceMouse Wireless when I pull it out of my laptop bag and place it next to my workstation with a satisfying thud. We need to find ways to get the word out there further and get more CAD users buying and making use of these wonderful tools.

3Dconnexion announce their next device – SpaceMouse® Pro Wireless

SpaceMouse Pro Wireless ISO

Today 3Dconnexion have announced their next product, the 3Dconnexion SpaceMouse® Pro Wireless. Following on from the 3Dconnexion SpaceMouse® Wireless last September, this product is a natural progression for the Professional series of 3Dconnexion hardware range. At first glance little has changed, but its the thought put in under the hood, with a nod towards user experience and flexibility which make this new product worthy. While the 3Dconnexion SpaceMouse Wireless was visually a completely new product, essentially replacing the 3Dconnexion SpaceNavigator. The SpaceMouse Pro Wireless is a logical evolution of what isn’t an old product anyway, however, 3Dconnexion clearly state in their press release that the SpaceMouse Pro Wireless is “all-new”.

The all-new SpaceMouse Pro Wireless offers professional 3D performance without wires.

3Dconnexion is proud to announce the 3Dconnexion SpaceMouse Pro Wireless , the first wireless 3D mouse with a comprehensive selection of professional features.

I asked John Moseley, Director of Global Marketing at 3Dconnexion, if the design team had decided to stick with the original puck design (pre-SpaceMouse Wireless), or tweaked it since their last product release. Instead of solely answering that question, he came back to me with a number of details not found in the press release:

  • The SpaceMouse Pro Wireless puck design is basically the same with the exception of the silver ring, which is a feature of our Professional Series.

Apart from the obvious extra features (buttons, hand rest), there are a few differences vs. the SpaceMouse Wireless

  • Doubled the battery life by fitting a larger battery capable of two months of operation between charges (based on 8 hours per day, 5 days per week).
  • Extended wireless range – in optimum conditions the SMPW will work up to 20 metres away from the USB receiver. Optimum generally means the USB receiver is placed in the supplied USB hub and placed on the desktop (i.e. not hidden / obstructed under the desk).
  • Two extra items in the box. A nice Twin-port USB Hub and a 0.5m USB cable in addition to the standard 1.5m cable. The goal here is to give users flexibility in how / where they place the USB receiver and charge the product.
  • USB receiver storage hole – on the underside of the product we created a slot for the USB receiver to be placed in when the user is taking the product from A to B. You can see this on one of the images (the USB receiver is shown inserted in the hole).

SpaceMouse Pro Wireless bottomDedicated storage hole for the USB receiver

“With the SpaceMouse Wireless, the world’s first wireless 3D mouse, 3Dconnexion revolutionized the market. Now the SpaceMouse Pro Wireless raises the bar even higher, delivering the same wireless freedom to 3Dconnexion’s professional series of 3D navigation devices.”

Antonio Pascucci, vice president of products at 3Dconnexion.

SpaceMouse Pro Wireless benefits

  • Complete Wireless Freedom — 3Dconnexion 2.4 GHz wireless technology for a real-time connection to your digital content and a two-month battery life. When it does need recharging, simply connect one of the supplied USB cables and continue working.
  • Professional Performance — SpaceMouse Pro Wireless automatically recognizes your application and assigns commands to its four Intelligent Function Keys. Go one step further by assigning a four-section on-screen radial menu to any of the device’s 15 buttons—providing easy access to even more of your favorite commands.
  • Keep Your Eyes On What Matters — SpaceMouse Pro Wireless’s On-Screen Display provides a convenient on-screen reminder of the commands assigned to its Intelligent Function Keys, allowing you to focus on your designs—not a keystroke cheat sheet.
  • View Your Work From Every Angle  Detect errors, explore alternatives, and present your work more effectively for review with SpaceMouse Pro Wireless’s 6DoF navigation and QuickView Keys.
  • Minimize Hand Movements —Conveniently positioned keyboard modifiers provide quick and easy access to Control, Shift, Alt and Esc functions, reducing the time you spend moving your hand to the keyboard.
  • World-Class Ergonomics And Build Quality  The SpaceMouse Pro Wireless has a full size, soft-coated hand rest for maximum comfort. Each of its 15 tactile, fully programmable buttons are perfectly positioned for maximum efficiency. Furthermore, it’s packaged into an expert design built with the highest quality components.

3Dconnexion USB-Hub Right-Iso_Receiver

  • Flexible Connectivity  Either plug the USB receiver directly into your workstation or use the Twin-port USB Hub (included as standard). With a choice of two USB cables, it’s easy to connect and charge SpaceMouse Pro Wireless whatever your desktop setup.
  • The 3Dconnexion Experience – 3DxWare® 10 allows you to customize and optimize your SpaceMouse Pro Wireless for peak performance. Easily tailor settings and buttons to your application and needs. Take advantage of exciting new features. Design, create and navigate in brave new ways.

SpaceMouse Pro Wireless top_02Are you ready to go pro? Click here to find out everything you need to know about SpaceMouse Pro Wireless today.

Pricing and Availability

SpaceMouse Pro Wireless will be available in early July. Check the 3Dconnexion website or local resellers for pricing.

About 3Dconnexion

3Dconnexion’s 3D mice revolutionize the way people interact with 3D applications, providing a more natural and intuitive way to interact with digital 3D content. 3Dconnexion 3D mice provide an intuitive, balanced and cooperative work style that results in increased productivity, improvements in creativity and enhanced comfort.

Supported by today’s most popular and powerful 3D applications, 3Dconnexion’s award-winning 3D mice serve a wide variety of industries and are used by engineers, designers, architects and artists across the globe.

Stay up-to-date with all the latest company and industry news via the 3Dconnexion blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Imagery Courtesy of 3Dconnexion.

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BricsCAD V14 Now Supports 3Dconnexion 3D Mice

BricsCAD-regular-horizontalBricsCAD V14 now supports 3Dconnexion® 3D mice, the premier 3D navigation devices for engineers, architects and 3D professionals. BricsCAD, that offers all the familiar .dwg CAD features and 3D Direct Modeling, now got even more powerful. Users can simultaneously pan, zoom and rotate 2D/3D content while the standard mouse is free to select menu items or parts of the model.

Highlights of BricsCAD’s 3D mouse integration include:

  • Intelligent 3D Navigation — The 3D mouse automatically follows the point of interest to continuously determine the optimal center of rotation. When combined with 3Dconnexion’s patented 6-degrees-of-freedom navigation, users benefit from the most natural 3D navigation experience ever.
  • Multiple 3D Navigation Modes — Including Object, Helicopter, Camera and Target Camera modes, enabling the user to customize the 3D mouse experience to their workflow.
  • 2D Navigation Mode — 3Dconnexion 3D mice also deliver value in BricsCAD’s 2D modes by allowing users to simultaneously pan and zoom the worksheet.

“We are excited to introduce 3Dconnexion 3D mouse support in BricsCAD V14,” says Erik De Keyser, CEO of Bricsys. “We have delivered a rich 3D mouse integration, that provides smooth and intuitive navigation across 2D and 3D workflows, complementing our goal to enable modeling and designing at unmatched speed.”

BricsCAD V14 supports the entire line of 3Dconnexion 3D mice, including the new 3Dconnexion SpaceMouse® Wireless, the world’s first wireless 3D mouse.

Says Erik De Keyser: “3Dconnexion devices give users the ability to navigate their 3D world with more precision, speed and efficiency—improving designs and the design experience as a whole. We’re excited to now bring that functionality to BricsCAD V14.”

About 3Dconnexion

3Dconnexion’s 3D mice revolutionize the way people interact with 3D applications, providing a more natural and intuitive way to interact with digital 3D content. 3Dconnexion 3D mice provide an intuitive, balanced and cooperative work style that results in increased productivity, improvements in creativity and enhanced comfort.

Supported by today’s most popular and powerful 3D applications, 3Dconnexion’s award-winning 3D mice serve a wide variety of industries and are used by engineers, designers, architects and artists across the globe. 3Dconnexion’s European headquarters are in Munich, Germany with offices worldwide. Stay up-to-date with all the latest company and industry news via the 3Dconnexion blog, Facebook and Twitter.

About Bricsys

Bricsys® is a global provider of dwg engineering design software brought to market under the BricsCAD® brand. With relentless commitment to the success of the BricsCAD community, Bricsys is focused on providing an industrial strength CAD software platform and industry leading support at a compelling price to customers in the AEC, GIS, civil engineering, process and power, and mechanical CAD markets. Founded in 2002, Bricsys is a founding member of the Open Design Alliance.

For more information visit www.bricsys.com.

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Working around varying hard drive letters for Autodesk Inventor

William Warby - Hard Drive

In my new job working for an Autodesk Reseller, it’s quickly become apparent what a pain in the backside enforcing single project files is in larger design offices. Single Project files, in most cases are a must when you have Autodesk Vault deployed within the company, but there is also a decent argument for employing the same approach with Autodesk Inventor. The main problem with enforcing this policy within these larger design offices, is the range in specification of the workstations, specifically varying hard drive letters.

Everyone has had a hand me down PC at some point in their career, it was probably at least 3 years old by the time you had it, right? Well as time marches on, those PC’s inevitably require some form of upgrade, RAM, GPU or Hard Drive. It seems there are a number of PC’s out there which have needed larger secondary hard drives installed, I’m not entirely sure why they are necessary when you have network storage, nevertheless this is the reality. The trouble comes in those scenarios because the CAD data is often stored on these secondary hard drives…. which means the drive letter the CAD data is store on varies from PC to PC within the office. Pre-Inventor 2013 you could rely on the relative paths in the Inventor Project File sorting themselves out as you moved it between hard drives, the drive letter just didn’t matter. It has always mattered with Vault when it comes to enforcing the Working Folder, which from a CAD Management perspective is highly desirable. Along comes Inventor 2013 with it’s shiny new Materials and Appearance libraries… If you need to modify any of the stock Materials or Appearances, then Autodesk recommends you create a custom library, rather than editing the default Inventor one. The trouble is, these Material and Appearance library files don’t follow the same relative path rule, they are full paths…. which means their path includes the drive letter. Arghh!

There is a fairly easy workaround though, hopefully Autodesk tidy this problem up someday. In the meantime check out my video below to see how combining a local share and mapping a network drive will save your bacon.

Image Credit: William Warby

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Lenovo 30 inch Professional Monitor Review

I was offered the opportunity to take some quality time with the 30” Lenovo ThinkVision LT3053p WQXGA IPS LED backlit LCD professional flat panel monitor. I’d never had the opportunity to use a display that large, so I was excited to say the least.

Lenovo LT3053pwA Flatpanel Monitor

I thought I’d offer some perspective here. My day-to-day Dell 23 inch monitor (right) is a nice large display, but it is dwarfed by the Lenovo 30 inch ThinkVision monitor (left). You really need to see it to believe it.

A very large box showed up in the office. I tried to get a good picture of all of it, the there was no decent way to capture that in a single image. There is a lot of stuff for a monitor. What was in there?

Lenovo 30 inch Monitor Box Contents

  • Monitor
  • Stand
  • 2 USB cables
  • DVI, HDMI, VGA, and DisplayPort cables
  • Hood / Shade
  • Cover
  • Instruction and calibration sheet
  • And a lot of Styrofoam

Specifications

USB Hub (5 ports: 1 x USB3.0 w/ Battery Charge 1.2, 2 x USB3.0, 2 x USB2.0)

VGA, Dual-Link DVI-D, HDMI1.4, DP1.2, MHL connections

USB Keyboard and Mouse Switch

ThinkVision PIP Anywhere Solution (software)

DaisyChain support

Detachable tool-less full ergo stand (Lift, Tilt, Pivot, Swivel)

Bundled Professional Hood

Max. Resoution 2560×1600

Brightness 350 cd/m2

Max Colors Built in Screen 1.07 billion

Contrast Ratio 1000:1

Display Type Backlit LED

Dot Pitch 0.251mm

Height 471.05mm (18.55 in.)

Width 690 mm (27.17 in.)

Depth 62mm (2.44 in.)

Weight 11.5 Kg (25.35 lb.)

Power Consumption + Units 88 W

Height Adjustment Metric 110mm (4.33 in.)

Monitor Technology AH-IPS

Viewable Image Height 400.8mm (15.78 in.)

Viewable Image Width 641.28mm (25.25 in.)

Stand Lift Tilt Swivel Pivot

Swivel +/-45 degrees

Tilt -5~30 degrees

Vertical Viewing Angle 178 degrees

MSRP: $1599 USD (Amazon.com)

The Lenovo ThinkVision 30 Inch Monitor

I enjoyed using the monitor. It’s BIG, clear, and of good quality. With the exception of a small technical issue that slowed us down a bit (discussed later in the section), there was nothing bad to say about the unit.

I started the review at a resolution of 1920×1080 because the NVIDIA Quadro professional workstation graphics chipset on one of the workstations used to test the monitor could not support its full resolution. Fortunately, we got past the technical holdbacks and were able to complete the review properly.

Appearance

The ThinkVision flat panel is black and attractive, with little frills or wasted space on curvature or fairings in the name of ‘frilly appearance’. I have always liked the Lenovo look, and this monitor is consistent with those lines. The frame is about 1” wide, not too bad considering the size of the unit. The thickness is stated to be 2.44 in., however the frame and display portion is only about 1 in. thick (remainder is taken up by electronics on the center rear section along with the stand mounting section). Controls were on the front side of the frame, at the lower right hand corner as expected.

Lenovo LT3053pwA Monitor buttons

The stand snaps firmly into small recess in the rear of the unit and requires no tools to install or remove. The stand / monitor recess and mount design takes less room than others that I have seen and is well thought out. This makes the rear of the unit simple and attractive as well.

There was nothing in or about the monitor that suggested a lack of workmanship. The unit was attractive and easily installed. The stand was sturdy, but adjusting the stand was a bit awkward. Let’s face it, that monitor is big, and will require more than a single hand to elevate. The exterior of the stand was plastic, and the tilt and rotate resistance was limited by friction joints. However, the stand held the unit properly, and I never experienced any fault with the stand. Once adjusted, the unit held its position well, and resisted vibration from the work area.

Ports, Connections, and Cool Features

It took me a bit of time to get a grip on all the connections that the unit comes with. Along the bottom of the unit is an array of USB / HDMI / VGA / MHL / DVI / DP ports.

Lenovo LT3053pwA Bottom view

The ThinkVision 30 in. monitor allows video inputs from DVI, HDMI, and MHL (Mobile High Definition Link) connectors. MHL allows displays from mobile devices to be viewed on the monitor while the mobile device is simultaneously charging. I didn’t try it but it sounds cool, especially if that functionality will work with PIP.

The monitor also provides a hardware switch that allows users to easily swap between multiple workstations, and keep a single display / mouse / keyboard without purchasing additional switching hardware. A USB cable is supplied to bridge the monitor and the workstations. Once connected, users simply have connect both displays and their keyboard /mouse setup. When it is time, the displays and controls between the workstations are swapped by the push of a button.

Lenovo LT3053pwA side view and connection panel

Lenovo has thoughtfully added an output panel so that audio and auxiliary USB connectivity is maintained with whichever workstation is in focus. (That yellow USB port is powered for charging).

PIP (Picture in Picture) anywhere support is available with a software install (provided). This allows users to select which display input channel they want to display in a PIP inset. This way they don’t miss the game while working. Audio from that source can be piped through the monitor’s output audio connection too.

The unit comes with a hood that helps keep direct light from room lighting off the display for better viewing and calibration.

Using the Monitor

I used the monitors for everything from CAD, Image editing, and landscape for numerous simultaneous support applications such as having my single bar Twitter client, Outlook, and Chrome up simultaneously when using CAD applications on the other monitor.

Initially I had dreams of mounting this beauty to the wall and putting all my communications and SharePoint panels up at once for quick viewing. Fortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity, and it would really be a shame to waste the beautiful color capabilities on communications software.

View Angles

The display remained bright and clear from viewing angles up to about 45°. Beyond that angle, the display was still completely legible, but generally darker, consistent with back-lit LCD.

Document Reviewing

It is by far the best PDF display I have ever encountered, and would rather have these documents up on the Lenovo Monitor than having them printed out. I can get an entire 18”x24” on the screen, and read it quite vividly without zooming. This makes reviewing construction plans and component details a pleasure. Having this display adjacent with my CAD monitor made it much easier to gather information from print documents, as looking at them no longer required me to look down at the table constantly; instead a mere glace to the left helped me maintain focus on what I was doing.

Color and Intensity

The Lenovo flat panel monitor supports optional color calibrations and has wonderfully rich display colors and nice brightness that my other monitors lack. Whenever I needed to do anything that was color intensive, I simply slid the application over to the lenovo display (plus the contrasting result packs a lot of punch, seeing the colors come alive when swapping from the lesser display to the Lenovo).

Kanazawa Japan shown on Lenovo Flatpanel monitor

The image above is from my home away from home in Kanazawa Japan. This is the closest I have ever seen the beautiful scene since I left. Thanks Lenovo for bringing this to life again (how I got this shot of the monitor in action to come out ok I will never know).

Color Calibration

This ThinkVision LT3053p display came with a calibration report from the factory. I visited a couple color calibration web sites and reviewed the unit performance using their tools. I understood that this method was not ideal, however purchasing color calibration hardware was not on my to-do list.

The unit performed as advertised and I was successfully able to distinguish between colors down to the 2-3% margin. I tried to capture the results in an image, but found it nearly impossible to reproduce the color shading accurately without hiring a professional photographer.

For fun I tried the color calibration evaluation on the lesser monitor I am using, and thought the colors were moderately acceptable, until I slid the web page over to the Lenovo display. To my surprise I found color bands being displayed on the calibration chart that I didn’t even know were there. I’m really going to miss this unit.

Design work

At first, CAD at a resolution of 1920×1080 was nice and bright, but not the full MSRP worth of wonder. Upon getting the resolution up to where it needed to be on a digital signal, I was impressed. The colors really popped, and especially so on a black background typical of AutoCAD. The lines were quite crisp, and I was even able to finally distinguish all of those useless colors in the outer bands of the AutoCAD 255 color spectrum; and yes I mean all of them. Another example was working through some problems with an overlap of lines and interpreted intersections; the operation was necessary to revisit. The crispness and definition on the ThinkVision monitor made the operation easier, and required much less strain on the eyes.

CAD wasn’t the only sweet deal. There was one other arena of design software where the Lenovo paid off well. Validation! The vivid colors, brightness, and clarity were well matched to the color contours of analysis software.

Lenovo LT3053pwA Flatpanel Monitor Software  Lenovo LT3053pwA and CAD Software

I was having trouble getting these images to come out well without bringing my wife and her Nikon in. I hope it will still deliver the great impression it left on me.

The Technical Glitch

I mentioned earlier that there was a minor technical glitch. The HDMI port input was originally thought to cut out intermittently on both machines I tested with; however the analog port was fine at the lesser resolution. Lenovo was happy to swap the monitor out, but I was determined to work through the problem. Rewiring the whole thing with new cables, using the HDMI cable to the lesser monitor, and picking up DVI on the ThinkVision cleaned everything up. (It may well have been a flaky cable).

A note about docking stations: If the analog output channel on certain docking stations is used for either of multiple displays, the max output of the entire array is set to that of the analog signal. I don’t understand all the technical issues related, but losing the analog VGA signal was the final piece of the odd puzzle we were experiencing.

Conclusions

Lenovo’s ThinkVision 30” backlit LED monitor is truly a professional unit. It is well made, bright, and vivid. I doubt that I will be satisfied with lesser displays in the future.

I have always said that “I would never go paperless” as viewing documents on a display was frustrating and useless. This unit however changed my mind, and after a short period with the ThinkVision monitor, I only print paper plans for the benefit of others.

This is a pricey tool? Sure. However one thing I learned was that we only buy good quality tools. If a well-lit display full of powerful, accurate colors is part of your job, then this tool will likely be a great investment for you. I don’t think that professional artists or anyone needing the landscape will disappointed in with Lenovo’s 30” professional monitor, even at the MSRP.

Disclosure: D&M tested this monitor at the request of Lenovo, without fee or benefit. The monitor will be returned to that company.

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