Using a Macbook Air for Solidworks Assemblies
Early comments ask how large assemblies might work with the Macbook i7 Processor. I too was curious, so when I saw Apple was looking to add the new Haswell chip to their Air release…I had to try it out. I haven’t created really complex parts for this demonstration, just a simple sphere and cone.
SW2013 is loaded up. Only Add-Ins that might slow the program startup are Photoview 360 and Solidworks Forum 2013. I do use the Photoview 360 for capturing screenshots of rendered assemblies, which are then dropped into presentations. I haven’t done any testing yet to see what the difference in load time might be if I didn’t have these add-ins loading on start up.
Loading a Simple Part
I’ve created a sphere with a 100mm radius. Dimensions are irrelevant for this discussion, but I like to work with assemblies that seem reasonable in scale. For you non-metric users, that’s about a 4 inch radius.
If you are most familiar with high powered Solidworks stations, you’ll note a bit of a lag in loading the part. You might want to compare this loading with that shown in the video of my last labyrinth post with the complex sketch.
Patterning a Sphere
To demonstrate multiple parts, rather than create a whole bunch of different pieces and spend hours assembling those, a really quick and equally effective method of showing the effect of additional components is through patterning.
I start with a 10×10 arrangement to show simply the zoom and rotate functions you would typically doing with a mouse. I use the trackpad right now when playing on the weekend, but during the week I do use a wireless mouse with very similar results on large assemblies. The 100 parts respond well when rotating and zooming, but you do notice a difference in fluidity during use.
I expand that matrix to 225 parts by expanding the pattern to a 15×15 arrangement. Effectively doubling the component count does slow things down a little more, but Solidworks 2013 is still very usable on the Macbook Air.
Adding Another Part, The Cone!
To further part count, plus show time to load in another piece with already 225 parts to manage, I load up a cone and position it 300mm above the top plane…where all the spheres are centered. Patterning the cone with the same 15×15 format to further double the part count to 450 shows a little more choppiness to the display when zooming or rotating.
I still find that at 450 parts, the assembly is manageable, however all the relations are predefined by the pattern. I am sure that if these were individual parts of different shapes and sizes, all with individual mates, at 450 pieces I would see a further slowdown. If there was less of a privacy issue around the complex assemblies I have put together at work, I would show some of those for you.
1800 Parts in an assembly
I finish off with expanding the sphere and cone layers to 30×30 each. The result is two layers of 900 parts each, and as you would expect, a bit more choppiness when rotating and lag when zooming in and out. I could attempt to further explain, but it’s easiest to just check out the video around the 8 minute mark.
In summary, I do mention in the video that I disabled the Windows Aero features to optimize Windows 7 for performance and not display. Solidworks 2013 is definitely snappier with the stripped down display options, and I am perfectly fine with that. Ultimately I am happy with the Macbook Air as a hardware option. In fact, anything I can do to increase performance by stripping away the usual crapware, anti-virus, and backup software is my preference.
Have you installed SW2013 on your Macbook yet? I would like to hear what your experience might be like.
Any updates to for running SW on this MBA? I’ve been considering the same system. I’m wondering if the MB Pro will be worth the extra few hundred dollars if it’s updated this fall.
Sorry about the lack of updates. I had a couple weeks off and we went roadtripping, with very little internet access.
The machine has held up well. I still have to do a quick video of Solidworks running with the settings maxed out.
Considering the next Apple event is Sept 10, i would recommend waiting until the to see if there is any kind of announcement regarding the MacBook Pro’s. I would expect the Haswell chips to be in these machines too…but I really want to know how the battery life might increase.
Pingback: Solidworks Performance on the 2013 MacBook Air | Solidworks on a Mac!