Recommended specs for new GIS workstation

01-15-2019 06:39 AM
New Contributor III

Currently have a 5-year old Dell Optiplex 920 with the following specs

Intel® Core™ i7-4770

16GB (4x4GB) 1600MHz DDR3 RAM

GeForce GTX 1050 Ti

Samsung 850 EVO 512 GB SSD Boot Drive

1TB 7200 rpm Storage Drive

It's my turn to get a new machine this year and I'm not sure If I need to build a higher-end gaming desktop, or get an actual workstation.  I maintain our City's water, sewer, drainage, and zoning maps.  Right now the machine is quite slow using ArcGIS Desktop 10.6.  When working in ArcMap, I get lots of freezing up and "Not Responding" messages.  I to have several different years on aerial images in my map, as well as layers for water, sewer, drainage,m zoning etc.  The aerial images are not stored on a local machine, they are accessed through the NC OneMap server.  I'm not 100% sure if the slow downs are caused by our network, or my hardware.

What would you recommend as specs for a new machine?  I may be forced to go with a Dell machine by our "IT" department, but I may be able to talk my way out of it if there is something better.

27 Replies
New Contributor III

Thanks for that explanation.  I had assumed that layers that were in the table of contents, but were turned off, didn't take up any resources.  That's good to know.  

Pardon my ignorance, but how do I move layers from the active data frame to another?  

0 Kudos
MVP Esteemed Contributor

Insert a new data frame from one of the application menus, and then just drag the layer from one data frame to the new one that isn't active.  Creating a new one may make it active, I can't recall, so you may need to right click and use the context menu on the old data frame to re-activate it.

0 Kudos
Esri Contributor

Hey Michael, 

I always recommend taking a look at the specs from the Esri Partner Network page for Dell. 

I'm not advocating you purchase through Esri, but use the Specs as a starting point for discussions with IT: Dell 

Let us know if you have further specific questions. 

Jacob is a Sr. Solution Architect for Esri Professional Services and loves conservation planning, woodworking, LEGO, and his dogs.
New Contributor III

Thanks for that info.  We already have the software, but it is nice to see what Dell and ESRI recommend.

Is the cheapest Precision 7920 (here: Precision 7920 Powerful Desktop Tower Workstation | Dell United States  ) really better than a high end gaming desktop?  The $2049 model doesn't even come with a SSD, and has similar processor, ram and graphics memory as my 5 year old PC. Unless there's something that makes a workstation inherently better than a regular desktop PC.

0 Kudos
New Contributor

Hi Michael,

At the agency I work for we have invested in the recommended Precisions. Based on my experience with them they are much more stable for high end processing (especially in 3D) than the gaming machines. Disclosure: I use my machine for CAD, BIM and GIS and have effectively crashed my gaming machines (I have an old Alienware M17 and an MSI) with large models but have yet to crash my Precision at these specifications (although, the year is still young 🙂

Model: Dell Precision 7530 XCTO Type C SC Base S (my national team didn't like the size of the 7700 series, so they opted for these)

Processor: Intel Core Xeon E-2186M, Six Core Xeon 2.90 GHz, 4.80GHz Turbo, 12MB 45W

OS: Win 10 Pro

GPU: NVIDIA Quadro P3200 w/6GB GDDR5 (I, personally, found the Quadros more stable than the GTXs, but we, as an agency, found that we don't need a super high end versions of them [in accord with someone's comments below])

Memory: 128 GB, 4x32GB, DDR4-2400MHz SDRAM, 4 DIMMS, ECC

Hard Drive: 512 GB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD Class 40 (We don't need a lot of space as we have servers and whatnot)

I don't think the rest of the specs are relevant. Again, I'm using the box for CAD, BIM and GIS so sometimes I'm running Revit and Pro or ArcMap and Autodesk Map or other combinations that are unnatural and unearthly but the box hasn't slowed me down yet. (I can report back later if you want.)

Hope this helps and all the best,


Occasional Contributor II

Don't fall for the GPU hype, buy as much CPU as you can afford. The new i9 processors from Intel look promising. I NEVER go over 20% GPU usage (though I don't do 3D work either), meaning I could have gotten away with the P2000 and gotten either a 1TB NVMe, a faster processor, or 32GB RAM.

My 2018 workstation is an HP Z4 Workstation with a mid-level Xeon (W-2133 @ 3.6GHZ), 16GB of RAM, a Samsung 512 NVMe drive for the OS and working data, a large spinning disk for data backup, and an NVIDIA Quadro P4000. I think the total cost was around $4K. The fans are silent. If you need to keep costs down go with a gaming GPU, 16GB ram and an i7, i9 or Ryzen instead of a Xeon.

My computer flies in ArcMap with data stored locally. In ArcPro, random things are slow and overall it feels like beta software with daily crashes, though I still plod along and am slowly converting my workflow to ArcPro, hoping for better results in the future.

That said, looking over your post I would guess that the network is your main issue. You can use CrystalDiskMark to check the speeds of your network drives and compare these with your local drives. Pulling a raster over the network will be a disaster unless you have an amazing IT team that keeps the server in good shape and GB LAN.

New Contributor III

I've never tried crystaldiskmark, but I can tell you our network is terrible.  Our utility billing and financial software is on our server and it takes forever for that to come up.  I can guarantee our network is not GB.

The aerials I use are not on our server at all.  They're on the NC Onemap server, in Raleigh, I guess.  I guess everytime the image refreshes, it's downloading it over the internet.

We do at least have a 100Mbps internet connection now, it was 25 a year ago

0 Kudos
Occasional Contributor

If your network is slow, speeding up your workstation may not make a difference - unless you move all your data back and forth between your workstation and your server (sde) for every project.  Would you regret the workstation purchase if you were not able to gain any processing speed because your network is slow? 

0 Kudos
New Contributor III

I certainly would regret convincing my department to spend $4000 if there was no improvement in performance.

Occasional Contributor

Sometimes when I'm running slow I will remove any file from my Table of Contents I'm not using.  If that doesn't isolate the issue, I will remove the Aerial imagery.  If that doesn't speed things up, I will compress the sde.

If I am still not responding I will remove the files I am using, one at a time, from Table of Contents, again trying to isolate if I have a slow connection.  If I am still freezing up, I will start a new MXD. My final test is to move (export) all files that I'm working with to my C drive and start another new MXD. This would be the extent of tests I can try that are at my disposal. 

I'm new to ArcGIS Pro, but now I am adding this to the steps to isolate (ArcGIS Pro is 64 bit which can make the difference).  I'm interested in your response to Joshua as to the version of ArcMap you are using.