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I am an electrical engineering student looking to build a desktop computer. That being said, I would like to configure it to run common EE tasks as efficiently as possible. Therefore, I am trying to form a list of common EE tasks and the resources they use. I am curious to see if there is anything I missed.

  • FPGA development (simulation, synthesis, implementation, ...)
    • Primarily single-threaded (from what I have seen so far). A faster clock speed may actually be noticeable.
    • Very CPU-intensive, almost no graphics
    • A lot of memory/cache space
    • Possibly large amounts of disk I/O (depending on complexity of design)
  • Circuit Simulation
    • More graphics-intensive than FPGA development
    • Possibly concurrent, may involve operations such as matrix multiplication and FFT, which could potentially be offloaded to the GPU
    • Less disk I/O
    • Memory depends on circuit complexity and simulation detail
  • MCU development
    • IDE is often large and uses a lot of memory
    • The compilation process for small processors shouldn't be too bad, but optimization may take more processing.
    • Little to no GPU usage
    • Is emulation common? If it is, that can be quite complex.
    • Debugging can vary, but I would expect it to not use much processing power since the computation is not happening on the host machine.
  • PCB design software
  • General mathematical software (Matlab/Octave, SciLab, Sage, ...)
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the EE Stack exchange. You might want to have a read of what are the acceptable topics for questions. As it stands, this question is rather off topic since it's too broad and essentially a buying recommendation question. \$\endgroup\$ – tangrs Mar 9 '16 at 5:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Makes since @tangrs, should I edit it so that the bottom buying part is removed and the refocus the question on common computational tasks for EE's? \$\endgroup\$ – Caleb Reister Mar 9 '16 at 5:37
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As you noted, most EE tasks are CPU and memory intensive, but do not generally require high-performance graphics.

However, an EE may find himself doing some mechanical design as well, or even just doing a 3-D view of a PCB design. Running any sort of 3-D display software will benefit from having a good GPU with plenty of display memory.

Make sure you have a good plan for organizing (with revision/release control) and backing up your design data.

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