From what I can see over on this other thread, these processors seem to have very similar capabilities?
Can I apply this to the particular processors I'm talking about?
Core i7 = High-end Desktop Nehalem
Xeon 3500 = Adds optional ECC memory support [Targeted for workstations]
Xeon 5500 = Adds support for 2 CPUs [Targeted for dual CPU servers & workstations]
At the same MHz, all these CPUs will perform exactly the same.
I too, had this same question when I was asked to build new systems for our office. I choose the i7 chip over the Xeons and have been very satisfied with them. We run Autocad, Autodesk Inventor, Altium Designer, and few other high level programs without a hitch. I believe either processor would be fine for your application however I would tell you to atleast go with the i7. My main reasons choosing the i7 over the Xeon was price of the processor and price of the associated hardware. There is a larger market for the i7 processors therefore there are more motherboards and memory configuration options available. The more options there are in the marketplace the cheaper the price is. Now, on the other hand, if had had an unlimited budget I would have gone with a dual Xeon setup as two is always better than one . I would still recommend that you go with a high quality video card that has been tested and recommended by the software company for the program you are using. I'm not sure about Solidworks, but I know Autodesk has a "certified hardware" section on their website. I'd would steer you toward an Nvidia Quadro card personally. Hope this helps, good luck.