Hardware Considerations

A closer look at the CPU, RAM, hard drive and other hardware requirements to balance speed and cost.

With these minimum hardware and translation memory requirements, you could wait over a day to build an engine.

Hardware Requirements

  • Intel Core i3 (i7 recommended) or AMD Athlon 64 CPU (4-core x86-64, 2.4 GHz or faster)
  • 4 GB of RAM (8 GB recommended)
  • 2 GB of free hard drive space for installation
  • 250 GB (or more) free space on a high-performance drive is ideal after installation

Personalized engines

  • 70,000 to 150,000 sentence segments
  • One full-time translator’s work for 3 to 4 years

Customized engines

  • 200,000 to 500,000 sentence segments
  • Support a team of translators
  • No upper limit number of segments
  • Too many segments risks degrading the engine
Computers always get faster, smaller and cheaper

They say nothing’s certain except death and taxes. We can be just as certain that hardware gets faster and cheaper.

This infographic compares the 1981 vintage IBM PC with the Apple iPhone 4, launched in the same year experts described SMT required huge and expensive computers. In the 10 years since the iPhone4, computer hardware has become even faster and cheaper. Today’s new notebook computers are more powerful than the Internet server computers that ran the world’s first online SMT commercial services.

This Lesson give you points to consider when upgrading to new hardware. In a perfect world, the fastest CPU with the most cores, the maximum amount of RAM memory and the biggest & fast hard drive would sit on every desktop. In the real world, keeping up with the Jones’ is expensive and unnecessary. We balance technical performance and cost.

Before investing in new hardware, we recommend that you test Slate Desktop™ with the hardware you have. After your engines deliver results you can use, here are some points to consider when you invest in new hardware. The hardware market changes all the time. Therefore, this Lesson shares underlying principles without making specific recommendations.


Age, core count and clock speed are the three most important aspects of a CPU relative to SMT, in declining order of priority.

Age: New CPU technology is faster than an old. Between a new Intel i3 and old Core2Duo, each with 2 cores and running at 2 Ghz, the i3 runs much faster. On a budget, choose a less expensive (hence slower) new CPU over a faster old CPU.

Core count: Slate Desktop™‘s kernel efficiently uses all of the CPU cores. On a budget, choose a CPU with more cores over a CPU with fewer cores.

Clock speed: We tend to believe a fast 3.2 GHz CPU is more desirable than a slower 2.4 GHz CPU, but consider the price/performance ratio. 3.2 GHz costs up to 3 times more only increases your speed 33%. Save some money. Slate Desktop™ finishes its work almost twice as fast on an 8-core 2.4 GHz than a 4-core 3.2 GHz CPU, at less than half the cost. Don’t invest in higher clock speed until after you optimize everything else.


Lots of RAM (random access memory) is expensive and fast. Hard drive space is plentiful, inexpensive and slow. Learn how Slate Desktop™ balances RAM size, speed and price.

Size: Slate Desktop™ uses the smallest possible RAM for translating but some training steps still require a considerable amount. A large training corpus and/or complex language pairs increase the demand for RAM.

  • 4 GB RAM: simple, small training corpus with no more than 100,000 segment pairs. Train overnight when you’re not using other programs.
  • 8 GB RAM: average, mid-sized training corpus with up to 1 million segment pairs. Use other programs sparingly when training.
  • 16 GB RAM: complex, larger training corpus with over 1 million segment pairs. Use other programs sparingly when training.
  • 32 GB RAM: Have fun but use a huge hard drive.

Speed: RAM speed is interconnected with CPU speed and age. DDR 4 RAM is faster and more expensive than DDR3, but it’s only an option with a newer CPU. Balance the cost and choose faster RAM when the CPU supports it.

Hard Drives

Hard drive technology determines its speed and cost. Its size is important only when it gives you more free space for temporary files.

Size: You need a large hard drive to store the large training corpus and engine files. More importantly however, the build process creates many huge temporary files and the drive needs free space to save them. If Slate Desktop™ runs out of hard drive space it will crash. Invest in a large hard drive. A 1 terabyte drive is less than US$ 50. See Drive Full Errors.

Speed: Slate Desktop™ configures the SMT technology to use files on the hard drive as virtual memory (RAM). This means you want to buy the fastest large hard drive you can afford.

Advantages of virtual memory

  • You can use Slate Desktop™ on a computer with less RAM.
  • CAT loads the Slate connector instantaneously because the engine doesn’t copy large files into RAM.

Disadvantages of virtual memory

  • Engines render suggestions to your CAT more slowly because they lookup information from the hard drive, which is slower than RAM.
  • You can use your engines if they’re stored on a network drive. These drive do not support the operating system’s virtual memory functions.

Technology (AKA SSD): The fastest hard drive technology is called SSD (solid state disk). It abandons spinning hard drive and uses solid state (computer chip) memory. This disk technology is slightly more expensive than a spinning hard drive ($50 for 500 gigabytes), but it’s almost as fast as RAM. Use an SSD whenever possible.

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