1 2 3 Previous Next 105 Replies Latest reply on May 9, 2014 10:44 AM by Charles Culp

    February 2013 Best Video Cards

    Charles Culp

      This thread is now obsolete. Check out this newer thread for updated information:






      So, which video card do you need? This is quite the difficult question to answer, so I did a bunch of benchmarks.


      Anna Wood and I put together a set of benchmarks to see what is really required. These are meant to be real-world results. Most are from real CAD data, and the others are obviously not. I tried to be fairly comprehensive, however I did not get a chance to test every card out there. If you have data you think I should benchmark, contact me. The great thing about this being a forum is that I can continue to run the study into the future.


      I do want to thank the support from @Xi computers for providing these video cards for benchmarking. I was able to benchmark the following video cards:

      AMD FirePro v4900       $155

      AMD FirePro W5000     $450

      AMD FirePro W7000     $770

      nVidia Quadro 2000       $400

      nVidia Quadro 4000       $700

      nVidia Quadro K5000    $1800


      You can download the benchmarks I used here: http://swtuts.com/?p=700

      This includes the Spin 50 benchmark macro, which was used for all the tests. Unfortunatly I can't provide all the CAD data, as some of it is proprietary. Basically, all of these tests use the "middle mouse button rotate" with an automated macro of different assemblies, and measured how many frames per second the video card could output. They were all done on one machine, so ther other hardware would be fair. They all had the same system settings in SolidWorks for image quality.


      Note that everyone with a new-ish video card should turn on full screen antialiasing. This has no noticable effect on video card performance. Also, all tests were done with realview turned on.


      Here are the results. Remember that video card performance is measured in frames per second. So the more FPS, the better the video looks. 12-14 FPS is the limit for human eyes to decipher something as continuous motion. After 24 fps things start to look good (TV and most movies are 24 fps), and after 30 fps they look really nice. After 60 fps things look perfectly fluid, and that is what almost all LCD monitor refresh rates are, so anything past 60 is useless.



      As you can see, with massively large assemblies of the same component (a bunch of nuts), the high-end video cards did nothing. Note that transparencies don't properly utilize the video card, so it puts more load on the CPU. Since the CPU is already maxed out, it slows down the FPS. The same with edges shown, both in SW 2012 and SW 2013 (they both had similar results). So, even though this thread is about comparing video cards, if you want to speed up your assembly rotation speeds, turn off edges, and don't have transparent parts. The results of this graph show that although the bottom of the line cards are equal with the higher-end cards, somehow the AMD cards are getting data faster from the CPU, so they are performing better. Note that with edges hidden, the AMD cards look very fluid, while the nVidia cards still look quite choppy.



      This data set is a large potato farm. It is almost 5GB worth of SolidWorks files. I wasn't surprised at all that this maxed out the video cards. I was surprised that the more expensive cards provided absolutely no benefit. The biggest winner was actually the cheapest card, the AMD FirePro v4900, however I think it's lead is probably an anomoly. I ran each card test 5 times and then averaged, but still saw this anomoly. I'm not quite sure why. Regardless, they are all about the same, with the AMD cards getting a slight lead.



      This is the dining room set I designed for myself. All-in-all, this is a fairly simple model. but just complex enough to tax the video cards when I turned on all the "pretty options". This includes ambient occlusion, shadows, and perspective. When all those things are turned on, then we start to see results that really test what the video cards can do, and the performance matches what I would typically expect. Note, however, that with all that stuff turned off, all the cards got well above that 60 fps that us humans can see. So, really, I typically model with these features turned off, and all video cards outperformed what I can see. So this is the only way I could see someone justifying a more expensive video card. If you always want to have on draft quality ambient occlusion (where the video card renders the AO while you rotate the model), and you want to have good performance while working with small-medium sized models. Then the AMD W5000 is a strong performer, without being super-rediculously priced (just moderatly super-expensive).



      This is a Die Assembly, and you can see that with the effects turned on, it only slightly slows down the video performance. This is because this assembly is right on the edge of being large enough that the CPU is the bottleneck, not the video card. So here, we see flatlines on the nVidia chips, but the AMDs have that data speed so they can perform. Of course, with the tricks turned off, we immediatly hit that CPU bottleneck. So the AMD chips win in the end, and again, somehow, the v4900 was actually the top performer with the effects turned off.



      This is the Cinebench benchmark: http://www.maxon.net/products/cinebench/overview.html. It is an industry standard test, and it specifically benchmarks the video cards. As you can see, we get the exact results we expect, because it tests the video cards directly. I have included this only as a reference, as I prefer to look at the real SolidWorks data.


      So my final conclusions? Well, previously I used anecdotal data to recommend the v4900, but I was really stunned to see my expectations met with such astounding data. I now have confirmed many times over my belief that all SolidWorks users should only get an AMD v4900 for $155, and spend the rest of the money on the CPU. So much of this video performance was determined by the CPU speed.


      Also, I have not yet had a chance to benchmark the Intel Integraded P4000 graphics. Since that performace matches these low-end professional discreet cards, I hope to include that data soon. Who knows, maybe it will even get better results than the discreet cards. I hope to do this test sometime soon (ish), but I've already spent quite a bit of time on these benchmarks, so I need a break!

        • 1. Re: February 2013 Best Video Cards
          Valentin Leung

          Hey Charles, Thanks for the comparison, what CPU was used for this? There are still a lot of things relying on only the CPU. I am quite surprized about that. But the CPU bottleneck seems a bit odd, as usually for example in gaming application, if we have a cpu bottleneck situation, no matter the graphic card, all will yield the same performance in terms of fps. In your case, we see that the 3 AMD card provide a much higher performance than the Quadro, so something is not making sense, plus they all seems to stagnate in the same area. It just sounds weird.


          Anyway, thanks again for your time and effort.

          • 2. Re: February 2013 Best Video Cards
            Charles Culp

            These were all benchmarked on an @Xi MTower with a Core i7-3770K CPU overclocked to 4.5GHz on a Z77 motherboard. 16GB RAM overclocked to 1866. SSD storage.


            And yes, I think these "real-world" examples show exactly why SolidWorks is inherently different than a "gaming application" (where they carefully control fields of view, number of textures, etc).

            • 3. Re: February 2013 Best Video Cards
              Valentin Leung

              Thanks for the precision.

              Now, we can go and pour some money elsewhere .

              • 4. Re: February 2013 Best Video Cards
                Joel Rapoport

                Just one question: in amd website under solidworks solution they don't put the new W series cards as options. Do you know why?



                Thanks Charles for this post and for the systems post, and for saving me about 700$ in a new GPU that I didn't buy for my new system- as you recommended.


                Is there a stress test out there that can see which component is a bottleneck in solidworks? If there isn't one, someone should build one and make a lot of money....



                • 5. Re: February 2013 Best Video Cards
                  Charles Culp

                  No, I don't know why. The W5000 and W7000 perform really well in SolidWorks (although it mostly goes to waste).

                  • 6. Re: February 2013 Best Video Cards
                    Jim Zink

                    Charles and all,


                    All your results are consistent with those at Develop3D using differernt datasets.  Steven Wolfe published similar results at least 3-4 years ago.  For some reason, people have a hard time accepting that when working with large assemblies in SolidWorks, an entry level graphics card is actually better than a high-end card.  One reason is that the high-end cards are loaded with memory.  Even when working with multiple displays, you really only need 1GB video RAM for SolidWorks.  Any additional video RAM is mapped as video RAM by Windows and not available to SolidWorks, so it actually slows down performance with large assemblies.  Also, high-end cards consume lots of power and generate lots of heat, which makes TurboBoost less effective. 


                    Industrial designers and others working with SMALL datasets but need very high visual quality should invest in a good midrange card like the FirePro W5000.  Others are best served by the newest generation entry level card from either AMD or nVidia.  (Each generation tends to get faster.  nVidia is two generrations behind AMD in the professional market - at least at the low and mid-range.)


                    BTW, the FirePro W series are all listed as supported cards under ATI.  They may not be listed under the workstation vendors, because they're just starting to make the transition from the vX900 series.

                    • 7. Re: February 2013 Best Video Cards
                      Richard Wagenaar

                      Good test. I also like having the ability of color temperature in the Ati drivers.

                      Only Ati drivers have this functionality, I find Nvidia a little bit too white.

                      For some reason it's easier for my eyes than the Quadro 2000 or 600.

                      I have been testing both cards for almost a year and I find no problems

                      in the latest  Ati drivers.


                      It would be a little bit more fair to also compare the quadro 600 in this test

                      as it's the same price as the 4900. The quadro 600 feels a bit slower

                      than the V4900 but still very fast.

                      • 8. Re: February 2013 Best Video Cards
                        Adrian Velazquez

                        Now this is what I call Valuable Data! thanks for this Anna & Charles.

                        • 9. Re: February 2013 Best Video Cards
                          Joel Rapoport

                          I think that it might be a good idea to benchmark the ATI Firepro 5900 as well.

                          I know that the W series is the new and better series, but it might be good to show the real world solidworks difference between it to the 4900, for those who might still have a hard time to believe that the 4900 should be enough.

                          Or for the lots of people that already bought one...


                          Thanks, joel

                          • 10. Re: February 2013 Best Video Cards
                            Charles Culp

                            Absolutely. If you want to give me a v5900, and if Richard Wangenaar wants to give me a Quadro 600, I would be happy to benchmark them in my system!

                            • 11. Re: February 2013 Best Video Cards
                              Joel Rapoport

                              Sorry, the best I can do is a 3D Labs Wildcat 560VP, but I'm not sure how it compares to the new cards :)


                              It has full blown 64MB of RAM. Sure it will handle the workplant benchmark with ease

                              • 12. Re: February 2013 Best Video Cards
                                Peter Farnham



                                You would think that AMD and Nvidia would be throwing their graphic cards at younow , as you are willing to spend the time to test and review them.


                                If they do and you have a few spare then please share!!


                                Many thanks for your effort and time spent on this testing, as it will save a lot of Solidworks users headaches on what card to get.


                                We have the AMD Firepro 7900, large, quiet and very nice too.

                                • 13. Re: February 2013 Best Video Cards
                                  Joel Rapoport

                                  Well, AMD yes, but my guess is that nvidia isn't as pleased with Charles, and might want to through other thing at Charles then GPUs

                                  • 14. Re: February 2013 Best Video Cards
                                    Neil Larsen

                                    Hi Charles,

                                    Your data is interesting. What resolution was your screen for these tests?

                                    I ve been using low end cards for SW for a while because I realised they were quite adequate and that other cards were somewhat overpriced. Well considerably overpriced in many cases.

                                    I have been contemplating a new 27" monitor and was anticipating having to step the video card up a grade to drive the extra pixels but perhaps this is not necessary. Could you do a few tests at 1900x1080 and also at 2560x1440 please. I suspect it might matter more how zoomed in you are on the model?

                                    Of course many users will have other applications on their workstations where there may be more obvious performance differences between cards and that might influence their purchase more. Thanks for doing the testing and sharing.

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