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AutoDesk AutoCAD 2013 GPU Acceleration

Written on October 10, 2012 by Matt Bach


Edit 10/3/2013: Interested in how workstation cards perform in AutoCAD 2014? Check out our follow-up article: AutoDesk AutoCAD 2014 Professional GPU Acceleration

Unlike Adobe Photoshop and Premiere, AutoCAD 2013 does not have any specific features or effects that are GPU accelerated. Instead, almost everything that looks 3D uses the GPU in some manner. You still need to balance a powerful video card with a good CPU and RAM combination, but the video card you use for AutoCAD is an extremely important part of the performance equation.

Using the AutoDesk Certified Hardware webpage, we found that while almost every current NVIDIA Quadro and AMD FirePro video card is certified for AutoCAD, there are no current NVIDIA GeForce or AMD Radeon video cards certified.

In this article, we want to explore the performance differences between a wide range of different video cards, including the current generation AMD Radeon and NVIDIA GeForce cards that are not on the certified list. In order to do so, we will be using the Cadalyst 2012 v5.4 benchmark on AutoCAD 2013. This benchmark is a full system benchmark that tests 3D and 2D graphic performance as well as disk and CPU performance. For the purpose of this article, we will largely be focusing on the 3D and 2D results, but will also use the "Total Index" or overall score. More information on the benchmark and the individual tests can be found here.

Since visual aids are a great way to get a feel for a benchmark, we also recorded a single benchmark run using FRAPS to help you get a feel for exactly what is tested by this benchmark:

Test Setup

To make sure that the chipset and CPU did not affect our results, we used two separate testing platforms consisting of the following hardware:

To test a wide spectrum of GPUs, we tested the following cards (video driver version listed in parentheses):

NVIDIA GeForce (306.23) NVIDIA Quadro
AMD Radeon (12.8) AMD FirePro (8.982.8.1) Intel  (
GTX 580 1.5GB Quadro 4000 2GB HD 7970 3GB W9000 6GB HD 4000 1GB
GTX 680 2GB Quadro 2000 1GB HD 7870 2GB W8000 4GB  
GTX 670 2GB NVS 450 512MB HD 7750 1GB W7000 4GB  
GTX 660 Ti 2GB     W5000 2GB  
GTX 660 2GB        
GTX 650 1GB        
GT 610        

AutoCAD 2013 was configured according to the Cadalyst benchmark readme.txt and was run three times per video card to ensure accurate results. At the moment, neither AMD nor NVIDIA has a specific driver or plugins for AutoCAD 2013 so just the base driver was used.


3D Graphics Index 2D Graphics Index

Before we examine the overall results, there are two things to point out. The first is something we did not even intend to benchmark, which is that the Z77 system consistently scored higher than the X79 system. Considering that we were using the fastest CPU currently available for each platform and identical RAM, we can conclude that the Z77 platform (using Ivy Bridge CPUs) performs better than the X79 platform (using Sandy Bridge-E CPUs) in AutoCAD 2013. Second, 2D graphics does not appear to be affected by the video card at all. While there is some variance in the results, they are all minor enough to simply be normal testing fluctuations.

In the overall and 3D graphics scores, The NVIDIA cards performed roughly how we expected. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 topped the charts, and the other GTX cards performing in line with their model numbers. One nice thing to see is that the previous generation NVIDIA GTX 580 placed below even the GTX 660. This is good news as it shows that the current generation cards perform better in AutoCAD than the previous generation cards.

The biggest surprise in our results is how poorly the AMD video cards tested. Relative to each other, the AMD cards are right where we would expect them to be, but they all are way under their NVIDIA counterparts. Even the top of the line AMD FirePro W9000 was only able to match the much cheaper NVIDIA Quadro 2000 and 4000. On the subject of workstation cards, the Quadro 4000 did OK, but we were surprised to see how little of a performance advantage it gave over the Quadro 2000.

The onboard Intel HD graphics did decently, actually performing better than the Quadro NVS 450. It's still near the very bottom of the charts, but the gap between it and the lower-end discrete cards was not as large as we expected. Don't expect to do any complex modeling with it, but if you just need it for very light tasks it should actually be able to keep up.

Desktop vs. Workstation Graphics

According to our benchmarking, the NVIDIA GTX cards are much faster than the NVIDIA Quadro or AMD FirePro cards, but what many do not realize is that FirePro and Quadro cards are not primarily about speed. The main feature of of worstation cards is their double precision preformance which allows the card to be many times more precise. As a roughly comparison, consider the difference you would get if you were to compute the area of a circle with pi being just 3.14 versus 3.14159. The difference is small, but it can easily compound over time. In addition, the NVIDIA Quadro 5000/6000 and AMD FirePro W8000/W9000 use ECC memory for their video RAM which is much mroe reliable than standard video memory.

When gaming, precision is not really needed since one small artifact every 1000 frames is not noticeable to the human eye. When you get into 3d modeling or simulation, however, one small artifact can cause big problems. In a professional environment, you want to be 100% sure that everything was completed properly the first time and that there are no small artifacts in the results. For example, if you are modeling a bracket that will be used in a million dollar football stadium, you want to be 100% confident in the load simulation results. Workstation cards are really the best way for you to be confident in the results.

So, the foremost question when it comes to Desktop vs. Workstation graphics is actually not about which has the best benchmark performance, but rather if speed or precision is more important to you. If you are a gamer that dabbles in 3d modeling, a GeForce or Radeon card will likely work great for you. If you are a professional that needs consistent results that you can be 100% confident in, it is likely worth the slightly slower Quadro or FirePro card for the assurance that there will be no minor problems with your model.

Another point to take into consideration is that NVIDIA Quadro and AMD FirePro cards are the only modern cards that AutoDesk has officially qualified for AutoCAD. Obviously the NVIDIA GeForce and AMD Radeon cards do work, but they technically are not endorsed by AutoDesk.


If you decide that a desktop class card is suitable for your needs, the GeForce GTX 660 does a very reasonable job, almost matching the more expensive GTX cards. For the best possible speeds, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 came out at the top of our 3D and overall benchmark results. The AMD Radeon cards unfortunately did not do as well as we hoped with only the AMD Radeon HD 7970 being able to outperform even the low-end NVIDIA GT 610. At the moment, NVIDIA cards are the clear winner from a performance standpoint.

For workstation class cards, the NVIDIA Quadro 2000 did very well, almost matching the speed of the Quadro 4000. It certainly is not as fast as the NVIDIA GTX cards, but when high precision is required, the Quadro 2000 is a great choice. Like the AMD Radeon cards, the FirePro cards did not fare very well in our benchmarks. The FirePro W9000 roughly equal to the Quadro 2000, yet is much more expensive.

So in conclusion, the NVIDIA GTX 660 is a great way to get close to the performance of the GTX 680, yet costs substantially less. If you are a professional that needs consistant, precise results, the NVIDIA Quadro 2000 is a great balance of performance and cost.

Tags: AutoCAD


Thanks a lot for this test, it's god! And its very relevant....

But for me i see some problem in the test program. I allso have a bit doubt if computer is set right with drivers?? Did you install the full DirectX drivers from Microsoft or only used the drivers from AutoCAD?? Did you setup the grafiphic Card right too Autocad??

For me the 3D model in the test program are too small, it do not challenge the graphic Card. Thats allso why we dont see any differents...
Beside that, it allso use dispsilh(display siluet in wireframe) wich is only CPU acceleratet so thats not fair in a GPU test to turn on dispsilh on shade and realistic. You say its testing in realistic and i DO NOT see any realistisc 3D. Yes i know the function "realistic" is turn on, but there are still nothing realistic in the test!!?? And remember to turn dispsilh off!

In the 2D test part. Have "whipthreat" bin set right in Autocad. It should be set for multicore support....?

Its like testing an old game on a very expensive graphic Card and a less expensive graphic Card....there not really a big difference....or a game there dont support multicore with a single core computer and a quard core computer, there are allso no difference. We have to turn on multicore support on the cpu(whipthreat) and realistic have to be used right for the GPU test.

Hope my comments give some idea for updating the test program...

Best regards

Peter, an 3D operator on Autodesk programs....

Posted on 2012-11-18 09:49:15

I hope this review will be updated based on the 3drawing's comment for a more graphics intensive 3D model.

Posted on 2012-12-29 03:22:01

thank you for this test!
Can you test the card Quadro 5000 to see how it fits

thank you in advance!

Posted on 2013-01-09 15:51:12

We are planning on testing the Quadro 5000 and a few other cards (including Tesla and SLI/Crossfire configurations), but there are a few things we are waiting on before we run those tests. We also have quite a bit going on in-house at Puget at the moment, but if I had to guess when we will be starting that testing I would guess sometime mid-late February.

Posted on 2013-01-09 17:51:03

 Hi! Can you test gpu acceleration in Autodesk Inventor?

Posted on 2013-01-11 09:54:22

Relative performance between the different cards should be pretty much the same for Inventor. Most of the difference between Inventor and AutoCAD (as I understand) has to do with things that are more CPU intensive. Load simulations and collision detection are almost exclusively CPU-based so a better video card won't help you much.

The one thing with Inventor is that you can have very large assemblies, and you may need to have a good GPU to be able to display everything smoothly in realistic or shaded modes. Especially if you are displaying shadows, reflects, and complex lighting, a better video card definitely helps make rotating the model much better. But make sure you have plenty of CPU power to back it up as well. The smoothest transitions don't mean much if the CPU isn't able to keep up.

Posted on 2013-01-11 20:40:33

Matt Bach said:

We are planning on testing the Quadro 5000 and a few other cards
(including Tesla and SLI/Crossfire configurations), but there are a few
things we are waiting on before we run those tests. We also have quite a
bit going on in-house at Puget at the moment, but if I had to guess
when we will be starting that testing I would guess sometime mid-late

And where are benchmarks of Quadro 5000? I am still interested in performance of Autocad accelerated by iGPU and dedicated cards for regular consumer and for professionalists (Quadro and something from AMD I think).

Posted on 2013-06-22 09:45:41

Check Tom's for inventor benchmarks. They are drastically different. Inventor uses directx which is better for "gaming" cards while autocad uses opengl which is more suited to "workstation" cards.

Posted on 2014-04-01 17:45:31

It's good I did my test between the Quadro 5000 and GTX 680 (OC 4GB), the GTX works much better on Autocad 3D

My next planned purchase very soon a ne
workstation will be the GTX Titan ...

Posted on 2013-06-28 15:37:36

Hi! I've just bought the gtx 660 ti 2 gb ram but still can't have a decent orbit in autocad 2013, 2012, or 2007! (yes, i even tried with that one). I have an i7 2600, 16 gb ram, 2tb hd. I installed the latest nvidia drivers, directx 11 and autoCAD SP 1.1.
So I don't what I might be doing wrong. Could you please help me? Thank you!

Posted on 2013-02-14 11:44:53

also I have an asus P8P67-M PRO (P67 chipset).

Posted on 2013-02-14 11:54:48

Are the "points" that are in the graph linear?

If so, that would mean the nVIDIA GTX 680 is only 35% faster than an onboard HD 4000?!?!! A GTX 680 should be at least 10X (1000%) as fast if it was using the full potential of the card. To get only a 35% increase seems to imply that the GPU is used so little that it's barely worth investing in one at all.

Comparison chart for reference:

Posted on 2013-02-19 08:16:05

The graphs are indeed linear, but please keep in mind that the tests we used were not limited to testing just the graphics cards. They are also affected by the CPU, RAM, etc - and since those didn't change, we are seeing here only the effect of changing the video card on overall performance.

And in a way you are right: the GTX 680 wouldn't be worth it, if all you are doing is AutoCAD! However, you can get effectively the same level of performance from the GTX 660 for half the price, while going lower than that would start to impact performance negatively.

Also, on the point of a GPU being "barely work investing in", you noted that you get up to a 35% increase - and that is very much worth while! Lets say you had a system that was $1000 without a video card, but you added a GTX 660 for $300. That is a 30% price increase, and for it you get a 35% performance boost; that is an excellent improvement!

Posted on 2013-02-19 17:50:45

That's a fair and valid point. We're just coming at it from different sides.

The AutoCAD-glass is half-full (or I'd argue 1/10th full ;-) perspective is that in the end there is a measurable increase which is a very true and appreciable gain.

I was just surprised to learn that the vast majority of the considerable power a GPU provides sits idle as AutoCAD is unable to take advantage of it. So, yes, my shock came from the GPU-glass is 90% empty point of view.

Another performance related point is that AutoCAD is also predominantly single-threaded. So in much the same way that a good chunk of the GPU remains untapped, if you have a multi-core system most of it will remain untapped by AutoCAD as well.

Autodesk Knowledgebase article:

I also did not thank you for providing these excellent benchmark results! It's exactly the information I was looking for as I'm in a position to build a new system for an engineering friend that wants to optimize for AutoCAD use.

If you're looking for maximum performance at any price, then i7s, GTX680s and the like will, as the benchmarks illustrate, increase performance. But, in terms of most bang for the buck I don't feel the marginal gains in performance justify the price.

A screaming fast single core system would benefit AutoCAD the most. With that in mind, a mid range CPU with fewer cores that you can overclock would perhaps provide similar gains in performance for hundreds less.

If you decide to run more AutoCAD tests in the future (and I hope you do!) maybe adding a comparison between the equivalent of an i5-3570K/HD4000 vs i7-3770/GTX680 would be interesting.

Once again, I do appreciate the benchmarks as I was unable to find this information elsewhere!

Posted on 2013-02-19 19:50:54

I have switchable graphics.. So, I turned on the better graphic card, and even then when I check the performance tuner log, it says that I`m using the Intel HD 3000 graphics card....
Any help? Thanks

Posted on 2013-03-13 21:26:07

Since you have an Intel CPU, I'm going to assume you have an NVIDIA video card you are trying to use. What I would recommend doing is going into the NVIDIA control panel then going to "Manage 3D Settings" then "Program Settings". From here, select AutoCAD from the dropdown (or add it if it is not in the dropdown". Then under option #2, set the graphics to the "High-Performance NVIDIA Processor" and hit apply. This should make your system use the NVIDIA graphics whenever AutoCAD is running.

Posted on 2013-03-13 21:44:25

Is it possible to convert the scores to money? If it costs the company $25 an hour for the employee and by getting him an upgraded computer, how long will it take to recoup that money?

Posted on 2013-05-15 20:15:09


Thanks for your
hard work. I have a GTX 670 and it runs great on AutoCAD 2013 64-bit, except
for high resolution renderings. Should AutoCAD use Windows RAM/Memory? Barely uses anything and the renderings take forever.
CPU however runs at 100%.

Autodesk forum post with full details and PC spec..

Posted on 2013-09-16 01:46:06