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AutoDesk AutoCAD 2014 Professional GPU Acceleration

Written on October 1, 2013 by Matt Bach


In a previous article exploring GPU acceleration for AutoCAD 2013, we looked at the performance of both desktop and workstation video cards. Even though many of those video cards were not on AutoDesk's certified list, we found that desktop cards are a great option when you want great performance on a budget. However, using a card that is not certified is often not an option for professional users. If you need reliability or the additional features found in workstation cards or their drivers - such as double precision computing or ECC video memory - there really is no substitute for a high quality workstation card. 

In this article, we are going to take a look at the latest NVIDIA Quadro and AMD FirePro cards on the latest Intel CPUs and chipsets. To test the performance of each card, we will be using the Cadalyst 2012 v5.4 benchmark with a few minor tweaks to allow it to run on AutoCAD 2014. Cadalyst is a full system benchmark that tests 3D and 2D graphic performance as well as disk and CPU performance, but for the purpose of this article we will be ignoring the disk and CPU scores.

Test Setup

To see how each video card performs with different chipsets, we used two separate testing platforms consisting of the following hardware and software:

To thoroughly test both AMD FirePro and NVIDIA Quadro video cards, we used the cards listed below. With the exception of the AMD FirePro W9000, all of the workstation cards are certified by for use with AutoCAD. This is likely a simple oversight as we can't imagine it having any issues with the W9000 when the other W-series cards are all certified. To provide a comparison to more standard desktop cards, we also included the NVIDIA GTX Titan which is currently the fastest single GPU video card available.

Model Est. Street Price Model Est. Street Price
Quadro K600 1GB $195 FirePro W5000 2GB $420
Quadro K2000 2GB $430 FirePro W7000 4GB $670
Quadro K4000 3GB $765 FirePro W8000 4GB $1430
Quadro K5000 4GB $1700 FirePro W9000 6GB $3400
GeForce GTX Titan 6GB $1000

The latest drivers for each card were used (320.86 for NVIDIA Quadro, 320.49 for NVIDIA GTX Titan, 12.104.2 for AMD FirePro) along with the latest drivers and BIOS versions for the motherboard and other components. All Windows and software updates were applied before starting our testing. Note that AutoCAD currently does not support multiple video cards, so we will only be using a single card.

We will be using the Cadalyst 2012 v5.4 benchmark with a few minor tweaks to allow it to run on AutoCAD 2014. Beyond following the setup information in the Readme file, we also had to add the benchmark location as a trusted path with the TRUSTEDPATH command and set "SECURELOAD=0" and "SDI=1". Since the CPU and hard drive are not something we are concerned about, we will be ignoring the disk and CPU specific results. More information on Cadalyst and the individual tests can be found here.

Since visual aids are a great way to get a feel for a benchmark, here is single benchmark run using FRAPS that we recorded in our AutoDesk AutoCAD 2013 GPU Acceleration article to help you get a feel for exactly what is tested by this benchmark:


Total Index 2D Graphics Index

After examining the results, we found that the 3D index score most clearly shows the performance difference between these cards. However, if you are concerned about overall system performance rather than comparing just the video cards against each other, the total index chart above - which is influenced heavily by the CPU and disk performance - would be a better chart to look at.

There are a few things that are immediately apparent in our results. First, NVIDIA has a very clear lead over AMD from a performance standpoint. The odd thing is that the AMD FirePro W9000 (which is the only workstation card not on the certified list) actually performs worse than the FirePro W8000. So the "mistake" of the W9000 not being certified may not be a simple oversight as we initially though.

Other than the W9000, the rest of the cards perform exactly as we would expect. The K600 is the lowest performing Quadro card, followed by the rest of the product line in order. Like we found in our AutoCAD 2013 GPU acceleration article, we once again clearly see that going with a desktop card like the GTX Titan (which is priced between the K4000 and the K5000) is a very cost effective solution when you need performance on a budget. The nice thing is that the performance gap between workstation and desktop cards is not nearly as large with the latest K-series of Quadro card. So you no longer have to give up nearly as much performance to get the features (and certifications) of a workstation card.


From our testing, there is really only one overriding suggestion we can make when choosing a workstation card for AutoCAD: pick NVIDIA over AMD. Of course, there are still times when you would go with an AMD card (for example, you use the system for other software as well that greatly benefits from using a FirePro card) but for strictly AutoCAD use, NVIDIA is currently in the lead performance-wise.

As for which card you should pick, it is really going to depend on your budget. The speed of the CPU makes a big difference in AutoCAD - bigger than the GPU in most situations - so you should first focus on getting a powerful CPU. After that, it simply comes down to which card you can afford. The Quadro K600 is a great choice when on a tight budget as it has decent performance at an even more decent price. The Quadro K2000 is also likely a popular choice as it is just a little slower than the Quadro K4000 and K5000 at almost half the price.

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Tags: AutoCAD 2014, GPU Acceleration

i have heard that the real difference in Nvidia and AMD is multi monitor power. i have never seen anyone do benchmark tests with multi display setups...i would think it should be standard by now...in gaming and pro design

Posted on 2014-03-08 21:40:55

I did my personal tests on a different system, with AutoCAD 2015 and Cadalyst v5.5.
In 3D, a Quadro K2000 got only 832 (different from your posted 1120) and my modded Quadro 2000 (from GTS450) got 804.

Since now AutoCAD relies heavily on DirectX11, test would be interesting to be re-done with general gaming video cards too.

Posted on 2014-06-10 15:16:38

Is it possible that in the charts Z87 has been switched with x79? Because the X79 system should have a higher performance..

Posted on 2016-02-24 14:32:09

No, the charts are correct - Z87 should actually have higher performance in AutoCAD than X79. The reason isn't as much the chipset itself (although that does contribute a little bit), but rather the architecture of the CPUs that can be used in that chipset. The CPUs that are used in chipsets like Z77, Z87, Z97, and Z170 are usually either one or two architectures newer than the CPUs that are used in chipsets like X79 or X99. When this article was written a few years ago, the CPU in Z87 was a Haswell chip, while the one in X79 was Ivy Bridge (which is one generation older than Haswell). Each CPU architecture revision from Intel tends to be anywhere from 10-20% faster per clock which is where the majority of the difference in performance in this article comes from.

The reason you would usually go with a chipset like X79 or X99 is because you either need more CPU cores, more CPU Cache, more RAM, or more PCI-E lanes. In a program like AutoCAD which is primarily single threaded (uses just one core) and doesn't need a huge amount of RAM, none of those are factors that would impact performance. This is why Z87 (or any Z-series chipset/CPU) should be faster than X79 (or X99).

Posted on 2016-02-24 19:28:51

Thanks a lot for the clarification. I was just paying attention to the cpu specifications and those are a lot higher for the X79 system than the Z87. So chip does make a big difference. Right now I'm configuring a new CAD system which we are going to use for Inventor, also primarily single threaded. I'f im correct I should go for the i7-6700k instead of the i7-4790k even though the 4790 has a higher clock speed but it uses an older chip. Correct me if i'm wrong.

Posted on 2016-02-25 10:17:06

Yep, that is exactly right. At the moment, the i7-6700K is simply the best CPU for CAD-type work. It should be somewhere around 10% faster than the i7-4790K even with the lower frequency - plus it will be much better for future proofing since it uses a newer chipset.

Posted on 2016-02-25 17:35:04

Im using AMD A10-5800K and it doesn't support AutoCAD software it get hang in the half the way and sometime it closes automatically what is the reason

Posted on 2016-05-05 13:49:53

Which GPU is better P4000 or GTX 1080Ti

Posted on 2017-09-02 06:34:48