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SOLIDWORKS 2017: Coffee Lake CPU Comparison (i7 8700K, i5 8600K, i3 8350K)

Written on October 13, 2017 by William George


Intel has just released an update to their mainstream Core processor series, marking the 8th generation of CPUs in this lineage. These are also the first mainstream processors to have more than four cores, even while maintaining high per-core clock speeds. As with any new launch in this segment, we want to see how well these new chips perform on a variety of applications. This article will focus on SOLIDWORKS 2017 SP4, and compare the new models to the previous-generation Intel offering as well as AMD's competitor.

Intel 8th Gen Core i3, i5, i7

Test Hardware and Methodology

To see how the different new Intel CPUs perform in SOLIDWORKS 2017, we used the following configurations:

These test configurations include three of the new Coffee Lake CPU models, the top of each tier (Core i3, i5, and i7) - as well as the previous top mainstream processor from Intel, the Core i7 7700K, which has been our go-to recommendation for SOLIDWORKS for several months. AMD's top Ryzen 7 model, the eight-core 1800X, is also included for reference.

The tests conducted on these systems were originally developed by my colleague here at Puget Systems: Matt Bach. He put together a series of AutoIt scripts that run through testing a variety of the capabilities in SOLIDWORKS, so rather than reinvent the wheel I used his. However, some of the results are being omitted due to hardware configuration issues. Specifically, the tests looking at how long it took to start SOLIDWORKS, open files, and save files are not included here. That is because I discovered after testing that the Coffee Lake system I was working with had both SATA and NVMe drives, and the Windows & software installations were on the SATA drive. I should have double-checked for that before testing, but I failed to... so those results could be impacted by the slower drive. The rest of the tests, though, will be unaffected by this.

So, what did we test?

Test Files
Assembly Rotation Audi R8 by ma73us
Rebuild/Rendering Vertical Twin Steam Engine with Reverse Gear (by Ridwan Septyawan)
Motion Study Gear Train Mechanism with Fixed and Swaying Axes (by trinityscsp)
FEA Simulation (Stress) FEA Benchmark V3

Flow Simulation (Airflow & Thermal)

Billboard - Lesson14 Case Study (SOLIDWORKS 2015 Flow Sim. training files)

FEA Simulation (Stress)

Flow Simulation
(Airflow & Thermal)

The results are broken up into sections below, followed by the conclusion. Each test was run three times on every CPU: the worst result was tossed out and the other two were averaged. This was done to help eliminate any influence from background applications running on the systems, but without cherry-picking only the very best result either.

Feel free to skip ahead if you are just interested in a specific set of results, or if you want to get right to the conclusion.

Results - Assembly Rotation (FPS)

Here are the results for rotating an assembly of an Audi R8 with 434 parts and about 1.4 million triangles:

SOLIDWORKS 2017 - Rotate Assembly

In this first set of tests, Intel's Core i7 processors - both the new 8700K and the 7700K - perform very well. They are neck and neck, with each edging into the lead in some places. Interestingly, the newer six-core Coffee Lake processor does slightly better with Realview and Ambient Occlusion enabled... but the results are so close that might just be the margin of error.

The new Core i5 8600K isn't far behind its i7 brothers, only 5-10% slower and still putting in very respectable FPS numbers. The Core i3 8350K and AMD's Ryzen 7 1800X are almost tied as well, showing that this test is not utilizing the Ryzen's substantial number of cores.

Results - Rebuilding Assembly

This graph shows how long it took to rebuild an assembly on each CPU:

SOLIDWORKS 2017 - Rebuild Assembly

Rebuilding an assembly is pretty much single-threaded, which means the high core counts of the newer i7 and Ryzen processors aren't going to help them here. The 8700K does edge out the 7700K by a couple percent, probably thanks to a slightly higher max turbo speed, and then the i5 8600K and i3 8350K are a bit slower (as they don't turbo as high - or at all, in the case of the Core i3). AMD's Ryzen scores particularly poorly here, faring even worse than the 8350K, since its high core count doesn't matter at all in this situation.

Results - Motion Study

Here is a chart showing how long it took to perform a motion study on each of the test systems:

SOLIDWORKS 2017 - Motion Study

Much like the previous Rebuilding test, the new Core i7 just barely edges out the old one here... in fact, they are close enough to be considered the same as the difference is well within any margin of error. And again, the Core i5, i3, and Ryzen processors come in behind the i7 models (in that order). This test looks to be limited by performance per clock, with little or no impact from core count.

Results - Simulation

This comparison shows the time taken to perform three different simulations on each processor:

SOLIDWORKS 2017 - Simulation

Simulations in SOLIDWORKS appear to benefit from both core count and clock speed, with AMD's Ryzen processor doing better here than in the preceding tests... but still coming in behind both Core i7 models. The aging 7700K actually puts in the fastest times on the stress simulation, which appears to depend more on pure clock speed, but the newer 8700K with its higher core count pulls ahead on the airflow and thermal simulations. The Core i3 and i5 models, lacking Hyperthreading, do much worse in those two simulation types.

Results - Rendering

Here are the times taken for both the render pre-pass and the main render itself, at 1920x895 resolution, on the various CPUs:

SOLIDWORKS 2017 - Rendering

This final test is where CPU core count really shines, and the one place the new Core i7 8700K with six cores pulls ahead of the older 7700K. However, AMD's Ryzen 7 1800X pulls a fast one on both of those with the fastest render times of all five tested CPUs. This makes sense, given its 8 cores (vs 6 on the 8700K and 4 on the 7700K), which overcomes the lower per-core clock speeds it runs at.


Combining the results of the previous charts, here is a summary of how these CPUs perform in SOLIDWORKS 2017. Please note that performance here is relative to the Core i7 7700K, our go-to recommendation for general SOLIDWORKS usage in recent months:

SOLIDWORKS 2017 - CPU Comparison Summary

Compared to the previous i7 7700K, the new "Coffee Lake" Core i7 8700K doesn't really bring anything to the table for general SOLIDWORKS use. It lands within a percent or two of the 7700K on most of the tests we ran, so for most folks there wouldn't be a need to upgrade. However, it is substantially faster for rendering: on average, 30% faster than the processor it is replacing. That is a pretty big jump, and entirely due to the additional CPU cores. The lower-end Core i5 and i3 models are solidly behind the i7 chips, though, so unless you have a very limited budget there is no reason to go with one of them.

AMD's Ryzen is an even more polarized option in SOLIDWORKS, though. The Ryzen 7 1800X surpasses even the new Core i7 8700K when it comes to rendering, thanks to having 8 cores, but in the rest of our testing it came in behind the Core i3. If you are doing nothing but rendering in SOLIDWORKS, then it could make sense... but the Core i7 is a much more balanced choice overall, for roughly the same price.

Are there other processors you would like to see tested in SOLIDWORKS? It can be safely assumed that the higher core count AMD Threadripper and Intel Core X series processors would do even better in rendering, but probably suffer somewhat in more general usage. Please leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below!

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Tags: Dassault, Systemes, Solidworks, 2017, CPU, Processor, Coffee, Lake, Core, i3, i5, i7, Kaby, Ryzen