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SOLIDWORKS 2018 CPU Comparison: Coffee Lake vs Skylake-X vs Threadripper

Written on February 4, 2018 by William George


Dassault Systèmes launched the initial version of SOLIDWORKS 2018 (SP0.1) late last year, but with the recent release of SP1 we expect that customers will soon be using it in production environments. In preparation for that, we have tested the field of current Intel Core i7 and i9 processors to see how they stack up in SW 2018. We hadn't yet had a chance to test AMD's Threadripper processors in SOLIDWORKS either, so they are also included in this round of benchmarks. Ryzen was not included, though, as we already looked at it in SW 2017 and didn't find its performance compelling enough to test again.

AMD vs Intel

Test Hardware and Methodology

To see how these different CPUs perform in SOLIDWORKS 2018, we used the following configurations:

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. Only minor updates were needed to bring the scripts up to speed for SW 2018. In the future we plan to overhaul our SOLIDWORKS testing, hopefully adding even more complex assemblies to really push CPUs and GPUs, but we aren't quite ready for that yet.

So, for now, what does our testing include?

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 their own 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:

In this first set of tests, Intel's Coffee Lake Core i7 processors - both the 8700 and the 8700K - perform very well. The enthusiast-grade Skylake X chips aren't bad, but only the top-end of that line comes close to matching the much less expensive Coffee Lake models.

Unfortunately, AMD's Threadripper processors do very poorly here. Mind you, frame rates around 30fps like this should still be usable, though not quite as smooth as speeds up closer to 60fps like many of the Intel chips displayed. What seems most odd is that there is less variance between the different graphics modes on the Threadripper processors, so maybe there was another factor at play (compatibility with the Quadro P6000, for example).

Results - Rebuilding Assembly

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

Rebuilding an assembly appears to be pretty much single-threaded, which means the high core counts of the Skylake X and Threadripper processors aren't going to help them here. With clock speed being the focus, the 8700K does the best - with the vanilla 8700 coming in only about 4% slower. Once again, AMD's Threadripper processors end up in last place.

Results - Motion Study

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

SW 2018 Motion Study

In this test, all the Intel processors landed within 1.5 seconds of each other - and close enough that a clear winner is impossible to call. That also makes it hard to say how much impact either core count or clock speed have, but suffice it to say that any modern Intel processor should do just fine here. AMD, on the other hand, came in last place again.

Results - Simulation

These charts shows the time taken to perform three different simulations on each processor:

SW 2018 Stress Simulation

SW 2018 Airflow Simulation

SW 2018 Thermal Simulation

Simulations in SOLIDWORKS appear to benefit from both core count and clock speed, with different types of simulations behaving slightly differently. The airflow and thermal simulations, both examples of flow simulations, gained enough from high core counts that some of the Skylake X processors outpaced the mainstream Coffee Lake models, which had otherwise been leading in the tests. In the case of the stress simulation, though, core count only went so far: the 10-core i9 7900X was fastest, but as the number of cores rose from there the performance dropped, presumably due to the decline in clock speed associated with having more cores.

In all three cases, AMD's Threadripper chips continued to be the worst performers - rivaled only once by the Core i7 7820X (in the thermal simulation). It is looking like the calculations involved in many tasks in SOLIDWORKS may simply not be optimized for AMD's CPU architecture.

Results - Rendering

Here are the times taken for both the render pre-pass and the main render itself, at 1920x1080 resolution, on the various CPUs:

SW 2018 Rendering

This final test is where CPU core count really shines, and the one place that AMD's Threadipper processors do not end up in last place. They aren't the fastest either, but the TR 1950X does just barely outperform the Core i9 7900X - which is notable, as these processors have roughly the same MSRP ($999). The fastest chip overall, though, turned out to be the 16-core i9 7960X, meaning there is probably no reason to consider the 7980XE for SOLIDWORKS at all.

While the more mainstream Core i7 8700 and 8700K are certainly capable of rendering in SW, if a lot of your time is spent on rendering then you will definitely be better served by a higher core count processor.


Combining the results of the previous charts, here is a summary of how these CPUs perform in SOLIDWORKS 2018. Please note that performance here is relative to the Core i7 8700K, our current recommendation for general SOLIDWORKS usage based on these tests:

SW 2018 CPU Comparison Summary

This is a rather complicated chart, but it is the best way I could find to show all of the necessary data without resorting to multiple graphs. What we can see here is that the Intel Core i7 8700K is clearly the best current-gen CPU for general usage in SOLIDWORKS 2018. It tops the charts when it comes to manipulating models, rebuilding assemblies, and motion studies - while also punching above its price point in simulation workloads.

The story changes when you move to rendering. There, while the 8700K is no slouch, higher core count CPUs can and do surpass it by wide margins. The top choice for rendering ends up being the Core i9 7960X, which also happens to be one of the best choices for heavy simulation work, though other Skylake X and even Threadripper CPUs do well too.

If you are looking for a new workstation for SOLIDWORKS, we have recommended systems for both general usage and rendering.

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Tags: Dassault, Systemes, Solidworks, 2018, CPU, Processor, Intel, Coffee, Lake, Core, i7, i9, Skylake X, AMD, Threadripper