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Our testing of graphics cards in SOLIDWORKS 2018 wasn't all that impressive, because for a long time the CPU has been a limiting factor when it comes to graphics performance in SW. The 2019 version came out recently, though, and looks to change that story. It has a new feature which can be enabled in the System Options, under the Performance section, called "Enhanced graphics performance". Its description is pretty straight-forward: "Improves graphical performance which will scale with your graphics card." So, how much does this actually impact video card performance in SOLIDWORKS? Are more powerful GPUs actually faster now? Let's find out!
For my testbed system, I used the following hardware:
|Gigabyte Z370 AORUS 5
|Intel Core i9 9900K 3.6GHz (5.0GHz Turbo) Eight Core
|4x Crucial DDR4-2666 16GB (64GB total)
|NVIDIA Quadro RTX 6000 24GB
|Samsung 960 Pro 512GB M.2 PCI-E x4 NVMe SSD
|Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
|EVGA 850W P2
|SOLIDWORKS 2019 SP 1.0
This platform is built around an Intel Core i9 9900K, with very high clock speeds, to avoid the CPU being a bottleneck in this testing. That processor also gives the best possible performance in SOLIDWORKS for general usage and modeling. More than enough RAM was included, to avoid that being a bottleneck of any kind, and a super-fast M.2 SSD was used for the same reason. For the video cards, we stuck with the Quadro line this time around – covering almost all of the long-standing P-series as well as the newest RTX 6000 model.
The only options changed from default settings in SW 2019 SP1 were the aforementioned "Enhanced graphics performance" mode being enabled and disabling use of "Large assemblies". No LOD settings or other graphics quality sliders were changed.
To perform the actual benchmarking, I used the same basic testing we've used here at Puget for analyzing graphics performance in SOLIDWORKS in the past, just updated slightly for the 2019 release: a mix of AutoIt scripts and SOLIDWORKS macros to set the different quality settings, load the relevant model, and record the average frames per second while rotating the model. To recorded the FPS, a macro is used with a timer to rotate the model 45 degrees to the left and right for a set number of frames. From the number of frames and the total time it took to render those frames, our software is able to determine the average FPS.
For test samples, we have utilized models available from GrabCad.com that provide a range of complexities based on the total number of parts and number of triangles – along with one extremely large assembly provided by the gentleman who organizes the CAD Monkey Dinner that we have sponsored at SWW for the last several years. Here are details about the models we use in our testing:
Lego Tower Bridge
by Daniel Herzberg
4372 parts – 40.9 million triangles
One note that I would like to make is that if you do not know how many triangles the models you work with have, the easiest method I know of to find out is to simply save the model as an .STL file. During the save process, a window pops up with information about the model including the number of files, the file size, and the number of triangles.
There are a lot of data points that come from testing four models with four different graphics settings across a total of seven video cards at two different resolutions. To present all of that information, we have put together charts showing the frames per second (FPS) we measured in each model + settings + GPU combination at both 1080P (1920×1080) and 4K (3840×2160):
To help distill that down, we also took the percent improvement in frame rate compared to the base Quadro P620, and then averaged that across all sixteen tests (4 models x 4 graphics settings). This is easier to understand but doesn't take into account subtleties in how the complexity of a given model and quality settings/resolution impact performance:
It is easy to look at those last two graphs and surmise that the lower-end Quadro cards are not effective or have no place in a SOLIDWORKS workstation, but that is not the case. Remember that those are based equally on all the models and graphics modes. Further, the focus there is on relative frame rates – meaning, for example, that 200 frames per second (fps) versus 100 would be shown as a 100% increase, even though in real-world usage both would be faster than most monitors can display.
By looking at the details in the charts, instead, we can draw some more helpful conclusions. Here are my recommendations for video card selections, depending on model size and resolution – with the goal being smooth frame rates (>30fps) under most circumstances:
|↓ Assembly Size \ Resolution →
|Small (<1 million parts)
|Quadro P620 or higher
|Quadro P1000 or higher
|Medium (>1 million parts)
|Quadro P1000 or higher
|Quadro P2000 or higher
|Large (>10 million parts)
|Quadro P4000 or higher
|Quadro P5000 or higher
Please keep in mind that these recommendations are for SOLIDWORKS 2019 with "Enhanced graphics performance" enabled. Also, if you are going to be working with shadows and reflections a lot, consider bumping the GPU up an additional step.
Another interesting thing to note is how much faster the Quadro RTX 6000 is compared to the P6000 when dealing with extremely large assemblies. When using either edges or Realview, the RTX 6000 was always at least twice as fast as the P6000 on our Tower model. I'm curious to see how lower-end cards in that series, like the upcoming RTX 5000 and RTX 4000, perform in that situation.
Unlike past years, with SOLIDWORKS 2019 we found a definite difference in viewport performance between video cards. This is because of improvements which the SOLIDWORKS developers have made with this version, so make sure you enable the "Enhanced graphics performance" option in Preferences to take advantage of this speed-up!
The impact of this new feature is most pronounced when dealing with extremely large, complex assemblies – but even for more modest projects, it is important to select a sufficiently powerful video card. That is especially true if you use a 4K or other high-resolution monitor, which is increasingly become the norm. Hopefully the charts we provided above give you sufficient information to base a decision on, but if you have additional questions or would like help configuring a system for SOLIDWORKS check out our recommended systems below and feel free to contact our no-pressure consulting team.
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