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Why you should use a Quadro video card in Solidworks 2016

Written on December 22, 2015 by Matt Bach
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Table of Contents:
  1. Introduction
  2. Test Setup
  3. 1080p Results
  4. 4K Results
  5. Conclusion
  6. Recommended Reading
  7. Recommended Systems for Solidworks

Introduction

Currently, Solidworks officially supports NVIDIA Quadro and AMD FirePro discrete video cards so if you want to use a supported card (which we highly recommend doing) you will need to use a workstation-class GPU. However, if you are a student learning Solidworks or otherwise unable to use a Quadro card, it is entirely possible to use a GeForce or Radeon card instead. You may not be able to get support from Solidworks if you have a problem with their software (which makes it a very bad idea for a professional environment) but if that does not matter to you then it can be a way to get started with Solidworks on a computer you already own.

In this article we will be looking at a range of NVIDIA GeForce cards and comparing them to the three most popular NVIDIA Quadro cards for Solidworks. To fully test the cards we will be using a work around to enabling features like RealView which are normally disabled unless you have a workstation card. This is absolutely something we don't recommend doing if you are using Solidworks professionally, but it will help us determine the full performance differences between Quadro and GeForce cards. If you want to skip over our individual benchmark results and simply view our conclusions, feel free to jump ahead to the conclusion section.

Test Setup

For our test system, we used the following hardware:

Testing Hardware
Motherboard: Asus Z170-A
CPU: Intel Core i7 6700K 4.0GHz Quad Core 8MB 95W
RAM: 4x Crucial DDR4-2133 4GB (16GB total)
GPU: GeForce GTX Titan X 12GB (~$970 - 6144 GFLOPS)
GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB (~$650 - 5632 GFLOPS)
GeForce GTX 980 4GB (~$520 - 4616 GFLOPS)
GeForce GTX 970 4GB (~$350 - 3494 GFLOPS)
GeForce GTX 960 4GB (~$240 - 2308 GFLOPS)
GeForce GTX 950 2GB (~$160 - 1573 GFLOPS)

PNY Quadro M4000 8GB (~$740 - 2573 GFLOPS)
PNY Quadro K2200 4GB (~$600 - 1339 GFLOPS)
PNY Quadro K620 2GB (~$200 - 812.5 GFLOPS)
Hard Drive: Samsung 850 Pro 512GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
PSU: EVGA SuperNOVA 850W P2
Software: Solidworks 2016 SP 0.1

Our test platform is built around an Intel Core i7 6700K as that is the CPU that should give the best possible performance in Solidworks when rotating models. For the video cards we will be testing the full range of current GeForce GTX cards as well as the three most popular Quadro card for Solidworks. In the chart above we listed both an estimate price for the card as well as the peak theoretical floating point performance (which is single precision) so it will be very interesting to see if the driver and firmware differences between the cards makes Quadro faster than it's rough performance equivalent.

Remember that Quadro (and FirePro) cards are the only officially supported video cards, so in order to fully test the performance differences we had to do a bit of a workaround in order to allow us to compare the two product lines with features such as Realview enabled. However, we want to be clear that this workaround isn't something we would advise you do on your own machine.

To perform the actual benchmarking, we used a mix of AutoIt scripts and Solidworks macros to set the different quality settings, load the relevant model, and record the average FPS while rotating the model. Note that we tested with different LOD settings, but we found the difference to be marginal so to keep things simple we will only be reporting the results with LOD off (which usually results in a small drop in FPS). There are a number of different ways we could have recorded the FPS, but we opted to simply use a macro 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, we are able to determine the average FPS (frames per second). One key factor is that we made sure that every model started with the view set to front-top so that any reflections and shadows would stay in view while the model was being rotated.

For our test models, we chose the following models available from GrabCad.com that will give us results for a range of model complexities based on the total number of parts and number of triangles. These models are:

Steam Engine w/ Horizontal Beam
by Ridwan Septyawan
80 parts - .26 million triangles

Spalker
by Andy Downs
364 parts - .5 million triangles

 

Audi R8
by ma73us
434 parts - 1.4 million triangles

 


One note that we would like to make is that if you do not know how many triangles the models you work with have, the easiest method we know of to find out is to simply save the model as an .STL file. During the save process, a window should popup with information about the model including the number of files, the file size, and the number of triangles.

1080p Results

Steam Engine with Horizontal Beam and Centrifugal Pump

To start things off we are going to look at the simplest of our test models which has only 80 parts and .26 million triangles.

With just the "Shaded" view mode the GeForce cards did O.K. although without RealView not even the most expensive GeForce card was any better than even a low-end Quadro. With RealView on the lower end GeForce cards were actually a bit better than the Quadro K620. However, to match the Quadro K2200 you would need a GeForce GTX 980 Ti which is actually a bit more expensive. At the upper end, none of the GeForce cards we tested were able to match the performance of the Quadro M4000.

Where the results get interesting is when we used the "Shaded w/ Edges" view mode. With edges enabled we saw absolutely terrible performance with the GeForce cards. Even a GeForce GTX 980 Ti or Titan X were nowhere near the performance of even a Quadro K620 which less than a third the price.

Spalker

The Spalker model contains about 4.5 times more parts and twice the number of triangles than the previous model. Our results are somewhat similar to what we saw with the Steam Engine model, although using the "Shaded" view mode the GeForce cards performed much worse than a Quadro K620 without RealView. With RealView, all of the GeForce cards only barely outperformed the K620. Interestingly, all the GeForce cards performed roughly on par to each other with the exception of the GTX 950.

Switching to the "Shaded w/ Edges" view mode, we again see massive performance drops with the GeForce cards to the point that the Quadro K620 handily beats even the highest end GeForce card.

Audi R8

While the Audi R8 model doesn't have many more parts than the Spalker model, it does have about 3 times the number of triangles making it the most complex model we will be testing.

In "Shaded" mode without RealView, the results are pretty similar to what we saw with the other two models. While the GTX 980 Ti is able to match the Quadro K620, all of the other models see lower performance. With RealView enabled, however, most of the GeForce cards actually performed about on par with the Quadro M4000. Interestingly, after about the GTX 960, we did not see a significant increase in performance.

With "Shaded w/ Edges", the pattern of poor performance with GeForce cards continues. Once again, even the Quadro K620 will very handily outperform any GeForce card.

1080p GeForce benchmark in Solidworks 2016

4K Results

Steam Engine with Horizontal Beam and Centrifugal Pump

Even with our most simple model, we start to see a bit better performance out of the GeForce cards at 4K resolutions. While at 1080p we were mostly simply matching the performance of the Quadro K620, now the GeForce cards are often outperforming the Quadro K620 and at times even the Quadro K2200.

Starting once again with "Shaded" mode, all the GeForce cards give performance that is right between the K620 and K2200 without RealView. With RealView enabled, performance is even better with all the GeForce cards outperforming the Quadro K2200 although none were able to match the Quadro M4000

With "Shaded w/ Edges", even the highest end GeForce card still performs worse than the Quadro K620 without RealView enabled. With RealView on, the performance ranges from a bit worse than the Quadro K620 to a bit worse than the Quadro K2200 depending on the model of GeForce card.

Spalker

With a bit more complex model, we again see performance higher than the Quadro K620 with the "Shaded" view mode. With RealView disabled, the GeForce cards at best matched the Quadro K2200 with most of them falling somewhere between the K620 and K2200 in terms of performance. With RealView on, however, only the GTX 950 performed worse than the Quadro K2200 with all the other performing a bit better (although still not the the level of the Quadro M4000)

Switching to "Shaded w/ Edges", the GeForce cards still mostly outperformed the Quadro K620, although none of them were able to match the Quadro K2200.

Audi R8

With the Audi R8 model, the results are a bit different than what we saw previously. Starting again with the "Shaded" view mode, we saw performance that ranged from matching the Quadro K620 to being a bit less than the Quadro K2200 without RealView. With RealView enabled, performance was actually signficantly better with even the GTX 950 outperforming the Quadro K2200. At best, however, even the highest end GeForce card was only able to match the Quadro M4000.

Using "Shaded w/ Edges", performance with the GeForce cards again takes a nose dive. Without RealView, none of the GeForce cards were able to perform even close to the Quadro K620. With Realview, however, the GTX 970/980 roughly matched the Quadro K620 while the higher end GeForce cards performed right between the K620 and K2200.

1080p GeForce benchmark in Solidworks 2016

Conclusion

One thing is obvious from our results: Quadro cards overall have much better performance in Solidworks than GeForce cards. At 1080p, not even the highest end GeForce card was able to match the very affordable Quadro K620. A GeForce GTX 980 Ti or Titan X should be still be able to give you about 60 FPS for medium models (around .5 million triangles) and about 30 FPS for very complex models (around 1 million triangles), but you would see significantly higher performance with a Quadro card of roughly the same price. If you use a 4K display, however, many of the GeForce cards are able to out-perform the Quadro K620 although given that the K620 only has 2GB of VRAM we would never recommend using it with a 4K display in the first place. Really, the Quadro K2200 is the lowest end card we would recommend for 4K and that card should always outperform even the highest end GeForce card.

If you only use the "Shaded" view mode, the GeForce cards usually give performance somewhere in-between the Quadro K2200 and Quadro M4000 at both 1080p and 4K resolutions. What is interesting is that at 1080p the performance difference between the different GeForce models is actually very minimal. At 4K, however, there is a benefit to having up to a GTX 970, but beyond that the performance does not increase significantly.

Using the Audi R8 model specifically (since that is the most complex model), we can make the following rough estimations of the performance of GeForce cards compared to Quadro cards if we average the results with RealView both on and off:

Shaded view mode 1080p 4K
GeForce GTX 950 2GB Equivalent to K2200 18% slower than K2200
GeForce GTX 960 4GB 5% faster than K2200 10% slower than K2200
GeForce GTX 970 4GB 3% faster than K2200 Equivalent to K2200
GeForce GTX 980 4GB 3% faster than K2200 5% slower than K2200
GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB 9% faster than K2200 7% faster than K2200
GeForce GTX Titan X 12GB 5% faster than K2200 2% slower than K2200
Shaded w/ Edges view mode 1080p 4K
GeForce GTX 950 2GB 40% of K620 32% of K2200
GeForce GTX 960 4GB 45% of K620 38% of K2200
GeForce GTX 970 4GB 54% of K620 52% of K2200
GeForce GTX 980 4GB 60% of K620 52% of K2200
GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB 65% of K620 62% of K2200
GeForce GTX Titan X 12GB 66% of K620 62% of K2200

Overall, with just "Shaded" mode the GeForce cards mostly performed within 10% of the Quadro K2200. However, the big thing we found is that Quadro cards have significant improved performance when using the "Shaded w/ Edges" view mode to the point that even a Quadro K620 will often give significantly better performance than the highest GeForce card.

The reason behind this is not easy to determine, although our best guess is that it has to do with the firmware and driver optimizations used with Quadro cards. Either way, if all you have is a GeForce card then Solidworks should function OK - although you will not be able to use features like RalView - but we would very highly recommend upgrading to an appropriate Quadro card as soon as possible. Especially if you use Solidworks professionally, the extra performance (not to mention simply using a supported card) means that you should almost never consider using a GeForce card instead of a Quadro card.

Recommended Reading

If you are configuring a system for Solidworks, we have a number of other articles regarding the hardware requirements for Solidworks that you may be interested in:

Recommended Hardware for Solidworks
Summary of what you need to know when choosing hardware for a SOLIDWORKS workstation.

Solidworks 2016 Multi Core Performance
Does having more CPU cores give you more performance?

CPU Overclocking in Solidworks 2016
How much performance increase can overclocking give you and what are the risks involved?

CPU Performance: Skylake-S vs Haswell-E/EP
Does the CPU architecture make a difference?

Solidworks 2016 NVIDIA Quadro Performance
What video card do you need?

Network Rendering in Solidworks 2016
Using client nodes to speed up Photoview 360 renders.

 

 

Recommended Systems for Solidworks

 

Core i7 Workstation

Maximum Performance, 
Excellent Reliability

Purchase

Based on the Puget Systems Echo Pro, this compact system provides the best possible performance in SOLIDWORKS when working with any size and complexity of 3D models.

Xeon E3 Workstation

Maximum Reliability,
Excellent Performance

Purchase

Based on the Puget Systems Obsidian, this system utilizes an Intel Xeon E3 CPU along with ECC (error correcting) RAM to provide maximum reliability while still giving excellent performance.

 

Tags: Solidworks, GPU, Video Card, GeForce
AC

Nice article, any chance of a comparison to Firepro & Radeons?

Posted on 2016-03-31 05:35:24
John Leichty

I'd also be interested in that, particularly to see if the Radeons have the same shortcomings in the "Shaded w/ Edges" view mode.

Posted on 2016-04-02 19:23:14
John Leichty

Great article, thanks for doing this comparison. I'm tempted to use a GeForce card since they're significantly cheaper and also offer the 2x DVI outputs I need.

Posted on 2016-04-02 19:22:09
headlikeahole

One question for laptops regarding intel vs nVidia/Radeon: apart from intel reduced performance, are there other issues related to drivers compatibility? graphical misrepresentations or things like that?

Posted on 2016-04-03 12:26:05
cs744

For performance you did not correct enough. To gain the performance of a Quadro card in opengl you must change setting in the Nvidia driver profiles. You need to use Nvidia Inspector to change the profile information. The result will be performance much better than a quadro card of the same price.
Nvidia defaults to:
Profile "Dassault Systemes SolidWorks"
ShowOn Quadro

If you change this to:
Profile "Dassault Systemes SolidWorks"
ShowOn Geforce
ProfileType Application
Executable "solidworks/circuitworksfull/circuitworks.exe"
Executable "solidworks/driveworksxpress/driveworksxpressdt.exe"
Executable "solidworks/solidworks edrawings/emodelviewer.exe"
Executable "edrawings/emodelviewer.exe"
Executable "solidworks/photoview/photoview360_cl.exe"
Executable "solidworks/photoview/photoview360.exe"
Executable "photoview 360/photoview360.exe"
Executable "solidworks/sldbenchmarking/sldbenchmark.exe"
Executable "i386_sldworks.exe"
Executable "sldworks.exe"
Executable "solidworks/sldrx/sldrx.exe"
Setting ID_0x106d5cff = 0x00000000
Setting ID_0x10d48a85 = 0x00000034 UserSpecified=true
Setting ID_0x10f9dc81 = 0x00000011
Setting ID_0x10f9dc84 = 0x00000100
Setting ID_0x10fc2d9c = 0x00000000 UserSpecified=true
Setting ID_0x202fd652 = 0x00000001
Setting ID_0x202fe114 = 0x00000001
Setting ID_0x20320ce4 = 0x00000001
Setting ID_0x203691bb = 0x00000008
Setting ID_0x2045959a = 0x00000001
Setting ID_0x205f7e3b = 0x00000000
Setting ID_0x209fd306 = 0x003d1028
Setting ID_0x20c1221e = 0x00000001
Setting ID_0x20cbffc4 = 0x00000001
Setting ID_0x20d518cb = 0x00000001
Setting ID_0x20d59eda = 0x00000001
Setting ID_0x50528ab3 = 0x00000001
EndProfile

It will act more like a quadro card for Solidworks to use.

You should look into it.

Posted on 2016-04-03 20:00:01
Wally Banger

I just downloaded the Nvidia Inspector and tried to change some of this stuff. It has a Profile for the Dassalt software but I couldn't find the "ShowOn Quadro" entry. Also, when I hit "update profile" it didn't show the changes. Any more info would be very much appreciated...

Posted on 2016-10-07 21:49:01
BFeely

Could NVIDIA and/or Solidworks sue you for this?

Posted on 2016-11-05 13:52:39
Zix Raito

can you plz make a video on youtube to show me and other peaople how to do that

Posted on 2016-11-15 12:05:41
Robert Shield

Nice Article.
I'm looking at doing a about $1200 rig for both gaming and Solidworks. I intend on doing relatively light gaming and solidworks usage, but would like to have a powerful enough card that could handle more significant workloads in the future.
I was planning on going with the GTX 1070, but would like to know some other people's opinions as well.
Thanks

Posted on 2016-07-27 15:35:19

Which side of things (gaming or SW) is more important to you? You'll basically have to pick the video card accordingly. If you want to go more on the gaming side, the 1070 is a good choice... just be aware that it may not do as well in SW, and isn't certified for that program. If you are more concerned with performance in SW, the Quadro M2000 should be in the same general price range as the GTX 1070 but would get you official SW compatibility.

Posted on 2016-07-27 15:42:44
Robert Shield

Thanks for the reply.
At this point, I think that I will be spending more time in Solidworks, but when I do game, I think that I will be pushing the machine harder. In solidworks, I think I am going to stay under 500 parts, as right now, I am focusing on High school robotics (FRC) which are relatively simple models.
I think I am going to go with the 1070.
What are the advantages of having official SW compatibility?

Posted on 2016-07-27 15:52:28
Frank

For the function "Viualize" in SW2016, the performance is only related to the number of CUDA or not?
cause consider to use a GTX1080 for solidworks and some game:)

Posted on 2016-08-19 10:25:07
horrido

There is really no excuse for not properly supporting consumer grade cards. It's really a disservice to SW users. Really, how much FPS do you need when rotating a model? To top it off, some of these cards are showing low FPS only when driving ultra high rez displays (like 4k) with cards that don't have adequate memory. Current gen cards all have ample memory, the smallest being 3gb (which are budget cards). A GTX 1060 w/6gB should be PLENTY to drive SW, and can be had for under $200.

Posted on 2016-09-29 15:31:00