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Difference between gaming and workstation video cards?

VashHT

Platinum Member
Feb 1, 2007
2,647
260
126
So someone at my work is asking me some info about building a computer for solidworks, and looking at their website it looks like they basically recommend a quadro or firegl/pro card. Does anyone here have experience with solidworks, would a gaming card work just as well for it or is a workstation card really necessary?
 

lagokc

Senior member
Mar 27, 2013
808
1
41
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/geforce-gtx-titan-opencl-cuda-workstation,3474-8.html

"This benchmark clearly shows that consumer graphics cards without optimized drivers are simply not suitable for certain professional workloads. Nvidia's Quadro or AMD's FirePro families are much better options in Pro/E. To that end, the GeForce Titan shows up in last place. It doesn't even achieve half of the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition's performance.

The SolidWorks benchmark sends a pretty obvious message: don't spend $1,000 on a Titan for your workstation if this app is important to you. Engineers making money with Dassault's software need to go about this the right way and snag a professional graphics card."
 

ShadowVVL

Senior member
May 1, 2010
758
0
71
Everyone Ive seen work with solidworks use fire pro or quadro.

I never seen it run on a gaming card.
 

96Firebird

Diamond Member
Nov 8, 2010
5,651
267
126
Everyone Ive seen work with solidworks use fire pro or quadro.

I never seen it run on a gaming card.
It runs on a gaming card, I used to run it on my GTX 460 1GB when I was in college. It does, however, run much better and looks much smoother on my Quadro 600 in my work PC.

OP, is this machine going to be used soley for the purpose of SolidWorks, or is it going to be a gaming machine that needs to be able to run SolidWorks every now and then?
 

Midwayman

Diamond Member
Jan 28, 2000
5,723
325
126
The Radeon cards tend to do better than geforce in pro apps by a significant margin, but the pro cards are quite a bit faster. You might consider what the budget realistically is. If you're looking at spending $300 for a card the answer might be different than $1k or more.

If its for work I'm not sure I'd risk a gaming card. Downtime is so costly...
 

cmdrdredd

Lifer
Dec 12, 2001
26,835
278
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The Quadro versions of the cards have specialized drivers and support behind it. It really is worth it for a business to invest in a pro level card for this usage.
 

blackened23

Diamond Member
Jul 26, 2011
8,548
1
0
The Radeon cards tend to do better than geforce in pro apps by a significant margin, but the pro cards are quite a bit faster. You might consider what the budget realistically is. If you're looking at spending $300 for a card the answer might be different than $1k or more.

If its for work I'm not sure I'd risk a gaming card. Downtime is so costly...
Consumer cards really aren't good whatsoever for professional applications, although i'm not sure what your definition is. Keep in mind that "professional" applications require specific software, firmware and support to work properly - so Quadro and FirePro cards are significantly faster than their consumer counterparts in applications that matter, such as 3ds max, adobe suite, maya, etc.

None of the consumer cards have the firmware or software required to be best utilized in professional applications.
 

Midwayman

Diamond Member
Jan 28, 2000
5,723
325
126
Consumer cards really aren't good whatsoever for professional applications, although i'm not sure what your definition is. Keep in mind that "professional" applications require specific software, firmware and support to work properly - so Quadro and FirePro cards are significantly faster than their consumer counterparts in applications that matter, such as 3ds max, adobe suite, maya, etc.

None of the consumer cards have the firmware or software required to be best utilized in professional applications.
Sort of depends on your usage level and what good enough is. I've used plenty of gaming cards in 'pro' apps- professionally even and they were fine. That includes max, maya, and other content creation apps. Trouble with a low budget and pro cards is you can often pick from a current gen gaming card or a 3-4 generation old 'pro' gpu. Depending on your workload and application that can be anywhere from a great idea to horrible. Case in point- Motionbuilder 2012 or newer is unusable on our quadro fx 3800 cards. They're old cards. Runs great on a newer Radeon I have right now. Sometimes the lower end pro cards are old enough not to support a shader model you need or something. Typically we'd order in the cards we were considering an bench them ourselves on the work we actually do and then made a choice on what to order for the 20-30 workstations for the department. So yah, if you have a lot of money to spend, or the stability is critical the pro cards are always the way to go. If not.... its not always so clear cut. In any case you really need to look at solidworks specific benches to figure it out. Find a place with a good return policy and make sure what you order works for what you do before ordering a department worth.
 

zaydq

Senior member
Jul 8, 2012
782
0
0
Get a pro card. You'd be surprised at how effective they also are at gaming.
 

3DVagabond

Lifer
Aug 10, 2009
11,951
200
106
Consumer cards are terrible at running pro apps. If you are serious about running pro 3D apps then pro cards are the only way to go.
 

Phil L

Member
Jun 12, 2011
41
1
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Comment below is specifically for SolidWorks 2010/2011 and Radeon cards, but may apply to future versions of SolidWorks.

I've built a workstation for a coworker using a gamer card, HD 6870 specifically, for SolidWorks at work, and it runs perfectly fine. I've also tried forcing equivalent firepro driver onto it but found no appreciable difference in benchmarks for those wondering. Additionally, as far as I can tell by examining published online benchmarking results with AMD gamer/pro cards, SolidWorks does not seem to employ GPGPU to assist in computations (unless 2012 version changed that, which is doubtful), thus a pro card does not make it run faster (more on this in next paragraph). Instead SolidWorks appears to only use the GPU for display purpose. The firepro driver does give you a RealView feature, which is realistic shadow/reflection that is neat to look at but doesn't do you any good in terms of productivity increase.

More so, SolidWorks is not multithreaded either outside of using extra threads for UI. When you are designing/rebuilding parts/geometry, single threaded performance is the biggest factor in how long it takes. To demonstrate, you can head to www.solidmuse.com for rebuilding benchmark (e.g. the punch holder rebuild @ http://www.solidmuse.com/benchmarks/punch_holder_results.php) and you'll see clearly cpu speed is the primary factor in rebuild time, not GPU (I'm assuming you're not memory limited of course).

So why do SolidWorks insist on pro cards? My guess is that it is primary motivated from a technical support and validation perspective. First, pro cards have dedicated resources allocated for optimization and validation, specifically for bug fixes and stability reasons that this may be preferred. Also, for product like SolidWorks, it is much easier for them to test relatively few workstation configurations (e.g. from Dell and other big builders) and say if they work than it is to test the myriad of other possible configurations that a gamer might use. This is also why they offer recommendations of tested specific workstation builds.

Of course at my work place, the IT department's recommended system setup is usually quite... conservative and a year or two out of date hardware wise. Thus for less money I can build a faster and more efficient system, so if I can get away with it I do it from time to time(Our IT give us some nasty remarks/looks when we don't follow their rules...). Anyway, personally if you are decent with computer, know how to keep things updated, know how to rollback drivers (even better backup old GPU drivers) when issue arises, then I don't see why you cant save some money. However if the company is willing to shell out for a nice Dell Workstation with 24/7 support (or other brand) by all means.
 

cboath

Senior member
Nov 19, 2007
368
0
76
I think it'll depend a lot on the app itself.

For example, anything AutoCAD based, as well as Inventor and 3ds Max are all built around and optimized for Direct3D/X. Maya/SI last I heard were OGL. I believe Solid Works is OGL as well. For apps optimized around OGL - workstation level cards will be better. For those optimized around D3D, I don't know that the workstation cards will do that much with the exception of possibly working on incedibly large files.
 

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